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How to Save for a House and a Wedding at the Same Time

If you and your partner are planning a wedding and purchasing a home together, there are large expenses to take into consideration as you save up for both milestones. Couples are spending an average of $33,391 on their wedding, and first-time homebuyers are spending $18,000 on average for a home down payment ($10,512 with FHA loans).

With the average engagement period of 14 months, young couples may feel pressured to save up for both big-ticket events in a short period of time. Here are a few financial planning tips so you and your partner can strategically save for the wedding and home you both have always dreamed of:

1. Choose a Priority
With two large costs looming on the horizon, you and your partner need to sit down and decide if one takes priority over the other. If it’s the house, then plan for a smaller wedding or a nuptial celebration later on down the road.

“I’ve worked with a lot of couples who have saved for both, and it’s because one partner wants the wedding and the other partner wants the house,” says Kristin Carleton, a financial advisor with Towne Investment Group. “When you have one partner who really plans for the house and the other who is planning for the wedding, you end up trying to do both at the same time.

“You generally have to make a choice,” Carleton adds. “It’s very difficult to save for a big wedding and a large down payment at the same time.”

2. Set a Budget
First and foremost, you and your partner need to sit down and set a realistic budget for both the wedding and the house, so you know the exact amount you need to save.

“Part of that process should be talking to a mortgage broker or banker to find out what program you can fit into and how much of a down payment you want to put down on a house,” says Carleton.

Inquire with your mortgage broker on what terms you and your partner qualify for in a mortgage loan—for example, whether you need to put down 20 percent, or if you can put down 5 percent because you qualify for a first-time homebuyer program.

If family members are helping out with the wedding costs or down payment, be clear with them and communicate the amount of money that you will need.

3. Factor in Personal Finances
Once you have set your wedding and house budgets, organize your personal financial budget. Figure out how much you and your partner should spend and save each month, along with where you can make sacrifices.

Make sure that you are able to pay for your necessities (such as rent, utility bills and groceries), and consider what you can live without. This may mean no more happy hours with friends, Friday night dates or romantic weekend getaways until after the wedding and the move.

4. Open Savings Accounts
To stay organized, open two different savings accounts: one for the wedding and the other for your down payment.

“Otherwise, you are hiring the florist for the wedding and you go way over budget because you see an account with $20,000,” says Carleton. “I suggest that couples set up a direct deposit program straight from their paychecks before they have a chance to spend it.”

Separate accounts will ensure that you and your partner are saving money consistently from month to month. Unlike a down payment, which is a one-time expense, a wedding requires lots of smaller expenses that add up quickly—everything from the dress to the catering fees to the wedding rings. Giving your wedding its own savings account allows you to keep an eye on how much you’ve spent so far.

5. Adjust Your Timeline
Your budget is going to determine your timeline for your wedding date and house purchase. Be realistic and break your goal down month by month to figure out a workable timeline. Don’t set a high number and expect to get to it without a reasonable plan. For example, if you need to save $60,000 and you can put away $2,000 a month, it will take two-and-a-half years to hit your goal. Carleton also advises factoring in several additional months of saving, just in case hidden expenses pop up along the way.

6. Hold Yourself Accountable
After planning out your budget and timeline, you both need to keep each other on track.

“This is a really good exercise for couples to start communicating frequently,” says Carleton. In other words, it’s perfect practice for marriage.

“It’s a good way to set goals and see how you do working towards a big goal,” Carleton adds.

Additionally, budgeting apps like Mint and computer programs like Quicken are easy-to-use tools that can keep you on track toward your financial goal.

“The last thing I would say in terms of keeping people accountable is to make sure that you are on the same page,” says Carleton. “I think it’s important that each person gets spending money built into the budget. Spend it with no questions asked, and make sure your budget is realistic.”

By Marissa Hermanson,  a wedding and lifestyle writer

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5 Tips to Help You Find a Starter Home

First-time homebuyers might well wonder: Where are all the starter houses? They’re right to ask, because starter homes are becoming increasingly scarce in many housing markets. Housing inventory is low and home prices are soaring.

What’s a first-time buyer to do?       Here are five tips for finding a starter home:

Be realistic about today’s market. Sellers clearly have an advantage in the current market. Inventory is low, which keeps pushing home prices to record levels, according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). Buyer competition is fierce, as homes in the lower price ranges fly off the market.

Unfortunately, that leaves many first-time buyers––especially those with tight budgets––on the sidelines. If you’re searching for your first home, be realistic about what you can afford and what amenities come with that budget. (Hint: You may have to forgo top-of-the-line appliances and shiny quartz countertops.)

A starter home isn’t necessarily your forever home. Be prepared to make some compromises to get your foot in the homeownership door.

Adjust your wish list. Buyers shopping for their first home need to be open-minded about the location, size and condition of the home they want to buy, says Tim Deihl, associate broker with Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty in Boston.

For many buyers, a classic starter home, which traditionally doesn’t have many amenities, is more achievable.

“If your first home is the place you’re going to have your family, maybe build an addition and stay there forever; that’s one set of criteria. If your starter home will be a financial launch pad into a larger, better home, that’s a different approach,” Deihl says.

Another strategy: Look for an older home in a well-established neighborhood. Resales typically cost less than brand-new homes, says Bradley Hunter, chief economist for HomeAdvisor.com, a home improvement matching service based in Golden, Colo.

Older homes typically need more maintenance and repairs, which offset some of the savings; however, Hunter says, buyers who choose a used home might be able to do repairs and renovations over time, pacing themselves to make the cost manageable.

Hire the right real estate agent.  (HarperTateHomes!)  When you’re up against stiff competition, working with an experienced real estate agent who knows the local market is key.

Look for an agent who specializes in the neighborhoods you’re interested in. Savvy agents should be able to answer your questions about neighborhood amenities, local schools and nearby home values.

A good agent shines when it comes to negotiating the deal and writing a strong offer letter backed with solid data. Your agent can suggest certain strategies to win in a competitive market, such as limiting contingencies or writing a personal letter.

Ask friends and relatives to recommend agents they have used and were happy with. Also, interview two or three different agents. Find out how they prefer to communicate with clients and how often you’ll get updates. Finally, research the agents you’re considering online to see what past clients have said about their work.

Rethink location. If you’re thinking about starting a family in the future, don’t focus too much on your home’s location, size and school district just yet, Deihl says. Resetting those parameters can make it easier to buy a first home.

“Buyers may be in a position where schools won’t impact them for six or seven years,” Deihl says. “That’s a good opportunity to buy in the city, make some money and roll that into a community where they want to be longer-term with the kids.”

Buyers who sacrifice location for affordability can find themselves in a neighborhood far from major job centers with a long daily commute and expensive transportation costs. Sometimes that trade-off makes sense, but not always.

“You have to look at how much you make and how much you can afford to spend for gas,” Coneway says. “You might actually be better off buying a house that’s closer to town so you have more cash flow for property taxes, insurance and living expenses.”

Make a strong offer. When a well-priced starter house comes on the market, the quest to buy it can be “super competitive,” Deihl says.

One way to strengthen an offer is to present a loan preapproval that includes everything but a title search, appraisal and hazard insurance, says Jay Dacey, a mortgage broker at Metropolitan Financial Mortgage Co. in Minneapolis.

A strategic phone call might help, too.   “We call the listing agent and say, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Jones submitted an offer on your property. Not only are they preapproved, but they’ve gone through the underwriting approval process with our bank,’” Dacey says. “That makes the offer stronger.”

Other ways to entice sellers: Offer above asking price (if you can afford to), keep repair requests to a minimum, make a larger down payment or give them more time to move after closing.

By Deborah Kearns, RISMedia’s Housecall

Raleigh’s economy ranks 2nd in nation, and NC State had a lot to do with it, report says

“Our great universities are the backbone of our economy! Because of the universities, we got RTP, and maybe Apple, Amazon etc…..certainly countless other tech jobs. This is the BEST use of our taxpayer dollars,” states Becky Harper of Harper Tate Homes, Re/Max United.

Raleigh has climbed higher up a list of the nation’s top cities for creating and keeping quality jobs, and N.C. State University is given significant credit for the city’s economic success.

The Raleigh Metropolitan Statistical Area ranked 2nd on the list of best-performing cities for 2017, according to the Milken Institute, a California think tank. The City of Oaks climbed four spots from the No. 6 ranking it held in both 2015 and 2016.

The index of top cities is designed to show how metro areas stand relative to others in the nation in terms of economic vitality. It measures growth in terms of jobs, wages, salaries and technology output, with an emphasis on employment growth.

The Provo-Orem, Utah area –home to Brigham Young University – topped the list after a second-place ranking in 2016.

Raleigh and No. 3 Plano-Irving, Texas, offer more welcoming business climates and lower costs than coastal tech cities, the report said. “Raleigh’s research and development-driven industries” contributed to its rise.

The report notes that while the Triangle is home to several major universities, N.C. Statewas the only local school to place in the top 25 of Milken’s 2017 index of the best universities for technology transfer and commercialization.

“The university’s Centennial Campus, which now houses more than 75 research centers and academic departments alongside a similar number of private, nonprofit, and government partners, expands the ability of academics and industry to collaborate and innovate,” the report says of N.C. State. “Through co-op and internship programs, the school creates strong ties to local industry, and tightens the relationship between curriculum and career by introducing students early to real-world applications and challenges.”

The Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia area was the only other North Carolina MSA to make the top 25. Charlotte came in 13th, dropping one spot from its 2016 ranking.

Durham-Chapel Hill (ranked 106th) dropped 21 spots, Winston-Salem (121st) dropped 17, and Greensboro-High Point (142nd) fell 21 spots from 2016.

BY AARON MOODY, News&Observer