How Late Payments Affect Your Credit Score

In today’s world of large purchases and electronic purchasing we use credit to do a great deal of our business. Whether you’re applying for a home loan or a credit card having a good credit score is your ticket to obtaining a home loan in the Cedar Rapids or surrounding  area. Your credit score is incredibly important and can directly affect your way of life. There are some definite ways to maintain your credit score and therefore your way of life. One important way is by paying your bills on time consistently. According to a recent article on a single late payment … [Read more...]

Home prices up in Iowa, sales dipped slightly in February

Press release from the Iowa Association of Realtors (IAR), home prices were up substantially in February, while sales dipped slightly. In its February 2013 Housing Trends Report, IAR reports the median sale price jumped 12.9 percent and the average sale price was up 11 percent. The median sale price was $118,000 this February and $104,500 in February 2012. The average sale price was $141,326 this February and $127,264 in February 2012. Twenty-six of the 44 local Realtor boards in the state reported increases in the median sale price, and 28 had increases in average sale price … [Read more...]

Is our county one of the fastest growing county in Iowa?

Ever wonder what county has had the most growth in Iowa?  According to the US census bureau Dallas county grew 8.8 percent since 2010 and is ranked number 14th in the nation for growth.  Considering that is about 5, 382 people from 2010 to 2012 for a grand total of 71,967 people, that is pretty impressive.   The Census bureau keeps track of births deaths, and migration between 2010 and 2012.  They reported that they had gained 9,269 people from other countries but lost 3,274 to other states.  Counties seem to be growing more in the metropolitan areas, according to Gary Krob, coordinator … [Read more...]

Can you still deduct your Private Mortgage Insurance on your Taxes?

It’s pretty exciting when you’re looking for your home and getting your financing in order. There are so many things to know and do, it can be overwhelming. What if you don’t have enough money to make a large down payment? Are there still ways to purchase a home in the Cedar Rapids and surrounding area? Your lender may have a solution requiring Private Mortgage Insurance, if 20% is not available for down payment on the purchase of your home. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is actually an insurance policy taken out in for the bank in case a buyer (you) defaults on your loan. It’s taken … [Read more...]

Can you make a comeback after a foreclosure in the Cedar Rapids area?

The past few years have meant some pretty rough economic times for many in the Cedar Rapids and surrounding areas.  As a result we’ve seen a record number of defaults on home loans. But does a temporary set-back in your financial situation mean that you should never know the joy of owning a home again? Absolutely not! With the right circumstances after just a few years you might find yourself capable of owning another home. The following are some waiting periods for obtaining a home loan following a foreclosure, short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure: Seven years for buyers … [Read more...]

Why hasn’t that home sold yet?

Have you wondered why great homes just stay on the market and don't seem to sell? Here are a few reasons why some homes in the Cedar Rapids and surrounding area may not be selling in today's market.   1.  The home is drawing fewer lookers. When the home is new on the market that is when it draws the most interest. If an agent is saying buyers aren’t showing interest in a home that could mean prospective buyers are waiting for the price to come down before viewing it. 2.  The home is drawing lookers but no offers. If a home has had many lookers come through a home but none have … [Read more...]

6 things you don’t want to do after you apply for a mortgage

Once your offer has been accepted and you are in the process of qualifying for your mortgage, there are things you don’t do.  Period. Nada. No. Nope. Never Never Ever EVER do.  Ever.  Doing these things could STOP you for buying a home: Don’t make large purchases.  When you are buying a home you are going to be bringing in new debt.  However, after applying for a home don’t go out and buy a new car or furniture, this could raise you debt ratio and make it riskier for the loan company to lend to you.  Sometimes after doing this, the previously qualified buyer is no longer able to … [Read more...]

Midwest Farmland Values Continue to Surge

In spite of the drought last year the annual increase for “good” agricultural farm land was up 16 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, according the Seventh Federal Reserve District . That is just a step down from 2007 and 2011. They are also predicting that land values will rise further in January to March of 2013. Agricultural credit conditions have also improved in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to the same time in 2011. This is due to non-real estate loan demand being lower, lower loan renewals, and extensions during the fourth quarter in 2012. Agricultural interest rates were … [Read more...]

FHA to hike premiums on mortgages

Recently the Federal Housing Administration has changed some of their loaning practices like insuring loans on condos, renovation loans and even jumbo loans. But we knew there would be more, didn’t we? According a recent article on CNN Money, the Federal Housing Administration, which is the largest insurer of low-down payment mortgages, announced last week that it will raise premiums by 10 basis points, or 0.1 to 1.35% percent, on most of the new mortgages it insures. The change goes into effect June 3, 2013 and according to Pat Zaby, “The staggering increase will occur on 6/3/2013 when … [Read more...]

FHA Renovation Loans are now Available

If you have been looking for homes lately in the Cedar Rapids area, I’m sure you have seen one with great structure, but is run down and out of date. You’d like to purchase it, but funds to rebuild are hard to find. What are your options? The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) now provides 203k Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance loans which cover the purchase AND up to $35,000 renovation for single homes, multi-plexes up to 4 units AND condos. The total loan amount is based on the property’s appraised value once the repairs are completed. The down payment requirement is 3.5 … [Read more...]

New Loan Rules started January 21st

There’s a new Sheriff in town, well actually it’s new rules for mortgages and lenders and they will affect how you are able to get a home loan in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, area. All lending institutions from huge national banks to community banks to credit unions will now have to follow the new rules. Essentially, everywhere you get a loan and will taking effect as soon as January 21st of THIS year, but lenders will have a full 12 months to implement the new rules fully. HINT: You may want to start your loan process to buy a home in the Cedar Rapids or surrounding area SOONER than … [Read more...]

Iowa Homes Sales UP Significantly in 2012

A new report says home prices and sales in Iowa are up significantly. The Iowa Association of Realtors says the median sale price for a home was $125,000 in December. That's a 7.8 percent increase, compared with the same period a year before. The average sale price for a home was about $134,000 in December, a jump of 11.6 percent compared with December 2011. More than 2,500 homes were sold or closed last month, a slight jump compared with December 2011. The group's housing trends report shows 34,860 homes were sold across the state in 2012. Just over 31,000 homes were sold in 2011. … [Read more...]

1st Time Iowa Home Buyers to Reduce Federal Tax Liability

 OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR Governor Terry E. Branstad  Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, January 7, 2013 Contact: Governor’s Office 515-725-3518 Ashley Jared, Iowa Finance Authority 515-725-4934 Branstad, Reynolds Announce New Program that will Allow Iowa Home Buyers to Reduce Federal Tax Liability Mortgage Credit Certificates may provide Iowa home buyers with up to $2,000 in annual federal income tax credits (DES MOINES) – Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds were accompanied by Iowa Finance Authority Executive Director Dave Jamison today to announce that eligible … [Read more...]

Real Estate Provisions in “Fiscal Cliff” Bill and what they mean

Whew! We didn’t fall off the cliff, but it was a real nail-biter, wasn’t it? So after the fiscal cliff dust settled and is now signed into law, what does that mean? According to the National Association of Realtors®, H.R. 8 legislation contained the following: “Real Estate Tax Extenders Mortgage Cancellation Relief is extended for one year to January 1, 2014 Deduction for Mortgage Insurance Premiums (PMI) for filers making below $110,000 is extended through 2013 and made retroactive to cover 2012 Leasehold Improvements: 15 year straight-line cost recovery for … [Read more...]

How to Keep Your Water Pipes from Freezing!

It’s that time of year again – yes, it’s Christmas, but it’s also time to be alert to frozen pipes! Whether it's like a power outage we experienced a couple of weeks ago, or you are gone a day, with as cold as it is in Iowa now, it doesn't take long for water pipes to freeze. Here are a few tips to save you money and headaches! If you plan to be away for an extended period of time, arrange for someone to check your house or apartment. Educate your family, other people in your household, and house-sitters on what to do if water pipes do freeze. Show them where your water shut-off valve is … [Read more...]

Farmland value reaches historic $8,296 statewide average

Press release from the Iowa State Extension Office- Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012 Farmland value reaches historic $8,296 statewide average Average Iowa farmland value is estimated to be $8,296 per acre, an increase of 23.7 percent from 2011, according to results of the Iowa Land Value Survey conducted in November. This is the third year in a row where values have increased more than 15 percent. The 2012 values are historical peaks. The Northwest Crop Reporting District, which includes O'Brien, Osceola, Dickinson and Lyon counties, reported the highest land values at $12,890, an increase of … [Read more...]

Quickest ways to turn away a potential buyer

Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing your home for the market: 1. DIRT... Nothing turns off buyers quicker than a dirty house. It is absolutely imperative that the seller get the house in the best condition it’s ever been in to sell it quickly. This means steam cleaning the tile, replacing old, smelly carpets (or at least shampooing them), and ensuring the kitchen is free of any food crumbs or odors. 2. ODORS... It is said that buyers buy with their noses—and there is certainly truth to that statement. Make sure the home you’re selling smells fresh and … [Read more...]

A mouse in the house

Lions and tigers and bears! OH MY! Well, you may not be seeing any of those trying to get into your house soon, but with the weather turning colder in the Cedar Rapids Area,  you may see mice, bugs and spiders. OH MY! Keeping these pesky little devils out of your house can be a feat within itself, but there are ways to stop mice making themselves at home in your home. How can you tell you have a mouse in the house? Since mice normally run at night, you will see their droppings and damage before you see them. You may even hear them scratching in the walls or attic. Once you see or hear … [Read more...]

Foreclosure Help

  October 4, 2012 New Emergency Foreclosure Assistance Fund The landmark joint federal-state settlement involving the nation's five largest mortgage servicers has provided additional resources for foreclosure prevention services in Iowa through the Iowa Mortgage Help initiative. A new tool is now available to eligible homeowners through the new Emergency Foreclosure Assistance Fund. This fund may assist homeowners in filling gaps to make their mortgage payment with up to $2,000 in assistance. The program could help approximately 500 Iowa … [Read more...]

73% of Car Seats Still Used Incorrectly

According to new data released by Safe Kids Worldwide and the General Motors Foundation, there are five critical but common mistakes parents and caretakers make when restraining their children in the car. Technology has come a long way in the last few years, and vehicle and child restraint safety has been no exception. Take a 15 minute look at your child’s car seat using the following checklist and see if there may be a way to help keep your child safer in case of a vehicle accident: Check the label and manual for your car seat and ensure that it is appropriate for your child’s height and … [Read more...]

Have you thought about FHA financing?

The Iowa Finance Authority just sent me the current interest rates on mortgages. They have many mortgage options available for different lending needs. Now, there is an option available if you are thinking about buying (or selling) a home in an Association - FHA financing! Last week the Federal Housing Administration revised some of the rules for condo associations across the country to get certified or re-certified for financing. This is HUGE because it opens individual unit owners up and sellers to FHA-insured mortgages with low down payments. This revision should open up the … [Read more...]

10 reasons to buy rather than rent

Over the last few years, buying a home has seemed like the very last thing a person would ever want to do. The subprime mortgage crisis and economic downfall left many homeowners unable to pay their mortgages and even looking foreclosure in the ugly face. Rates for home ownership have fallen by 4% since 2004, according to the Census Bureau. But it looks likely that owning a home may once again be the great American dream, instead of an American nightmare. According to online real estate source Trulia, 98 out of 100 major metropolitan areas have rents so high that it is cheaper once again to … [Read more...]

New Short Sale guidelines, Fall 2012

Do you owe more on your home than your home is worth in the Cedar Rapids area market? Even if you haven’t defaulted on your mortgage, this is still a possibility. If your home is upside down, selling and paying off the mortgage could be a real shock come closing day, but perhaps you could benefit from a short sale from your lender. November 1, 2012 the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) will give Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac a few new guidelines, all in the name of expediting the short sale process. Have you heard how long a short sale can take? This change is huge! According to the … [Read more...]

Despite drought, Midwest farmland values still up in second quarter

So even with all of this terribly hot, dry weather we have had all summer, farmland values are still trending upwards. Granted, the increases aren’t as high as usual, but still increases nonetheless! According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s AgLetter, Midwest farmland values for the second quarter of 2012 are up 15 percent from last year, and one percent from the first quarter. Iowa has shown the largest increase with an increase of two percent from the first quarter and 24 percent from last year. Without a doubt (or should I say, “without a drought?”) Iowa farmland is some of the … [Read more...]

Iowa: one of the least expensive states for closing costs

According to MSN Real Estate, Iowa is the 4th cheapest state in terms of closing costs. You can expect to pay about $1,547 in bank origination fees; $1,710 in third-party fees, appraisals, and title insurance; for  $3,257 in approximate closing costs. But for fun let’s compare that to something in New York: $1,183 in bank origination fees; $3,622 in third-party fees, appraisals, and title insurance; totaling $5,435 in closing costs. That’s a difference of over $3,700!!  This is all the more reason to purchase your home in Cedar Rapids or the surrounding communities! Here is a break down of the … [Read more...]

This summer’s drought could really cost you

  I read an interesting article in the Des Moines Register the other day. I recently posted about a drought mitigation webinar being conducted by the Iowa State University Extension office, but farmers are not the only ones impacted by one of the hottest, driest summers in decades. In fact, all homeowners have cause for concern. As the soil dries out, it contracts, pulling away from the foundations of homes and buildings. Cracks that were seemingly innocuous months before are suddenly more noticeable and concerning. Windows and doors may jam as the foundations settle, and in some … [Read more...]

5-year Extension for National Flood Insurance Program

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has been reauthorized for five years as part of the Surface Transportation Bill signed by the President on July 6, 2012. Until this point, the NFIP has been kept going by stopgap extensions since 2008. One lapse back in June of 2010 stalled more than 40,000 home sales! There are 21,000 communities in the United States where flood insurance is REQUIRED for a mortgage, so this five year extension will bring about some much needed certainty to real estate transactions. Besides being extended for five years, here is the bottom line on the impact the … [Read more...]

Zip it UP!

  Have you heard about  Bloomsbury Farm's most recent activity? "The Zip". It is a 50 foot height, 1,400 foot ride over Dry Creek and back. Bloomsbury Farm can boast they are the first to offer a zip line in our Cedar Rapids area AND is one of the highest and longest in the entire state of Iowa! If you haven't visited the Atkins farm, you will need to put that on your "to do" immediately. Boomsbury Farm is only 10 minutes west of Cedar Rapids and last year attracted 40,000 visitors to there farm. They have more than 20 attractions which include TWO FULL corn mazes, a com cannon, … [Read more...]

Another good month for Cedar Rapids home sales!

The Iowa Association of Realtors June 2012 Housing Trends Report has some reassuring news for anyone looking the list their home for sale. According to the report, home sales were up by 13.1 percent with 3,940 homes sold in June 2012 (compared to 3,485 from June of 2011). Home price averages for Cedar Rapids came in at $179,568 last month, which is up 9.8 percent from 4163,557 in June 2011, according to the Cedar Rapids Area Association of Realtors The average sale price state wide jumped up 6.8 percent from June 2011 as well, ringing in at $162,402. June 2011’s average sale price was … [Read more...]

Next week – the 160th Jones County Fair!

Let's go to the FAIR! July 18th through July 22nd! SO much to do!! So much to See!! Grand Stand Entertainment! Thursday July 19th  Lynyrd Skynyrd with Heart Friday July 20th Blake Shelton Saturday July 21st  Toby Keith w/ Thomas Rhett Click here for the daily Schedule My Favorite - Here are the 4H & FFA Schedule  Only $10.00 for a fun packed day!! Check out my Community Calendar for more fair times & dates!! … [Read more...]

Iowa Farmers Markets – There’s an App for that!

Whether you’re gearing up for summer vacation or planning a weekend to visit family on the other side of the state, the Iowa Farmers Market app can help you find a local farmers market no matter where you go! With information on more than 230 farmers markets in the state of Iowa, the app can search for local markets using your GPS location or by entering a city or zip code. The app also provides information on vendors, hours and location, as well as contact information for the market manager. Once you've visited the market, you can leave your photos or reviews for others to see. Download … [Read more...]


Guest Post from PILLAR TO POST, CRS Consumer Article, July 2012 Who hasn’t oohed and ahhed when watching home improvement shows or thumbing through the latest home design magazines? Perhaps no room gets more attention than the kitchen, and deservedly so. It’s where the family gathers for all kinds of reasons – not just cooking and meals, but homework, bill paying, TV watching, and everyday conversation. But beyond the cosmetic improvements everyone talks about, there is real opportunity in upgrading your kitchen appliances. They’ll look great, work better, and save you money and energy over … [Read more...]


Homes for Iowans Plus The Iowa Finance Authority is now accepting applications for the new Homes for Iowans Plus program! The Homes for Iowans Plus program can assist home buyers with a grant of up to $2,500 to help with down payment, closing costs or minor repairs. The grant must be used in conjunction with the Homes for Iowans program and the same income limits apply. Military Homeownership Assistance Program Reminder Please remember that the Military Homeownership Assistance Program will be available for loans closed on or after July 2, 2012! Contact me for more … [Read more...]

Did you know we had a “Move Over” Law in Iowa?

Did you know that if you come upon a parked emergency vehicle or are approached by an emergency vehicle, it's the LAW to move over & / or stop? It is really frustrating when I see motorists not give the right of way to an ambulance or firetruck. They just keep on moving ... or worst yet, pass you when YOU are pulled over. I saw this announcement this morning and thought it's worth repeating. From the Corridor Business Journal - Monday, June 25 issue: Move over law changes take effect July 1 Beginning July 1, motorists in Iowa who are ticketed and convicted of a violation of … [Read more...]

“Leaves of three…” wait, what was it?

Hiking and Biking are wonderful ways to get out and explore the many wonderful trails in the Cedar Rapids area and really all of Eastern Iowa. And while you may remember that familiar mantra, “leaves of three, leave it be” from your childhood days, identifying poison oak, ivy, or sumac isn’t as easy as counting plant appendages. Poison Ivy and Oak Poison ivy and poison oak can adopt the growth pattern of neighboring plant life, making them very difficult to distinguish from other harmless plants. In an area filled with tall shrubbery, they will grow tall as well. In a field with grasses … [Read more...]

Military Homeownership Assistance Program is Back!

Governor Brandstad recently signed legislation designating $1.6 million to once again fund the Military Homeownership Assistance Program. The program provides eligible Service Members with a $5,000 grant to be used for closing costs or the down payment on a qualifying home purchase. Applications are being accepted beginning July 2, 2012. Eligible Service Members must have: Have served 90 days cumulative active duty (not for training purposes) since September 11, 2001; or Is a federal status injured service person having served in active duty since September 11, 2001; or Is a … [Read more...]

Remember Safety First with your Pool!

The weather is really heating up lately, and the pool is a welcomed refresher whether you’re just taking a dip, swimming some laps, or splashing around with the kids. But sadly, drownings and pool related injuries affect thousands of families each year. Homeowners: prevention starts with some of these practical ideas courtesy of Pillar to Post Professional Home Inspection: Anyone using the pool who isn’t a strong swimmer should be accompanied by someone who is an experienced swimmer. A fence should surround all sides of the pool and be at least four feet high. The gate should be self … [Read more...]

How To Get Started Composting!

There are lots of great reasons to start a compost pile right in your own back yard. Using compost will save you time and money. Since it helps the land hold moisture, you water less. Compost helps hold back weeds, so you are on your hands and knees pulling weeds less, too! And you aren’t purchasing compost or mulch from the garden center, but using from your own backyard stash. Convenient, huh? Oh, and it lessens the burden on our county waste facilities as well, so you can save yourself and your neighbors some money in the long run. How It Works Ever noticed how the floor of a wooded … [Read more...]

Greener Gardens in Iowa!

All these beautiful gardens I see really make our neighborhoods and Eastern Iowa look great! But all that pest control and fertilizer can take its toll on Mother Nature. Check out some of these tips to make your little piece of earth a bit greener! Coffee? Who said coffee!? The soil needs nitrogen to get those flowers, veggies, and grass growing strong, and a natural way to add nitrogen to your soil is with coffee grounds! Mix your used grounds in with compost or soil and watch your plants thrive. Salty Solution Salt isn’t just for the sidewalks in the winter! Try sprinkling some … [Read more...]

Check out your local Farmer’s Market!

Warm weather is all around and with Memorial Day Weekend coming up, the unofficial start to summer is right around the corner! Visiting your local farmer’s market is not only fun, but also supports the local economy, the environment, and builds strong communities. So head on out and see what your farmer’s market has to offer! Here is this year’s listing of markets in Benton, Iowa, Linn, and Tama counties. Can't find what you're looking for? Check here for more listings! 2012 Local Farmer’s Markets Benton County Belle Plaine, 5-7 p.m. Fridays; May 25 through Oct. 26, 13th Street and … [Read more...]