Thursday, August 10, 2017

How Do I Buy a House? The Loan Process Explained

by Kevin Graham, August 8, 2017 in Home Buying/Selling

So you’ve decided you’d like to buy a home, and you’ve looked around at different houses, but the question is – where do you begin, and how do you get a loan?

If you’re buying for the first time, the loan process can be confusing and unfamiliar. Many questions might arise: Is my credit score high enough to qualify for a loan? How long does it take? Where do I start?

To help with all those concerns and more, here’s a detailed step-by-step outline of what you can expect when you begin the home-buying process.

Get a Preapproval

The first step we recommend any home buyer take is getting a preapproval. The idea behind a preapproval is simple: Before checking out what’s on the market, you should be confident that you know how much a lender will loan you.

When you get preapproved, your credit is pulled. This gives the lender two things: your actual credit score and a look at the data on your credit report. You need to have a credit score of 580 to qualify for a loan through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and a 620 for a conventional loan through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. A VA loan backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t require a specific score, but lenders can set guidelines themselves. At Quicken Loans, we look for a credit score of at least 620 for VA loans.

In addition to your credit score, lenders will see how much debt you’re carrying and whether you have any bankruptcies or collections on your record. If you do have something like this on your record, it’s still possible that you could get a mortgage, but you might only qualify for certain loan options.

The lender will also ask about your income and assets upfront to calculate how much you can afford based on a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. The more information you can give your lender upfront, the stronger your preapproval will be because both you and the seller can have confidence that your loan is more likely to be approved in the end.

Your income is verified when you give the lender your W-2s and 1040s. Bank statements also show assets. These are key in making sure you have enough reserves to make your mortgage payment for a while if you’re between jobs.

You’ll also be matched up with a preliminary loan program, although this could change later in the process.

Income and asset documentation can be provided later at the underwriting stage, but submitting it upfront will likely give you a better understanding of how much you can afford to pay.


Your preapproval letter will tell you how much money a lender is willing to let you borrow. However, just because you can borrow a certain amount doesn’t mean you have to push your budget to the limit. You can put various purchase prices into a mortgage calculator to come out with a realistic estimate of a monthly mortgage payment. (You can also add the cost of taxes and insurance if you know what they’re likely to be.)

You want to make sure you have enough money every month for savings, emergencies, investments and other expenses. Don’t forget to leave a little bit of room for fun money as well!

House Hunting

Going out and looking at homes is usually the part of the home buying process that’s the most fun. You get to imagine what your life would be like in each house you walk through. Even here, though, you’re going to want to make sure you start with a solid game plan.

Depending on your budget, it may or may not be possible to find a home with every feature you want. With that in mind, make a list of your top priorities for the homes you’re looking at.

Once you have your wish list in place, we recommend hiring a real estate agent. They know the market. They see a ton of homes every year and can work with you to find something that meets your needs and is within your budget. Our friends at My Happy Home Solutions can help match you up with an agent who can work with you to find a house that matches your needs.

Making an Offer

Let’s say you’ve found the perfect house. It’s now time to make an offer. There are several things to think about here. You’ll work with your real estate agent or attorney to write the purchase agreement, includes your offer for the purchase price as well as a list of anything from the house that you might want included in the sale. Although these types of details are negotiable, sellers are likely to want an agreement with very few strings attached – one that’s as clean as possible. This may mean avoiding things like asking for seller concessions and for furniture to be included in the deal.

It’s also at this stage that you’ll make an earnest money deposit. This is a percentage of the purchase price given to the seller when the offer is accepted to show that you’re serious about the property.


Once your offer is accepted, the purchase agreement is sent back to your banker. The banker will review your options to make sure you’re in the right loan program for you. Once that happens, your loan is sent through for underwriting.

During the underwriting process, your income, assets and employment are verified and compared to the information on your credit report. Lenders always pullsyour credit at the beginning of the process, but a preapproval lasts for just 90 days. If you’ve been house hunting for a while, it may be necessary for the lender to pull your credit again. Try not to take on additional debt during the house hunting process. Doing so while trying to buy a house at the same time could put your financing in jeopardy.

It’s also during this time that your lender may ask for additional or updated documentation if they need it for approval purposes.

Appraisal and Inspection

Your lender will set up a home appraisal as you’re going through the underwriting process. The appraisal protects both the lender and mortgage investor (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, etc.) as well as the buyer of the property.

During the appraisal process, the home is evaluated against comparable properties in the area. That means that if the property you’re buying is a two-bedroom ranch with a recently renovated master bath, the appraiser finds properties in the area that are as similar to your property as possible, looks at the sales data and gives you a dollar value for the home you’re looking at.

Having an estimated home value protects you from overpaying for the home. Mortgage investors also don’t allow lenders to loan more than the home is worth because if something happened and the lender had to take the house back when payments weren’t being made, the lender or would have to try to recoup their investment in a sale. Knowing the appraised value keeps them from making risky investments.

If the appraisal comes in lower than the sales price, you have three options. The seller can lower the price to the appraisal value. You also have the option of bringing the difference between the appraisal value and the sale price to the closing table. Or you can walk away from the home.

While not required, it’s highly advantageous for you to get a home inspection as well. Even if there’s nothing currently wrong with the home, walking through it with an inspector will give you an idea of what to watch for in the future should problems arise. If there’s anything truly serious, you also have the chance to back out at that point. Yes, you’ll have to start over in your search for the right home. On the other hand, you won’t be living in a house that might fall apart in six months. However, sometimes sellers will lower the price so you have the money to fix whatever’s wrong, or they’ll fix the issues themselves before you move in.

Certain basic safety items are looked at during an appraisal, but a home inspection goes deeper. If you’re moving into an older house with lead-based paint, for example, that would be caught by an appraisal and may have to be fixed before you can move in.


When the underwriting process is complete, it’s time to come to the closing table. You’ll bring your down payment and any other closing costs, sign the mortgage and take possession of the deed.

There are ways to keep your closing costs down. One way you may be able to do this is by increasing the price of your offer in order to convince the seller to pay for other things. In this way, you roll the closing costs into the loan.

How Long Does the Mortgage Process Take?

Now that you know how the process works, how long does it actually take to get the keys? That’s different for everyone, but let’s try to give you a rough idea.

Through Rocket Mortgage® by Quicken Loans®, you can be preapproved in minutes by sharing your income and asset documentation from your bank. Even if you get started over the phone, most people can expect to be preapproved within a day or so.

The longest part of the process is often shopping for a home, so if you have a list of wants and needs you can take to your agent, that should help you get started quickly.

Once you have your purchase agreement and underwriting starts, we try to close your loan within 30 days here at Quicken Loans.

Besides looking for the home, the next biggest delay in the process can sometimes be getting an appraisal scheduled. There are areas of the country where there’s a shortage of appraisers. If you’re buying in one of these areas, it’s important that both the buyer and seller have realistic expectations.

You can really help speed up the process if you get all the documentation that you’re asked for turned in on time. This may be the one thing about the mortgage process that’s most directly in your control.

The Psychology Behind Spending and Saving

by Patrick Chism, August 7, 2017 in Saving Money

Have you ever wondered what makes us spend or save? Many of us know people who are frivolous spenders and others who are fervent savers. For me, spending money on a new outfit and shoes is way more exciting than putting it in my savings account. But what makes a person be more of a saver or a spender? And more importantly, can these behaviors be changed? Let’s take a look at the psychology of spending and saving so that you can understand your own tendencies and take steps to improve.

A Healthy Balance Between Saving and Spending

Finding a healthy balance between saving and spending is something that many people grapple with from day to day. A recent Capital One survey of 2,000 Americans found that 25% of respondents struggle to keep up with their monthly obligations.

I recently discussed the survey with Weslia Echols, who is an accredited financial counselor and the founder of Trinity Financial Coaching in Detroit. She discussed some key factors that impact saving and spending habits.

“What I see from working with many clients is that they actually think that they are making a good decision when they choose spending over saving,” she said. “Many rationalize their decisions by making a bad decision for a good cause.”

Echols said that in general, people lack financial education and a long-term view of their money across the board. And while money may seem daunting, simple steps like using a budgeting service or implementing various techniques to free up money can put a person on the path to success.

Experiences and Observations

Beyond financial education, Echols explains that spending and saving habits actually have more to do with their past experiences and observations.

“Sometimes we have to coach people through their ability to make behavioral changes to help them with their finances,” she said. “Some people have mental blocks that keep them from saving and handling money responsibly.”

Watch Out for the Joneses

Echols pointed to the notion of “keeping up with the Joneses” as it plays into the rationale for spending. This expression refers to the desire to match or exceed the lifestyle and material wealth of people around you.

“Some people don’t realize that it doesn’t make sense keep up with your friend’s spending habits,” she explained. “And many people think the phrase ‘living beneath your means’ is a negative concept even though it will probably help them live more economically.”

Time Is a Four-Letter Word

Time is also an important psychological factor when it comes to the decision to spend money over saving it.

“I think people believe they have plenty of time to save money when they really don’t,” Echols admitted. “This is a big hurdle we face when it comes to spending habits. Life flies by very quickly while many people choose other priorities over saving money.”

For instance, savings and investments will ideally make up a large part of a person’s retirement funds, and the longer you wait to start, the less money you’ll have during your golden years. If you’re still thinking about investing, take some time to look at the math. Even waiting a year or two can mean losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars when you consider interest.

Tracking Finances

In order to save, people have to either look for ways to cut monthly expenses, increase their income or, in many instances, both, she said.

“Spending and saving both come down to making decisions that align with your goals,” Echols said. “What I’m finding is that people aren’t tracking their finances and haven’t sat down to assess their monthly cash flow. They may be spending more than they have but sometimes they aren’t aware of that.”

She used the analogy of a steak dinner: You can choose to spend $45 for a restaurant dinner or make the same meal yourself at home for less money. This is where people make a choice, and only one option can save them money.

“People have to choose to control their money. If they don’t, their money will control them!” Echols stressed. “We tell our clients that it comes down to exercising diligence and making the necessary behavior changes.”

A good place to start is through a free budgeting service like Here you can look at your bills, income and financial goals all in one place. It’s a great way to make yourself more aware of the changes you need to make.

Start Early

If you want to make a change in your financial life, it’s always best to start when you’re younger. While teaching an old dog new tricks is absolutely possible, it’s usually easier to learn something when you’re younger.

“This is why I love working with college students, so I can get to them early in life,” Echols said. “The biggest piece of advice I give is to start with a monthly budget and I tell them that they’re in the driver’s seat of their money.”

But even if you haven’t developed these skills in your more formative years, you can still make some simple (but effective) changes now. One way to do this is by automating your finances. Set up automatic deposits into your savings or investment accounts. This way, even when you’re not feeling especially disciplined, your bank account is doing the hard work for you.

Bad Habits Can Be Unlearned

Echols acknowledges that many of our bad habits with spending come from how we saw our parents or family live. But she says it’s just one aspect of a culmination of bad influences and financial decisions.

“It’s important to recognize when you are your own worst enemy and when your behavior is sabotaging your quest for financial success,” she said. “This understanding will help to avoid more behavioral mistakes in the long run.”

Echols has more than 20 years of experience in administration, accounting, financial planning and credit management. To find financial resources or a financial advisor in your area, visit the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Ready to Chop Away at Your Debt? Pay It Off as Quickly as Possible

by Dan Rafter, July 26, 2017 in Credit & Debt

Man paying his bills
You’ve made the decision to pay off your mountain of debt. But you’d like to see some immediate results. Is this even possible? Can you pay down your credit card and other debt quickly?

That depends on how you define “quickly.” Financial experts have tips for how you can start making an immediate dent in your debt. Don’t expect miracles, though. These tips will help you pay off your debt faster. But remember that building up your debt took time; eliminating it will, too.

Go After Those Credit Cards

Credit cards are often the debt that most weighs us down. It makes sense, then, to pay off your cards as quickly as you can.

Deborah Sweeney, chief executive officer of MyCorporation Business Services in Calabasas, Calif., recommends that consumers follow the stack – often called the debt avalanche – method of paying off credit card debt.

In this method, you first pay off your credit card with the highest interest rate and devote any extra money you have each month to paying down that plastic’s debt, all the while making sure to pay the minimum required monthly payments on your other cards. Once you’ve paid off that first card, now apply that money each month to the card with the next highest interest rate.

Doing this, and eliminating your credit card debt as fast as you can, comes with another financial bonus, Sweeney said. “This method allows you to pay off debt quickly,” she said. “And once your cards are paid off, your credit score will improve.”

Build a Better Snowball

There is another method that financial experts recommend for paying off credit card debt quickly. It works similar to the stack (or debt avalanche) method. Instead, you pay off the credit card with the lowest balance first, sending any extra money you have each month to reducing that balance while making your minimum monthly payments on your other cards. Once that’s paid in full, you then focus on the card with the next highest balance.

This method is called the debt snowball approach. Paying off cards by interest makes more financial sense because you’ll spend less money during the process, but some cardholders need the more immediate satisfaction that comes with paying off a card with the lowest balance first.

Make a Budget

Julio Hoyos, an accountant with Dover, N.J.-based Julio Hoyos & Co., said that people will struggle to pay down debt quickly if they don’t first create a household budget that shows how much money they make each month and how much they spend.

“By tracking every expense, people will be able to identify where the money is going,” said Hoyos. “By knowing where the money is going, they are able to identify which expenses they can reduce and, in some cases, even eliminate altogether.”

You might think that a budget can’t help you pay down your debts at a faster clip, but consider this: When people eliminate certain expenses, this leaves them with extra money each month that they can put toward reducing their debt. With the help of a household budget, you’ll have an easier time pinpointing those expenses that you can eliminate to free up those extra dollars.

Hoyos points to cable TV packages: If you subscribe to cable but don’t actually watch much TV, you can cancel this subscription and save $80 – $100 a month. You can then use these savings to pay down your debt faster.

“When people track their expenses, they are able to identify many money-saving opportunities,” Hoyos added. “It’s very important to stay committed to develop the discipline to stick to the changes. Once you learn and practice, it will become automatic, and you will do it without even thinking about it.”

Set Goals – Don’t Be Afraid To Be Ambitious

For Phil Risher, founder of YoungAdultSurvivalGuide, the key is to set a goal for how quickly you want to pay off your debt. Once you do this and calculate how much you’ll have to pay each month, it’s easier to justify skipping the restaurant meals and trips to the movie theater to save your dollars.

Risher said that he paid off $30,000 in student loan debt in 12 months, all while making $48,000 a year. Risher said that because his goal was to pay off $30,000 in a year, he knew he had to pay off $2,500 in debt each month.

“That leads me to the next step: Live on a budget,” Risher said. “Since I knew I had to pay $2,500 a month and I was making $3,000 a month, I had to figure out how I was going to live off $500 a month. If you want something bad enough, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse.”

Boost Your Income

There’s another approach to take: One way to pay down debt quicker is to earn more money to put toward that debt. Harriette Halepis, content manager for Fort Myers, Fla.-based Dellutri Law Group, says that you can take on a part-time job, ask for more hours from your current employer or take on freelance or consulting work to help boost the income you bring home each month.

Halepis recommends that you use the extra money to pay down your debt with the highest interest rate first. She also suggests that you create a spreadsheet listing your monthly expenses, spending expenses and monthly income. You can then analyze these numbers to make changes in your monthly spending. If you discover, for instance, that you are spending too much for utilities each month, call the companies and try to negotiate lower monthly fees.

Maybe you’ll discover that you’re spending too much on frivolous activities such as coffee, clothing and restaurant meals. Cut back on these expenses and use the extra dollars that you save each month to pay down your debts faster.

“Don’t cut so much that you can’t enjoy life, but cut enough to have extra dollars to spend to reduce your debt,” Halepis said.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Best Finance Apps to Help You Manage Your Financial Goals

by Danielle Forshay, July 12, 2017 in Saving Money

Wouldn’t it be nice if our finances would manage themselves? We may not be quite there yet, but with some of the apps currently available, we’re getting pretty close. No matter what your financial goals are, there are apps out there that can help you meet them.

To develop our list of the best financial apps, we spoke with financial experts about their favorite apps for specific goals. They gave us the lowdown on the apps that get the most use and some of their coolest features. Here are their picks.

The Best App for Saving Money: Qapital

Trying to save up for that big vacation and just can’t seem to make any headway? We’ve all been there. Kevin Han of Financial Panther recommends Qapital, an app that gives you a boost with a variety of “rules” that you can set to streamline your savings.

Kevin’s favorite feature is Qapital’s round-up rule. As he explains, “Qapital will monitor all of your credit card transactions and round up each transaction to the nearest dollar, and save the difference for you.”

Users can also automate their accounts to save a certain amount of money on a daily basis (the “set and forget rule”) or even link it to an event, such as saving $5 every time your favorite football team hits the field. The “guilty pleasure rule” allows you to “charge” yourself (i.e., deposit a certain amount into your savings account) whenever you indulge a guilty pleasure spending habit.

The Best App for Managing Investments: Personal Capital

When it comes to managing your investments, things can get complicated.

Brandon Yahn, founder of Student Loans Guy recommends the Personal Capital app. Its user-friendly interface allows you to add and track all of your investments. He enjoys the ease with which the app allows you to link all of your accounts and keep track of spending and investments.

Personal Capital allows you to track your investment numbers by account, asset class or individual security. It will also show you how your portfolio compares to major market benchmarks so you can keep on track to meet your personal investment goals. The app can also connect you to investment experts who can advise you on your portfolio.

The Best App for Making Payments: Prism

If you’re the owner of multiple credit cards, then you know that keeping on top of all those bill due dates can be tough! But there’s no need to live in constant fear of missing a deadline. When asked about the best app for making payments, Kevin Han promptly said, “Definitely Prism. It’s an app that not a lot of people know about, but it is my most used financial app.”

The beauty of Prism is that it links all of your billing accounts, paychecks and available funds so that you can easily visualize the movement of your finances. Once you connect all of your billing accounts, all your bills and account balances are synced to the app. It keeps track of your bill due dates and makes sure you never miss one. With a function even allowing you to pay those bills directly from the app, the process of managing bills could not be easier.

The Best App for Financial Advice and Overall Financial Management: Mint

When it comes to overall financial management and getting good advice on your spending habits, Deborah Sweeney, CEO of, recommends Mint, a well-known budgeting app. Mint helps you understand how your spending breaks down and can even provide advice based on your spending habits to help you meet your financial goals.

As Deborah remarked, “When you use Mint, you can literally see where the money you’re spending is going. It sends you an alert when you’re about to reach the end of your budget, provides advice on how to save even more money, and offers the ability to view your credit score. This app makes it easy to be mindful of your finances and proactive in the process, taking control to reduce your spending on unnecessary purchases now that you know how those purchases add up.”

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Down Payment Assistance – How Does It Work?

by Kevin GrahamJune 30, 2017 in Home Buying/Selling

Are you thinking about buying a home but you could use some funding for the down payment. A down payment assistance program might just be the answer you need.

Down payment assistance can be a helpful resource during your home buying process. Let’s discuss what down payment assistance is and a couple of different ways you might go about getting it in order to give you a leg up in buying your home.

Down Payment Assistance Basics

Down payment assistance occurs when part of your down payment is funded by the government – most commonly at the state or local level – by a nonprofit charitable organization or other public entity, by a labor union or even by an employer. Sometimes lenders have programs to provide a form of down payment assistance.

One requirement for using a grant or other type of down payment assistance is that the assistance must be available (via an application process) for the general public, not created just to help you.

Getting Help from Sellers

In the past, sellers were able to contribute to the buyer’s down payment through an intermediate service that kept an account for the buyer. This practice ended with a law change that took effect in 2008.

Just because the seller can’t help you with the down payment directly doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate with sellers for other items as part of the transaction. The seller can contribute to things like attorney fees, fees for real estate tax services and title insurance. They can also help pay for points paid up front to lower your interest rate and contribute to property taxes.

There are limits to how much a seller can contribute based on the type of loan you’re going with. Be sure to discuss these limits and your options with your Home Loan Expert.

Finding Down Payment Assistance

The following apply to traditional down payment assistance beyond seller concessions. Some programs may be available in your area if you know where to look.

Publicly Available Assistance and Grants

Some publicly available grants may have specific groups they’re aimed at and you’ll have to track these down, but if may be well worth your time. A good place to start is the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It has a curated list of programs available in each state. Where available, they also list programs that are unique to the city in which you’re looking to buy.

The 1% Down (but 3% Equity) Program

Quicken Loans has a grant program for well-qualified home buyers purchasing a single-unit primary residence, condo, planned unit development (PUD) or townhouse. You can to put 1% down and get a 2% equity grant from Quicken Loans.* You’ll need to meet the following qualifications:

  • In the majority of cases, you can’t make more than 100% of the median income in your area. Use this search engine to check your eligibility. If you live in an area that Freddie Mac considers underserved, these limits may not apply.
  • Your median FICO score must be 680 or higher.
  • For the best chance of approval, your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio should be no higher than 45%.
Those are the basics, but here’s some more detail on our Quicken Loan's % down program.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Get That High Interest Debt Under Control

by Brianna Budny, June 5, 2017 in Credit & Debt

Figuring out how to pay off debt can be daunting. The more money you owe, the more overwhelming tackling the amount can be.

When trying to become financially free, you need to have a plan. There’s a saying that goes, “you can wander into debt, but you can’t wander out of debt.”

One plan is to pay everything off in order of interest rates. Paying off your debts in order of highest to lowest interest rates will cause you to pay the least amount of interest. When following this plan, you will focus on paying off the one with the highest interest and then making minimum payments on everything else.

“Tackling the highest rate balances first can motivate you to take charge and cross the ultimate goal of crushing all of your debt,” said Sarah M. Place, CEO of Place Trade Financial Inc.

In order to clean up your finances, the first thing you need to do is not add any more debt. It helps to create the habit of spending wisely. Cut up the credit card, don’t go buy another pair of shoes and you don’t need to go out to dinner every time a friend invites you. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t buy or do anything, but you should budget everything and pay for them in cash while you are getting out of debt. Paying with cash will help you not spend more then you budgeted.

Your second order of business might be to list your balances in order of highest to lowest interest rates.

Your list of debts could look like this:

  • Credit card 1 – $5,000 at 13% interest
  • Credit card 2 – $3,700 at 11.25% interest
  • Car loan – $11,000 at 6.5% interest
  • Credit card 3 – $2,500 at 5.3% interest
  • Student loan – $15,000 at 3.6% interest

The first debt you will focus on paying off will be the one with the highest interest rate. In the example list above, you would pay off the credit card with the 13% interest rate first and make only minimum payments on everything else. After the first one is paid off, you will move to the one with the second highest interest rate. You keep moving down your list until all of the balances are at $0.

By focusing on paying off one at a time, it will help you stay motivated to accomplish your goal.

One of the biggest advantages of starting with the highest interest rates first is that you will end up paying less because the highest interest debts will be gone first. The quicker you pay off the highest interest debts, the slower your balance will grow.

“You slow the rate of growth on your overall debt portfolio by getting rid of the debt that was growing at the highest/fastest rate. Allowing the same amount of money to stretch farther and help you pay off lower interest rate balances faster,” said Place.

Tips to pay off debt faster and stay on track

  1. Have a $1,000 emergency fund for things that may come up like a flat tire or an urgent care visit.
  2. Eat dinner at home. Cooking at home is cheaper and healthier for you
  3. Pack a lunch. You can save up to a few hundred dollars a month by bringing your lunch instead of eating out.
  4. Get an extra job. Adding $1,000 or more a month to your income can help speed up this process.
  5. Shop for clothes on the clearance rack or resale shops.
  6. Use coupons at the supermarket. Look for coupons in ads, mailers, emails and coupons apps.
  7. When you do go out to eat, use a coupon or find a deal.
  8. Use cash. People tend to spend less if they use cash.
  9. Do a written budget. This will help you stay focused and organized with your money.
  10. Have an accountability partner. This will help you get back on track when you want to go on a shopping spree or take out a new credit card.

Paying off the highest interest rates first makes the most financial sense. If you’re the type of person that needs more motivation and quicker “wins,” you may want to look at how paying off the highest interest rates first compares to other ways of getting out of debt.

No matter how much you owe, paying everything off can be a hard journey. It’s important to stay focused and remember why you want to do this in the first place. Your reason for paying off your debt may simply be to be financially free or it may be so that you can qualify to buy a home you love. Whatever your motivation, it is important to stay focused on your reason why. The process of becoming financially free will not be fun or easy, but it is always worth it in the end.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Tips for a Successful Outdoor Party

by Malcolm BeanMay 29, 2017 in Homeowners Tips

The weather is getting warmer and the days longer. That means it’s time to gather the crew and enjoy the sunshine together. Of course, there’s nothing more symbolic of summer than a good old-fashioned cookout. Having a plan can make sure you’re able to truly relax. Here are a few tips so that you and your guests will truly enjoy the summer experience.

A Quick Note About Rain

It’s important to remember that outdoor parties happen outdoors. I’ve never read a forecast I believed, so keep an eye on the weather to make sure all your hard work isn’t ruined by a few rain drops. Have a backup plan in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Crank Up the Tunes

The soundtrack of your party is what’ll take it to the next level. A playlist of classics is guaranteed to make sure everyone enjoys the music. Even the most beloved song gets old the fourth time the playlist restarts. Make sure the list is long enough to last. At a minimum, it should be half the length of your party.


These little pests can turn the most enjoyable evening into a struggle. Make sure they’re not invited by using these tricks to make your space a mosquito-free zone. Most importantly, remove any standing water, as that’s where they lay their eggs. Next, lighting some citronella candles will do wonders to keep bugs off your guest list. Providing bug sprays can also offer personal relief to your guests.

Outdoor Lighting

Once the sun starts to dip, you might enjoy cooler summer temperatures, but you don’t want to lose sight of the party. Literally. Maybe you already have some outdoor lights, but make sure they’re softer ones, not blinding flood lights. If you have a safe space for it, a fire is a great way to provide some illumination. If not, string lights can bring a charming touch to your event. Have them set up ahead of time so you’re not fumbling around in the dark.

Yard Games

The constant buzzing of phones is a quick way to dampen the party mood. One way to keep people from checking their social media nonstop is with yard games. Kids and adults are both likely have a great time with these fun activities. A beanbag toss (also called cornhole in some parts of the country) is a yard game classic, and you can even make your own set!

Think of Your Guests When Planning the Menu

If it were just you eating at this party, you’d know exactly what to serve. But your guests should be your first thought when planning the menu. On a very important level, you don’t want to trigger any allergies. But it’s also important to make sure your vegetarian and vegan friends will leave just as satisfied as your carnivorous ones. Reach out to your guests before the party to get info about your guests’ allergies and preferences.

Make It Customizable

A nice way to put the power in the hands of guests is have a condiment bar. This lets your picky eaters decide what they do and don’t want. Spice things up by using Popsicle sticks as labels for the condiments. Provide a good spread, but make sure to stock up on the go-to items, like ketchup and mustard. Take it even further by providing a s’mores bar with all the fixings. Some unexpected items like peanut butter can bring new life to this summer classic.

A Cool Way to Cool

A cooler is just as important as a grill for the success of your party. Keeping your drinks chilled is the best way to keep your guests happy and hydrated. Bring in the summer vibe by freezing partially full frozen water balloons to serve as ice for your cooler. The pop of color is a fun addition, and as the water melts, it can be a great activity, too.

Clean Grill, Clean Fun

If you don’t clean the residue off your grill, the ghosts of meals past will end up haunting your guests. Mix of ¼ cup of baking soda and ¼ cup of water together to scrub the grate and let it sit. After 15 minutes, wipe it off with a cloth and run it at high heat to burn off any excess, and you’re good to go!

Leave No Meat Behind

As you’re grilling, you might notice the little bit of meat that gets stuck on the hot grill. It’s the worst. Luckily, it’s easy enough to avoid, and the solution can even add some flavor to your dish. Use olive oil to keep your meat from sticking. Use a paper towel soaked in olive oil to apply a coat of oil to the grill. It’s important that the grill already be hot and the meat be close behind so the oil doesn’t simply burn away.

The More Plates, the Merrier

It’s so tempting to keep just one plate at the side of the grill to plop everything on and sort it out later. But if you’re grilling vegetables, sometimes you don’t want those flavors to mix. A separate plate for each type of grilled goody will make sure all combos are intentional.

Patience: It’s What’s for Dinner

Fight your inner micromanager and trust your grill to cook your meat. When you’re checking for doneness, don’t poke, flip or stab anything. When in doubt, let the pros tell you how long to grill all the different items in your meal. Leaving your food alone will allow a premium sear and picture perfect grill marks.

What About the Children?

If your guest list includes some people born this side of the turn of the millennium, they’re going to want some activities to keep them busy. This is where those lawn games can come in handy. And having some specifically kid-themed games, like a water gun range, will make your party a hit with kids and their parents.

Think About the Drink

If you plan to serve alcohol at your party, having everyone’s favorite drink can be a real hassle. Instead of trying to please everyone, consider providing a house drink like outlaw lemonade. Providing an alcohol-free option is important, too. Checking with your guests beforehand will ensure everyone enjoys their time. Of course, you can still let guests bring their own drinks if so inclined.

With planning, your party can be a good time for your guests and for you. Kick back and enjoy the delicious fruits of your labor while soaking up some sun. You deserve it.