Whether you’re purchasing your very first home or you’re looking for one to retire in, Lincoln has a wonderful assortment of homes to choose from all throughout our neighborhoods. Similar to our city’s great variety of homes is the awesome number of local experts that are well-versed in the home buying process. They’ll be your helping hand in finding a home, getting pre-approved, having an inspection done, and conducting any work on the home after the purchase – plus everything in between – and they are sure to make the process as a whole much smoother and less stressful. If you want to make sure that the home buying experience is just as great as your future new home itself, we recommend working with the following businesses and professionals!

Family Helping Family

Jim Toof
CharterWest Bank

What is it that makes CharterWest Bank (charterwest.com) stand out from the competition? According to Mortgage Loan Officer Jim Toof, it’s the importance of family within their company culture.

“The systems and technology that Nick Brion, Chris Banyay, and the entire mortgage origination team at CharterWest have put into place make it very easy to move the borrowers through the process, and that definitely gives us an advantage,” Jim began. “But more importantly, it’s our culture of family. It’s our willingness to step in and help out one another to make sure that loans get through the process to close on time.”

The team at CharterWest told us, “Lending is what we do.” This statement is backed by an impressive lineup of qualifications and options. To start, CharterWest is the largest NIFA lender in the state, and they come in at number two when ranked by purchase volume. They’re licensed to make loans in all 50 states and offer a huge variety of loan options to fit your financing goals. This includes: Long-term Fixed Rate Loans, Low Down Payment Loans, No Down Payment Loans, Adjustable-Rate Loans, FHA/VA Loans, Construction Loans, Extended Lock Options, Conventional Loans, Rural Development Loans, NIFA/IFA First Time Home Buyer Loans, Jumbo Loans, Bridge Loans, Investment Property/Second Home Loans, and Reverse Mortgages. This is all in addition to a couple more options coming soon, so be sure to contact Jim and the team at CharterWest to learn about the possibilities they have for you. Jim was a REALTOR® for 10 years and has been a mortgage loan officer for nearly 10 years as well, which allows him to understand the process very well on both sides of the transaction.

“If you own a home and haven’t been in the market for the last three or more years, be aware that the process has dramatically changed. It’s best to develop a relationship with a REALTOR® and lender to get up-to-date and educated about the process,” Jim advised. “For the first time homebuyer, do your research on the market. Interview professionals to find the ones that best fit your ideology. In the current market, the first offer you put in may be accepted right away, but you should also be prepared to put in multiple offers in order to get a home. Stay true to the process and we will help you get a loan to fit your needs so that you can enjoy all the benefits of home ownership.”

Experts that Know the Ins-and-Outs

Makaylee Gayed
McCombs Commercial Realty

McCombs Commercial Realty LLC (mccrealty.com) is a full-service real estate brokerage and development firm founded in 2003. Though they have commercial in their name, they also offer residential services. To learn more about the residential side of things, we spoke to Makaylee Gayed, who works in residential and commercial sales, leasing, and property management.

“Something that really gives our agents here at McCombs Commercial Realty a big advantage is the experience they have on both the association and property management side of things,” shared Makaylee. “We know the ins-and-outs of moving into a homeowners association, and the things to look for when buying or selling a home that may ultimately be a potential issue or need repaired.”

Makaylee stated that we are in a very trend-heavy time when it comes to homes, and those who are looking to buy new construction are searching for these unique features – for example, a cabinet door that leads into a pantry. In addition, homeowners want to make sure the space truly feels like their own, so they are also looking for homes that would be able to be easily remodeled to fit their vision.

“I think it goes without saying, but if you are buying, be preapproved!” Makaylee said. “Insurance rates are going up, but the market is still moving fast. If you’re selling, it’s important to take the extra time and money to put on some fresh paint, clean up mulch beds and the lawn, and have someone professionally clean, just to name a few suggestions. It will make all the difference and help create that fresh, new feeling that attracts potential buyers.”

Insurance Coverage Created for the Midwest

When looking for the best insurance policy for your new home, it’s wise to go with a company that recognizes the damage that our Midwestern storms can leave on houses. We recommend Midwest-based Shelter Insurance (shelterinsurance.com), a company that comes with a good understanding of the storms that come through the area and how to take on a big storm with many claims. Shelter Insurance has a claims office right here in Lincoln as well as adjustors all across the state that work with Shelter full-time. Policyholders have two years to get repairs done to their home after a claim – which is ideal as Nebraska can have severe weather year-round, and those storms do not always come at a good time to have repairs done.

Matthew Moorhead
Shelter Insurance

“People are often pushed to look for the cheapest policy possible in order to keep their mortgage payments down,” explained Matthew Moorhead. “This can be a mistake. Saving a couple of hundred dollars a year on homeowners insurance can turn around and bite you when you have a claim. As with all insurance, it is important to have an educated agent who can explain what coverages you will need to fully protect your investment. You want to make sure that you have the house properly insured for total replacement cost along with replacement cost on your personal belongings.”

Matthew explained that when choosing a deductible, you want to make sure you’re aware of wind and hail deductibles that can be up to 2-4% of the value of your home. For example, a 4% deductible on a $500,000 home would be $20,000. Matthew shared a few examples of his own deductible suggestions based on the cost of the home:

• $150,000 – $200,000…$1,500 deductible
• $200,000 – $500,000…$2,500 deductible
• $500,000 or more…$5,000 deductible

The biggest piece of advice Matthew shared with us was to speak with the experts. All too often do homeowners skip this step and later find themselves paying for it in the end.

“Please speak with an agent to help you with your homeowners insurance and take the time to go over everything with them,” said Matthew. “There are several online companies out there that have very tempting premiums, but without an agent you really do not have a clue of what type of coverage you’re getting. We have been doing this for many years – in my case, 22. We have been to countless hours of training and are required to be licensed by the state. We deal with this stuff on a daily basis. Unless you are well-versed in insurance, I would not trust a website with a price based on coverages and limits that you enter into a website. You are a future homeowner – not a future insurance agent.”

Sticking With You Beyond Closing

Union Bank & Trust (UBT, ubt.com) offers a variety of products that can assist someone looking to enter the home buying process. This includes conventional loans, FHA/VA, NIFA, extended rate lock programs, and bridge loans, plus the ability to customize an inhouse loan for your particular situation. Their goal is to help make your dream of owning a home come true. They also retain the servicing on the majority of their loans, so you’ll have someone local to work with.

Kelly Novotny
Union Bank & Trust

“We are unique in that we offer so many different programs for our buyers and we pride ourselves on a very high level of customer service,” shared Kelly Novotny, mortgage loan officer. “We have years of experience so we can help buyers with those tough decisions. Also, having local servicing is an added benefit of working with UBT. With all the summer storms we’ve had, it makes it nice for people to be able to talk to someone and see someone in person to help them with their insurance questions and checks. We strive to give the best all-around service to our clients and let them know we are here not just through closing, but the entire life of the loan. The mortgage process has become transactional for many lenders, but at UBT we strive to create relationships and be there for our clients far into the future.”

With a rapid pace being the norm for the local market over the last three to four years, UBT knew a slowdown was in sight. While interest rates have increased, Kelly explained that historically, they are still very good. There are a limited number of houses on the market, which has also affected things for many buyers. At the end of the day, however, Lincoln remains a great place to buy a home and invest in your future.

“The number one thing right now that I recommend to clients is to get pre-qualified,” said Kelly. “Doing so helps you get a leg up on other buyers and make an offer with confidence. We can typically have a letter to you in only 20 to 30 minutes so that you’re ready to go make an offer. Being prepared is key to getting the home that you really want! And in this competitive market, be patient — if you stick with the process, you will fi nd a home that you love and that suits your needs.”

165 Years of Experience

June Ring
NP Dodge Real Estate

NP Dodge Real Estate (npdodge.com) has been a locally owned, Nebraska-based real estate company for over 165 years. NP Dodge is America’s only real estate company to be led by the same family and is one of the longest running family-operated businesses in the nation. As the most experienced real estate company in the country, NP Dodge is passionate about real estate, the local communities, and helping clients make the best property investments. We spoke with June Ring, realtor at NP Dodge, to learn more about how the company can help potential home buyers through the process.

“There are a lot of good companies out there, and competition is strong. However, I believe we stay on our A-Game by training and providing agents that offer quality support,” June shared. “Communication with one another and our leadership is pinnacle. I enjoy giving people the support they need in achieving their home buying or selling goals.”

Though inventory was at an all-time low and some houses are still selling fast, June believes that the market is changing. She finds that people are being more cautious, taking their time, avoiding overspending, and trying to get a solid footing in the changing economy. June expects to see people begin to search for a home that is priced correctly.

“I strongly recommend to people to reach out for help,” said June. “Realtors are connectors. We know a lot of people that can help you with preparing and getting ready for the next big thing in the buying or selling process. We also help you see the things you may have overlooked, and can make a stressful life change a lot easier. I’m always willing to sit down with folks and process their options, too. Sometimes it’s the right time to jump into the home buying process and sometimes it’s not, but I want to assure you that I’ll be there when you need me.”

Asking all the Right Questions

Matt Jensen

The homeowner policy you select is an important piece of the home buying process. The policy protects from unexpected losses to the home, which includes weather damage, fire, theft, burglary, and sewer back-up. To learn more about the importance of a good homeowner policy, we spoke with FNIC (fnicgroup.com) Sales Executive Matt Jensen.

“The most common misconception is that all homeowner policies are the same and you are shopping around to find the lowest price,” Matt explained. “This could not be further from the truth. There are certain aspects you need to be aware of, and the one that I run into the most is how they offer settlements on roofs. Weather damage to roofs is the most common type of claim that homeowners file in Nebraska. There are carriers that will change how they settle roof claims once the roofs are a certain age. Ideally, you would want a policy that offers replacement cost – no matter the age of the roof – which gives coverage for the value of replacing the roof, minus the deductible.”

Matt advises potential home buyers to ask about the age of the roof right away, as this is something that almost all insurance carriers will want to know. Not only can that have an effect on how the settlement is calculated, but it can also have an impact on premium. Matt has seen situations where the premium went down several thousand dollars on a homeowner policy when a 15-year-old roof was replaced with a new one. Insurance carriers know that is what they are paying out the most on, so most give a sizeable credit if the roof is newer.

“The other subject to talk about before purchasing a new home is if there had been any claims filed by the current owners,” Matt shared. “We run loss reports on properties when we are looking to insure a home. This tells us if the individual has filed any claims in the past few years, as well as if there have been any claims filed on the property. There have been some instances where we see claims have been filed on a property that someone is purchasing, and when we tell the home buyer about the claim, they know nothing about it. It is important to make sure that any claims the owner had filed actually had the repairs made and that they were made correctly. If it is known that the prior owner had been paid out for a claim, but did not make the repairs, it should be a big red flag for the buyer.”

Affordable Home Décor

Cherie Anderson
Paisley Lynn Boutique

Moving into a new home is a great opportunity to swap out some of your old furniture for new styles, which Paisley Lynn Boutique (paisleylynnboutique.com) Owners Cherie Anderson and Heather Chloupek love to help customers with. Their philosophy is to provide beautiful home décor that doesn’t break the bank. Cherie and Heather encourage you to bring in a photo of the space you are looking to fill, and they’ll work their magic to help you create something unique that will really “wow” your guests at your housewarming party and beyond.

“We don’t see the trend of soft earth tones going away anytime soon,” said Cherie. “Personally, I love this trend as I feel these selections have a more timeless feel versus pieces that are bright and loud. Adding accent pieces can bring that pop of color you may be wanting without having to update the entire space, too. Tying into the earth tones are plants – which have always been a popular addition to homes, though we expect to see the selection of nature items for the home continue to grow.”

Cherie explained that texture plays a key role in how cozy a space feels, and as a result, plush textiles have become and continue to be a popular element in the home. Paisley Lynn offers throws, pillows, tea towels, and lots of lighting options to soften any space. Another growing trend is the focus on utilizing all areas of the home, including the outdoor space for entertainment purposes. Paisley Lynn can help homeowners add special touches with luminaries, pillows, flower pot picks, greenery, and wall hangings.

“In addition to finding unique, rare, and affordable pieces, our favorite activity is hosting private parties,” Cherie said. “You get to invite five or more guests for a private party, and we provide lite appetizers and drinks. All you have to do is invite and show up! The host receives anywhere from 10-30% off their entire purchase and guests of the host receive 10% off, along with other perks. It’s a fun, unique outing to eat, drink and shop with your friends.”

Loan Options to Meet Your Goals

At Lincoln Federal Savings Bank (lincolnfed.com, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender), you’ll find that they’re unique in the local market due to underwriting the majority of their loans in-house, as well as their variety of investors, lock options, and teams dedicated to providing quick loan approvals and turn times from application to closing. They’re a NIFA participating lender that offers products for first-time homebuyers that includes down payment assistance programs in conjunction with Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, VA, and FHA Loan products.

Angie Schwartz
Lincoln Federal Savings Bank

“The current loan limit for a Conforming Loan in the Nebraska market is $647,200, which is backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” shared Vice President/ Mortgage Loan Officer Angie Schwartz. “These loans offer 10, 15, 20, and 30 year fixed rate loan products in addition to adjustable rate mortgages with 3, 5, 7, and 10 year fixed rate terms. For those clients seeking to finance a higher loan amount, we offer Jumbo Loans with fixed and adjustable rate terms. Most customers are surprised to learn that Jumbo loans currently offer rates starting .375% lower than Conforming Loan rates.”

For new construction, Lincoln Federal offers extended lock options that offer interest rate protection on permanent financing for clients who are building a new home. This eliminates stress for the customer and allows them to focus on the construction project, knowing that their rate is protected – and this is more important than ever in a rising rate environment.

“If you’re a first-time homebuyer, I strongly encourage you to meet with a lender early in the process, as it will help you to understand if you need to work on establishing credit, what your potential monthly payment may be, and the various options for down payment assistance that are available to you right now so that you can start saving money and be more prepared financially when you’re ready to start looking at homes,” Angie said. “And as for any homebuyer, it’s so important to get pre-qualified. Take the time to meet with your preferred lender to discuss your budget and what purchase price and loan amounts meet your desired monthly payment based on current interest rates. Be prepared to explore interim or bridge financing options and review your current credit history and credit score, as this impacts your interest rate and loan options, as well.”

A Realtor with Construction Knowledge

Jayson Becker
Bancwise Realty

Buying a home is a very detailed process, so you don’t want to do it without the knowledge and resources to make it go smoothly. You want to work with a realtor you can trust—one who knows and loves Lincoln. That realtor is Jayson Becker of BancWise Realty (bancwise.com). Jayson is driven by faith, honesty, and the belief that those who work the hardest will always win.

“What truly sets me apart as a realtor is my knowledge of new construction,” said Jayson. “I know the products that go into a new house. My background in the construction industry gives me a leg up when looking at existing homes and the potential problems or non-problems the buyer can expect.”

When you work with Jayson, he takes into consideration all of the important factors that influence your decision to purchase a home. This includes the location of the best schools or proximity to specific amenities. He takes every detail into consideration when representing you, as his goal is to create a warm and welcoming home-buying experience for you and your family.

“You have an abundance of options in choosing your realtor,” said Jayson. “Give me an interview and I will show you what makes me different. I am full time—not part time—in this business. I answer my phone and return my calls. I am honest and fair and will treat you no differently than I would treat my own mother.”

Keep the Home Buying Process Local

The process of buying a home is made more comforting – especially when you’re new to the process – when you know that your loan is being serviced locally; in other words, the bank is not selling the servicing of your home loan to another bank. You can find this advantage at West Gate Bank (westgate.bank), where you will have the comfort in knowing that you’ll be working with and speaking to someone local for anything that may arise. Their processing, closing, and underwriting teams are all local and on-site as well to assist with questions that need answers.

Matt Melichar
West Gate Bank

“We pride ourselves in being able to offer a wide array of home loan programs such as, but not limited to: conventional, FHA, VA, USDA, and NIFA,” shared Matt Melichar, mortgage loan officer. “We also provide our Jumbo Portfolio loan option to customers that have a loan need above the standard limits. Higher input costs and rising purchase prices have caused this to be a popular option. For new construction homes, we offer extended lock mortgage loans up to nine months in advance of the completion.”

You may now understand that West Gate Bank is not by any means a “one-size-fits-all” bank; they can tailor your loan to your specific needs or financial situation. Matt stressed the importance of getting pre-approved as soon as you can, not only to understand what you can afford, but to also use it as an opportunity to ask questions and better understand the process as a whole. When you take care of your financing first, you’ll be able to find the home of your dreams with confidence, knowing that it is within your budget.

“Interest rates have steadily been rising this year, and it seems that we are starting to see the demand and competition amongst buyers lighten up a bit,” Matt shared. “The result of these current trends has hopefully given those looking to buy a better opportunity to have their offer accepted while maybe not having to get as aggressive on the purchase price and other terms. If the supply of homes continues to grow and buyer demand continues to drop, we will hopefully see rates begin to stabilize and the inflated home prices flatten. Give us a call today to see how we can help you take advantage of this!”

Experience That Shows

Deb Wagner
Nebraska Realty

Realtors are here to help you navigate the home buying process and find you the perfect home, despite the intense market. When it comes to finding a realtor, the options can be overwhelming, but experience is a good factor to start with. Deb Wagner with Nebraska Realty (nebraskarealty.com/agents/deb-wagner) has been in the real estate business for 20 years and works with both buyers and sellers in existing homes, new construction, acreages, and lots. With her market knowledge, she is familiar with the trends and can advise you on how much to offer for the home you want to purchase.

“Negotiating is a big aspect of the home buying transaction, but it’s not always the easiest,” said Deb. “As your realtor, I can help you create an offer that is reflective of both the market and your budget.”

With her experience and practice in the real estate field, you are sure to have an easier time finding the best home for you and your family in today’s market.

The Importance of an Inspection

We can’t place enough emphasis on this statement – a home is likely to be the largest purchase you may make in your lifetime. This is why it is extremely important to gather as much information as possible about the property you are looking to purchase. A great place to turn to in order to have a thorough inspection of your home is King’s Home Inspections, LLC (kingsinspections.net).

Randy King
King’s Home Inspections, LLC

“You need to know the overall condition of the property, the status of various systems in your home, the life expectancy and condition, upcoming repairs and replacements, and possible upgrades that can improve the efficacy and value of the house,” said Owner Randy King. “Unfortunately I have heard many horror stories from this last year of people being very disappointed and facing unnecessary repairs that could have been dealt with at time of purchase, had proper inspections been conducted.”

It was just a year ago when we spoke with Randy about many homebuyers in Lincoln choosing to forego the inspections due to a rush to grab whatever property was available. Sellers were in a position to accept a cash offer; people were bidding houses up, often giving 10, 20, or 30 thousand or more over asking price – sometimes buying sight unseen. Randy explained that this is dangerous and reflected an extreme example of supply and demand. Now that supply has increased a little and mortgage interest rates have risen, the demand and accompanying frenzy in purchasing real estate has eased.

“The prudent buyer/investor wants to gather as much information about their purchase as possible, not only to alert them of possible problem areas or upcoming replacement, but to allow them to re-negotiate a more accurate price for the property,” said Randy.

“The demand is still high, but as new properties are completed and more units become available, demand has eased slightly. Interest rates show no signs of falling; indeed, the signs are they will increase, and of course, inflation has taken a lot of buying power out of your dollar. This has shifted the price range of housing the consumer is able to consider. With that in mind, it is more critical than ever to have a home inspection prior to purchase.”

Storage Made Easy

Often in the home building or buying process, a homeowner finds that they need to store additional items for a variety of reasons. Whether it be to reduce clutter, showcase open space in a home, or store items in between the sale of one home and the move to the new home, Store It All can help make that process easier. With modern, clean, 24-hour video-secured units, and a variety of sizes, a homeowner will have peace of mind knowing their prized possessions are safe and sound with Store It All. The best part? They make renting easy! Simply visit www.StoreItAllLincoln.com and complete the quick online rental process or call their office at (402) 975-2244.

House Shopping Made Fun

Whether you’re buying your first home, your dream home, or your tenth investment property, Professional Realty group of Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices (PRG, www.prg-ne.com) understands how important and big of an investment buying a home is. That’s why they have an army of experts ready to make sure they fi nd the best property for your unique circumstances.

Ben Bleicher
Professional Realty Group of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices

“When buying a home, start by making a wish list and setting a budget,” said Ben Bleicher, team lead and realtor. “We can help you choose a lender to get you pre-approved for a loan, and then you’re ready to start house hunting. Search for your dream home on our website: www.prg-ne.com. You can even compare walk scores, school ratings, and neighborhood demographics for different listings.”

When you save a search on PRG’s website, any new homes matching your wish list criteria will be delivered straight to your inbox the moment they go up for sale. When you find a home you love, your agent will help you submit an offer. PRG’s agents are skilled negotiators that know how to get you the best price and value possible. Once an offer has been accepted, they’ll help you navigate through inspections, appraisals, and closing in a stress-free way. They do all of this at no cost to you, the buyer, as they are compensated by the sellers.

“Client satisfaction is our priority, and I won’t be satisfied until you are,” Ben shared. “In order to best serve you, I’m available all hours, seven days a week, and can give my critical opinion on any houses you may look at to protect you from buyer’s remorse. I also offer resources that will allow you to fi nd listings before the general public is aware of them, which alleviates you from competition and overpaying. I want to show you how fun house shopping can be…the way it should be!”

Custom Furniture and Accessories for the Home

If you love the charm and comfort of timeless but unique, rustic design, Barnwood & Leather (barnwoodandleather.com) can make sure you achieve a look that suits your personality and complements your new home. Barnwood & Leather’s pieces include custom-designed leather and fabric home furniture and a wide variety of solid wood dining, kitchen, bar, and occasional tables.

Brenda Clark
Barnwood & Leather

“Our goal is to work with other small business owners who manufacture American-made furniture products or who offer high-quality pieces from outside of the USA,” said Brenda Clark, who co-owns the business with her husband, Mike. “We are thrilled to exclusively offer unique, American-made barnwood furniture that come from the north-central United States and are made by craftsmen who pride themselves on creating each piece. We also proudly offer a line of handcrafted dining and bedroom furniture pieces made of American hardwoods as well as upholstered and fine leather living room furniture manufactured in the USA.”

Barnwood & Leather was born from the desire to find unique furniture that would fi t just as comfortably in a home in the city or on an acreage as it would in a lake cabin.

“Our customers love the warm, inviting feel they create in their homes when they add furniture made from repurposed, natural materials,” Brenda said.

Barnwood & Leather continues to expand its furniture lines and home accessories selections for its customers. They can special-order many of their pieces so that customers have the right size and configurations, as well as fabrics, leathers, woods, and colors, to fit their space and their aesthetic desires for their home.

Ready to make the first move on purchasing your future home? You’ve got this! We encourage you to work with these local experts for a smooth and enjoyable experience.