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(StatePoint) Shopping for a home? Before you begin your search, it’s important to figure out what you can comfortably afford.
  “The interesting thing about homebuying is that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all process,” says Mike Dawson, Vice President of Single-Family at Freddie Mac. “After all, it’s your budget and these are your housing needs. Doing your homework to figure out what those needs are is the critical first step.”
  Before you start shopping, learn how much you can borrow. Free online resources, such as Freddie Mac’s “How Much You Can Afford” calculator, found at calculators.freddiemac.com, can help you get a handle on this figure during the preliminary stages of your search. This estimate is based on income, fixed monthly payments such as auto loans and student loans, and the terms of the loan you plan to take out.
  You may also consider speaking to a lender at this stage. If you qualify for a loan, he or she will provide you with a pre-approval letter stating how much home you can afford and the maximum amount you are qualified to borrow. Having this letter can help show the seller that you are a committed and qualified buyer. Keep in mind that the amount your lender is willing to lend is not always how much you should borrow. You should borrow only what you feel you can comfortably repay through monthly mortgage payments. Wait to take this step until you are actually on the hunt, as pre-approvals are usually good for only a limited time.
  When determining your budget, consider the length of your loan and the type of loan you want. Do you want to pay back the money that you borrow over 15 years or 30 years? The longer your loan term, the smaller your monthly payments, but you’ll pay more interest over time.
  The type of mortgage loan is important, too. With a fixed-rate loan, the interest rate stays the same through the life of your loan, as will your monthly payments. While this can offer some peace of mind, it’s important to know that such loans tend to have higher interest rates because the lender isn’t protected against a rise in its costs over the course of your loan. On an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) however, the interest rate may re-set every one, three or five years based on the movement of a specific index and the terms of the loan. Homebuyers may have low interest rates when they first take out their mortgage loans, but the rates may increase over the loan term. If your rate changes at a reset, then your monthly payment will change too.
  For a full run-down on all things homebuying, visit myhome.freddiemac.com.
  One of the most important aspects of homebuying is getting a handle on how much home you can afford. Do your research before you begin house-hunting, so you can be well-informed throughout the process.

(StatePoint) Curb appeal all begins with a beautiful lawn. When it comes to making a great impression, your effort is just one part of the equation. The quality of your equipment can play a major role, too.
     Experts say that by choosing a mower based on the type and size of your yard, a beautiful lawn can be much easier to achieve, so you can quickly get back to doing the things you love.
     “Mower technology has changed a lot in the last few years, so if you are not sure what’s right for your lawn, take advantage of your local dealer’s expertise,” says Jamie Briggs, product manager at Exmark, a leading mower manufacturer. “They can be a valuable resource when it comes to purchasing the right mower.”
  Briggs identifies several factors that can help you purchase a new mower with confidence.
Your Space
     How do you use your yard? If the space is populated by fixtures like lawn furniture, a play area for kids, a garden or bird feeders, maneuverability should be a top priority. Models that allow you to mow close to lawn features, such as zero-turn riders, can minimize time spent trimming.
     The size of your property should also be considered. If your lawn is a half-acre or less, a walk-behind mower typically makes the most sense. Those with larger properties should consider a zero-turn riding mower, which can reduce the time and effort required to maintain a beautiful lawn.
     How much can you afford to spend on your new mower? Keep in mind that financing options may be available through local dealers, which can make a higher quality mower an option for you.
Powering Up
     Know your preferred fuel type. For reduced environmental impact, propane-powered mowers are a good option, as they help reduce emissions by up to 25 percent when compared to gasoline. Due to the widespread availability of gasoline, gas-powered mowers are also a good option.
     A growing number of landscape professionals looking to increase fuel economy and optimize performance for their mowing conditions are choosing engines with electronic fuel injection (EFI). And since diesel fuel is often readily available on-site, farm and ranch owners are considering diesel-powered mowers.
Be Savvy
  Use free online resources to help you determine the right mower for your lawn, and find the best local dealer to work with. You can filter mower searches based on such criteria as fuel type, cutting deck size, price and payment options. Visit Exmark.com to start your search, and for more lawn care and maintenance tips, visit blog.exmark.com.
  Save time and energy on lawn maintenance for years to come by choosing the right mower for your yard’s specific features. 
     A little research up-front can help you be confident in your purchase for years to come.

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