Cobb County Real Estate and Community News

Aug. 14, 2019

Top 10 Blogs for Seniors to Follow

Top 10 Blogs for Seniors to Follow

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As baby boomers experience retirement, they have a lot to look forward to. We all know the internet is a treasure trove of resources, and boomers have been on the internet since its earliest days. Today, the internet is a vital tool as boomers celebrate the joys of aging. Besides using social media to stay updated with friends and family, blogs have become an integral source of tips for maintaining an active lifestyle as well as information to navigate topics paramount to their golden years.

There are blogs out there catering to pretty much everything of interest to the senior crowd. Just a short list of subjects you’ll find on blogs with the senior in mind is:

  • A humorous view of aging.
  • Navigating the complex healthcare system.
  • Managing financial challenges.
  • Encouraging a positive approach to aging.
  • Tips for an active lifestyle.
  • Today and tomorrows changing housing needs.
  • Tips to help adult children of aging parents.
  • Senior travel.
  • And much more.

Some blogs specialize in one or only a few of these subjects, but many cover a variety of subjects on a rotating basis. There’s certainly something from everyone. The list and links below aren’t listed with any type of ranking because everyone has their own preferences. Still, we hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

1. The Roaming Boomers:

Travel became a lifestyle when David and Carol Porter took an early retirement. Although this is technically a travel service business, the more than 1,000 articles and blogs have found a loyal readership since 2004. The focus of the blogs is luxury boomer travel but you can still dream of faraway places if you can’t get there yourself.

2. Time Goes By (what it’s really like to get older):

This blog by Ronni Bennett covers a wide section of subjects since she became one of the original bloggers helping aging boomers navigate social issues and interests. On any given day she might blog about Medicare, and then entertainment, humor, grief, mortality, and yet another day about love and sex. Ronnie had a long career as a network television producer and writer. Her generalist approach comes from a background on TV shows like The Dick Cavett Show, Barbara Walters Specials, 20/20, and documentaries. 

3. Baby Boomer Magazine:

This is another general interest blog with the mission of being a complete digital magazine for the baby boomer generation. The categories covered are retirement living issues, real estate, healthcare (insurance, health, and products), fitness and diet; retirement businesses and job opportunities; and travel and vacations (travel mates and dating). Also thrown in are nostalgia and baby boomer retirement stories. Each general category has several deep dive posts.

4. Senior

This is a good resource for people seeking senior housing and other senior appropriate services, both for themselves and their loved ones. While some senior living communities are featured on the site, it also shares information about aging in place at home. Other topics covered are home health care, caregiving, home modification, and home technology.

5. A Place for Mom Blog:

This is another one with the commercial purpose of helping find appropriate housing for the aging. However, it also has a lot of useful blogs and articles. You’ll find articles about leading an active lifestyle and information for family members caring for a loved one. Blogs and articles include Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia news, retirement finance and legal issues, and general aging and health news. If you do want to learn about some senior living communities in the Atlanta area, you can follow this link:

6. Boomer Café:

This is an original digital magazine for baby boomers. It has been providing tips, information, insights, and opinions for more than 20 years. Here, the emphasis is on baby boomers with active lifestyles and youthful spirits. Along with the obligatory information about health, money, and travel, you’ll find a selection of personal stories and a place to submit your own story. Overall, it’s a well-rounded website for still active boomers.

7. Graceful Aging:

This site features video blogs rather than traditional written blogs. It also breaks other traditional boundaries by seeking to entertain and instruct along with being informative. Along those lines, it tackles less traditional topics like driving safety, home safety, and personal safety. One goal is maintaining your dignity as an older adult.

8. Senior Planet:

This is another good resource for seniors remaining active and young at heart. Much of the coverage is about health, sex and dating, art and design, senior style, travel, news, and entertainment. Although it does appeal to seniors nationwide, it is based in New York City and you’ll find some blogs have an NYC leaning. But there are plenty of posting for everyone and no topic is off limit.

9. Justice in Aging:

This one is pretty specialized to serve people with an interest in fighting senior poverty through law. Along with blogs, it has videos and webinars on government safety net programs like Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and SSI. Also published are issue briefs, reports, and advocate guides for on-the-ground advocates.

10. Can I Retire Yet?:

This blog isn’t only for those who have already retired. It began as a blog serving baby boomers but is useful to anyone wanting to save, invest, or retire. It is written from an older perspective. This is not professional investing or retirement advice, but it is educational and entertaining. You won’t be told what stocks to invest in or how to plan your estate; rather, you will learn something about retiring early. 

Here are two other Total Atlanta Group blogs of interest for baby boomers and those nearing retirement:

Downsizing is a Step-By-Step Approach

Senior Housing: There are Lots of Options


If you need more information or have questions, please contact us. You can also reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!

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Aug. 14, 2019

Tips to Improve Your Chances as a Buyer When Multiple Offers Are On the Table - Making Your Offer the Winner

Tips to Improve Your Chances as a Buyer

When Multiple Offers Are On the Table

(Making Your Offer the Winner)

Today’s market is healthy for both sellers and buyers. However, it still favors sellers slightly because the available inventory of houses for sale is only a little more than 3 months. It’s generally considered a fully balanced market when there is a 6-month supply of houses. In today’s market, houses at the right price draw the attention of several buyers within a few short days of being listed for sale. But serious buyers shouldn’t be discouraged. With the right strategy, you greatly improve your chances of making the successful offer.

  • Your first move is being pre-approved for a loan. Being pre-qualified isn’t going to cut it when the seller has three other offers from pre-approved buyers. Always get pre-approved or even conditionally approved.  Conditionally approved means that you are approved for the loan based on certain conditions such as the house having to appraise for the purchase price. The stronger qualifications you have, the stronger of a buyer you are.

  • You should be familiar with the market as well as heavily relying on us. We gladly share the most up-to-date information so you know what the most recent comparable homes sold for. When you truly want a home that is likely to receive competitive bids, you need your bid to be based on the most recent market information available. 

  • Submit your best offer from the beginning. It’s not likely you’ll be negotiating the price down so your strategy should be to create a clear gap between your offer and other offers that are trying to negotiate downward. Sometimes sellers deliberately set a price below comparable sales in an effort to generate multiple offers, so paying a little extra doesn't necessarily mean you are paying over market value. 

  • Offer a large earnest deposit. Your earnest money applies to your down payment at closing. You don’t pay the earnest money until the seller accepts your offer but putting higher than customary earnest money in your offer tells the seller that you are a serious buyer. 

  • Be careful to minimize the contingencies. Most due diligence contingencies are between 7-10 days to have the home inspected and for you to accept or reject the inspection. Shorten your inspection contingency to 5 or 7 days. The advantage to the seller is that if you reject the house based on the inspection, they can quickly turn to offer number 2. If the home does need repairs to meet your needs or for your lender to approve the loan, be careful what you ask the seller to pay for. 

  • Be flexible about the closing date. The sellers could have multiple deals in work. The sellers might be buying another home contingent on selling their current home. The sellers could need to take possession of their next home quickly or they might need to stay in their current home a little longer. Or the seller might need cash quickly from the sale for another reason. In a competitive situation, being flexible about the closing date can swing the deal in your favor. Be prepared if the seller asks to change the closing date after the final purchase agreement has been accepted. 

  • Of less importance but helpful in some cases is writing a personal letter to the seller telling them why you love the home, how much you appreciate any upgrades they made, and how you’ll take good care of the home. The seller might love the home as well and want it to go to the right buyer.

Every home purchase is unique. At Total Atlanta Group, we build relationships by making sure that everyone is on the same page. With us, you always come first. I look forward to meeting you.

If you need more information or have questions, please contact us. You can also reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!

Aug. 7, 2019

Benefits of a Home Inspection - You Benefit By Knowing Your Future Home From Top to Bottom


Benefits of a Home Inspection

(You Benefit By Knowing Your Future Home From Top to Bottom)



Every house being bought or sold needs to have a home inspection performed. Generally, the inspection benefits the buyer but there is also good reason for the seller to have an inspection before hanging out a for sale sign. The seller knows the buyer will have an inspection done so the seller benefits when he/she knows what will be revealed. 

The seller can choose to correct problems before the buyer finds them.  Or he/she can disclose them up front as a demonstration of integrity to the buyer. 

Still, the home inspection benefits primarily the buyer.


Know the Home Your Family Will Live In

What’s important is knowing how severe the problems are and how the buyer and seller are willing to deal with them. Some buyers will demand that every little item on the report be brought up to satisfactory standards. Other buyers are willing to accept major deficiencies such as a heating system expected to fail in five years or less. Naturally, sellers don’t want to invest any more money than necessary into a house they will no longer own. Sellers want to close the deal “as-is” or as close to as-is that is reasonably possible.

It can’t be over emphasized how important a home inspection is if you are looking at fixer-upper homes. This should be intuitive. Even if you are an experienced contractor, you don’t want your emotions overriding good judgement. Always get a second set of eyes to inspect the home your family will live in.

The seller might have multiple offers are on the table. But that doesn’t mean a buyer should accept a home inspection revealing serious defects. The buyer needs a plan for how any serious deficiencies will be quickly corrected and paid for before or after the deal is completed.


Know Your Lender’s Requirements 

Even when a buyer is pre-approved, home inspections can stop the lender from financing the deal. Some mortgage lenders require that certain safety issues, such as high radon levels, a decayed roof, or dangerous structural defects be addressed before they’ll give you a loan. If one or more of these is suspected, it may be necessary for the potential buyer to bring in an expert for further inspection and/or diagnoses.

Everything is upgradable, fixable, or replaceable. The buyer just needs to have a list of what those issues are. There are a few starkly frightening home inspection terms in everyone’s vocabulary: mold, radon, and asbestos. But these too can almost always be repaired. What’s important is that buyers understand the repair process, cost, and time needed.


Not Everything Has To Be Repaired

Just because a problem needs repairing doesn’t mean the seller has to make the repair. Sometimes it’s in the buyer’s best interest to get a price concession and arrange for the repairs themselves. The seller is still looking at the bottom line he or she will walk away with. The seller might have a minimum repair made rather than consider the long-term consequences. 

Local code violations such as missing handrails almost always have to be repaired. However, upgrades to revised codes that were grandfathered are negotiable. The home inspection is not a code compliance inspection. While the inspector might make recommendations based on code changes, the buyer needs to look at the big picture. Rarely are houses that met code when built required to be upgraded at a later date. If the buyer wants a house fully complying with new codes, he/she should probably be looking for a new home

You should approach the house inspection as a relationship with the seller rather than a need to be right about everything. This is what makes a “must fix” and “nice to have” priority list good from the beginning. Final negotiations aren’t complete until the house inspection has been accepted.


Tips for Negotiating After the House Inspection 

Buyers and sellers often think negotiations are complete once both parties have signed the purchase agreement. Reality is that another round of negotiations is frequently needed after the house is professionally inspected. The inspector’s job is never to decide if the agreed price is correct or what it should be. Nor should the inspector be involved in a second round of negotiations after the inspection. 

Following the inspection is a time when emotions run high when the seller and buyer believe a deal has been struck but both learn there are more issues to be resolved. A good place to start is for both the buyer and seller agents to go over the report separately with their clients. They should make clear that generally there are five options that could result from the report:

  1. Ask for repairs.
  2. Do nothing by completing the sales as already agreed to.
  3. Negotiate a new price or money for repairs.
  4. Negotiate a combination of repairs and a price revision.
  5. Cancel the sale based on major problems revealed by the report.

After the inspection, go over the report with your Realtor.  Your Realtor will guide you through deciding how to proceed with your home purchase and help negotiate any changes that might be needed as a result of your professional home inspection. Remember, every home, even a brand new one, has at least a short “to do” list. You’ll move into your new home with complete peace of mind.

At Total Atlanta Group, we enjoy being part of your move into the next chapter of your life. If you need more information or have questions, please contact us. You can also reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!


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July 10, 2019

PRICE REDUCED! Townhome for Sale in Villas at Parkaire, Marietta GA



Fantastic townhome in Walton School District. This home has one of the largest plans in the community, with 3 spacious bedrooms and 3 baths. Has newer hardwood flooring and carpet on main. It has spacious great room, excellent location close to shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. Priced below market, home needs some updating.


  • 3 bd 3ba
  • Spacious Great Room
  • Hardwood Floors

Disclosures and Exhibits

Check our Latest Newsletter

Posted in Homes for Sale
June 19, 2019

PRICE REDUCED! Beautiful Condo for Sale in Twelve Atlantic Station Atlanta


Fantastic home in Twelve Atlantic Station with amazing views from 16th floor plus hardwood floors! This home has an open floor plan, kitchen with granite, stainless steel appliances, and bar are for additional seating.  Great amenities - pool, gym and club room. Walk to all the great Atlantic Station restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues.


  • 2 bd 2ba
  • Great Amenities (gym, pool and club room)
  • Open Floor Plan 

Disclosures and Exhibits

Check our Latest Newsletter

Posted in Homes for Sale
June 19, 2019

Fantastic Custom Home in Spring Hill Smyrna For Sale

1983 Westwood Circle SE

Smyrna, GA 30080



Stunning renovated and rebuilt home, on large private lot by Award Winning custom home builder Longo Homes. Everything new from 1st floor and up. Four sides brick with 100 year old reclaimed brick on sides and back.  Large, flat private backyard with deck & covered deck with fireplace. Open floor plan with large great room and kitchen. Custom cabinetry, and high-end Dacor appliances. Luxurious master bedroom with gorgeous master bath.  Each room has its own custom touches! Great schools and great location.  Minutes from Downtown Smyrna and  Atlanta Battery. House square footage is bigger than tax records - it has a half bath/laundry and finished basement.


  • 4bd / 4.5ba
  • GREAT Location and Schools
  • 2 car garage 
  • Everything in this home is new! 


Additional Property Links 

Check our Latest Newsletter

June 14, 2019

Home Improvement Rates of Return - What You Should Know Before Remodeling


Home Improvement Rates of Return

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It’s pretty easy to say you’ll get the most bang for your buck by remodeling either your kitchen or your bath. But like most things in life, “it depends.” Actually, it depends on several things. You don’t want to simply go with national statistics because your rate of return on a home improvement depends on your region of the country. For that reason, the information here relates to the South Atlantic Region as much as possible.

Consider Selling Before You Renovate

A fresh coat of paint and clean carpets might be your best choices if you are ready to sell. The fact is, you won’t recover all of your costs for most big renovation projects. A Remodeling Magazine report shows the best performing South Atlantic remodel is the front entrance of a home. Wood siding is replaced with manufactured stone veneer. The 2019 average rate of return when the house sells is 91.8% for stone veneer. Adding decks as well as remodeling kitchens or bathrooms have lower rates of return.

Based on that, you’re almost certainly better off first having a comparative market analysis (CMA) performed to understand how much to expect your house will sell for compared to similar houses in the neighborhood. This is information you want so you understand if a major remodel is in your best financial interest. It’s very likely you’ll be dollars ahead by simply replacing the front door rather than adding a stone veneer. Of course, some houses benefit greatly from renovations but a CMA is a good place to begin.

South Atlantic Region ROI by the Numbers

Not all projects have the same impact on your home’s value. If you’re trying to decide among several projects, here are the 2019 South Atlantic Region average rates of return for common projects. Listed by descending rate of return:


Your entryway and garage door (top of list) are both closely related to the curb appeal when prospective buyers first approach. With that in mind, also be aware of the front yard landscaping before doing a major makeover of the backyard patio that lands at the bottom of the list.

You should keep these statistics in the perspective when considering what might be done to make your place competitive with similar houses on the market. Exceeding expectations is likely to draw more offers but is not likely to significantly increase the price buyers are willing to pay in your neighborhood. There’s an old adage in real estate that says, “rising prices increase the value of the smallest house in a neighborhood more than the most desirable house.” This may not directly apply to home improvements but there is a strong connection.

Also Important to Consider

Your ROI isn’t based only on the geographical region. You also want to consider mid-range versus upscale homes and other factors. For instance, if your kitchen or bath looks like the movie set from the 1960s, a remodel is going to give you a much higher rate of return than if your home was built five years ago.

If you do have an older home, be aware that many people have a strong preference for eco-friendly homes and are willing to pay for them. These include parts of your house that aren’t visible like the wiring, plumbing, heating, and AC systems. Some sellers with older homes aren’t quite sure of the difference between maintenance and upgrades. Often, maintenance is better spent money when it’s time to sell. Here is a short video explaining the differences - Upgrades or Maintenance?

There are small projects that you can do without spending a lot of money to help you get top dollar and sell quickly.

  • Landscaping with native plants. This can reduce water consumption.
  • Painting rooms in the house that are not neutral colors.
  • Having the carpets cleaned.

If you do decide a major home improvement is how you want to go, consider those complementing both your own lifestyle and enhancing the resale value. This means being aware of projects unique to your tastes but that might not appeal to the general market. Accomplishing both might mean converting a spare room into the music room you always wanted. When you do this economically, you enjoy the music room while preserving the ability to market it as a music room, a home office, or a man cave.

On the other hand, if you do a high end kitchen renovation in price point where homes are selling for $200,000, you almost certainly won’t recover your investment cost when it comes time to sell. Your personal preferences are not always the best financial decision.

Here is another Total Atlanta Group blog that you might want to read before deciding what steps you should take when deciding to sell – How the Market Value of a Home  is Determined.


If you need more information or have questions, please contact us. You can also  reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!

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June 14, 2019

Belmont Station, Smyrna GA - Lot for Sale


Belmont station is a 5 lot subdivsion under construction to be delivered, final platted and pad ready. Located in downtown smyrna in the William's park neighborhood within walking distance to the new Belmont Hills live, work and play community, smyrna market village, Jonquil Plaza and only 3.3 miles to new Braves Atadium at Suntrust Park. These lots will feature large level back yards and the subdivsion will include its own passive park. Homes selling in the mid 500's.

Check our Latest Newsletter

June 12, 2019

How to Understand Your Escrow Account


How to Understand Your Escrow Account

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There’s a lot of paperwork and money involved when you purchase your home. Some of the paperwork you come across will involve an escrow account. An escrow account is a way of securely holding money to be paid out in the future. Generally, your home purchase involves an escrow account.

Mortgage Related Escrow Accounts

The escrow account this is about involves your monthly mortgage payment that includes a separate account to pay some important homeowner expenses. These typically include property taxes, homeowners insurance, possibly mortgage insurance (MI), and a reserve. Almost every lender requires an escrow account. Certainly, these lenders do:

  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans. These loans require an escrow account.
  • Veterans Administration (VA) loans. The VA does not directly require an escrow account. However, the VA does require lenders assure the home is covered by hazard insurance (homeowners insurance) and that property taxes are paid. The end result is VA guaranteed loans require escrow accounts.
  • Conventional loans. This is a broad category of loans that don’t universally require escrow accounts. However, the vast majority are guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, which do both have escrow account clauses. You can expect an escrow account to be required if you borrow more than 80% of the home value, which means you’ll have private mortgage insurance (PMI) included in the escrow account.
  • High-cost home loans (unconventional loans). These are not typically federally guaranteed loans. The individual lenders have discretion regarding escrow accounts. Most lenders require an escrow account for at least the first five years of the loan.

Why Escrow Payments?

There are two general reasons for an escrow account. First is to assure the funds are available when periodic payments come due. Due dates for property taxes and insurance premiums don’t often match when your mortgage payment is due. Typically, these are due quarterly, semi-annually, annually, or on a different schedule. The escrow payment is collected monthly with your mortgage to assure funds are available when needed. The escrow funds go into an account separate from your mortgage payment.

The second reason for an escrow account is to keep your monthly payments stable. That property tax bill can be a whooper if you haven’t saved for it. If your semi-annual homeowners insurance and taxes are due the same month, it’s a double whammy. The escrow account makes sure the money collects monthly so that you never notice when those bills are paid.

You can find relevant escrow regulations at: § 1024.17 Escrow accounts.

Calculating Escrow Payments

You don’t need to do any of the math yourself. But it’s wise to know how your escrow payment is calculated. The basics like property taxes and homeowners insurance are relatively stable but do change over time. Like almost every other living expense, taxes and insurance premiums could go up on an annual basis. Therefore, you can expect your escrow payments to increase occasionally to keep pace with inflation. You should receive some type of Annual Escrow Disclosure Statement explaining the changes in your escrow payments.

Your mortgage company estimates your monthly escrow payment by adding up all of the expenses that will be paid from the account during a 12-month period. This normally includes property taxes, homeowners insurance, and mortgage insurance (MI). There is also a minimum balance required that is commonly known as a reserve. If you don’t understand some costs, you can contact your mortgage company for an explanation.

Your mortgage company takes the annual total and divides by 12 to arrive at the monthly charge that you pay. Your monthly principal and interest payments are added in to come up with your total monthly payment. Your monthly bill should show your mortgage payment (principal and interest) separate from your escrow payment.

Because these are estimated costs, it’s possible that your escrow account can have either a shortage or a surplus of funds. You’ll be notified by your mortgage company either way. If there is a shortage, you’ll need to pay more into escrow. It may be a onetime lump sum payment or you may be able to pay the shortage over several months. You can expect your regular monthly payment to increase going forward so that a shortage doesn’t occur again.

If there is too much money in the escrow account, you may receive an escrow surplus check instead. Lenders are required to return any surpluses over $50.

I encourage you to continue reading our blogs for more valuable information about homeownership. A blog you might be interested in is: Top Ways to Develop Money Saving Habits.

If you need more information or have questions, please contact us . You can also  reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!

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June 11, 2019

Mortgage Insurance: Do I Need to Pay It?

Do I need to pay mortgage insurance?  I get asked this question a lot.  I would say it is in my top five for most frequent questions asked.  It is a good question, but it depends on many different factors.



What is Mortgage Insurance (MI)?

The book definition according to Investopedia is, "An insurance policy that protects a mortgage lender or title holder in the event that the borrower defaults on payments, dies, or is otherwise unable to meet the contractual obligations of the mortgage."

Mortgage insurance is typical for any mortgage that the appraised value, of the home, is less then 20 percent.  If you have a home in Marietta, GA and the appraised value is $200,000, then the mortgage would have to be $180,000 to not have MI.

Mortgage Insurance Depends on the Buyers Situation

There are many factors why people do or do not want to put down 20 percent.  It all depends on the buyers and what their

Mortgage Insurance: Do I need to Pay it?

 financial picture looks like.

Reasons for no Mortgage Insurance

  • Want a lower payment to make it more affordable
  • Interest rates are low - get more house for the money with larger down payment
  • A buyer does not want to be underwater if the real estate market tanks again
  • Have the funds and can afford the extra money for down payment

Reason for Mortgage Insurance

  • Do not have the 20 percent down payment
  • Need it for emergencies - especially if you have kids
  • Need it for renovations or repairs
  • Wants to invest it in a college fund, retirement, or keep in savings

These are all great reasons for both, but I am a numbers guy.  Lets take a look at the numbers.

Mortgage Insurance:  5 percent down payment

Loan amount:  200,000
Down payment:  5% or  $10,000
Principle and interest payment:  $934.69
Mortgage insurance: $120.00 estimated

No Mortgage Insurance:  20 percent down payment

Loan amount:  $200,000
Down payment:  20% or $40,000
Principle and interest payment:  $787.10
Mortgage Insurance - $0

No Mortgage Insurance will save a buyer:  $267.59

This means you take the difference in the down payment and divide by the money you will save each month.  $30,000 / $267.59 = 112.11 months or 9.34 years.


Analyzing the Numbers

If you look at the numbers, a person putting down 20 percent will save an estimated $267.59 a month.  To get the 20 percent back it will take you 9.34 years.  Talk with your mortgage broker to go through all the numbers.  I have a client who is getting an estimate for a mortgage payment with MI and without.  Also, talk with your lender about paying the MI upfront or a lender paid MI loan program.

I am not saying that you should never put down 20 percent as a down payment, but look at your overall financial picture.  Make sure you have a good amount in savings, for emergencies, retirement, house expenses, etc.  After looking at your finances, if you feel you can afford a larger down payment and you are good with how many years it will take to recoup your money, then go ahead.  You can only make decisions based on the information you have at that particular time.  Doing your due diligence upfront,  you will make a sound financial situation that you will be comfortable with.

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