How to Save Thousands of Dollars in Interest on Your Mortgage

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One of the most common loans you can get to buy a home is a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. If the thought of paying for your home over the course of 30-years seems daunting, here are some easy ways to shorten that term which will actually end up saving you money over the life of your loan.

Any additional payments to the principal amount (the original sum of money borrowed in a loan), helps to cut down the amount of interest that you will pay over the life of your loan and can also help to shave years off the loan as well.

When you make ‘extra’ payments toward your loan, the key is to let your lender/bank know that you want the extra funds to go toward your principal balance as they will not automatically do this for you.

You don’t have to double your mortgage payment to make a big difference either!

If you have a 30-year mortgage on a median-priced home ($250,000) with a 5% interest rate, you’ll be responsible for a $1,342.05 monthly principal and interest payment. Over the course of the loan, if you pay your exact monthly payment, you will have paid $233,133.89 in interest alone!

Paying a Little Extra Can Pay Off Big

1. Pay an additional 1/12th of your mortgage payment every month

Benefit: In the example above, adding $111.84 to your monthly mortgage payment might not seem like a lot, but each year you will have paid one extra month’s worth of payments which will shorten the term of your loan by 4 years and 8 months, all while saving you $42,000 in interest!

2. Pay an additional $50 per month towards your mortgage

Benefit: Fifty dollars might not seem like enough to make a difference on the term of your loan, but that small amount will save you over $21,000 in interest and will take over 2 years off the end of your loan. Twenty-eight years from now, you’ll be happy to pay off your loan that much sooner!

3. Make one-time lump sum payments when you can

Benefit: If you find yourself with a little extra money after a yearly bonus, a tax return, or from investment dividends, paying that money towards the principal can cut your costs. This option, however, is less predictable than the extra monthly payments.

If you have higher interest debts, like credit cards, consider using any extra funds you have to pay those debts down before applying that money towards your mortgage. Also, if you do not plan on staying in your home for more than 10 years, paying extra toward your mortgage might not make sense.

Bottom Line

If you’re wondering what strategies would work best for you to shorten the term of your loan, consult a local real estate professional who can answer your questions or connect you with someone who can.

2008 Vs. Now: Are Owners Using Their Homes As ATMs Again?

Over the last six years, we have experienced strong price appreciation which has increased home equity levels dramatically. As the number of “cash-out” refinances begins to approach numbers last seen during the crash, some are afraid that we may be repeating last decade’s mistake.

However, a closer look at the numbers shows that homeowners are being much more responsible with their home equity this time around.

What happened then…

When real estate values began to surge last decade, people started using their homes as personal ATMs. Homeowners would refinance their houses and convert their equity into instant cash (known as “cash-out” refinances). Because homes were appreciating so rapidly, many homeowners tapped into their equity multiple times.

This left homeowners with little-or-no equity left in their homes, so when prices started to fall many homeowners found their houses in a negative equity situation (where the mortgage amount was greater than the value of the home). When some of these homeowners saw that there was no value left in their houses, they just stopped paying their mortgages altogether.

Banks eventually foreclosed on those homes and the foreclosures drove prices down even further and put more homes in the negative equity category. This cycle continued, leading to the worst housing crash in almost one hundred years.

What’s happening now…

Again, Americans are seeing their home equity grow. Today, over 48% of all single-family homes in the country have over 50% equity, and yes, some families are tapping into that equity. However, this time around, homeowners are not making irresponsible decisions. According to the latest information from Freddie Mac, the total equity being “cashed out” is a fraction of what it was leading up to the crash. Here are the numbers:


Bottom Line

The recklessness that accompanied the build-up in equity prior to the last crash does not exist today. That makes this housing market much more secure than the one we had heading into 2008.

(source: Keeping Current Matters)

12 Ways to Winterize Your Home This Year

Winter is quickly approaching and ice, snow, and wind can have devastating consequences on your home and wallet. Fortunately, there are many precautions you can take before the bitter cold arrives. 

Tasks as easy as draining pipes and inspecting your chimney can help prepare your home for subfreezing temperatures and help you avoid the inconvenience — and expense of winter damage. 

Here are some easy tips to help protect your home from the elements and even save on energy costs: 

1. Give Your Heating System a Tune-Up

Keeping your furnace clean, lubricated and properly adjusted will reduce energy use and ultimately save you money. Make an appointment with a certified HVAC technician to ensure that everything is running properly.

2. Turn Down Your Water Heater

Conventional water heaters are typically set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit by installers. Most households don't need that much steam, so lowering the temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (or lower) could reduce your water heating costs by 6 to 10 percent.

3. Change Furnace Filters

It's easy to forget, but it's important to replace or clean furnace filters once a month during the heating season. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy demand. Reduce your stress by creating a monthly reminder on your calendar.

4. Run Fans in Reverse

Most people think of fans when they need to keep cool, but many ceiling units come with a handy switch that reverses the direction of the blades. Switching your fan to rotate clockwise circulates warm air near the ceiling back into the living space, which cuts your heating costs.

5. Check your Fireplace

Animal nests or creosote buildup in your fireplace can be hazardous. Have an annual inspection before building your first fire of the season.

6. Drain Your A/C and Water Lines

Remember to drain any hoses and A/C pipes to prevent water lines from freezing or bursting. Turn off exterior water spigots, make sure any hoses are drained and stowed away neatly, and if your A/C has a water shutoff valve, go ahead and turn that off too.

7. Insulate Your Pipes

Insulating pipes can cut energy costs and help decrease the chance of freezing pipes.

8. Install Storm Doors and Windows

Installing a storm door can dramatically increase energy efficiency by sealing drafts and reducing air flow. Storm doors also offer greater flexibility for letting light and ventilation enter your home. Similarly, storm windows can make a huge difference when the cold wind starts blowing.

9. Caulk and Weatherstrip

It pays to seal up gaps with caulking and weatherstripping. Make sure to inspect places where two different building materials meet, such as corners, around chimneys, where pipes or wires exit, and along the foundation. 

TIP: Carefully (avoiding drapes and other flammable materials) move a lit stick of incense along walls. Where the smoke wavers, you have air sneaking in, and heating or cooling sneaking out.

10. Boost Insulation

It may not seem sexy, but insulation is one of the best ways to save energy and money at home. It can make a big difference to add more insulation between walls, your attic floor and basement ceiling.

11. Seal Your Ducts

Hiring a professional technician to test your duct system and fix any problems could pay off in the long run. Properly sealing ducts can save you money and even protect your family against mold and dust.

12. Bring in the Outdoors

Cold temperatures, snow and ice can damage outdoor furniture and grills. If possible, store them in the garage or basement. If you have a gas grill with a propane tank, close the tank valve and disconnect the tank first — It must be stored outside. If you don't have storage space for your items, purchase covers to protect them from the elements. You also need to maintain your grill and cover it before putting it away for the season. 

Where are Home Values Headed Over the Next Few Years?


There are many questions about where home prices will be next year as well as where they may be headed over the next several years to come. We have gathered the most reliable sources to help answer these questions:

The Home Price Expectation Survey – A survey of over 100 market analysts, real estate experts, and economists conducted by Pulsenomics each quarter.

Zelman & Associates – The firm leverages unparalleled housing market expertise, extensive surveys of industry executives, and rigorous financial analysis to deliver proprietary research and advice to leading global institutional investors and senior-level company executives.

Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) – As the leading advocate for the real estate finance industry, the MBA enables members to successfully deliver fair, sustainable, and responsible real estate financing within ever-changing business environments.

Freddie Mac – An organization whose mission is to provide liquidity, stability, and affordability to the U.S. housing market in all economic conditions extending to all communities from coast to coast.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) – The largest association of real estate professionals in the world.

Fannie Mae – A leading source of financing for mortgage lenders, providing access to affordable mortgage financing in all markets always.

Bottom Line?

Every source sees home prices continuing to appreciate – just at lower percentages as we move through the next several years.

LIRA: Low Interest Rate Addiction

Have we been suffering/benefitting from Low Interest Rate Addiction - or "LIRA" - for too long?

On Wednesday, the US Equity Markets dropped notably, with the DOW down 832 points (3.1%) to 25,599, 4.6% below its high on October 3rd, and the S&P 500 down 3.3%, its 5th consecutive session of decline and longest losing streak in almost 2 years. Overnight Asian and European markets fell too and futures show more drops ahead. Super-low interest rates have been rising more steadily recently and most attribute yesterday's equity markets drop to this inevitability. Over 70% of investors recently surveyed were EXPECTING this correction. The Fed has made no secret of its intent to raise interest rates.

Many consider some assets overvalued. Housing prices have been impacted in some parts of the country - especially on the high end - by the combination of rising rates and rising home prices....along with a lack of new supply. Equity markets have soared over the past three years, the Nasdaq is up about 35% from 3 years ago....even after yesterday's drop. The 10-year yield, which incorporates expectations for interest rates, inflation, economic growth, and other factors, rose to 3.227% last Friday, a 7-year high, as investors began to anticipate that the Fed would further raise rates. Interest rates usually rise when there are solid indicators of low unemployment, rising inflation and economic growth.

In the middle of 1981, a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was around 18.45%. Today it sits around 4.87%. The low was around 3.35% in 2012. Higher interest rates impact mortgages, but they also impact borrowing costs across the board that can negatively impact corporate profitability. Total outstanding non-financial corporate debt has increased by over $2.5 trillion (about 40%) since its 2008 high, which was already a dangerously high level in its own right. Higher rates impact developers who have to pay more for borrowing capital. Hopefully recently lowered corporate tax rates offset this.....even though the US added $1.5 trillion to pay for this. We all own a portion of that debt. While some individuals will pay more for adjustable mortgages, credit card debt, auto loans, home equity loans, student loans, etc, others will earn more on their cash deposits

So as much as these rate hikes can be a bit alarming and cause notable equity market corrections, try to view them as the normalization of unrealistic rates rather than the headlines that speak of SOARING rates. Buyers and sellers get jittery around these market corrections: How deep they are matter more than anything. It is best to pause and watch before drawing any big picture conclusions. Corrections in any market are an inevitability when markets soar. According to the FED, you should expect to see more rate hikes over the coming 12 months. 

LIRA - Low Interest Rate Addiction - like any addiction, delivers some pain and acknowledgment of history and facts to be able to recover and adjust to a new 'normal'.

Addiction is never healthy.

-Marian Marsten Rosaaen, Leonard Steinberg

This Year's Biggest Interior Design Predictions

A new year means a fresh start, so why not begin with upgrading your home? As someone who is currently going through some major renovations in my own home, I often find myself scouring the internet and home decor magazines for the latest trends in home design. Below are a few trends that industry experts have identified as the most important to consider when trying your hand at home innovation this year

*All tips courtesy of The Spruce


1. Smart Technology

The newest devices and apps simplify tasks, make better use of resources, and transform the way we live. Over the past couple years, I’ve seen a growing number of clients equip their homes with the latest technologies. From the convenience of an app, one can now control their Nest Self Learning Thermostat, see who enters their home with the Schlage Connect Secure Deadbolt, or create the perfect ambiance in any room with Philips Hue Ambiance Light Bulbs — all while eliminating annoying clutter from excessive wires.

2. Large Format Tile

This shift is not only aesthetic, but one of function. For many years, tile has been the mainstay of kitchen backsplashes, but home owners are ditching the grout and choosing continuous stone slabs like marble. What draws people is its pure beauty, subtly of color, and it’s unique variation in veining for stunning aesthetic appeal. On top of limitless design options, larger tile has less grout and is both easier to install and maintain.

3. Bold Color

With people growing tired of neutral, and sometimes boring palettes, statement colors are slated to make a comeback in 2018 — reds, strong blues and vibrant greens, in particular. You can either go big with statement furniture or accessorize your room with bold accents. Rugs, throw pillows and blankets are a great way to get in on the trend without feeling overly committed.

4. Incorporating Natural Surroundings

Expect industry influencers to design spaces that reflect the geography of a home's location.

“With my current project, residential resort Rock House, the natural Turks and Caicos landscape influenced the design — incorporating the natural limestone and taking advantage of the gorgeous views to set the tone.” -Shawn Henderson, Shawn Henderson Interior Design

5. Interactive Entertainment Havens

In-home theaters are a thing of the past and will be replaced by more collaborative spaces such as media and game rooms. Take a cue from your favorite activities and the things you family likes to do for fun. The design possibilities are endless when it comes to creating an inviting, dedicated media room.

The Marsten Group Announces the Addition of Jorge Munoz

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December 1, 2017

Washington, DC - The Marsten Group of Compass Real Estate is pleased to announce that Jorge Munoz, has joined the group.

This is an exciting opportunity for Compass, The Marsten Group and Jorge to extend their indelible presence in the DC real estate market.

“I am excited to announce that I have officially joined Compass as a sales agent in Washington, DC. I am looking forward to my ongoing work as the Operations Manager of The Marsten Group and continuing to build an amazing real estate team with Marian Marsten Rosaaen, ” explained Jorge.

"We are so fortunate to have Jorge. He is a smart, driven professional with the highest standards for client service and marketing.  He has a bright future in real estate and I'm thrilled that he has decided to start the first chapter of his career with us," said Marian Rosaaen, Founder of The Marsten Group of Compass Real Estate.

The Marsten Group of Compass Real Estate has closed over $53,000,000 in sales since 2012 and is licensed in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Launched in 2013, Compass Real Estate is a technology-driven real estate firm that combines exceptional agents with best in class technology to make the process of buying, selling and renting a home intelligent and seamless. Recruiting exclusively from the top ten percent of agents, they are committed to creating a culture of innovation and success for everyone involved in their company. Offices are located in New York City, The Hamptons, Aspen, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Tracy Morris Talks Interior Design

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Fourteen years ago, Tracy Morris found herself in a surprising position — she had been recently laid off from her job during the dot-com bubble and in an unplanned move, started the company that is now Tracy Morris Design.  The constant request of designing friends and co-workers homes on evenings and weekends, now became a full-time job.

It wasn’t until April of 2003, when she was unexpectedly published in Home and Design magazine that her interior design business really started to take off.  The projects increased in size and in 2007 she moved from Florida to DC to begin growing her team.

Today, Morris has a team of five other designers in her Georgetown office and her firm juggles anywhere from 15-20 projects a year, ranging in size and scale. Morris approaches her business with a laid-back, approachable style that emphasizes transparency with her clients — something that isn’t always the norm in the interior design industry.

“The [interior design] industry was clandestine — it wasn’t at all transparent. My clients see the net prices and know exactly what the final cost will be,” Morris said.

Her friendly demeanor mixed with her “obsessively organized” work-ethic offer her client’s guidance during the major life events involved around designing and filling a home with personality.

“It’s about getting into the client's head. It’s their space and their home and making it as comfortable as possible for their lifestyle and their family,” Morris said. “I always tell them, ‘I’m your design guide. I’m not going to let you make an expensive mistake.’”

While Morris is based out of D.C., she says about 20 percent of her clients are elsewhere — from California, Hamptons and even Puerto Rico. Interior design projects can range in size from redesigning an entire house, to simply helping a client find the right drapes.

“It is an intuitive knowing - as much as design school can teach, you can’t teach everything,” Morris said.

Every Day Design Tips from Tracy Morris

  • “Stay away from accent walls”

    • “It works well for commercial spaces, but not in residential,” Morris said. ”Pick one clean color for your walls, and highlight with artwork and antiques.”

  • Match the interior design of your home with the exterior look and feel

    • “If you have an all glass home, don’t put traditional furniture. Make sure the exterior and interior are complimentary."

  • Use artwork to liven up your space

    • “It doesn't’ matter where you get it from, or how expensive it is, as long as you love the art, it's better to do something texturally unique than painting a bold color on your wall.”

Real Estate Investment Secrets From a Former Hill Staffer

Eric Wohlschlegel was a 29-year-old working on Capitol Hill when he bought his second house in 1999. At the time, the young, salaried Hill staffer was making $55,000 a year and found himself fascinated with real estate — not to mention, he was wanting to escape the constant cycle of renting.

“I simply did not want to rent,” Wohlschlegel says.

Now, almost 17 years later, Wohlschlegel has amassed an impressive five property portfolio of homes throughout the city and in Palm Springs, CA. Wohlschlegel, who works in media relations by day, personally property manages his five rental properties, by night

How did he manage to amass his portfolio into what it is today?

“There really isn’t a secret,” Wohlschlegel said. “It was a matter of stumbling into a good investment.” The first home in Capitol Hill that he purchased doubled in value in the first two years, when Wohlschlegel was just 26.  It was a 5 bedroom 3 story federal style Victorian close to the Supreme Court.  
You can’t buy half a studio apartment for what I paid for it.” Since then, all his properties have significantly gained value over time some doubling in value and some quadrupling.

As soon as he purchased the first house, he rented out the basement. When the adjacent property became available, he was quick to purchase and rented out the three units, there.

“By renting those three units, it paid for both mortgages and utilities. So I was able to live for free,” Wohlschlegel said. “People thought that was kind of a phenomenon.”  He created a blog to feature homes in Washington about 5 years ago.  He has a “passion” for showcasing the beautiful homes in Washington and helping to inspire people to invest.  The blog is called The Cribline.

Is managing five properties hard? Wohlschlegel compares each of his five properties to having children.

“It’s not like one day I woke up and had five houses to manage,” he says. “I learned. I began develop relationships with contractors, and the heating and cooling people, and pest control companies. It became easier after the first one.”

Wohlschlegel says that anyone looking to rent out their property should take the time to properly vet any potential tenants, citing a credit check as one of the most important parts of being a successful landlord. He also encourages landlords to take advantage of the resources available -- , from the National Association of Realtors to a good home inspector when purchasing an investment property.

With the hopes of being able to retire and live off the income from the rental properties, Wohlschlegel has no intentions of selling his properties any time soon.

“It’s a lot of work,” he says. “But I’m in it for life.”

If you're interested in learning more about investment properties contact The Marsten Group for additional information.

Get your home ready for spring with these outdoor living tips

With the first week of spring underway, and warmer weather (hopefully!) arriving, outdoor living is at the forefront of many homeowner’s minds.

Whether you’re wanting to start a garden or redo the back patio, Amy Strunk, a career landscape designer and owner of Amy Strunk Designs, offers some starting tips to get your space blooming.

Understand your space and plan for growth.

Trees are a common outdoor addition for many homeowners — they provide foliage all year round and offer elements such as shade and depth to a yard. Strunk warns that people often don’t account for the future growth of trees, and just how large some species can grow. For example, some maple trees can grow to over 70 feet high in just a few decades.

“Rather than having to take out a tree that’s grown too large, plant the right tree upfront and then you’re not having to remove a tree that’s taken over your space,” she said.

Know your climate.

Are you living in an urban jungle of concrete and small, shady balconies? Or a suburban oasis with acres of green grass to fill? Whatever your setting, make sure to understand the climate of your home’s surroundings.

Consider amount of sun, wind and temperature your outdoor space gets. Temperatures can change drastically from the city to just a few miles outside in the suburbs, so take this into account when choosing your plants.

“Putting the wrong plant in the wrong climate isn’t good for anyone,” Strunk says.

Do your research.

While building your own retaining wall and installing a sculptural water fountain may seem like a fun weekend activity, Strunk says think twice before taking on big projects that should be left to the professionals. 

“You should ask yourself if this is something you can actually accomplish yourself or if you should hire a specialist.”

Style your outdoor space with the same thought you put into your indoor space.

Remember that your outdoor space is an extension of your indoor living area! Strunk encourages homeowners to play with textures and colors as they would with their interior design. From fun planters to a new rug or cushions, sprucing up an outdoor space should be fun. Everyone loves a retreat — especially at home! Find an outdoor foliage style that suits your needs and maintenance level.

To learn more about Amy Strunk Designs, visit her website at



What do rising interest rates mean for the DC housing market?

While the thought of a looming rate hike by the Fed may scare some buyers and sellers, local lenders are working to settle any nerves by offering perspective on the situation.

The feds are scheduled to meet March 14-15 and will discuss the possibility of raising the historically low interest rates. This news has caused some local buyers and sellers to become nervous, wondering how this rate hike could affect the DC housing market.

Adding to the fear, Business Insider named DC one of the top 13 markets that could potentially be affected by rising interest rates.

But is there reason for buyers or sellers to worry?

“There’s no reason to panic,” Jennifer Grillo, senior loan officer at George Mason Mortgage, says. “It’s just the initial shock of an increase that often freaks people out. Somebody who was able to qualify at a 4 percent rate can generally still buy a house at 4.5 percent rate.”

For example, the average monthly payment on a $500,000 mortgage at a 4 percent interest rate is $2,387. If that number jumps to 4.5%, the monthly payment increases to $2,533, indicating a monthly difference of $146.

The Fed takes into account a variety of factors including economic growth, inflation and the unemployment rate when determining if they should increase rates and by how much. With the current rates historically low at around 4.25 percent, and the economy appearing strong, feds have hinted that a slight rate hike is likely to come following the mid-March meeting.

But Grillo notes that despite what many think, the Fed doesn’t actually control mortgage rates. Mortgage rates are determined by the price of mortgage-backed securities (MBS), a security sold via Wall Street.

“As a rule, when the Fed’s post-meeting press release is generally positive on the U.S. economy, mortgage rates tend to rise,” Grillo said. “Conversely, when the Fed is generally negative with its outlook, mortgage rates tend to fall.”

So how will this affect the DC real estate market?

Grillo suspects that with a rising rate environment, more people will hold off on selling, which could compound the inventory problem that DC is already experiencing. Those with equity in their houses will be better positioned to handle a monthly payment adjustment, adding to a seller’s benefits.

The bottom line: Grillo feels “the worst is over” following the post-election nervousness among markets.

Interested in learning more about the home buying process? Contact Marian M. Rosaaen with The Marsten Group to get a head start on buying or selling a home.