Posts by: eddie

7 Steps to Finding Your Dream Custom Homebuilder

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A man and woman look at blueprints with a homebuilder in a house under construction.

Many homebuyers in today’s market are turning to new construction as a solution to low inventory but also for the perks of building a home customized to them.

Data shows that new home purchases continue to outpace last year’s numbers, with July 2023 applications up 35.5% from 2022, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Builder Application Survey.

If you’re ready to begin the search for your dream homebuilder, we’ve got seven tips to help you get started.

Step 1: Consider Your New Home Priorities

We recommend first thinking about what’s important to you regarding your new home as it will affect your homebuilder decision. You’ll want to know what your must-haves are so that you can find a builder whose portfolio and style match your needs.

Determine Your Ideal:

  • Location
  • School District
  • Lot Size (Especially if Your Family is Outdoors Often)
  • Backyard Size (Especially if You Have Pets)
  • Price Range
  • Home Style

From there, you can find a builder that meets your requirements at a good value.

As far as your price range, we can review your financial scenario and preapprove you so that you know how much home you can afford. Get preapproved in minutes here.

Step 2: Settle on a Location

Decide whether you want to live in a new home neighborhood or build on your own lot. Many custom homebuilders build exclusively in their own private neighborhood.

Step 3: Research the Top Builders in Your Area

Search for online reviews for local builders to see which are the top-rated in your area. You can find reviews on Google, Yelp and Facebook as well as sites specific to rating homebuilders:

NewHomeSource: Read reviews from real homebuyers and view ratings based on quality, value, trustworthiness and responsiveness.

Avid Ratings: In their words, “Avid Ratings is an independent customer experience research firm with the largest and most comprehensive homebuyer experience database in North America.”

Eliant Experience Management: Eliant rates builders based on feedback from recent homebuyers on the builder’s purchase process and evaluations from homeowners regarding how the builder’s quality and service holds up over time.

Your real estate agent can also direct you to potential local builders. Oftentimes, Realtors® partner with specific homebuilders.

Step 4: View Builder Portfolios

Once you’ve done some research and compiled a list of potential builders based on your desired neighborhood, Realtor® recommendation or customer reviews, take a deeper look at each builder’s portfolio.

If you have a specific style of home in mind, compare that with previous homes they have designed. Typically, you can find a gallery of floor plans and front elevations on the builder’s website.

Step 5: Visit Showrooms and Jobsites of Potential Homebuilders

In addition to viewing their online portfolios, you can request to visit complete homes and current jobsites with potential builders.

When you’re there, make sure to take note of a few things:

  • The Team Building the Home
  • The Quality of Construction
  • The Finishes in the Homes
  • Jobsite Cleanliness and Safety
  • How Hands-on the Builder is With Their Team

Step 6: Interview the Builder

Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure to interview the builder – after all, they will be working for you. Come prepared with a list of questions to ask and topics to discuss.

Some ideas include:

  • How Much You Can Customize the Home Plans They Offer
  • How Your Questions and Concerns Will Be Addressed During Construction
  • How Long Construction Should Take
  • How They Service Warranty Issues Once You Move in
  • If the Contract They Offer is a Fixed-Price Contract
  • Who’s Responsible for the Interest Payments During Construction
  • Who’s Responsible for Paying the Insurance During Construction

Step 7: Financing Your Dream Custom Home

Once you’ve narrowed down who you want your homebuilder to be, it’s time to evaluate your financing options! At Premier Mortgage Associates, we offer Construction-to-Permanent loans for single family primary residences.

How Our Construction-to-Permanent Loans Work

Construction-to-Permanent loans, also called Construction-to-Perm or CP loans, are used to build a home on a lot you own or one you wish to purchase. It’s just like any other loan that you’re used to, except it’s divided up into two phases. You have your construction phase, which is at the beginning, and when the home/project is 100% complete, then your permanent phase where you pay back the construction loan and replace it with permanent mortgage.

The Benefits of Our Construction-to-Perm Program

  • Available for Single Family Primary Residences
  • You Can Qualify to Receive Financing up to 100% Depending on Your Loan Program
  • If You Qualify, We Can Offer FNMA, VA, Jumbo, Investment or Second Home
  • The Construction of the Home Can Be Concrete or Stick (Wood) Builds
  • Depending on Construction Technique, We Can Also Allow for Modular Builds
  • Build on Your Land or Purchase a Package
  • Fixed Interest Rates During Construction Phase

What You Can Expect With Our Construction-to-Perm Program

Once you reach out, our dedicated Construction-to-Perm team will start your application and request documentation to qualify you for the loan. If you’ve chosen your builder, we will need to complete a background check on them BEFORE you sign a contract to ensure they have a low risk of causing any defaults.

If we do not have a current relationship with your selected builder, we will send them a relationship packet to complete. The rest of the process moves like a regular loan – once you close on the land and house with the construction phase loan terms, building will start. Once the construction is completed, the city has issued a Certificate of Occupancy and we have collected all completion documents from the builder, we will modify to the permanent loan.

Get Started Today With PMA

Take the first concrete step (see what we did there?) toward your new custom home – get preapproved in minutes so you know how much you can afford. We can’t wait to work with you to finance your dream custom home!

5 Things Homebuyers Should Know About School Districts

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A diverse group of children walking across a street to the entrance of a school with backpacks on.

When house hunting, there’s a variety of factors that can contribute to where you settle down: proximity to family, commute to work, neighborhood quality and more. An important factor that many buyers consider as well is the quality of local school districts.

Research shows 42% of buyers ages 31 to 40 cited quality of the school district as an influence on their neighborhood choice in 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

If you’re on the hunt for a home, here’s five things to keep in mind about school districts as it relates to your home purchase decision.

1. Even if You Don’t Have Children, Buying in a Reputable School Zone Can Be a Good Investment

It’s no secret buyers with children tend to be motivated to live where their family can receive high quality education, but there are still benefits to living in a top-rated school zone for buyers without children.

It’s been proven that neighborhoods located in reputable school districts see increases in property value. One 2013 Redfin study showed that on average homebuyers pay $50 more per square foot for homes in better school zones.

Families are willing to pay more for homes that have access to better-funded (and therefore better-performing) schools. A recent study concluded that a 1% increase in spending on teacher salaries increased home values by 2%.

However, the flip side is that you will incur more cost up front and encounter more competition for these desirable communities.

Overall, when you’re house hunting, investing in a home in a good school zone can benefit you in the long run when it’s time to resell.

2. Considerations of Living Close to a School

While the idea of living close enough for your child to bike or walk to school is desirable, keep in mind the upsides and downsides of living near a school.

Upsides: Convenient commutes to school for your children as well as overall safety. Properties within top-rated districts might be safer and have better maintenance.

Downsides: You can always count on traffic surrounding a school during pick-up and drop-off hours as well as a certain level of noise from bells and fire drills to kids just having fun at recess.

3. Heads up: Real Estate Agents Legally Can’t Share Certain Information About Schools With Buyers

We always recommend working with a real estate agent when you’re looking to buy a home as they can help you find a property that meets your needs, represent your interests during negotiations and give unbiased guidance. However, before asking your agent which local schools are better or even where their children attend school, you should know there are limits to what they can legally share with you.

Under the Fair Housing Act, real estate agents are prohibited from “steering” a buyer, which means they cannot influence a buyer’s choice because of their race, color, religion, gender, disability, familial status or national origin. The law protects buyers from discrimination that would limit their housing opportunities. Therefore, agents are not permitted to share their opinions about school districts and communities, no matter if they are positive or negative, because it can be interpreted as steering.

The NAR explains it this way: “Discussions about schools can raise questions about steering if there is a correlation between the quality of the schools and neighborhood racial composition – or if characterizations such as ‘a school with low test scores’ or ‘a community with declining schools’ become code words for racial or other differences in the community. Similarly, making unspoken distinctions by promoting a school in one district while keeping silent about the quality of another school can have the same effect.”

While your agent can’t be perfectly candid with you about school districts for your own protection, Realtors® are trained to provide you with access to objective information and direct you to third-party information that will help you draw your own conclusions about the quality of a school or district.

4. You Can Research School Ratings From a Variety of Online Resources

If you’re ready to do your own research, there are many sources online dedicated to giving you an accurate picture of the best schools and districts in your area so that you can make an informed decision.

Here’s a few places to start:

Niche: Search for the best public and private schools as well as school districts in your area for free and get access to reviews from parents and students. Niche has its own letter-grade ranking system based on academics, teachers, clubs and activities, diversity, college prep and sports. Easily access data and ratings, reviews, test scores and demographics for public, private and charter schools in your area. See how a school ranks according to the platform’s own 10-point ranking system.

SchoolDigger: Search within your state and city for school ranks based just on test scores.

Your State’s Department of Education: Visit your state’s Department of Education website and search school grades. This will give you a more raw, comprehensive look at the grades local schools were assigned by their district over the last several years. Find Florida’s school grade archives here.

5. There’s Still Options Outside of Top-Rated School Zones

If buying into the top-rated school districts aren’t in the budget for your family or your dream home happens to be in a low-performing district, there’s still options for you.

If you don’t have kids to think about, consider investing in renovation projects to add value to your home that will help you just as much down the road when reselling.

For buyers with school-aged children, there’s alternatives to the local public school your family might be zoned for through school choice. School choice allows for households to select the learning environment they deem best for their children. There are a few different types of school choice, including public options and private options. The public options include:

  • Magnet schools: Magnet schools are public schools that attract students from multiple districts to concentrate on one area of study to advance their academic interests and career goals. There are currently over 4,300 magnet schools nationwide, and California and Florida each offer over 500, according to Magnet Schools of America. The organization reports the most common magnet themes are STEM related, visual/performing arts and International Baccalaureate (IB). Most magnet schools employ a lottery for admission while 25% accept students based on academic criteria.
  • Charter schools: Charter schools are public, independently run schools that have no tuition. Some charter schools can have different focuses like technology or leadership. Most states allow for them, but enrollment is not guaranteed as they typically employ a lottery system for admission. As of 2021, 7% of all public school students were enrolled in public charter schools – a 3% jump from 2010, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
  • Open enrollment: Open enrollment, also known as inter/intra-district public school choice, gives families the option of sending their children to other public schools outside of the one they are zoned for by their zip code. Intra-district choice involves transferring to a public school within one’s district while inter-district choice offers transfers to schools outside of one’s district. As of last year, 27 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico permit intra-district choice and 43 states allow for inter-district choice, according to the Education Commission of the States.
  • Other school choice options: Homeschooling, hybrid homeschooling, online learning, microschooling, town tuitoning and personalized learning and learning pods. Learn more about each of these here.

For private school choice, there are five types of financial assistance that allow for public funds to follow a child to a private school, according to EdChoice. These include:

  • Education Savings Accounts
  • School Vouchers
  • Tax-Credit Education Savings Accounts
  • Tax-Credit Scholarships
  • Individual Tax Credits and Deductions

Ultimately, you can decide what the best learning environment is for your children without having to pay big bucks for a home in a top-performing school zone, whether you choose private, public or other methods of schooling.

The Bottom Line on School Districts

Whether you intentionally choose to purchase a home based on its school zone’s performance or if districts don’t even factor into your homebuying decision, we can help you finance the home of your choice with mortgages tailored to fit your needs.

Our talented and knowledgeable Loan Officers can work with you to determine your best financing options, starting with preapproval so that you know how much you can afford when house hunting.

Get preapproved within minutes here to start your homebuying journey.

What is Florida’s Hometown Heroes Housing Program?

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If you’re a full-time employed Floridian looking to buy a home for the first time, did you know you could qualify to receive up to $35,000 to help with your down payment and closing costs? Thanks to the Hometown Heroes Housing Program, homeownership might be closer than you think.

So, What is it?

This program was created in June 2022 to help frontline workers afford homes in the community in which they work and serve. Down payment and closing cost assistance was given to over 6,700 veterans, active-duty military members, nurses, teachers and law enforcement officers, according to a news release from the office of Governor Ron DeSantis.

However, as of July 1, 2023, guidelines no longer require a frontline work position, allowing more Florida first-time homebuyers to benefit from the program.

Additionally, more funding was allocated for the program through the Live Local Act, and the maximum down payment and closing cost assistance has increased to help make first-time homeownership more affordable for Florida’s workforce.

Who is Considered a First-Time Homebuyer?

A first-time homebuyer doesn’t just refer to someone who has NEVER owned a home; anyone who has not owned and lived in their own home in the last three years can also be considered a first-time buyer.

What Are Program’s Benefits?

Those that qualify can receive 5% of the first mortgage loan amount up to $35,000 in the form of a zero-interest, non-amortizing 30-year deferred second mortgage.

The program also offers lower-than-market interest rates on FHA, VA, RD, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac first mortgages as well as reduced upfront fees, no origination points and no discount points. There’s also no cost to apply, so beware of anyone who tells you otherwise.

This non-forgivable second mortgage is only due in full when the home is sold or refinanced, the deed is transferred, the first mortgage is paid or it is no longer the owner’s primary residence.

Those who have served and continue to serve their country can also receive a lower first mortgage interest rate and additional special benefits.

What are the Eligibility Requirements?

  • Must Be Employed Full-Time by a Florida-Based Employer
  • Must Work With a Participating Loan Officer (Like Us!)
  • Must Have a 640 Minimum FICO Score
  • First-Time Homebuyers Only (Considered Anyone Who Has Not Owned a Home in Three or More Years)
  • Must Earn Less Than 150% of the Area Median Income According to Local County Data
  • Must Purchase a Home in the Community in Which You’re Employed
  • Must Complete a Homebuyer Education Course

What are the Income and Loan Limits?

Both vary based on the county, family size and type of loan, but income limits range from $103,500 to $162,750 and loan limits range from $472,030 to $874,000 as of May 23, 2023. For the most up-to-date limits, click here.

How Do I Know if I’m Eligible?

Our knowledgeable team can help determine if you might be eligible and assist you in applying! Contact one of our Loan Officers today to get started.

Should I Put Off Buying a Home Until Rates Drop?

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It’s no secret that interest rates have been floating in the six to seven percent range, and you might be seeing a lot of scary-sounding headlines about the market.

At the same time, your family might be outgrowing your current two-bedroom home, or you might be a long-time renter tired of sharing walls with noisy neighbors. The kids might have flown the nest and you don’t want to have to clean all that extra square footage you don’t need anymore.

Buying a home seems like the next right step in those scenarios, but you might be wondering, is now really a good time to buy?

Ultimately, it’s up to YOU to decide when the best time for YOU to buy is.

When you’re ready to pursue homeownership or move, higher interest rates don’t have to deter you. You have options, one of which is our Buydown Program.

What’s a Buydown?

Our Buydown Program for Conventional and FHA Fixed-Rate Mortgages allows for a temporary initial reduction to your rate for a certain amount of time at the beginning of the loan term. We offer 3/2/1, 2/1 or 1/1 buydowns to help you buy despite higher rates.

For example, let’s say your loan is locked at 6% and you qualify at the start rate of 6%. With a 3/2/1 buydown, the rate would be 3% for the first year, 4% for the second and 5% for the third. With a 2/1 buydown, the rate would be reduced for the first two years at 4% for the first year and 5% for the second year. A 1/1 allows for a reduced rate for the first year only.

Bottom line: You can still confidently make a home purchase and secure lower interest rates up front. Plus, when your buydown is up, you can choose to refinance if rates have lowered. Sounds like a win-win, right?

You don’t have to rely on fluctuating rates or experts telling you when the best time to buy is. You can go at your own pace and choose to buy when the time is right for you and your family.

Whether that time is now or next year, our knowledgeable loan officers will be here to walk you through every step. We’ll examine your unique financial situation and find the best financing available for you.

Ready to take the next step? Scroll down to get preapproved today.

NQM Funding, LLC (NMLS # 75597) dba - Premier Mortgage Associates; Villa Home Loans; Texas: Consumers wishing to file a complaint against a mortgage company or a licensed residential mortgage loan originator should complete and send a complaint form to the Texas department of savings and mortgage lending, 2601 North Lamar, Suite 201, Austin, Texas 78705. Complaint forms and instructions may be obtained from the department’s website at A toll-free consumer hotline is available at 1-877-276-5550. The department maintains a recovery fund to make payments of certain actual out-of-pocket damages sustained by borrowers caused by acts of licensed residential mortgage loan originators. A written application for reimbursement from the recovery fund must be filed with and investigated by the department prior to the payment of a claim. For more information about the recovery fund, please consult the department’s website at -