How to Throw an Epic Housewarming Party

When it comes to getting your home financed with a VA loan, there are a lot of moving parts. But before the process can be set in motion, you need to get your VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE).

So, how do you get your VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE)? Buckle up and let’s find out (or don’t buckle up, it’s pretty straightforward).

You bought a new house, now it’s time to show it off. Here are 8 tips for hosting a housewarming party like a pro.

Even though the ink has dried on your closing documents and the dust has settled from the moving trucks, you might feel that there is still one final step to becoming a homeowner. Cue the housewarming party.

Hosting your friends and family in your brand-new space can help make your house feel like a home. Best of all? It doesn’t have to be stressful. The moving process is hectic enough, so let your housewarming party be whatever you want it to be. Not sure how to get started on planning a Gatsby-level soiree or an intimate gathering? Here are eight foolproof tips for throwing an epic housewarming party that’ll have your friends and neighbors asking, “When can we come back?”

Patience is a virtue

You know it’s coming. As soon as you tell your friends and family about your new house on social media, someone is undoubtedly going to ask about the housewarming party. The trick here is to not act as soon as possible. Give yourself some time to enjoy your home on your own before you invite everyone over. It’s YOUR space! Wait until you’re all moved in and your place is in reasonable shape before you start planning.

Between hanging the curtains and implementing measures to reduce traffic noise in your new backyard to create the perfect party oasis, it could take weeks, or even months, before you feel comfortable enough to have people over. Operate on your time, not anyone else’s.

Give a heads up

Once you feel like your house is ready to be “warmed,” it’s time to start planning. Housewarming parties are typically more intimate gatherings with close friends and family, so don’t feel pressure to tell the world about it. Send some emails, or better yet, create a Facebook group so you can keep track of who you’re inviting and who all is coming for space, food, and drink purposes.

It’s also a good idea to let your neighbors know what’s happening, especially if your homes are in close proximity to each other. You could even extend an invitation to them if you’re comfortable with it. The more (gifts and food), the merrier!

Theme-work makes the dream work

If you want to go the extra mile and make sure your party is a true success, you can’t go wrong with adding a theme to the mix. So, what are some good theme ideas? If you’re planning a fall housewarming party, it’s only natural that you go with a Halloween or Friendsgiving theme. Waiting for the winter? Secret Santa or other gift exchange parties are always solid choices. You could play into an “Around the World” theme and tell your friends to bring dishes from different countries, which provides a fun theme and food for you and your guests.

Any theme that you think your guests will enjoy, and won’t cost an arm and a leg to decorate for, is probably a good idea. Start brainstorming! And remember to have fun with it.

Have a seat

Have you ever been to a party where there aren’t enough places to sit? No fun, right? Don’t let that be your party, especially if you’re planning activities where you want everyone to participate. Nobody wants to be the person standing on the outside edge of the circle where everyone is sitting. The sofa is prime real estate, yes, but having some bar stools, floor pillows, or foldable chairs on hand can save your guests some awkwardness (and joint pain).

Want to take seating a step further? Deck out your deck (if you have one), with comfortable lounge furniture. That way, you can all enjoy the weather and take in the neighborhood just as much as your new home.

There will be refreshments

We spoke previously about the possibility of a housewarming potluck, but if that’s not your thing, it’s still a good idea to at least provide some snacks and drinks for your guests. There’s no need to prepare a royal feast here. You can just order some pizza or other finger foods that can be kept at room temperature. Fruit, cheese platters, and baked goods also work well.

As for beverages, you might consider serving a signature cocktail or “mocktail” to help yourself from having to purchase too much variety at your expensive. You can also let your guests know that they can bring any additional alcoholic drinks they’d like, such as wine and beer.

Welcome to my crib

As much as we’re sure your friends love you, you’re not the only reason they showed up to the party. They’ll likely want to check out your new place. So this is where you show off your best MTV Cribs audition and give your guests what they’ve been waiting for: the grand tour.

Pro tip: You’ll probably want to wait until all or most of your guests have arrived to prevent giving multiple tours. But if you’re in the zone and feeling extra tour guide-y, why not?

Let the games begin

There are plenty of ways to entertain guests at a housewarming party, but having a central game or activity is probably your best bet for full engagement. You’ll want to pick games that include everyone, and it’s a plus if you can relate it to your theme or your house.

Think Home Scavenger Hunt or Grand Tour Memory. But there’s nothing wrong with just playing some good old-fashioned party games like Pictionary, Uno, or Two Truths and a Lie. You know your friends better than we do, so whatever you feel is your best for keeping them entertained will work just fine.


Housewarming parties should be low-pressure. Essentially, you’re inviting a group of people who like and care about you over to hang out and explore your new digs. It doesn’t have to be anything more than that. Sure you’ll want to put your best foot forward and make sure your guests have a good time, but if you prepare accordingly, that will take care of itself.

So, our last bit of advice to you is to just relax and enjoy your own party. If the host is having fun, there’s a great chance everyone else is too.

Give yourself some time to enjoy your home on your own before you invite everyone over. It’s YOUR space! Wait until you’re all moved in and your place is in reasonable shape before you start planning.


Is It Better to Build or Buy a House?

The median sale price of a home in the United States has steadily risen over the past year. According to numbers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the average “sold” price topped $450,000. And while housing inventory has more than doubled since this time two years ago, interest rates for 30-year mortgages are currently hovering around 7%. 

Buying a house is an exciting thing, but it’s not surprising that many potential buyers might be considering alternative options. One question coming up quite a bit? “In this market, is it better to build or buy a house?”

Things to consider

Before you decide if it’s better to build or buy a house, think about the following three things:

How much money do you have saved for a down payment? For closing costs? For furnishings? What can you reasonably afford? What’s your “no-go” number?Are there a lot of houses for sale near you? How many have your desired amenities? How many check all your boxes? Are you not finding anything you’re really loving?Are schools important to you? Do you need to be within walking distance of your favorite restaurant? What will your commute look like? How close or far will you be from your family?

Regardless of your path forward, these three factors will play a vital role in your decision. Why? Because building a house is generally more expensive than buying an existing one. Because you may not need to build a house if an existing one checks your boxes. Because building one may require you moving well out of town. 

Trying to figure out if you should build or buy is like a “choose your own adventure” game. You may feel confident in one answer, but it may lead you down a road you weren’t expecting.

Buying your home

Unless you’ve got a giant bag of cash, your purchase will involve a detailed process. We’ve covered the process before in other blogs, but here’s a quick refresher: pre-qualifcation, pre-approval, making an offer, going through underwriting, closing. There are sub-steps built into each of those steps, but that’s the gist. 

Because it’s so well-documented and regulated, if you prepare accordingly, it’s a relatively pain-free process…especially when you work with Cardinal FinancialHey, have you gotten your free rate quote yet?

It might be better because…

Buying is more common than building because, let’s be honest, there are so many homes already built. Building may come with the ability to pick and choose every little detail, but many buyers don’t have the time or money for the process of building. And, beyond that, buying an existing home comes with its own set of pros:

  • In many cases, these homes are move-in ready. That’s good for people on a tight schedule.
  • Because it’s the standard, there are more loans available for buying existing homes.
  • Thanks to those loans and other factors, it’s often generally cheaper to buy.

One con to consider? Depending on the market, you may face stiff competition from other prospective buyers.

Building your home

Just like buying isn’t as simple as throwing down a bag of cash, building isn’t as simple as buying a truckload of 2x4s and pouring some concrete. Unless you’re paying all cash for the construction, you’re going to need a loan—not just for the construction and the labor, but for the land itself.

One-time close loans are a convenient option that allow you to pay for the land and labor with one package. Otherwise, you’ll be looking at two separate mortgages for the land and the construction itself. That means two applications, two underwriting processes, and two closings. Never mind the two payments part of it. 

The process of building a home is also a lot more involved than simply buying one. Here’s a quick look at it:

  1. Buying the lot
  2. Get the plans
  3. Hire a team
  4. Obtain permits
  5. Start construction
  6. Continue construction
  7. Inspections, inspections, inspections
  8. Closing
It might be better because…

While building a house might be a little (or a lot) more complicated than buying a house, it comes with its own set of benefits. For starters, what’s not to love about whole-home customization? We’re talking location, layout, lighting, flooring, fixture finishes, equipment…everything. With that customization, you get access to new options for energy efficiency, meaning your new construction home can help you save on bills while saving a little bit of the environment. And, because you’re building from the ground up, you face little to no competition. 

Downside? The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have lasting impacts on the industry, meaning lead times are longer and materials are more expensive. Now, speaking of expenses…

The cost of building

Details vary, but Architectural Digest reports that building a house can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per square foot depending on location. Meanwhile, American Home Shield’s 2022 American Home Size Index shows that the average size of a house in the United States is roughly 2,500 square feet. 

Crunching the numbers shows us that building a house that size can cost anywhere from $1.2 to $2.5 million—averaging out to $1.875 million. 

If that number caused your jaw to drop, take this bit of solace: Other resources pin the average cost of a custom, similarly sized home at roughly $500,000—just a little north of the average “sold” price of a home in 2022. 

What’s it all come down to? When building a house, your location, equipment, and finishing touches will push your costs up or down. The safe bet is to budget for more than you initially expected, or were quoted for.

Oh, and don’t forget the taxes

Regardless of whether you choose to build a house or buy one, please remember one thing: Property taxes. You’re going to pay them either way, but property taxes on new construction and custom homes are often higher than those for existing homes—even remodeled ones. Again, it’ll come down to your budget, and your budget should include estimates for property taxes. 

And hey, if you choose to borrow from Cardinal Financial, we’ll help you prepare those estimates either way.


Tips for Overcoming Empty Nest Syndrome

Fall is the season of change. If your kid just left the nest for college or the next step in their career, this might be a strange time of readjustment in your household. Even if you still have other kids at home, it’s a shift in the family dynamic that can take some getting used to. Right about now, empty nest syndrome may be kicking in. So, what can you do about it?

5 tips for navigating empty nest syndrome

  • Take up a new hobby
  • Reconnect with your social circle
  • Tackle projects around the house
  • Make plans for the future
  • Practice self-care

Before we dive deeper into this list, let’s nail down what empty nest syndrome is.

What exactly is empty nest syndrome?

For the past 18 years, you’ve watched your kid grow. This is your baby. Goodbyes are already tough—now combine that with your home feeling emptier and it’s an even stronger emotion.

Psychology Today said it best: “Empty nest syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis, but rather describes a transition period in which many people experience feelings of loneliness or loss. While many parents encourage their children to become independent adults, the experience of sending children off into the world can be a painful one.”

You’ll always be their parent, but that role looks different when they become independent young adults. This means navigating just how involved you should be in their life. How often do you check in with them? Do you wait for them to call you first? How many phone calls and texts is too many? You’ll have to ask yourself these questions and decide what works best for your relationship with your adult children.

While your kid is off becoming a person, this is also a period of learning more about yourself. Believe it or not, you’ve changed a lot since before you became a parent. Remember all those times you complained that you couldn’t get five minutes to yourself? Well, now you’ve got time! What will you do with it? After all that parenting, you may just want to enjoy the chance to do nothing. We support it.

Ways to cope with empty nest syndrome

Admit what you’re feeling—don’t try to minimize or ignore it, but give your kid space. They’ll have a much harder time learning to make their own decisions if you’re constantly checking up on them, doing everything for them, and asking them if they need anything. You mean well, but even good intentions can have adverse effects. Give them the tools they need to make mistakes on their own while they still have your safety net to fall back on when they need it. And as for you, try these five tactics to make this transition a smooth one.

Take up a new hobby

So many new hobbies have cropped up since you became a parent, and now you have time to try them! From ceramics class to bodybuilding, the world is your oyster. And the best part about hobbies? You don’t have to be good at them. It’s all about trying something new and embracing the process.

Reconnect with your social circle

It can be a challenge to juggle your kid’s social life and your own. But with an empty nest, you no longer have to balance the two. From spending more time with the people you’ve always wished you saw more of to making new connections, stronger friendships are one of the best upsides to your kid’s independence.

Tackle projects around the house

Sometimes, kids are why we can’t have nice things. With your space serving different functions in their absence, now could be a great time to tackle those projects you’ve been wanting to do around the house. Need some inspo? We thought you’d never ask!

Make plans for the future

Whether it’s a trip you’ve always wanted to take or an activity you’ve always wanted to try, one of the best ways to ease your nostalgia is to make plans for the future. Instead of getting hung up on the way things used to be, give yourself things to look forward to. The next time you see your kids, you’ll both have exciting new experiences to share.

Practice self-care

When you’re parenting full-time, your kid is your priority. Now that they’re out in the world learning how to take care of themselves, you’ve got more opportunities to take care of yourself, too. Self-care looks different for everyone, and it doesn’t have to involve massive lifestyle changes. Indulging in a pour-over coffee setup that you didn’t have time for in the morning rush to school? That’s self-care. Going to bed early because you’re not waiting up to make sure your kid gets home safe? That’s self-care. Figure out what you enjoy, and enjoy it. Simple as that.

What if I don’t have empty nest syndrome?

There’s nothing wrong with feeling happy about your empty nest. Parenting is hard work. That doesn’t go away when your kid leaves the house, so it’s completely valid to embrace and enjoy the change of pace while you can. They’ll be home for Thanksgiving before you know it, anyway.

Your kid will be home for the holidays before you know it. In the meantime, try our tips for navigating empty nest syndrome.


Home Appraisal vs. Home Inspection

Home appraisal vs. home inspection: what’s the difference and why you need both.

It’s easy to confuse a home appraisal with a home inspection, or think they’re the same thing. In both cases, a professional comes to the home, surveys it, and draws up a final report, but there’s more to it than that. Both reports should inform the buyer and help them make an educated decision as to whether they should purchase the home. However, they serve fundamentally different functions when it comes to the home buying and selling process. In short, a home appraisal determines the value of the home while a home inspection determines the condition of the home.

In short, a home appraisal determines the value of the home while a home inspection determines the condition of the home.

The Appraisal Process

Home appraisers take a variety of different factors into consideration when valuing your home. Things like location, school district, lot size, access to public facilities, condition, and recent sale prices of comparable properties all play a role in how much your home is worth. Appraisers don’t necessarily care if your home is clean or not. But they will notice signs of neglect like cracked walls and chipped paint.

School District Impact on Property Values and Home Prices

It’s important to remember that home appraisals primarily benefit the lender. Yes, buyers and sellers can glean valuable information from an appraiser. However, their primary function is to protect a lender’s investment. That’s why the appraisal takes place before final approval of the loan. It’s also important to note that if the buyer is applying for an FHA loan, the appraiser must survey the physical condition of the home and disclose potential issues to the buyer. This obligation doesn’t exist for non-FHA mortgages.

So what happens if a home receives an appraisal lower than the purchase price? The purchase can still go through a few different ways. The seller can reduce the purchase price, the buyer could make a bigger down payment, or if the home needs repairs, a separate escrow account can be set up to pay for those.

The Inspection Process

If you think about an appraisal as a practice run or a walkthrough, the home inspection is the real game. An inspector’s checklist is usually a lot longer than an appraiser’s. It could also take hours to complete depending on the size of the property. An inspector will inspect crawl spaces, attics, water heaters, furnaces, foundations, land grading, and a lot more. Unlike appraisals where buyers and sellers don’t participate, many inspectors will encourage potential buyers to join them when they go to inspect a home to discuss issues as they’re discovered.

While appraisers are legally obligated to perform their job as an unbiased third-party, a home inspector is hired by a prospective buyer to protect their own interests. The inspector works for the buyer and is obligated to provide feedback on the home and any potential issues that may arise from its condition. As a buyer, of course, you want to protect your investment. That’s what makes an inspector a valuable asset to have working with you.

The Same, But Different

Despite their different functions, appraisers and inspectors still share a few commonalities. Both are professionals that you can expect to do their jobs impartially. Neither appraisers nor inspectors get paid a commission on the sale of the home. That means they have nothing to gain or lose whether or not the sale goes through. Knowing this, you should feel confident that you’ll get a fair valuation from your appraiser and a neutral report from your inspector.

As you can see, both the appraiser and inspector play important roles in the home buying process. And when they’re done doing their jobs, they give buyers added confidence to make the decision to buy or walk away from a home.


School District Impact on Property Values and Home Prices

Did you know? School district impact on property values can influence home prices and home buying trends.

It’s back-to-school season and we can’t think of a better way to get into school spirit than by discussing the importance of looking for good school districts during the home buying process.

The fact of the matter is that many buyers don’t even know school districts should factor into their decision, but they absolutely should. School quality is an integral part of a neighborhood, with a substantial impact on home prices and property values. So, where do we start?

The importance of a good school district

You might be surprised to learn that, when it comes to value, it’s not all about the ratio of bed to bath or square footage. With or without children, lots of buyers intentionally choose to buy homes in quality school districts. For some, it’s because they want a good education within walking distance for current or future children. For others, a good school district can be a sign of a healthy local economy and real estate value.

In 2017, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) found that nearly one quarter of buyers considered the quality of local schools when house hunting. Of course, families rarely stay put forever. Jobs change, children grow up, and when it comes time to sell, people want to know their home has retained or increased in value. found homes in higher-performing districts received 26% more views than the average listing. Even more surprising? Those homes were 42% more popular than homes in lower-ranked districts, which brings us to our next point…

School district impact on home prices

Many factors play into home prices, and a school district’s quality is just one of them. On one hand, sellers understand that a good district is more desirable, so they might use it as leverage for higher asking prices. On the other hand, if you’re a buyer and a good school district is one of your must-haves, you might be willing to bid higher to snag the right home. On average, people were willing to pay $50 more per square foot for a home in top-ranking school districts compared to homes in average districts, according to Redfin.

Other buyers might also be willing to trade some of their “wants” if it means securing a spot in a top district. After all, what’s more important: your bonus-room-turned-craft station, or a dependable school district with all the resources a child could need?

Even for buyers who aren’t parents yet, it’s something worth thinking about. Either way, it’s a trade off and it’ll come down to what you value most. And speaking of value…

School district impact on property values

Higher home prices and higher test scores often mean higher property values. Higher property values usually equate to higher property taxes, a portion of which tend to trickle down to local school districts. In a roundabout way, this is why higher-quality schools with higher test scores tend to be located in more affluent areas: more funding from the community.

Some sources even suggest that properties in better school districts hold up during various crises. Take the past housing crisis, for example. One study from Ken Corsini of BiggerPockets found that, between 2006 and 2009, “properties near schools with a rating of four or five stars were almost completely insulated from declining values, while those near schools with one to three stars experienced massive losses in value.”

That tells us that a neighborhood’s equity can serve as a buffer during challenging market conditions.

Not the most important factor

Children or not, every buyer should take the school district into consideration. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be your top priority. The right home for you is the one that feels right at the time. When that day comes, you can count on us to help you get there faster.

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind when you’re home shopping: wherever you buy, you’re buying into the local school district.