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Building a New Home Vs. Adding On

House on Sunflower showing kitchen

Are you in desperate need of another bedroom due to an impending arrival? Maybe you can no longer make do with an apartment-sized kitchen.  Regardless of the specifics, if your current home is no longer meeting your needs, it’s time to make a change.  But is the solution to build an addition to your home?  Or is it better to just move to a different home altogether?  The build an addition or move question has troubled many a homeowner.  Below, we’ll help you evaluate the pros and cons of adding-on to a house vs. building a new construction home.

Remodel Vs. New Construction– 5 Key Questions to Ask

Moving can be difficult, so many people ask themselves “Should I add on to my house?” if they think it will allow them to avoid a move. But adding-on to a house isn’t easy either. When deciding whether to build an addition or move, there are several factors to consider. Here are five questions to help you decide whether to build or remodel:

1. What Do You Need?

Make a list of essential features you must gain from build or remodel.  What’s working for you at your current house? What’s not working? Answering these questions may help you determine if adding on is actually the best way to move forward.

2. What Is Possible/Allowed?

Once you know what you need, you’ll want to figure out what you can actually do. There are a number of possible limiting factors here, such as:

  • Local zoning laws
  • HOA and historic building restrictions
  • Space limitations – you only do so much with your existing lot
  • Structural issues, especially with older buildings

Determining what’s physically possible and legally permitted can help you determine whether you should build an addition or move.

3. What Can You Afford?

Aside from the physical and regulatory limitations, there’s the matter of money. In general, additions and renovations cost less than building new, but costs can escalate quickly, especially when you run into unforeseen complications. This is especially true in older homes, in which a relatively simple addition could wind up turning into a major construction project in order to bring existing systems and structures up to code.

4. Could You Get a Return on Your Investment?

Even if you can afford it, is it worth adding on to your home? As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want yours to be the most expensive house on the block. Put another way, you don’t want to pour money into a home that you will not be able to get back when you sell.  Certain improvements, like adding a second bathroom or upgrading the closet in the primary bedroom tend to have a better ROI than adding a sunroom or a garage.

Building a new construction home is often a better investment, especially if you build in the right neighborhood. According to RCLCO, location is one area where buyers are least likely to skimp on, so relocating is often the better choice.

5. Can You Handle the Time and Stress Involved?

Finally, there’s the matter of how adding on or building a new home will affect your lifestyle. If you choose to build an addition on the house, you’ll need to either put up with the noise and dust of your construction crew or find another place to stay. This requires the added expense of paying rent on top of your mortgage payments. On the other hand, building a new home may take longer than renovating, but it’s much less disruptive.

Reasons to Build a New Home vs. Adding On

As you consider the above questions, it’s important to take into account the potential advantages of each option.

Reasons to Add-On or Renovate

Some homeowners choose to renovate for these reasons:

  • Potential ROI – A two-story add-on could get you a 65% return on your investment.
  • Lower upfront cost – Add-ons and renovations usually cost less upfront than whole new constructions—as long as nothing goes wrong, of course.
  • Less time – Renovations usually take less time than new home builds, so you could save some time, if that’s important to you.

It’s worth noting that while renovating can be a good idea in the right circumstances, you need to go about it carefully. Some additions could make a home harder to sell (depending on your neighborhood), and you might have local limitations, so do your due diligence.

Reasons to Build New

Some of the reasons you might want to build a new home include:

  • More control – You can choose your exterior design, floorplan, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, finishes, and more, right from the start.
  • Fewer surprises – When you work with an experienced builder, like the ones that build the new homes at Lilyana by Hillwood, you know the cost of your home up front. Once you choose your design and floorplan, and make your selections on optional features and upgrades, your costs are set.  You can even use Lilyana’s mortgage calculator to find out how much new home you can afford!
  • Greater efficiency– New homes are designed to be more energy efficient than older homes and some are built with sustainably sourced and recyclable materials.
  • Less stress – No need to live in a major construction zone or endure the financial stress of paying rent on top of your mortgage payment.
  • It’s all new – New homes are still under warranty, and there’s less chance that something will break. And come on, who doesn’t love that new-home smell?

When you build new, you can get the home you want from the very beginning rather than trying to fix up something that may have more issues than you initially anticipated.

Build a New Home at Lilyana by Hillwood

Another advantage to building new is the chance to live in a master-planned community like Lilyana by Hillwood in Celina, TX!  Located within the acclaimed Prosper ISD, Lilyana offers the advantages of small-town living just minutes away from the $5 Billion Mile in Frisco, TX.  Come visit our community that has over 50-acres of green space and an array of amazing amenities or take a virtual tour instead.  Contact us to learn more about Lilyana today.

What to Know About Alternative Real Estate Companies

House for sale in Prosper, TX

It seems alternative real estate companies and apps are springing up like weeds all over the world, offering homeowners and buyers various benefits, mainly the promise of savings. The number of alternative real estate options, also called third-party syndicated sites, is somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 right now. So how do these companies work, and should you use one of them?

Realtor Alternatives

Let’s take a look at a couple of the most popular alternative real estate companies on the market right now and examine how they work.

Zillow

People love Zillow. People love it so much that there was a sketch on Saturday Night Live earlier this year about how people escape the stress of the pandemic by looking at Zillow homes. Zillow is useful for researching neighborhoods, getting an idea of the style and size of a home you want, viewing photos of homes, and seeing what’s on the market in your desired area. You can even get pre-qualified for a mortgage. But can you actually buy a home through Zillow? And more importantly, should you?

The primary complaint about Zillow among homebuyers is that its information isn’t always accurate. Zillow gets most of its information from the multiple listing service (MLS) which is a database where realtors input information about homes they are selling. (Zillow users only see the most basic MLS information–the rest is only visible to realtors within the MLS.)  Zillow’s data is only as fresh as its last database download, that’s why price, availability, and other information about a home can be wrong.

If you’re lucky and the home is available, you can ask the listing agent to show it to you. Some people think you don’t need a realtor if you’re buying a home you find online, but there is actually little benefit to going at it alone. The seller pays both the buyer’s agent and the listing agent’s fees from the proceeds of the sale, so there’s no financial downside of using a realtor.

The listing agent may offer to represent you in the transaction, but this is a tricky business. Some states don’t even allow a “dual agent” arrangement because it is so difficult for one realtor to represent both parties fairly in such a transaction. Texas does allow a realtor to act as a dual agent but be careful here.  You may not want the person representing you in the purchase to also be representing the buyer as it can be a conflict of interest.

A much better choice is to select your own trusted realtor and let them arrange for the showing of any homes you come across on Zillow. Chances are that your agent will have already found them for you anyway. According to the NAR 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 91% of recent buyers found a realtor to be a very or somewhat useful information source. And 91% said they would use their agent again and recommend their agent to others.

A local real estate agent learns what you want and can find it much faster than you can through their network of other agents and their knowledge of the market. Realtors make it their business to know what is about to come on the market and a good realtor can get you in to see a home soon after it has been listed, before it even shows up on Zillow.

Redfin

Redfin is another alternative real estate website that offers a database of homes for sale. Like Zillow, Redfin pulls its data from the MLS. Redfin is a discount real estate broker, and their realtors are paid a salary rather than receiving a percentage of each sale. Redfin’s listing fees are about half of a traditional realtor’s although the company does have a minimum listing fee.

You can use a traditional realtor to buy a home listed with Redfin and many people do. Homes sold with Redfin typically pay a standard commission percentage to the buyer’s agent to ensure the home gets plenty of traffic and a quick sale.

You can also buy a Redfin-listed home with a Redfin agent. When this happens, Redfin receives the buyers commission, which is typically 2.5%-3% of the sales price. The company claims it will then rebate the buyer a percentage of the buyer’s commission, depending on various factors such as your location, home value, closing costs, etc. It’s important to note that Redfin will not disclose how they calculate their rebate amounts. This rebate might sound good in theory, but this is an example of “you get what you pay for” because Redfin is able to give the buyer a rebate by paying their realtors less.

Traditional realtors, on the other hand, are paid by the seller, so there’s no money out of your pocket to use them. They most likely have a wealth of knowledge about the local area, have a huge network to draw on, and have a tremendous incentive to do a great job for you. They know if they do, you are likely to use them again and refer them to others!

So, what’s the bottom line with alternative real estate services that claim to save you money? Online real estate services have to make their money somehow, but how can they afford to do it? If you work with one of these companies, you might save some money, it’s true. But it’s probably not worth it if you lose at the negotiating table because you don’t have the right representation. In general, traditional real estate agents have much more to offer their clients than the online real estate services. Online home databases are great for getting ideas and choosing neighborhoods, but it’s hard to beat the personal touch of a full-service realtor.

Ask Your Realtor to Show You the New Homes at Lilyana

If you’re looking for a new home within Prosper ISD that’s just minutes from Frisco but has small town appeal, take a look at Lilyana by Hillwood in Celina, TX. Your realtor can work with you to find the home that’s perfect for you and can guide you through the purchase process. Take a virtual tour of Lilyana today.

Busting Myths about Master-Planned Communities

Lilyana by Hillwood

Are you asking yourself “Should I live in a master-planned community?” Many people are drawn to planned communities for their many benefits, but there are a few misconceptions about these neighborhoods than can give folks pause. Below, we dispel these myths and misconceptions and explain why buying a home in a planned community like Lilyana by Hillwood in Celina, TX is a great decision!

Myth #1: The Houses All Look the Same

One of the most common myths about planned communities is they are full of “cookie cutter” houses that all look the same. When it comes to Hillwood Communities such as Lilyana, this is simply not the case. Most master-planned communities have anti-monotony codes that keep houses from all looking the same. In fact, the zoning codes (pages 102 and 110) in Celina, Texas where Lilyana is located have rules governing matters like elevation and materials, all in order to keep homes in neighborhoods from looking too similar.

At Lilyana, we have a variety of home designs, with different options for both internal layout and exterior appearance. The homes in our neighborhoods are constructed by a number of builders, each with their own specialties and styles. You can check out our different styles with virtual tours here.

Myth #2: The Community Rules Are Too Restrictive

Homeowners associations, or HOAs, are a common part of living in a master-planned community and all homeowners become members when they buy a home. A common misconception is that HOAs wield an unreasonable level control over homeowners. The reality is, the HOA is there to support the community, take care of common facilities, and improve the neighborhood overall.

Many of the HOA’s rules are designed to help preserve property values. The HOA works with homeowners who wish to customize their home to help them stay in line with community standards. According to survey data from the Community Associations Institute, 71% of homeowners know their association’s rules both protect and enhance their property values.

HOA rules also govern noise, lawn care, yard signs, use of common areas such as pools and pavilions, etc. These reasonable rules set expectations for the community so there are no surprises. The end result is a community everyone can be proud of.

Myth #3: HOA Dues Aren’t Worth It

Another common misconception has to do with HOA dues—that people don’t want to pay them and question what they are for. HOA dues cover maintenance of the amenities and common areas of the community and in most cases are reasonable. For example, annual dues for Lilyana’s HOA are $805 per year, or a little over $67 per month. These dues go cover the maintenance of the community’s common areas, parks, and amenities, such as:

  • An outdoor kitchen and pavilion
  • Paths for walking and biking
  • A catch and release fishing pond
  • Playgrounds & parks
  • A resort-style pool

Each of these amenities adds value to the community. At Lilyana, your HOA dues go toward creating and maintaining a wonderful neighborhood for everyone.

Myth #4: Planned Communities Are Too Remote

A common misconception about master-planned communities is that they’re located too far from shopping and other needed services and resources. With Hillwood Communities, this just isn’t the case. Lilyana, for example, is conveniently located just 10 miles North of Frisco and the $5 Billion Mile, which is jam-packed with shopping, restaurants, health care services, commerce, sports and entertainment venues, and just about anything else you could want!

Great schools are close by and convenient to Lilyana, as well.  The community is located within the Prosper Independent School District, which has some of the best schools in the state, including:

  • Johnson Elementary School
  • Rogers Middle School
  • Prosper High School

In the future, Lilyana will have an on-site elementary school, making it even more convenient for parents and their kids to walk or bike to school!

Myth #5: The Homes Won’t Hold Their Value

Some people believe, incorrectly, that homes in a master-planned community may not hold their value. Again, in Hillwood Communities like Lilyana, this is simply not true.  With a combination of top builders, favorable locations, award-winning school districts, and country-club-like amenities, homes built in master-planned communities typically maintain or increase in value over time.

There’s no doubt homes within master-planned communities are in high demand. In fact, sales at the top master-planned communities grew over 40% in the last year according to RCLCO’s most recent mid-year report, and Texas is among the top locations in terms of home sales in master-planned communities.

Buying a New Home? Try Lilyana by Hillwood!

Still just thinking of buying a new home in a planned community? Now that we’ve busted the common myths, there’s no reason not to! If you’re looking for a great place to live, drop by Lilyana in Celina, TX within Prosper ISD for a visit or get in touch!

Employment Opportunities Abound in Collin County

In recent years, Texas has been the scene of massive growth, both in terms of population and job opportunities. Collin County in particular has seen tremendous expansion, adding more than 202,000 jobs between 2010 and 2019 and nearly 220,000 residents between 2010 and 2020.  With gains like these, it’s no surprise Collin County is one of the fastest growing counties in Texas.

As more people move into the county, so have more businesses, creating an attractive job outlook for residents in the area. If you’re looking for a great place to live and work, Collin County is an excellent choice.

What’s Drawing Businesses to Collin County?

Aside from the booming population, other factors that are helping to draw employers to Collin County include low tax rates and business-friendly policies, especially in the wake of the recent pandemic.

Low Tax Rates

Texas has no individual state income taxes, and the state franchise tax rates (what Texas calls its business tax) are extremely low.  Businesses with less than $1.18 million in receipts pay no tax and those with $1.18 million to $10 million pay a rate of only 0.375%.  The maximum franchise tax rate in the state is 0.75%. These favorable tax rates make it easy for employers great and small to operate, and many businesses have moved into the area as a result, including quite a few from out of state.

Collin CARES Assistance Programs

Smaller businesses in particular have prospered in Collin County as a result of the small business grants provided through the Collin CARES program. The program was created to help those impacted by the pandemic and offers grants up to $25,000 to businesses that saw gross revenue losses in excess of 15% in the last year. As a result, businesses that might not have survived have had a fighting chance to pull through.

Largest Employers in Collin County, TX

Collin County has brought businesses of all sizes into the area. Some of the largest employers in the county include:

  • FedEx
  • Frito-Lay
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprises
  • JCPenney
  • JP Morgan/Chase
  • Toyota
  • Fannie Mae

These are just a few of the large businesses that have moved into the area in recent years. Countless other employers have found their place in Collin County, and they provide many opportunities for residents to land fulfilling careers. In coming years, the county’s future job growth is projected to be over 48%, much higher than the national average of 33.5%. Median household income in the area is also well above that of other states, exceeding $84,000 per year.

The Time is Right to Move to Collin County

The area’s massive growth makes it a great place to live if you’re looking for fulfilling work with successful companies. However, that very fact makes it attractive to other people too. That means the time to move to Collin County is now.

If you’re on the lookout for a great place to live in Collin County, look no further than Lilyana by Hillwood. This picturesque community in Celina, TX within the acclaimed Prosper ISD has all the charms of small-town life yet is  conveniently located just 10 miles north of Frisco with an easy commute to many Collin County employers. For more information on Lilyana, get in touch with us today or take a virtual tour.

6 Things That Make a Good Neighborhood Great

Not all neighborhoods are created equal. How do you find a great neighborhood for your family, especially now when home inventories are at record lows?  What should you look for in a neighborhood?  Many things can make a neighborhood good like attractive homes and steady home values. While no two neighborhoods are going to be exactly alike, the best ones tend to share the same critically important characteristics. So just what is it that makes for a good neighborhood?

1.    Homeowners Care About Their Neighborhood & Their Neighbors

One of the most important qualities of a good neighborhood is that the residents care about the neighborhood and want to see it develop into something special. This means folks own their homes and take a sense of pride in ownership. The homeowners in the area care about their community, and they want to contribute to make it a better place to live.

It’s easy to care about your neighborhood and your neighbors at Lilyana by Hillwood. The master-planned community in Celina, TX is made to be walkable so neighbors can meet each other on their way to the pool, heading to the fishing pond, or while walking the dog.  It’s not unusual for neighbors to meet at the outdoor kitchen and event pavilion and enjoy fellowship while their kids play at the parks and playgrounds.  That’s all part of the design at Lilyana.

2.    Outdoor Recreational Opportunities

Another aspect of what makes a good neighborhood is plenty of places for recreation. Outdoor activities are a great way to get exercise, meet your neighbors, and improve your mental health. In fact, studies have shown that those who have high exposure to green space have better psychiatric health, while those without green space nearby are 55% more likely to develop mental disorders. It’s clear that having natural beauty near your home is good for your health.

Lilyana offers many opportunities for fun outdoor activities including:

  • Miles of paths for biking and walking
  • Multiple parks
  • Outdoor pavilion and kitchen
  • A catch and release fishing pond
  • A luxury swimming pool

Opening soon is Bluebonnet Park, which will offer an outdoor pavilion, sports courts, a children’s play area, and more.

3.    Superior Schools

If you have kids, the local school system is probably high on the list of must-haves when looking for a good neighborhood. You want to make sure your children are getting the education and support they need at school. Not only that, but homes within good school districts tend to have higher resale values.

Lilyana is located within the award-winning Prosper ISD, which is known for academic excellence and commitment to student success. The district currently ranks as one of the best in Texas. In the near future, Lilyana will be home to a new on-site Prosper ISD elementary school making it extra convenient for kids to walk or bike to school.

4.    Proximity to Amenities

Speaking of convenience, proximity to important services and amenities is another essential quality of the perfect neighborhood. Master-planned communities like Lilyana are ideal for walkability since it’s one of the main tenets of the design. Pathways and roads are designed to accommodate pedestrian traffic and minimize congestion from vehicles, all while keeping local amenities within convenient walking distance of everyone in the neighborhood.

Besides having easy access to our on-site amenities, Lilyana’s great location in Celina, TX means residents can also easily reach Frisco’s “$5 Billion Mile” which is just 10 miles away. It takes a short drive to reach the city’s offerings like entertainment, shopping, restaurants, medical care, businesses, sports venues, and much more.

5.    Safety

Naturally, you want your neighborhood to be safe. A local crime rate is a good indicator of the neighborhood’s quality, with a low or decreasing rate showing improvement in the area as a whole.

For instance, Lilyana is located in Celina, Texas, which has an A+ rating when it comes to local crime rates. That top rating means it is safer than the majority of cities throughout the U.S., with Celina’s total crime being about 70% below the national average. In addition, crimes are currently decreasing in the area by 23% per year, meaning it’s still improving as a community.

6.    In Sync with Your Lifestyle

Finally, the perfect neighborhood is not only going to be objectively good in terms of amenities, walkability, schools, etc., but it will also be a subjectively good match for you and your family. Each person has their own preferences and lifestyle, after all, and you want your community to match what you value most. The best communities often cater to specific interests.

Each of our communities is designed around common interests and lifestyles that bring people together. For instance, Lilyana is the ideal place for those with an active lifestyle since it provides plenty of opportunities for walking through nature, fishing, swimming, or just getting together for a picnic outside. You’ll find people with shared interests and enjoy time with like-minded neighbors.

Looking for a Great Neighborhood? Lilyana Has it All!

If you’re currently in the market for a new home, Lilyana by Hillwood has all the makings of a great neighborhood. From excellent outdoor amenities to thoughtful neighborhood design, we take pride in providing one of the best master-planned communities in North Texas. To learn more about our community, get in touch today!

Reasons to Go Fishing – Why You Should Take Up Fishing as a Hobby

Lilyana fishing pond

Why is fishing fun? Those who don’t fish may wonder. Many people fish for the thrill of landing a big catch. Others simply want to relax and get away from everything for a few hours.

Recreational fishing has become highly popular, with 37% of Americans going fishing at least four times per year. The number of youths who went fishing between the years of 2006 and 2019 totaled over 10.85 million, making it a truly popular sport among all ages.

But why do people fish? The reasons to go fishing aren’t complicated. Some people fish because it’s so doggone relaxing and others do because it’s an easy hobby to pick up. There’s no doubt, fishing is a great pastime that offers many benefits.

Benefits of Fishing as a Hobby

Let’s talk about some of the great things about cultivating a fishing hobby. Fishing can lead to improved health, support conservation efforts, and help kids develop important skills.

Relieve Stress

One of the health benefits of fishing comes from its potential to relieve stress. Simply being out in nature can help reduce levels of stress hormones. According to a study published in 2018, people who spend time in wilderness settings report much lower levels of stress than those in more urbanized areas.

The act of fishing also entails focusing on a single task. This mental focus takes your mind away from the pressures of daily life and can induce a quasi-meditative state of mind that further helps relieve stress.

Increase Vitamin D

When you sit outside at the fishing hole you are getting some sunlight, even if it’s a cloudy day. Being outside fishing for a few hours can help your body get some much-needed vitamin D3, which can lift your spirits and fend off depression.

Fund Conservation Efforts

Aside from the health benefits of fishing, it also helps the environment. Fishing licenses fund many wilderness conservation efforts, including fish stocking in ponds, land conservation, and wildlife management. Your purchase of a fishing license helps make Texas a better place for everyone to live.

Fishing Is Good for Your Kids

Finally, fishing is great for your kids! They can learn many useful skills through fishing, including:

  • Perseverance
  • Patience
  • Self-confidence
  • Coordination and motor planning
  • Independence

In addition, it helps your kids develop an appreciation for nature that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.

Recreational Fishing Basics

Now that you know the reasons why you should start fishing as a hobby, let’s go over the basics you’ll need to get started. It’s fun and easy to learn!

Catch and Release Fishing

Many fishing holes are catch and release, meaning if you catch a fish, you have to release it shortly afterward. Catch and release helps preserve fish populations in heavily fished areas.

When releasing a fish, make sure to gently remove your hook and release it back into the water as quickly as possible. Doing so helps increase its chances of survival.

Equipment Needed to Get Started Fishing

In terms of equipment, the first thing you’ll need is a fishing license. A license can be purchased online or through local retailers. Kids under the age of 17 or people with disabilities fishing under the supervision of a licensed angler aren’t required to get licenses.

In addition to a license, you’ll need the following starting equipment:

  • A durable fishing rod and reel
  • Hooks
  • Fishing line
  • Bait or lures
  • Bobbers (also called floaters)
  • Sinkers (which stabilize your hook)
  • Swivels (which allow certain lures to spin freely)
  • Needle nose pliers
  • A knife or pair of clippers
  • A tackle box to keep everything together

You might upgrade your kit as you go, but this is enough to get you started. Some ready-made kits come with knots already tied, which is a bonus for a beginner.

Ask Local Experts

Finally, it helps to ask local experts about fishing in your area. They’ll have experience on what types of lures or techniques work best, the best places to fish, and the best time of day. The right techniques depend on the fish and climate in your area, so it’s definitely worth chatting a bit with experienced anglers before you go.

Great Places to Fish in North Texas

You don’t have to go out for a weekend-long trip to go fishing in Texas. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area alone, there are over 50 different fishing ponds, all within easy access.

Some popular catch and release spots in Collin County can be found here.

A list of additional spots around Dallas-Fort Worth can be found here.

Love Fishing? Check Out Our Community!

If you love fishing—or if you’re wanting to start—and if you are looking for a great place to live, Lilyana by Hillwood is the perfect place to be! One of our most popular amenities is our catch and release fishing pond! Lilyana also offers miles of hiking trails, a beautiful pool, an outdoor kitchen and pavilion, and acres of lush green spaces. Contact us to learn more about our homes and community.

Choosing a Mortgage Lender

House for sale in Prosper, TX

Buying a new home is a massive investment, and most of us need a mortgage to make it happen. But not all mortgages are created equal; different mortgage lenders offer different things.

Choosing a mortgage lender that you’re comfortable with is just as crucial as finding one that offers a competitive interest rate. If you’re not sure how to find the best mortgage lender for you, the information below will help guide you through the process.

Types of Mortgage Lenders

There are several different types of companies that offer home loans. So, finding a mortgage lender that works for you and your financial situation starts with choosing the right kind.

Retail/Conventional Banks

Retail or conventional banks, like Wells Fargo or Chase Bank, offer mortgages directly to consumers. They also provide other products like savings accounts, personal loans, and auto loans.

They tend to have the most stringent underwriting terms, but many choose them because they already have a relationship with the bank through a savings or checking account. Retail banks also tend to offer a loan process handled in-person rather than online, which makes many mortgage seekers more comfortable.

Credit Unions

Credit unions are like retail banks in that they offer a variety of products and services. However, you must be a member of the credit union to use them.

Joining a credit union usually requires you to share a “common bond” with its other members. This bond could be as simple as living in the same geographical area, or it could be more specific, such as being a military veteran.

Many choose credit unions because they offer member-only deals and provide the same hands-on, personalized service you’d receive at a traditional bank.

Mortgage Brokers

A mortgage broker doesn’t underwrite your mortgage, but they can help you find a lender that will at the best available rate. These 3rd-party intermediaries collect your mortgage application and any other supporting documents; then, they shop mortgage lenders on your behalf.

If you use a mortgage broker, you should ask how many lenders they shop before presenting you with quotes; be sure to get a list of their fees and when they collect them, as well.

Non-Bank Mortgage Lenders (AKA Online Lenders)

Thanks to the internet, non-bank mortgage lenders like Quicken Loans and Loan Depot are growing in popularity. They’re fast and easy to use. Plus, they’re more likely to work with you if you have credit issues.

However, they intimidate many customers who want more personalized service. When the process is entirely online, you may have to dig to find answers to your questions.

What to Look for in a Mortgage Lender

Whether you want to use a broker, a traditional bank, or an online lender, there are several factors to consider when choosing a home loan lender. Remember, if the loan originator is also your loan servicer, you could be in a relationship with them for several decades.

Even if the originator and servicer aren’t the same, it’s vital to consider more than the interest rate, though that’s important too. Below, we outline a few simple steps for choosing a mortgage lender.

How to Choose a Mortgage Lender

When choosing a mortgage lender, be prepared to do some research. Compare interest rates for common loan types, including fixed-rate loans, adjustable loans, and hybrid-adjustable options.

Your interest rate will be determined by several factors, including your credit score and the terms of the loan. You can use an online mortgage calculator to get an idea of what your payment might be. You can change factors such as the loan amount, interest rate, down payment, and term and see how the various combinations affect your monthly obligation.

Be sure you ask each home loan lender about down payment requirements. Many institutions require 20% down, and if you can’t afford that, you will be required to purchase mortgage insurance. If that’s you, it’s essential to factor this cost into your monthly payment budget or look for a more flexible lending option.

Finally, consider the loan terms you’re looking for. Short-term loans have high payments but lower interest rates. Long-term loans allow for more affordable payments but have somewhat higher interest rates.

Questions to Ask Potential Lenders

Once you narrow down your home loan lender search to a few top candidates, ask them the following questions.

  • Who is my main contact person, and how do I reach them?

Your contact person may change once your loan reaches the underwriting process, so knowing the answer to this will be helpful after you submit your application.

  • How much of the process is online vs. in-person?

If a lot of the process is online, there may be fewer fees, but it’s also harder to ask questions or negotiate terms.

  • What fees am I responsible for?

Ask about origination fees, commission, appraisal fees, and credit report fees. Also, ask about discount points, which are up-front fees that can lower the interest rate of your loan.

  • What’s the length of the closing process, and is it possible to expedite it?

Asking about the closing process and whether you can use pre-approval to expedite it will help you know what to expect after finding the house you love.

  • How long of an interest rate lock do you recommend? If closing doesn’t take place in that time frame, what’s the cost of an extension?

Interest rate locks are usually put into place by the lender to hold the interest rate while you’re in the closing process. That way, your interest rate doesn’t increase between accepting the loan and closing on a home.

Many mortgage lenders add extension fees if the closing process isn’t complete in a specified time. Sometimes these fees are high, so ensuring you have a cushion on your interest rate lock time is crucial.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a mortgage lender is a significant decision on your homebuying journey. Everyone wants a competitive interest rate and low closing costs, but other criteria such as time to close and comfort with your lender are also important. Finding a home lender is really about balancing all of these factors until you reach the sweet spot that is just right for your needs.

If you’re ready to buy a home in North Texas, take a look at Lilyana by Hillwood. Our beautiful, master-planned community in Celina, TX has new construction homes and is located within the acclaimed Prosper ISD. Lilyana has an array of fabulous amenities for homeowners to enjoy including a resort-style pool with an outdoor pavilion and kitchen, a catch-and-release fishing pond, and miles of walking trails. See our community for yourself, either in person or with a virtual tour. We’re happy to walk you through the homebuying process, so you can find the home you’ve been dreaming of.

10 Benefits of an Outdoor Kitchen the Whole Family Will Enjoy

Outdoor kitchen Lilyana

If you’re wondering, “What is an outdoor kitchen and why would I use one?” you’ve come to the right place. An outdoor kitchen offers a fun new way of cooking and enjoying nature at the same time by placing the conveniences of an indoor kitchen in a beautiful outdoor setting.

The concept of a kitchen outside the house has become increasingly popular since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which encouraged social distancing and made outdoors the only option for people to meet friends and family. However, outdoor living spaces were already in demand before the pandemic, especially in warmer climates, like Texas and other southern states. People love the option to connect with the natural world and spend time socializing outdoors.

An outdoor kitchen area can be customized in almost any way you desire. Whether you want a sink outdoors for easy cleanup or are interested in ramping up your barbecue capabilities with a smoker, you can decide precisely what your exterior kitchen will have.

Read on to discover the key benefits of outdoor cooking spaces.

1. Simplify Meal Preparation

A kitchen outside the house offers more room. This makes it easier to collaborate and have multiple cooks at work at once without people getting in one another’s way. Plus, guests can help themselves—for example, to grab a drink from the fridge—without interrupting the chef.

2. Enjoy Healthier Meal Options

Having a kitchen outdoors expands your meal options. For example, you can incorporate a barbecue—something you can’t do indoors since you should never grill in enclosed spaces.

This paves the way for a more diverse and healthier selection of food options since grilled foods tend to be lower in fat. Grilled meat, in particular, is lower in calories.

3. Keep Food Smells Outdoors

The smell of a fresh-cooked meal can be tempting—before you eat it. Once you’re finished with your food, you probably don’t want lingering odors around you. With outdoor kitchen cooking, you leave the savory scents outside. This is especially useful for more pungent dishes like fish and garlic.

4. Cut Energy Costs & Keep the Cool Air Inside

Whether you’re using an oven, a stove, or a toaster, cooking generates heat. This can force your air conditioning system to work harder when it’s already warm out, pushing up your utility bills. When you prepare your food outside, this is not a concern.

Plus, if you bring your entire eating and dining area outside, you don’t have to keep opening and closing your door. In contrast, if you’re barbecuing outside, you’ll likely have to go in and out repeatedly, letting cooled air escape each time. With a kitchen outdoors, this isn’t an issue.

5. Spend More Time Outdoors

When you move your meal preparation outside, the entire family will spend more time in nature. This is excellent news for your health, as research shows that spending time in green spaces can improve mental health, alleviate stress, and improve blood pressure. Adults and children alike will benefit.

6. Encourage Physical Activity

Spending time outside also opens up the opportunity for other health-enhancing activities. Residents of Lilyana by Hillwood can prepare a meal at the community’s outdoor pavilion and kitchen while their kids enjoy the adjacent green spaces for a game of pickup soccer, frisbee, or tag.  And the gorgeous, resort-style pool is just steps away.

7. Expand Usable Living Space

A well-designed outdoor kitchen cooking space that also includes a dining spot significantly expands the usable space on your property. It’s like adding another room to the house—the room just happens to be outside.

You can enhance your exterior kitchen’s usability by housing it under a gazebo or pavilion. That way, even if it rains, you can use it.

8. Ramp Up Home Value

Boosting the amount of usable space on a property is a surefire way to increase its value. This is especially true for an outdoor kitchen, given how in-demand they have become. You can expect a return in investment of anywhere from 55% to 200%. If you ever sell your home, this will be a big boon.

9. It’s Fantastic for Entertaining

One of life’s greatest joys is enjoying a good meal with friends and family. A kitchen outside the house with an adjacent dining area gives you another venue to do this. Plus, the chef won’t feel excluded with everyone sitting nearby. It’s an innovative and fun way to entertain.

10. Save Money on Dining Out

What is an outdoor kitchen? It’s more than an outdoor cooking space. Add some twinkly lights or candles, and you can create your very own restaurant just steps from the house. Having this lovely space for dining can make going out to eat less appealing and save you money on restaurant expenses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Hopefully, you’ve now got a clear answer to your initial query, “What is an outdoor kitchen?” If you still have questions about this topic, our FAQ section has you covered.

Can You Use a Regular Grill in an Outdoor Kitchen?
An outdoor cooking space can be tailored to your requirements. It’s possible to incorporate an outdoor grill into your exterior kitchen, if desired.

How Do I Protect My Outdoor Kitchen from the Weather?
Outdoor kitchens are generally designed with coverings to protect them from the weather. For example, the kitchen may be housed in a gazebo or under a pavilion.

Can You Put a Grill Next to the House?
If you incorporate a grill into your outdoor kitchen area, make sure it isn’t too close to the house which is a fire hazard.

How Far from the House Should the Grill Be?
Make sure to leave at least three feet of space between your grill and the sides of your house for fire safety.

Experience a Kitchen Outdoors at Lilyana

Want to experience the benefits of outdoor kitchen cooking for yourself? Take a virtual tour of Lilyana by Hillwood and see all our beautiful amenities including our outdoor pavilion and kitchen which residents can use year-round. Contact us for more information about our master-planned community in Celina, TX, within Prosper ISD.

Is a One-Story or a Two-Story Home Better for You?

Break Houses

Choosing between a one-story and a two-story home can be challenging. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Your decision will come down to your family and your needs.

Read on to figure out which home is best for you.

Advantages of a One-Story Home

There are both pros and cons of a one-story house. Some of the pros include:

  • More usable living space
  • More affordable to heat and cool
  • Better for aging in place
  • Safer for children & older folks
  • Easier to add square footage in the future

Living Space

One of the biggest advantages when it comes to a one-story vs two-story house is more usable living space. You won’t lose space to staircases and you can truly maximize your square footage by minimizing hallways. One-story homes also tend to feel more expansive, especially if you have an open floor plan.

Lower Heating & Cooling Bills

Because heat rises, it’s more difficult to cool the second floor of a two-story home. One-story homes tend to be less expensive to heat and cool overall.

Safety & Aging in Place

Staircases can be dangerous and difficult for both the elderly and small children. Climbing a staircase can be difficult for those who suffer from arthritis or other health issues. And even if you have no problem climbing stairs now, that may change later. A one-story home will be easier to navigate into your golden years.

For families with young children, there are a few considerations. First, stairs can be dangerous for little kids who aren’t steady on their feet. Even older kids can fall if they’re running up and down the stairs several times a day.

If the main bedroom is on the first floor and the children’s rooms are on the second floor, you’ll also want to consider that you’ll be a floor away from your kids at night. If you have a baby, you may be carrying the baby up and down the stairs several times a day.

Finally, while nobody wants to think about the possibility, single-story homes are easier to evacuate than two-story houses in the event of a fire.

Potential for Adding on

If you plan on adding square footage to your house in the future, it’s much easier to do with one story. You can just extend your roofline as much as you need. With a two-story home, it gets much more complicated and expensive.

Disadvantages of a One-Story House

Now that we know the pros, realize there are also some cons to a one-story vs a two-story house.

These include:

  • More expensive to build
  • A larger footprint and therefore a smaller yard
  • Less privacy

Higher Cost

In most cases, when it comes to the cost of a one-story vs a two-story house, it’s more expensive to build a one-story house. A home’s foundation and its roof are typically two of the more expensive line items and both of these will cost more in a one-story home versus a two-story home. Your plumbing and electrical systems will also require longer runs, which will make costs higher.

Since a one-story house has a bigger footprint, you may need a bigger lot, which will cost more as well.

Larger Footprint

While it’s easier to add on to a one-story house, you’re going to have a larger footprint. If you don’t opt for that larger, more expensive lot, you’ll have less yard space.

Less Privacy

All the windows of a one-story home are at street level, meaning that passersby can see into your home. Rooms on the upper floor of a two-story home have some measure of privacy based solely on their distance from the ground.

In a one-story home, public and private spaces are all on the same level, which may be inconvenient if you have young children and want to entertain guests after bedtime. Depending on your floor plan, you may have guests walking through bedrooms to use your bathroom which isn’t ideal.

Advantages of a Two-Story House

Two-story homes are popular. Here are a few reasons why people love two-story homes:

  • Lower building costs
  • More outdoor space and better views from inside
  • Privacy

Lower Cost

Two-story homes are typically cheaper to build. They have less foundation to pour and less pipe to run, which means you’ll most likely save on materials.

Outdoor Space & Views

Two-story homes have larger outdoor spaces. You’ll have a smaller footprint, which means a bigger yard. Two-story homes work well on narrower lots that won’t always accommodate a one-story home.

Since you have a second story, you’ll also have better views. You can often see out and appreciate the nature around you, whereas with a one-story home, you’ll be at eye-level with your neighbors’ homes.

More Privacy

If you prefer a house with separate living and entertainment spaces, a two-story may be right for you. You can have all of the bedrooms upstairs if you want privacy. This way the windows are not at street level and there’s less of a chance of someone looking in while walking or driving by.

If you have older kids or teens, you may enjoy the separation that a two-story home can offer. You can have the main bedroom on the bottom floor and put your kids rooms upstairs.

Disadvantages of a Two-Story Home

When considering the pros of a two-story house, there are also some cons to consider:

  • Safety issues
  • Less usable square footage
  • Longer build time

Safety Concerns

Stairs can pose a safety hazard, especially to the elderly or children. You may want to consider a staircase with a landing. If you have small children, you’ll need to use a gate to keep them protected.

Stairs Take Up Space

Not only are stairs dangerous, but they also take up a lot of space. If you’re working with less square footage, you may not be willing to give up some of it on stairs.

Longer Build

Two-story homes typically take longer to build. If it’s imperative that you get into your home as quickly as possible, you may want to consider one story.

Is a One- or Two-Story Home Better for You?

If it comes down to if it’s cheaper to build one-story or two-story houses, a two-story home will be less expensive to build but more expensive to maintain and expand. It’s not really the best strategy to let cost be the primary determining factor, though.

When you’re deciding between a one-story vs a two-story house, consider everything. Do you like the look of one- or two-story homes better? How long will you stay in the home? How large of a yard do you want? What are your privacy requirements? Consider how you will use your home, who will live there with you, and what features are most important to you before you decide.

A master-planned community like Lilyana by Hillwood offers both one- and two-story homes in a range of prices and styles! Plus we have a variety of amenities that homeowners love. Take a virtual tour of Lilyana and contact us today to discuss your dream home!

4 Reasons to Move to Collin County, Texas

Relocating to a new area can be quite overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to choose the right city for you and your family. If your next move is to the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area, the growing cities in Collin County, Texas should be at the top of your list.

Where Is Collin County, Texas?

You may be wondering where Collin County is. Collin County, TX, is situated in the northern part of the state, just south (about 30 miles) of the Red River. The county seat, McKinney, is less than 35 miles northeast of Dallas. As a part of the DFW metroplex area, Collin County is an ideal choice for people who are looking for access to all that DFW has to offer while still enjoying the benefits of a smaller city.

Collin County, TX, is one of the fastest-growing counties, not just in Texas but in the entire nation! The county had more than 1 million residents in 2018, and an estimated 80 people a day move to Collin County. The Collin County area includes fantastic cities such as Frisco, Plano, Celina, Prosper, Melissa, and many others. Consider these notable Collin County demographics:

  • There is a female-to-male ratio of 51 percent to 49 percent.
  • The median age of residents is 37.3 years.
  • More than 93 percent of the residents have completed high school, and 52 percent of them have acquired a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • The average household income is approximately $118,000.

Now that you have a snapshot of Collin County, let’s take a look at a few reasons that the county is the best place to call home.

1. Employment Opportunities

Collin County’s tax rate of .208395 per $100 of assessed value has remained the same for more than 20 years, making it an attractive location for large corporations, small businesses, and startups alike. The area is home to Toyota, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, Texas Instruments, NTT Data International, JP Morgan/Chase, FedEx, and Frito Lay, to name a few. The area is home to many innovative mixed-use projects and is expected to provide over 1.16 million job opportunities by 2054.

2. Housing

Along with all that business growth comes a bustling housing market. Collin County, TX is home to the number one place to live in the country, Frisco. It also offers a number of smaller cities where residents enjoy the benefits of small-town living just minutes from the excitement of the big city. There are many affordable options for those who want to own a piece of land in the country and those buyers who are seeking the vast array of amenities that master-planned communities can provide. Collin County offers an unmatchable blend of affordable and high-end neighborhoods featuring historical and newly built homes in urban and rural settings. You’re sure to find your forever home here.

3. Educational Opportunities

Collin County has the highest concentration of top-ranked schools in the state. It is home to 267 public schools and 108 private schools, as well as Collin College. According to the Public-School Review, Collin County, TX, public schools average math proficiency scores of 68 percent compared to the state average of 48 percent and reading proficiency scores of 65 percent compared to a statewide average of 45 percent. The county’s schools rank in the top 1 percent of Texas public schools. High-quality education is one of the main reasons families are choosing to move to Collin County.

4. Quality of Life and Things to Do

You’ll never run out of fun things to do in Collin County. Outdoor recreational opportunities are plentiful, and the county has numerous public parks, lakes, and natural areas for hiking and biking. Several professional sports teams have practice venues and stadiums in Collin County including the Dallas Cowboys, FC Dallas, the Dallas Stars, and the Frisco Rough Riders. There are also small-town farmers’ markets, a wide range of year-round cultural and community activities, and a slate of seasonal events and festivals including the Celina Cajun Fest, the Wildflower Festival, and the Anna Glowfest. And of course, there are fantastic shopping, dining, and entertainment options throughout the county and in nearby Dallas. 

Visit Lilyana by Hillwood

If you’ve decided Collin County, Texas is for you, take a look at Lilyana by Hillwood. Our 400-acre wooded master-planned community in picturesque Celina offers homesites for those seeking a tranquil life in a beautiful, natural setting, within minutes of the bustling city of Frisco. Our holistic approach to neighborhood design helps develop a community rooted in shared values, connection, and stewardship. We think you’ll find Lilyana is the perfect place to call home. Take a virtual tour or contact us to learn more.

Benefits of Buying a Home in a Small Town

Lilyana fountain

One of the best parts of our great country is its friendly small towns. No matter where you live or what state you come from, you have likely experienced small-town charm and hospitality at some point in your life. The NCES classifies small towns as an incorporated area of 25,000 residents or less, meaning that many of our country’s most charming areas are considered small towns.

Despite this average, most small towns have around 6,000 residents, meaning that there is a real range of population sizes for U.S. small towns. Many people love small-town life for a variety of reasons, and there are certainly small-town advantages. Living in a small town means less traffic, lower crime rates, and a more relaxed way of life. For many, the pros of living in a small town far outweigh any negatives, which is why thousands of people are dropping their big city, stressed-out lifestyles for the joys of small-town life.

So why is it better to live in a small town? Let’s find out.

Close to Nature

One of the main advantages of living in a small town is increased time spent outdoors. Many small towns are located in areas with significant wildlife and open spaces. This extra green space and fresh air can improve mental health, and often inspires residents to get outside and do something active, as well. Living close to nature is one of the biggest benefits of living in a small town.

Affordability

Another of the advantages of living in a small town is affordability. According to Wealth Meta, prices on just about everything, from groceries to insurance to basic services are often cheaper in small towns. Additionally, in a small town, you may find that you can afford more home than you can in the city. Property tax rates are usually lower in smaller towns, too. This means you can create a home to your exact specifications and save in many other areas. Greater affordability is definitely one of the pros of living in a small town.

Safety

When talking about the benefits of living in a small town, one of the major topics of conversation is safety. As you may assume, crime rates are much higher in metropolitan or urban areas, where there are many more people. The number of violent crimes per 100,000 people in cities with populations of 500,000 or more is roughly double that of cities where the population is 100,000 or less.

The farther you move away from a large city, the more the crime rates go down. This is one of the small-town living benefits for families, as you are more likely to feel comfortable leaving your children unsupervised outdoors than you would be in a large urban area.

Community

One of the best reasons to live in a small town is the friendliness they are known for. Small towns often have a greater sense of community than big cities. Urban environments can create an atmosphere of stress and overachievement, which leaves little time for community bonding. What’s more, massive populations in cities make it easier to feel anonymous and harder to get to know those around you. In small towns, your neighbors are more likely to stop and say hello, and you can easily get to know others in your area. Small towns often have community events as well, which is a great way to bond with your neighbors. Community is at the top of the list of good things about small towns.

What It’s Like to Live in a Small Town

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to live in a small town. Living in a small town sets the scene for relaxation and family togetherness. Without the long commutes that are common in the city, your family will have more time to spend together at home. With more natural green spaces, you’ll likely find yourself spending more time outside enjoying nature, which is good for the mind and body.

Explore Lilyana By Hillwood

If the small-town life is calling your name, contact us at Lilyana by Hillwood. With our passion for nature, community, and smart living, we can help you find a home that fits your lifestyle.

The Fastest-Growing Cities in Collin County, Texas

Collin Texas

According to recent US Census data, Collin County has grown significantly with its total population now at 1,095,580. Collin County experienced a steady 2% to 4% increase in population over the last five years and a 198.30% jump in population from 1990 to 2010.

Population growth means economic prosperity and diversity for the area. Many cities in Collin County have experienced tremendous growth in recent years. Below, we review the four fastest-growing cities in Collin County, based on their population in 2019 and their growth percentage rate from 2015 to 2019.

1. Celina

Population: 16,299

Population growth: 50.8%

Established in 1876 by settlers, Celina’s population has almost tripled in size since 2010, making it the fastest-growing city within Collin County. Celina boasts a vibrant economy, with a median household income of $92,000 and an average house value of over $450,000. Lilyana, a master-planned community by Hillwood Communities, is located within Celina and halfway between Celina and Prosper (Number 4 on our list).

2. Melissa

Population: 12,117

Population growth: 37.8%

The town of Melissa was laid out in 1872 when the Houston and Central Railroad was built through the area. Railway transportation made the town a commercial center for area farmers. Located in north-central Collin County, Melissa has enjoyed steady growth over the years and is projected to grow more in the future. Currently, Melissa is updating infrastructure and adding amenities to the city to be ready for its next phase of economic growth.

3. Princeton

Population: 13,894

Population growth: 35.4%

Established around 1888, Princeton is another historic town in the northeast section of Collin County, 30 miles away from Dallas. Princeton is known for a small-town feel and a slower pace. It boasts an excellent school system and a crime rate that is 1.7 times lower than the U.S. average.

4. Prosper

Population: 24,579

Population growth: 34.9%

As the name suggests, Prosper continues to do just that. The second-largest city on this list, just south of Celina, Prosper continues to grow while still maintaining its city motto of “A Place Where Everyone Matters.” Further doing credit to its name, Prosper’s average household income was $146,733 in 2019. Prosper is also an extremely active community. There are numerous public parks, hiking trails, golf courses, athletic fields, and recreational sports leagues for all ages.

Consider Lilyana by Hillwood

If you are looking to move to Collin County, consider Lilyana by Hillwood in the Celina/Prosper area, which puts you in the #1 fastest-growing city in the #1 fastest-growing county in Texas. Top-notch schools, fantastic community amenities, and 50 acres of beautiful green spaces are just the beginning of what Lilyana has to offer you.

Lilyana is a master-planned development by Hillwood Communities, a company established by Ross Perot Jr. in 1988. Hillwood Communities creates one-of-a-kind neighborhoods that foster meaningful interactions between neighbors.

Hillwood Communities Offers Loads of Amenities

Faster population growth means more demand for amenities, and Hillwood has that in spades. Each community within the Hillwood portfolio is thoughtfully and meticulously planned by our amazing staff. It is little wonder we received the Dallas Builders Association Developer of the Year award in 2016, 2018, and 2020.

With 30 years of experience under our belts, we are ready to provide you and your family with the ideal home in a safe, active, innovative, and flourishing community. To see more of what Lilyana has to offer you and your family, take a virtual tour or schedule a visit with a builder. If you like what you see and want to know more, contact us directly. We are eager to answer all your questions about our beautiful, friendly community and show you our model homes. Contact us today to explore your homebuying options in one of the fastest-growing areas of Collin County.