Real Estate and Housing en-US 87% of Homebuyers Think They Know How Much Home They Can Afford (But They Really Don't) <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/87-of-homebuyers-think-they-know-how-much-home-they-can-afford-but-they-really-dont" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Seven years ago, when my husband and I were house hunting, we were sure we knew how much house we could &ldquo;afford.&rdquo; However, once we started really looking at the numbers, and comparing costs to our situation, we discovered that we really didn&rsquo;t have an idea of what we could really afford.</p> <h2>Most Homebuyers Don't Know What They Can Afford</h2> <p>Unfortunately, our experience isn&rsquo;t unique. A recent survey from Discover Home Loans points out that 87% of homebuyers claim they know how much home they can afford. However, as Discover asked about the specific expenses, it found that, like me, many homebuyers don&rsquo;t actually have a clear understanding of the cost involved in purchasing a home.</p> <p>According to the survey&rsquo;s results, only 59% of prospective homebuyers know how much their down payment will be, and only 52% have run the numbers on their monthly mortgage payment. So, even though homebuyers might have an idea of what they <i>think</i> they can afford, the reality is that they don&rsquo;t actually <i>know</i> what those expenses will be.</p> <p>Because your home is likely to be the largest purchase you make in your life, it makes sense to fully understand your options, and have a good handle on exactly what it will cost you, and how much you can truly afford. Let's walk through the process.</p> <h2>How Much Home You Can Afford?</h2> <p>Just coming up with a ballpark figure of how much you think you can afford isn&rsquo;t going to cut it when you get right down to it. Before you start looking at homes, it makes sense to know exactly what numbers you&rsquo;re talking about.</p> <h3>Decide on a Down Payment</h3> <p>First of all, you need to figure out what down payment you can offer. Realize that the lender will trace the origin of your down payment. You aren&rsquo;t generally supposed to borrow the money you use for a down payment. Instead, it should be in the form of a true gift from a close family member, or it should come out of assets that you already have.</p> <h3>Know Down Payment Minimums</h3> <p>If you are getting a loan backed by the FHA, you need at least 3.5% for a down payment. For conventional loans, many lenders like to see 5% or 10% down. If you are building a home, the lender might ask for 20% down. If you only have $10,000 for a down payment that will immediately limit your choices in terms of how much house you can buy. How much the lender requires ultimately depends on your credit, the purchase price, and the purpose of your home purchase (rental property, second home, primary residence, etc.).</p> <h3>Consider the Monthly Payment</h3> <p>You should also consider the monthly mortgage payment, so you can get a realistic view of what to expect in terms of your budget. There are a number of <a href="">useful mortgage calculator resources</a> online that can help you figure out what you will pay each month, depending on the amount you borrow, the interest rate you pay, and your down payment.</p> <h3>Don't Rely on the 30% Rule</h3> <p>What you can afford depends on your comfort level, and your other obligations. While many experts tout the 30% rule, which says that it&rsquo;s &ldquo;affordable&rdquo; to pay 30% of your income on housing costs, the reality is that this is just a rough starting point. Instead, consider what you can handle. My husband and I like to keep all of our housing expenses (including utilities and taxes) to no more than 25% of our monthly income.</p> <p>If you have other obligations, such as credit card debt, car loans, and student loans, it might make sense to get a smaller mortgage &mdash; or even put off buying a home until you have less debt altogether. If you spend 30% of your income on your mortgage and other housing costs, and another 15% of your income goes toward other debt obligations, you are spending 45% of your monthly income on debt. That starts to get fairly uncomfortable for many budgets.</p> <h3>Get Pre-Approval for a Home Loan</h3> <p>Getting pre-approval is a great way to figure out how much home you can afford, said TJ Freeborn, a mortgage professional at Discover Home Loans.</p> <p>&nbsp;&ldquo;Pre-approvals help you shop for your new home with confidence. They greatly reduce any financing surprises and generally give you a leg up in buyer and seller negotiations,&rdquo; wrote Freeborn in her guest article for <a href="">Redfin</a>. &ldquo;Additionally, many real estate agents who are representing home sellers will want you to be pre-approved so that they know you are a viable buyer.&rdquo;</p> <p>To obtain pre-approval, you need to provide your mortgage professional with financial documents including W2s, paycheck stubs and bank statements. These documents will be used by the mortgage professional to verify your income and assets and to run a credit check. Once this review has been completed, your lender will issue you a pre-approval letter that you can share with your real estate agent or seller.</p> <h3>Be Ready for Additional Costs</h3> <p>Another issue that many consumers don&rsquo;t address when considering home affordability is the fact that there are a number of other costs that come with buying a house. If 52% of homebuyers haven&rsquo;t determined how much their monthly mortgage payments will be, as suggested by the Discover Home Loans survey, then it&rsquo;s reasonable to assume that an even greater number hasn&rsquo;t thought about other costs, including closing costs, taxes, fees, and moving expenses.</p> <p>Seven years ago, my husband and I were shocked as the price of our home kept climbing. From property taxes to homeowners insurance to the fact that a bigger house meant higher utility bills, we were surprised at the final cost.</p> <p>As you calculate how much home you can afford, don&rsquo;t just assume that the story ends with the principal and interest from a mortgage payment. Remember that there are other costs as well, and you need to be ready to handle them.</p> <h2>Bottom Line</h2> <p>If homebuyers want to have a true understanding of home affordability, then they should spend some time early in the process ironing out the numbers. With the help of some simple calculators, and a clear picture of personal finances, anybody can make an informed purchase.</p> <p><em>Discover&nbsp;Home Loans has provided me with compensation for&nbsp;my&nbsp;time and efforts on this article. As always, all&nbsp;opinions&nbsp;are 100%&nbsp;my&nbsp;own.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="87% of Homebuyers Think They Know How Much Home They Can Afford (But They Really Don&#039;t)" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Miranda Marquit</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing Discover Home Loans mortgages Wed, 15 Oct 2014 15:00:05 +0000 Miranda Marquit 1233266 at The 8 Worst Home Sale Horror Stories <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-8-worst-home-sale-horror-stories" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="haunted house sign" title="haunted house sign" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>If you've ever purchased or tried to sell a home, you know it's a process. Credit checks, home inspections, down payments, and more could delay your sale. And after you purchase the home, it's yours for life. So if you missed something during those grueling weeks of closing, it's your problem for life &mdash; or until you try to sell it. (See also: <a href="">25 Cheap and Easy Fixes That Make Your House Look Amazing</a>)</p> <p>Below we've listed eight horror stories of people who fell in love with their home before realizing its dark past.</p> <h2>1. It's Not a Math Problem &mdash; It's a Meth Problem</h2> <p>When Dawn Turner's son purchased a foreclosed home in rural Tennessee, he thought he was getting a steal. But after three years of living in the home, he and his family found out from neighbors the home was considered &quot;unfit for human inhabitation&quot; by local health authorities because the former owner produced methamphetamines in the home. From there, the new homeowners were financially responsible for bringing their home up to code. Dawn now runs <a href=""></a> to make sure this doesn't happen to other homeowners.</p> <h2>2. Goldilocks' Family, I Presume?</h2> <p>When a man returned to his home in Miami, he discovered some unwelcome house guests. His home, which he had been renting from a friend for the previous two years and was listed in a short sale, was <a href="">filled with a family of strangers</a>. A scammy realtor moved the family in, changed the locks and walked away with $3,600 in profit. Not cool.</p> <h2>3. No Need to Worry About Satanic Murder Pits</h2> <p>A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that home sellers do not have to <a href="">disclose if the home was the site of a murder</a>, suicide, or <em>satanic ritual</em>. The ruling came after a homeowner filed suit because her home was the site of a murder/suicide. This is 2014 &mdash; prospective home buyers are advised to use the Internet to find out if someone died in new home. You might have to really dig into some geocities websites to find out about satanic rituals, however.</p> <h2>4. Beware of Blue Powder</h2> <p>Another cringe worthy story comes out of Pennsylvania. When Liz Spikol purchased her home, there was a disclaimer. It simply read, &quot;We have seen a mouse.&quot; After closing months later, Liz started noticing blue dust raining from the ceilings. Turns out, the former homeowners didn't just see one mouse, they saw an entire infestation of mice. After a small leak forced her to open the ceilings, she found dead mice, skeletons and <a href="">more blue powder</a>. The powder was poison, and the mice were there by the dozens.</p> <h2>5. Free Pet!</h2> <p>During a home inspection in Philadelphia, a home inspector <a href="">found a 15-foot boa constrictor</a> in the crawl space. Apparently the snake had gotten loose years earlier, and the owner thought it was dead. Upside? No mice.</p> <h2>6. Does It Come With a Fort?</h2> <p>In Long Island, real estate agent Mike Litzner of Century 21 American Homes was showing a home to a prospective buyer and <a href="">found a homeless man with a large fort</a> and lots of alcohol. According to Mike, the potential homeowner asked, &quot;Does he come with the house?&quot;</p> <h2>7. Home Buyer Plagues</h2> <p>Although a <a href="">home inspector passed Justin and Kate Treher's home</a>, he missed some problems. For instance, the previous homeowner supposedly installed and tested the sump pump in the basement, and it failed shortly after move in, flooding the basement. Then the lovely sunroom was filled with termites, costing the couple $2,000 in repairs. After the termites were eradicated, they discovered the sunroom was entirely covered in mold &mdash; there was no caulking around the windows to keep the moisture out. Make sure you check for any extra friends, and use more than one home inspector if necessary.</p> <h2>8. Slightly Haunted</h2> <p>When Gregory Leeson listed his Dunmore, PA home for sale, he wanted to be honest. His home was &quot;<a href="">slightly haunted</a>.&quot; Nothing crazy, just the usual: footsteps, knocking, and screams. His listing went viral, and ghost hunters from around the world were knocking on his door. Turns out, he didn't have to be so honest. Pennsylvania law only dictates that home sellers have to list any &quot;material defects that would have a significant adverse impact on the value of the property or an unreasonable risk to the people living in the home.&quot; And since proving you have a ghost is pretty much impossible, it's not required. But your state might be different, so make sure to check with a real estate agent if your home gives you the heebie jeebies.</p> <p><em>What are some of your home buying (or selling) horror stories?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="The 8 Worst Home Sale Horror Stories" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Jennifer Holder</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing home buying home inspection home sale horrors home selling Tue, 02 Sep 2014 13:00:04 +0000 Jennifer Holder 1199023 at Best Money Tips: Steps to Make Sure You Buy the Right House <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/best-money-tips-steps-to-make-sure-you-buy-the-right-house" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="couple buying house" title="couple buying house" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Welcome to Wise Bread's <a href="">Best Money Tips</a> Roundup! Today we found some amazing articles on making sure you are buying the right house, maximizing your dollar at Subway, and creating work/life balance when your kids return to school.</p> <h2>Top 5 Articles</h2> <p><a href="">7 Steps to Make Sure It's the Right House to Buy</a> &mdash; Scoping out the neighborhood and making a pros and cons checklist is important when deciding whether or not to buy a home. [Save Outside The Box]</p> <p><a href="">Mazimize Your Dollar at Subway</a> &mdash; To maximize your dollar at Subway, do the survey on the receipt for free food. [Lazy Man and Money]</p> <p><a href="">5 BS Myths About Building Wealth Everyone Thinks Are True</a> &mdash; It is not true that you will never get rich working for someone else. [Kyle Bumpus]</p> <p><a href="">9 Tips for Parents to Create Work/Life Balance When Kids Return to School</a> &mdash; Scheduling your time wisely and being honest can help you maintain a work life balance when your kids go back to school. [Parenting Squad]</p> <p><a href="">How to Spend Less Without Giving Up Your Entertainment Fund</a> &mdash; If you want to spend less on your necessities so you don't have to give up your entertainment fund, consider substituting certain products or services for cheaper ones. [The New York Budget]</p> <h2>Other Essential Reading</h2> <p><a href="">31 Unreal Travel Destinations in Europe You Didn't Realize You Could Visit</a> &mdash; If you go to Europe, take the time to visit Abisko National Park and Krka. [PopSugar Smart Living]</p> <p><a href="">Why Beginners Fail and What Successful Online Store Owners Do Differently</a> &mdash; Successful online store owners choose winnable niches. [My Wife Quit Her Job]</p> <p><a href="">Become the Ultimate Travel Hacker</a> &mdash; By understanding how your credit score is calculated, you can save some serious dough on travel. [Investor in the Family]</p> <p><a href="">Evaluate the Risks and Rewards</a> &mdash; Savings accounts are a safe place to keep your money, but they also have a very low return. [Money Talks]</p> <p><a href="">Fall is Coming: 10 Things Startups Should Be Doing Now</a> &mdash; Startups should take the time now to develop a content strategy and dial in their startup profiles. [Silicon Bayou News]</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Best Money Tips: Steps to Make Sure You Buy the Right House" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Jacobs</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing best money tips buy house invest purchase real estate Wed, 27 Aug 2014 19:00:04 +0000 Ashley Jacobs 1195108 at How to Ensure You Get the Home Loan You Want <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-ensure-you-get-the-home-loan-you-want" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="couple applying for loan" title="couple applying for loan" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>My husband and I recently bought our second home. Surprisingly, the process was far more involved than it was the first time around, just six short years ago. Not only did we have to sell the house we were living in, but the application for our new home loan also seemed much more complex and involved. (See also: <a href="" style="text-decoration:none;">Top 7 Mortgage Myths Debunked</a>)</p> <p>If I could go back in time, I'd be sure to keep the following points in mind before applying for our home loan. In the end, it all worked out for our family. We were approved, we found an awesome place, we moved, and we're now happily settling in. However, the more prepared you are from the start, the easier the whole thing will be &mdash; trust me!</p> <h2>1. Crunch the Numbers</h2> <p>Before you start searching for houses and applying for home loans, you need to get a solid understanding of your budget.</p> <ul> <li>How much money are you planning to put down?<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>How much might houses need in repairs and maintenance?<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>What are any associated fees and yearly property taxes?<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>How much are monthly utilities?<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>What percentage of your monthly income will a certain loan take from your monthly paycheck?<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>What will moving and closing costs add to the equation?</li> </ul> <p>Write it all down or type it out in an Excel spreadsheet. The answers to these questions will dictate the type of loan you seek (FHA, conventional, etc.) and help guide your search. And it's wise to speak with a financial advisor if you're unsure. Be truthful and don't overextend yourself &mdash; many loans are 30 years, and that's a long time to regret a decision.</p> <h2>2. Check Your Score</h2> <p>Though the bank will run a credit check as part of the application, if you suspect your credit score might be questionable &mdash; be proactive. Start by visiting sites like <a href="" style="text-decoration:none;"></a> to get your free (yes, free!) report. If you don't like what you see, there are many things you can do <a href="" style="text-decoration:none;">to rebuild your credit</a> and improve your overall score.</p> <p>These actions are worth the extra wait, since better credit often equals better interest rates and fewer bumps in the road. You'll need to keep steady credit throughout the application process, so it's smart to get things in order before you embark. Plus, you may discover things about your financial history (inaccuracies, debt that doesn't belong to you) that need further examination and even change before you apply for your home loan.</p> <h2>3. Gather Your Materials</h2> <p>Whether you're just getting pre-qualified or actually applying for a mortgage, it's a good idea to dig deep into your drawers for any official papers you might need. For example, you'll need to supply copies of your W-2s for the past two years, recent paycheck stubs (usually for a month), as well as any other pertinent information regarding investments and/or large debts. If you're getting any gift money toward closing costs and the down payment, you'll need to submit a gift letter and have the source provide bank account information as well.</p> <p>If you're self-employed like I am, you may even need additional documentation, like previous years' tax returns (extended versions), bank records showing payments, backed-up employment verification, and more. Generally, it's an excellent idea to contact your loan advisor from the start and make sure you have a list of what's required and avoid packing any documents you might need. Don't forget to keep personal papers in reach, too &mdash; you'll need several forms of identification (social security card, license, birth certificate, etc.) when you sign.</p> <h2>4. Keep It Steady</h2> <p>This one's quite simple: Now is not the time to buy a car, take out a personal loan, charge up your credit card, or do anything else that might otherwise significantly change your financial standing during the mortgage review period. Just say no.</p> <p>Shifting money in big ways can impact your credit score and put you in jeopardy for snags and even loan denial. In fact, many banks like to see some additional savings in your accounts to show that you're stable and not living paycheck to paycheck. So, avoid making any missteps by postponing big purchases and saving where you can.</p> <h2>5. Plan for Surprises</h2> <p>Closing costs are a big deal in my home state (New York). In fact, typical closing costs can make up between <a href="" style="text-decoration:none;">2% to 5% of the overall loan value</a>, including things like legal fees, taxes, inspection costs, survey fees, title insurance, loan origination fees, and many more small print items. Though you may be ready with your down payment amount in hand, you likely won't know exact numbers for additional costs until days or even hours (yes &mdash; hours!) before you sign. If you receive a rough estimate, plan for the worst-case scenario.</p> <p>Additionally, if you run into any delays in your home buying process, you may need to repeat any part of the application process over again. Many things &mdash; like bank records, stubs, and other financial documents &mdash; expire in 60 days. If you go over that time, it's like a brand new game. I can't express enough that keeping in close contact with your bank, attorney, and real estate agent is key to ensuring everything stays on track and surprises stick to a minimum.</p> <p><em>Do you have any items or ideas to add to this list? What did you find helpful when you were applying for a mortgage?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="How to Ensure You Get the Home Loan You Want" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing home loan loan application mortgage re-fi Mon, 25 Aug 2014 13:00:03 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1191107 at Wise Bread Reloaded: Real Estate Market Rebound? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wise-bread-reloaded-real-estate-market-rebound" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="couple buying home" title="couple buying home" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>This week the National Association of Realtors reported that <a href="">sales of existing homes rose 2.3%</a> in July, to the the highest they've been in 10 months. Even better? Fewer of those recent sales were for underwater or foreclosed homes. Prices, on the other hand, have moved up more slowly than they did a year ago because more homes are hitting the market, and inventory is healthy, which constrains pricing.</p> <p>Combine all that with continued record low interest rates, and maybe now is a good time to buy.</p> <p>With that in mind, for this week's edition of Reloaded, we've collected some of Wise Bread's best home buying (and selling) articles from the past several years.</p> <p><a href="">Real Estate Investing Is Cheaper and Easier Than You Think</a> &mdash; Guest poster Joshua Dorkin walks us through getting started in real estate investing, both for short term cash flow, and long term value.</p> <p><a href="">21 Real Estate Terms Every Home Buyer Should Understand</a> &mdash; From acceptance to title, Miranda Marquit explains the key terms clearly, so the next time you're interviewing an agent, you'll be in the know (or at least sound like it).</p> <p><a href="">How to Choose a Real Estate Agent</a> &mdash; A good agent knows the local market and is skilled at matching your needs and wants with what's available &mdash; so how do you find a good real estate agent? Camilla Cheung explains.</p> <p><a href="">Big Mistakes You Can Make When Selling Your Home</a> &mdash; Camilla Cheung again, and this time with some common pitfalls sellers should avoid, like not interviewing enough agents.</p> <p><a href="">How to Sell a Your Home in 24 Hours</a> &mdash; In a hurry to sell? Elizabeth Lang was and she got it done in 24 hours.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Wise Bread Reloaded: Real Estate Market Rebound?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Lars Peterson</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing home buying home refinance home selling Sat, 23 Aug 2014 11:00:06 +0000 Lars Peterson 1193313 at 8 Things Real Estate Agents Don't Want You to Know <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-things-real-estate-agents-dont-want-you-to-know" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="realtor" title="realtor" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Ask a real estate agent what she or he is hiding from clients, and you will almost always get the same answer: Absolutely nothing.</p> <p>After all, ethics are built into the training agents need to renew their licenses, and some disclosures are even mandated by law.</p> <p>&quot;In my experience I have found most agents to be very ethical in terms of disclosing information to both clients and other professionals,&quot; one agent told me in an email.</p> <p>That said, there are plenty of things about the home buying and selling process that agents are not required to disclose to clients. There are truths that some agents tell you about but others don't. And there are things that agents disagree amongst themselves about. (See also: <a href="">How to Choose a Real Estate Agent</a>)</p> <h2>1. You May Be Able to Get More by Selling It Yourself</h2> <p>A 2007 Northwestern study showed that sellers in Madison, Wisconsin, who signed up for a &quot;for sale by owner&quot; service <a href="">netted more money on their homes</a>. Why? Their homes sold for about the same price as similar homes handled by agents, but they didn't have to pay the 5% to 6% commission agents charge.</p> <p>However, the study did show that FSBO properties in that time and place took <em>longer</em> to sell.</p> <p>Other more recent studies have come to a similar conclusion: <a href="">FSBO sales get closer to their asking prices</a> than those handled by agents.</p> <h2>2. Those &quot;Comps&quot; Are Out of Date</h2> <p>Many agents will use recent sale prices in your neighborhood to help determine the asking price or offer price for you. But <a href="">Lorri Rosenberg Arazi</a>, a well-regarded Bay Area agent, said, &quot;We look at the comps to give us guidelines, but the thing that people aren't realizing is that the most current indicators of the market price are the pending sales &mdash; and you don't know what the pending sale prices are.&quot;</p> <p>A really good agent who is well connected with other local agents will be able to get a feel for what pending sale prices are by asking around, Arazi said. Many agents &mdash; especially if they are not local to the area where you are buying or selling &mdash; won't have access to that more current info. But of course, they'll never tell you that.</p> <h2>3. They May Tell the Other Side All About You</h2> <p>Have you ever been in negotiations over a house, and your agent said, &quot;The buyers' agent said they are coming around to the idea of your price,&quot; or &quot;the agent said they really, really love your house&quot;?</p> <p>When I first heard these things, I was appreciative that my agent was able to gather this inside info for me. But then it made me wonder, is my agent telling the other side what we say?</p> <p>Many agents say they characterize conversations with clients only to the extent that it helps the client's case. But keep in mind that the two agents are working together to close the deal &mdash; and that gives them incentive to share any and all information that will get them there &mdash; including information about you.</p> <h2>4. Open Houses Are for Finding New Clients</h2> <p>&quot;An open house serves me more at finding prospective clients than it does to actually market the house itself,&quot; one agent wrote on an online forum. &quot;Not that you shouldn't hold open houses&hellip; it is good exposure. [But] for every five or six people coming through the door, maybe one of them actually liked the house, and I've got three to five properties in the area nothing like the house that I offer to show the other four or five people when I'm done.&quot;</p> <p>Other agents have told me the same thing, usually when I ask them to hold an open house for a property I'm selling.</p> <p>That said, as a seller, I would rather leave no stone unturned. I have sold a property to a buyer who came to an open house, I have friends who did the same, and my grandparents bought their current home after dropping into the open house. So it's not a if open houses never sell houses &mdash; it simply may not be their main purpose.</p> <h2>5. Commision Is Negotiable</h2> <p>Recently my parents contacted an agent for help listing a relative's home. The agent told them his commission was 6%, which surprised me considering that all the agents I had worked with recently charged only 5%. I called him up and at first he insisted that 6% was standard for that particular town. But when I pressed him on it, he finally agreed to drop his commission to 5%, &quot;just for us.&quot; This expert says that <a href="">commission is always negotiable</a>, but if you pay too low a percentage, the agent may not have much incentive to work hard for you.</p> <h2>6. You Could Have Gotten a Better Price</h2> <p>&quot;You haven't <em>always</em> gotten a great deal, whether buying or selling, but I will almost always tell you that you did well unless you got royally hosed, because everyone wants to get a good deal,&quot; one agent confessed.</p> <p>In one way, buyers, sellers and agents all want the same thing: to close a deal. But when you look beyond that, our incentives diverge. How a deal gets done and exactly what deal gets done matter a lot more to buyers and sellers than to agents.</p> <p>The book <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=0060731338&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20">Freakonomics</a> cited research showing that when real estate agents sell their own homes, <a href="">they get higher prices</a> and take longer to sell than other sellers. The theory here is that even though your agent makes more money if you sell for a higher price, the difference in commission isn't enough to justify the added work of holding out. So, Freakonomics authors reason, agents must encourage clients to accept the first reasonable offer you get, while holding out for top dollar on their own homes.</p> <p>Not all agents agreed with the Freakonomics writers' conclusions; one response pointed out that <a href="">agents' biggest incentive is to build up repeat business</a> by helping clients get the best deals they can.</p> <h2>7. They Could Play Both Sides and Double Their Money</h2> <p>Some states allow &quot;dual agency,&quot; which means that if the buyer or seller has no agent, your agent could represent both sides and keep the whole commission, which would normally be split between two agents.</p> <p>Some buyers see this as a <a href="">way to save money</a> by negotiating with that one agent to cut his or her commission. But one agent warned that agents dealing with unrepresented buyers or sellers don't always offer to cut the commission.</p> <p>&quot;That agent just double-ends the deal and gets paid twice. No deal, no saved commission, just less aggressive representation,&quot; the agent posted to an online discussion.</p> <p>The organization Consumer Advocates in American Real Estate <a href="">recommends against consenting to dual agency</a>, warning that representing both sides prevents your agent from advocating for you &mdash; because now they also represent your adversary and are not allowed to do anything to either party's detriment.</p> <p>&quot;That means that they can not help you negotiate price or terms of your real estate transaction. It means that they are getting paid twice as much for doing a tenth of the work,&quot; CAARE warns.</p> <h2>8. You Picked an Awful House</h2> <p>&quot;I don't always like the property that you may be bidding on, but if you fall in love with it, and there are no glaring deficiencies, I will do my best to get excited about it too,&quot; one agent wrote.</p> <p>But do some agents go farther than that, and overlook real problems with houses just to get that commission?</p> <p>If you believe the letters and responses in Barry Stone's column <a href="">House Detective</a>, some agents not only overlook problems themselves, but recommend inspectors who do the same. <a href="">In one letter</a>, a client complained that the agent told them not to attend the inspection; later they received an inspection report that seemed to overlook problems. Stone called foul.</p> <p>&quot;Agents who are honest and ethical do not give that kind of misleading advice to clients,&quot; he wrote.</p> <p><em>What did your real estate agent fail to tell you? Please tell us in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="8 Things Real Estate Agents Don&#039;t Want You to Know" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Carrie Kirby</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing home buying negotiation real estate agent Realtor Thu, 14 Aug 2014 13:00:05 +0000 Carrie Kirby 1183630 at Does Your House Suck? Here's How to Sell It Anyway <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/does-your-house-suck-heres-how-to-sell-it-anyway" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="house for sale" title="house for sale" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Read any list of recommendations about how to sell your home and you'll get the same advice about how to bring out the best in your property to get top dollar. But let's face it. A lot of homes have more than just cosmetic issues you can fix with a little spackle, paint, and cleaning. Some homes just, well, suck. (See also: <a style="text-decoration:none;" href="">How to Sell Your House in 24 Hours</a>)</p> <p>Maybe your home's perched on a really busy road, or has major structural issues, or a wet basement. Sure, you could fix those things, but with real problem homes, making major repairs can, in itself, be a real financial risk. What to do? Here are some tips on how to get your home sold &mdash; despite its flaws.</p> <h2>Assess the Situation</h2> <p>Has your house been on the market for a while? Before you freak out and assume that your home is a total dud, get educated about what's really happening. How hot is the market in your area? How quickly are other, similar homes selling?</p> <p>You can collect this data yourself, but a real estate agent can also be really helpful here. If that &quot;For Sale&quot; sign is still on the lawn after 30 days but the average days on market for a home is 60 days, it might not be time to worry just yet. Also keep in mind that if your home is less desirable than others in your neighborhood, it'll probably take more than the average time to sell.</p> <h2>Find the Positives</h2> <p>There's nothing more annoying than a real estate listing that makes a dumpy little house sound like the Taj Mahal. After all, you want your house to meet or exceed buyers' expectations, not gobsmack them with a house that's much uglier and less desirable than the listing suggests.</p> <p>What you can do, however, is figure out what type of person your house might be right for, and try to get that person's attention.</p> <p>Maybe your home is in a good location for a rental property. If that's the case, find out how much the property might rent for, whether a second or third suite could be added and for how much. Rather than trying to convince potential buyers that your house will meet their needs, figure out whose needs it would best meet and highlight those attributes. You may get fewer showings, but you'll be more likely to attract the right kind of buyers.</p> <h2>Keep It Clean and Tidy</h2> <p>The last time I shopped for a home, I visited a potential option that was so filthy I threw out my socks as soon as I got home. That house may have had potential. It may have been a good value. It may have been only a very thorough cleaning away from being a decent place to live. But I didn't care; I was ready to leave the minute I walked in the door.</p> <p>A good scrubbing won't fix an ugly home, but it's still important because a home that's too dirty will scare a lot of potential buyers away. No matter the condition of your home, you want people to be able to view it comfortably and assess it without distractions. Bad smells, big messes, and general grossness can be very distracting. Plus, it's a pretty easy fix. (See also: <a style="text-decoration:none;" href="">17 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Inspection Success</a>)</p> <h2>Find Out What It's Missing</h2> <p>Maybe you think your home has some big flaws, but buyers will often focus on the little things. Maybe they're concerned about a broken front step or some mildew around the bathtub. Or maybe they simply can't stand the color of paint you've used. Whatever it is that causes potential buyers to walk away from your home without making an offer, you won't know unless you ask.</p> <p>After a buyer has viewed your home, ask your realtor to contact them or their agent to find out how they felt about the property. Or, if you're selling your own home, have potential buyers fill out a quick comment card. Sometimes what stops buyers cold is simple. Fix it, and you could be on your way to selling your home.</p> <h2>Get Out</h2> <p>It doesn't matter if you have a newborn baby, a full-time job, and the stomach flu &mdash; one of the key things you can do to help sell your home is to make it available to anyone who wants to see it. If someone calls and asks to set up an appointment, get out and let them in. Yes, it's annoying. Yes, it's inconvenient. Yes, it'll probably amount to nothing many times over.</p> <p>This trick all boils down to simple math: The more people who view your home, the more likely you are to find the one who will be interested in buying it.</p> <h2>Relist</h2> <p>When you list your home for sale on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), or even through many for-sale-by-owner systems, your home's listing will include its &quot;days on market.&quot; This refers to the number of days your home has been for sale. And, as that number grows, it can spell trouble in terms of bringing in more showings. If your home's been on the market well beyond the average time that it takes other homes in your neighborhood to sell, it might be time to take it off the market for a while. That way, you can allow the people who are already in the market and have already considered your home and passed it up to move on, and to offer your home as a brand-new piece of merchandise to a whole new group of people.</p> <h2>Drop the Price</h2> <p>Okay, now for the fail-proof option no one likes to hear: If your home won't sell, consider dropping the sale price.</p> <p>In the real estate market, it's the buyers who determine a home's true value. After all, buyers now have access to all the data and listings they want. If your house &mdash; based on its amenities, its location, and its current condition &mdash; costs more than other properties that are similar or better, no one's going to bite. If it's possible for buyers to get more for their money, they probably know about it. So, in all but the most depressed and over-saturated real estate markets (<a style="text-decoration:none;" href="">think Detroit</a>), just about anything will sell if it's listed at the right price.</p> <p>Maybe your home needs a lot of work. Dropping the price can make putting that sweat equity in more worthwhile for the right buyer. Of course, dropping the price on your home isn't always an option that sellers can afford. But you should know that sometimes, it's the only option that'll work. After all, if your home really does suck, what makes you think someone else will pay top dollar for it?</p> <p><em>Have you sold a difficult to sell property? How'd you do it?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Does Your House Suck? Here&#039;s How to Sell It Anyway" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Tara Struyk</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing home inspection home sale selling a house Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:00:12 +0000 Tara Struyk 1168785 at Best Money Tips: The Home Edition <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/best-money-tips-the-home-edition" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="fixing door" title="fixing door" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Welcome to Wise Bread's <a href="">Best Money Tips</a> Roundup! Today we found some of the best articles around the web on everything related to your home!</p> <h2>Top 5 Articles</h2> <p><a href="">7 Home Repairs You Can Do Yourself</a> &mdash; Chances are you don't need a professional to do caulking or fix a squeaky door in your home. [PopSugar Smart Living]</p> <p><a href="">10 Tips Most First-Time Home Buyers Don't Consider</a> &mdash; Most first-time home buyers don't look beyond home staging or research grants or other forms of funding. [Five Cent Nickel]</p> <p><a href="">19 Tips for Saving a Bundle of Money on Home Appliances</a> &mdash; If you want to save a bundle on home appliances, take advantage of price match guarantees or buy a floor model. [Len Penzo dot Com]</p> <p><a href="">34 House Staging Tips</a> &mdash; When you are trying to sell your home, keep the toilet seats down and make sure the windows are washed. [Sustainable Personal Finance]</p> <p><a href="">Seven Simple Tactics We Use to Keep Summer Energy Bills Low</a> &mdash; Using ambient lights and ceiling fans can help reduce your summer energy bill. [The Simple Dollar]</p> <h2>Other Essential Reading</h2> <p><a href="">Save Money by Planning Your Home Improvements in the Off Season</a> &mdash; If you plan on updating your home heating system, save money by updating it in the summer. [Free Money Finance]</p> <p><a href="">Frugal Decorating: Tips for Decorating on a Dime</a> &mdash; Having patience when it comes to finding the right item for your home and shopping with a list can help keep your decorating costs low. [The Debt Princess]</p> <p><a href="">When Does It Make Sense to Rent a Home Instead of Buy?</a> &mdash; It may make more sense to rent a home if the mortgage that comes with buying a house isn't affordable. [Money Smart Life]</p> <p><a href="">3 Home Additions That Will Raise Your Insurance Rates</a> &mdash; Adding on an additional room to your home will increase your insurance rates. [Cash Money Life]</p> <p><a href="">How to Decorate a &quot;Green&quot; Baby Nursery</a> &mdash; To decorate a green baby nursery, opt for wood floors covered with rugs. [Parenting Squad]</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Best Money Tips: The Home Edition" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Jacobs</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Home Real Estate and Housing best money tips home housing Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:00:06 +0000 Ashley Jacobs 1147492 at This One Mistake Could Delay Your Retirement by 10 Years <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/this-one-mistake-could-delay-your-retirement-by-10-years" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="senior couple budget" title="senior couple budget" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="147" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>A while back, during a housing boom (remember those?), I watched a TV news segment about homeownership. The reporter was interviewing a young married couple shopping for a house and the wife said: &quot;My parents told me to buy the biggest house you can afford, so that's what we're doing.&quot; After all, her parents probably saw the value of their home rise to many times its original price, eventually becoming one of their biggest assets &mdash; just in time for retirement.</p> <p>In fact, on average home values do rise &mdash; by about 4% per year, keeping pace with inflation &mdash; and over the long term this growth can be substantial. So on the surface, this &quot;buy the biggest&quot; strategy seemed to make sense. A bigger purchase price must lead to a bigger ending price, right? Maybe so, but something bothered me about this advice; a piece of the puzzle seemed to be missing, but I just couldn't put my finger on it at the time.</p> <h2>Buy the Biggest You Can Afford?</h2> <p>Fast forward a few years later. My wife and I and our two infant sons were squeezed into a one bedroom unit of a 2-family home. It was time to find something a little roomier. But why buy something only a little roomier? Why not buy the biggest? That's what we did&hellip;we purchased a McMansion. The parents of that young couple from the news report would have been proud of us. Just think how big our home's ending price would be after 30 years!</p> <h3>My Big House Ate My Cash Flow</h3> <p>What I failed to realize was that 30 years was a long way off. It was time to live in the present, and that meant making an enormous mortgage + property tax + homeowner's insurance payment every month. Add to that the ongoing maintenance, utility, and repair costs and what at first seemed to be a golden nest egg turned out to be a money pit. Our McMansion drained every last cent of our monthly income.</p> <p>That's when I discovered that the missing piece of the puzzle I had been looking for was cash flow. Sure, a house is a large asset that grows in value; that's the good side. Unfortunately, there's also a flip side: It can be a cash flow killer. The bigger the mortgage the more negative your monthly cash flow.</p> <p>In our case, over the full term of the mortgage we would have paid an <em>extra</em> $420,000 on this super-sized house compared to a more modest one! That's money we could have used to repay other loans or to invest in our retirement account, enabling us achieve financial independence many years sooner.</p> <h2>Downsize for Better Cash Flow</h2> <p>What did we do to correct the mistake?</p> <p>We downsized. And it worked. Suddenly we had a comfortable monthly positive cash flow cushion. What a nice feeling that was.</p> <p>Ah, but sometimes even a good decision can take a bad turn. We soon realized that we over-corrected and downsized to a house that was too small and inadequate for our growing family. So what did we do next? We approved plans for a $120,000 addition. After that came the bathroom renovations. I think you know where this is going. The lesson this time was that a small house can become a money pit, too.</p> <h2>The Goldilocks Principle</h2> <p>The key, then, is to apply what I like to call The Goldilocks Principle to home buying: Look for one that's not too big or too small, but just right. How? Run the numbers beforehand, when you're shopping. To help with this use the following table, which allows you to compare the monthly negative cash flows associated with homes you're considering. Your goal is &mdash; all other things equal &mdash; to find a house with the lowest (or nearly the lowest) negative cash flow.</p> <p><img width="605" height="336" src="'s Housing Chart 2.png" alt="" /></p> <p>I've pre-filled this chart with hypothetical numbers but the template is universal and you can use it to compare actual homes you're interested in purchasing. As you can see in this example buying Property 2, a bigger single-family home, would cost an additional $425 every month compared to Property 1, the condo. Over the term of a 30 year mortgage that adds up to an extra cost to you of $153,000. Ouch!</p> <p>Now take a look at Property 3.</p> <p>It's also a more expensive $250,000 house but is a two-family rental, which means there's some positive monthly cash flow (from rent) to offset all those negative numbers. In fact, because of the rental income from just one of the two units the total negative monthly cash flow is $655 lower than the single-family house having the same purchase price, and it's even $230 per month lower than the condo!</p> <p>So rental properties give you an opportunity to buy a higher-priced property (which translates to a much higher ending sales price over time) while also reducing your monthly negative cash flow. The rental income can even be used to help pre-pay your mortgage, which might then create a net positive monthly cash flow after all expenses. So it offers an opportunity to have your cake (or porridge) and eat it too.</p> <h2>Don't Forget Other Costs</h2> <p>One other thing to consider, though. In addition to these estimates of cash flow at the time of purchase, you should also estimate repair costs and future improvement costs after moving in. As I learned first-hand, those large lump sum future expenditures can make all the difference between a good and a not-so-good home choice, so be sure to also give them careful, honest consideration.</p> <p>Purchasing a home is a big, complicated decision. Emotional considerations are part of the equation, and they should be. After all, your family's comfort and your choice of a community are part of the package. But try not to let your emotions overwhelm the financial considerations. You'll want to get the decision right the first time rather than learn the hard way as I did. A bad decision on this one item, if uncorrected, can delay your progress towards financial independence by as much as a decade. So to help ensure a balanced review, filter your decision with immediate and longer-term cash flow considerations and let the numbers guide you to the choice that's best for your budget and for your long-term financial security.</p> <p><em>Was monthly cash flow a consideration for you when you purchased a home? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="This One Mistake Could Delay Your Retirement by 10 Years" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Keith Whelan</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Debt Management Real Estate and Housing cash flow mortgages rental income retirement Mon, 07 Jul 2014 09:00:06 +0000 Keith Whelan 1153953 at 14 Things Insurance Agents Don't Want You to Know <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/14-things-insurance-agents-dont-want-you-to-know" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="senior insurance" title="senior insurance" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="153" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Ignorance is bliss.</p> <p>The less that you know about how insurance works, the happier insurance agents are. As friendly as geckos, generals, cavemen, and ducks may look on TV, you shouldn't forget that insurance is a multi-billion dollar industry. These companies are out there to make money. It is the job of insurance agents to make as much as they can, too.</p> <p>Here are 14 things that insurance agents don't want you to know.</p> <h2>General Tips</h2> <p>Let's start with some tips that apply to several types of insurance.</p> <h3>1. Non-Smokers Pay Less</h3> <p>Non-smokers pay less than smokers for any type of insurance, including car insurance, home insurance, and life insurance. If you don't see a non-smoker discount listed on your policy, call your company and ask about it. Usual discounts for non-smokers range from 5% to 15%.</p> <h3>2. Quick Settlements Are Often Not the Best Deal</h3> <p>A quick settlement offer is never a good sign. This means that you are entitled to a payout, but the insurance agent is aware that if you look into it, you could get more. Remember that insurance companies are for-profit, so don't fall for those &quot;get on with your life&quot; and &quot;put this tragedy behind you&quot; comments. Take the time to carefully review a settlement offer before you accept it.</p> <h3>3. Payouts Can Be Extremely Slow</h3> <p>The airline insurance industry is an example of how slow insurance payouts can be. Lawyers are speculating that the litigation for <a href="">Malaysia Airlines flight MH370</a> could take five years, with some families waiting up to 10 years for compensation. Airline insurance litigation in the U.S. can be complex as different states have different caps on damages for victims, so lawyers battle to file suits in states that benefits their clients. For example, in 1949 an <a href="">Eastern Airlines plane</a> was cut in half. One half fell in Virginia, where then the cap was set at $15,000, and the other on Washington, D.C., where there is no cap.</p> <h3>4. Low, Low Premiums Can Hide Real Costs</h3> <p>Some insurance agents present you a quote so low that you won't believe your eyes. The reason that the quote is so low is that you would be opting for high deductibles and low coverage limits. These cookie-cutter policies may not only be a bad fit for you, but also end up costing you a lot in case of a claim.</p> <p>To avoid falling for a low-ball price and inappropriate insurance, compare apples to apples by requesting a quote for a policy with the exact same features. Take a second look at any quote that is way below the price of the others.</p> <h2>Car Insurance</h2> <p>Don't fall for cute mascots and look deeper into the coverages for those policies.</p> <h3>5. Credit Score Is a Major Criteria</h3> <p>Not used by just money lending institutions, credit scores provide insurance companies a look at your credit history as a predictor of potential payouts. The FTC also agrees that <a href="">credit scores are effective predictors</a> of risk for auto insurance policies. This is why insurance agents request your social security number &mdash; so that they can pull up your credit report.</p> <p>Despite the validation by the FTC, this practice has been labeled as discriminatory by many consumer advocacy groups. Those struggling with debt or starting to build their credit history are hit with another big bill. This is why the states of California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts have prohibited car insurance companies from using credit-based insurance scores. (See also: <a href="">How to Improve Your Credit Score</a>)</p> <h3>6. If You Move or Change Insurance, You Get a Refund</h3> <p>It is a good practice to pay your car premiums in a lump-sum payment because you prevent insurance agents from tacking on a &quot;convenience fee&quot; to smaller payments. However, this doesn't mean that they have all of your money for good. They have to earn it. Your lump sum payment covers several months, so if you have to move to another state, the insurance company owes you a refund for the unused months.</p> <p>Make sure to check the fine print on your policy before cancelling. Some companies may have an early termination fee or require a 30-days notice. Also, plan to have new insurance already in place when the old one is done.</p> <h3>7. &quot;Optional Coverages&quot; May Be Necessary</h3> <p>Insurance agents have to meet sales quotas. Sometimes they may suggest to leave certain &quot;optional coverages,&quot; such as underinsured motorist coverage, to lower your quote and get you to sign.</p> <p>For example, residents of California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, and Louisiana are not mandated to get coverage for underinsured drivers. Still, it is a good idea to get it. Across the U.S. about <a href="">one in seven drivers</a> is uninsured. But in some states, such as Florida, Oklahoma, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Tennessee, the estimated percentage of underinsured motorists is 24% and above.</p> <p>If you are the sole breadwinner in your family, does it make sense to risk the chance of a huge, unexpected bill?</p> <h3>8. You Don't Have to Speak to the Other Guy's Claims Adjuster</h3> <p>Just like in those cop dramas, &quot;you have the right to remain silent and everything you say may be used against you in a court of law.&quot; In the case of a car accident, the claims adjuster from the other party might claim that she &quot;must&quot; have your recorded statement or &quot;requires&quot; your medical records.</p> <p>Don't cave in to these requests, unless ordered by a court or other authority, because the claims adjuster is trying to gather evidence against you. Even your most innocent comment could be twisted as an attempt to delay or deny your claim.</p> <h3>9. &quot;Captive Agents&quot; Cannot Offer You the Best Deal</h3> <p>For the next 30 seconds, write down all the car insurance companies that you can think of. Once the time is up, count how many you got. Three? Five? Ten?</p> <p>Here is some food for thought: There are about <a href="">100 car insurance companies</a> in the U.S. By only looking up the quotes from two or three companies, you're decreasing your chances of getting the best possible price for your insurance. On top of that, an insurance agent from a company can offer you only options that that company sells. Don't fall for their online comparison tables because those quotes are not accurate &mdash; they are just estimates. The final price can only be achieved by considering your credit score, driving history, and other factors.</p> <p>The easiest way to cover the most ground is to work with an independent insurance agent. She represents several insurance companies, so she is not limited to offer you products from a single company.</p> <h3>10. Rental Car Insurance May Be Unnecessary</h3> <p>Check what your policy has to say about car rentals. You may be surprised that your car policy may provide sufficient coverages. Also, some <a href="">credit cards</a> offer rental car insurance when using them as form of payment.</p> <p>Before you rent a car the next time, make sure to have read the contracts from your existing car insurance and credit card(s). Remember that personal auto insurance often doesn't cover rentals for business use.</p> <h2>Home Insurance</h2> <p>Home sweet &quot;appropriately insured at the right price&quot; home.</p> <h3>11. Force-Placed Insurance Is Expensive</h3> <p>While home insurance is necessary, it doesn't need to be prohibitively expensive. Some banks will try to issue you a Force-Placed insurance, which is very expensive and provides the bank a kickback from an insurance company. This practice is not only unfair to the homebuyer, but also illegal in the eyes of the <a href="">Consumer Financial Protection Bureau</a>.</p> <p>Make sure to read all letters from your lender because they have to provide a written notice in case of a Force-Place insurance policy. If the bank is trying to force you into a insurance policy, find an alternative policy that meets the required coverages (e.g. hazard insurance, replacement cost) but at a lower price. If you are able to find an appropriate policy, contact your lender to cancel the forced policy immediately.</p> <h3>12. Little Known Home Insurance Coverages</h3> <p>Your home insurance policy may be stronger than you think. Here are some lesser-known coverages:</p> <ul> <li>If you're out of power for several days due to a natural disaster and your refrigerator is full of food that goes bad, you may be able to claim compensation.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Your children's property is protected by your homeowner's insurance as long they are living in campus dorms.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Home updates required by law, such as a storm cellar, may be covered by your home insurance.</li> </ul> <p>Check your home insurance policy for more details. (See also: <a href="">8 Surprising Things Covered by Home Insurance</a>)</p> <h3>13. Private Mortgage Insurance Can Be Removed</h3> <p>The <a href="">Homeowner's Protection Act</a>requires homebuyers, who finance more than 80% of a new home's value, to purchase Private Mortgage insurance (PMI). This is an expense that you have to keep for several years. The good news is that once your loan-to-value ratio is close to 20%, you can request your lender to remove PMI from your mortgage.</p> <p>Here is an overview of requirements:</p> <ul> <li>No second mortgages on your home</li> <li>Current on all payments by the anticipated cancellation date</li> <li>No late payments within the last two years</li> <li>Good credit score</li> <li>No dramatic market value change of home</li> </ul> <p>Finally, here is a type of policy that is so easy for insurance agents to sell that it deserves a mention of its own.</p> <h3>14. Disease-Specific Insurance</h3> <p>The slight mention of AIDS and cancer are enough to send a shiver down anyone's spine. This is why policies for these diseases are an easy sell for insurance agents. By preying on your fear, they get you to hand over cash for something that you may never use.</p> <p>If you have a health plan or life insurance, you may be already covered for these diseases. By duplicating the coverages, you're just wasting money. If a specific disease runs in your family, get a comprehensive health plan that includes treatment for that specific disease.</p> <p><em>What are some other things insurance agents don't want you to know?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="14 Things Insurance Agents Don&#039;t Want You to Know" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Damian Davila</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Cars and Transportation Real Estate and Housing car insurance homeowner's insurance insurance life insurance Mon, 23 Jun 2014 09:00:05 +0000 Damian Davila 1145900 at Selling Your Home: 17 Ways to Prepare Your House for Inspection Success <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/selling-your-home-17-ways-to-prepare-your-house-for-inspection-success" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="inspection" title="inspection" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Congrats! You've received an offer on your home and agreed upon a sale price. The papers are signed, and the next step in the process is your home inspection. Chances are that a satisfactory report is the last major hurdle toward sale &mdash; so it's important you put your best foot forward. (See also: <a href="">25 Cheap and Easy Fixes That Make Your House Look Amazing</a>)</p> <p>I recently accompanied a home inspector on a 3-&frac12; hour tour of a home we were considering purchasing, and these were some major points I picked up along the way. In general, it's good to have intimate knowledge of your house's nooks, crannies, and weak spots. The following items are things you should consider before the inspector visits your home, possibly bringing up major and minor issues that could cost you money off your sales price or worse &mdash; the deal itself.</p> <h2>1. Clear Access</h2> <p>Ensure access to critical areas of your house are clear. Think about your electrical box, furnace, hot water heater, and air conditioning units, attic door, and any other possible locked spaces. Also make it easier to access under sink plumbing work and back access, as well as any areas blocked off by storage, etc. If the inspector cannot gain access, he or she will be unable to include them in the report, raising questions for your buyers.</p> <h2>2. Banish Clogs</h2> <p>Go through your entire house to all the sinks drains &mdash; one by one &mdash; and run the water. If you notice a slow drain, you can try using store-bought clog removers (consult with staff to find the right one). For very slow or even totally clogged drains, call in a plumber. Same goes with any slow flow or blockage at the water source.</p> <h2>3. Replace Bulbs</h2> <p>Examine your attached light fixtures. Make sure all the light bulbs are working. Inspectors only get an overhead view and cannot determine if the bulb itself is out or if there's possibly an underlying electrical problem.</p> <h2>4. Filter Out</h2> <p>Replace your furnace return air filters. Not only do dirty filters impact the efficiency of your overall HVAC system, they also show neglect, which isn't the type of impression you want to leave with your inspector.</p> <h2>5. Mind Your Monitors</h2> <p>Be sure to have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Test before inspection day and look at the expiration dates. You should have a smoke alarm on <a href="">every level of your home</a> &mdash; including the basement. As for carbon monoxide detectors, there should be <a href="">at least one</a> in your home, in the sleeping area.</p> <h2>6. Observe Grading</h2> <p>Check to see that the earth slopes away from your home versus toward it to avoid basement water issues. Even if there's no evidence of water entering your home, it's a good idea to <a href="">slope dirt away</a> in flowerbeds and other areas that come in contact with your foundation.</p> <h2>7. Check Cracks</h2> <p>If your home has any cracked windows or broken screens, you may want to fix them before the inspector comes. Even if a crack isn't a big issue on some basement window, it will still show up in your report.</p> <h2>8. Get the Bugs Out</h2> <p>Do you see a lot of carpenter bees hanging around? Or perhaps a steady line of ants near your home? Any sort of infestation &mdash; especially of wood destroying insects like termites &mdash; will show up on your inspection report. It's best to take care of it proactively.</p> <h2>9. Cap It Off</h2> <p>Any sort of caps needed in and around your home should be there. Any unused gas lines &mdash; even if shut off &mdash; should be capped. As well, any chimneys or flues should be capped to prevent debris, including leaves and animals, from clogging off critical vents. For example, a home we recently had inspected had a clog in the water heater flue creating a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide.</p> <h2>10. Trim Your Trees</h2> <p>Or at least take a look at any overhanging vegetation at your property. Trees that are over roofs can prematurely shorten roof life by inviting moss and lichen to take hold. Rodents can gain easy access to your chimney and other openings. And the obvious: If there's a low-hanging or unhealthy branch, it could always fall onto the roof.</p> <h2>11. Think Big</h2> <p>If you know you have asbestos, lead, or other health and safety issues in your home, it's good to disclose this information before embarking on the sale process to begin with. Otherwise, be prepared for these items to show up in a report. Though they are usually not confirmed without further testing, &quot;suspected&quot; hazards could certainly scare away potential buyers.</p> <h2>12. Go With the Flow</h2> <p>Flush your toilets to see if any aren't performing as they should. Sometimes a fix is as easy as adjusting <a href="">the water level</a> in your tank. Other times, a clog or hard water (creating sediment) might be to blame &mdash; or perhaps a faulty design.</p> <h2>13. Spark Interest</h2> <p>Go to each outlet in your home to see if any aren't working. It's also a good idea to note any weird issues with your electrical system that you have observed and lived with in your time at the home. Any flickering light fixtures or slow switches, etc., can be signs of a problem for an electrician to investigate.</p> <h2>14. Crack It Open</h2> <p>Many older homes, especially those with plaster walls, have hairline cracks. Many of these cracks are not concerning, as they mostly indicate the expansion and contraction of the wall material with normal house settling and temperature fluctuations. If you have <a href="">cracks in your foundation</a>&nbsp;or&nbsp;exterior, or your doors and windows aren't closing from misalignment, you may want to have them checked before inspection.</p> <h2>15. Swing Around</h2> <p>While you're at it, open and close all your windows and doors to look for anything that's creaking, loose, or otherwise not functioning properly. Look at hinge pins, door knobs, and anything else that seems amiss.</p> <h2>16. Address the Issues</h2> <p>If you bought your house only a few years ago, chances are you still have a copy of your old home inspection from purchase. Go through the report and look for any unaddressed issues you've come to live with over the years. It's almost like having a cheat sheet.</p> <h2>17. Hire a Professional</h2> <p>If there are any issues in this list that you're not familiar with fixing, it's best to call a certified professional before your inspection date to do the work. Not only will amateur fixes not fare well on inspection reports, but you could also put yourself in harms way, say, if you've never climbed onto your roof or trimmed a tree before. (See also: <a href="">Save Time, Money, and Hassle by Bundling Home Repairs</a>)</p> <p><em>Do you have any items to add to this list? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Selling Your Home: 17 Ways to Prepare Your House for Inspection Success" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing home inspection home maintenance Home repair Thu, 05 Jun 2014 09:00:10 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1141614 at WATCH: 7 DIY Fails That Will Inspire You to Call an Expert <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/watch-7-diy-fails-that-will-inspire-you-to-call-an-expert" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="demolition" title="demolition" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>What makes a project a good Do-it-yourself candidate? Low-risk, for one: <a href="">making a collage</a> isn&rsquo;t going to implode your roof, and <a href="">cutting up your old denim</a> to make a quilt isn&rsquo;t going to result in a trip to the emergency room. (Unless of course you forget to take the jeans off before starting&hellip;)</p> <p>But some home projects just <a href="">shouldn&rsquo;t be attempted</a> by anyone other than a professional. Don&rsquo;t believe it? Just watch these crazy DIY fails.</p> <p>1. Starting with the most obvious potential no-no: demolition. If it involves knocking out support beams, call a contractor and avoid demolishing yourself.</p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" src="//"></iframe></p> <p>2. If a tree falls on an ill-advised DIY project, does 911 hear it?</p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>3. And for exhibit B that massive trees (especially those next to your lovely house) should be cut down by an expert:</p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>4. Think interior construction is safe? Then check out the results of poor bathroom design in possibly the scariest video yet.</p> <p><iframe width="480" height="360" frameborder="0" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>5. What&rsquo;s worse, not being able to reach the toilet paper, or this painful home improvement fail?</p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>6. Contractors aren&rsquo;t the only pros you should consider calling for home jobs. Furniture movers can be a solid call too, just ask the guy in this video, as soon as he digs himself out&hellip;</p> <p><iframe width="480" height="360" frameborder="0" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>7. And finally, a fail for possibly the simplest task in home maintenance as a reminder that anything can be risky when done carelessly. How many dumb DIYers does it take to screw in a lightbulb anyway?</p> <p><iframe width="480" height="360" frameborder="0" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="WATCH: 7 DIY Fails That Will Inspire You to Call an Expert" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Joe Epstein</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY General Tips Real Estate and Housing DIY Home repair Mon, 19 May 2014 15:04:32 +0000 Joe Epstein 1139271 at Mind-Blowing Tiny Houses With Huge Design Inspiration <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mind-blowing-tiny-houses-with-huge-design-inspiration" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Tiny houses are a huge thing.</p> <p>The movement, centered on <a href="">downsizing homes to live more simply</a> and less expensively, was a fringe campaign just a year or two ago. But with the passage of <a href="">the first annual Tiny House Conference</a> just last month, and the <a href="">recent opening of miniature &quot;pod&quot; hotels</a> across the globe, tiny houses have officially arrived at full-blown trend status.</p> <p>And for good reason: from promoting energy efficiency to reducing maintenance costs to encouraging social interaction, tiny houses boast all kinds of benefits beyond garnering the reaction, &quot;hey, those little houses are really cool!&quot;.</p> <p>...But they are really cool. And just because you may not downsize to one tomorrow doesn't mean you can't be inspired to live cleaner, simpler, cheaper, and more artfully by this list of some of the most handsome tiny houses ever made.</p> <h2>Holes in the Wall</h2> <p><img width="605" height="402" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>This <a href="">Ashland, Oregon home</a> clocks in at just $33,000 and 207 sq ft, but you wouldn't know it from this sleek overhead view of the layout. Wall cut-outs create semi-private nooks that act as separate leisure or work spaces &mdash; something to consider implementing in any home.</p> <h2>Finland's Finest</h2> <p><img width="605" height="403" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>With a name translating to &quot;Bird's Nest&quot;, <a href="">this rustic design</a> was created by a young Fin bent on building a living space so small it wouldn't require a permit. Just two weeks of construction and 146 sq ft later, he had beat the system, and built himself a beautifully unregulated tiny house.</p> <h2>Colorado Comfy</h2> <p><img width="605" height="456" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>This trailer-bound home from <a href="">Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses</a> retails far below the average tiny home at $27,350, and includes a staircase that doubles as a multi-level storage space, another useful idea in a home of any size.</p> <h2>Sphere Sanctuary</h2> <p><img width="605" height="403" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>&quot;<a href="">A marriage of tree house and sailboat technology</a>,&quot; these spheres populate a rainforest in Vancouver Island, British Columbia. From inside, they more closely resemble a hobbit's house in The Shire, and are a good reminder that irregularly curved lines on things likes doors, windows, and cabinets are often instantly striking in any home.</p> <h2>Living Large, Sort of</h2> <p><img width="480" height="480" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Los Angeles's <a href="">Big and Small House</a> seeks to &quot;invert luxury, in that the smallest house contains the largest room.&quot; In other words, the design sacrifices divided rooms in favor of larger, unobstructed spaces to maximize the house's size constraints. Something to consider when remodeling.</p> <h2>Rustic Little Residence</h2> <p><img width="605" height="402" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Built by a husband and wife team in near Seattle, <a href="">the 140 sq ft Tack House</a>, however tiny, is already paying huge dividends. The couple have dramatically reduced their cost of living (they say the house will be totally paid off in two years), and have reportedly become more polite to each other, a function of being forced to respect each other's space more regularly, and a good lesson for any co-habitants.</p> <h2>The Church of Tiny</h2> <p><img width="605" height="404" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>The Latin-inspired, mosaic-filled <a href="">Davidson Residence</a> in Alpine, California has a sort of Mexican church feel, and is one of the most unique tiny homes anywhere. With A-frame windows, a dramatically curved ceiling, and ceramic aplenty, it's a good reminder that a little character can make up for a lack of space any day.</p> <h2>The Amazing Bike Bunk</h2> <p><img width="605" height="201" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>For people that think of tiny trailer homes as &quot;way too spacious,&quot; there's this absurdly cool <a href="">Trailer Bicycle home</a>, with a couch, bed, TV, and kitchenette, all small enough to be towed by a two-wheeler. And yeah, OK, this one was meant as an art project, but there's no reason why your home can't be one too!</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Mind-Blowing Tiny Houses With Huge Design Inspiration" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Joe Epstein</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Lifestyle Real Estate and Housing downsizing tiny houses Mon, 05 May 2014 14:28:36 +0000 Joe Epstein 1137950 at 10 Surprising Things That Lower the Value of a Home <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-surprising-things-that-lower-the-value-of-a-home" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="home sale" title="home sale" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>The real estate market is making a comeback in most parts of the nation, and sellers are once again enjoying a relatively healthy home-buying market. But in spite of the recovery, there are still some factors that can hurt your home's value. Here are 10 surprising features that can devalue your dwelling. (See also: <a href="">Home Improvements That Add the Most Value</a>)</p> <h2>1. Swimming Pool</h2> <p>While swimming pools are a necessary luxury in many of the country, in other regions, pools can often make the <a href="">value of your home take a dip</a>.</p> <p>In-ground pools mean constant maintenance &mdash; an unattractive prospect for retirees or those looking to simplify their lives. Likewise, when a piece of pool equipment breaks or needs replacing, the associated costs can be daunting. Potential buyers who may already be stretching their budgets to afford the home of their dreams can easily be scared off by the thought of another recurring liability. (See also: <a href="">Costly Things New Homeowners Don&rsquo;t Prepare For</a>)</p> <p>Safety is another big pool-related issue. Many families with young children hate the &quot;what-ifs&quot; that pools represent and will steer clear of homes with this added supervision requirement.</p> <h2>2. Single Garage or No Garage</h2> <p>In the U.S., we love our garages almost as much as we love the cars that go in them. Garages have evolved from practical places to park and protect our cars to essential overflow storage for sports equipment, bikes, seasonal decorations, and lawn equipment. Homes with no garage space have limited appeal. And those with only a single garage will restrict a seller's market to one-car families &mdash; typically, retirees and singles. (See also: <a href="">How to Organize Your Garage</a>)</p> <h2>3. Multi-Story Homes</h2> <p>Although multi-story homes pack more square footage into a smaller footprint, they aren't always an attractive selling feature for homebuyers. For obvious reasons, families with toddlers and older buyers tend to shy away from homes with stairs. Multi-story homes that feature a bedroom and bath on the main level fare better than those without.</p> <h2>4. Sub-Par Schools</h2> <p>Being in a <a href="">top-notch school district</a> remains a top priority for many homebuyers for a range of reasons. Living near a low-performing school can drive down home values and limit the market to those buyers without school-aged children or those who can afford the added expense of a private education.</p> <h2>5. Unfortunate Positioning: T-Intersection or End of Cul-de-Sac</h2> <p>While cul-de-sacs are often viewed as safer neighborhood street design, being at the end of one means constantly having cars turn around in front of your house and getting used to headlights sweeping through your windows at all hours of the night. The same effect can devalue houses positioned at the end of T-intersections. Savvy house hunters will immediately see the potential for a not-so-quiet home life with these properties.</p> <h2>6. Proximity to Airport, Interstate, or Train</h2> <p>While there's an argument to be made for easy access to freeways, commuter trains, and other forms of mass transit, it can be a tough sell. Buyers like a convenient location, but not when it comes at the expense of their peace and quiet and air quality. Homes that are too close to airports, freeways, and trains suffer from skittish buyers scared off by exhaust fumes and the constant hum of traffic.</p> <h2>7. Corner Lot</h2> <p>Often larger than their standard counterparts, corner lots get quite a bit of positive press in the real estate world, but there's a downside. Sure, homes on corner lots have neighbors on only one side, but they have traffic on two. Also, corner lots typically have sidewalks cutting through the lawn in two directions &mdash; and that means more snow-shoveling in the winter.</p> <h2>8. Sloped Lot</h2> <p>Homes on sloped lots can be a challenging sell for a few different reasons. First, lawn maintenance becomes an issue, especially with steep slopes. Particularly for older homeowners, mowing grass and raking leaves take on a whole new dynamic when you're struggling to maintain your balance. Second, depending on the position of the home, sloped lots can often pose runoff or drainage issues from the higher elevations. Finally, skiing and sledding notwithstanding, yards with a dramatic slope can limit outdoor recreation options too &mdash; a bummer for active families with young kids.</p> <h2>9. Towering Trees Too Close</h2> <p>Large trees planted too close to a house mean complex root systems may eventually pose a threat to the home's foundation. Additionally, mature trees that tower over the roofline require diligent pruning to avoid damage from falling limbs during storms. A good rule of thumb is to plant smaller breed trees about 15' from the foundation of a home. Larger varieties should be planted at least 20' from the foundation. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors has lots more good advice about <a href="">tree dangers</a> homeowners and buyers should consider. (See also<a href="">: Landscaping for Your Climate)</a></p> <h2>10. Properties With Easements</h2> <p>An easement gives someone the right to use land they don't own. Easements are limited in scope and usually involve situations where adjoining properties need to share a single driveway, or neighbors being granted rights to cross land that's not theirs in order to access public parks or bodies of water. Understandably, properties with attached easements can make some buyers uneasy; the idea of being required to share property in even a highly-specific way can be unsettling. In addition, easements can limit or prohibit certain types of redevelopment.</p> <p>If you're a seller facing one or more of these real estate marketing challenges, it's easy to feel powerless to shift the odds in your favor. But remember, what's seen as a negative to one buyer may be a striking positive to another. Help your cause by hiring a real estate professional with a proven track record in marketing and selling properties of all types. Be upfront about your home's challenges; use staging to maximize its pluses; and if possible, be flexible about the terms of the sale. With a little creativity and an assertive sales strategy, you can find a buyer who's the perfect fit for your little slice of heaven.</p> <p><em>How did you overcome a real estate challenge and successfully sell your home? What perceived negatives turned out to be positives to your buyers?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Surprising Things That Lower the Value of a Home" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Kentin Waits</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing buying a home home sale home value Thu, 24 Apr 2014 08:24:18 +0000 Kentin Waits 1136715 at 25 Cheap and Easy Fixes That Make Your House Look Amazing <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/25-cheap-and-easy-fixes-that-make-your-house-look-amazing" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="home" title="home" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I'm currently in the process of selling my house, and it's been quite an ordeal getting it up to snuff for listing. Over the six years my family has lived here, we've surely settled in. Things like dirty baseboards, slow draining tubs, and a rogue dead outlet didn't seem so horrible; we got used to all these little inconveniences because our minds were elsewhere. When it came time to fix everything, however, we were quite overwhelmed with our to-do list. (See also: <a href="">Cheap Ways to Stage Your Home</a>)</p> <p>Now that we've finished going through our house from head to toe, I can surely tell you &mdash; tiny changes add up to something big &mdash; mammoth, actually. And you don't need to put your house on the market to improve your habitat and your life. Even if you are living in your forever home, there are 25 super easy projects you can do inexpensively or even for free to really put some extra shine to your house that you didn't know you could get back!</p> <h2>1. Deep Clean</h2> <p>We all try to keep our homes tidy and clean, but when's the last time you lifted all your carpets and vacuumed the floor underneath them? What about scrubbing behind your toilet? Dusting off the blades of your ceiling fans and blinds? Think of all those dark corners and slowly chip away at dusting and scrubbing them. Once they're totally clean, it's amazing the difference you'll feel. I like to start with one room or floor at a time and plow right through. (See also: <a href="">One-Month Guide to Spring Cleaning</a>)</p> <h2>2. Toss and Donate</h2> <p>Then comes clutter. Spring is a great time to go through your hoard and see what you want to keep, to toss, and to donate to local thrift shops and charities. I always start with my closet and then work my way through the rest of the house. Old pots and pans or anything I haven't actually used in the last six months are up for debate. I'd rather have open spaces than store stuff I may never use again anyway. If you are questioning if you should purge something, put it (and like-items) in a box to store in your basement or attic for three months. If you don't miss it, clear it out of your house.</p> <h2>3. Scrub Appliances</h2> <p>&quot;Our refrigerator isn't too bad,&quot; I told my husband. And then I moved the food around and saw lots of drips and spills that had hardened into quite a sticky mess. I took a couple hours one day and set the oven to self clean, took all the food out of the fridge and freezer and scrubbed it with an all-purpose cleaner, and then finished off with cleaning out the filter in the dishwasher. They're like new again! (See also: <a href="">8 Tips to Make Your Fridge Last Forever</a>)</p> <h2>4. Rummage Through Your Pantry</h2> <p>While you're at it, go through your food to see what's stale, expired, or might be headed that way soon. You'd be surprised how much space you gain by taking stock, and you might actually find foods you didn't know you had. I have definitely saved some grocery dollars by using up ingredients instead of letting them go to waste in the back of a cabinet.</p> <h2>5. Oil Your Hinges</h2> <p>Open all your doors and hinges and spray a little WD-40 to get those suckers sliding quietly. If you don't feel like running to the store, you can also use three different <a href="">household items</a> &mdash; soap, petroleum jelly, and paraffin wax &mdash; for the same silencing effect.</p> <h2>6. Wipe Down Trim and Molding</h2> <p>I don't know about you, but I never wash my door jams or baseboards. I didn't think they were too dirty until I looked closer. Coffee splashes, fingerprints, dust, and other (toddler) messes were very apparent on ours, so a little elbow grease (and a few <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B001339ZMW&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20">Magic Erasers</a>) got them bright white again.</p> <h2>7. Or Even Paint Them</h2> <p>Beyond the general cleaning, some of our molding was actually dinged up from years of moving furniture, accidental kicks and scrapes, and even damage from that time when we hung a doorway pull-up bar. I went to our local hardware store and got some paint samples to find a glossy off-white that matched closely and then got a sample size can of paint. I took an artist's paintbrush around and blended them back in again.</p> <h2>8. Safeguard</h2> <p>Take a tour of your home's fire alarms, extinguishers, and carbon monoxide detectors. If they need new batteries, get new batteries today. If they are expired, broken, or are missing entirely &mdash; buy new today. Safety is one area not to skimp on or leave until tomorrow.</p> <h2>9. Filter and Maintain</h2> <p>As a first-time homeowner, I didn't really know we needed to maintain our furnace every single year. Now, that's not a hard and fast rule, but it's certainly a good idea. At the very least, we put in a new filter each year and make sure to call in help if we suspect there might be an issue. Keeping a furnace, water heater, air conditioning unit, or whatever else in working order is much cheaper than buying a new one. All it takes is a quick call to make an appointment, and be sure to check websites of bigger companies for coupons.</p> <h2>10. Clean Windows</h2> <p>On the inside and out, our windows are exposed to a vast number of icky things. Whether it's handprints, dirt, bugs, or whatever else that's obscuring your view, all it takes is some glass cleaner and time to get them clear again. (See also: <a href="">The Best All-Purpose Cleaners</a>)</p> <h2>11. Shine Up Floors</h2> <p>We have gorgeous wood floors that we clean with basic water and vinegar, but we called in the big guns with some store-bought <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B005V9Z9NI&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20">Orange Glo cleaner</a> to get them gleaming. It's something I'd love to start doing once a month, as it helps condition the wood beyond my basic washing. One bottle was only about $6, but I think it will last four or five applications in our small home.</p> <h2>12. Freshen Linens</h2> <p>I'll just come out and admit that we don't make our beds every day. So, doing so has majorly changed how we feel upstairs. Beyond that, we try to change our sheets more frequently these days to keep everything fluffy and smelling great. Be sure to add towels, shower curtains, bath rugs, curtains, and any other cloth item to this list.</p> <h2>13. Caulk Around</h2> <p>Our bathroom caulking had seen better days. Instead of scrubbing the mold and mildew, we decided to start with a fresh application. It sounds more complicated than it actually is. Simply rip out, re-do, and let dry &mdash; <a href="">here's how</a>.</p> <h2>14. Repurpose and Reimagine</h2> <p>Have a hall closet continually crammed with random junk? Follow the steps above to clean and perhaps clear out and then try to come up with a purpose for that space so it doesn't become a catch-all. We have a small closet near our kitchen that we hung some cheap shelving in and we now use as a pantry. It's actually &quot;supposed&quot; to be a coat closet, but that just didn't work for our family. Give spaces jobs to do, and you'll maximize your living spaces. (See also: <a href="">How to Declutter and Keep Your Stuff Too</a>)</p> <h2>15. Focus on Window Treatments</h2> <p>I'm sure we all have a few curtain rods, panels, blinds we bought long ago but haven't yet taken the time to hang. Why not skip the sitcom tonight and take that half an hour and finish that project today? It's incredible how simple window treatments can change the feel (and function) of a whole room. Plus, you'll gain back some storage space.</p> <h2>16. Patch and Paint Walls</h2> <p>I love the deep grey color of our living and dining room walls. However, if you look closely, you'll see some thin spots where the light blue beneath is still peeking through. Beyond that, you can see some holes from where we moved artwork or other nailed or screwed in decorative items. A container of lightweight patching is only a few dollars (and some people just use toothpaste!). If you don't have leftover paint, just head to the store and get a sample sized can in a matching color.</p> <h2>17. De-Clog and Decide About Hiring a Plumber</h2> <p>There's a quick and easy way to determine if your slow-draining tub or sink is a plumbing issue or not: Buy a container of de-clogger and follow its instructions. If you get things moving again &mdash; great! If not, call in a professional. Letting clogs go untreated can cause bigger issues in the long run.</p> <h2>18. Rearrange Furniture</h2> <p>Staging is something I'm no good at, but it makes a huge difference in the flow and feel of a house's interior. Why wait for potential buyers to do something like this? Consider moving around your couches, tables, and chairs to a new style that works well for you. And feel free to change your floor plan a million times until you get it just right.</p> <h2>19. Shine Some Light</h2> <p>Check out all your light fixtures to see where new lightbulbs are needed. Consider investing a little extra money in the energy efficient compact varieties. Not only do they use less power, they also purportedly last longer &mdash; which I have learned from experience. We didn't replace our overhead light in our bedroom for several months. Ridiculous, but it made such a difference to get it working again. (See also: <a href="">Best Energy Efficient Light Bulbs</a>)</p> <h2>20. Match Your Outlet Plates</h2> <p>I surveyed our interior and discovered that most of our light switch and outlet plates didn't match. Now, this isn't an issue beyond surface aesthetics, but new plates need not be expensive. If you can, try to get consistency going in your house. It's a subtle detail, but every corner counts.</p> <h2>21. Head Outside</h2> <p>Taking care of our spaces isn't limited to the indoors, unfortunately. Look around your yard to find any debris. Rake up any leaves or brush away any dirt that's on your patios or decks. Consider planting a few low maintenance flowers or shrubs to spruce things up a bit. No need for heavy landscaping, which might just require more work to maintain.</p> <h2>22. Tackle Simple DIY</h2> <p>One of my favorite cheap projects is to use vinyl tile ($1 a square foot where we live) to refresh an old floor. Painting a room a new hue can have big impact, too. Hanging smart shelving is another project most novices can undertake in an afternoon. Make a list of items you'd like to undertake and be realistic about your expectations. For example, if you've never tried your hand at plumbing, you could cause more harm than good.</p> <h2>23. Hire Help for the Rest</h2> <p>Then make a list of things you <em>don't</em> have the ability to do (whether for time or safety reasons). We had a light switch that was giving us trouble and a toilet that was leaking and our fix wouldn't hold. Calling the neighborhood handyman once versus multiple times can actually save you money. Many charge a flat rate just to come to your home, so it's best to get your money's worth while you can!</p> <h2>24. Nest</h2> <p>Sometimes all you need for renewed pride in your house is something homey. Slap an inexpensive wreath on your front door or add a flag pole with a festive banner. Hang a picture. Get a couple new throw pillows or even a new rug. We waited to do these things until our house was listed, but once we did &mdash; we were surely sad we didn't do it sooner.</p> <h2>25. Live Like You're Listed</h2> <p>From there, it's just a matter of keeping things clean and tidy, which is much more difficult in practice than it sounds in theory. I suggest following the 5- or 10-minute rule. If you can pick up, clean, or fix something in less than 5 or 10 minutes, do it right away. You'll keep up your spaces easily this way. Leave bigger projects to the weekend, but make a running list so you don't forget anything.</p> <p><em>Anything I've missed? Please tell us in comments your best, low-effort, high-impact home care projects!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="25 Cheap and Easy Fixes That Make Your House Look Amazing" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Home Real Estate and Housing home maintenance Home repair home sale Fri, 18 Apr 2014 08:48:21 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1135888 at