Real Estate and Housing en-US 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 Can You Really Afford to Live in Your Dream City? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-you-really-afford-to-live-in-your-dream-city" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="family moving" title="family moving" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>It finally happened. You've been offered a job in the city of your dreams. Or you're coming up on retirement. Or you're just sick and tired of the Midwest winters. Before packing up your belongings, however, consider these five factors to avoid having your dream move turn into a financial nightmare. (See also: <a href="">How to Save on a Long-Distance Move</a>)</p> <h2>A Dollar in Boise May Not Buy as Much in Dallas</h2> <p>To get a better handle on how living expenses &mdash; from groceries to a visit to the dentist &mdash; vary from city to city, use a free online <a href="">Cost of Living comparison calculator</a>. This tool will also give you an idea of what your income needs to be in order to maintain the same style of living.</p> <p>The factors that make some cities more affordable than others varies. Kiplinger's compilation of the <a href="">cheapest cities in the U.S.</a> cites shows low grocery prices for some, low housing costs for others, and low medical fees in others. As Kiplinger's points out, however, cheaper living often goes hand in hand with less healthy economic conditions. (See also: <a href="">Awesome Cheap American Cities</a>)</p> <h2>Determine How Much It Will <em>Really</em> Cost to Hang Your Hat</h2> <p>Most financial experts agree that housing costs should represent 30% of your gross annual income. But to play it safe, some say to increase that to 35% to cover all the &quot;a-la-carte&quot; costs that come on top of the mortgage payment or rent &mdash; property taxes, utilities, assessments, or building/neighborhood amenities, like swimming pools or workout facilities.</p> <p>Property taxes can be a significant factor affecting the cost of owning a home or condo. New York residents contribute the highest percentage of their income to property taxes, followed by New Jersey, Connecticut, California, and Wisconsin. On the flip side, Wyoming residents pay the least percentage (6.9%) of their income to property taxes. Alaska, South Dakota, Texas, and Louisiana round out the <a href="">lowest property tax states</a>, according to 24/7 Wall Street.</p> <p>In addition, potential homebuyers need to consider maintenance costs, building or community assessments, and repairs (often hard to predict). Snow removal may not be a factor if you're moving to Phoenix, but your air conditioning costs may skyrocket compared to what you paid in Minneapolis! (See also: <a href="">Costly Things New Homeowners Don't Prepare For</a>)</p> <p>Homeowner's insurance is required by most mortgage lenders. Average homeowners insurance rates are higher in states prone to extreme weather conditions or with higher building costs.</p> <p>If you're planning to rent, ask the property manager or landlord which utilities or building amenities are not included in the rent, and make sure your budget allows you to comfortably cover these expenses.</p> <h2>Chart Your Commuting Course &mdash; and Costs</h2> <p>How do you plan to get to and from work, the grocery store, or the movie theater and what will it cost? <a href="">The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index</a> (searchable by city) factors transportation costs into the equation with its recommendation that your <em>combined</em> housing and transportation costs should be no more than 45% of your monthly income.</p> <p>Looking for a place where you can walk, bike, or take public transportation to work? Check Walk Score's <a href="">rankings of the best cities</a> to live car-free.</p> <p>If driving is your preferred (or only!) commuting option, take a look at how fuel prices stack up with the help of GasBuddy's <a href="">gas price heat map</a> or its list of <a href="">average gas price by city</a>.</p> <p>Parking can put additional strain on your monthly budget &mdash; or not, depending on where you plan to live and work. A parking spot in a Chicago high rise could set you back $200 to $500 per month, but far less in Milwaukee, just 90 miles to the north. BestParking offers a <a href="">searchable database</a> of parking costs by city to give you a general idea, but be sure to check with individual buildings, which may vary widely in fees. And don't forget the vehicle permit stickers required by many cities.</p> <h2>Be Prepared for the Unexpected</h2> <p>Unforeseen expenses for homeowners come in many forms, from a leaky faucet to a leaky roof &mdash; and everything in between. Where you live can impact repair costs. The national average cost to hire an electrician is $380 per project, but only $213 in Myrtle Beach, and $398 in Seattle, according to <a href="">Home Advisor</a>. Any repair can put a strain on your wallet depending on the cause and the potential ripple effects.</p> <p>Renters are not immune to the unexpected. Renter's insurance &mdash; often required by the landlord or apartment management company &mdash; is always advised. Sure, if the roof leaks, the landlord will fix it, but what about your computer, clothes, and other personal property? Renters insurance not only covers personal effects, but often covers living expenses should your apartment become uninhabitable due to a fire or natural disaster. Generally very affordable, renters insurance can start as low as $10 per month depending on your coverage. (See also: <a href="">Saving Money on Home Repairs</a>)</p> <p>As the saying goes, &quot;The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.&quot; In this economy, that could mean your job.</p> <p>If your dream city is a thriving employment mecca versus a job desert, you'll find yourself with more options if your company downsizes or your position is eliminated. MuniNet Guide provides a snapshot look <a href="">employment trends</a> by metro area. (Note: I am the managing editor of MuniNet Guide.) When considering the health of the employment environment, check both <em>unemployment</em> rate trends (which should be heading down) and <em>employment growth</em> rates (which should be heading up).</p> <h2>Do Your Homework</h2> <p>We are fortunate to live in times where information is more readily available than ever before. Take full advantage of state, city, and county websites, which can provide valuable information and links to help you research a move to your dream city. Being financially prepared can make your dream become a prudent reality.</p> <p><em>Have you moved to another city or burg? Were you surprised by the cost difference (up or down) versus your old home town?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Can You Really Afford to Live in Your Dream City?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mardee Handler</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing affordable housing home buying housing rent Fri, 11 Apr 2014 08:24:15 +0000 Mardee Handler 1135085 at Top 7 Mortgage Myths Debunked <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/top-7-mortgage-myths-debunked" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="125" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>&ldquo;There are many things a future homeowner needs to decide before obtaining a loan,&rdquo; says TJ Freeborn, a mortgage professional at <a href="">Discover Home Loans</a>.</p> <p>Because of all that goes into house hunting and securing a mortgage, Freeborn, who specializes in helping consumers understand the mortgage process, acknowledges that homebuying can be a daunting task. &ldquo;People find mortgages confusing because it&rsquo;s a multi-step process that deals with finances and has unique terminology and concepts,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;If not explained properly, homebuyers can feel confused.&rdquo;</p> <p>One of the biggest issues is that there is a great deal of misinformation surrounding the homebuying and mortgage process. &ldquo;Many consumers aren&rsquo;t aware that they can, and should, compare lenders and shop for a mortgage,&rdquo; Freeborn says. She also points out that there are several myths that can muddy the waters for homebuyers.</p> <p>Before you start the homebuying process, make sure that you recognize myths &mdash; and know the facts.</p> <h3>Myth 1: Principal and Interest Are the Only Things Impacting Your Monthly Payment&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</h3> <p>When trying to decide what they can afford, many homebuyers base their figures on principal and interest only. However, there are other costs that are included in a monthly mortgage payment. Freeborn says that the majority of monthly mortgage payments consist of four parts &mdash; not two.</p> <p>In addition to principal and interest, you can expect to have taxes and insurance included in your monthly payment. When deciding <a href="">how much mortgage you can afford</a>, don&rsquo;t forget to factor in these costs as well.</p> <h3>Myth 2: Pre-Qualification Equals Pre-Approval</h3> <p>Many homebuyers think that a pre-qualification is as &ldquo;good&rdquo; as a pre-approval. However, this isn&rsquo;t the case. &ldquo;A pre-qualification is the first step in the mortgage process,&rdquo; says Freeborn. With a pre-qualification, the borrower provides information to the lender, and the lender estimates how much the borrower <i>might</i> be able to qualify for.</p> <p>Pre-approval is much more &ldquo;official,&rdquo; according to Freeborn. &ldquo;Getting pre-approved means that a borrower has had their income and assets verified by a lender, and that their credit report has been reviewed,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;With a pre-approval, the borrower knows they are backed by the commitment of the lender, and oftentimes that backing gives them more leverage in negotiations with sellers.&rdquo;</p> <p>You won&rsquo;t be able to use a pre-qualification to show you&rsquo;re serious about buying, but a pre-approval is accepted by most sellers and agents.</p> <h3>Myth 3: You Need a High Down Payment to Get a Mortgage</h3> <p>A number of consumers are turned off by the idea that they need a down payment of 10 percent or 20 percent to qualify for a mortgage. However, the reality is that there are many options out there for those who can&rsquo;t find that much cash.</p> <p>Home loans backed by the FHA require down payments as low as 3.5 percent, and there are programs that can help you reduce your down payment requirement. Speak with a knowledgeable home loan specialist or mortgage broker who can help you find programs offered by local, state, and federal organizations aimed at helping homebuyers qualify for loans.</p> <h3>Myth 4: All Mortgages Are Created Equal</h3> <p>Not every mortgage is the same. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s important to understand the components that go into determining the price of a mortgage,&rdquo; says Freeborn. Some of these items include points, which are a type of fee that are used depending on the type of loan options you are provided. &ldquo;Look closely at closing costs and other fees that can amount to thousands of dollars.&rdquo;</p> <p>It&rsquo;s a good idea to look for lenders that can guide you through the process. And in some cases, it makes sense to return to a previous lender. Some lenders, like Discover Home Loans, offer bonuses and special credits for those who return for another mortgage. (See also: <a href="">Wise Bread editor&rsquo;s review of Discover Home Loans</a>)&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h3>Myth 5: All Lenders Are the Same; Research Isn&rsquo;t Necessary</h3> <p>Just as all mortgages aren&rsquo;t created equal, not all lenders are the same. Freeborn suggests that you reach out to friends and family for recommendations, and that you look online for unbiased resources. She says that is a &nbsp;good place to start.</p> <p>&ldquo;A mortgage banker is someone you should feel comfortable with, who should be candid with you about fees, and who can flag potential issues,&rdquo; Freeborn continues. &ldquo;Your mortgage banker should help you make choices that best fit your financial situation.&rdquo;</p> <p>Don&rsquo;t just choose any lender &mdash; even one at a bank where you already have accounts. Sometimes, looking online can provide you with a wider range of options for your loan.</p> <h3>Myth 6: Owning a Home Is More Expensive Than Renting One</h3> <p>While there are costs that come only with owning a home, it&rsquo;s not always more expensive to buy &mdash; even with interest and taxes added in. &ldquo;Depending on where someone lives, owning a home may be a wise financial decision,&rdquo; Freeborn points out. &ldquo;Many homeowners consider any costs or payments that go into their home an investment and see tax deductions as a plus to homeownership.&rdquo;</p> <p>Not only that, but there are some intangible benefits to homeownership. A monetary value can&rsquo;t truly be placed on the safety, security, and pride that come with homeownership. Having a place that your family can call home and a stable living arrangement for your children is invaluable.</p> <h3>Myth 7: You Should Pay Off Your Mortgage Early If You Can</h3> <p>Finally, there is a belief that you should try to pay off your mortgage early. While this can make sense in some financial situations, it&rsquo;s not always the best choice. With mortgage rates at historic lows, many homebuyers find that they are better off keeping the mortgage for the entire term and investing the money they would have used to pay off their home loan. This can lead to better returns over time. Evaluate your individual situation before deciding whether you want to pay off your mortgage early.</p> <p><em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-weight: normal; font-style: italic; font-size: 13px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-variant: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: 22.100000381469727px; orphans: auto; text-align: start; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">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="Top 7 Mortgage Myths Debunked" 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 Thu, 03 Apr 2014 10:55:38 +0000 Miranda Marquit 1134032 at 10 of America's Awesomest Cheap Cities <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-of-americas-awesomest-cheap-cities" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Charlotte, North Carolina" title="Charlotte, North Carolina" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We all know that the land of the free isn't really &quot;free&quot; at all.</p> <p>While opportunity may abound in America, bills tend to do the same, as we all need to put food on the table and keep personal finances well-attended to.</p> <p>At the same time, some places are cheaper to live in than others, and certain cities that lend themselves well to frugal lifestyles and the agenda of the penny pincher. These cities are not only inexpensive, but the quality of life and opportunity there is still pretty good. (See also: <a href="">Cheap Places to Live as an Expat</a>)</p> <p>I used&nbsp;<a href="">CNN's cost of living calculator</a> to compare each city to a smaller, more affordable rural area in the same state. Using that technique, I found places where you get the city life along with the country's low living expenses.</p> <h2>1. Charlotte, North Carolina</h2> <p>Comparable cost of living: Jacksonville, North Carolina</p> <p>The largest city in the state of North Carolina is home to the Bank of America and Wells Fargo headquarters and is a major U.S. financial center. Housing prices here are <a href="">comparable</a> to a small college town at around $155,000, while median income is over $50,000 a year, spurred on by the strong financial and energy industry presence in the city.</p> <p>This means good cash flow and a low mortgage are strong possibilities for those looking to move here. (See also: <a href="">How to Refinance Your Mortgage</a>)</p> <h2>2. Richmond, Virginia</h2> <p>Comparable cost of living: Hampton Roads, Virginia</p> <p>The capital of Virginia feels quieter and less crowded than some oas the population is just a shade over 200,000 in the city. The town is rich in history and offers plenty to do, not to mention the unemployment rate is lower than the nation's average at 5.9%.</p> <p><a href="">Cost of living</a> hovers around the national average as well, while median income is over $54,000.</p> <h2>3. Ogden, Utah</h2> <p>Comparable cost of living: St. George, Utah</p> <p>With a beautiful view of the mountains and less than 50 miles from Salt Lake City, Ogden is a great place to live cheaply with access to both rural and metropolitan communities. <a href="">Median income</a> is high for such a small area at over $60,000, due largely to a strong presence of federal government agencies and the healthcare industry.</p> <p>Additionally, unemployment is under 5%, and cost of living dips nearly 8% below the national average.</p> <p>Did we mention the median home price? It's just a shade over $135,000. As far as cheap cities go, this is one of the templates.</p> <h2>4. Idaho Falls, Idaho</h2> <p>Comparable cost of living: Pocatello, Idaho</p> <p>Potatoes are cheap of course, but in Idaho Falls housing costs are fairly cheap as well, coming in almost 30% below the national average.<a href=""> Cost of living</a> in general dips 12% below par, which means that with the Teton Mountain Range to the east, you can afford a beautiful view on a modest budget.</p> <h2>5. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania</h2> <p>Comparable cost of living: York County, Pennsylvania</p> <p>By big city standards, Harrisburg is one of Pennsylvania's cheaper metropolitan locales. Nestled on the east bank of the Susquehanna River, the city itself is populated by around 50,000 people, leaving plenty of room for expansion.</p> <p><a href="">Cost of living</a> dips 5.5% below the national average, and the median home price is under $140,000.</p> <h2>6. Fort Collins, Colorado</h2> <p>Comparable cost of living: Pueblo, Colorado</p> <p>Fort Collins is a college town that's home to Colorado State University. It also plays host to the New Belgium Brewing Company and is located only about an hour north of Denver on I-25.<a href=""> Cost of living</a> is well below the national average and median home prices are well under $170,000.</p> <h2>7. Waco, Texas</h2> <p>Comparable cost of living: Brazoria County, Texas</p> <p>The city itself is halfway between Dallas and Austin along I-35 and gives residents plenty of access to both rural and city life. Tourist attractions and historic locations, including the Dr. Pepper museum, help to increase the city's appeal as well. (See also: <a href="">Free Things to Do in Any City</a>)</p> <p>Waco boasts incredibly low housing prices, with a <a href="">median home price</a> of only $93,000.</p> <h2>8. Green Bay, Wisconsin</h2> <p>Comparable cost of living: Janesville, Wisconsin</p> <p>Home to historic Lambeau Field and the NFL's Green Bay Packers, the city of Green Bay is the smallest metropolitan area in the country that hosts a professional sports team, with a population of just over 100,000. (See also: <a href="">Ways to Save on Live Sports</a>)</p> <p><a href="">Cost of living</a> is 10% below the national average, and the city has a median household income of over $50,000. Although it's an industrial city right along the arm of Lake Michigan, the healthcare industry has a significant presence there that helps keep unemployment below the national average.</p> <h2>9. Little Rock, Arkansas</h2> <p>Comparable cost of living: Hot Springs, Arkansas</p> <p>The capital and largest city of Arkansas is still small and manageable by big city standards.<a href=""> Home costs</a> hover around $137,000 while the median household income is a shade over $47,000.</p> <h2>10. Springfield, Illinois</h2> <p>Comparable cost of living: Kankakee, Illinois</p> <p>Springfield boasts a median home price around $120,000, cost of living at 12% below the national average, and historically rich culture with plenty of tourist attractions. It all makes the resting place of Abraham Lincoln one of the most optimal places to live in the state of Illinois.</p> <p><em>Do you live in one of America's awesomest cheap cities? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 of America&#039;s Awesomest Cheap Cities" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing cheap cities great cities where to live Fri, 14 Mar 2014 11:36:18 +0000 Mikey Rox 1130238 at This Is How You Downsize Your Home and Start Living a Better Life <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/this-is-how-you-downsize-your-home-and-start-living-a-better-life" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="small house" title="small house" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Although most Americans would probably forgo a <a href="">200 square foot tiny house</a>, the heyday of the McMansion is fading. As many of us are learning the hard way, bigger houses are not necessarily better. Here's how to ditch your big old house and improve your life in five easy steps. (See also: <a href="">How Much House Do You Really Need?</a>)</p> <h2>Step 1: Envision Your New Space</h2> <p>What would your perfect small house look like? Think through everything you do in your house and where you do it. It might help to write it all down. Your current, bigger house might have separate rooms for each activity &mdash; an office for working, a playroom for playing with toys, a guest room for hosting family, etc. &mdash; but that's probably not going to be be possible in a smaller house. (See also: <a href="">20 Ways to Live Large in a Small Space</a>)</p> <p>Think of ways to maximize your space and ways to use one space for multiple purposes. For example:</p> <ul> <li> <p>Work at your dining room table and keep paperwork and your computer in a nearby hutch or cabinet.</p> </li> <li> <p>Install a <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B004O8CIP4&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20">fold-out desk</a> in your bedroom or family room to create a workspace.</p> </li> <li> <p>To create a space for guests, install a Murphy bed, invest in a futon or sofa bed in the family room, or <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B000ZQALKI&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20">buy a folding bed frame</a> and store the mattress under another bed when it's not in use.</p> </li> <li> <p>Plan on a play/toy section of the family room or living room, rather than a separate playroom.</p> </li> <li> <p>Use <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B0002KNPFU&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20">room dividers</a> to designate separate spaces within one room.</p> </li> <li> <p>Install rolling casters (that lock) on furniture to make it easy to move if you need to regularly rearrange the room. For example, if you install a Murphy bed in your family room you may need to slide the sofa over in order to use the bed.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>Step 2: Purge</h2> <p>Now that you've thought through how you'll use your new house, it's time to purge. If you're downsizing from a 2,700 square foot house to a 1,400 square foot house, you're going to need to get rid of a lot of stuff. It's a daunting process, but you'll feel great when you have less junk weighing you down. Here are some quick and easy ways to get rid of your stuff &mdash; and make money in the process. (See also: <a href="">25 Ways to Simplify Your Life</a>)</p> <h3>Sell It on Craigslist</h3> <p>Craigslist is <a href="">a great place to get rid of larger items</a> that you wouldn't want to ship, like furniture and TVs. (Tip: I wouldn't recommend listing your items for free; I've found that the people who say they'll pick up free stuff are far less reliable than those who are buying something. Even if it's only for $5, it will ensure that the person actually comes to pick it up.)</p> <h3>List It on eBay</h3> <p>eBay is <a href="">perfect for selling smaller or more valuable items</a> like jewelry, designer clothes and purses, and electronics. (See also: <a href="">Should I Sell This on Craigslist or eBay?</a>)</p> <h3>Consign It</h3> <p>Consigning is a great option for purses, jewelry, toys, and clothes &mdash; especially women's and children's. Call your local consignment shops before showing up with your goods, though, as most have strict guidelines about what they'll accept.</p> <h3>Donate It</h3> <p>If you don't want to bother with the hassle of the above options (and there is hassle involved with all of them), box up your unwanted items and call your local charity thrift store. They may even pick up your stuff for you.</p> <p>If you can't part with something, put it in a box in the garage or basement. If it's there for three months, and you don't miss it (or forgot about it altogether), get rid of it.</p> <h2>Step 3: Know Your Limits</h2> <p>Odds are, any small house you find is going to need some work to make it your dream home. You may want to open up a space by taking down a wall, or divide a large room into two smaller rooms. It's important to be realistic about how much work you're willing to do or have done to make the house your own. (See also: <a href="">Is DIY Home Renovating for You?</a>)</p> <p>Here are a few questions to think about before diving into to home search:</p> <ul> <li> <p>What are your must-have features?</p> </li> <li> <p>How much work are you willing to do?</p> </li> <li> <p>Are you comfortable tearing down walls?</p> </li> <li> <p>Are the types of changes you want to make safe and legal?</p> </li> <li> <p>Will you hire a contractor or do the work yourself?</p> </li> </ul> <p>Regardless of how you answer the questions above, remember to keep an open mind when you're looking at houses. Paint colors are easy to change, fixtures are a cinch to switch out, and bathrooms can be updated. Try to stay focused on the layout and the home's potential to meet your needs.</p> <h2>Step 4: Find Your Perfect Small House</h2> <p>Now that you know what you want, it's time to start looking for that perfect smaller house. Most real estate websites allow you to search by square footage, so make sure you plug in your maximum number there. Then narrow the search down with other criteria. (See also: <a href="">What First-Time Homebuyers Need to Know</a>)</p> <h2>Step 5: Savor the Perks of Small House</h2> <p>Your smaller house and new lifestyle come with a ton of perks like:</p> <ul> <li> <p>It's less expensive to heat in the winter and cool in the summer.</p> </li> <li> <p>Your property taxes are lower.</p> </li> <li> <p>You have more money to spend on travel, food, retirement, and other things that are important to you.</p> </li> <li> <p>You've reduced your environmental impact.</p> </li> <li> <p>You don't feel weighed down and stressed out because you have too much stuff.</p> </li> <li> <p>Post-purge, you're not surrounded by clutter.</p> </li> <li> <p>You have less house (and fewer bathrooms!) to clean.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Having a smaller house can be great for your mental health, your savings account, and the environment. Happy house hunting!</p> <p><em>Have you downsized from a big house to a smaller one? Any surprises? Please share your experience in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="This Is How You Downsize Your Home and Start Living a Better Life" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Elizabeth Lang</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing downsize small houses smaller home Wed, 05 Mar 2014 10:36:22 +0000 Elizabeth Lang 1128702 at Recoup More of Your Investment: 8 Home Improvements That Add the Most Value <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/recoup-more-of-your-investment-8-home-improvements-that-add-the-most-value" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="paint" title="paint" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When it comes to budgeting for a remodeling project for your home, it's difficult to know if the expense will be worth it.</p> <p>Yes, you'll enjoy the home office or bathroom once the remodeling work is done, or a new sunroom may be worth the money as far as your family's enjoyment goes. But if you resell the house, will you recoup most of that expense? (See also: <a href="">Home Renovations That Almost Pay for Themselves</a>)</p> <p>According to a recent comparison of the average costs in 2014 for 35 remodeling projects in 101 U.S. cities conducted by the website Remodeling, the national average value they retain at resale is <a href="">66%</a>. In other words, 66% of a project's cost is recouped if a home is sold this year, on average.</p> <p>That may make you think twice before spending $28,000 for a home office remodel &mdash; the national average cost for such a project, and the worst return at 48.9% of the job cost at resale. The best return? A stunning 96.6% for a $1,162 steel entry door replacement.</p> <p>Here are eight home improvement projects that beat the 66% national average for return on investment:</p> <h2>1. Kitchen Remodel</h2> <p>The amount of costs recouped depends on the type of remodel &mdash; midrange or upscale. For the average midrange major kitchen remodel of $54,909, the average return is 74.2%. But for a luxury remodel of $109,935, the return drops to 63.6%. (See also: <a href="">Get Help Renovating With an FHA 203(k) Mortgage</a>)</p> <p>Doing the luxury upgrades with top-of-the-line appliances and countertops, for example, doesn't help increase a home's resale value.</p> <p>The Zillow Digs Home Design Trend Report for 2014 lists <a href=";item=399">kitchens as the top space homeowners plan to remodel this year</a>. The kitchen is one of the best areas to renovate because it's a common area that can give a strong first impression, says Cannon Christian, president of Renovation Realty in San Diego.</p> <p>&quot;Your kitchen is the most utilized room in your home, a place where families and friends gather for daily meals and holiday celebrations,&quot; Christian says. &quot;The kitchen space, now more than ever, serves as a central gathering point and an extension of living and family rooms, the so-called great rooms.&quot;</p> <h2>2. Bathroom Remodel</h2> <p>Like the kitchen, the costs recouped at sale decrease with a luxury remodel. A midrange bathroom remodel of $16,128 will give a national average return of 72.5%, while an upscale remodel at $51,374 will give a 63.6% return.</p> <p>&quot;By completing the upgrades prior to selling, you allow the buyer to finance those improvements, and the buyer will pay a premium with the current interest rates,&quot; Christian says.</p> <p>Kitchens and bathrooms are the best rooms to &quot;splurge&quot; on and put the most attention to detail on, says Nick Jabbour, a real estate agent with Nest Seekers International in New York City. The breadth of fixtures and finishes &quot;tend to appeal to the more emotional side of the buyer in addition to the functional and practical matters,&quot; Jabbour says.</p> <h2>3. Wood Deck Addition</h2> <p>Among midrange projects, adding a wood deck is second only to a new steel entry door for getting the most money out at resale. A new wood deck costs an average of $9,593 and recoups 87.4%.</p> <h2>4. Siding Replacement</h2> <p>Among the upscale projects that Remodeling looked at, a fiber-cement siding replacement costs $13,378 and had the highest return at 87%. A foam-backed vinyl siding replacement was almost as good, with a 78.1% return.</p> <h2>5. Garage Door Replacement</h2> <p>Whether you go with a midrange or upscale model, a new garage door is an inexpensive item that almost pays for itself in resale value. The average midrange model costs $1,534 and has a return of 83.7%. If you want to go upscale and spend an average of $2,791, the return is almost as good at 82.9%. (See also: <a href="">How to Organize Your Garage</a>)</p> <h2>6. New Windows</h2> <p>These also have high returns, at 78.7% for midrange vinyl windows for $9,978 per home; or 76.6% return for upscale vinyl windows costing $13,385.</p> <h2>7. Attic Bedroom</h2> <p>At an average cost of $49,438, adding an attic bedroom is an expensive job, but with a high return &mdash; 84.3%.</p> <h2>8. Two-Story Addition</h2> <p>If you've really got money to spend, then adding a second story to the house can be a good investment. At $155,365, this is the most expensive item on the list, and it returns 71.8%.</p> <p>The value of certain home improvements is subjective. A remodeled bathroom may be worthwhile to a home seller, but the buyer may not care as much. Improving a bathroom mainly because you think it will add value to your house isn't a good enough reason in the long run, says Dean Bennett, president of Dean Bennett Design and Construction in Castle Rock, Colo. (See also: <a href="">How to Sell Your House in 24 Hours</a>)</p> <p>&quot;Homeowners need to determine if a house is worth more to a potential buyer because the bathroom is more convenient and nicer, because the aesthetics are better, versus just the raw return on investment for a given project,&quot; Bennett says.</p> <p>Whether you do a home improvement project to make your home more livable for yourself or to entice buyers, you want to make sure it's done right, especially if you're doing the work yourself, says Bob Gordon, a real estate agent with Re/Max Alliance in Boulder, Colo. When showing properties, the MLS data he has will show if recent improvements have been made. (See also: <a href="">Is DIY Home Renovating for You?</a>)</p> <p>&quot;You get inside the house and discover it was likely improved by the owner,&quot; Gordon says. &quot;Owners may love their work &mdash; their accomplishment &mdash; but when it isn't done right, or to code, or permitted, it is not really helping. Code, permits, and quality are incredibly important on any improvement, big or small.&quot;</p> <p><em>Have you done any remodeling or renovation of your home? Was return at resale one of your considerations while planning the job?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Recoup More of Your Investment: 8 Home Improvements That Add the Most Value" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Aaron Crowe</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 value remodeling renovation Tue, 25 Feb 2014 10:24:45 +0000 Aaron Crowe 1126682 at Real Estate Investing Is Cheaper and Easier Than You Think <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/real-estate-investing-is-cheaper-and-easier-than-you-think" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="house" title="house" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Real estate often seems to be the &quot;ugly stepchild&quot; of the personal finance community.</p> <p>Most individuals understand that there is something there, but don&#39;t talk about it because it appears mysterious, complicated, and only for the super rich. However, I believe real estate investing can be used by anyone looking to broaden their financial outlook and can add significant potential for building wealth to their plans. (See also: <a href="">5 Investing Basics</a>)</p> <ul> <li>It&#39;s not just for the rich.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>It&#39;s not just for the old.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>It&#39;s not just for the risky.</li> </ul> <p>Real estate investing can be right <em>for you, now</em>. It can take years off your day job, add thousands to your net worth, and be a lot of fun. This post is going to explore the basic process for getting involved with real estate investing and hopefully, will take some of the mystery away so you can see real estate for what it is: an opportunity.</p> <h2>Why Invest in Real Estate?</h2> <p>First, let&#39;s talk about why you should even get involved with real estate in the first place. For me, there are several key reasons.</p> <h3>1. Leverage Helps</h3> <p>Remember as a child when you played on the see-saw and you discovered that by sitting further back or closer to the center, you could affect how much weight you could lift? (Am I the only one with that memory?) Or perhaps you&#39;ve heard the famous quote from Archimedes who said, <em>&quot;Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.&quot;</em></p> <p>The point is, leverage is the ability to use a small amount of force to move a much larger object. In real estate, the same principle is true in terms of cash. By using just a small amount of cash (a down payment) you can control and reap the benefits (and the risks) of an entire property. In other words &mdash; if you wanted to buy $100,000 worth of gold, you would need to have $100,000. However, you can buy $100,000 worth of real estate with far less than $100,000 &mdash; sometimes as little as nothing down.</p> <h3>2. Investor Control</h3> <p>Second, I love real estate investing because it&#39;s an asset class that I can control. When Google, Apple, or one of a million other stocks go up or down, there is little I can do about it but buy or sell. I have practically no say in how that stock actually moves. However, I fully control my real estate investments and the success or failure of that investment is on me &mdash; not a board of directors I have never met. (See also: <a href="">Quick Ways to Know If You Should Invest in a Company</a>)</p> <h3>3. Investment Variety</h3> <p>There are a lot of different ways you can invest in real estate, which we&#39;ll cover more specifically in a moment. The benefit of this is that you will be able to find an investment strategy that works for you, that will fit your personality, and which will work within your time schedule. There is an absurd amount of variety within real estate, which makes it even more fun to deal with.</p> <h3>4. It&#39;s a People&#39;s Game</h3> <p>Yes, there are avenues to invest in real estate on paper only &mdash; but I love the diversity of it. I&#39;m not just looking at numbers on a page &mdash; I&#39;m looking at real people, real money, real life.</p> <h3>5. Profit Today and Tomorrow</h3> <p>Finally, one of my favorite aspects of real estate investing is that when structured correctly, real estate can boost your checking account both now and in the future.</p> <h2>How Is Money Made With Real Estate Investing?</h2> <p>Asking this question is a bit like asking &quot;how do Americans make money?&quot; There are numerous different avenues to create wealth and income with real estate, and as I mentioned earlier &mdash; much of it depends on your personality and the way you want to run your investments. However, the following four streams of wealth are the most popular methods you&#39;ll see today.</p> <h3>1. Cash Flow</h3> <p>Cash flow is the income that is left in your bank account after <em>all</em> the bills have been paid. This is the profit you make each and every month from your rental portfolio. For example, if the rent on a property was $1,000 per month, and all the bills came to $800 &mdash; your cash flow would be $200 per month. It&#39;s basic addition and subtraction, but this one concept can change lives. Imagine receiving $200 per month in cash flow. Pretty great, but not life-changing in any regard. However, imagine receiving $200 per month per unit in cash flow. Suddenly, the picture changes. (See also: <a href="">Should You Become a Landlord?</a>)</p> <ul> <li>What if you bought two rental houses?<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>What if you bought a fourplex?<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>What if you bought a 100 unit apartment building?</li> </ul> <p>Suddenly, we&#39;re talking about some pretty serious dough here! Obviously, most people don&#39;t jump from owning nothing to owning a 100 unit apartment complex, but the math is the same no matter the scale of the property.</p> <p>To top it all off &mdash; remember the concept of leverage from earlier? You don&#39;t need millions of dollars to start making monthly cash flow from real estate investing, when you have the right leverage applied. And don&#39;t get me started on how powerful &quot;compound interest&quot; is when you start to recycle this cash flow back into more investments!</p> <h3>2. Appreciation</h3> <p>The second way people build wealth in real estate is through appreciation &mdash; the rising of property values. In the past, I believe investors placed far too much emphasis on appreciation and not enough on cash flow, so when the real estate market collapsed several years ago, a lot of people lost their shirts.</p> <p>However, when you combine the <em>potential</em> for appreciation with the stability of great cash flow, you are pulling out a double barreled shotgun that can do some awesome things. Imagine holding on to your property, which is providing $200 per month in cash flow, until the market doubles in value. It might take 5 years, it might take 10 years, it might take 20 years. The point is &mdash; you are okay either way and you are building wealth every month. Now, appreciation isn&#39;t guaranteed, but over time, we can assume that in a great number of cases, you&#39;ll see some kind of positive appreciation unless the market you&#39;re investing in is severely depressed. (See also: <a href="">Ways to Boost Your Home&#39;s Value</a>)</p> <p>Furthermore, each and every month you hold onto the property, your loan balance decreases, so in essence &mdash; your tenants are paying down the mortgage for you automatically. If nothing else, in thirty years (or less, depending on how long your mortgage was for) you&#39;ll own the property free and clear!</p> <h3>3. Flipping</h3> <p>If you&#39;ve ever watched one of the &quot;flipping&quot; TV shows, you&#39;ll recognize this strategy. House flipping is the process of buying a distressed property, rehabbing it, and reselling it &mdash; hopefully making a profit on the difference. Flipping can be one of the more risky ways to invest in real estate but with some of the highest potential for financial reward. Although flipping is more closely associated with the &quot;buy low, sell high&quot; model of a retail shopping store, many of the same real estate investing principles are used to make a profit in this line of work.</p> <h3>4. Return on Investment</h3> <p>Up until this point, we&#39;ve dealt primarily with the more &quot;active&quot; forms of investing in real estate. However, many others choose to invest in real estate from a purely &quot;passive&quot; viewpoint, focusing instead on simply earning a good return on investment for their money. Primarily, there are two common ways to make this happen.</p> <ul> <li><strong>REITS:</strong> A REIT, or Real Estate Investment Trust, is a security that can be bought and sold like a stock, but that uses the raised funds to invest in real estate, primarily large commercial properties. REITS can invest in either property directly, or in mortgages on property that other investors own, and the best part is that by design, they are required to pay out a dividend.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Notes:</strong> Other investors invest in Notes (also known as &quot;paper&quot; or &quot;mortgages&quot;) to earn a solid return on investment. You may have had some experience with this in the past if you&#39;ve ever had a mortgage on your own home &quot;sold&quot; to another company. Mortgages are bought and sold all the time, though the borrowers seldom recognize this because it doesn&#39;t affect them.</li> </ul> <h2>Making a Plan</h2> <p>Let&#39;s move from the theory and jump into some of the practical ways you can get started investing in real estate. Although you may be excited to jump in and start buying property, the first step is actually to sit back, relax, and make a plan.</p> <p>A plan is like a road map &mdash; it tells you the best way to get from A to B and how to avoid the dead ends, tourist traps, and potholes.</p> <h3>1. Get Educated</h3> <p>Step one in creating a road map begins with gaining a solid education on what you want to do. I&#39;m not advocating spending thousands of dollars to go to some special school or training program, but at least spend some time reading real estate books, listening to real estate investing podcasts, or chatting with other real estate investors. By sinking into the education, you will create a solid foundation to build upon. I&#39;m staunchly opposed to buying the latest get rich quick manual or joining some expensive bootcamp or course from the guru of the hour, however. There are plenty of great ways to learn real estate without breaking the bank &mdash; do your homework and you&#39;ll find them. (See also: <a href="">21 Real Estate Terms You Need to Know</a>)</p> <h3>2. Choose an Investment Type</h3> <p>Step two in your plan is deciding what kind of investment you want to buy. There are numerous different choices you can pick from, including:</p> <ul> <li>Vacant Land<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Single Family Homes<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Small Multifamily Properties<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Large Multifamily Properties<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Commercial Real Estate<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Mobile Homes<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Notes/Paper/Mortgages<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>...and more.</li> </ul> <p>The more time you spend educating yourself on the different types of real estate, the more you&#39;ll find yourself drawn to certain types that fit your personality, time schedule, and checkbook. (See also: <a href="">How to Evaluate a Neighborhood</a>)</p> <h3>3. Determine Your Goal</h3> <p>Finally, look at the place you want to arrive at. Is it a million dollars in the bank? $10,000 per month in cash flow by the time you retire? Whatever your goals are, write them down. Then, simply work backward, using the knowledge you gained from your education to determine what you need to do to get there.</p> <p>For example, if your goal is $10,000 per month in passive income in the next twenty years &mdash; and your plan is to buy single family homes that cash flow $200 per month, how many houses do you need? How many is that per year? How much down payment will that require each year?</p> <p>To learn more about getting started with real estate investing, check out <a href="">The Ultimate Beginner&#39;s Guide to Real Estate Investing</a> that we put out earlier this year.</p> <p>Real estate investing can have a tremendous impact on your financial future if you take the time needed to learn how to best get started. Whether you have millions in the bank or just getting started &mdash; I believe real estate investing can and should be a significant part of your portfolio. Use this post as a springboard to your education.</p> <p>The more you learn about real estate, the more you&#39;ll see it&#39;s not the ugly stepchild of personal finance, it just might be your new best friend.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Real Estate Investing Is Cheaper and Easier Than You Think" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><div class="field field-type-text field-field-guestpost-blurb"> <div class="field-label">Guest Post Blurb:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Joshua Dorkin is the Founder and CEO of <a href=""></a>, the real estate investing social network, marketplace, and information hub, and is the host of the popular <a href="">BiggerPockets Podcast</a>. Josh built BiggerPockets to help find answers for his own real estate investing questions, and in the process has helped millions of others.</p> </div> </div> </div> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Joshua Dorkin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Investment Real Estate and Housing income property investing real estate real estate investing Thu, 06 Feb 2014 11:24:42 +0000 Joshua Dorkin 1123795 at These Are the 8 Most Common Homebuying Mistakes Foreclosure Experts See <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/these-are-the-8-most-common-homebuying-mistakes-foreclosure-experts-see" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="house" title="house" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="200" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>As a foreclosure prevention advisor at a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved counseling agency, I see my clients suffer the consequences of their homebuying mistakes on a daily basis. Sometimes they are facing foreclosure due to the economy &mdash; job loss or pay reduction &mdash; but a lot of the time it&#39;s because they weren&#39;t prepared to buy a home. Either their credit wasn&#39;t good enough and they signed for a high interest loan they can&#39;t afford, or they don&#39;t have an emergency fund. (See also: <a href="">What First-Time Homebuyers Need to Know</a>)</p> <p>Below I&#39;ve listed eight mistakes I see on a regular basis. Read and heed so that when you purchase your first home, you are able to keep it.</p> <h2>1. Forgetting About Other Costs</h2> <p>When you rent a place, you&#39;ll pay rent, utilities, and (hopefully, if you&#39;re smart) renter&#39;s insurance. When you buy a home, you&#39;ll be paying down your principal with interest, property taxes, homeowner&#39;s insurance (which is a lot more than renter&#39;s), utilities (which are probably more, because you&#39;re likely moving into more space), and all maintenance costs. You won&#39;t be able to call your landlord if you have a leaky faucet. You&#39;ll either have to fix it yourself or call a plumber. Keep this in mind when you buy a home, and be ready. Most experts suggest having an emergency fund equal to all of your expenses for six months. And through the actual homebuying process, don&#39;t forget that there are closing costs associated with purchasing a home, including appraisal fee, credit report fee, escrow fee up front, and more. Do your research and save up as much as possible. (See also: <a href="">Costly Things New Homeowners Don&#39;t Prep For</a>)</p> <h2>2. Falling in Love With a House</h2> <p>I&#39;m obsessed with homes. When I was younger, I used to draw out my home with architecture catalogs. And even now, when I get stressed out, I like to go shopping for homes online. In other words, I understand &mdash; buying a house is fun! But be careful. You could end up going over budget if you get too excited about all the things your house could have. You don&#39;t necessarily need a breakfast nook or a pool. In fact, before you even start looking for a home, it&#39;s best to get pre-approved for a loan. This will tell you exactly how much the bank is willing to lend you. Then, only look for homes in your price range. (See also: <a href="">Emotions Can Hurt a Home Buyer</a>)</p> <h2>3. Buying a Home You Can&#39;t Afford</h2> <p>This seems obvious, but it&#39;s surprising how many people do this. The mortgage industry considers your mortgage payment to be affordable if it is 31% or less of your gross monthly income. That payment includes principal, interest, taxes, insurance, and HOA fees. But this might not be affordable for your lifestyle. Really sit down and crunch the numbers, and make sure your home fits into your spending habits. Also, if you&#39;re purchasing your home with another person, don&#39;t base the payment on two incomes. Base it off one. That way when something happens, you&#39;ll still be able to make your payments.</p> <h2>4. Not Making a Full 20% Down Payment</h2> <p>When you buy a home, make sure you have a large down payment ready. You want to build up equity before you buy, so that if you decide to sell later, you don&#39;t lose money on the transaction. If you don&#39;t, you might end up paying pricey private mortgage insurance (PMI) every month until your equity is up to 20%. If you do this, your mortgage will be considered risky, which basically means you&#39;re more likely to default on your loan, and your lender requires insurance to cover potential losses. (See also: <a href="">Financial Must-Haves for the First-Time Homebuyer</a>)</p> <h2>5. Skipping the Inspection</h2> <p>You&#39;re purchasing a home that you hope will last forever, or at least well past the 30 years it will take you to pay it off. So don&#39;t trust your real estate agent with your entire life. Make sure to get a home inspection by someone you trust. You need to know what you&#39;re getting into so you can prepare. God forbid you&#39;re one year in and your foundation starts leaking or your porch starts to fall off.</p> <h2>6. Buying With Bad Credit</h2> <p>If you have terrible credit, the chances of you getting a good loan product are slim to none. And don&#39;t believe that predatory lending is dead, because it&#39;s definitely still out there. Adjustable rate loans, balloon notes, and high interest rates still exist. If you have terrible credit, contact a HUD-approved counseling agency or seek out credit counseling. Repair your credit first and only then consider buying a home. (See also: <a href="">Rebuild Your Credit in 8 Steps</a>)</p> <h2>7. Making Lots of Spendy Credit Activity</h2> <p>Buying a house is exciting, and you might think you also deserve a car. I hate to break it to you, but you don&#39;t. Do not, and I must emphasize this, do not buy a car before you buy a house. Do not take out a credit card. In fact, don&#39;t do anything but pay your bills and save money. Anything you do could affect your credit, and everything will change when you go to close. It could cost you your home.</p> <h2>8. Buying If You&#39;re Not Planning to Stay Put</h2> <p>Homeownership is 30 years. You may want to sell your home quicker than that, and there&#39;s nothing wrong with that &mdash; most American homeowners <a href="">don&#39;t stay the full 30 years</a>. But if you like moving every year, homeownership isn&#39;t for you. I decided a long time ago it&#39;s not for me. I have anxiety about signing a year lease, so a 30-year mortgage will never float my boat. If this is you, weigh your decision carefully.</p> <p><em>What mistakes have you seen homeowners make? Please share them in comments.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="These Are the 8 Most Common Homebuying Mistakes Foreclosure Experts See" 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 foreclosure home buying mistakes homebuying mortgages Mon, 03 Feb 2014 10:48:15 +0000 Jennifer Holder 1122868 at My Experience with Discover Home Loans: Great Service and Rewards Programs <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/my-experience-with-discover-home-loans-great-service-and-rewards-programs" 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>Last March, my husband and I bought our dream house. Seriously, I love this house, and I&rsquo;m never moving. When we started looking, I had no idea what a <em>process</em> it was to buy a house &mdash; the roller coaster ride of emotions when you&rsquo;re trying to decide whether to bid, the waiting period after you do bid, the counteroffer and another waiting period, and then 30-45 days of escrow!</p> <p>After going through that ordeal, I feel like a pro who knows all the ins and outs of the mortgage loan process, and that&rsquo;s mostly due to the great experience I had at Discover Home Loans. Since my husband and I bought our house, I&rsquo;ve felt confident to advise several of my friends on the details of the process.</p> <p>When we decided to look for a house, the first thing I did was hit up Lending Tree, a service that matches you with prospective lenders, because I just didn&rsquo;t know what else to do, or how else to find a bank to service our loan. Mike from Discover Home Loans was the very first one to call &mdash; within minutes!</p> <p><strong>Personalized Experience</strong></p> <p>I was pretty clueless when I talked to Mike. He asked me basic questions like how big of a loan I needed, how much money did we have to put down, what area were we looking to buy in, etc., and I didn&rsquo;t have the answers. He was patient, though, and walked me through the process, taking the time to explain all my options and how to assess what we could afford. He also asked for our financial documents to get everything started. At the end of that one conversation, I already felt like I knew so much more about the loan process.</p> <p>Mike also directed me to Discover&rsquo;s online tools, which helped tremendously because I like to read up on everything. They have a very helpful <a href="">mortgage affordability calculator</a> as well as a comprehensive <a href="">Home Buyer&rsquo;s Handbook</a>.</p> <p><strong>Lightning Fast Responses</strong></p> <p>It took several long months before we finally found our dream home. However, I was in constant contact with Mike as we started to make bids. He made sure I always had the paperwork I needed from him (prequalification letters) for the specific amount based on our bid. When our bid finally got accepted and escrow officially began, Mike got the ball rolling immediately. Since the buyer&rsquo;s bank is responsible for the appraisal, it was crucial for Discover to get the order out immediately. The appraisal was going to determine the maximum amount we could borrow. The appraiser was out there within three days, and we got the report a few days later.</p> <p><strong>Discover Streamlined My Complicated Loan Application</strong></p> <p>Once that was done and the loan amount was set, everything had to go to underwriting (the place where our application and financials are reviewed with a fine tooth comb to decide whether or not the loan should be approved). We weren&rsquo;t an easy account to work with. I had my own company, we were receiving monetary gifts from family, we were taking a loan out of my husband&rsquo;s 401(k), and the rest of our down payment was coming from multiple accounts (my husband and I don&rsquo;t have shared accounts). But because Mike had already started gathering our financial statements ahead of time and talked to me about our financial situation, everything was ready to go <em>as soon as our escrow started</em>. With our complicated situation, the head start was essential, because we knew their underwriter had to process a lot of documents.</p> <p><strong>24/7 Access and Status Updates</strong></p> <p>Being in escrow is not fun. There&rsquo;s a lot of anxiety and stress over whether something is going to fall through. Our sellers were in escrow as well, and a contingency of the sale was that their escrow closed. I checked our loan status application daily on Discover&rsquo;s site. It showed where we were at in the process, as well as the person on the team currently responsible. Mike was my main point of contact throughout (even though his job was done once everything was handed to the underwriter), and the rest of the team was just as dedicated at getting my loan approved.</p> <p>I did not realize how important it was to have a skilled lending team. My sister-in-law was going through her own escrow at the time with another lender, which fell through because of the lender&rsquo;s mistake. In fact, on closing day, after funds had been sent, they retracted the funds and said the loan was not approved. It was chaos &mdash; and heartbreaking.</p> <p><strong>Great Rewards Program</strong></p> <p>Discover Home Loans has a rewards program where, if you get a loan from them, the fees for any future loans you get from them are waived for the rest of your life (up to $2,000). And this includes a refinance on the original loan you got from them! I&rsquo;ve already taken advantage of this and gotten a second loan.</p> <p><strong>Bottom Line: I Would Recommend to My Own Family</strong></p> <p>After that experience, I highly recommend Discover Home Loans to anyone looking for a home loan. My mom went through a refinance through them and had a similar great experience.</p> <p>When vetting any lender, it&rsquo;s important that the lender makes it clear that he&rsquo;s willing to give you the time and attention your loan needs. A home is a big, important purchase, and you want to be able to count on your lender to be there whenever you need him. I feel like Mike was a knowledgeable friend I could pick up the phone and call at any time to ask questions (and I did). The loan process is complicated and slow (thus the usual 30 days of escrow), but Discover made sure I understood the process each step of the way, and they were efficient and skilled. And ultimately, they helped me get the home of my dreams.</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><br /> <br /> &nbsp;</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="My Experience with Discover Home Loans: Great Service and Rewards Programs" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Lynn Truong</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing Thu, 30 Jan 2014 16:00:06 +0000 Lynn Truong 1110536 at 8 Ways to Reduce Mortgage Closing Costs <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-ways-to-reduce-mortgage-closing-costs" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="family on porch" title="family on porch" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Mortgage closing costs can be one of the most difficult aspects of buying a home or refinancing a current mortgage. Costs can be high, ranging anywhere from 2%-5%, depending on your locale, lender, and type of mortgage. (See also: <a href="">How to Choose the Right Mortgage Loan Term</a>)</p> <p>Typical costs include the application fee, origination fee, and fees for home inspection, appraisal, credit report, and an attorney or closing agent. Some, like the application fee, are paid to the lender. Others, like the appraisal and home inspection, are paid to third-parties and have less room for negotiation.</p> <p>Homeowners may feel they have little control over the charges. On top of that, most closing costs are not tax deductible. Nevertheless, it&#39;s possible for home buyers and homeowners to reduce their closing costs.</p> <h2>1. Shop Around</h2> <p>When shopping for a mortgage lender, ask lenders about their closing costs when you ask about their interest rates. Ask about their application fee, loan processing fee (also known as an underwriting fee), and third-party fees paid to others, such as appraisers. Are fees refundable? When are they paid? Most home buyers will just ask about their mortgage rate, but they should also shop for the lowest lender fees, especially the origination fee. Try to nail them down and don&#39;t be satisfied with a general &quot;three percent of the loan amount.&quot;</p> <h2>2. Know the Score on Points</h2> <p>Points, sometimes called <a href="">prepaid interest</a>, are typically the largest single closing cost. One point equals 1% of the mortgage amount. Some lenders charge one point, while others charge two, or even more, points in return for a lower rate.</p> <p>Find out upfront if the points are &quot;bona fide discount points&quot; that lower your interest rate or just another lender&#39;s fee. Generally, one point should reduce the interest rate a quarter of a percentage point. If you expect to stay in the home for a while, say five years, you probably should consider paying extra points for a lower rate.</p> <p>Points for the mortgage used to purchase your home are typically tax deductible in the year you buy the home, while points for refinance loans are tax deductible over the life of the loan. (See also: <a href="">How to Refinance Your Mortgage</a>)</p> <h2>3. Question Lender Fees</h2> <p>Federal law requires mortgage lenders to provide borrowers a Good Faith Estimate of closing costs within three days of the loan application. It&#39;s just an estimate and can change significantly, up to 10% by law, by the time the loan closes. Examine those fees and ask the lender to explain them.</p> <p>Some lenders charge an origination fee, which is a percentage of the loan amount. They may also charge a loan processing fee, an underwriting fee, a document preparation fee, and an administrative fee. Question those fees. They&#39;re basically the same thing. Although some borrowers, like those with impaired credit, legitimately require more work, some of those fees might be duplicative. (See also: <a href="">21 Real Estate Terms Home Buyers Should Know</a>)</p> <h2>4. Scrutinize Final Costs</h2> <p>At the loan closing, lenders must provide borrowers settlement papers known as the <a href="">HUD-1 form</a>. Ask for the paperwork a day before the loan closing, so you have time to go over the documents. Scrutinize closing costs line by line, and question discrepancies between the Good Faith Estimate. Most homeowners glance over the list without asking questions about particular costs, but not all costs are etched in stone.</p> <p>Just asking for a discount could prompt the lender to lower the price. It certainly doesn&#39;t hurt to ask. Some borrowers may feel odd about wrangling over a $200 fee when obtaining a loan of $200,000 or more. But $200 is still $200.</p> <h2>5. Request an Appraisal Waiver</h2> <p>If you&#39;re getting a refinance and had an appraisal recently for a previous refinancing or when you purchased the home, ask your lender if it can waive the new appraisal requirement. You can also request an appraisal waiver if you have plenty of equity in your home and are not getting a cash-out refinance.</p> <h2>6. Get a Title Insurance Discount</h2> <p>When you buy a home, you purchase a new title insurance policy for a one-time fee. When you refinance your mortgage, you can receive a large discount off the cost of a new policy. Although many lenders provide it automatically, ask for it to make sure you get it.</p> <h2>7. Ask the Seller to Pay</h2> <p>Home buyers can ask sellers to pay closing costs in addition to negotiating for a lower sale price. The seller can benefit from paying closing costs by getting the buyer committed to the sale, selling the home sooner. Remember that seller contributions are linked to the home price and could mean a higher sale price. (See also: <a href="">Buying Your First Home? Here&#39;s What You Need to Know</a>)</p> <h2>8. Consider a No-Closing-Cost Mortgage</h2> <p>Some lenders can waive closing costs in return of charging a slightly higher mortgage rate, or can let borrowers add closing costs to the loan amount. These loans are not truly &quot;no cost.&quot; Obviously, there are trade offs. If you plan to stay in the house over five years, being stuck with a higher rate over five years might not be worth it.</p> <p><em>Did you try to negotiate or otherwise reduce your mortgage closing costs? How did you do it?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="8 Ways to Reduce Mortgage Closing Costs" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Michael Kling</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing first time home buyer home buying home loans mortgage mortgage closing costs refinancing Fri, 18 Oct 2013 09:36:03 +0000 Michael Kling 991207 at Best Money Tips: The Biggest Mortgage Mistakes a Home Buyer Can Make <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-biggest-mortgage-mistakes-a-home-buyer-can-make" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="stressed couple" title="stressed couple" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Welcome to Wise Bread's <a href="">Best Money Tips</a> Roundup! Today we found some fantastic articles on mortgage mistakes a home buyer can make, what self-insured or uninsured people will pay in 2014, and following up after a job interview.</p> <h2>Top 5 Articles</h2> <p><a href="">The 5 Biggest Mortgage Mistakes a Home Buyer Can Make</a> &mdash; Not being financially prepared is one of the biggest mortgage mistakes a home buyer can make. [Len Penzo dot Com]</p> <p><a href=";s-what-you&rsquo;ll-pay-in-2014/">Self-insured or uninsured? Here's what you'll pay in 2014</a> &mdash; If you are under 30, you can opt for a catostrophic health care plan under the new Affordable Care Act. [Get Rich Slowly]</p> <p><a href="">Follow Up After a Job Interview With This Email</a> &mdash; Do you make sure to follow up after a job interview by sending a note or email? [PopSugar Smart Living]</p> <p><a href="">Money 101: Becoming Wealthy is Simple, But Not Easy (Unless You Have These Characteristics)</a> &mdash; If you have discipline and persistence, becoming wealthy will be easier. [Free Money Finance]</p> <p><a href="">5 surprising reasons you might want life insurance</a> &mdash; People who own a small business or have children should consider purchasing life insurance. [Five Cent Nickel]</p> <h2>Other Essential Reading</h2> <p><a href="">The Pros and Cons of Working Less</a> &mdash; Working less means less stress, but it also means you make less money. [Retire By 40]</p> <p><a href="">Why You Need a &quot;Don't Do&quot; List</a> &mdash; If you want to be successful at achieving your goals, ask yourself if certain tasks will &quot;move the needle&quot; towards helping you achieve those goals. [Afford Anything]</p> <p><a href="">How to Save Money By Using Your Local Library</a> &mdash; Your local library can help you save on books, magazines, and more! [Three Thrifty Guys]</p> <p><a href="">Niche Marketing: How to Identify Niches and Find Untapped Profit</a> &mdash; By doing pre-sales, you can determine whether or not the niche you want to sell to is too narrow and determine the demand of the item you wish to sell. [Planting Money Seeds]</p> <p><a href="">8 Tips to Improve Teamwork With Your Spouse</a> &mdash; To improve teamwork with your spouse, have a united front and don't undermine them. [Parenting Squad]</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Best Money Tips: The Biggest Mortgage Mistakes a Home Buyer Can Make" 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 buyer home mortgage Fri, 20 Sep 2013 10:18:20 +0000 Ashley Jacobs 988399 at Quicken Loans Review: Competitive Rates and Good Customer Service <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/quicken-loans-review-competitive-rates-and-good-customer-service" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="handshake" title="handshake" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Early in 2013, I refinanced my mortgage with <a onClick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'afclick', 'contenttext', 'quickenloans']);" target="_blank" href="">Quicken Loans</a>. I was hesitant at first, since it seems as though a major loan transaction is something you should complete with a loan office you can speak with face-to-face.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, my brick and mortar bank wouldn&rsquo;t give me the best interest rate on a refinance &mdash; despite my good credit rating and my husband&rsquo;s excellent rating. Seventy-five percent of my household&rsquo;s income is the result of my self-employed activities, and the bank decided that constituted a risk.</p> <p dir="ltr">So, when a <a onClick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'afclick', 'contenttext', 'creditsesame']);" target="_blank" href="">Credit Sesame</a> pop-up prompted me to refinance with Quicken Loans, I decided to go for it.</p> <h2>Why Choose Quicken Loans</h2> <p dir="ltr">Quicken Loans is relatively fast and friendly. The entire process is fairly smooth, and you receive help every step of the way. Quicken has a great loan center that provides you with information about your refinance and which documents you need.</p> <p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s possible to get access to a number of home loan programs with Quicken. You can choose different loan terms, including mortgages with terms of 15 years as well as 30 years. I took advantage of the <a target="_blank" href="">HARP program</a> through Quicken Loans (HARP is slated to end December 31, 2015).</p> <h2>Costs and Fees</h2> <p dir="ltr">As with most loan situations, the costs and fees you pay depend on the type of loan you get. In my case, the fees were fairly reasonable. I had an origination fee of about $1,700. Since I save $300 on my mortgage each month, thanks to the refinance, it took a little less than six months to break even.</p> <p dir="ltr">I also had to pay off the small second mortgage on the home as part of the process, which brought my total out of pocket requirement to a little less than $4,000.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even though I was annoyed that Quicken required me to pay off the second mortgage as part of the refinance deal, I think it was for the best now. It will make my home easier to sell down the road, and I don&rsquo;t have it hanging over my head.</p> <h2>Required Documents and Customer Service</h2> <p dir="ltr">A Quicken representative called my phone number minutes after I filled out the consumer information form on Credit Sesame. Talk about fast lead generation! I didn&rsquo;t answer the phone, though. Instead, I let it go to voicemail. I waited a week (phone calls almost every day), until I was ready, to call back and start the process.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Loan Center</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">When I did talk to my loan officer on the phone, he helped me get set up with Quicken&rsquo;s Loan Center. This serves as a hub for all your paperwork. It&rsquo;s how you upload documentation, such as your Good Faith Estimate. I was able to initiate refinance proceedings immediately, using an electronic signature. My loan officer was on the phone, talking me through it the entire time.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Checklists</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">All of the documents you need appear as a checklist. From copies of your identification to bank statements to tax returns and W-2/1099 forms to additional asset statements, you have an itemized list of exactly what you need. You can scan and upload documents fairly easily. Many banks offer their statements in PDF format that you can easily save to your computer and then upload to the Quicken Loan Center.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Customer Assistance</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">In addition to having a loan officer, Quicken assigns another team member to help you through the process. If there are questions about transfers and assets, you are emailed immediately. If you need additional documentation, and you are slow to submit it, you are reminded. And every few days, someone calls to keep you updated.</p> <p dir="ltr">Any questions you have can be answered quickly via email or over the phone, from the step-by-step process required to cancel your automatic payments to your former lender to the timing involved in canceling those payments and starting payments to Quicken. I was surprised at the level of customer service I received. It was better than what I received when completing my first mortgage at a brick and mortar bank.</p> <h2>Other Features and Services</h2> <p dir="ltr">After everything was cleared, the next step was to sign the paperwork. For the final papers, a notary is required. However, rather than sending us a pile of papers and requiring us to find a notary, Quicken actually sent someone to our home (we could have arranged a meeting elsewhere, if we wanted). He had the paperwork and oversaw the entire process. Then, he took care of mailing the proper copies to the proper places. This was at no extra cost to us (the cost was included in the $1,700 total).</p> <p dir="ltr">Quicken also allows you to the option to make bi-weekly payments, which we decided to do. Your Loan Center remains active, so you can review documents after the fact, and it also includes information on your mortgage statements and payments, so you can stay up-to-date.</p> <h2>How Quicken Loans Compares to Others</h2> <p dir="ltr">In general, Quicken Loans is competitive with other brokerages in terms of fees charged and interest rates offered. I experienced a higher level of customer care with a Quicken Loans refinance than I did with my initial mortgage with a brick and mortar bank. Additionally, Quicken Loans was willing to help me with the HARP program when my primary bank wouldn&rsquo;t. I had to submit more documentation about my income and assets (including PayPal statements), but, in the end, we were able to get the best available interest rate, and get approval without too much trouble, thanks to the HARP program and our credit rating.</p> <h2>How Quicken Loans Could Be Better</h2> <p dir="ltr">Some lenders offer no-cost refinancing. While the fees I paid weren&rsquo;t onerous, I still would have liked the option of a no-cost refinancing. Also, the value of my home was high enough that the small second mortgage could have been rolled into the refinance without too much trouble. That would have been a plus, but in the end it&rsquo;s probably best that I just paid it off.</p> <p dir="ltr">Also, even though the refinance only took slightly more than six weeks to close, it would have been nice to get things through faster, since the timing meant I had to submit additional statements reflecting the most recent situation. But I understand that my self-employment situation probably held up the process a little bit.</p> <h2>Who Is Quicken Loans Good For?</h2> <p dir="ltr">Because of the streamlined HARP program, Quicken Loans is great for the borrower with HARP eligibility trying to refinance a home. Quicken could also be good for a non-HARP refinance. However, the online nature of Quicken Loans means that a non-HARP refinance could come with additional headaches, since there are different appraisal requirements. The easier/non-appraisal situation with HARP means an online refinance is easy.</p> <h2>Bottom Line Recommendation</h2> <p>Overall, my experience refinancing with Quicken Loans was great. It was fast and easy, and my team was helpful and friendly. I&rsquo;ve turned from skeptic to believer.</p> <p><strong><a onClick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'afclick', 'applytext', 'quickenloans']);" target="_blank" href="">Click here to apply now</a></strong></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Quicken Loans Review: Competitive Rates and Good Customer Service " 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 home loans mortgage lenders mortgages refinancing Fri, 06 Sep 2013 10:36:29 +0000 Miranda Marquit 981743 at 6 Ways to Haggle Your Way to Cheaper Rent <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/6-ways-to-haggle-your-way-to-cheaper-rent" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="man at apartment door" title="man at apartment door" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="186" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Don't think that housing negotiations only benefit those who purchase a home. Just about everything is negotiable, and if you fall in love with a rental that's slightly outside your housing budget, there are ways to haggle yourself to a cheaper rate. (See also: <a href="">What's the Right Ratio Between Salary and Rent?</a>)</p> <p>This approach isn't likely to work if you're checking out rentals owned by large management companies. There's usually a set price across the board for all tenants, and some managers aren't going to budge &mdash; not even a little. There is, however, a bit more leeway when renting from a private landlord.</p> <p>You might not be able to negotiate dirt cheap rent, as private landlords have to charge enough rent to cover their costs. But if the monthly rent is more than their expenses, there's some wiggle room.</p> <p>Of course, there's no way to really know how much wiggle room you have. Just go with it, ask for cheaper rent, and then see if the landlord will take your offer.</p> <h2>1. Know the Market</h2> <p>Educate yourself and learn about similar properties in the area. If the landlord's already letting the place go at a price below current market rental rates, you probably won't get the house or apartment for much cheaper. Asking for anything cheaper might offend the landlord. (See also: <a href="">Checking Out a Neighborhood Before You Move In</a>)</p> <p>Drive around local neighborhoods, look through the newspaper, and contact other landlords for pricing information. This can be your bargaining chip. If a rental you're eyeing comes with a high price tag, let the landlord know that you found a similar place for such-and-such price. Learning about cheaper rentals in the area might move the landlord to reduce his rate.</p> <h2>2. Ask Questions</h2> <p>Don't be afraid to ask questions. This not only helps you assess whether the property is right for you and your family, it's also an excellent way to feel out the landlord and gauge whether he's open to negotiations. It all really depends on his motivation.</p> <p>For example, if the property is newly vacant and the landlord doesn't appear to be in a hurry to sign a new tenant, lowering the rent might be the farthest thing from his mind. Not that you can't ask, but if he isn't motivated he might hold out for another tenant. Then again, if an apartment or house has been vacant for several weeks or months, and eagerness is written all over the landlord's face, the ball is in your court.</p> <h2>3. Sell Yourself</h2> <p>The landlord doesn't know you from Adam, and if others are interested in the property, there's really no incentive to choose you. This is really where your negotiation skills come into play.</p> <p>If you go into the situation with the intent of asking for cheaper rent, be ready to sell yourself. Ask yourself, what makes me different from other applicants?</p> <p>Factors that can push your rental application to the top include a good credit history and a solid rental history. Landlords might find this appealing as other applicants may have a few credit problems. A high standard of cleanliness might also help you win points with the landlord, as does stable employment and sufficient income.</p> <h2>4. Get Creative With the Rental Terms</h2> <p>Don't just come out and offer a lower rent price &mdash; have a game plan. For this to work, you've got to offer something in return. Signing a longer lease is one way to sweeten the deal. Most landlords lock tenants into a one-year lease agreement. If you agree to a two-year or a three-year lease in exchange for lower rent, this might be the thing that gets your foot in the door.</p> <p>Yes, the landlord takes a loss each month. But on the flip side, he doesn't have to deal with an empty property next year. (See also: <a href="">What Renting Is Like From the Landlord's POV</a>)</p> <p>Additionally, you can offer to pay one year's rent in advance in return for a discount. The landlord gets his money upfront, thus alleviating any worries that you'll break the lease early.</p> <h2>5. Offer to Handle Certain Repairs or Maintenance</h2> <p>This doesn't mean that you're expected to go in your pocket for every type of repair. If a house needs a new roof or if another major issue occurs, that's totally on the landlord. But for little things that happen around an apartment or house, such as a broken toilet or a broken thermostat, you can take care of these expenses in return for cheaper rent.</p> <p>Now, this can get a bit tricky, as your landlord may try to push all minor repairs on you. For this to work, make it clear that you'll only repair items that break after you've moved into the house, and only up to a certain amount, perhaps $200 per repair.</p> <p>Do a walkthrough of the property before signing the lease and document anything that's damaged or broken to avoid being liable for these repairs. Get the landlord's signature and include this document with your lease paperwork.</p> <p>Another creative approach for cheaper rent: Offer to assist your landlord with maintenance beyond your home. Is there a commons area or park in the community? Perhaps you can mow or tidy the area a few times a week. Is there a rental office? Maybe you can clean the office from time to time. Don't forget to get these agreements in writing.</p> <h2>6. Pay a Higher Security Deposit</h2> <p>Money talks, and if you're trying to haggle your way to cheaper rent, offer a higher security deposit. It doesn't have to be much. If the landlord requires one month's rent as security, maybe you can afford to offer double this amount. (See also: <a href="">Get Your Security Deposit Back When You Move Out</a>)</p> <p><em>Have you negotiated cheaper rent? How?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="6 Ways to Haggle Your Way to Cheaper Rent" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing negotiation rent rental maintenance rental terms Wed, 04 Sep 2013 09:48:29 +0000 Mikey Rox 981552 at Home Maintenance and Repair: What's an Emergency and What Can Wait? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/home-maintenance-and-repair-whats-an-emergency-and-what-can-wait" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="man with wrench" title="man with wrench" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When money's tight, even a minor home repair takes on a new and stressful dimension. But when you're looking a laundry list of things that need to be done with limited funds, it can be overwhelming. If home repairs have you longing for the days of apartment life, don't despair. Here's how to take a step back, prioritize what needs to be done, and embrace a slow, steady, and budget-friendly approach to home maintenance. (See also: <a href="">What It Actually Costs to Own a Home</a>)</p> <h2>1. Electrical and Wiring</h2> <p>Safety comes first. Wiring and electrical problems can damage sensitive electronics, and lead to fires and even electrocution, so it's best to address them head-on and with the help of a licensed professional. If the lights in your home dim when you turn on multiple appliances, if your circuit breakers trip frequently, or if your outlets are hot to the touch, it may be time to call an electrician. The cost of rewiring a house varies based on the size of the home, but typically ranges between <a href="">$3,500&ndash;$8,000</a>, according to (See also: <a href="">10 DIY Jobs Homeowners Should Avoid</a>)</p> <h2>2. Roof</h2> <p>Water intrusion is one of the quickest ways to rack up big-dollar expenses. Rot, mold, insect infestation, and electrical problems can all result from even small leaks in your roof. Be aware of dank or damp smells in your home, stains on drywall, and damaged shingles, algae growth, or pooling water on the roof.</p> <p>Because roof problems usually progress quickly, if you notice an issue, contact a roofer right away. An initial inspection is usually free of charge. Again, roof replacement costs depend on the size of your home and can <a href="">run anywhere from $2,000 to $25,000</a>.</p> <h2>3. Basement and Foundation</h2> <p>A solid footing supports (literally and figuratively) everything else in your home. Protect it.</p> <p>As homes settle naturally or shift due to extreme rain or flooding, structural problems can occur. If you notice sagging beams, large cracks in the masonry, or floors that develop a new dip or slant, it might indicate a larger problem. Hire a contractor to inspect your home and if there are significant issues, retain a home inspection engineer to get an accurate picture of the solutions and the associated costs. You can search for a qualified home inspection engineer by visiting the National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers website at <a href=""></a>.</p> <h2>4. Gutters and Drainage</h2> <p>Gutters help your roof do its job and without good drainage, even the highest quality roof can't protect your home from water damage. Look for dented, damaged, or split gutters and downspouts that don't connect properly. Also, survey your home immediately after a rainstorm; look for clogs, leaks, or pooling water that may indicate larger problems with your gutter system. The cost of new gutters varies depending on the size of your home and the complexity of roofline. For a handy calculator on the price of seamless gutters, try <a href="">this calculator</a> from</p> <h2>5. Exterior Paint</h2> <p>Paint does more than beautify your home &mdash; it provides protection from the elements that damage wood and other siding products and helps discourage boring insects. Look over areas with cracked, flaking, or blistering paint. Small areas can usually be sanded and repainted without hiring a professional. A full paint job usually runs <a href="">between $3,000 and $5,000</a> according to (See also: <a href="">Home DIY Projects You Can Do in One Day</a>)</p> <h2>6. Heating and Cooling Systems</h2> <p>Upgrading the heating and cooling systems in your home can help reduce energy costs and minimize the chances of a malfunction that could lead to frozen and burst pipes in winter.</p> <p>If your system is working properly, replacement is, of course, elective. But if you're not sure how well your system is performing, keep an eye out for frequent on/off cycles that may indicate a bad thermostat or equipment that's struggling to regulate temperature. Call in an expert if you have other concerns or would like an estimate on the price of new equipment. Typically the price of a new HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system runs between <a href="">$5,000 and $7,000</a>. (See also: <a href="">9 Ways to Seal Leaks and Reduce Your Winter Heating Bill</a>)</p> <p>For broader information on how to plan for and buy a new heating and cooling system, check out from HomeAdvisor's <a href="">Heating and Cooling Cost Guide</a>.</p> <p>Although we can't always predict when home repair or maintenance issues will arise, we can plan for them and be strategic in how we react to them. By understanding that not all issues are emergencies, we can leverage our resources to take care of what's essential first and phase in less urgent repairs over time. As with any expense, it always helps to anticipate likely repairs based on the condition and age of your home and begin to set aside funds for those inevitable expenses before they become critical.</p> <p><em>Have you prioritized your home maintenance to-do list?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Home Maintenance and Repair: What&#039;s an Emergency and What Can Wait?" 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 first time home buyer home maintenance Home repair refinancing Tue, 03 Sep 2013 10:24:28 +0000 Kentin Waits 981652 at Get Help Renovating Your Home With an FHA 203(k) Mortgage <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/get-help-renovating-your-home-with-an-fha-203k-mortgage" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="women carrying rug" title="women carrying rug" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Renovating a home can be very expensive, and getting a loan to buy a home needing substantial repairs can be difficult, too.</p> <p>Fortunately, the <a href="">FHA 203(k)</a> home renovation loan &mdash; made through private government-approved lenders but insured by the FHA &mdash; offers an option. In fact, it's sometimes the only option for buying a fixer-upper because most lenders won't finance a home that's not habitable. (See also: <a href="">10 Home Renovations That Almost Pay for Themselves</a>)</p> <p>Home buyers can use the home renovation loan to purchase homes at substantial discounts, and current homeowners can use it to refinance their current mortgage and pay for renovations, repairs, or additions. It's the perfect option for handyman specials, homes needing &quot;tender loving care,&quot; and foreclosure sales.</p> <p>Purchasing and renovating a home typically entails a mortgage to buy the property, a short-term loan with a higher mortgage rate to finance rehab work, and another loan to pay off the interim renovation loan. But the FHA 203(k) program finances the purchase and renovation of homes &mdash; or the refinance and renovation &mdash; with a single loan.</p> <h2>FHA 203(k) Home Loan Advantages</h2> <p>The loan program has other advantages beyond convenience.</p> <ul> <li>Down payment requirements are low &mdash; currently 3.5% for loans under $625,500 and 5% for loans above $625,500.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Application standards, like other FHA home loans, are looser than typical home loans.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>The loan can finance mortgage payments for up to six months, so you don't have double housing costs while the home is not habitable.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>The loan can be combined with the FHA's <a href="">Energy Efficient Mortgage</a>.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Homeowners can opt for either a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate loan.</li> </ul> <p>Because appraisal is based on the value of the home <em>after</em> renovation work is completed, borrowers qualify for a larger loan amount. Home buyers can finance up to the purchase price or 110% of the property's after-improved value.</p> <p><strong>Eligible Projects</strong></p> <p>Many kinds of projects are eligible, including additions, landscaping, energy-efficiency projects, kitchen remodeling, finishing basements or attics, as well as replacing roofs, plumbing, and HVAC systems. (See also: <a href="">What to Look for in a Fixer-Upper</a>)</p> <p>The loans can also be used to move a building to the mortgaged property or convert a single-family home into a duplex, triplex, or four-unit home.</p> <p>Cooperative units are <em>not</em> eligible for the program, but the interiors of individual condo units are eligible if the condo complex has FHA approval.</p> <p>The FHA may let you do the work yourself if you can prove you're qualified. You can use the loan to pay for supplies, but not to pay yourself. (See also: <a href="">Is DIY Home Renovating for You?</a>)</p> <p><strong>Approval Process</strong></p> <p>After you find a property and estimate rehab costs, you can use HUD's <a href="">lender search page</a> to locate lenders. After the loan is approved, an escrow account holds money for rehab work and funds are disbursed from the account as work proceeds.</p> <h2>Disadvantages</h2> <p>The program's largest drawback is probably that it's paper-intensive with plenty of bureaucracy.</p> <ul> <li>Obtaining loan approvals and reaching the closing table can take longer than other loans, perhaps 60 to 90 days.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Fees for title reviews, appraisals, and other items are higher than for other FHA loans.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Homeowners must live in, or plan to live in, the home. You can't use the mortgage to flip properties.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Improvements must cost at least $5,000, so you can't use it for minor work.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Guidelines do not allow luxury items &mdash; no gold-plated toilets.</li> </ul> <h2>Some Quick Tips</h2> <p>First of all, avoid some of the bureaucracy by investigating the <a href="">FHA's Streamlined 203(k)</a> program if you're interested in a smaller project. The streamlined program lets home buyers and homeowners finance up to $35,000 for rehab work and provides easier access to funds.</p> <ul> <li>Work with a lender that has FHA 203(k) experience.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Be prepared for time-consuming documentation and visits by an FHA inspector.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Work with a good contractor. You cannot increase your loan amount, so be careful that your contractor does not underestimate costs.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Be careful not to over-invest. There's no guarantee that a particular renovation project will increase your home's value.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Don't put the project on the back burner &mdash; or let the contractor forget about it. Work has to start within 30 days of the loan closing, cannot stop for more than 30 days, and has to be finished within six months.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Talk to your real estate agent and accountant about any possible property tax implications, which vary by county or municipality. Some renovations can be used for income tax deductions. Other improvements, like energy-efficiency upgrades, can be used for tax credits.</li> </ul> <p><em>Have you taken advantage of the FHA's 203(k) loan program? What was your experience like?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Get Help Renovating Your Home With an FHA 203(k) Mortgage" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Michael Kling</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing fha 203k fha rehab loan home improvement loans refinancing renovation Mon, 02 Sep 2013 09:48:29 +0000 Michael Kling 981467 at