Real Estate and Housing en-US This One Mistake Could Delay Your Retirement by 10 Years <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/this-one-mistake-could-delay-your-retirement-by-10-years" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="senior couple budget" title="senior couple budget" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="147" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>A while back, during a housing boom (remember those?), I watched a TV news segment about homeownership. The reporter was interviewing a young married couple shopping for a house and the wife said: &quot;My parents told me to buy the biggest house you can afford, so that's what we're doing.&quot; After all, her parents probably saw the value of their home rise to many times its original price, eventually becoming one of their biggest assets &mdash; just in time for retirement.</p> <p>In fact, on average home values do rise &mdash; by about 4% per year, keeping pace with inflation &mdash; and over the long term this growth can be substantial. So on the surface, this &quot;buy the biggest&quot; strategy seemed to make sense. A bigger purchase price must lead to a bigger ending price, right? Maybe so, but something bothered me about this advice; a piece of the puzzle seemed to be missing, but I just couldn't put my finger on it at the time.</p> <h2>Buy the Biggest You Can Afford?</h2> <p>Fast forward a few years later. My wife and I and our two infant sons were squeezed into a one bedroom unit of a 2-family home. It was time to find something a little roomier. But why buy something only a little roomier? Why not buy the biggest? That's what we did&hellip;we purchased a McMansion. The parents of that young couple from the news report would have been proud of us. Just think how big our home's ending price would be after 30 years!</p> <h3>My Big House Ate My Cash Flow</h3> <p>What I failed to realize was that 30 years was a long way off. It was time to live in the present, and that meant making an enormous mortgage + property tax + homeowner's insurance payment every month. Add to that the ongoing maintenance, utility, and repair costs and what at first seemed to be a golden nest egg turned out to be a money pit. Our McMansion drained every last cent of our monthly income.</p> <p>That's when I discovered that the missing piece of the puzzle I had been looking for was cash flow. Sure, a house is a large asset that grows in value; that's the good side. Unfortunately, there's also a flip side: It can be a cash flow killer. The bigger the mortgage the more negative your monthly cash flow.</p> <p>In our case, over the full term of the mortgage we would have paid an <em>extra</em> $420,000 on this super-sized house compared to a more modest one! That's money we could have used to repay other loans or to invest in our retirement account, enabling us achieve financial independence many years sooner.</p> <h2>Downsize for Better Cash Flow</h2> <p>What did we do to correct the mistake?</p> <p>We downsized. And it worked. Suddenly we had a comfortable monthly positive cash flow cushion. What a nice feeling that was.</p> <p>Ah, but sometimes even a good decision can take a bad turn. We soon realized that we over-corrected and downsized to a house that was too small and inadequate for our growing family. So what did we do next? We approved plans for a $120,000 addition. After that came the bathroom renovations. I think you know where this is going. The lesson this time was that a small house can become a money pit, too.</p> <h2>The Goldilocks Principle</h2> <p>The key, then, is to apply what I like to call The Goldilocks Principle to home buying: Look for one that's not too big or too small, but just right. How? Run the numbers beforehand, when you're shopping. To help with this use the following table, which allows you to compare the monthly negative cash flows associated with homes you're considering. Your goal is &mdash; all other things equal &mdash; to find a house with the lowest (or nearly the lowest) negative cash flow.</p> <p><img width="605" height="336" src="'s Housing Chart 2.png" alt="" /></p> <p>I've pre-filled this chart with hypothetical numbers but the template is universal and you can use it to compare actual homes you're interested in purchasing. As you can see in this example buying Property 2, a bigger single-family home, would cost an additional $425 every month compared to Property 1, the condo. Over the term of a 30 year mortgage that adds up to an extra cost to you of $153,000. Ouch!</p> <p>Now take a look at Property 3.</p> <p>It's also a more expensive $250,000 house but is a two-family rental, which means there's some positive monthly cash flow (from rent) to offset all those negative numbers. In fact, because of the rental income from just one of the two units the total negative monthly cash flow is $655 lower than the single-family house having the same purchase price, and it's even $230 per month lower than the condo!</p> <p>So rental properties give you an opportunity to buy a higher-priced property (which translates to a much higher ending sales price over time) while also reducing your monthly negative cash flow. The rental income can even be used to help pre-pay your mortgage, which might then create a net positive monthly cash flow after all expenses. So it offers an opportunity to have your cake (or porridge) and eat it too.</p> <h2>Don't Forget Other Costs</h2> <p>One other thing to consider, though. In addition to these estimates of cash flow at the time of purchase, you should also estimate repair costs and future improvement costs after moving in. As I learned first-hand, those large lump sum future expenditures can make all the difference between a good and a not-so-good home choice, so be sure to also give them careful, honest consideration.</p> <p>Purchasing a home is a big, complicated decision. Emotional considerations are part of the equation, and they should be. After all, your family's comfort and your choice of a community are part of the package. But try not to let your emotions overwhelm the financial considerations. You'll want to get the decision right the first time rather than learn the hard way as I did. A bad decision on this one item, if uncorrected, can delay your progress towards financial independence by as much as a decade. So to help ensure a balanced review, filter your decision with immediate and longer-term cash flow considerations and let the numbers guide you to the choice that's best for your budget and for your long-term financial security.</p> <p><em>Was monthly cash flow a consideration for you when you purchased a home? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="This One Mistake Could Delay Your Retirement by 10 Years" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Keith Whelan</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Debt Management Real Estate and Housing cash flow mortgages rental income retirement Mon, 07 Jul 2014 09:00:06 +0000 Keith Whelan 1153953 at 14 Things Insurance Agents Don't Want You to Know <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/14-things-insurance-agents-dont-want-you-to-know" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="senior insurance" title="senior insurance" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="153" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Ignorance is bliss.</p> <p>The less that you know about how insurance works, the happier insurance agents are. As friendly as geckos, generals, cavemen, and ducks may look on TV, you shouldn't forget that insurance is a multi-billion dollar industry. These companies are out there to make money. It is the job of insurance agents to make as much as they can, too.</p> <p>Here are 14 things that insurance agents don't want you to know.</p> <h2>General Tips</h2> <p>Let's start with some tips that apply to several types of insurance.</p> <h3>1. Non-Smokers Pay Less</h3> <p>Non-smokers pay less than smokers for any type of insurance, including car insurance, home insurance, and life insurance. If you don't see a non-smoker discount listed on your policy, call your company and ask about it. Usual discounts for non-smokers range from 5% to 15%.</p> <h3>2. Quick Settlements Are Often Not the Best Deal</h3> <p>A quick settlement offer is never a good sign. This means that you are entitled to a payout, but the insurance agent is aware that if you look into it, you could get more. Remember that insurance companies are for-profit, so don't fall for those &quot;get on with your life&quot; and &quot;put this tragedy behind you&quot; comments. Take the time to carefully review a settlement offer before you accept it.</p> <h3>3. Payouts Can Be Extremely Slow</h3> <p>The airline insurance industry is an example of how slow insurance payouts can be. Lawyers are speculating that the litigation for <a href="">Malaysia Airlines flight MH370</a> could take five years, with some families waiting up to 10 years for compensation. Airline insurance litigation in the U.S. can be complex as different states have different caps on damages for victims, so lawyers battle to file suits in states that benefits their clients. For example, in 1949 an <a href="">Eastern Airlines plane</a> was cut in half. One half fell in Virginia, where then the cap was set at $15,000, and the other on Washington, D.C., where there is no cap.</p> <h3>4. Low, Low Premiums Can Hide Real Costs</h3> <p>Some insurance agents present you a quote so low that you won't believe your eyes. The reason that the quote is so low is that you would be opting for high deductibles and low coverage limits. These cookie-cutter policies may not only be a bad fit for you, but also end up costing you a lot in case of a claim.</p> <p>To avoid falling for a low-ball price and inappropriate insurance, compare apples to apples by requesting a quote for a policy with the exact same features. Take a second look at any quote that is way below the price of the others.</p> <h2>Car Insurance</h2> <p>Don't fall for cute mascots and look deeper into the coverages for those policies.</p> <h3>5. Credit Score Is a Major Criteria</h3> <p>Not used by just money lending institutions, credit scores provide insurance companies a look at your credit history as a predictor of potential payouts. The FTC also agrees that <a href="">credit scores are effective predictors</a> of risk for auto insurance policies. This is why insurance agents request your social security number &mdash; so that they can pull up your credit report.</p> <p>Despite the validation by the FTC, this practice has been labeled as discriminatory by many consumer advocacy groups. Those struggling with debt or starting to build their credit history are hit with another big bill. This is why the states of California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts have prohibited car insurance companies from using credit-based insurance scores. (See also: <a href="">How to Improve Your Credit Score</a>)</p> <h3>6. If You Move or Change Insurance, You Get a Refund</h3> <p>It is a good practice to pay your car premiums in a lump-sum payment because you prevent insurance agents from tacking on a &quot;convenience fee&quot; to smaller payments. However, this doesn't mean that they have all of your money for good. They have to earn it. Your lump sum payment covers several months, so if you have to move to another state, the insurance company owes you a refund for the unused months.</p> <p>Make sure to check the fine print on your policy before cancelling. Some companies may have an early termination fee or require a 30-days notice. Also, plan to have new insurance already in place when the old one is done.</p> <h3>7. &quot;Optional Coverages&quot; May Be Necessary</h3> <p>Insurance agents have to meet sales quotas. Sometimes they may suggest to leave certain &quot;optional coverages,&quot; such as underinsured motorist coverage, to lower your quote and get you to sign.</p> <p>For example, residents of California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, and Louisiana are not mandated to get coverage for underinsured drivers. Still, it is a good idea to get it. Across the U.S. about <a href="">one in seven drivers</a> is uninsured. But in some states, such as Florida, Oklahoma, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Tennessee, the estimated percentage of underinsured motorists is 24% and above.</p> <p>If you are the sole breadwinner in your family, does it make sense to risk the chance of a huge, unexpected bill?</p> <h3>8. You Don't Have to Speak to the Other Guy's Claims Adjuster</h3> <p>Just like in those cop dramas, &quot;you have the right to remain silent and everything you say may be used against you in a court of law.&quot; In the case of a car accident, the claims adjuster from the other party might claim that she &quot;must&quot; have your recorded statement or &quot;requires&quot; your medical records.</p> <p>Don't cave in to these requests, unless ordered by a court or other authority, because the claims adjuster is trying to gather evidence against you. Even your most innocent comment could be twisted as an attempt to delay or deny your claim.</p> <h3>9. &quot;Captive Agents&quot; Cannot Offer You the Best Deal</h3> <p>For the next 30 seconds, write down all the car insurance companies that you can think of. Once the time is up, count how many you got. Three? Five? Ten?</p> <p>Here is some food for thought: There are about <a href="">100 car insurance companies</a> in the U.S. By only looking up the quotes from two or three companies, you're decreasing your chances of getting the best possible price for your insurance. On top of that, an insurance agent from a company can offer you only options that that company sells. Don't fall for their online comparison tables because those quotes are not accurate &mdash; they are just estimates. The final price can only be achieved by considering your credit score, driving history, and other factors.</p> <p>The easiest way to cover the most ground is to work with an independent insurance agent. She represents several insurance companies, so she is not limited to offer you products from a single company.</p> <h3>10. Rental Car Insurance May Be Unnecessary</h3> <p>Check what your policy has to say about car rentals. You may be surprised that your car policy may provide sufficient coverages. Also, some <a href="">credit cards</a> offer rental car insurance when using them as form of payment.</p> <p>Before you rent a car the next time, make sure to have read the contracts from your existing car insurance and credit card(s). Remember that personal auto insurance often doesn't cover rentals for business use.</p> <h2>Home Insurance</h2> <p>Home sweet &quot;appropriately insured at the right price&quot; home.</p> <h3>11. Force-Placed Insurance Is Expensive</h3> <p>While home insurance is necessary, it doesn't need to be prohibitively expensive. Some banks will try to issue you a Force-Placed insurance, which is very expensive and provides the bank a kickback from an insurance company. This practice is not only unfair to the homebuyer, but also illegal in the eyes of the <a href="">Consumer Financial Protection Bureau</a>.</p> <p>Make sure to read all letters from your lender because they have to provide a written notice in case of a Force-Place insurance policy. If the bank is trying to force you into a insurance policy, find an alternative policy that meets the required coverages (e.g. hazard insurance, replacement cost) but at a lower price. If you are able to find an appropriate policy, contact your lender to cancel the forced policy immediately.</p> <h3>12. Little Known Home Insurance Coverages</h3> <p>Your home insurance policy may be stronger than you think. Here are some lesser-known coverages:</p> <ul> <li>If you're out of power for several days due to a natural disaster and your refrigerator is full of food that goes bad, you may be able to claim compensation.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Your children's property is protected by your homeowner's insurance as long they are living in campus dorms.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Home updates required by law, such as a storm cellar, may be covered by your home insurance.</li> </ul> <p>Check your home insurance policy for more details. (See also: <a href="">8 Surprising Things Covered by Home Insurance</a>)</p> <h3>13. Private Mortgage Insurance Can Be Removed</h3> <p>The <a href="">Homeowner's Protection Act</a>requires homebuyers, who finance more than 80% of a new home's value, to purchase Private Mortgage insurance (PMI). This is an expense that you have to keep for several years. The good news is that once your loan-to-value ratio is close to 20%, you can request your lender to remove PMI from your mortgage.</p> <p>Here is an overview of requirements:</p> <ul> <li>No second mortgages on your home</li> <li>Current on all payments by the anticipated cancellation date</li> <li>No late payments within the last two years</li> <li>Good credit score</li> <li>No dramatic market value change of home</li> </ul> <p>Finally, here is a type of policy that is so easy for insurance agents to sell that it deserves a mention of its own.</p> <h3>14. Disease-Specific Insurance</h3> <p>The slight mention of AIDS and cancer are enough to send a shiver down anyone's spine. This is why policies for these diseases are an easy sell for insurance agents. By preying on your fear, they get you to hand over cash for something that you may never use.</p> <p>If you have a health plan or life insurance, you may be already covered for these diseases. By duplicating the coverages, you're just wasting money. If a specific disease runs in your family, get a comprehensive health plan that includes treatment for that specific disease.</p> <p><em>What are some other things insurance agents don't want you to know?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="14 Things Insurance Agents Don&#039;t Want You to Know" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Damian Davila</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Cars and Transportation Real Estate and Housing car insurance homeowner's insurance insurance life insurance Mon, 23 Jun 2014 09:00:05 +0000 Damian Davila 1145900 at Selling Your Home: 17 Ways to Prepare Your House for Inspection Success <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/selling-your-home-17-ways-to-prepare-your-house-for-inspection-success" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="inspection" title="inspection" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Congrats! You've received an offer on your home and agreed upon a sale price. The papers are signed, and the next step in the process is your home inspection. Chances are that a satisfactory report is the last major hurdle toward sale &mdash; so it's important you put your best foot forward. (See also: <a href="">25 Cheap and Easy Fixes That Make Your House Look Amazing</a>)</p> <p>I recently accompanied a home inspector on a 3-&frac12; hour tour of a home we were considering purchasing, and these were some major points I picked up along the way. In general, it's good to have intimate knowledge of your house's nooks, crannies, and weak spots. The following items are things you should consider before the inspector visits your home, possibly bringing up major and minor issues that could cost you money off your sales price or worse &mdash; the deal itself.</p> <h2>1. Clear Access</h2> <p>Ensure access to critical areas of your house are clear. Think about your electrical box, furnace, hot water heater, and air conditioning units, attic door, and any other possible locked spaces. Also make it easier to access under sink plumbing work and back access, as well as any areas blocked off by storage, etc. If the inspector cannot gain access, he or she will be unable to include them in the report, raising questions for your buyers.</p> <h2>2. Banish Clogs</h2> <p>Go through your entire house to all the sinks drains &mdash; one by one &mdash; and run the water. If you notice a slow drain, you can try using store-bought clog removers (consult with staff to find the right one). For very slow or even totally clogged drains, call in a plumber. Same goes with any slow flow or blockage at the water source.</p> <h2>3. Replace Bulbs</h2> <p>Examine your attached light fixtures. Make sure all the light bulbs are working. Inspectors only get an overhead view and cannot determine if the bulb itself is out or if there's possibly an underlying electrical problem.</p> <h2>4. Filter Out</h2> <p>Replace your furnace return air filters. Not only do dirty filters impact the efficiency of your overall HVAC system, they also show neglect, which isn't the type of impression you want to leave with your inspector.</p> <h2>5. Mind Your Monitors</h2> <p>Be sure to have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Test before inspection day and look at the expiration dates. You should have a smoke alarm on <a href="">every level of your home</a> &mdash; including the basement. As for carbon monoxide detectors, there should be <a href="">at least one</a> in your home, in the sleeping area.</p> <h2>6. Observe Grading</h2> <p>Check to see that the earth slopes away from your home versus toward it to avoid basement water issues. Even if there's no evidence of water entering your home, it's a good idea to <a href="">slope dirt away</a> in flowerbeds and other areas that come in contact with your foundation.</p> <h2>7. Check Cracks</h2> <p>If your home has any cracked windows or broken screens, you may want to fix them before the inspector comes. Even if a crack isn't a big issue on some basement window, it will still show up in your report.</p> <h2>8. Get the Bugs Out</h2> <p>Do you see a lot of carpenter bees hanging around? Or perhaps a steady line of ants near your home? Any sort of infestation &mdash; especially of wood destroying insects like termites &mdash; will show up on your inspection report. It's best to take care of it proactively.</p> <h2>9. Cap It Off</h2> <p>Any sort of caps needed in and around your home should be there. Any unused gas lines &mdash; even if shut off &mdash; should be capped. As well, any chimneys or flues should be capped to prevent debris, including leaves and animals, from clogging off critical vents. For example, a home we recently had inspected had a clog in the water heater flue creating a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide.</p> <h2>10. Trim Your Trees</h2> <p>Or at least take a look at any overhanging vegetation at your property. Trees that are over roofs can prematurely shorten roof life by inviting moss and lichen to take hold. Rodents can gain easy access to your chimney and other openings. And the obvious: If there's a low-hanging or unhealthy branch, it could always fall onto the roof.</p> <h2>11. Think Big</h2> <p>If you know you have asbestos, lead, or other health and safety issues in your home, it's good to disclose this information before embarking on the sale process to begin with. Otherwise, be prepared for these items to show up in a report. Though they are usually not confirmed without further testing, &quot;suspected&quot; hazards could certainly scare away potential buyers.</p> <h2>12. Go With the Flow</h2> <p>Flush your toilets to see if any aren't performing as they should. Sometimes a fix is as easy as adjusting <a href="">the water level</a> in your tank. Other times, a clog or hard water (creating sediment) might be to blame &mdash; or perhaps a faulty design.</p> <h2>13. Spark Interest</h2> <p>Go to each outlet in your home to see if any aren't working. It's also a good idea to note any weird issues with your electrical system that you have observed and lived with in your time at the home. Any flickering light fixtures or slow switches, etc., can be signs of a problem for an electrician to investigate.</p> <h2>14. Crack It Open</h2> <p>Many older homes, especially those with plaster walls, have hairline cracks. Many of these cracks are not concerning, as they mostly indicate the expansion and contraction of the wall material with normal house settling and temperature fluctuations. If you have <a href="">cracks in your foundation</a>&nbsp;or&nbsp;exterior, or your doors and windows aren't closing from misalignment, you may want to have them checked before inspection.</p> <h2>15. Swing Around</h2> <p>While you're at it, open and close all your windows and doors to look for anything that's creaking, loose, or otherwise not functioning properly. Look at hinge pins, door knobs, and anything else that seems amiss.</p> <h2>16. Address the Issues</h2> <p>If you bought your house only a few years ago, chances are you still have a copy of your old home inspection from purchase. Go through the report and look for any unaddressed issues you've come to live with over the years. It's almost like having a cheat sheet.</p> <h2>17. Hire a Professional</h2> <p>If there are any issues in this list that you're not familiar with fixing, it's best to call a certified professional before your inspection date to do the work. Not only will amateur fixes not fare well on inspection reports, but you could also put yourself in harms way, say, if you've never climbed onto your roof or trimmed a tree before. (See also: <a href="">Save Time, Money, and Hassle by Bundling Home Repairs</a>)</p> <p><em>Do you have any items to add to this list? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Selling Your Home: 17 Ways to Prepare Your House for Inspection Success" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing home inspection home maintenance Home repair Thu, 05 Jun 2014 09:00:10 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1141614 at WATCH: 7 DIY Fails That Will Inspire You to Call an Expert <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/watch-7-diy-fails-that-will-inspire-you-to-call-an-expert" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="demolition" title="demolition" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>What makes a project a good Do-it-yourself candidate? Low-risk, for one: <a href="">making a collage</a> isn&rsquo;t going to implode your roof, and <a href="">cutting up your old denim</a> to make a quilt isn&rsquo;t going to result in a trip to the emergency room. (Unless of course you forget to take the jeans off before starting&hellip;)</p> <p>But some home projects just <a href="">shouldn&rsquo;t be attempted</a> by anyone other than a professional. Don&rsquo;t believe it? Just watch these crazy DIY fails.</p> <p>1. Starting with the most obvious potential no-no: demolition. If it involves knocking out support beams, call a contractor and avoid demolishing yourself.</p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" src="//"></iframe></p> <p>2. If a tree falls on an ill-advised DIY project, does 911 hear it?</p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>3. And for exhibit B that massive trees (especially those next to your lovely house) should be cut down by an expert:</p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>4. Think interior construction is safe? Then check out the results of poor bathroom design in possibly the scariest video yet.</p> <p><iframe width="480" height="360" frameborder="0" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>5. What&rsquo;s worse, not being able to reach the toilet paper, or this painful home improvement fail?</p> <p><iframe width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>6. Contractors aren&rsquo;t the only pros you should consider calling for home jobs. Furniture movers can be a solid call too, just ask the guy in this video, as soon as he digs himself out&hellip;</p> <p><iframe width="480" height="360" frameborder="0" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>7. And finally, a fail for possibly the simplest task in home maintenance as a reminder that anything can be risky when done carelessly. How many dumb DIYers does it take to screw in a lightbulb anyway?</p> <p><iframe width="480" height="360" frameborder="0" src="//" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="WATCH: 7 DIY Fails That Will Inspire You to Call an Expert" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Joe Epstein</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY General Tips Real Estate and Housing DIY Home repair Mon, 19 May 2014 15:04:32 +0000 Joe Epstein 1139271 at Mind-Blowing Tiny Houses With Huge Design Inspiration <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mind-blowing-tiny-houses-with-huge-design-inspiration" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Tiny houses are a huge thing.</p> <p>The movement, centered on <a href="">downsizing homes to live more simply</a> and less expensively, was a fringe campaign just a year or two ago. But with the passage of <a href="">the first annual Tiny House Conference</a> just last month, and the <a href="">recent opening of miniature &quot;pod&quot; hotels</a> across the globe, tiny houses have officially arrived at full-blown trend status.</p> <p>And for good reason: from promoting energy efficiency to reducing maintenance costs to encouraging social interaction, tiny houses boast all kinds of benefits beyond garnering the reaction, &quot;hey, those little houses are really cool!&quot;.</p> <p>...But they are really cool. And just because you may not downsize to one tomorrow doesn't mean you can't be inspired to live cleaner, simpler, cheaper, and more artfully by this list of some of the most handsome tiny houses ever made.</p> <h2>Holes in the Wall</h2> <p><img width="605" height="402" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>This <a href="">Ashland, Oregon home</a> clocks in at just $33,000 and 207 sq ft, but you wouldn't know it from this sleek overhead view of the layout. Wall cut-outs create semi-private nooks that act as separate leisure or work spaces &mdash; something to consider implementing in any home.</p> <h2>Finland's Finest</h2> <p><img width="605" height="403" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>With a name translating to &quot;Bird's Nest&quot;, <a href="">this rustic design</a> was created by a young Fin bent on building a living space so small it wouldn't require a permit. Just two weeks of construction and 146 sq ft later, he had beat the system, and built himself a beautifully unregulated tiny house.</p> <h2>Colorado Comfy</h2> <p><img width="605" height="456" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>This trailer-bound home from <a href="">Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses</a> retails far below the average tiny home at $27,350, and includes a staircase that doubles as a multi-level storage space, another useful idea in a home of any size.</p> <h2>Sphere Sanctuary</h2> <p><img width="605" height="403" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>&quot;<a href="">A marriage of tree house and sailboat technology</a>,&quot; these spheres populate a rainforest in Vancouver Island, British Columbia. From inside, they more closely resemble a hobbit's house in The Shire, and are a good reminder that irregularly curved lines on things likes doors, windows, and cabinets are often instantly striking in any home.</p> <h2>Living Large, Sort of</h2> <p><img width="480" height="480" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Los Angeles's <a href="">Big and Small House</a> seeks to &quot;invert luxury, in that the smallest house contains the largest room.&quot; In other words, the design sacrifices divided rooms in favor of larger, unobstructed spaces to maximize the house's size constraints. Something to consider when remodeling.</p> <h2>Rustic Little Residence</h2> <p><img width="605" height="402" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Built by a husband and wife team in near Seattle, <a href="">the 140 sq ft Tack House</a>, however tiny, is already paying huge dividends. The couple have dramatically reduced their cost of living (they say the house will be totally paid off in two years), and have reportedly become more polite to each other, a function of being forced to respect each other's space more regularly, and a good lesson for any co-habitants.</p> <h2>The Church of Tiny</h2> <p><img width="605" height="404" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>The Latin-inspired, mosaic-filled <a href="">Davidson Residence</a> in Alpine, California has a sort of Mexican church feel, and is one of the most unique tiny homes anywhere. With A-frame windows, a dramatically curved ceiling, and ceramic aplenty, it's a good reminder that a little character can make up for a lack of space any day.</p> <h2>The Amazing Bike Bunk</h2> <p><img width="605" height="201" src="" alt="" /></p> <p>For people that think of tiny trailer homes as &quot;way too spacious,&quot; there's this absurdly cool <a href="">Trailer Bicycle home</a>, with a couch, bed, TV, and kitchenette, all small enough to be towed by a two-wheeler. And yeah, OK, this one was meant as an art project, but there's no reason why your home can't be one too!</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Mind-Blowing Tiny Houses With Huge Design Inspiration" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Joe Epstein</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Lifestyle Real Estate and Housing downsizing tiny houses Mon, 05 May 2014 14:28:36 +0000 Joe Epstein 1137950 at 10 Surprising Things That Lower the Value of a Home <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-surprising-things-that-lower-the-value-of-a-home" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="home sale" title="home sale" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>The real estate market is making a comeback in most parts of the nation, and sellers are once again enjoying a relatively healthy home-buying market. But in spite of the recovery, there are still some factors that can hurt your home's value. Here are 10 surprising features that can devalue your dwelling. (See also: <a href="">Home Improvements That Add the Most Value</a>)</p> <h2>1. Swimming Pool</h2> <p>While swimming pools are a necessary luxury in many of the country, in other regions, pools can often make the <a href="">value of your home take a dip</a>.</p> <p>In-ground pools mean constant maintenance &mdash; an unattractive prospect for retirees or those looking to simplify their lives. Likewise, when a piece of pool equipment breaks or needs replacing, the associated costs can be daunting. Potential buyers who may already be stretching their budgets to afford the home of their dreams can easily be scared off by the thought of another recurring liability. (See also: <a href="">Costly Things New Homeowners Don&rsquo;t Prepare For</a>)</p> <p>Safety is another big pool-related issue. Many families with young children hate the &quot;what-ifs&quot; that pools represent and will steer clear of homes with this added supervision requirement.</p> <h2>2. Single Garage or No Garage</h2> <p>In the U.S., we love our garages almost as much as we love the cars that go in them. Garages have evolved from practical places to park and protect our cars to essential overflow storage for sports equipment, bikes, seasonal decorations, and lawn equipment. Homes with no garage space have limited appeal. And those with only a single garage will restrict a seller's market to one-car families &mdash; typically, retirees and singles. (See also: <a href="">How to Organize Your Garage</a>)</p> <h2>3. Multi-Story Homes</h2> <p>Although multi-story homes pack more square footage into a smaller footprint, they aren't always an attractive selling feature for homebuyers. For obvious reasons, families with toddlers and older buyers tend to shy away from homes with stairs. Multi-story homes that feature a bedroom and bath on the main level fare better than those without.</p> <h2>4. Sub-Par Schools</h2> <p>Being in a <a href="">top-notch school district</a> remains a top priority for many homebuyers for a range of reasons. Living near a low-performing school can drive down home values and limit the market to those buyers without school-aged children or those who can afford the added expense of a private education.</p> <h2>5. Unfortunate Positioning: T-Intersection or End of Cul-de-Sac</h2> <p>While cul-de-sacs are often viewed as safer neighborhood street design, being at the end of one means constantly having cars turn around in front of your house and getting used to headlights sweeping through your windows at all hours of the night. The same effect can devalue houses positioned at the end of T-intersections. Savvy house hunters will immediately see the potential for a not-so-quiet home life with these properties.</p> <h2>6. Proximity to Airport, Interstate, or Train</h2> <p>While there's an argument to be made for easy access to freeways, commuter trains, and other forms of mass transit, it can be a tough sell. Buyers like a convenient location, but not when it comes at the expense of their peace and quiet and air quality. Homes that are too close to airports, freeways, and trains suffer from skittish buyers scared off by exhaust fumes and the constant hum of traffic.</p> <h2>7. Corner Lot</h2> <p>Often larger than their standard counterparts, corner lots get quite a bit of positive press in the real estate world, but there's a downside. Sure, homes on corner lots have neighbors on only one side, but they have traffic on two. Also, corner lots typically have sidewalks cutting through the lawn in two directions &mdash; and that means more snow-shoveling in the winter.</p> <h2>8. Sloped Lot</h2> <p>Homes on sloped lots can be a challenging sell for a few different reasons. First, lawn maintenance becomes an issue, especially with steep slopes. Particularly for older homeowners, mowing grass and raking leaves take on a whole new dynamic when you're struggling to maintain your balance. Second, depending on the position of the home, sloped lots can often pose runoff or drainage issues from the higher elevations. Finally, skiing and sledding notwithstanding, yards with a dramatic slope can limit outdoor recreation options too &mdash; a bummer for active families with young kids.</p> <h2>9. Towering Trees Too Close</h2> <p>Large trees planted too close to a house mean complex root systems may eventually pose a threat to the home's foundation. Additionally, mature trees that tower over the roofline require diligent pruning to avoid damage from falling limbs during storms. A good rule of thumb is to plant smaller breed trees about 15' from the foundation of a home. Larger varieties should be planted at least 20' from the foundation. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors has lots more good advice about <a href="">tree dangers</a> homeowners and buyers should consider. (See also<a href="">: Landscaping for Your Climate)</a></p> <h2>10. Properties With Easements</h2> <p>An easement gives someone the right to use land they don't own. Easements are limited in scope and usually involve situations where adjoining properties need to share a single driveway, or neighbors being granted rights to cross land that's not theirs in order to access public parks or bodies of water. Understandably, properties with attached easements can make some buyers uneasy; the idea of being required to share property in even a highly-specific way can be unsettling. In addition, easements can limit or prohibit certain types of redevelopment.</p> <p>If you're a seller facing one or more of these real estate marketing challenges, it's easy to feel powerless to shift the odds in your favor. But remember, what's seen as a negative to one buyer may be a striking positive to another. Help your cause by hiring a real estate professional with a proven track record in marketing and selling properties of all types. Be upfront about your home's challenges; use staging to maximize its pluses; and if possible, be flexible about the terms of the sale. With a little creativity and an assertive sales strategy, you can find a buyer who's the perfect fit for your little slice of heaven.</p> <p><em>How did you overcome a real estate challenge and successfully sell your home? What perceived negatives turned out to be positives to your buyers?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Surprising Things That Lower the Value of a Home" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Kentin Waits</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing buying a home home sale home value Thu, 24 Apr 2014 08:24:18 +0000 Kentin Waits 1136715 at 25 Cheap and Easy Fixes That Make Your House Look Amazing <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/25-cheap-and-easy-fixes-that-make-your-house-look-amazing" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="home" title="home" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I'm currently in the process of selling my house, and it's been quite an ordeal getting it up to snuff for listing. Over the six years my family has lived here, we've surely settled in. Things like dirty baseboards, slow draining tubs, and a rogue dead outlet didn't seem so horrible; we got used to all these little inconveniences because our minds were elsewhere. When it came time to fix everything, however, we were quite overwhelmed with our to-do list. (See also: <a href="">Cheap Ways to Stage Your Home</a>)</p> <p>Now that we've finished going through our house from head to toe, I can surely tell you &mdash; tiny changes add up to something big &mdash; mammoth, actually. And you don't need to put your house on the market to improve your habitat and your life. Even if you are living in your forever home, there are 25 super easy projects you can do inexpensively or even for free to really put some extra shine to your house that you didn't know you could get back!</p> <h2>1. Deep Clean</h2> <p>We all try to keep our homes tidy and clean, but when's the last time you lifted all your carpets and vacuumed the floor underneath them? What about scrubbing behind your toilet? Dusting off the blades of your ceiling fans and blinds? Think of all those dark corners and slowly chip away at dusting and scrubbing them. Once they're totally clean, it's amazing the difference you'll feel. I like to start with one room or floor at a time and plow right through. (See also: <a href="">One-Month Guide to Spring Cleaning</a>)</p> <h2>2. Toss and Donate</h2> <p>Then comes clutter. Spring is a great time to go through your hoard and see what you want to keep, to toss, and to donate to local thrift shops and charities. I always start with my closet and then work my way through the rest of the house. Old pots and pans or anything I haven't actually used in the last six months are up for debate. I'd rather have open spaces than store stuff I may never use again anyway. If you are questioning if you should purge something, put it (and like-items) in a box to store in your basement or attic for three months. If you don't miss it, clear it out of your house.</p> <h2>3. Scrub Appliances</h2> <p>&quot;Our refrigerator isn't too bad,&quot; I told my husband. And then I moved the food around and saw lots of drips and spills that had hardened into quite a sticky mess. I took a couple hours one day and set the oven to self clean, took all the food out of the fridge and freezer and scrubbed it with an all-purpose cleaner, and then finished off with cleaning out the filter in the dishwasher. They're like new again! (See also: <a href="">8 Tips to Make Your Fridge Last Forever</a>)</p> <h2>4. Rummage Through Your Pantry</h2> <p>While you're at it, go through your food to see what's stale, expired, or might be headed that way soon. You'd be surprised how much space you gain by taking stock, and you might actually find foods you didn't know you had. I have definitely saved some grocery dollars by using up ingredients instead of letting them go to waste in the back of a cabinet.</p> <h2>5. Oil Your Hinges</h2> <p>Open all your doors and hinges and spray a little WD-40 to get those suckers sliding quietly. If you don't feel like running to the store, you can also use three different <a href="">household items</a> &mdash; soap, petroleum jelly, and paraffin wax &mdash; for the same silencing effect.</p> <h2>6. Wipe Down Trim and Molding</h2> <p>I don't know about you, but I never wash my door jams or baseboards. I didn't think they were too dirty until I looked closer. Coffee splashes, fingerprints, dust, and other (toddler) messes were very apparent on ours, so a little elbow grease (and a few <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B001339ZMW&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20">Magic Erasers</a>) got them bright white again.</p> <h2>7. Or Even Paint Them</h2> <p>Beyond the general cleaning, some of our molding was actually dinged up from years of moving furniture, accidental kicks and scrapes, and even damage from that time when we hung a doorway pull-up bar. I went to our local hardware store and got some paint samples to find a glossy off-white that matched closely and then got a sample size can of paint. I took an artist's paintbrush around and blended them back in again.</p> <h2>8. Safeguard</h2> <p>Take a tour of your home's fire alarms, extinguishers, and carbon monoxide detectors. If they need new batteries, get new batteries today. If they are expired, broken, or are missing entirely &mdash; buy new today. Safety is one area not to skimp on or leave until tomorrow.</p> <h2>9. Filter and Maintain</h2> <p>As a first-time homeowner, I didn't really know we needed to maintain our furnace every single year. Now, that's not a hard and fast rule, but it's certainly a good idea. At the very least, we put in a new filter each year and make sure to call in help if we suspect there might be an issue. Keeping a furnace, water heater, air conditioning unit, or whatever else in working order is much cheaper than buying a new one. All it takes is a quick call to make an appointment, and be sure to check websites of bigger companies for coupons.</p> <h2>10. Clean Windows</h2> <p>On the inside and out, our windows are exposed to a vast number of icky things. Whether it's handprints, dirt, bugs, or whatever else that's obscuring your view, all it takes is some glass cleaner and time to get them clear again. (See also: <a href="">The Best All-Purpose Cleaners</a>)</p> <h2>11. Shine Up Floors</h2> <p>We have gorgeous wood floors that we clean with basic water and vinegar, but we called in the big guns with some store-bought <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B005V9Z9NI&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20">Orange Glo cleaner</a> to get them gleaming. It's something I'd love to start doing once a month, as it helps condition the wood beyond my basic washing. One bottle was only about $6, but I think it will last four or five applications in our small home.</p> <h2>12. Freshen Linens</h2> <p>I'll just come out and admit that we don't make our beds every day. So, doing so has majorly changed how we feel upstairs. Beyond that, we try to change our sheets more frequently these days to keep everything fluffy and smelling great. Be sure to add towels, shower curtains, bath rugs, curtains, and any other cloth item to this list.</p> <h2>13. Caulk Around</h2> <p>Our bathroom caulking had seen better days. Instead of scrubbing the mold and mildew, we decided to start with a fresh application. It sounds more complicated than it actually is. Simply rip out, re-do, and let dry &mdash; <a href="">here's how</a>.</p> <h2>14. Repurpose and Reimagine</h2> <p>Have a hall closet continually crammed with random junk? Follow the steps above to clean and perhaps clear out and then try to come up with a purpose for that space so it doesn't become a catch-all. We have a small closet near our kitchen that we hung some cheap shelving in and we now use as a pantry. It's actually &quot;supposed&quot; to be a coat closet, but that just didn't work for our family. Give spaces jobs to do, and you'll maximize your living spaces. (See also: <a href="">How to Declutter and Keep Your Stuff Too</a>)</p> <h2>15. Focus on Window Treatments</h2> <p>I'm sure we all have a few curtain rods, panels, blinds we bought long ago but haven't yet taken the time to hang. Why not skip the sitcom tonight and take that half an hour and finish that project today? It's incredible how simple window treatments can change the feel (and function) of a whole room. Plus, you'll gain back some storage space.</p> <h2>16. Patch and Paint Walls</h2> <p>I love the deep grey color of our living and dining room walls. However, if you look closely, you'll see some thin spots where the light blue beneath is still peeking through. Beyond that, you can see some holes from where we moved artwork or other nailed or screwed in decorative items. A container of lightweight patching is only a few dollars (and some people just use toothpaste!). If you don't have leftover paint, just head to the store and get a sample sized can in a matching color.</p> <h2>17. De-Clog and Decide About Hiring a Plumber</h2> <p>There's a quick and easy way to determine if your slow-draining tub or sink is a plumbing issue or not: Buy a container of de-clogger and follow its instructions. If you get things moving again &mdash; great! If not, call in a professional. Letting clogs go untreated can cause bigger issues in the long run.</p> <h2>18. Rearrange Furniture</h2> <p>Staging is something I'm no good at, but it makes a huge difference in the flow and feel of a house's interior. Why wait for potential buyers to do something like this? Consider moving around your couches, tables, and chairs to a new style that works well for you. And feel free to change your floor plan a million times until you get it just right.</p> <h2>19. Shine Some Light</h2> <p>Check out all your light fixtures to see where new lightbulbs are needed. Consider investing a little extra money in the energy efficient compact varieties. Not only do they use less power, they also purportedly last longer &mdash; which I have learned from experience. We didn't replace our overhead light in our bedroom for several months. Ridiculous, but it made such a difference to get it working again. (See also: <a href="">Best Energy Efficient Light Bulbs</a>)</p> <h2>20. Match Your Outlet Plates</h2> <p>I surveyed our interior and discovered that most of our light switch and outlet plates didn't match. Now, this isn't an issue beyond surface aesthetics, but new plates need not be expensive. If you can, try to get consistency going in your house. It's a subtle detail, but every corner counts.</p> <h2>21. Head Outside</h2> <p>Taking care of our spaces isn't limited to the indoors, unfortunately. Look around your yard to find any debris. Rake up any leaves or brush away any dirt that's on your patios or decks. Consider planting a few low maintenance flowers or shrubs to spruce things up a bit. No need for heavy landscaping, which might just require more work to maintain.</p> <h2>22. Tackle Simple DIY</h2> <p>One of my favorite cheap projects is to use vinyl tile ($1 a square foot where we live) to refresh an old floor. Painting a room a new hue can have big impact, too. Hanging smart shelving is another project most novices can undertake in an afternoon. Make a list of items you'd like to undertake and be realistic about your expectations. For example, if you've never tried your hand at plumbing, you could cause more harm than good.</p> <h2>23. Hire Help for the Rest</h2> <p>Then make a list of things you <em>don't</em> have the ability to do (whether for time or safety reasons). We had a light switch that was giving us trouble and a toilet that was leaking and our fix wouldn't hold. Calling the neighborhood handyman once versus multiple times can actually save you money. Many charge a flat rate just to come to your home, so it's best to get your money's worth while you can!</p> <h2>24. Nest</h2> <p>Sometimes all you need for renewed pride in your house is something homey. Slap an inexpensive wreath on your front door or add a flag pole with a festive banner. Hang a picture. Get a couple new throw pillows or even a new rug. We waited to do these things until our house was listed, but once we did &mdash; we were surely sad we didn't do it sooner.</p> <h2>25. Live Like You're Listed</h2> <p>From there, it's just a matter of keeping things clean and tidy, which is much more difficult in practice than it sounds in theory. I suggest following the 5- or 10-minute rule. If you can pick up, clean, or fix something in less than 5 or 10 minutes, do it right away. You'll keep up your spaces easily this way. Leave bigger projects to the weekend, but make a running list so you don't forget anything.</p> <p><em>Anything I've missed? Please tell us in comments your best, low-effort, high-impact home care projects!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="25 Cheap and Easy Fixes That Make Your House Look Amazing" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Marcin</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Home Real Estate and Housing home maintenance Home repair home sale Fri, 18 Apr 2014 08:48:21 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1135888 at 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