You landed a new
job and find yourself planning a cross-country move in three months. Or, maybe
you finally have the time to spend on home improvement now that the kids
are out of the house. Here are some great approaches to home improvements
geared toward a wide variety of budgets. We interviewed a number of experts to
ask for tips, and all
agreed with New York City-based designer Courtney Cachet who said, “For anything past the very basic DIY
projects, I strongly recommend a licensed and insured professional.”
Ready to channel your inner Bob Vila? Click
on your budget, then jump to ideas for how to increase your
home’s value on your budget.
Beverly Hills home designer Brian DeVille recommends
starting with your outdoor lighting. He explains, “I find that curb appeal is
key. If you’ve done work inside, they’re not going to see what’s inside. If you
drive around an expensive neighborhood, you’ll see the homes have exterior
lighting. Lighting can make a home appear taller and add symmetry to the
structure and the yard.” More ideas to consider:
a bed of flowers to mulching around trees and other plantings—nothing beautifies
a home more than an eye-appealing landscape. “I always recommend yellow,
because yellow is the first color the brain processes,” says Courtney Cachet.
“It attracts the eye and looks cheerful. A mix with some pinks, greens, and
potted plants, and you’re done!”
as in fashion, accessories are important. That includes new house numbers, a
new front door, mailbox, and planters,” says Cachet. “The entryway is key—have
a nice solid door,” explains Deville. “If it has wobbly hardware people are
going to assume the whole home isn’t well-maintained.”
or cabinets. “If
you have hardwood floors, even if you can’t afford to refinish, pull up any
wall-to-wall carpet,” says Nyack, New York-based home stager, Darrow Samberg. If
your kitchen cabinets are looking outdated, Darrow recommends not spending
money on new ones but instead sanding and painting the ones you have.
Pay to get your home inspection
before listing it.
“It’s much wiser to start out knowing which projects are crucial to repairing
before potential buyers walk through the door—you may decide to do an essential
roof repair rather than a cosmetic bathroom remodel,” says DeVille. You’re also less likely to recoup your
investment in a major kitchen or bathroom remodel than you are to get back what
you spend on basic home maintenance such as new siding. Other $500
projects to consider:
home’s exterior, shutters, and trim.
Erect a simple fence around your
backyard for privacy and safety for kids and pets.
Do a basic “man-cave”
or garage spiff-up: Coat the floors in glossy, durable paint, and
install inexpensive-but-sturdy shelving and peg board.
Hire a pro to power
outside patios, decks, and walkways.
Build a surround for
your TV. “Let’s face it, there’s nothing inspiring about a flat-screen TV just
floating on a bare wall,” says Stamford, Connecticut based interior designer Kay Story.
“But there are some simple ways to make it look like part of your design scheme
without breaking the bank. One option is to build a framed wall out around your
set, creating a window for the TV to sit within. The walls will also appear
more interesting because there are multiple dimensions on an otherwise
flat wall. Be sure to bury all cords in the wall. Add some floating wood or
stainless steel shelves below for decor and you have a super chic TV room.” Other
$1,000 projects to consider:
your home’s interior a paint job, just keep in mind that bold colors
aren’t to most buyers’ taste. Go for neutral shades for the widest appeal.
Howard Wiggins shares this tip: “Paint stores have color specialists that will
help you find the perfect shade—they also know what’s in style right now.” Pros say that neutral paint tones can help make
a home’s interior look larger.
outdated or broken furniture, rugs, and artwork. Invest in key
items that add pops of color and modernity throughout your home.
and install a “smart” thermostat. This can save you about $200 in energy
costs. Even cooler? Systems like those made by Nest can be controlled remotely
with your smartphone or tablet.
in a new front porch. This adds visual interest and a welcoming entryway,
especially if your home’s architecture is flat, like a ranch home. If your
porch has started to look dated or has structural issues, rebuild it. As
DeVille says, “If all your improvements are made on your home’s interior,
you’ll never have a chance to show potential buyers the inside.”
Amp up your home’s
interior lighting. “I’m working on a house from the 1920s now. People
lived in a very different way back then—more low-lit wall sconces. I added four
recessed lighting elements per room—one room for $400 or so. It really gives
you a bright, happy room. Pay attention to lighting color—choose a daylight
bulb,” says Howard Wiggins, interior designer and author based in
Nashville. “Lighting is the best way to not only illuminate a room in a
property, but also an excellent method of creating individual ambiances in any
room,” adds Wiggins. Other value-enhancing projects in this price
up your countertops. With a modicum of construction skills, this can be
a DIY project that improves the whole look of your kitchen. Keep this
improvement under budget by using
materials such as stainless steel, polished concrete, stone, wood, laminate,
or ceramic tile.
space by taking down a wall. Potential buyers love big, open spaces.
(You can even remove a load-bearing wall, though most people don’t know it; our
home will remain structurally sound if you leave a beam at the ceiling.)
your crown molding. Do away with cracked or chipped trim that can add
years to the appearance of a home. Pay particular attention to making your
living room or entryway look cohesive and finished.
half-bath to make it wow,”
suggests Houston-based interior designer Rainey Richardson. “Sand the walls and add wallpaper with
bold print and pops of color to add some pizzazz. Update the lighting and
faucet to compliment the great paper. Don’t be afraid to choose metals that are
less common like chrome and brushed gold to add interest. Choose a quiet
countertop, like a solid quartz, to finish the space.” Other $5,000
projects to consider:
your half-bath spectacular. Unique spaces will make your home
memorable and could increase your value by $7,500 or more.
addition of attic bedrooms and basement family rooms can return anywhere from
70 to more than 80% of the money spent.
Add a deck. When selling, a
well-maintained backyard deck can hold 65 to 90% of your investment.
Spring for a new heat
basic model can lower your heating and cooling expenses significantly.
kitchen, considered by all real-estate pros as the most
important room in the house, tops the list. “Replace
cabinet door and door fronts with a style that makes sense with your
architecture,” says Rainey Richardson, a Houston-based interior designer. Paint or stain the kitchen cabinetry to
compliment the space and adjacent areas. Select a new countertop that has some
veining and movement to add interest. Finally, choose a backsplash with a
decorative tile to finish the look. Keep the backsplash simple and remember
that white is the most popular kitchen color with buyers. This update could
increase the value of your home by $20,000 or more. Other $10,000
projects to consider—all courtesy of Rainey Richardson:
Replace the flooring
in your home’s common areas. Bamboo is a beautiful and
Add interior shutters to the windows. This
gives a more finished and custom look to your home.
Replace windows with
new, energy-efficient ones. Collect at least a couple of bids to
ensure you get the best rate.
improvement is one you can enjoy well before you ever list your home.
Laura Vogel – To view the original article click here
With your house-hunting and lender searches
now in the rearview mirror, you can start steering your way around the final
bend that leads to the driveway of your new San Angelo, TX,
home: settlement day and closing. A few days before you meet
with your real estate agent, a title company representative, and your loan
officer for this joyous event, you should have received from the title company
a copy of your closing
documents. Read these documents carefully — they will include
details on the closing costs that are due upon settlement.
Closing costs are
lender and third-party fees paid at the closing of a real estate transaction,
and they can be financed as part of the deal or be paid upfront. They range
from 2% to 5% of the purchase price of a home. (For those who buy a $150,000
home, for example, that would amount to between $3,000 and $7,500 in closing
fees.) Understanding and educating yourself about these costs before settlement
day arrives might help you avoid any headaches at the end of the deal.
costs will cover both recurring and nonrecurring fees that are a part of your
transaction. Recurring costs are ongoing expenses that you will continue to pay
as a homeowner, with a portion due upon closing; nonrecurring fees are one-time
fees associated with borrowing money and the services that were required to
purchase the property.
closing costs are placed in your escrow account, which you might view as a
forced savings account for those upcoming home expenses you’ll be facing. They
can vary, but the most common ones are property taxes (one to eight months’
worth, depending on when your home purchase coincided with the local tax
billing cycle), homeowners insurance (the
annual premium is typically due at closing, plus another two or three months’
worth of payments), and prepaid loan interest (for the number of days you’ll
have the loan until its first payment is due). Also placed into escrow are
costs for title insurance,
which is considered a must because it
protects you in case the seller doesn’t have full rights and warranties to the
title of the property.
closing costs are fees paid to your lender and other professionals involved in
the transaction. They include: any home inspection fees; any discount points
you’re paying upfront to lower your interest rate; an origination fee, which is
charged by the lender to process your loan; a document-prep fee, which covers
the cost of preparing your loan file for processing; an appraisal fee, which
covers the cost of a professional estimating the market value of the home; and
a survey fee for verifying the home’s property lines. Also expect as
nonrecurring costs: an underwriting fee for the cost of evaluating and
verifying your loan application; a credit report fee for pulling your credit scores;
title search and recording fees; and a wire-transfer fee for wiring funds from
the lender to your escrow account.
best time to study closing costs is when you’re shopping for a
lender and can compare your desired loan amount with
interest rates you’re offered (plus any discount points you might plan to pay
upfront to lower those rates). Then use a closing-cost calculator to
determine what your costs might be. The calculator will gauge your monthly
mortgage payments, based on whether you’re financing the closing costs into
your mortgage or whether you’ve decided to pay them upfront.
By Trulia – To view the original article
many, fall is undeniably one of the most coveted seasons of the year. What's
not to love? The leaves are beautiful, pumpkin spice abounds, football spirit
is in high gear, it's cool but not cold, and we've got Thanksgiving to top it
many don't know is that fall is also one of the best times of the year to buy a
home. Here's why:
you're in the market to buy, now may be the time as you'll have the upper hand
in most cases. Plus, if you're a first-time homebuyer and you close before the
end of the year, you can take advantage of tax breaks.
of Freddie Mac – To view the original article click here
On closing day,
all parties will sign the papers officially sealing the deal, and ownership of
the property will be transferred to you. It’s your opportunity to make any
last-minute changes to the transaction.
day before closing, gather all the paperwork you have received throughout the
homebuying process: Loan Estimate, contract, proof of title search
and insurance if necessary, flood certification, proof of homeowners insurance
and mortgage insurance, home appraisal, inspection
reports and Closing Disclosure. You might need to refer to
these documents at closing.
home-sale contracts entitle you to a walk-through inspection of the property 24
hours before closing. This is to ensure that the seller has vacated the
property and left it in the condition specified in the sale contract.
there are any major problems, you can ask to delay the closing or request that
the seller deposit money into an escrow account to cover the necessary repairs.
will receive the following important documents:
This five-page document provides details of the mortgage loan,
including the loan terms, estimated monthly payments and closing costs. You
are not supposed to receive this for the first time at the closing table; the
lender is required to give it to you at least three business days before you
close on the loan. During this period, you are encouraged to compare the Loan
Estimate with the Closing Disclosure.
This document states your promise to repay the mortgage. It
indicates the amount and terms of the loan and what the lender can do if you
fail to make payments.
Mortgage or deed of trust
This document secures the note and gives your lender a claim
against the home if you fail to live up to the terms of the mortgage note.
Certificate of occupancy
If you are buying a newly constructed house, you need this
legal document to move in.
Holden Lewis – To view the original article click here
of owning a home and wondering how much you can afford? You're not
alone. It's one of the most important questions you'll need to answer
before you can begin house hunting — and many factors, aside from your income
and car payment, come into play.
So, what is your
determine how much you can afford, here are two important guidelines used by
most lenders you'll need to consider:
addition to these key ratios, all of the following will play a role:
Courtesy of Freddie Mac –
To view the original article click here
a home is a huge investment. Before you jump into the wonderful world of
homeownership, make sure you are prepared with these six steps. Learn about
credit score requirements, mortgage options and other must-do’s.
higher your credit score, the lower your
660 or 680, you’re either going to have to pay sizable fees or a higher down
payment,” says Barry Zigas, housing policy director for the Consumer Federation
the other end, a score of 700 to 720 will get you a good deal, and 750 and
above will garner the best rates on the market.
Improve your chances by: pulling
your credit reports and ensuring you’re not being unfairly penalized for old,
paid or settled debts. Get your credit report and score today,
free and with no obligation, at myBankrate.
applying for new credit a year before you apply for financing. And keep the
moratorium in place until after you close on your home.
buyer’s mantra: Get a home that’s financially comfortable.
are various rules of thumb that will help you get an idea of how much home you
can afford. If you’re using FHA financing, your home payment can’t exceed 31
percent of your monthly income. But with some mitigating factors, the FHA will
let you go higher.
conventional loans, a safe formula is that home expenses should not exceed 28
percent of your gross monthly income, says Susan Tiffany, retired director of
personal finance publications for adults for the Credit Union National
a rough assessment of how much house you can afford, check out Bankrate’s new house
Improve your chances by: trying
on that financial obligation long before you sign the mortgage papers. Before
you shop for a home, calculate the
mortgage payment for the home in your intended price range,
along with the increased expenses (such as taxes, insurance and utilities).
Then bank the difference between that and what you’re paying now.
on your credit and financing, you’ll typically need to save enough money for a
down payment — somewhere between 3 and 20 percent of the home’s price.
get an FHA loan, you need a credit score of 580 or higher.
exception: Veterans Affairs loans, which require no down payment.
Comparison shop for a VA loan today
cash expense: closing costs. Whatever your loan source, you’ll also need money
to pay closing costs. For a $200,000 mortgage, closing costs run (depending on
where you live) from $2,300 to $4,000. Get the average closing costs in your
state at Bankrate’s
closing costs map.
Improve your chances by: banking
your own money and seeking down payment assistance. Often, it’s location-based
or tagged to a certain type of buyer, like first-timers. Search online with the
city name, then the county name, along with word combinations such as “down
payment assistance,” “first-time homebuyers” and “homebuyer’s assistance.”
a buyer’s market, you can also negotiate to have the seller pay a portion of
the closing costs.
your savings is something you should do over and above saving money for the
down payment and closing. Your lender wants to see that you’re not living
paycheck to paycheck. If you have three to five months’ worth of mortgage
payments set aside, that makes you a much better loan candidate. And some
lenders and backers, like the FHA, will give you a little more latitude on
other factors if they see that you have a cash cushion.
money will also help cover maintenance and repair issues that come up when you
own a home. While repairs are sporadic, items such as a new roof, water heater
or other big-ticket items can hit suddenly and hard.
Improve your chances by: setting
aside money every month. A good rule of thumb: On average, you’ll spend 2.5 to
3 percent of your home’s value annually on upkeep, repairs and maintenance. If
you’re buying a $250,000 home, aim to save $520 to $625 per month.
some interest on your savings today by shopping savings accounts.
serious home shoppers, “the No. 1 thing is they better have everything in
order,” says Dick Gaylord, broker with Re/Max Real Estate Specialists in Long
Beach, California, and former president of the National Association of
Realtors. That means that, before the real home shopping begins, you want to get financing in place, he says.
Improve your chances by: getting
financing in place “before you walk through the first house,” Gaylord says.
Otherwise, he asks, “How do you know how much you can
you’re buying today for yourself and your family, you want a home that will
make you happy for the next few years.
can’t always count on a quick sale. And depending on how much you put down, and
how much you have to shell out to sell and relocate, short-term ownership can
be a pretty expensive proposition.
Improve your chances by: stepping
back and making certain you like the house.
you find the right house, shop for a mortgage on Bankrate.com.
Dana Dratch – To view the original article click here
Most people with private mortgage
insurance want to know how to get rid of it. And for good
reason: PMI tacks on a substantial extra fee to your already massive
mortgage payments. Lenders traditionally require PMI for borrowers who put down
less than 20% on a house. Of course, it's a godsend if you couldn't afford a
home otherwise. But once you have PMI, is there any way to
let it go?
starters, let's get one thing straight: “Mortgage insurance is neither
good nor bad,” says Michael Brown, branch
manager for Churchill Mortgage in Nashville, TN. “It can help people become
homeowners who would not otherwise qualify because they don’t have 20% to put
down. But in the long run, the removal of mortgage insurance could save home
buyers hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year, depending on their loan
ranges in price from about 0.3% to 1.15% of your home loan (the worse your
credit score, the higher the percentage). On a $300,000 house, that's an extra
$900 to $4,500 you'll pay per year. So, it's understandable homeowners
will want to learn how to purge this fee as soon as possible.
understand how to get rid of PMI, you'll first need to wrap your head
around the concept of a home's loan-to-value ratio—which
compares the amount of money you borrowed to your home's value.
calculate your LTV, divide your loan amount by the value of your home. For
example, if you borrow $135,000 for a house valued at $150,000, your LTV would
be 0.9, or 90%.
Your LTV changes over time, and once it reaches 80% or lower,
paying PMI is no longer a requirement.
are two main ways to get rid of PMI, each with its own pros and
cons. The most obvious is just to keep chipping away at paying your
mortgage. It may take several years, but you will get there in due time without
stressing your finances too much. Making extra mortgage payments will help
you get there sooner, too.
to get rid of PMI is to make home improvements, such as adding a
bathroom or renovating a kitchen. From there, you wait one year, then get the
home appraised—hopefully for a higher value that pushes your LTV to a level
where you can offload PMI.
make sure the upgrades you are doing add substantial
value," says Allen Shayanfekr,
founder and CEO of real estate investment company Sharestates. In other words: Stick with
renovation projects with a high return on investment such
as adding attic insulation or a new steel front door (here's a full list of home improvements that'll pay off).
whatever you do, don't fall into the trap of pouring too much money into
renovations that could have gone toward whittling down your mortgage.
the Homeowner's Protection Act, your mortgage
lender is legally required to cancel your PMI coverage once you pay down your
mortgage to 78% of the principal, as long as you are current on your
payments and do not have an FHA loan.
your LTV is below 80%, ask your lender to cancel your PMI, making sure to
follow its guidelines. If your lender doesn't approve your PMI
cancellation in a timely manner, follow up by sending written complaints that restate your
request. Send the letters by certified mail, and keep copies so that you have
evidence in case you need to take court action.
line: Don’t fret if you have to pay PMI. It may be the thing you need to get
your dream house, and it doesn’t have to last forever.
Julie Ryan Evans – To view the original article click here
your cash for more important things, like, you know, your mortgage.
You can’t swing a tool belt
without hitting a website or TV network offering tips on taking care of your
digs. Save money by watering your lawn at night! No, water it in the morning!
No, dig it up and replace it with a drought-hardy meadow!
Throw in the info you pick up
from well-meaning friends and there’s a sea of home care truisms out there, some of which can sink your budget.
Fact: Even rock can be damaged.
Marble, quartz, travertine,
soapstone, and limestone can all be stained. Regular household cleaners can
dull their surfaces over time. And marble is maddeningly fragile — it’s the
prima donna of stone.
It’s easy to scratch. It’s easy
to stain. Here’s the worst part: Mildly acidic substances like soda, coffee,
lemon juice, even hard water will eat into marble, creating a cloudy, dull spot
in a process known as etching.
“Spill a glass of wine on a
marble counter and go to bed without cleaning it, the next morning you’ll have
a problem,” says Louwrens Mulder, owner of Superior Stone in Knoxville, Tenn.
And while stone counters won’t
crack under a hot pot, such direct heat can discolor quartz or marble, says
Mulder. So be nice to your counters, no matter what they’re made of. And note
that the best rock for your buck is granite. “It doesn’t stain or scratch. It’s
tough because it’s volcanic rock,” Mulder says. Which means it can stand up to
all the merlot and barbecue sauce you can spill on it.
Myth 2: Your Smoke Detector's Test Button Is Foolproof
Fact: The test button doesn’t tell you what you
really need to know.
Yes, check your smoke detector twice a year. But all that test
button will tell you is whether the alarm sound is working,
not if the sensor that detects smoke is working. Pretty key
The best way to check your device is with real smoke. Light a
long, wooden kitchen match, blow it out, and hold it near the unit. If the
smoke sets off the alarm, it’s working. If not, replace the batteries. If it
still doesn’t work, you need a new smoke detector. And replace those batteries
once a year anyway, because dead batteries are the No. 1 reason smoke detectors
Myth 3: Gutter Guards Are Maintenance-Free
Fact: You gotta clean gutter guards, too.
Gutter guards keep out leaves, but small debris like seeds, pine
straw, and flower buds will still get through.
Gutter guards can lessen your work, though —
sometimes a lot. Instead of shoveling out wheelbarrow loads of leaves and other
crap twice a year, you might just need to clean them every two years. But if
there are lots of trees in your yard, once a year might be necessary.
Tips to Repair Those Dastardly Gutters
Myth 4: A Lemon Is a Great Way to Clean a Disposal
wanting to use natural cleaners is admirable, all of them will damage your
disposal and pipes over time.
The lemon’s acidic juice will corrode the metal parts of your
disposal. The mixture of salt and ice contains metal-eating acid, too. The
coffee grounds are abrasive enough to clean the gunk off the blades and make it
smell like a cup of americano, but they’ll accumulate in pipes and clog them.
The best natural cleaner for your disposal is good old baking
soda. It’s mildly abrasive so it will clean the blades, but it’s a base, not an
acid, and won’t damage the metal. Best of all, a box with enough baking soda
big enough to clean your disposal twice costs less than a buck.
Myth 5: Mowing Your Lawn Super Short Means You'll Mow Less Often
Fact: You might not have to mow as often, but
your lawn will
look like awful.
Cut that grass under an inch high, and you’ll never have to mow
again because your grass will die. Mowing a lawn down to the root — a screw-up
known as scalping — is like cutting all the leaves off a plant.
Grass blades make and store your lawn’s energy. Removing more
than 1/3 of the length of the blade will leave your grass too weak to withstand
weeds and pests. It also exposes the roots to the sun, causing the lawn to dry
out quickly. Leave 1 to 3 inches of grass above the roots to keep your lawn
Myth 6: CFLs Cost Too Much, and Are Dangerous
Fact: CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) have come down in price
since they first hit the market and don’t contain enough mercury to cause any
You can buy one now for as low as $3. And replacing one
incandescent bulb with a CFL will save nearly $60 a year for
the lifetime of the bulb, says Consumer Reports. CFLs last an average of 5
years, so one bulb can save $300. A houseful of them, say 20, will save $600
And CFLs are a safe option. They actually lower your exposure to
mercury indirectly, because they use 70 percent less electricity than
incandescent bulbs. That means the coal-fired power plants that spew 340
million pounds of mercury into the air each year won’t have to run as long to
keep our houses lit. Fewer toxins, lower power bills. What’s not to love?
Myth 7: A Trendy Kitchen Re-Do Will Increase My Home's Value
Like using lemons in your disposal (don’t
You’re always on the lookout for smart ideas and hacks to manage
your home (and save money!)
— whether that means listening to the wisdom of your parents who’ve owned a
home longer than you’ve been alive, or scouring every corner of the internet
for savvy tips.
But just because a tip has been pinned, shared, and Instagrammed
thousands of times doesn’t make it smart. Here are eight tips (myths, really)
that most people believe are good advice, but instead will cost you cash you
don’t need to spend:
What it could cost you: A plumber’s visit (and
maybe a new disposal)
Proceed with caution when it comes to this well-circulated DIY
fix. Citric acid is a natural deodorizer, but plumbing experts say it can
corrode the metal in your disposal. That tough lemon peel can also damage the
grinding components and clog your pipes. Next thing you know you’re Googling
reviews for plumbers.
The better way: Turn on the disposal and,
while running cold water, dump in two or more trays of ice cubes. Despite the
clamor, this will safely dislodge buildup on the walls and the impellers, which
grind up the food.
What it could cost you: Pricier
Despite its name, don’t rely on
duct tape to seal leaks in your HVAC’s ductwork. Testing by the U.S. Department
of Energy found it deteriorates over just a few years (hot air from the HVAC
system degrades the glue), letting conditioned air escape without doing its
The better way: Use
duct mastic (a gooey substance kind of like caulk that dries after applied) to
seal metal and flexible ductwork, and use it along with a layer of fiberglass
mesh for gaps larger than 1/16 of an inch wide. Use gloves with metal ducts
because the edges can be sharp, and mastic is messy stuff.
What it could cost you: A
threat to your health, plus hundreds of $ (even thousands)
bleach can kill mold on non-porous surfaces, it isn’t effective on absorbent or
porous materials — you know, the places it loves to lurk, like grout, caulk,
drywall, insulation, and carpet, according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention. Instead, it just bleaches it so you can’t see it. And diluted bleach
can feed future mold growth (yikes!) because only the water will be absorbed,
which mold just loves.
The better way: Use
a commercial anti-fungal product to take out mold at its roots. And only tackle
mold removal yourself if the area is less than 10 square feet and you use
protective gear, such as a respirator and chemical-resistant gloves. Otherwise,
call in a mold remediation specialist who’ll know how to remove it without
spreading it’s yucky (and potentially harmful) spores.
Related: How to Get Rid of Mold Forever
What it could cost you: Around
$100 a year
Although the air filter should
be changed regularly to keep your home’s HVAC system operating efficiently,
this piece of advice is more of a convenient general rule that could cause you
to throw away perfectly good filters (and money!).
“The harsh truth is that it’s
easier to say, ‘Do it every month’ and know that means people might do it every
three or four months,” says homeowner advocate Tina Gleisner of Home Tips for
The better way: The
Department of Energy recommends checking, but not
necessarily changing, your air filter every month. Change it if it looks dirty,
replacing it at least once every three months.
What it could cost you: Dollars
instead of cents
Most dishwashers now come with
a built-in dispenser for commercial rinse aids, plus a free sample to get you
started. So now you’re hooked (spot-free glasses every time!), and it has
become a regular item on your shopping list, even if it does cost almost $4 for
The better way: If
you’ve never tried, run your dishwasher without a rinse aid. If your water is
soft, your dishwasher may deliver spot-free sparkle without any extra help. But
if you’re still seeing spots, just fill the rinse-aid dispenser with plain
white vinegar (less than a 50 cents for 8 ounces).
Money Tip: Rinse
aid does help dishes dry faster, which stops those annoying wet drips from top
rack to bottom when you unload. But instead of spending money, unload the
bottom rack first while letting the top rack air dry.
Related: Which Homemade Dishwashing Detergent Is Best?
What it could cost you: Thousands
of dollars in disappointment
Dreaming of diving into your
own pool or adding a second bath to put an end to those morning squabbles?
That’s the beauty of owning your own home, you can renovate to make all your
dreams come true. And you’ll get money back on most any improvement you do, but
don’t expect it for all improvements. FYI: A new bath returns 52% of its cost.
The better way: First
off, your own happiness matters, so by all means, follow your remodeling bliss
if you’re financially able. But if payback is important, do some research and
talk to a REALTOR® who knows what buyers are seeking in your market. The Remodeling Impact Report from
The National Association of REALTORS® (the sponsor of HouseLogic) is a
fantastic resource to get the scoop on what projects will boost your equity the
most. For example, it points out that small projects such as an insulation
upgrade, refinishing floors, and even seeding your lawn will recoup almost all,
and in some cases more than, your original investment.
Related: Find Out What Projects Have the
Best Return on Investment
What it could cost you: Higher
energy bills and a potential fire hazard
Social media PSA: Thousands of
pins and shares do not mean a remedy is smart or safe. If you follow this
popular hack, you’ll block the flow of air in your vents, making your HVAC
system work harder and increasing your energy costs. The blockage even can pose
a fire risk when the furnace is pumping out hot air.
The better way: If
fragrant air is what you’re after, there are no shortage of options available
that won’t burn your house down. Give each room — or each day — a signature
scent with all-natural scented candles, sprays, oils, and aromatherapy devices.
If you’re seeking a scent to mask an offensive odor, however, it’s important to
find and remove the source. Some stinky suspects — like mold, mildew, sewage,
and gas leaks — can carry health risks.
What it could cost you: $50
to $100 or more
The last time you bought a
major appliance or even a hand mixer, you were probably offered a warranty or
service plan. While marketed to cover repair costs, these contracts typically
cost more than you would ever spend to fix an item. And keep in mind that most
manufacturers offer at least a 90-day warranty anyway.
The better way: Maintain
the appliance as recommended by the manufacturer, and smartly stash the dollars
you would spend on a warranty in a repair fund instead. Also, buy with a major
credit card, such as AmEx or Visa. Many credit card companies extend product
warranties (for free!) up to a year or so. Might be worth checking to see if
By Amy Howell Hirt – To view
the original article click here
most mortgage borrowers, there are three major loan types: conventional, FHA
and VA. Here is how they compare.
Who they’re for: Conventional
mortgages are ideal for borrowers with good or excellent credit.
Start out right by shopping today for a mortgage.
How they work: Conventional mortgages
are “plain vanilla” home loans. They follow fairly conservative guidelines for:
of monthly income that is spent on debt payments, including mortgages, student
loans, auto loans,
minimum credit card payments and child support.
fees, third-party fees, down payments, mortgage insurance and points can mean
the borrower has to show up at closing with a sizable sum of money out of
out more about closing costs and how to save money.
What’s good: Conventional
mortgages generally pose fewer hurdles than Federal Housing Administration or
Veterans Affairs mortgages, which may take longer to process.
What’s not as good: You’ll
need excellent credit to qualify for the best interest rates.
How they work: The
Federal Housing Administration does not lend money. It insures mortgages.
FHA allows borrowers to spend up to 56 percent or 57 percent of their income on
monthly debt obligations, such as mortgage, credit cards, student loans and car
loans. In contrast, conventional mortgage guidelines tend to cap debt-to-income
ratios at around 43 percent.
many FHA borrowers, the minimum down payment is 3.5 percent. Borrowers can
qualify for FHA loans with credit scores of 580 and even lower.
FHA loan has two mortgage insurance premiums:
What’s good: FHA
loans are often the only option for borrowers with high debt-to-income ratios
and low credit scores.
What’s not as good: To
get rid of FHA premiums, you must refinance the loan.
Who they’re for: Most
active-duty military and veterans qualify for Veterans Affairs mortgages. Many
reservists and National Guard members are eligible. Spouses of military members
who died while on active duty or as a result of a service-connected disability
may also apply.
to know more? Read up on VA loans.
How they work: No
down payment is required from qualified borrowers buying primary residences.
The VA does not lend money, but guarantees loans made by private lenders.
VA charges an upfront VA funding fee, which can be rolled into the loan or paid
by the seller. The funding fee varies from 1.25 percent to 3.3 percent of the
VA allows sellers to pay closing costs but doesn’t require them to. So, the
buyer might need money for closing costs. Borrowers may need money for the
What’s good: VA
borrowers can qualify for 100 percent financing. Veterans do not have to be
first-time buyers and may reuse their benefit.
What’s not as good: According
to the VA, there isn’t a cap on the amount you can borrow. “However, there are
limits on the amount of liability VA can assume, which usually affects the
amount of money an institution will lend you. The loan limits are the amount a
qualified veteran with full entitlement may be able to borrow without making a
down payment. These loan limits vary by county, since the value of a house
depends in part on its location.”
for a VA loan today.
By Holden Lewis – To view
the original article click here