The rental market is booming in cities and towns across the country, which means it can be difficult to find a place to live, let alone score the apartment or townhouse of your dreams.
But those sought-after properties need to go to someone, right? Here are a few ways you can improve your chances of being the lucky one to win the rental lottery wherever you live.
Whenever we’re faced with a decision that has multiple options, we’re often likely to choose the path of least resistance. The same is true of landlords, and you can use it to your advantage.
When you contact the landlord or rental company to schedule a showing, ask what documents are required to move forward with the rental. This typically includes a credit report, references, and pay stubs.
Come to the showing with the required documents in hand so you can move on to the next step as soon as you decide you like the place. If the landlord does not have to wait, they are less likely to show it to other renters while you gather your documents.
The Personality Game
In a market where money is not an object for renters, personality plays a much more significant role in a landlord’s decision. Even when finances are a factor, landlords still like to know that their property is being rented to someone who is going to care for it and give it the respect it deserves.
Show your interest in the property by asking questions during the showing and telling the landlord about yourself. Be honest here — remember that this person will be checking your credit report and employment history! Getting caught in a lie is a surefire way to lose to another renter.
After the showing, follow up to thank the property owner or rental company for their time and reiterate your interest in being the unit’s next renter. As with a lot of things in life, a little kindness can go a long way and give you the extra edge you need.
The holiday season is just around the corner, and that means a great opportunity to relax and catch up with friends and family. However, this season can also mean stress and lots of frantic last-minute scrambling to get your home ready for overnight guests.
Use this list as a guide to make sure those rooms are set up to make your company feel comfortable in your home.
Stock the Bathroom
Many people who travel bring their own toiletries with them, but there’s always something that gets left behind. Save your guests a trip to the store or that awkward conversation about borrowing a toothbrush by having some essentials out and ready to go.
A well-stocked guest bathroom should include:
● Feminine products
● Shaving cream
If the guest bathroom is shared with others, make sure their toiletries are cleared out of the way so your guests have room for their own.
Once your guests arrive, show them where everything is in the fridge and the pantry, and where to find plates, glasses, and utensils. Let them know your preference for washing dishes (by hand, dishwasher, etc) so they can pitch in and feel like they are being good guests.
When you are proactive about communicating, it opens up a line of conversation and encourages your guests to do the same if they need something or if something isn’t working out. You can quickly resolve the issue and get back to enjoying the rest of your holiday.
Many borrowers view closing as the final formality in the home buying process. Because of this, many buyers come into closing unprepared; not only can this delay taking possession of the home, but it can also impact the approval of the loan. To prevent these delays, there are a number of things that must be done before mortgage closing.
1. Square away all contingencies
Most home contracts include a number of contingencies. Common contingencies include:
The mortgage lender will require a title search as part of the closing process; title insurance is also purchased to protect the buyers legal claim to the house. Clearing the title ensures that ex-spouses or relatives of the sellers cannot make a claim to the house or invalidate the sale. Buyers are entitled to choose the title company.
3. Get final mortgage approval
Being pre-approved for a loan does not mean obtaining a mortgage is guaranteed. Buyers must go through the underwriting process, during which an agent will review the home appraisal, the financial information provided by the buyers, and other information. Because the underwriting process does not occur until shortly before closing, it’s important to avoid making major financial changes during this time. This includes changing jobs, making a large purchase such as a new car, or opening or closing a bank account.
4. Review the closing disclosure
The closing disclosure is also known as a HUD-1 settlement statement. This document outlines the terms of the loan and exact mortgage payments as well as closing costs. Closing costs typically range from 2-7% of the price of the home and are due at the time of closing.
5. Bring the necessary documents
There are a number of documents that buyers need to bring to closing. These include:
The interest rate of the loan is often one of the most variable factors when buying a home. Rates not only vary from lender to lender, but can also increase and decrease during the period before the loan is finalized. For this reason, locking a mortgage rate can prevent borrowers from losing their desired rate.
What is a rate lock?
The price of the loan is typically expressed as points, with one point equaling one percent of the amount of the loan. The points act as prepaid interest; points are paid for the borrower to obtain a certain mortgage rate.
A mortgage rate lock is a guarantee from the mortgage lender that the borrow can have a specific interest rate for a specific time period and at a specific price. This protects borrowers from rising interest rates; if the borrower locks in a 3.97% interest rate, they can keep this rate even if rates rise during the loan process.
Rate locks are only given for a specific time period, typically 30, 45, or 60 days. After this time the rate lock will expire and borrowers will be subject to the current interest rates; lenders will sometimes extend the rates given during a rate lock after the time allotted has expired.
What does locking in a rate cost?
The cost of locking in on a mortgage rate varies from lender to lender. For some, there is no cost to lock in a mortgage rate. Others may incur a flat fee, while a percentage of the total mortgage amount may also be added to the overall loan. Likewise, some rate lock fees are refundable while others are non-refundable.
Short-term rate locks typically cost between 0.25 and 0.50 percent of the total loan; for most home purchases, this equates to a few hundred dollars. Long-term rate locks, or those longer than 60 days, often cost more or incur additional fees.
What happens if rates change after locking in?
The purpose of a rate lock is to protect borrowers from rising interest rates during the loan process; if rates go up, borrowers can retain the lower rate they locked in. If rates lower, however, there are several courses of action borrowers can take.
Borrowers can ask to include a “float down” clause or provision in their rate lock; this states that if rates lower, the loan can be approved at the lower interest rate. Borrowers can also ask to have the rate lock re-written to reflect the new, lower interest rates. Both of these options, however, may incur additional fees that may or may not equal the savings incurred by the lower interest rate.
For many people, the down payment is the biggest obstacle to becoming a homeowner. It’s difficult to save even five percent of a home’s cost when you’re paying rent, healthcare, and other expenses.
Saving for a down payment is not easy, but it does pay off in the long run once you purchase your first home. With a solid plan and a little dedication, you can put this seemingly-impossible goal within your reach. Here are a few tips for making it happen:
Budgets and Savings Accounts
The first step to saving for anything is to create an accurate representation of where your money goes each month. Track your expenses and you might be surprised to learn where your money is going — like that gym membership you’ve meant to cancel or how much dinner and drinks with friends can add up.
There are also apps on the market that you can link to your bank and credit card accounts to scan your spending and recommend things to cut.
Once you’ve made decisions about where to cut from your budget, set up a separate savings account for your down payment so that you are not tempted to dip into it for other expenses.
Some financial planners like to point toward the “latte factor” as a reason why people can’t save money — if you spend $4 at Starbucks each day, you’ll never be able to buy a house. While it’s important to pare down spending in order to save, you don’t want to be miserable, either.
In determining what stays and what goes from your budget, choose the things that’ll give you maximum pleasure with minimal expense. If you enjoy a fancy cup of coffee each day, continue to buy them, but looks to make cuts somewhere else.
In today’s economy, making a little extra cash has never been easier. There are any number of part-time gigs that you can pick up whenever and wherever you are.
Drive for Uber or Lyft, shop for Instacart, or explore sites like Upwork to put professional skills to use. You can do these jobs whenever you want and as much as you want. If you don’t like one gig, there are plenty of others to choose from.
If you do land a side gig, be diligent about making sure that the money earned goes toward your down payment.
Whether you want to be environmentally conscious or just save some money, reducing your energy consumption is never a bad idea. There are a few simple things you can do right now to start seeing lower numbers on your energy bills each month:
Install (and use) energy efficient appliances
Using Energy STAR-certified appliances will save on your electric bill and your water bill. Nearly all appliances on the market today are Energy STAR certified, which means they are designed by the Environmental Protection Agency as being energy efficient.
Buying a new washer, dryer, refrigerator, or dishwasher will be an initial investment up front, but these appliances will eventually pay for themselves through the savings each month. As a bonus, using a dishwasher in general is much more energy efficient than washing dishes by hand.
Remove phantom loads
Did you know that your appliances, electronics, and other items in electrical outlets continue to draw electricity even when they are not turned on? In fact, they use up to 75 percent of their overall power to keep clocks, timers, and other settings functioning.
Simply unplug anything you do not need when it’s not in use and watch your energy bill drop. Amp up the savings even more by combining electronics in a power strip and turning everything off at once.
Fill your fridge and freezer
This might seem counterintuitive, but your refrigerator and freezer actually run more efficiently when they are full. Food and other items act as insulation to keep the entire space cold, which means less time that the appliance has to run.
Look at this as an opportunity to buy in bulk if you can and save a little money on your grocery bill, too. If that’s not an option for you, don’t go out and buy unneeded items just to save space. Instead, add bags of ice to the freezer or containers of water to the fridge to take up the extra room.
When you finally find the home of your dreams, it can be easy to put blinders on and ignore warning signs that might be right in front of you. Those red flags may not be so clear for an undiscerning eye to detect!
Either way, there are a few common problems that should be enough to give pause to any prospective homebuyer. These are not necessarily deal breakers, but definitely things to keep in mind as you are weighing the pros and cons of a new home.
DIY Gone Wrong
In an effort to save money before putting their home on the market, some sellers take on do-it- yourself projects that don’t always end well. These projects can end up costing you a lot of time and effort to undo the substandard work and replace it with a better solution.
These types of projects most commonly occur on outdoor decks and home additions. If anything looks questionable, make sure to ask about it during the home inspection and request copies of the permits used to complete the work.
Mold or Water Damage
This is another area that can end up costing a ton of money to repair if not noticed before a home is sold. Look for places on the walls or ceiling that look like they’ve recently been patched or replaced.
Foggy windows are another telltale sign of moisture problems in a home. Check them for condensation and ask the seller or your home inspector about anything questionable that you see.
Keeping Up with the Joneses
Beyond the house itself, the state of a home’s neighborhood says a lot about whether it’s a place you want to live. Are the lawns well maintained? If there’s a holiday coming up, are the homes decorated to reflect it?
These might seem like trivial things, but your dream home can turn into anything but that if your neighbors are not hospitable. Your home’s value can also decrease based on a lack of curb appeal in the neighborhood, especially in a weak housing market.
Many do not take advantage of home tax deductions. Tax advisors will tell you this is because homeowners aren’t even aware that these deductions exist.
Homeowners can claim several write-offs that will lower their taxes.
You and your spouse can deduct for mortgage interest payments up to a millions dollars. Your mortgage debt must be secured. Both first and second home qualify.
1. Mortgage Points
Mortgage lenders often use a point system. One point equates to 1% of the principal of your home loan. These fees are often one to three percent of the home loan. The fees are tax deductible as long as they are part of the process of purchasing a home. Refinancing your home the points are also fully deductible, but not up front. Refinancing points’ fees can write off over time and in conjunction with the remainder of your old points.
2. Profits on Selling Your House
If you sell your house, depending on your personal circumstances, you may not have to pay taxes on the profit. If you’ve had the house for less than a year, you could write off expenses you didn't even pay. Checking with a tax consultant can often save you significant sums.
3. Property Taxes
Turbo Tax accountants points out that a homeowner is legally allowed to deduct the total second home's mortgage interest on mortgages of a maximum of $1.1 million as long as this is not a rental property. As well, all property taxes are deductible.
The situation changes if this second home is rented out. If the property is rented for fourteen days or less annually, the rental income does not have to be declared. If it is rented for more than fourteen days, the rent must be declared for the year.
However, if the rent must be declared because it was rented for fourteen or more days, the owner can claim such rental expenses as: mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance, property management fees, utilities, and half of the depreciation.
4. Boats loan interests
Do you have a boat? If it has eating, sleeping, and bathroom facilities, it may qualify as a first or second home. You could deduct mortgage interest paid on the loan for the purchase of your boat. Check this out with a tax consultant.
5. Home Depreciation
You may be able to claim depreciation on your home. There is a variety of ways that home depreciation may be claimed. However, the exact situations are dictated by specific legal situation. In this circumstance, you should consult with a tax professional, but be sure to tell them if you have claimed depreciation on a home you sold.
It’s great to have friends and family visit from out of town, but the days leading up to that visit are often stressful as you realize that your house is not ready for other people to see.
Your house is not a hotel, and your guests probably are not expecting perfection, but that does not mean you should skimp on cleaning and other tasks to get your home organized. Here are a few easy things you can do for maximum return on your investment of time and energy.
Make a Fresh Bed
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting into a fresh, clean bed, especially after a long day of traveling. The last thing you want is for your guests to find themselves in a bed with dirty or musty sheets.
You should always strip the guest bed or beds a day or two before your company arrives and make sure it is freshly made for their first night. Even if no one has slept in the bed since you last washed the sheets, they can pick up whatever smells are in your house and lose that fresh feeling over time.
The arrival of visitors is a great time to remove some of the junk that tends to build up around the house. This includes everything from stacks of unopened junk mail to the clothes you’ve been meaning to donate to kids toys that never seem to get put away.
Effective decluttering does not mean shoving everything into a closet or other out of the way place. Instead, separate items into things that you want to keep, things you want to donate, and things you want to throw away. Then make a plan for getting rid of whatever you are not going to keep.
Set the Temperature
Consider whether your guests’ temperature preferences may differ from yours and adjust your thermostat accordingly. You’ll need to do this at least a few hours ahead of their arrival in order for the temperature to adjust as needed.
As an extra courtesy, set out extra blankets in the bedroom if it’s cold, or place a fan in the guest room if it’s hot. That way, your guests will have the ability to control the temperature beyond what you set.
Are your kitchen cupboards a hodgepodge of items you haven’t used in a year? Are the can goods mixed in with boxes of chocolate pudding? Do you have to search for the items you want? Is the counter littered with small appliances and cooking utensils?
If this describes your kitchen then perhaps it is time to declutter.
Before you begin, get your mind and your kitchen ready for a big clean up. Clear the countertops. Empty the dishwasher. Fill your sink with hot soapy water ready to make long-unused glassware, pans, and dishes sparkle before putting them back in the cupboard.
For decluttering, use a three-box method of sorting:
Box #1: things I am still using. These will go back into the cupboard in an organized manner after I have scrubbed and/or relined the shelves with adhesive shelf paper available at any dollar store.
Box #2: things that are still good and not past their expirationdates. These can be donated to a food bank or soup kitchen, as I do not use them anymore.
Box #3: past their expiration dates, these items are destined for the garbage.
The same goes for small appliances, pots and pans, dishes, glassware, and wall decorations. Donate or store under the counter. Get the clutter off the counters.
Next, attack those drawers of cutlery and old recipe books. Use the three box method on them. Be relentless. If you haven’t used it in a year, out it goes. You don’t need five can openers and three corkscrews. Keep the good one and throw out or donate the others.
An efficient kitchen is one that is pared to the bone. Those expired coupons and seldom-used cookbookshave to go out with the bag of catsup and mustard packets.
Pace yourself. Do a cupboard a day or a drawer a day rather than rushing through your kitchen de-cluttering. Don’t forget those appliances. Use the three box method on the contents of your fridge. Scour shelves and make your fridge and stove sparkle inside and out.
Next attack that “junk drawer”. We all have one! Resist the urge to keep something because you “might need it someday.” Organize what you do keep in a plastic tray.
Is this a one-day job? For some it is. For others, slow and steady a section at a time is the way to go. It all depends on your energy, your available time, and your personality.