Finding an apartment or other rentals can be a stressful process, especially in a competitive market. You might have a matter of days or even hours to review a listing and decide whether or not to move forward.
With that in mind, it’s important to know how to review listings and find the most crucial information without getting distracted by marketing glitz or deceptive wording. Any quality rental listing should have the following elements.
Details in Plain English
A trustworthy rental listing should have information about square footage, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, parking, and other relevant details front and center. This is the first step for many buyers in determining whether the rental is going to meet their needs.
Be wary of vaguely-worded listings that use terms like “junior one bedroom” without listing specifics. This often means the listing agent is trying to cover up a problem or unattractive listing to lure buyers in sight unseen.
Costs and Fees
Once you’ve decided if a rental has enough space, the next big question you face is whether or not you can afford it. Again, this information should be easy to find and clearly articulated. There shouldn’t be any ambiguity about rental rates and any associated fees.
As you look through the listing, make sure it lists costs like pet fees, utilities, parking, and security deposit. These are things you might not think about initially, but they add up in the end and should figure into your monthly budget.
No matter how nice a rental is, things are bound to go wrong from time to time. In those situations, you need to know who your landlord is and how to reach them.
Again, the landlord or property management company information should be very clearly spelled out in the rental listing. Any ambiguities in this area should be a major red flag that you could be in for a hard time if you need help after you move in.
An open house can make or break the home selling process. In just a few short hours, you can welcome dozens (if not more) potential buyers in to see the place and decide whether it’s right for them.
If the open house goes well, you could end the day with multiple offers and a bidding war that works out in your favor. If it does not go well, your home will earn a bad reputation that could make it unattractive to other buyers.
Here are three simple things you can do to make sure that your open house is a boom instead of a bust!
Check The Calendar
All of the cleaning and decluttering you go through to hold an open house is for naught if potential buyers do not show up. Before you set a date, check your local media and community calendar listings to make sure that it does not conflict with any other big events in your area.
The National Association of Realtors hosts a Nationwide Open House Weekend in the late spring or early summer. If the timing works out, it can help give your event a much larger platform. Your listing agent can tell you when the next one will be held.
An open house is about more than just looking at the house. Buyers should walk away with everything they need to answer their questions and move forward with making an offer.
Work with your realtor to prepare high-quality flyers or brochures about the home that include photos, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, tax information, and listing agent contact information. As a bonus, consider making available appraisals, inspection reports, and financing information.
Don’t Forget Food
Many prospective buyers travel to multiple houses on the same day, so they are going to be hungry. Eating a snack or light meal also gives buyers an excuse to stay in the home longer and more time to imagine themselves living there.
Stick with snacks that won’t cause too much of a mess and can be taken to go if buyers don’t have much time to stick around. Homemade items add a personal touch and might help your home stand out from the pack if everyone else has catered meals.
A home equity loan can be a great way to pay for home repairs or other expenses utilizing the value that your home already has. However, it can do more harm than good if not used properly.
Here’s what you need to know before you sign on the dotted line:
What is a home equity loan?
A home equity loan, sometimes referred to as a second mortgage, is a loan that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity in their home. Like any other loan, the money is received in a lump sum and paid back over time with interest.
These loans are commonly used for home renovations but can be used for anything from debt consolidation to paying for college. Your bank will determine how much you can borrow and what the term of the loan will be.
Home equity loans typically take between 5 and 15 years for repayment, depending on how much you borrow and what you can afford to pay each month.
Home equity loan vs. HELOC
A home equity line of credit, also known as a HELOC, is another type of loan that utilizes your home’s existing value. Unlike a home equity loan that’s disbursed in one lump sum, a HELOC is available for withdrawal on an ongoing basis.
Another way these loans differ is in the interest rates. A home equity loan has a fixed interest rate for the duration of the loan, while a HELOC has a variable interest rate.
Given this information, which loan should you choose? Home equity loans are most commonly used for larger, one-time expenses, while HELOCs are used for smaller, ongoing expenses.
Red flags to avoid
As with taking on any type of debt, you want to make sure that you have a good reason for taking out a home equity loan or HELOC before making a final decision. It might be tempting to use the money to buy something new or go on a dream vacation, but don’t borrow more than you can realistically afford to pay back.
You’ll also want to carefully evaluate your home’s value and its projections over the life of your loan. If you plan to sell your home while the loan is active, you’ll need to make enough money to cover your original mortgage plus the home equity loan or HELOC.
Sometimes we remodel because we want to create a more pleasant home environment to live in. Other times, it’s all about the bottom line and getting the most bang for the buck when the house goes on the market.
If you find yourself in the latter situation where you are remodeling with the goal of reselling, there are a few things you can do to maximize your return on investment and make your home as appealing as possible to future buyers.
Keep it Neutral
Remodeling a kitchen or bathroom for resale is not the time to go crazy with paint colors, fixtures, or other design elements. You want to present the image that the house is a blank canvas that the new owners can make their own.
Even though things like paint and fixtures are easy to change, you do not want to put the new owners through the hassle of having to do that right after moving in. You want to create a space they can live in for a while as they are determining what their design plan will be.
Choose Looks Over Function
This is one of the only times that you can prioritize the way something looks over the way it functions. If you have a limited budget, spend it on things that will make your home look as good as possible.
For example, a shiny new oven or refrigerator will impress potential buyers much more so than a new water heater or dehumidifier. As long as those more mundane items are in good working order, leave them alone and focus your time and money on items that you know potential buyers will want to see.
When it comes to a kitchen or bathroom, bigger is almost always better. If you have the opportunity to increase the size of these rooms without a major restructuring of your house, take it!
What separates a major change from a minor one? Think knocking out walls vs. rearranging furniture or buying new pieces that serve a functional purpose and double as storage. Before you go embarking on a big change, consider if there are any smaller (and cheaper) steps you can take first.
Beyond the feeling of satisfaction you receive from having your own place, there are some important tax benefits that come with owning a home.
Whether you just moved in or have been a homeowner for years, here’s how to make the most of your home on your next tax return. Keep in mind that doing one or more of these things is likely to put you in line for an itemized deduction, rather than taking the standard deduction!
Mortgage interest deduction
Perhaps the biggest tax benefit of owning a home is the fact that you can deduct most of the interest you pay on your mortgage each year from the total income on which you pay federal tax.
If you have an expensive home or a large mortgage, this can dramatically increase the size of your federal income tax refund, or mean the difference between paying taxes and receiving a refund.
However, the amount of interest you can deduct is limited to $1 million each year, and the deduction only applies to an actual mortgage, not a home equity loan or line of credit.
Selling your home
Not only can your taxes benefit from living in a home, you can receive a break from selling it, too. Expenses like advertising, title insurance, and even some types of repairs, can all be counted as deductions.
The first $250,000 (or $500,000 for married couples) profit you make on the sale of your home is not taxed, either, as long as you’ve lived in the house for at least two years before selling it.
If you are buying or selling a home as a result of a job relocation, you might be eligible to deduct many of the expenses associated with moving from one place to another. This includes everything from moving trucks to storage units.
Remember to save all of your receipts from moving-related expenses if you are interested in claiming this deduction. And, when it’s time to file your taxes, make sure you read the fine print to ensure that your moving circumstances qualify.
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.