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.
You might be ready to buy a home, but are you prepared?
Regardless of whether you are a first-time home buyer or an experienced owner, it’s good practice to conduct a pre-purchase reality check before buying a house. Before you jump into the financial commitment of the purchase, give careful consideration to your financial situation and whether you are truly prepared to buy.
Here is a six-item checklist of items to check off before buying a home:
Do you think you are ready to buy a house? Check out this list to see if you are prepared.
What do you think is the national average for a down payment on a home? See this checklist before buying a home.
What do you think is the most important item to have ready before buying a home? See if it made this list.
So, you want a new look for your kitchen but you don’t have the time or the money for a remodel? No problem!
There are plenty of things you can do to achieve the fresh feeling you want without breaking the bank. Here are a few ideas to jumpstart your non-renovation update:
Fresh Paint, Fresh Hardware
A new coat of paint and updating the hardware on your cabinets are two quick inexpensive ways to give your kitchen a facelift. If you change both dramatically, you might be surprised at just how different your kitchen feels.
Seek out inspiration from Pinterest or other home decorating sites and don’t be afraid to experiment. Remember that paint and hardware are both very easy to change if you decide that you want something different.
This can even be something you change on a semi-regular basis to always keep things fresh in your kitchen and stay in line with the latest trends. You can even get your appliances into the mix with specially-made appliance paint.
Accent pieces like rugs and tablecloths are another quick way to bring new life into your kitchen. If you change your kitchen’s paint color, you may want to choose accents that match or provide a contrast to that color scheme.
Check out yard sales and thrift stores in your area for a truly unique look. Who knows, you may find the diamond in the rough that will set the tone for your entire kitchen! And, when the time comes to move, all you’ll have to do is roll everything up and pack it away.
If you’re unhappy with how your cabinets look and painting won’t do the trick, consider taking the doors off and repurposing them as open shelving. This will give you an opportunity to show off dishes or cookware — and perhaps an excuse to buy new pieces, too.
If you know that you’ll be moving out of your place eventually, hang on to the doors and hinges so you can put them back on before you move out and let the next homeowner make their decision about what to do with the cabinets.
Whether you’re trying to save money, help the environment, or both, a little energy saving is never a bad thing. Thanks to advances in technology and a trend toward sustainable home design, saving energy around the house has never been easier. Here are a few ways you can save energy!
These days, remote-controlled thermostats and other programs allow you to control your home’s temperature, light usage, and other elements no matter where you are in the world.
No more leaving lights on unnecessarily or setting the thermostat to a certain temperature while you are away; apps like Nest and August can save energy around your home while also allowing you to customize your home’s temperature to match your preferences.
While there is some upfront cost involved with investing in this technology, it will definitely pay for itself in then as you begin to save money on your electricity and heating bills over time.
Fill Your Refrigerator and Freezer
This seems 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.
Upgrade Your Appliances
This is another upfront investment, but one that’s well worth it in the end. Just about every type of major home appliance now comes in Energy Star certified models. These appliances reduce your home’s ecological footprint by using less energy and running more efficiently. Look for the Energy Star label on the appliance to make sure you are getting the real deal!
Whether it’s a natural disaster or a man-made one like a fire, there are many ways that your life — and your home — can change in an instant. Every disaster requires a unique response plan, but there are several general things you can do to make sure your home is prepared for whatever comes your way.
Organize, Organize, Organize
If you’ve lived through any type of disaster, you know that it’s a confusing, chaotic experience. The last thing you want in that situation is to be scrambling around the house trying to find something that you need or tripping over clutter while you are trying to evacuate.
Whenever possible, try to make sure that there are clear paths to the exits in your home. It might not seem like a big deal, but those extra few seconds that it takes to move something out of the way can make a huge difference in a disaster scenario.
Beyond that, have a “go” bag of disaster-prep supplies together in one place that you can quickly get to when you need it. This should include food, water, a first aid kit, batteries, cell phone chargers, and any other items you’ll need if you are forced to evacuate.
Create a Plan of Action
Once you have your home organized and your supplies ready, it’s time to make a plan for how your family will react when disaster strikes. Again, these situations are often chaotic so having a plan ready will allow everyone to go on autopilot rather than panicking.
Set a designated meeting place or places that everyone can agree on and easily get to. Make a list of people to contact and designed who will be responsible for doing so. The Department of Homeland Security’s Ready program has a list of plans available for just about any type of disaster you can imagine.
In the real estate market, a home’s price is everything. Price it too high, and you’ll miss out on buyers, but price it too low, and you might cheat yourself out of valuable profits.
A real estate agent will help you determine where to set the price for selling your home, but having your own instincts is important, too. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re making this important decision:
Price for Website Searches
As with every other aspect of our lives these days, most home searches begin online. That comes with its own set of quirks, particularly around the way that prices are categorized on real estate website search engines.
Search results are often grouped in $10,000 or $20,000 increments. So, if you list your home at $205,000, you’re going to miss everyone looking in the $200,000 and under range. By changing the price to $199,000, you’re not losing much profit and gaining more potential buyers in return.
Review Comparable Sales
Again, the Internet makes this pretty easy to do. You can easily see what other homes on your street and in your neighborhood sold for, how long they were on the market, and whether any price reductions were needed to close the deal.
Use this comparable sale information as a starting point, but don’t feel beholden to it. Keep in mind that the market is always changing and you may need to adopt a different pricing strategy depending on where things are in your local market.
Think Like a Buyer
If you had to buy your home over again, how much would you pay for it? This might like a strange question, but it can help you get to the bottom of what prospective buyers might be thinking.
As a seller, you’ll always want to set the price as high as possible so you can get the biggest return on your investment. This might not always be the best idea, and thinking like a buyer can help you see when that’s happening by offering a different perspective.
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.
Allergies come in all shapes and sizes, but there are a few things you can do to make your home as allergy-free as possible. These simple activities apply whether you live in a studio apartment or a sprawling estate.
Your family and your guests with allergies will be happy you took the time to go through these steps:
Many allergens enter your home through your air vents; using clean air filters is one way to keep them out. Look for are high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which are specially designed to remove allergens from the air.
Good filters are most important in your bedroom, which is where you spend the most time and often one of the worst rooms in terms of allergens. It’s also important to keep your home’s humidity at or below 50 percent to prevent mold from growing and spreading.
Less Clutter, Less Dust
If you were looking for a reason to go through the piles of junk that seem to spring up in your home, you’ve found it. The less stuff there is in your house, the fewer surfaces dust can gather.
If you’re not sure where to start, focus on rags, clothes, and other porous items. Once you’ve cleared up space on the floor, make sure to dust and clean the space thoroughly — and try to avoid letting clutter pile up again.
As we said, the bedroom is one of the worst places in your home when it comes to allergens. Keep them at bay by regularly washing your blankets and mattress pad and encasing pillows, mattresses and box springs in dust-mite-proof covers.
Keep stuffed animals in your child’s room to a minimum, as they can be breeding grounds for dust, and commit to regularly washing any that they do have.
If you have pets, you might want to consider keeping them out of your bedroom to prevent them from bringing hair and dander into the room where you spend most of your time.
We all know that the purpose of getting an insurance policy is for peace of mind, knowing that your home or contents are covered. Once you get an insurance policy, this is exactly how you should feel, and it shouldn’t detract from what you do day to day. After all, it is a back-up in case something goes wrong. You should however, check it periodically, because you want to make sure you are getting the best deal possible.
Why it is Crucial to Review your Policy Annually
If you are unconvinced as to why an annual check-up of your home insurance policy is absolutely critical, consider this: 5 years ago you bought a home for $300,000. You took out an insurance policy covering damages for that amount. Let’s say the housing market has been strong, and now your home is worth $500,000. In the case of fire, or another disaster that renders your home uninhabitable or in need of serious repair, the amount you are insured for may not cover the amount required for repairs. This is because the landscape has changed since you took the policy – inflation has occurred, property prices have increased and so have the cost of repairs.
Because you didn’t check your insurance policy, you are now left out of pocket.
If you have carried out major renovations or have a new car or jewelry, for example, then the value of possessions to be insured has increased. This means your policy needs to reflect this change.
Insurance policies vary in price according to the perceived risk of theft or damage. The safer your home is deemed to be by the insurer, the more willing they are to give youa good price. If you have installed safety measures like burglar alarms, smoke detectors, improved heating, plumbing and electrics, tell your insurance company – you become a safer bet in their eyes and they might give you a reduction in your payments.
A general rule of thumb is to all review your policy when it comes up for renewal. This will be every year usually. Also review it when anything changes. Changes include improvements in the safety and value of your home. And don’t forget, always look around for better deals from competitors and don’t be afraid to ask for discounts.
While we are all worried about keeping tax records and receipts, there is a limit to how much stuff we can store or how best to store it. Here are some tax tips to make organizing, reporting, and storing easier.
With changes to electronic records, the way we store records and where we store them has changed—and not necessarily for the better. When it comes tax time and you have to locate everything, getting the paperwork all together, it is often no longer in one box or file cabinet.
So much of our financial information is now in electronic format. This does make it easier to keep your financial records because they are in one convenient place. Consider it is wise to safeguard paper copies against fire, water, and theft. “They burned” or “There was a flood” is not a viable excuse if the documents are destroyed. You may even want to consider keeping multiple copies of records.
If you decide to go digital, you'll have to scan in your hardcopy records. Be sure to keep the files secure and have a backup flash drive, stored in a fire and waterproof location away from your computer.
Hanging on to all tax-related documentsthat help you identify sources of income.
Keep track of expenses in an orderly manner, whether it is filing in categories, by day/month, or whatever works for you.
Keep all papers that help you calculate the value of property, and prepare tax returns or support claims made on those returns.
An easy rule of thumb about all tax materials is: Retainall tax papers until any chance of audit is over. Usually, this is three years after filing. However, be aware that if the IRS thinks you under-reported your income by over 25 percent, it can go back as far as six years.
Set up a record system that works for you. This might be labeled file boxes. It might be drawers in a filing cabinet. Your method should make it easy to find the tax materials for the year you need.
If you are selling your house, the sale profits from your home sales may NOT be taxable. To ensure that you can claim the best deduction for your house when sold, keep all paperwork relating to your house as long as you own it.
For investment records, such as investment account statement, you need to keep these as long as the stock or mutual fund is yours. The eventual worth of the stock,minus your costs, is what will be used to determine your taxable income on the investment. Additionally, keep all retirement investment records. Contributions to traditional IRAs often are tax-deferred. However, so of the money in these accounts may have already been taxed. Thus, you need to keep detailed records when you begin taking money out of your IRA, to ensure how much of the distribution is taxable.