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5 Questions to Help Resolve Your Rent or Buy Dilemma

The decision to buy a home, one of the biggest financial investments you’ll ever make, can be empowering and exciting.

While a study by the National Association of Realtors showed that 80 percent of consumers believe buying a home is a good financial decision, it’s not always easy to know when the time is right to take the leap.

Choosing to become a homeowner takes not only a financial commitment but also the emotional maturity to create a plan and a timeline that suits your lifestyle and your budget.

Here are some of the factors that should be part of your decision to rent or buy a home:

Are You Emotionally Ready To Buy A Home?

One of the benefits of renting an apartment is that you typically only commit to a lease for one year. If you’re buying a home, you’ll need to choose a neighborhood and a home where you want to live for the next several years while you recoup the cost of buying and build equity.

Do You Have a Five-Year Plan?

While no one knows with absolute certainty what will happen over the next 5 or 10 years, if your plans include switching careers or moving out of state, you’re probably better off renting. If you plan to start a family in the next few years, you should take that into consideration when developing a budget and choosing a home.

Are You Ready to Take Care of a Home?

Along with the joy of decorating your home and changing it to meet your needs, you need to budget at least 1 to 3 percent of the home price each year for repairs. Whether you can handle work yourself or need to hire contractors, you should be prepared for the time and expense of maintaining your property so that it can keep its value and avoid more costly repairs in the future.

Do You Have Any Savings?

While there are loan programs available to some borrowers with a down payment of 3.5 percent and sometimes less, you’ll need some cash for a deposit, a down payment, closing costs and an emergency fund when you buy a home.

What Does Your Credit Profile Look Like?

Request your free credit report to check for errors and any negative information on your report. For a small fee you can get your credit score. Lenders typically require a minimum credit score of 620 or 640 and higher for government-insured loan programs, but for the lowest mortgage rates you need a credit score of 740 or above.

Your answers to these questions and consultations with professionals such as a lender and a Realtor can help you make the right choice and determine if you’re ready to buy now or need to wait a little longer to become a homeowner.

How to Sell Your House in the Sluggish Winter Months

It’s not peak selling season, but these smart strategies will help you make sure your home looks good even when the weather is dreary. Here are a few tips to help you sell your home this season.

Crank up the heat

Cold houses don’t sell. If potential buyers shiver at your open house, they aren’t likely to stick around, let alone make an offer. This isn’t the time to save on the heating bill. Keep the thermometer at least at a steady 70 degrees. A cold house sends the wrong message. It doesn’t need to be hot; it needs to be not cold.

Get shoveling

Don’t let a little snow come between you and the next owner of your house. Get shoveling, and make sure the walkway is clear. If someone has to slip and slide their way into your house, you’ll lose the battle before they cross the front door.

Moreover, if you want buyers to attend your open house, make sure they have a place to park. This task can be challenging as snowbanks and drifts accumulate. Don’t clear just the driveway — shovel out some spaces on the street as well. While you are at it, make sure you don’t wind up with big piles of dirty snow near the front door. If they are concerned about breaking a leg, then they are not paying attention to your house in a good way.

Decorate, but don’t go overboard

Some Realtors suggest stripping a house of all holiday decorations to avoid turning off potential buyers. But that sends the wrong message. After all, buyers are trying to get a feel for whether your house could become their next home. If your house is cold, empty and sterile, that sends the wrong message.

This is not the time to go nuts with plastic lawn ornaments. It might be the season to stow Santa and his reindeer out of sight in your cellar. Better to focus on some lighter, classier touches, such as wrapping a garland around the banister on the stairs or putting up a wreath. It really makes the entryway pop.

Become a weather freak, and stay flexible

One thing you can’t control during the winter is the weather. It’s time to start tuning into The Weather Channel, at least while you’re trying to sell your house. When planning an open house, it’s better to be prepared for weather changes. If a big storm is headed your way, maybe it’s a good idea to reschedule for a new day or push a morning open house into the afternoon. Even if you can lure a few buyers out in the storm, a dark and dreary day is probably not the best backdrop for showing off your house.

moving with cats and dogs

How to Move if You Have Cats and Dogs

Most pets are not big fans of change. They easily get anxious when they are introduced to a new environment or when there’s unexpected activity in their home. If they have a choice, they would stay in a place where they are already settled in. But once their pet parents decide to relocate, they have no choice but to move with them.

Whether you’re moving across the country or just across town, here are some tips to make moving with your pets as smooth and as stress-free as possible.

Introduce a crate

Most pets do not spend much time in crates. To make moving day a lot more comfortable for your four-legged friend, make sure they get acclimated to their crates in the weeks or months leading up the big trip. You can also provide treats to help your pet develop a positive association with the crate.

Attach an ID tag

It’s a good idea for your pet to wear a collar and an ID tag. If your pet is microchipped, make sure it is updated with your new address and is working properly.

Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian

If you are travelling by air, you may need to secure a health certificate from the vet. Be sure to get a copy of this a month before your moving day.

If you are moving across the country, then you’ll need to find a new vet once you have settled into your home. Ask your vet if he/she can suggest a good vet in your new hometown. It is also a good idea to get your pet’s health record from the veterinarian. This way, the new vet can provide the best care for your pet.

Be consistent

Pets feel stressed when they are placed in new surroundings. That said, you want to help them adjust quickly. Once you have moved in to your new house, be sure to keep your feeding, exercise and bedtime schedule consistent. If your cat is used to outdoor time, arrange for that. If your dog is accustomed to using a doggy door, set one up in your new place.

Safety Tips When Selling Your Home

Once you decide to put your home on the market, you’ll likely have to endure a steady stream of homebuyers in and out of your home. From open houses to showings, your simple abode has to be open to potential buyers in order for you to sell it as quickly as possible. But as the seller and homeowner, you might be worried about your personal belongings, privacy or lack thereof.

Before you open your doors to strangers, here are a few safety measures to help you protect your home while it’s on the market.

Do not allow more than one group of buyers at any given time

Most thefts happen during open houses or showings since there are too many people inside the house. A group of people may distract the agent by showing interest on the property while the others take off with your personal belongings and valuables. In order to prevent this from happening, it would be best to advise your agent to entertain one group of buyers at a time.

Hide the valuables

Hiding your valuables is one of the simplest and most effective ways of preventing theft. Keep your jewelry, collectibles and any other items that someone might be able to snatch unnoticed.

Once you have decided to sell your home, we suggest that you keep all your valuables in a safety deposit box. This way, you’ll feel more at ease knowing that your valuables are safe.

Do not leave mail in the house

Most sellers may think that leaving mail in the house may not be a big deal, especially if they are neatly stacked on the kitchen counter. Wrong! You might be surprised to learn what potential buyers can figure out about you through these mail.

Buyers can tell if the IRS is after you or if you’re late on your mortgage payment. They can also find out how much you owe on your credit card bills through the mail. Armed with that information, you may have a pretty good idea how much the buyer is willing to offer.

Best Things About Buying a House in the Fall

If you’re in the market for a home, you’re probably wondering if you missed the boat by not purchasing a home during the spring or summer. After all, that’s the best time to buy a property, right? Not necessarily.

The cooler days are starting to set in and the days are getting shorter, but fall may be a good time to go house hunting. In fact, Fall is a season filled with great deals.

Still not convinced? Here are 4 reasons why fall can be a great time to buy a house.

Less competition

Real estate market ebbs and flows just like the season. Potential buyers start looking at houses as the sun comes out and slows down by the end of the summer. At this point, families who want to be home before school starts are no longer shopping. That means that there aren’t as many buyers as there were in spring and summer.

With fewer buyers out there, you don’t have to go on a bidding war just to get the home you really want.

Home for the holidays

The holidays are coming quickly. While some people are busy with their holiday shopping, you might want to take this time to go house hunting. Getting settled in your new home for the holidays can height your holiday mood. Since you have a new home, why don’t you host this year’s event and invite your family and a few friends over?

Year-end tax break

Buying a property during this time of the year allows you to take advantage of tax breaks, including property tax deductions, prepaid interest deductions, FHA and PMI mortgage insurance premium deduction and mortgage interest deductions.

More attention from your agent

With the reduced activity at this time of the year, you can enjoy additional attention from your agent. They can respond more quickly and spend more time discussing about certain things as their client load starts to dwindle down.

4 Ways to Relieve Moving Stress with Kids

4 Ways to Relieve Moving Stress with Kids

Moving to a new home can be difficult for everyone, especially for the children. You might be prepared for some whining, crying and door slamming once you tell your kids that you are moving across town or across the country and that they have to say goodbye to their friends.

Try these tips to help dial down the drama and make the process less stressful for everyone.

Discussing the move with kids

Prepare your kids by informing them early about the move. Let them know when things are happening and why. If possible, tell them about the move several months in advance. That gives enough time to process the information.

Share information about your new home, state or town and encourage questions. Try to answer them completely and truthfully. It is also a good idea to visit the new home and town with your kids before the move.

Focus on the positive

Children tend to think about the negative side of moving. This is especially true if the relocation means separating from someone they love and depend on – friends, relatives, teachers and coaches. This often results in feelings of sadness, anxiety or even anger.

To make the move easier, try to focus on the positive aspects of what awaits in your home. Tell them that is a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. It is also a chance to learn and live in a new city and be exposed to new cultural traditions.

Allow their angst

When children deal with moving, they often become sad or angry. You shouldn’t attempt to hype a move in the hopes of distracting the kids from their negative feelings.

Acknowledge their sadness about leaving their friends behind. Encourage them to have a good cry, if that’s what’s needed.

Try to involve the in the move as much as possible

Some kids may have trouble understanding why you need to move, especially if they were not involved in the decision-making process.

Although children may not have veto power over the move, involving them in the planning can make them feel like participants. Plus, they won’t feel like it is being forced on them.

Surefire Ways to Improve Your Credit Score

You have paid down all your credit card balances. You’ve been diligent about paying your bills on time. Now, all your efforts have paid off and you are rewarded with a good credit history and a high credit score.

Having a good credit score will make your life so much easier. A high credit score is a golden ticket in our credit-driven society. The higher you credit score is, the more you can purchase and the more likely you’ll be approved when you apply for a loan.

Here are some the best benefits of having great credit.

People can get loans faster

There is so much more to having a good credit score than a 3-digit number you can brag about. This will make you eligible to get loans easily and without hassle. Lenders and other financial institutions will measure your creditworthiness with the help of your credit score.

A stellar credit history shows lenders that you have the capacity to repay the amount you borrowed and settle your debts on time.

Excellent credit card deals

A strong credit history will help you qualify for the best credit card deals. Because of the amazing deals and perks, people are encouraged to use their credit cards more often. There’s nothing wrong in using your credit card, just as long as you make payments when they’re due. It can even help you boost your credit score.

Approval for higher limits

With a good credit score, banks and lending companies are more likely to lend you a larger amount of money. A stellar credit score is an indication that you are a responsible credit card holder. Your borrowing capacity can increase significantly because of this.

Lower interest rates

If you have a good credit score, expect to get loans with the best interest rates. The difference of even just 1% on a 15 or 30 year home loan can equate to tens of thousands of dollars.

 

Cheap and Cheerful Ways to Update Your Kitchen

A good kitchen can serve your family for decades. If your kitchen dreams are bigger than your budget, it is important to make smart choices as to where to save and where to splurge.

If you are tired of your lackluster kitchen, then go ahead and make a few changes over the weekend. Remember, giving your kitchen a new look doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Use these ideas to give your kitchen a dashing revamp without putting a hole in your wallet.

Paint your kitchen cabinets

One of the easiest and cheapest ways of creating a new look is by painting your kitchen cabinets.

If you have plain white walls, a splash of color is exactly what your kitchen needs. If your cabinets are looking dab, you can spruce them up with a fresh layer of paint.

Update your lighting

Extravagant lighting fixtures can be costly. But if you can’t afford them, you can always go for the inexpensive ones.

Stylish new pendant lights can become the new focal point of the room. They’re stylish, beautiful and most importantly, they won’t break the bank.

Upgrade accessories

You may not be able to swap out those horrible cabinets but that doesn’t mean that you can’t transform your kitchen from a space you dislike into space you truly adore.

If you are on a tight budget, it is important to make the most out of the little details like kitchen accessories. Open counters and shelves are a great opportunity to practice the art of display. Display pantry items with pretty packaging or prop up a few wooden boards on your counter.

Add new curtains

If you wish to save money, you can buy the fabric and sew new window dressing yourself. To keep your kitchen up-to-date, make sure to choose the fabric with solid colors or a simple, timeless print. 

Tips and Tricks for First Time Home Buyers

While the thought of granite counter tops and white picket fences are dancing in your head, you don’t want to be carried away by these dreams and left with an actual bill in hand.

This could be one of the biggest purchases in your life. So, before you finally decide to buy your first home, take a look at these tips and be ready to hold the key to your new home.

Attend a seminar for first-time buyers

Before you go behind the wheels, you took some time to learn how to drive. The same principle should also be applied when buying a house. Mind you, this is a big investment. So, you might want to take some time and learn from the experts.

Here, you’ll get a few tips on what to look for when shopping for a home and how to maintain it once you’ve bought it. Most of these seminars are free. So, take advantage of it.

Determine your budget

A five-bedroom and three-bath estate may be your ideal house, but you also have to consider how much you can afford or you’ll end up disappointed.

So, before you head out and look for a perfect house, you might want to sit down and determine your average monthly budget. Then, take a look at your expenses. Now, determine how much you have left. This would be spent on monthly mortgage and home expenses. Also, don’t forget to include all the home-related expenses such as taxes, utility bills and insurance.

Pre-approved loan

This will help you determine how much you can borrow from the lender. By determining your spending range, you can narrow down your search to the houses which are within you budget.

Finding the right agent

An experienced, reliable agent could be your insider into the world of real estate. By choosing the right agent, you have a real asset by your side as you decide to buy your first home. Your real estate agent should be someone who could give you quality advice and someone you can trust.

Feel free to ask around and get suggestions from your family and friends. This might not work if you’re relocating to a new city, though.

 

First Things to Do After Moving Into Your New Home

Now that you have arrived at your new home, you probably think that the hard part is over. Not necessarily. We know that you’ve been quite busy for a few weeks now, making sure that all your personal belongings are packed away into several boxes.

Aside from unloading the truck and arranging the furniture, there are still a lot of things you have to take care of as soon as you move into your new home. Check out the list below to find out.

Start fresh

Before you start unloading your things, it would be best to give it a deep clean. Take advantage of your still-empty abode and clean the windows, baseboards, floors and wipe down all the drawers, shelves and countertops. Cleaning the house will never be this easy again. Think about it, no furniture or rugs to move, no curtains to take down etc.

Inspect your belongings

Once everything has been unloaded from the truck, the first thing you should do is to check your inventory list and make sure that everything has been delivered. Also, check the boxes that contain breakable items to check if they have survived the move.

Get your locks changed

If you are moving into a new house, this might not be necessary but if it’s a pre-owned home, it would be a good idea to change your locks as a safety precaution. Mind you, there may be a key out there floating around that would match your lock.

Enjoy a meal with your family

Moving could be stressful and tiring. So, after a long day of work, this would the perfect time to sit down with your family and unwind together. Well, you don’t have to prepare a fancy, homemade meal. You can just order something for delivery or drive to the nearest restaurant for takeout.