If you have a moment, we would like to give you a quick breakdown on the importance of changing the air filter in your home’s HVAC system, as well as tell you how often your filter needs to be changed.
But question is: Why is Changing Your Air Filter so Important?
There are a number of different types of filters available on the market, each offering different benefits, but the fact remains that all types of filters need to checked, maintained and changed in order to function properly and safely.
To that end, why is changing your air filter so important?
First of all, a clogged air filter can cause extensive damage to your system. Thus, if you check your air filter’s condition regularly, you ensure the longevity of your system — saving yourself thousands in possible repair and replacement costs. Dirt and neglect are one of the leading causes of heating and cooling systems failing, yet such failure is completely avoidable.
Secondly, changing the air filter in your system ensures cleaner, fresher, healthier air. This is better for everyone in your home, particularly children and the elderly, and most especially for those suffering from allergies and/or asthma. In referring to the latter, a clean air filter means you are not constantly circulating dust, dust mites, pollen and other small particles in the air. Instead, your system will be able to purify the air, leaving it clean and healthy.
Thirdly, aside from protecting the HVAC system from unnecessary damage, cleaning out or changing a clogged air filter will also save you a significant amount on operating costs. In simplest terms, a dirty air filter uses much more energy than a new, clean air filter, which means a much higher electricity bill for you. You can, by keeping your air filter clean and in good condition, save up to 15% on utility costs.
To the above point on energy wastage, failing to clean and replace your air filter on a regular basis is failing the environment. An air filter that is clogged means a harder working HVAC system, thus it also means a lot of carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gasses by extension being released. Going green and running your home in an eco-friendly manner need not necessarily mean bending over backwards and giving up all forms of comfort. Something as simple as changing an air filter regularly can go a long way in making a difference.
Thus, to conclude, changing your HVAC system’s air filter is important in every which way. Economically, health-wise and environmentally it simply makes sense!
To that point, how often should your air filter be changed? It differs depending on the different types of filters, but anywhere between 1 and 3 months is advised, with the former being preferable and the latter being the absolute maximum you should allow between changes.
Ah, the things people do for their kids. One of the biggies? Buying a megamansion with a massive backyard perched in a stellar school district so they can give their offspring the best life possible—even if they’re mortgaged to the hilt. And yet, making real estate decisions solely for the sake of your kids can be a recipe for regret that can actually undermine your family’s happiness.
“People get idealistic and sometimes irrational when they choose the home they plan to raise their kids in,” says Holly Breville, a McEnearney Associates real estate agent in Washington, DC. As proof, just check out some real-life home-buying mistakes so that you can avoid falling into the parent trap.
MISTAKE NO. 1: BUYING TOO BIG
“Expectant parents often want more space,” says Breville. “They want an extra bedroom for visiting grandparents, or they might want every child to have their room.”
They might also want expansion room in case they have more kids down the road. But affording a big home usually means buying in a more remote area, which isn’t always worth the trade-off—something San Francisco mom Abbe Clemons learned the hard way.
“When I was pregnant with our second child, I was convinced we needed a bigger home, so we sold our bungalow in a great neighborhood where we could walk everywhere and bought a big, cavernous house in the hills, where we had to get in the car to go anywhere,” says Clemons. She regretted the decision as soon as her second child arrived.
“I felt totally isolated and, with two tiny kids, we lived on top of each other in a couple of rooms, so a big house was unnecessary.” Breville encourages clients to think hard about whether more space is worth what they’ll sacrifice for it.
“If a larger home means moving a half-hour away from your friends and community, or to an area where you can’t walk anywhere, the impact on your quality of life might not be worth the extra bedroom,” she says.
“And ask yourself if a guest room is worth the money. How often will family members really stay with you? Do you even like having your in-laws stay with you?”
It might make sense to put them in a hotel for their brief visits rather than straining your budget for a bigger home.
Mistake No. 2: Buying before you can afford it
Blame it on hormonal nesting instincts or societal programming, but new parents (or parents-to-be) can become fixated on owning a home, without regard to financial practicalities.
“The moment I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to buy a house. It was an overwhelming ‘I have to do this or I’m going to freak out’ desire,” says Amy Klein of Eugene, OR. “Everything in our price range was old or ugly, so we wound up maxing out our budget on a home 12 miles out of town. I didn’t care that the interest rate was 5.75%. I didn’t care that I had to drive on somewhat of a dangerous road to get to work. All we cared [about] was that we had a house. But now I care a whole lot.”
The reality: Having a new baby can be stressful enough without a backbreaking house payment, so you’d better think hard about whether homeownership is right for you at this point. Here’s how you can figure out how much home you can afford.
Mistake No. 3: Buying for a school district
A home with top-rated schools is the holy grail for parents, but keep in mind that great public schools aren’t truly free.
“Homes in highly regarded school districts usually come at a premium in terms of home prices and property taxes,” says Breville. “So you need to factor in how long you will stay in the area, how many children you have, if your children will definitely use the public schools, and for how long.” Maureen Legac learned firsthand that buying for a school district doesn’t always work out as planned.
“When we relocated to Florida, we were determined to buy in a great school district. We bought a home near A-rated schools, but it was 40 minutes from the beach, and 10 miles to the closest grocery store or gas station,” she says. “Then our children decided to participate in an International Baccalaureate program, which was located at the worst school in the district and had us driving across town past the A-rated schools to go to a D-rated one that happened to house the IB program. We wouldn’t have moved to an area so far from town and the beach if we’d known they wouldn’t be using the schools anyway.”
It might make sense to test out that great school district by renting in the area before you commit.
Mistake No. 4: Renovating for the age they are now, and not for the future.
Coleen Christian Burke knocked down walls to four rooms on her main floor because she thought it would be easier to keep track of her kids in the house. “It turned out fabulous,” she recalls, at least while the children were young. Once they became teenagers, “I learned that they hate open-concept,” she says. “There wasn’t space for them to have privacy when their friends came over, and they spent more time at the houses of friends who had 1970s-style dens and basements. They call our house the fishbowl!”
Lesson learned? Children grow up fast, and their habits and tastes change, too. That backyard play structure that seems so desirable when your kids are in kindergarten will never get used once sports or video games become their entertainment of choice. So try to imagine how any renovations might suit who they are now, and who they’ll become.
By Celeste Perron, Realtor.com
“You can never have too much of a good thing,” or so the saying goes.
But that’s not true when it comes to residential real estate in Metro Phoenix.
“Arizona continues to have a shortage of listing inventory, especially less than $300,000,” says Trudy Moore, designated broker at HomeSmart. “First-time home buyers make up a large sector of the market and there are just not enough listings to fulfill the need. If a property is listed under $300,000 and it is in good condition, it will probably have multiple offers within a few days.”
Phoenix isn’t just hot, it’s sizzling when it comes to residential real estate. Realtor.com named Metro Phoenix the No. 1 residential real estate market in the country, predicting Valley home prices will jump 5.9 percent and the number of sales will jump by 7.2 percent this year. And while the luxury market — those homes priced over $750,000 — picked up substantially in the second half of 2016, it’s the lower-priced homes that experts say will drive a healthy housing industry over the next year.
Everything’s new again
“Opening price-point homes in the high $100,000s and low $200,000s will become plentiful in the outlying areas of Metro Phoenix,” says Doug Fulton, CEO of Fulton Homes.
According to Ken Peterson, Shea Homes Arizona’s vice president of sales and marketing, the Valley has only about a 2.4-months supply of resale home inventory, which is down significantly since the downturn of the market.
“Rising resale prices make new homes more attractive to many potential buyers,” Peterson says.
Fulton says some of the areas that will capitalize on the demand for sub-$300,000 new homes are Maricopa, Buckeye, Laveen, Goodyear, San Tan Valley and Casa Grande.
“These homes will be pre-built speculation inventory and will bode well for the first-time or finally-back-in-the-market homebuyers,” Fulton says.
The impact of this trend, Fulton says, is that sales of these homes will push the “new home vs. resale” closing ratios in Metro Phoenix from 14 percent closer to 20 percent of all home closings.
“Our projection is for 16 percent more new home demand in 2017 and significant appreciation — 7 percent to 9 percent,” says Jim Belfiore, owner of Belfiore Real Estate Consulting. “The rise in demand is already underway. The appreciation is due to inflation, and while we project this growth in home prices, the question is whether or not it will actually take hold?”
What is more clear, Belfiore says, is that builders need appreciation to cover the cost of new land, lots and higher building costs.
“Over the last two years, construction costs have climbed 25 percent to 30 percent for production homes and 30 percent to 35 percent for multifamily,” Belfiore says. “The result has been downward pressure on homebuilder balance sheets. The response, we believe, will be a strong move towards greater profitability in 2017 and 2018. Builders are likely to push prices upward.”
But the bright outlook for new homes sales comes with concerns.
“If we see a sudden increase in sales activity, we’re concerned that the current labor force may not be able to adequately meet the demand,” Peterson says.
But some homebuilders see a solution in sight for the labor crisis.
“If President Trump builds the wall that he promised during his campaign and gives a path to citizenship to those willing to abide by the law and immigrate legally, the building industry’s labor issues will get resolved very quickly and jobs will be created to help support the Arizona economy,” Fulton says.
The flies in the ointment of getting a handle on the outlook for residential real estate in Arizona will be Millennials. According to the National Association of Realtors, 2016 marked the third straight year that Millennials made up the largest group of homebuyers at 35 percent. Generation X accounted for 26 percent of sales.
“Millennials will play a big role in generating hot neighborhoods,” says Tom Davis, vice president of Pioneer Title Agency. “Areas that are close to the light rail and hip local eateries and clubs, as well as proximity to downtown, will push that demand.”
That Millennial mindset is why many experts say that while the outlying neighborhoods may be hot for new homes, Central Phoenix will see the highest appreciation in values.
“Arcadia is still likely the most desirable neighborhood, but it continues to get pricier,” says Christopher Sailus, vice president and NorthEast Arizona Division manager for Washington Federal. “For a good investment, I think the Central Phoenix neighborhoods where culture and gentrification of more historical housing neighborhoods is happening is likely best spot for (a higher) percentage return (on investment) as prices increase there.”
All that said, experts agree that the outlook for residential real estate is as bright as the Arizona sunshine.
“Given the health and affordability of our current market, we have nothing but optimism for the residential real estate market here in Arizona for 2017,” says Rich Simon, owner of Huzing.com.
By Michael Gossie- AZBigMedia.com
If you’re in the process of buying a home, or will be in the near future, one of the costs you’re likely considering is a home warranty. But, as this is an optional expense, you have to decide if it will really be worth it to you.
“Home warranties [typically] cost between $300 and $700 a year and have a service call fee that ranges from $60 to $100, depending on the company,” Whitney Bennett of Landmark Home Warranty in Salt Lake City said.
What is a home warranty?
Before you decide if you want one, you should understand what a home warranty really is and what it can do for you. “A home warranty will repair or replace…covered systems and appliances when they break down from normal wear and tear,” Bennett said. “Most often, home warranties cover the mechanical components of these appliances.” Bennett pointed out that these warranties are often part of a real estate transaction, but can be purchased by a homeowner at any time.
Is it worth it? that depends…
For a “buyer to renew or for a homeowner to purchase their own warranty is a total waste of money,” Adriana Mollica, a Realtor for Teles Properties in Beverly Hills, California, said. However, she added that it depends on the situation, as it may be “a great idea for a seller to purchase [a warranty] for a buyer when selling their property” as an added feature to sell their home. On the flip side, Bennett said these warranties can be great — and save you money — when they’re used correctly. “As long as you hold up your end of the home warranty contract by making sure your systems and appliances are clean and taken care of, when they fail from normal wear and tear, a home warranty will cover the repairs and replacements,” Bennett said. “Even if a home warranty doesn’t cover all parts of the system or appliance that needs to be replaced, the out-of-pocket costs that a homeowner pays versus what they would pay out of pocket without a home warranty translates to huge cost savings.”
Bennett did agree with Mollica, however, that for those who purchase a newly built home with new appliances, “getting a home warranty probably doesn’t make much sense.” She said that a “home warranty makes the most sense when you have moved into a new home and the systems and appliances have been used previously” or when you’ve had your own items for two or more years. “Before you buy a home warranty…make sure to read through the contract,” Bennett advised. “Home warranties will explain in detail which parts of their systems and appliances they cover and which they don’t within their contract. In order to get value out of a home warranty it’s vital to know and understand what the plan covers and doesn’t cover.”
Deciding what you want the warranty for
According to Deb Tomaro, a broker associate for Re/Max Acclaimed Properties in Bloomington, Indiana, it’s all about perspective. If you’re looking to get a warranty that will land you brand new items if yours break, you may be severely disappointed. But if you’re using it as a safety net, you may find comfort in your warranty.
“I look at home warranties as a way to buy insurance [so] that you have time to rebuild your emergency fund after purchasing your home,” Tomaro said. “It can give you peace of mind that you will have heat all winter and hot showers for a year. But it is rare that a homeowner hits the jackpot and gets a new furnace from it, although I’ve seen that. If you do get a new furnace, it is going to be similar to the old one in terms of efficiency, so that won’t save you money either.”
Paying for home repairs
Unexpected home repairs can certainly do big damage to your bank account — which is one of the reasons it’s important to regularly feed that emergency fund. If you’re faced with a pressing expense, a balance-transfer credit card, low-interest personal loan or home equity line of credit could help you cover costs (and possibly spare you some interest.)
By Brooke Niemeyer, Marketwatch
There are many good reasons to own the roof over your head, but there are many tradeoffs as well. Here's how to decide if the time is right for you.
The housing market boom and bust taught us many lessons, including that home ownership isn’t such a “no brainer” after all.
No doubt, there are plenty of good reasons to own the roof over your head, both emotional and financial. But there are many trade-offs as well. With the added control comes a laundry list of responsibilities. With the stability of staying put comes a loss of flexibility. And with the opportunity to build equity comes the risk of losing money.
In fact, homeownership in America is at its lowest rate since 1995. It was recently just 65%, according to the Census Bureau, down from 69% in 2004. Although tighter lending standards, economic uncertainty, and in many cities high home prices are partly to blame, many would-be buyers are staying on the sidelines by choice. Which often makes sense.
Here are five questions to ask before you make the leap into ownership.
1) Is my financial house in order?
If you’re already struggling to pay your bills, buying a home will only compound your money woes. Ideally, you’ve saved at least 10% for a down payment – keep in mind you’ll have to pay private mortgage insurance if your down payment is less than 20% — and that’s in addition to saving for retirement and building an emergency fund.
“If you’re not in a position to save for a down payment, you probably aren’t in the position to buy your own home,” says John Vento, a New York-based CFP and CPA, and author of Financial Independence (Getting to Point X): An Advisor’s Guide to Comprehensive Wealth Management. “You have to prove you have the discipline and ability to save. One of the big problems that led to crash of 2008 is we forgot about this principle.”
2) Am I sticking around for a while?
The old rule of thumb was that buying made sense if you planned to stay put for at least three to five years. These days, many financial planners are recommending an even longer window. “I say at least seven years because the transaction costs of buying a home are signification,” notes Vento.
When you buy, there are the costs of securing the loan, closing on the sale and moving, not to mention all of the miscellaneous items (fresh paint, new curtains) that can easily add up to thousands of dollars. When it’s time to sell, you’ll lose a big chunk – 6% is typical – in real estate sales commissions. Given the historical rate of home price appreciation, says Vento, it will likely take at least five years to break even when all is said and done.
As important as the numbers, is whether you’re ready to tie yourself down to a particular home in a particular city. “Depending on what you do for a living and the job market in your area, you may be better off continuing to rent,” says in Charlotte, NC planner Ann Reilley Gugle.
3) What is the after-tax cost of owning?
If you’re on solid financial ground and ready to make a longer-term commitment, the next step is to get a realistic estimate of what you can expect to spend, and how that breaks down monthly.
You can get a basic estimate by plugging the home price minus your down payment into a mortgage calculator like this one. Most calculators also allow for property taxes and homeowners insurance. If you live in an area where taxes or insurance are higher than the national average, however, plug in numbers based on what’s realistic for your market.
This is a good starting point, but it doesn’t tell the whole picture. On the plus side, a small (albeit, initially tiny) portion of your mortgage will go toward principal. “That’s a forced savings plan,” says Vinto. There are tax advantages too. If you itemize your deductions – as many homeowners do – your mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible. Down the road when you sell, moreover, you can realize up to $250,000 in profit (double that if you’re married) before you owe capital gains tax.
4) And what are the hidden expenses?
There are many additional costs of homeownership that unseasoned buyers tend to overlook, says Google. Four out of five buyers of new homes, including condos and townhomes, can expect to pay homeowner association fees. This additional levy – which pays for costs of shared infrastructure and amenities – can add hundreds of dollars to your monthly expense, and it’s not uncommon for owners to get hit with special assessments for projects not covered in the regular budget.
Most single-family home owners will need to budget – money and time – for routine maintenances costs, as well as big-ticket projects, such as paint jobs and new roofs. “You have to be ready to take on all the things that come with ownership,” adds Gugle. “It’s not for everyone.”
5) What’s happening in my market?
Economists may talk about real estate in national terms, but the market varies greatly from one city to the next, even from one neighborhood to the next. Although home prices in most U.S. cities are still relatively affordable, some cities (i.e. San Francisco) have seen their home prices bounce back to near boom-time highs.
Then again, in many cities, the rental market is as competitive, if not more competitive.
Nationally, half of all renters are spending more than 30% of their income on housing, according to the Joint Center of Housing Studies of Harvard University, up from 38% of renters in 2000. For renters, an improving economy is a Catch-22; as their incomes go up, so too does their rent.
Therein lies one big benefit of owning the roof over your head: Assuming you plan to stay put for a while and lock in a fixed-rate mortgage, your costs should remain relatively stable from year to year; in time they’ll actually go down. For many buyers, that’s all the reason they need to get off the fence and into the housing market.
If you're a renter and you own things and who doesn't? you need renters insurance. You can purchase inexpensive renters insurance for less than $1 a day. The important thing is to make sure that your assets are covered.
Renters insurance also called home and contents insurance covers your belongings from theft and damage. It provides liability coverage if someone is injured while in your apartment. Part of that liability coverage, which is typically about $2,000, is to pay the injured person's medical bills. It can also pay for any lawyer fees and settlements.
Renters insurance will pay for the loss of use of your apartment, meaning you can receive payment to stay in a hotel or other place if your apartment is damaged by a fire, storm or other covered event. It covers your belongings while off premises, which means your belongings are covered while you are traveling or if you leave them in your car. For example, if your laptop is stolen from your car or if your luggage is stolen while on vacation, you can file a claim and receive payment.
There are a few broad reasons for you to purchase contents insurance. They include theft of your belongings and damage to your belongings caused by fire, lightning, windstorms, hail, explosions, smoke, vandalism and plumbing leaks. Let's review a few specific scenarios that emphasize the top reasons to purchase renters insurance.
If you have a computer, you know how valuable it is for storing data, running applications, scrolling the web and entertainment purposes such as streaming video. The documents, data, photos and videos you keep on your computer are irreplaceable. Most renters insurance offers a standard payout, often replacement value, if your computer is stolen or damaged. If you feel you need additional coverage, you can purchase an endorsement, or extra coverage, for your computer, as well as other items such as jewelry, silverware, firearms, business personal property and almost anything you want to insure.
You come home one evening and fire trucks and firefighters are wrapping up hoses and stowing their firefighting gear on the fire truck parked outside your apartment building. Your neighbor fell asleep with a lit cigarette. Your apartment did not burn, but it and everything in it including your clothes were damaged by smoke. Renters insurance can pay you for your loss and pay for a place to stay while the damage is repaired.
A pipe bursts in your ceiling while you're at work and pours water onto your great grandmother's Stickley rocking chair. The leather upholstery is ruined. It's a notable antique and worth a pretty penny. Your renters insurance will pay to repair the rocker. It's important to have renters insurance because your landlord's insurance doesn't usually cover your personal belongings.
While visiting your apartment to introduce herself, your nosy neighbor who plays her music too loud and can't seem to park between the lines in the parking garage slips on some raspberry yogurt and knocks herself unconscious. She hits her head on the counter and needs a few stitches. Your renters insurance will cover your liability for her injuries. It typically provides liability coverage from $100,000 to $500,000, which is ample. If you desire more, or less, you can purchase up to $2 million or as little as $50,000 in liability coverage.
Renters insurance is affordable and worthwhile. You can get renters insurance quotes online, which makes shopping for this must-have insurance simple and easy. If your belongings are stolen, damaged or destroyed by fire, storms, smoke, vandalism or other covered causes, renters insurance provides you with peace of mind because you know they'll be replaced.
by DB Troester- toptenreviews.com
If the sight of the mercury creeping upward fills you with spring fever, we’re with you. We, too, are restless for the toastier and longer days that are just around the corner. But before you can kick back on a balmy evening with a crisp glass of rosé or a cool IPA, you’ve got to get your home in shape.
The month of March—when temps are beginning to rise but before those April showers—is the ideal time to get down and dirty with those maintenance projects, says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a commercial and residential repair, maintenance, and improvement franchise.
March “home maintenance projects can extend the longevity and improve the quality of your home, inside and out,” he says.
So where do you start dusting off winter’s residue? We’ve got a handy checklist of home maintenance chores that will get your home ready to rock when the weather actually gets warm. And if you’re struggling to muster up the energy to tackle these chores, we’ve provided tips for how to do them faster and easier—or with the help of a pro. Because, hey, you’re busy.
1. Clean the gutters
Get the gunk out of your gutter.BanksPhotos/iStock
Task: Remove leaves, pine needles, and other debris that have accumulated over the winter so your gutter system is ready to handle spring showers. Overflowing gutters and blocked downspouts can damage siding and foundations.
Shortcuts: Install gutter guards—screens, foam inserts, surface tension covers—which help to keep debris out of gutters. In general, screen types work best, according to the folks at Consumer Reports.
Call in the pros: A gutter cleaner charges $100 to $250 to clean 200 linear feet of gutter on a two-story, 2,500-square-foot house. Professional installation of gutter guards runs $7.50 to $10 per linear foot.
2. Clean the AC condenser
Task: Remove dust and debris that have accumulated on the AC condenser (the big metal box outside your house) so that the AC works efficiently.
Shortcuts: Hook up a garden hose and spray the outside of the condenser. The water will melt away the gunk. Don’t use a brush, and be careful if pressure washing—you could damage or bend the fins.
Call in the pros: Having a pro service your AC system costs $100 to $250 and includes cleaning the condenser and lubricating the fan motor.
3. Prep the yard
If you want to smell the roses this spring, prune before they bloom.
Task: Start bringing your yard back to life now, before temperatures warm up for real.
Shortcuts: Remove branches and stones, and use your lawn mower with a catch bag to make short work of dead leaves and twigs. Got roses? For full, beautiful blooms, most landscaping experts will tell you to prune your rose bushes just before the plant breaks dormancy and after the final frost—around mid-March for much of the country. If any buds are diseased, bag and toss them in the trash to avoid spreading fungus and infestations.
Call in the pros: A lawn service charges $65 to $90 for mowing and leaf removal on an average-size lot.
4. Clean the siding
Task: Get rid of dirt and grime that can cause mildew and shorten the life of your siding. As a bonus, the exterior of your home will look fresh and clean for spring.
Shortcuts: There’s no need for fancy cleaning solutions or power washers; a bucket of warm, soapy water and a long-handled brush are all you need. Rinse with water from a garden hose.
Call in the pros: Cleaning the siding on a two-story, 2,500-square-foot house runs $900 to $1,150.
5. Clean and repair outdoor decksClear the decks!
Task: Cleaning your deck of leaves and debris—especially between deck boards—prevents staining and reduces the chance of rot. Check for loose boards, and reset protruding nails to keep your deck safe.
Shortcuts: Use a flat-bladed screwdriver to pry gunk out from between boards. Use a deck cleaning product to revive faded and stained boards.
Call in the pros: A deck-cleaning company charges $80 to $480 to clean a 16-by-20-foot deck.
6. Caulk around windows and doors
Task: Inspect the caulking and repair any that was battered during the winter. Check around your windows, doors, and corner trim to prevent water infiltration and avoid costly repairs.
Shortcuts: Feel like you’re always caulking? You can cut down on the frequency of this task if you buy high-quality siliconized acrylic latex caulk rated for exterior use. It has good adhesion and flexibility, cleans up easily with water, and is paintable, too.
Call in the pros: A professional caulking job on an average-size house costs $178 to $410.
7. Inspect walkways and driveways
Task: Winter is tough on concrete and asphalt—freeze and thaw cycles can break apart stone and concrete. You’ll want to seal cracks with sealant made for the specific material of your driveway or walkway to prevent further damage.
Shortcuts: Stuff foam backer rods in large cracks to reduce the amount of sealant you’ll need.
Call in the pros: You can hire a handyman to repair cracks and holes for anywhere from $100 to $250.
8. Inspect the roofing
Task: Take a close look at your roofing to check for loose and missing shingles, worn and rusted flashing, and cracked boots around vent pipes.
Shortcuts: Make it easy on yourself by checking your roof with a pair of binoculars while standing firmly—and safely—on the ground.
Call in the pros: A professional roofing contractor will inspect your roof for free, but will charge for repairs: $95 to $127 to replace broken or missing asphalt shingles; $200 to $500 to replace boots and flashing.
Article by Lisa Gordon- Realtor.com
Mortgage Myth: In the early to mid‑2000s, back before the housing bubble burst, conventional wisdom held that anyone with a pulse could get a mortgage. While that wasn’t accurate, it was true that qualifying for a home mortgage was easier than perhaps it should have been for some people.
Fast‑forward to today, when the pendulum has swung the other way. Guidelines have tightened up, lenders are providing much greater amounts of scrutiny, and products such as “stated income loans” – which didn’t require verification of income – have fallen by the wayside.
This more rigorous lending environment has given rise to a few mortgage myths. Many people now believe that without outstanding credit, a sizable down payment, or minimal debt, they just won’t be able to qualify for a home loan. Not so!
There are a wide range of mortgage programs available to many different buyer circumstances, so don’t count yourself out of landing a mortgage – and a new home – just yet. Here’s a look at three mortgage‑qualifying myths and their corresponding realities.
Mortgage Myth #1: You need excellent credit to get a mortgage
First, find out what your consumer credit score looks like. You can get a free credit report every 12 months from annualcreditreport.com. However, although it can tell you how you’re doing overall, this report won’t include a specific score – getting an actual number will cost you some additional cash. While it won’t be exactly the same as your mortgage FICO score, which lenders use, it will give you an idea if you’re in the right ballpark. (To get your actual mortgage FICO scores, your best bet is to have a mortgage professional pull it for you.)
For reference, many lenders might consider scores in the following way:
Excellent: high 700s or above
Good: low to mid‑700s
Fair: mid‑600s low 700s
Poor: low to mid‑600s
Subpar: below 620
For the best rates and terms you’ll want an excellent score, but you can often qualify for a competitive mortgage if you have a good or fair credit score.
And even if you have poor credit, don’t give up! FHA loans, insured by the Federal Housing Administration, are the top choice for those with less‑than‑sparkling credit histories and are offered by the majority of lenders. The minimum credit score for an FHA loan can be as low as 500, though most of the insured loans require a score of 580. The FHA also offers credit counseling.
Working directly with a lender, even if you have a low credit score, can also help. You may be able to offset a poor score by showing your lender that you’ve paid your rent on time for the past year (or two, depending on the lender), you’ve made all other payments, and you have enough cash saved to keep you afloat for six months’ worth of regular expenses if you need it.
Finally, if you can’t go it alone based on your credit score, there’s one final option: getting a co‑signer. But both you and the co‑signer need to consider this option very carefully, because he or she would be taking on the responsibility to pay the loan if you default.
Mortgage Myth #2: I need a lot of cash for the down payment
While having enough cash on hand to plunk down 20 percent of the purchase price is a great thing to shoot for, it’s not necessary. That magic 20 percent mark does mean you don’t have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI) or government‑backed mortgage insurance (an FHA loan), which protects the lender in case you default.
PMI can add a couple hundred dollars a month to your mortgage payment, but that won’t last forever. Once you get 20 percent of the principal paid off, you can ask to have the insurance taken off the loan. Once you get 22 percent paid, the lender must remove it.
FHA loans come in handy here, too – you can put as little as 3.5 percent down. If you’re currently in the armed services, are a veteran, or are an eligible surviving spouse, you can get certain types of VA loans with no cash down.
You can also get a conventional 30‑year mortgage with only 3 percent down backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. You’ll have to pay PMI and have a credit score of at least 620, along with providing complete documentation of your income, other assets and job status. Homeownership counseling is also required.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to take advantage of down‑payment assistance programs offered by state or local housing authorities, community or not‑for‑profit agencies, or lenders. You’ll have to figure out what you’re eligible for. Some programs are aimed at first‑time homebuyers, or given as assistance to revitalize distressed properties or neighborhoods, or are set aside for people with certain occupations – like firefighters, EMTs, police officers, and teachers – to encourage or allow them to live in the places they serve.
Mortgage Myth #3: I have too much debt to qualify for a loan
Reality: Not necessarily
While you might have a credit card or two, a car loan, and student loans, that might not be too much debt for you to qualify for a mortgage. The only real way to figure that out is to calculate your debt‑to‑income ratio (DTI), which can be as important to a lender as your credit score.
To figure out your DTI, add up what you pay for your current mortgage or rent, car payments, minimum credit card payments, student loans, child support and any other loan obligations. Take the total of your recurring monthly debts and divide by your gross monthly income to arrive at your DTI. The more you make every month, the more debt you can afford to carry.
If your monthly debts are $1,500 per month and your gross monthly income is $6,000, your DTI is 25 percent. When calculating your DTI, a lender will also add in things like property taxes that will come with a new home that add on to regularly recurring debt.
A DTI of 28 and below is considered outstanding, but you can qualify for a conventional or VA mortgage if your monthly debt payments are under 45 percent of your gross income. Not there? Consider an FHA loan, which wants your ceiling to be below 57 percent.
You can see the truth about these myths is that any one of these situations won’t necessarily stop you from getting a mortgage. So maybe you have a high DTI, but you can afford a 20 percent or more down payment and your credit score is excellent. Your mortgage professional can probably find a product that’s right for you.
And as always, the best way to debunk mortgage myths is to talk to a mortgage advisor, who can cut through the confusion and get you real answers.