10 Bad Money Habits That Are Robbing You Blind

Shocked couple in debt
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock.com

Developing good habits helps us focus on things that need our attention most.

But as you work to get your financial life on track, you’ll probably find old, counterproductive habits undermining your progress. Some of them worked once, but now they’re holding you back. Others have always been bad.

Dropping bad money habits makes it easier to power up your financial life. Following are some bad money habits and tips for ending them.

1. Carrying a credit card balance

Carrying a balance on a credit card is like walking down the street with a hole in your wallet and letting money leak out.

Here’s why: Suppose you are paying down a $5,000 balance on a card charging 15% interest. If you only pay the minimum amount each month, it’ll take decades to pay off the debt and cost you thousands of dollars in interest.

Build a better habit: Devote every spare penny to getting rid of credit card debt. If you have other pressing debts, make a plan for dealing with all of them. For more tips on avoiding debt, check out “7 Easy Ways to Stay Out of Debt.”

Keep the balance from building again by making a new habit of paying off the entire bill every month — no exceptions ever.

2. Failing to fund a retirement plan

There are compelling excuses for putting off saving for retirement. But none of those excuses will matter if you reach retirement age with little saved. And, if you don’t take advantage of your employer’s matching contributions to a retirement plan, you’re passing up free money every month.

Build a better habit: Start paying close attention to your retirement savings. If you can’t significantly increase the monthly contribution you make to your plan immediately, increase it by 1% a month. Once a year, check the performance of your investments and rebalance your portfolio.

3. Not shopping for monthly services

Hopefully, you comparison-shopped before signing up for insurance policies. And we trust you did the same thing with phone, internet and cable services.

But you might be missing savings if you’re not checking prices again every year.

Build a better habit: Put some energy into improving your financial life. Once a year, spend 30 to 60 minutes price shopping for monthly services. To make it easy, keep a list with each company’s name, your account number and your monthly payment amount.

If it seems you’ll never get around to doing this, consider contacting BillCutterz, a service that negotiates on your behalf to get discounts on your monthly bills. Here’s a report on how it works.

4. Paying for cable or a landline phone

Cable TV prices are going nowhere but up. Free and cheaper alternatives to cable make experimenting worthwhile. But will you get out of your rut and try something new?

Build a better habit: Before trying a change, record your viewing habits for a week or two to see how and if you’re using the services you currently have. If streaming seems like a legitimate option for you, check out “13 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less.”

Ditto for your landline telephone. If you’re able, drop the landline and use mobile phones only. If that seems too radical, refrain from using the service for one month — or even just a week — while you check out alternatives.

5. Ignoring coupons and deal sites

If you aren’t using coupons and checking daily deal sites, you’re spending too much. However, you still need to exercise discipline when bargain shopping, so you don’t sabotage good intentions with impulse buys.

Build a better habit: Tackle bad habits in small bites. Try just one deal or coupon site. Money Talks News’ deals page, for example, has new sales and coupons every day relating to clothes, shoes, electronics, tools and more.

6. Playing investing too safe

Safe investing is important. But there’s safe, and then there’s too safe. Keeping all your money in no-risk accounts means inflation will rob you of spending power slowly but surely.

Build a new habit: Don’t break all your bad habits at once. Pick one and focus. For instance, make managing your investments a priority. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson offers some tips for getting started in “Ask Stacy — How Do I Invest in a Mutual Fund?”

7. Getting hooked on lattes

That $4 latte is killing your budget. One such latte each workday adds up to $20 a week — potentially $1,040 a year. If you tip a dollar each time, you’re spending $1,300 a year. Surely, there’s something you would rather do with that $1,000.

Build a better habit: Substitute new habits you enjoy for the old ones. A latte is a way of treating yourself, so find treats that don’t bust your budget.

8. Living without an emergency fund

If you don’t have an emergency fund, your life is a high-wire act with no safety net. Emergencies are inevitable. Life is full of them.

Build a better habit: Make a commitment to change. Write down your pledge and put it where you’ll see it. This will allow it to reinforce your resolve.

Commit and watch your savings build. If necessary, take on a few hours of extra work each week, whether it’s overtime at work or watching a neighbor’s dogs. For more tips, check out “9 Tips for Starting an Emergency Fund Today.”

9. Buying retail

Paying retail markup is like setting a match to a pile of cash. Smart buyers find ways to avoid doing that.

For example, a new car’s value drops fast the minute you drive it off the dealer’s lot. So, buy one that’s gently used instead.

Build a better habit: If you feel pressured to keep up with your friends or neighbors, ask yourself what that’s costing you. Stay out of malls and brand-name stores except when researching products. Read up on prices online so you know a good price when you see it.

And check out this post: “41 Things You Should Never Buy.”

10. Using shopping as entertainment

Perhaps you know people with compulsive shopping habits. Maybe you are one of them. Spending creates a high that’s addictive, severely damaging your budget and the financial security of your family.

Build a better habit: Try a spending fast. Remove your name from catalog lists, stay out of stores and hang out with friends whose idea of fun doesn’t include shopping.

Check out “11 Tips and Tricks That Will Keep You From Overspending” for more tips.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

What Homeowners Do to Sleep at Night

Happy woman sleeping peacefully in bed in the morning
Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com

Now that you’ve signed the mortgage and moved into your new home, you may be thinking it’s time to kick back and enjoy it.

Not so fast.

Have you got a plan for covering the bill when the garage door sticks halfway down just as you’re leaving for work? When the ice maker leaks? When the oven stops cold while you’re baking your 4-year-old’s birthday cake?

There’s no calling the landlord now. It’s all on you.

Here’s an idea: Call America’s 1st Choice Home Club and Reliable Home Warranty now, so you’re covered when (not if) your home systems and appliances break down.

As America’s 1st Choice Home Club says, “Life happens. Be prepared.”

Different from home insurance

It’s easy to confuse home warranties with home insurance. They sound sort of alike.

But they’re not.

Home insurance protects your structure and some of your possessions after a disaster — fire, storms and hail, for example. But home insurance may not help pay to fix or replace your broken garage door or the stopped-dead oven.

That’s when you’ll want a home warranty. A warranty helps repair or replace a home’s systems and appliances that have broken from normal wear and tear.

You’ve got choices

Some plans cover more, others less. Reliable Home Warranty, for example, has three levels of coverage — one for basics (including plumbing, electrical, water heater, oven and dishwasher — oh, and that garage door) and an upgraded plan that covers more: things like laundry appliances, built-in microwaves, and cooling and heating systems. Yet another plan lets you add coverage for pools, spas, roof leaks and septic systems.

“Regardless of the age, make, or model, if we can’t repair it, we’ll replace it,” Reliable Home Warranty says.

At America’s 1st Choice Home Club, you can choose among plans that cover six, nine, 15 or 18 appliances and systems. There’s additional coverage you can buy for home systems, including heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical. Check out America’s 1st Choice Home Club; they’ll give you a quote in 30 seconds.

As always, when signing a contract, read all the details, including the fine print.

Do you need a home warranty?

Okay, warranties are a good thing. But do you need one? Well, ask yourself what you will do if:

  • Your furnace quits in mid-December
  • The washer grinds to a halt halfway through a load
  • Your water heater springs a leak while you’re out of town

Can you afford to put life on hold while you search for a repair person? And raid savings to cover surprise repair bills? If so, a warranty’s not for you.

But for many of us, it’s a good idea.

With a home warranty, you can sleep at night knowing that when you call your warranty company, they’ll step in to help.

Warranties sell homes

Thinking of selling your home? Make your listing stand out when you offer a home warranty with the purchase. That added perk gives buyers peace of mind when they make an offer on your home.

Start here by getting your quotes from Reliable Home Warranty and America’s 1st Choice Home Club.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Do It Yourself (DIY) or Hire a Contractor for Home Improvement Projects?

When you buy a fixer-upper, you can expect to spend many thousands of dollars on home improvement projects. According to HomeAdvisor, it costs an average of around $10,000 to remodel a bathroom, $20,000 for a basement, and $25,000 for a kitchen remodel.

For most of these jobs, labor accounts for a big chunk of the cost. For instance, HomeAdvisor says it adds up to between 30% and 35% of the cost for a kitchen remodel and about half the total price of a bathroom remodel. Thus, supplying your own labor for a home repair or remodel can save you a big chunk of change.

However, just because you can do it yourself doesn’t mean you should. Some jobs are easy to handle on your own, while others are best left to skilled professionals. The trick is figuring out which is which.

Deciding Which Jobs to DIY

My husband and I are fairly dedicated DIYers. I have a long list of all the projects we’ve done on our house in the eight years we’ve owned it, and the overwhelming majority of them were DIY jobs — both small ones, such as replacing cabinet hardware, and big ones, like insulating our attic.

Yet there are a handful of jobs on that list for which we hired professional contractors without hesitation or regret. In every case, we chose to do so for one of three reasons: safety, difficulty, or time. These are the three points experts say are most crucial to consider when deciding whether to DIY.

Safety First

There are three major signs a job is too dangerous for DIY:

  1. It Could Kill You. The first question you need to ask yourself about any DIY project is, “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen if I mess it up?” For some jobs, such as roofing or major electrical work, the answer is, “I could get killed.” That answer is a clear warning sign this is a job for a professional trained to handle its dangers.
  2. It Could Destroy Your Home. Major plumbing jobs, such as moving bathroom fixtures, fit into this category. A mistake on this kind of job could result in a water leak weakening a wall to the point of collapse. Of course, plumbers can make mistakes too, but they could be on the hook to pay for the damage if they do.
  3. It Requires a Permit. Some home improvement projects require a building permit, a document guaranteeing they were done safely and in accordance with local building codes. Each city has its own rules about which jobs require permits, how much they cost, and how hard it is to get one. In some areas, you can’t get a permit at all unless you’re working with a licensed contractor. But even if you can, the fact that you need one is a sign the job might be too complicated for DIY.

One job that fit into this category for us was replacing our water heater. If it had been electric, we might have tried to do it ourselves. However, ours ran on gas, which poses a risk of fire, explosion, or poisoning. We decided any job that involves cutting into gas lines is a job we aren’t going to touch.

Know the Ropes

There’s no way you can tackle a home repair job unless you know how. In some cases, having no experience isn’t a deal-breaker because you can learn everything you need from a DIY book or YouTube video. Sources like the DIY Network can teach you how to handle all kinds of straightforward repair jobs, such as fixing a leaky toilet or squeaky door hinge.

But other jobs are so highly specialized it takes years of training to handle them on your own. Even Nicole Curtis of the DIY Network show “Rehab Addict,” who fixes up houses for a living, hires subcontractors to help her with complicated jobs like moving plumbing fixtures or pouring concrete.

There are a few reasons for choosing a professional to do a difficult job.

  • It’s Dangerous. The danger component bears repeating. Many jobs that require technical know-how are jobs that are dangerous to do yourself. In these cases, hire a contractor for safety reasons.
  • Mistakes Could Be Costly. If you’re not quite sure what you’re doing when you tackle a job, you risk having to call in a contractor to fix your mistakes. Instead of saving money by doing it yourself, you could end up paying twice for the same job.
  • It Could Hurt Your Home’s Value. In an article written for NEA Member Benefits, real estate broker Jim Smith warns that slipshod work is a turn-off for future buyers. Elizabeth Goltz, a designer quoted in Consumer Reports’ guide to bathroom remodeling, agrees, saying even the priciest bathroom tile looks cheap if it’s poorly laid.

My husband and I ran into this problem when we noticed the bricks of our side porch stoop coming loose. At first, we thought we could simply reset the loose bricks, but it soon became clear the entire stoop was falling apart. When we talked to a contractor about it, we discovered it was because of poor drainage, which was weakening the foundation.

At that point, we realized it was simply too complicated a job for us to tackle ourselves. It made more sense to pay a professional to rebuild the stoop properly than fix it ourselves and end up having to do the whole job over a year later.

Time Is Money

You get the most value from DIY home improvement when it’s much cheaper to do it yourself than hire a pro. The snag is that the more a job costs to have done professionally, the more of your time it’s likely to take.

To figure out whether it’s worth it, you need to estimate both the cost and time involved and work out your savings on a per-hour basis.

  1. Price the Professional Job. The most accurate way to figure out how much it would cost to have the job done professionally is to get quotes from contractors. But you can also get a quick estimate from Homewyse. Just select the job and enter your zip code, and the site displays a price range based on cost data for your area.
  2. Add Up the DIY Cost. Next, figure out how much it would cost to do the job yourself. Add up the prices for materials, tools, and permits to get your total DIY cost. Then subtract this total from the cost of a professional job to determine how much you can save by doing it yourself.
  3. Estimate the Time Required. Time is a lot harder to estimate than cost because it depends on your experience and skill level. But home repair books often give estimates of how long a job usually takes for novice, intermediate, and expert do-it-yourselfers. You can also find time estimates for some DIY jobs with an Internet search.
  4. Calculate Your Hourly Wage. Divide the potential savings from DIY by the time required to find out how much money you can save for each hour of work. In effect, that’s the amount you can earn per hour for doing this job yourself. Now all you need to decide is whether you’re willing to work for that wage.

For example, my husband and I decided to rewire our basement, including adding several new ceiling lights and moving around all the switches. It was going to be a much more complex job than we’d previously done. And since we both worked full time, we knew we’d only be able to work on it during evenings and weekends.

Based on the size of the job, we realized it would probably take us weeks (if not months) to complete, while an electrician could do it in one day. Furthermore, it was a job that required a permit, and getting one in our town is not an easy task. We decided shelling out $600 to save ourselves all that time and hassle would be money well spent.

Keeping Costs Down

Both DIY and professional jobs have their costs. For a DIY job, the most significant investment is time. When you hire a contractor, it’s cash.

But in both cases, you want to get the most bang for your buck. By keeping a few tips in mind when you start a remodeling project, you can maximize your investment in both time and money.

Saving on Professional Jobs

DIY is probably the most crucial way to save money on home renovation projects, but it isn’t the only way. Even when you hire a contractor, you can take several steps to keep the cost under control.

Choose High-Return Projects

Repairs are necessary, but home remodeling jobs are optional. To get the most out of them, you can choose to focus on the projects that add the most value to your home when it’s time to sell it.

For instance, the 2020 Cost vs. Value Report from industry publication Remodeling magazine shows that when you add manufactured stone veneer to the front of your house, you can expect to get back over 95% of the project cost when you sell. But adding a new master suite returns only a little over half its cost.

Exact costs and values for different projects vary based on where you live. For more specific information, go to the Cost vs. Value Report and select your location.

Choose the Right Contractor

The single most meaningful thing you can do to get the best value from a professional remodeling job is to find a good contractor. Ask your friends and neighbors for recommendations, and get quotes from at least three contractors. Ask them about their fees and experience with this type of work.

Next, do a little homework on all the contractors. Check their ratings with the Better Business Bureau and ensure their licenses and insurance are up to date. Then you can make an informed choice, balancing the contractors’ quoted prices against the quality of the work you can expect from them.


According to Consumer Reports, most of the problems homeowners have with contractors (and vice versa) come from faulty communication. Homeowners get upset when contractors don’t show up on time or listen to their requests or leave a mess. Contractors get upset when homeowners call them at inappropriate hours or let their kids and pets interrupt the work.

To avoid such problems, establish clear guidelines about what you each expect: working hours, working conditions, cleanup, and where to go if you have questions. If a problem arises, talk to the contractor about it as soon as possible. Putting it off just makes it more expensive to fix.

Do Your Own Demo and Cleanup

Even when you can’t DIY an entire job, you can often save money by doing parts of it yourself. Demolition is one example. It doesn’t require a professional’s skill to swing a sledgehammer — just do so carefully.

You can also save money at the other end of the project by doing all the cleanup and other finishing touches, such as painting. That way, you only need to pay the contractor for the parts of the job that an expert really needs to do.

Saving on DIY Jobs

Given the cost of materials, tools, and permits, even a DIY job can get expensive. But there are several tricks for keeping these costs down and getting the best value from your work.

Build Your Skills

Even if it’s your first time doing DIY, you can tackle small jobs like fixing a leaking faucet or putting up a shelf. Instructions are available online, and you can’t do too much damage if you mess up. After building your skills and confidence with little jobs like these, you can work your way up to bigger ones, such as replacing a toilet or building a bookcase.


According to the Consumer Reports bathroom remodeling guide, it’s a mistake to skimp on elements that have to stand up to heavy use, such as bathroom tile. But you can save money with more basic light fixtures or faucets since performance is about the same at all points on the price spectrum.

Save on Materials

You can save on all sorts of materials for home building projects, from kitchen cabinets to windows and doors, by shopping at reuse centers. These stores take unwanted materials, such as leftovers from building projects, salvage from demolition, and items homeowners have discarded, and sell them to the public for bargain prices.

One of the best-known reuse centers is the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, a chain of nonprofit stores and donation centers run by Habitat for Humanity. You can look for listings for reuse centers in your area at The Loading Dock or do an online search for your location and “reuse center” or “architectural salvage.”

Save on Tools

If a DIY job requires a tool you don’t have, borrow it from a friend or neighbor. If that’s not an option, check out Craigslist, eBay, and (if you have time) local garage sales to see if you can buy it secondhand.

If it’s a large tool, such as a floor sander or paint sprayer, you can rent it from a store like Home Depot instead of buying it. For something you only expect to use once or twice, renting is almost always cheaper than purchasing.

If buying new is your only option, find a family member, friend, or neighbor who would like to share the tool with you and split the cost. That way, neither of you has to pay full price for a device you only expect to use occasionally.

Final Word

The choice between DIY and hiring a contractor is more than just a matter of dollars and cents. It’s a careful balancing act between money and a long list of other factors: less hassle, faster results, safety, and professional-quality work. All these advantages explain why so many homeowners come down on the side of hiring a professional despite the higher cost.

However, there’s one advantage of DIY you can’t put a price on: your pride in showing off a job you did yourself. If nothing else gives you quite the same thrill as taking your friends on a tour of the newly finished basement you built with your own hands, that’s more than enough to make up for all the time and work you put into it, even when the cost savings are minimal.

Source: moneycrashers.com

17 Biggest Home Buying Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer looking for a starter home or a seasoned homeowner ready to upgrade or downsize your property, the buying process is similar. From searching for the perfect place to call home to putting in an initial offer, it’s an exhilarating and life-changing adventure for new and experienced buyers alike.

And with such a major decision on the line, it’s important to make sure you don’t come to regret your decision in the future or miss out on your dream home by making a common — but avoidable — mistake.

17 Home Buying Mistakes to Avoid

Simple missteps like overestimating your DIY skills or making a lowball offer can put a damper on the excitement you feel during or following the home buying process. And they can cost you money, stress you out, and give you buyer’s remorse.

But, if you know what the most common mistakes are and you prepare in advance, you can bypass them — and the negative side effects they come with.

These are the most common home buying mistakes you should seek to avoid.

1. Not Reviewing Your Budget

Before you buy a home, you need to know what you can afford. This means taking a deep dive into your budget and reviewing your current costs and expenses, as well as estimating any new costs and expenses you’ll take on from owning a home.

For example, additional or increased costs may include:

  • Your monthly payment for rent or a mortgage
  • Property taxes
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Landscaping
  • Homeowners Association (HOA) or condo fees
  • Furniture
  • Utilities

You should also budget for a home emergency fund to cover potential problems like broken appliances or unexpected repair and maintenance costs.

If the estimated costs are too high, it might mean you have to rethink your budget by lowering your price range or reducing your homeowner expenses.

Knowing what you can afford beforehand ensures that you only look at houses within your budget and aren’t tempted to overspend.

2. Overlooking the Community

A house is one thing, but the community it’s in is another. Many homebuyers become excited about a particular property and fail to pay attention to the neighborhood or area it’s in. However, where a home is located can have a significant impact on your quality of life and overall happiness.

For example, pay attention to location-based factors such as:

  • The property’s proximity to an airport, dump, or train tracks
  • Whether it’s a family-oriented neighborhood
  • How close it is to amenities like public transportation, schools, and parks
  • How far it is from your place of work
  • Where necessities like grocery stores and gas stations are located

It’s also useful to look into future developments in the area, like commercial buildings, apartment complexes, and public spaces. If you’d prefer to live away from busy public areas, purchasing a property close to a future strip mall might not be a great option for you.

Or, if you want to be part of an up-and-coming area, planned developments give you a clear idea of what to expect in your neighborhood in the next few years, like new restaurants or off-leash dog parks.

Take some time to think about what you want to be close to or far from before you start your home search. Consider your interests and lifestyle to determine where your ideal property would be located, then use the information to ensure you wind up in a community that you feel good about.

3. Forgetting About Maintenance Costs

The great part about renting is that you don’t have to worry about the costs of homeownership like appliance repairs, building upkeep, or landscaping. But you do have to cover these expenses when you buy a new home.

As with forgetting to make a budget, forgetting to consider ongoing maintenance costs has the potential to wreak havoc on your finances. And avoiding maintenance and upkeep will only end up costing you more money in the long run because it will lead to larger repairs and more serious problems.

Homeowner maintenance includes a variety of recurring tasks, such as:

  • Mowing, trimming, and weeding
  • Snow removal
  • Applying paint and stain
  • Cleaning gutters
  • Pressure washing decks, patios, and siding
  • Chimney cleaning
  • Exterior window washing
  • Servicing your heating and cooling system

Depending on the home, it may also include tasks like replacing shingles, treating hardwood floors, or hiring an arborist to prune your trees.

When it comes to getting these jobs done, you can either take them on yourself or hire a professional to do them for you. However, both will cost you some combination of time and money.

Most home maintenance tasks require equipment. So if you plan to tackle them yourself, expect to cover the costs of equipment, like buying a lawnmower or a ladder or renting a pressure washer. And, if you hire a contractor to do your home maintenance for you, you’ll of course need to pay them.

Maintenance costs aren’t included in your mortgage loan, so you need to be able to cover them out of pocket. When reviewing properties, consider what kind of maintenance the property will need and whether you can afford it. Not only does it cost money, but it also takes a lot of time.

If a high-maintenance property isn’t a fit for your lifestyle or budget, look for something that requires less work, such as a newer home or lower-maintenance property like a condo.

4. Not Getting a Preapproval

One of the first steps you should take on your journey to homeownership is to get a mortgage preapproval. A preapproval is the amount a bank agrees to lend you based on factors like your savings, credit score, and debt-to-income ratio.

Having a preapproval tells you exactly how much a bank will allow you to borrow, giving you a maximum purchase price for your home.

Without being preapproved, you have no idea how much a mortgage lender is willing to give you or what your interest rate will be. This means you’ll be house shopping with no real budget in mind. You won’t even know if a bank will approve you at all, meaning you could be wasting your time even looking for a home in the first place.

Before you think about booking a showing or talking to a realtor, book an appointment with your bank or a mortgage broker. Find out exactly how much you have to work with so you can view homes within your price range and budget.

5. Only Looking at a Few Properties

Buying a home is a major undertaking, not just financially, but emotionally as well. Only looking at a handful of houses won’t give you a realistic picture of what’s on the market, what home prices are like, or whether something better is out there.

Book multiple showings to get a feel for your options. Even if you think you’ve found your dream home early on, there’s no guarantee you’ll get it. Keep your options open and check out a wide variety of properties to give yourself some perspective.

Who knows, you might find a hidden gem or dodge a bullet simply by taking your time and not limiting your options to a handful of properties.

6. Not Having a Real Estate Agent

When embarking on a home buying journey, you may be tempted to save yourself some money by opting to go without a buyer’s agent. But for most people, that’s a mistake. Unless you’re well-versed in real estate law and property negotiations, you should have a good real estate agent.

After all, their fees are typically covered in your mortgage as part of the closing costs of the home, meaning you don’t have to pay for them out of pocket.

But that’s not the only reason you should have a realtor when buying a property. A buyer’s agent provides many benefits, such as:

  • Networking with other realtors and property owners to find new and upcoming listings
  • Having access to property listing tools such as the MLS
  • Negotiating offers and conditions
  • Helping you to find a broker, lawyer, or other professional you may need
  • Handling important paperwork
  • Ensuring you’re aware of any important disclosures

An experienced buyer’s agent will work for you, helping you to find the perfect property not only for your lifestyle and budget but based on what’s available. They’ll take on the heavy lifting when it comes to paperwork, showings, and communicating with sellers and their agents, giving you a chance to focus on more important things.

7. Not Making a Wants vs. Needs List

Some people jump straight into viewing properties without evaluating their needs versus their wants. But it’s a common mistake that complicates the home buying process and causes decision paralysis. When buying a home, it’s essential to know what you need in your new home compared to what you would like it to have.

For example, if you have a dog, a yard could go on your needs list, while something like a pool or walk-in closet might go on your list of wants. If a lack of closet space would be a deal breaker for you, you might list the walk-in closet as a need for you instead.

You can give this list to your realtor, which will help them to filter through potential properties to show you. This saves both of you from wasting time viewing homes that won’t work for you.

And, it encourages you to get your priorities straight by forcing you to think about what you really need to be happy and fulfilled in your new home. Plus, knowing what you want gives you a better idea of your budget and which bonus features or upgrades you can afford.

If you don’t make a list, you could end up buying a property that isn’t a great match for your lifestyle.

8. Taking on Too Much Work

Fixer-uppers tend to be romanticized in reality TV shows about house flipping and interior design, but they’re a lot of work. Overestimating your DIY skills and taking on a house that’s going to require a significant amount of time and money to renovate or repair can quickly turn your motivation into buyer’s remorse.

On top of a mortgage payment, you’ll have to cover the costs of materials and labor for any upgrades or renovations that need to be done. If you’re handy, you can save money on labor, but you’ll still need tools, supplies, and a serious time commitment.

If you have to hire professional contractors to complete the work for you, expect costs to be relatively high depending on what you need done. If a home project goes over budget — which happens often — you don’t want to be left in a bad financial situation and an unfinished home.

Before moving ahead with a home purchase, consider how much work you’re willing to take on and how much of a renovation budget you can afford.

9. Buying in the Wrong Market

In real estate, there are two basic types of extreme markets: a buyer’s market and a seller’s market. In a buyer’s market, there are a variety of homes available for you to view and consider, meaning sellers are more likely to try to entice you with competitive prices and other incentives.

In a seller’s market, there aren’t many homes up for sale, so buyers have to compete against one another to win bidding wars. This often results in paying over the asking price, which increases monthly mortgage payments and possibly even your down payment.

The best time to buy a home is in a buyer’s market. Sometimes, waiting for a season or two to buy will save you a significant amount of money and keep you from the stress and uncertainty of buying in a seller’s market.

If you’re able to, buy when the market is in your favor and not working against you.

10. Feeling Uncertain

If you feel uncertain about a home, an offer, your real estate agent, or your financial situation, it’s not the right time for you to buy. Purchasing a house is one of the biggest financial commitments you’ll ever make, so you need to feel confident that you’re making the right choice for you, your budget, and your family.

If something feels off, carve out time to figure out what’s causing your uncertainty. It’s normal to feel nervous about taking on a home loan, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer, but watch out for feelings of apprehension, uneasiness, or even dread.

Your home buying experience should be positive, so if your gut is telling you to reconsider, it might be best to take a step back and reevaluate.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t buy a home at all. It just means you need to change something about your situation, such as getting a new real estate agent, looking at more properties, or lowering your budget. Consider what will make you feel confident about buying a home and don’t move forward until you feel comfortable, positive, and satisfied.

11. Making a Lowball Offer

Making a lowball offer on a property is a rookie mistake that many seasoned and first-time homebuyers make. It offends home sellers, starting negotiations off on the wrong foot and sometimes even ending them altogether.

Sellers often spend a lot of time working with their real estate agents to price their homes based on the market, comparable homes in the neighborhood, and the state of the property. Just like you need to work within a budget for your home purchase, they need to make a certain amount of money from their home sale.

Lowball offers are rarely accepted and don’t provide much benefit to either party.

When making an offer on a home, listen to your real estate agent and offer a fair price. Being respectful and considering the true value of a home in your offers makes them more likely to be accepted.

12. Not Talking to a Broker

While a bank is often the first place you go to find out how much you can get approved for, they’re not your only option. A mortgage broker can provide you with a variety of different mortgage rates and terms from different lenders, allowing you to choose the best offer.

As with your bank, you’ll need to provide financial information like pay stubs, your credit score, and details about your assets and debts. The broker will use this information to shop around and find you the best interest rate and mortgage terms based on your financial situation.

Often, they can find you a better deal than what your bank is offering. However, make sure your broker has your best interests in mind. Don’t take out a mortgage with a disreputable or unestablished lender just to save some money.

A good broker can save you a lot in interest, so they’re worth talking to regardless of whether you choose to go with one of their offers.

13. Having a Small or Nonexistent Down Payment

There are a variety of different loans when it comes to buying a home, each with different down payment requirements:

  • VA home loans, which are for veterans and require as little as 0% down
  • Conventional loans, which are the most common for those with strong credit and no military service
  • FHA loans for borrowers with poor credit and low down payments

If you’re opting for a conventional loan, you’ll likely need to have a hefty down payment, especially if you want to avoid having to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). Typically, you have to pay for PMI if you don’t have the minimum down payment required by a lender, and it’ll cost you anywhere from $50 to $200 per month.

Most lenders prefer to have at least 20% of the purchase price as a down payment. So, if you were buying a home for $350,000, you’d need to have $70,000 cash to put toward your mortgage.

Not planning for a sufficient down payment can put a huge damper on your home buying experience. It affects how much a lender will give you, your interest rate, and whether you have to pay PMI. Plus, it impacts your cash flow and the funds you have to put toward closing costs, renovations, and repairs.

Make sure you know how much you need in advance and plan ahead to avoid a disappointing and disheartening experience.

14. Going Without a Home Inspection

When you make an offer on a house, you have the option to make it dependent on a home inspection. Some lenders even make it a requirement of your mortgage terms. But if they don’t, or if you’re buying your property without a loan, you may choose to go without a home inspection.

But skipping a home inspection can cost you a lot of money and stress down the road.

Home inspectors are certified professionals who inspect a property’s condition. They review the structure, plumbing, electrical, exterior, and interior elements of the home and provide you with a report detailing any issues they find. For example, a home inspector would catch wiring that is not up to code or water damage in the basement.

These reports help you to avoid major repairs and give you an overview of the property’s condition. This can save you from buying a home that needs a new roof or that has a mold problem. Seeing as home inspections typically cost between $300 and $500, they’re often worth it.

Even if you choose to move ahead with a home purchase after you receive your inspection report, you can use it to renegotiate your offer based on any repairs that need to be made.

For example, if the report noted that the railing on the deck needs to be replaced, you could either request that the seller have it fixed or reduce your offer by how much it would cost a contractor to do.

15. Not Including the Right Conditions in an Offer

Your real estate agent will help you to figure out which conditions to put in your offer, but the most common include:

  • Home inspection
  • Financing
  • The sale of your current home
  • Closing date
  • Fixtures and appliances
  • Who pays which closing costs

You can also request an appraisal or survey, repairs, or specific cleaning tasks.

Conditions protect you so that you don’t commit to purchasing a house before you know you have financing and a home inspection in place. And they keep you from walking in on moving day only to find out the appliances weren’t included in your purchase price.

Base your conditions on the property you’re interested in and make sure they’re fair and within reason. Add too many unreasonable conditions to an offer and you risk getting rejected by a seller.

16. Not Seeing a House Yourself

Although video tours are OK, they don’t give you the full sensory experience of a home. You don’t pick up on any strange smells or noises, and you don’t truly get a feeling for the size or condition of the space or the neighborhood it’s in.

Even having a friend or family member view a home in your stead is a better option than going with video alone — especially if you won’t be able to visit yourself before you make an offer.

Ideally, though, you should visit and view a home yourself before you commit to buying it. If you happen to be buying a home in another state or country, try to plan a trip beforehand to look at houses. If you can’t do that, consider finding temporary housing to stay in after you arrive so you can search for a home in person.

If you don’t, you could end up buying a property you aren’t completely happy with or one that has unexpected issues.

17. Not Checking Your Credit Rating

Buying a house means having a solid grasp of your personal financial situation, including your credit score. Knowing your credit score keeps you from encountering any disappointing surprises when you talk to a bank or broker about getting preapproved for a mortgage.

Monitoring your credit score gives you a chance to improve it before you apply for a mortgage, increasing your chances of being approved and getting offered more competitive rates.

Check your credit score before you get too far into the home buying process to see what your rating is and whether you have any recent dings like late payments that may affect your interest rate or mortgage terms.

Final Word

Buying a house is meant to be an exciting and enjoyable experience. With such a major personal and financial commitment on the horizon, you want to do everything you can to avoid buyer’s remorse after you sign the dotted line.

Prepare yourself by getting your finances in order, having a clear idea of the kind of place you want to call home, and understanding the current market to have a happier, more successful home buying experience.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Getting Good Rate on a Car Loan

Buying a new car? Planning to get a car loan for it? Then keep the following tips in mind to get a good interest rate – and avoid the crucial mistakes that cost you even more money over the long run.

Tip #1: Don’t Get Financing at the Dealership

The vast majority of car buyers get their car loans at the same dealership where they buy the car. Their reasoning: It’s convenient, and/or the dealers give great interest rates. Do you have the same sentiment?

Here’s the problem: As attractive as the dealer’s advertised interest rates are, they’re likely reserved only for buyers with excellent credit scores. What’s more, there’s a pretty good chance you can find an even better deal elsewhere, such as with community banks and credit unions.

Our advice: Do your homework, and get your loan lined up and ready before you visit the dealer. If the dealer offers you an even better deal, you can still have the loan canceled.

Tip #2: Check Your Credit Score

Do you know your credit score? If not – and if you let the dealer come up with your car loan for you – you’re in BIG trouble! The dealer might convince you that your credit rating is worse than it actually is, and jack up your interest rates accordingly.

Get your credit score by requesting your credit ratings from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. You can also check your credit score by applying for preapproved car financing. Car loans from banks and credit unions can give you a pretty good idea of the vehicles and interest rate your credit score qualifies you for.

Click here to learn how you can improve your credit score. 

Tip #3: Watch Out For Scams.

Another risk you run when you let your dealer set up your financing for you is getting scammed. A common scam is carried out when, a few days after you sign the dotted line and bring your new car home, the dealer calls you and tells you the car loan “didn’t work out,” and that you’ll need to re-negotiate a new loan with a higher interest rate – or give the car back, losing your deposit in the process.

Protect yourself by getting your car loan elsewhere, or by not buying the car until you’re 100% sure the dealer’s financing is finalized.

Tip #4: Don’t Focus on the Monthly Fee

Lastly, one of the biggest mistakes car buyers make is going for the loan with the lowest monthly fees. Low monthly fees normally mean higher interest rates and longer payment periods. If you’re not careful, you might end up paying over twice the car’s value throughout the life of the loan.

Remember that there are at least two things that go into the monthly fee: The price of the car and the car loan’s premium. (If you’re trading in your old car, that’s an additional factor.) A single monthly fee won’t tell you how much of each is going into it – and there’s no way of knowing whether you’re paying too much for your loan or getting too little from your trade-in.

So if the car salesman asks you how much you can afford to pay each month – you don’t need to answer. Don’t get trapped! Focus instead on the total amount you’ll be paying for the car loan over its lifetime. It’s the best way to save money and get a decent car at the same time.

Source: creditabsolute.com

Common Credit Score Mistakes

Here at Credit Absolute we’ve helped our fair share of clients who have just been dealt a bad hand and everything went bad at once, destroying their credit score.

One of the more extreme case was with one of our clients who had been laid off during the recent recession. This caused him get behind on car and mortgage payments for several months before finally going into foreclosure, having his car repossessed, and maxed out credit cards.  This left him drowning in debt and when he finally found new employment, the previous lenders began garnishing his wages, making it nearly impossible to pay his current bills, let alone pay off old debt. He was then forced to file bankruptcy and is now working to rebuild his credit after years of bad luck ruined his credit.

There are definitely situations like this that may be out of your control and your bad credit score may just be the result of bad luck, but in most cases it has more to do with poor credit habits and common credit mistakes. While derogatory marks on your credit report do eventually fall off, it does take awhile. So it’s important to make sure you avoid these common mistakes.

Common Credit Score Mistakes That Can Kill Your Credit Score

While some unforeseen circumstances may be unavoidable, there are quite a few different things that can negatively affect your credit score and should be avoided whenever possible. Here are a few common mistakes that people with low credit scores tend to make:

  • You Close Old Credit Card Accounts

A large part of your credit score is determined by your credit history and by keeping your old credit cards can help improve your credit score. You will still need to occasionally use those cards to keep them “active” but you definitely don’t want to close out old cards.

  • You Take Too Long To Shop For The Best Rate

This is a very common mistake among new home and car buyers who have been advised to shop around for the best rates. While it is definitely recommended to search around for the best rates when buying a car or home, you want to avoid having your credit checked numerous times by shopping too long for a good rate. One tip to help avoid this mistake is by working with a mortgage broker; they can run your credit once but will still have access to numerous mortgage companies in order to find you the best rate without having to re-run your credit for every lender.

  • You Don’t Use Credit, Even Though You Have Access To It

Sadly, this happens far too often and, while it may not hurt your credit, it is a lost opportunity that could be helping you maintain a good credit score. If you have credit cards that you’ve perhaps had for years and no longer use, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to improve your credit. Credit that isn’t being used won’t help your credit score so make sure that you’re using your credit card at least a few times a year to ensure it stays “active” and continues to benefit your score.

  • You Max Out Your Credit Cards

While this mistake isn’t always done intentionally – many people max out their credit cards because of unexpected financial burdens – many people are unaware that they are severely hurting their credit score by maxing out a credit card. Try to avoid using more than 50% of your available credit (preferably less than 30%) to maintain a good debt to credit ratio which will help increase your credit score.

  • You Became A Co-Signer

This can be a sensitive matter of conversation because co-signing often involves two people who are very close and trust each other enough to risk their credit on behalf of the other. Unfortunately, many people haphazardly co-sign without a second thought and without considering the implications of the matter. Before co-signing, make sure that the person you’re co-signing for isn’t a likely risk of delinquency. If they stop paying, you start paying with bad credit – you could also be held accountable for the remainder of the debt as well.

  • You Don’t Worry About “Just One” Missed Payment

According to FICO, “Delinquent payments, even if only a few days late, and collections can have a major negative impact on your FICO Scores.”

Far too often people will neglect to pay their bills on time simply because they forget to, are too busy, or simply don’t think it’s a big deal if they’re just a few days late. Unfortunately this can severely impact your credit score, lowering it substantially. Avoid late payments whenever possible and set reminders if you have the tendency to forget.

Rebuild Your Credit

Whether you’ve been the subject of Murphy’s Law and been rained on with horribly bad luck, resulting in a low credit score, or you’ve just inadvertently made some poor choices that have caused your score to drop, Credit Absolute can help rebuild your credit score quickly and affordably. Don’t continue to be dragged down by poor credit and high interest rates, contact us today for a free consultation!

Source: creditabsolute.com

How to Thrift Shop for Vintage Fire-King Coffee Cups

Vintage mug and bowl
EvergreenPlanet / Shutterstock.com

Shopping thrift stores, flea markets and estate sales can be overwhelming. With the sheer volume of stuff, how do you know where to start? How do you spot gems amid all the junk?

As a professional reseller who has been combing through thrift stores for the better part of 30 years, I can help. If you’re ready to cut your shopping time in half, score bigger bargains or walk away with brag-worthy finds you can flip for cash, read on.

From hard-to-find household items to resale money-makers, everything featured in this series qualifies as a BOLO (“be on the lookout” for) item. When you find it, buy it!

Featured find: vintage Fire-King coffee cups

The next time you’re thrift shopping, make a beeline to the selection of coffee cups. Hidden among the chipped souvenir mugs, you just may find a Fire-King cup.

Introduced in 1942, Fire-King was an extensive line of oven-proof dishware from the glass giant Anchor Hocking. Many pieces have become hot collectibles, but Fire-King coffee mugs are a favorite thrift store score of mine. They slip through the cracks at most secondhand shops — priced for a dollar or two and added to the jumble of cast-off cups.

Since Fire-King cups is a fairly broad category, let’s narrow our focus and define exactly what types we’re talking about:

  • Milk glass: Most Fire-King cups were made of milk glass, a dense, opaque glass. White cups were often used for promotional purposes and printed with various company logos.
  • Jadeite and turquoise glass: Opaque like milk glass, Fire-King’s jadeite (jade-ite) cups are green and its turquoise cups are light blue.
  • Restaurant-ware: Fire-King designed a line of heavier dishware for restaurants. A restaurant-ware cup is about twice as thick as a standard cup.

Why buy it

Fire-King was popular because it was innovative and durable. Pieces could withstand high heat and were practically chip-proof — a big selling point in an era when consumer plastics weren’t as common as they are now.

Today, people buy for one of two reasons:

  1. Fire-King cups are the perfect accent to a simple, modern aesthetic. They’re functional and practical, but unique enough to get noticed.
  2. Fire-King hits our nostalgia nerve. My grandparents had a set, and I vividly remember the cups my parents used until the 1980s.

For resellers, that nostalgia fuels a strong market. This single milk glass cup advertising Stuckey’s convenience stores recently sold for $710 on eBay. And this lot of jadeite restaurant-ware mugs brought $330.

Those prices are even more impressive when you consider that vintage Fire-King is fairly plentiful in the secondhand market. Last month at a yard sale, I found two Fire-King cups featuring characters from the Peanuts comic strip. I paid 50 cents for each and flipped the pair for $80.

Pro tip: The oven-proof quality of Fire-King glass may deteriorate over the decades. Avoid putting mugs in the microwave.

What to look for

As with all glass, condition is everything. Avoid pieces with a dull or rough surface; they’ve likely been exposed to high heat and heavy detergents in the dishwasher.

Pro tip: It’s tough to spot cracks in opaque glass — especially jadeite. Before you buy, hold the cup up to a window or bright light. Cracks usually occur where the handle meets the body of the cup.

If you’re buying to resell, remember: Not all Fire-King is created equal. Buyers pay a premium for:

  • Multiple matching cups or full sets
  • Cups that advertise national brands such as Bazooka Bubble Gum, Coca-Cola and Burger King
  • Unique styles and colors (like this Kimberly diamond pattern set in an iridescent finish called Moonglow)
  • Restaurant-ware

You can find the impressed Fire-King mark on the underside of each piece. In one version of the logo, the words “Anchor Hocking, Made in U.S.A.” encircle an image of an anchor entwined with the letter “H.” Below the anchor, are the words “Fire-King Ovenware” or “Fire-King Ware”.

In another version of the mark, the words “T.M. Reg. Made in U.S.A.” encircle an all-caps “FIRE-KING” without the anchor.

Reproduction alert: Fire-King’s popularity has inspired new lines of jadeite products. This three-piece jadeite set by The Pioneer Woman is available at Walmart. While contemporary pieces by other makers may be valuable in their own right, they’re not the same as Fire-King originals.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

14 Biggest Home Selling Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Maybe you’ve recently become an empty nester and are looking to downsize, or perhaps you accepted a job offer in a new city. Whatever your motivation, you’re thinking about selling your home and moving on to greener pastures.

But before you dive in, it helps to know which home selling mistakes to avoid to help ensure you get a great offer, sell your property quickly, and facilitate a positive experience for yourself and prospective buyers.

Getting a home ready for the market is often stressful. And it’s even more so if you make these home selling mistakes. From neglecting curb appeal to using low-quality listing photos, avoid these pitfalls to have a more positive and profitable selling experience.

1. Not Pricing Realistically

Pricing your home can be tricky. While you certainly want to make a profit from the sale, you also have to be realistic about the value of your property. Price it too high and you’ll scare away potential buyers. Price it too low and you’ll be taking money out of your own pocket.

A good way to gauge how much to list your property for is to look at comparable homes in your neighborhood that have recently sold. Pay special attention to how they differ from yours to determine whether you should aim for a higher or lower sale price.

For example:

  • Have either of the homes been renovated?
  • Is one property bigger than the other?
  • Does one home have upgrades the other doesn’t, like a pool or fenced yard?

Reviewing sold homes in your community will give you a feel for your house’s market value. If your home is in better condition than a comparable property or if it has desirable features another doesn’t, you may be able to price slightly higher. However, if your home is in worse shape you might need to settle for a lower asking price.

2. Not Staging Your Home

Staging your home doesn’t necessarily have to mean hiring a professional home stager. But it does mean that you should clean, declutter, and organize your home so that it’s visually appealing to potential buyers.

To prep your home to sell, consider:

  • Applying a fresh coat of paint to your walls
  • Keeping surfaces like counters, tables, and desks free of clutter
  • Deep cleaning carpets and rugs
  • Renting nice furniture or decorative pieces
  • Landscaping or maintaining your yard, deck, or balcony
  • Replacing outdated wallpaper
  • Fixing damages to walls, flooring, and counters
  • Decluttering

If you have a lot of items to remove from your home, such as furniture or personal items, rent a storage locker as you declutter and organize. Store any items you want to keep for your new home so you can depersonalize and stage the one you’re selling.

Or, if you’re not interested in staging your home yourself, hire a professional to do it for you. Professional real estate stagers are well-versed in interior design and will be able to help you show off your home’s best assets.

If you choose not to opt for home staging at all, you risk giving prospective buyers a poor first impression. Disorganized clutter and too many personal items like family photos make it hard for others to picture themselves living in your home. Do your best to provide a neutral setting, where prospective buyers who come for showings can envision making the space their own.

3. Not Considering Closing Costs

Whether you sell your home using a realtor or you opt to go the for sale by owner (FSBO) route, there are closing costs you can’t avoid. For example, homeowners may have to pay for:

One common home selling mistake is forgetting to incorporate these costs into your listing price or profit. Although some costs associated with closing a home sale are typically covered by homebuyers, most sellers still have to pay at least some closing costs.

Before choosing to put your home on the market, consider how much your closing costs will be. They can vary greatly based on where you live, the type and age of your property, and how you choose to sell your home.

Understanding how much you need to plan to spend before listing your house gives you a better idea of the price range you can afford and how much profit you’ll come away with.

4. Selling on Your Own

Selling a home on your own may seem like a great way to save money on realtor fees, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, it will cause unnecessary stress and may even lead to you losing money. If you choose to list your house as for sale by owner, be prepared to:

  • Set up showings and open houses
  • Negotiate offers and conditions
  • Stage your own home
  • Take high-quality photos of your home
  • Write an appealing description of your property
  • Advertise and market your listing
  • Close the sale of the home on your own

Realtors have access to a variety of listing tools that homeowners don’t, such as the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a major real estate platform that offers property searches, history, and more. They also network with each other to find the right buyers as well as cover communications and paperwork between you and potential buyers during the home selling process.

While selling your home without a listing agent can save you money, it’s not a decision you should make lightly. Make sure you understand what FSBO means and the responsibilities you’ll be taking on. If you don’t have the know-how to sell yourself, consider looking for a good real estate agent instead.

5. Choosing the Wrong Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents aren’t all alike. The one you choose to sell your home can make or break how successful your home sale is. A good realtor can accelerate the sale of your home, get you better offers, and make the home selling process a breeze.

A bad real estate agent can cost you time, money, and showings.

To find a good realtor, look for someone who:

  • Has experience in your neighborhood
  • Has sold similar properties before
  • Has a real estate license
  • You feel comfortable working with
  • Is a good communicator
  • Understands your goals and priorities
  • Has a proven track record of selling homes

Bonus points if they’re a member of a professional real estate organization like the National Association of Realtors.

Get referrals from your contacts and meet with a few realtors before choosing one to work with. It’s completely acceptable to shop around and take your time. After all, a lot is riding on your real estate agent when it comes to selling your property.

6. Taking Feedback Personally

Your home likely has sentimental value to you, even if you’re selling it. This makes it easy to take lowball offers or criticisms about the paint choices or yard size personally during open houses and showings.

But it’s important to remember that your home only has sentimental value to you, not to potential buyers. Try not to get offended during the selling process. It will only cloud your judgment and cause you to base any decisions you make off your emotions, not reason.

Emotionally driven decisions can force you to miss out on negotiations and offers, causing your home to stay on the market longer.

Detach yourself from your home by depersonalizing it, avoiding attending showings and open houses, and looking at offers or other negotiations from a logical standpoint. Treat selling your home like a business transaction.

Just because someone makes a lowball offer doesn’t mean the negotiation process is over. Counter with a higher number and take it from there.

7. Selling in the Wrong Season

The housing market typically starts to quiet down during the winter months. After all, who wants to move in the cold?

If you put your house on the market during the winter, chances are you’ll wind up with fewer viewings and lower offers.

Instead, list your home during peak real estate season, which starts in the spring and runs until early fall. At this time of year, the market is flooded with buyers looking to find a home and make it their own before the end of the year.

This ups your chances of getting an offer that reflects the true value of your home without having to factor in the weather and a sparse market.

8. Selling in a Buyer’s Market

In real estate, there are two distinct types of market: a buyer’s market and a seller’s market. A buyer’s market is when there are more homes listed than there are buyers. This enables buyers to negotiate lower offers and shop around to find the best deal.

In a seller’s market, there are more buyers looking to purchase a property than there are houses up for sale. This means buyers need to compete against one another to land a deal — often resulting in offers over your asking price.

If you have the luxury of waiting to list your home until you’re in a seller’s market, you’re certain to make top dollar for your property. At the very least, try not to sell in a buyer’s market unless you have to.

9. Using Poor Listing Photos

The listing photos you use for your home heavily influence a potential buyer’s first impression. And they use them to determine whether they want to bother booking a viewing or not.

If your listing photos are poor quality, you’re almost guaranteed to miss out on showings because they won’t appeal to buyers.

Bad listing photos:

  • Are taken with a low-quality camera
  • Have poor lighting (too bright or too dark)
  • Don’t showcase a home’s best features
  • Are taken before a home is cleaned and staged
  • Only provide a few shots

Good listing photos:

  • Are taken with a professional camera
  • Take advantage of natural light
  • Showcase a home’s best features, including renovations, upgrades, or landscaping
  • Are taken after a home is clean and staged
  • Provide a variety of shots

Many real estate agents will have a professional photographer come in to take photos of your home, which will be covered in their realtor fees. If you sell your home by owner, you can hire someone to do it for you.

Great pictures make a big difference in how many buyers are interested in viewing your home, so it’s an investment worth making.

10. Not Being Flexible

When it comes to selling your home, it’s easy to forget that it involves two different families making a major life change. Coordinating selling your property and moving into your next home is challenging enough, but you also need to consider your buyers.

For example, in an offer, a buyer may request a closing date either sooner or later than you had anticipated. While your initial instinct may be to refuse their request, it was probably made for a reason. Perhaps the buyer is aiming to move in when their current lease ends or a week before their new job starts.

The same may be true for offers below your asking price. Maybe the buyer loves the property but offered slightly less than the asking price because it was all they were approved to borrow for their mortgage loan.

When negotiating the sale of your home, remember to be flexible — within reason. Buyers are experiencing just as much stress and upheaval as you are, and often their requests come with a reasonable explanation.

Refusing to budge on small issues like a closing date or accept a fair offer just because you are being stubborn won’t do you any good. In fact, they could be what causes a buyer to back out, leaving you back at square one.

11. Not Making Repairs in Advance

Neglecting to make small home repairs before listing your property is a big mistake. Buyers and home inspectors will notice these issues and use them to justify a lower asking price. And they’ll typically cost you more this way than if you’d just handled them in the first place.

For example, a leaky faucet, a torn window screen, or a damaged fence panel are relatively easy fixes. If a buyer notices them, they may make you an offer that requires them to be fixed by a professional at your cost. That’s likely to be more out of your pocket than if you’d fixed them yourself or had time to shop around for a handyman.

You don’t have to go for an entire home renovation, but making obvious fixes can go a long way. If you don’t take care of small repairs before listing your home, they’ll impact everything from your curb appeal and showing atmosphere to the offers you get and the conditions they come with.

12. Being Dishonest

Being dishonest when selling your home won’t get you anywhere. Buyers are encouraged — and, in some cases, required — by their banks, brokers, realtors, insurance agents, and friends to be diligent and careful when buying a home.

As an example, mortgages are often subject to approval based on an applicant’s ability to obtain property insurance. In turn, whether a buyer is approved for property insurance depends on a review by an insurance agent, which may require a home inspection completed by a professional that cites any issues with the home.

This is meant to not only protect buyers but the lenders and insurance agencies who fund and insure them.

If you try to hide something about your home or fail to disclose important information, you’re likely to be caught and could face legal repercussions as a result. Some common required disclosures include:

  • Deaths in the home
  • Environmental contamination
  • Risk of natural disaster
  • Nuisances like airports, farms, or landfills near the property
  • Water damage
  • Structural repairs
  • Known electrical or plumbing issues

Depending on which state you live in, failing to disclose any of the above before the sale of your home closes could get you involved in a lawsuit.

Instead of trying to hide anything about your home, be upfront about it. It will save you a lot of time (and possibly money) in the end.

13. Neglecting Curb Appeal

Many home sellers only focus on staging the interior of their home, but curb appeal matters just as much. Details like landscaping, fresh paint, and small repairs to fences and decks make your property look more inviting to potential buyers.

Make the outside of your property look inviting and welcoming by:

  • Tidying up your yard and raking leaves, mowing, and trimming
  • Pressure washing aged wood steps, decks, and patios
  • Applying a fresh coat of paint or stain to exterior doors, window frames, and sheds
  • Adding a pop of color with planters and hanging baskets
  • Weeding and replanting any garden beds
  • Cleaning up clutter like yard tools, pet supplies, and children’s toys

Since the exterior of your home is what potential buyers will see first, it’s important to consider it when staging, photographing, and listing your property. Curb appeal can go a long way in enticing buyers to book a showing and make an offer.

14. Not Being Ready to Sell

If you’re not truly ready to sell your home, the whole process is likely to feel negative and stressful.

For example, if you’re pushing yourself to sell within an unrealistic timeline or you’re listing your home just because you want to take advantage of a seller’s market, you’re likely to feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Think about why you’re making the decision to sell, and whether it makes sense for you to do right now — emotionally, financially, and professionally. Do you have strong sentimental ties to the property? How will it affect your finances? What about your job?

Selling your home is a big decision, so don’t make it lightly. If you aren’t ready, you may rush into making a decision you come to regret after it’s too late.

Final Word

Selling a home is an exciting and life-changing experience, as long as it’s done right. Embark on the process thoughtfully and with consideration to avoid common mistakes like overpricing your home or selling during the winter months.

By preparing yourself to be a home seller and thinking ahead, you’ll enjoy a more satisfying and successful selling experience.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Getting a Low Mortgage Rate

Are you planning to buy a new house, and want to save money along the way? Then here are some ways to get a good interest on your home mortgage, as well as minimize the amount of money you’ll shell out throughout the payment period.

Tip #1: Keep Your Job or Get Promoted

If you’ve been gainfully employed for the past two years, you’re in good shape. If you got promoted during that span, that’s even better. Your application may be disapproved if your employment record is spotty, or if you demonstrate declining earnings.

It’s even tougher when you’re self-employed. You’ll be asked to present your income tax returns over the past two years, and may even be required to accomplish IRS Form 4506, which will let them verify whether your ITR’s are the same ones in the IRS’s records.

Tip #2: Save Up Enough to Cover the 20% Down Payment

When you qualify for a mortgage, you have the option to pay a down payment as low as 5%, but this tends to hike the interest rate and increase the amount of money you’ll shell out in the long run. To get the best interest rate for your situation, opt to pay a 20% down payment.

The reasoning behind this is that a loan with a 5% down payment is considered high-risk, and they’ll cover that risk by raising the interest rate accordingly. On the other hand, paying a higher down payment is an indication of stable earnings and money in the bank, so they can afford to give you a lower interest rate.

Another tip: They’ll also expect you to have enough cash reserves to cover your mortgage payments for the next 60 days. These cash reserves can be in the form of savings and checking accounts, certificates of deposit, or money market funds. It does NOT normally include retirement funds – unless you’re willing to pay additional taxes and penalties.

Tip #3: Keep Your Credit Score Up

In most cases, a credit score of 620 is the minimum required to take out a home loan – and it will likely get you a higher interest rate. On the other hand, you’ll get the best interest rates when your credit score is at 760 and up. How well do you score?

Study your credit score right now, correct any errors, and work on bringing it up over the next several months. With professional credit repair help, you could raise your credit score by over 100 points in a matter of months.

Tip #4: Check If You Qualify For Special Programs

There are special programs out there that qualify you for lower interest rates on your home mortgage, or allow you a smaller down payment with no additional interest. If you or your spouse is a war veteran, you can qualify for a Veterans Affairs loan, which offers protection when you fall behind on your payments.

Other programs benefit first-time home buyers, such as those of the Federal Housing Administration and the US. Department of Housing and Urban Development. And if you plan to buy a house in a rural area, the U.S. Department of Agriculture mortgage program will help you.

Do Your Homework Ahead of Time

Ideally, you should study your home mortgage options two years in advance. This gives you enough time to get your finances in order to get the best deal possible.

Source: creditabsolute.com

7 Small Appliances You Don’t Need — and What to Use Instead

Man making a fruit smoothie in a blender
Merpics / Shutterstock.com

Home cooks can’t help but covet a truly fancy kitchen complete with every small appliance imaginable.

I’ll confess that after I’ve watched a remodeling show or browsed Bon Appétit magazine, I start dreaming of pasta arms above my stove. Or maybe I have visions of high-powered blenders and top-dollar juicers dancing in my head.

But the truth is that most small kitchen appliances aren’t worth the money or the counter space. That’s especially true of the following appliances.

1. Electric kettle

An electric kettle is plugged in so that it can heat up water. That’s it. The rest of the time it takes up space on your counter or in your cabinet.

In other words, an electric kettle is a single-use appliance — something that we warn against in “19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret“:

“Some kitchen appliances make solid sense: Coffeemakers and toasters earn their keep every day. But appliances that are super-specific and can perform only one rarely needed task? They’re rarely worth the money.”

If you want to make a cup of tea, heat the water in the microwave or in a pot on the stove, not in a special kettle.

2. Panini press

A panini press flattens and grills, turning a regular sandwich into a hot panini. In theory, this sounds like the perfect way to turn your kitchen into an Italian deli on a Saturday afternoon.

In reality, a panini press can be heavy and difficult to lift. And it’s not something you really need.

Oprah.com offers a cheaper way to make a panini:

“In Italy, many presses are actually made with two flat pieces of metal, so there aren’t even grill marks. To get the same effect, butter both sides of your sandwich, put it in a frying pan and weigh the sandwich down with your largest, heaviest pot (cover the bottom with foil so it doesn’t stick to the bread). Put a kettle filled with water in the pot if you need more weight.”

You’ll get your panini without having to splurge on the extra appliance.

3. Electric grill

I’ve seen electric grills billed as two things: a way for apartment dwellers to grill indoors and the best way to cook healthy grilled meals.

In reality, they’re bulky, expensive and hard to clean. Plus, Oprah.com warns that electric grills may actually steam food rather than grill it, so you may end up getting different results.

Instead, search the web for instructions for grilling a specific food — chicken breast, for example — in a frying pan on your stovetop. Or, buy a nonelectric griddle instead of an electric grill. At least the griddle would hog less space when not in use.

4. Blender

A couple of years ago, I was dead set on having a blender and ended up getting one as a gift. I was thrilled.

Six months later I had used it only once. Turns out that my food processor does a better job of crushing ice and blending fruit for smoothies than the blender does. Plus, my food processor does a better job of fitting in my cabinets.

5. Stand mixer

Many home cooks swear by their stand mixer, but I’ve never been able to justify the cost. Instead, I mix and mash ingredients by hand. It’s more work, but the blog Kitchn argues that hand mixing might be better:

“When you’re working by hand, there’s more control over each step. You can see for yourself exactly when the egg whites reach a stiff peak and feel when the bread has developed enough gluten. You’re a part of the entire process from start to finish, and that creates a certain satisfaction that we feel is different than when we’ve zipped it together in a mixer.”

If you must have an electric mixer, consider a handheld model. At least it will take up less space when not in use.

6. Popcorn maker

With a popcorn maker, whole kernels are heated and then fluffy popcorn emerges at the top. It may seem like the best way to get ready for movie night, but you can get the same results with a pot on the stovetop.

If you need directions, Kitchn and Epicurious are among the many publications that offer them online.

7. Baby-food maker

At first, baby-food makers seem like a great idea. With one little appliance, you can give your baby fresh fruits and vegetables. But you can do that even without the actual appliance.

For example, boil or steam carrots, then smash them by hand or toss them in your food processor. How simple is that?

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com