An unexpected, larger-than-normal water bill could lead a person to think that they might have a leak. Before incurring the cost of a plumber, it is fairly easy to run your own test. Locate your water meter. They’re usually in the front of the house, near the street. In some cases, you might need a meter key to open it; they can be purchased at Lowe’s, Home Depot or other hardware stores. Step One - Write down the numbers on the meters to get a current reading. Don’t use any water for thirty minutes. If the meter shows water usage during the test period, proceed to step two. Step Two - Shut off the valves to all of the toilets. If you have a pool with an automatic filler, it has a similar device. Repeat the test again for the same thirty minute period. If the numbers haven’t changed this time, it indicates that the toilets probably need servicing. If the numbers have changed during step two, it is an indication there may be a leak and it will need to be tracked down. This could be the time to call a plumber or plumbing leak specialist. Your water department may have a consumer help line that can offer suggestions also.
What if you could live in a larger and possibly newer home for less than you are currently? Would you consider moving? Do you want to hear more? Interest rates, while they’re expected to go up, actually took a small dip and are still hovering at the 4% or below mark for a 30 year mortgage and almost one percent less for a 15 year term. Let’s assume that you have a $225,000 mortgage currently at 6% which has a principal and interest payment of $1,348.99. With a 4% rate, you could have a $282,561 mortgage with the same payment. A $57,000 more expensive home could help you get what you need most such as more square footage or a different location or a newer home. If you’re going to be making that payment for years to come, why not allow lower interest rates to help you get the features you want without having to necessarily pay a higher payment. Taking that logic a little bit further, let’s see how utilities can make a difference too. A newer home could easily have lower monthly utility costs than your current home due to being more energy efficient. Construction materials, windows, doors, insulation, modern HVAC systems and energy efficient appliances all contribute to lower utility costs. A new home with these advantages could easily save a homeowner up to 25-50% on utilities for the same size home. The concept is simple: get the most home you can for the amount you spend on the payment and utilities. It will take some investigation and your real estate professional can help.
One of the important things as a parent is to plan for their children’s education. Let’s look at two different approaches: a savings account or investing in rental real estate. Assuming your child is five years old and you start putting $250 a month in a savings account earning 2%, in 13 years you’d have $44,497.41 to pay for their college. Anticipating that isn’t going to be enough, you’d have to save $500 a month to end up with $88,995. Another way would be to make a lump sum contribution of $20,000 today in a mutual fund earning 5% that would be worth $37,713 in 13 years. You’d have to make a $47,196 initial contribution to end up with the same $88,995. An alternative to savings would be to invest in a $100,000 home in a good area. Assuming a three percent appreciation and rent of $1,000 a month, an initial investment of $23,500 could have a future wealth position of $83,838 at the end of 13 years. Obviously, this is just an example of why rental homes are the IDEAL investment providing Income, Depreciation, Equity build-up, Appreciation and Leverage. While rentals certainly have more risk and management than a savings account, they do provide an opportunity for a higher rate of return. If you’re concerned about paying for college tuition in the future, it is certainly worth investigating the possibility of investing in rental homes today.
There is a frequently quoted expression “more money has been lost from indecision than was ever lost from making a bad decision.” Regardless of the extent of its accuracy, most people can recall when procrastination has cost them money. There are markets so short of inventory that buyers have become frustrated after losing bids for several homes and have decided to wait until more homes come on the market. In the meantime, the shortage of homes is driving the prices up more by the month. There are buyers who can’t find what they want for the price they want to pay and think that waiting will somehow change things. In some cases, what they want just keeps moving farther and farther away from them. The other dynamic in play is, of course, the mortgage rates. While they’ve remained low for several years, most experts agree that they’re going to rise; it’s just a matter of when. If you look at what positive increases in both of these would do, it becomes apparent that waiting will matter. A $250,000 home purchased today on a FHA loan at 4% for 30 years will have a principal and interest payment of $1,151.76. If a buyer were to wait a year and the price increased 5% and the rate went up by 1%, the payment would increase by over $200 a month. In a seven year period, the increased payment alone would cost the buyer over $17,000. Use the Cost of Waiting to Buy calculator to see how much it will matter based on the home you want to buy and what you think the prices and rates will do in the next year.
The Super Bowl and World Series determine the football and baseball champions. Since there can only be one champion, the other team loses the competition. In feudal times, a knight might champion for the king or a patriotic, romantic or religious cause. Fierce competition can occur when buying or selling a home because each party wants to get the “best deal” possible. When the buyer and seller are not equally matched, and they rarely are, it is important to have a champion on your side to fight for your cause. The price of the home, the type of financing and concessions, personal property, closing dates and possession are just a few of the many things that can be negotiated in a contract. Since the seller wants to get the most for their house and the buyer wants to pay the least, their causes are diametrically opposed. Even after the contract is signed, removing the contingencies can cause considerable negotiations. The inspections or the appraisal could be the source of reevaluating the terms and provisions of the contract. Negotiating the sale or purchase of a home is definitely a competition and you need a champion on your side.
With mortgage rates below 5% since 2009, you’d think any homeowner who should refinance would have already. However, it is estimated, there are approximately 6.5 million borrowers who would benefit with significant monthly savings by refinancing. Rodney Anderson of Supreme Lending, on his weekly radio program, described a recent pipeline meeting where they reviewed every pending mortgage application his company was processing. They had seven refinancing applicants whose current mortgage was over 9% and twelve with a rate between 7% and 9%. “Some 550,000 American homeowners with a mortgage could save $500 or more each month by refinancing at today’s rates. Over three million could save at least $200 per month.” said Ben Graboske, CTO with Black Knight Financial Services. Getting a lower interest rate should be reason enough but eliminating the mortgage insurance should make the decision a no brainer. With increased home values, the loan-to-value ratio may no longer require mortgage insurance which would add additional savings. Homeowners need solid information about what their home is worth and whether they’d benefit from refinancing. The most reliable solution is to talk with a qualified mortgage professional. The internet is a great place for generalized info but each person’s situation is unique. Call if you'd like a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional or would like to know what your home is worth.
The majority of tenants say they’d like to own a home but continue to pay rent and missing out on financial and emotional advantages. There seems to still be a lot of misinformation in the marketplace. There are a number of programs for low or no down payment options. Veterans can get into a home with no down payment or closing costs. In qualifying areas, USDA has zero down payment programs. FHA requires 3.5% down payment and there are conventional programs for as little as 3% and 5% down. People with credit issues need expert opinions about their specific situation. Borrowers with bankruptcies or foreclosures may be eligible to purchase again after certain periods of time. There are short-term fixes for some types of credit problems. There is an extended list of individual issues that a skilled mortgage professional may be able to overcome. Most tenants realize considerably lower cost of housing by owning once the appreciation, amortization and tax savings are considered. The savings in the first year alone could easily be more than the down payment required. Plug in your own numbers in a Rent vs. Own to see what your real cost of housing may be. Contact us for a recommendation of a mortgage professional who can give you accurate information about your situation.
Equity is an asset and an appreciating home is an investment. While some people have resolved themselves that a mortgage payment is a normal part of life, others have set goals to get their home paid for as soon as possible. There are several strategies that will work but they all require persistent vigilance. A shorter term mortgage such as 20, 15 or even 10 years will not only pay off sooner, it will generally have a lower interest rate. A recent comparison at Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed a 30 year fixed-rate mortgage at 4.04% compared to a 15 year fixed-rate at 3.20%. The fees for the shorter term were even .1% less. The shorter term with the lower rate would have a higher payment but some people consider it forced savings. Additional principal contributions to any length fixed-rate mortgage will save interest, build equity and shorten the term of the loan. Some homeowners may apply lump sums at various times during the year such as when bonuses are paid or a tax refund is received. Other owners might increase their payment by $100, $200 or more each month. Setting the increased payment through electronic banking would insure that you consistently make the extra amount. Bi-weekly payments make 26 half-payments in a year which equals 13 full-payments. Because of the frequency, it reduces the interest that is due. This might work well for borrowers who are paid every two weeks but could present cash flow problems for those who are paid on schedules that don’t coincide. Making one extra payment a year will have almost the same effect as a bi-weekly payment. The 13th payment would be completely applied to principal. Before embarking on one of these strategies, it would be wise to verify with your lender that it complies with their policies. Check out the Equity Accelerator to see how it could affect your loan.
Among the many reasons people have to own home, they include having a place of their own, to raise a family and to share with friends. Additional benefits include security, investment, peace, pride and enjoyment. Together with the benefits come the responsibility to take care of the home for its livability and viability as a sound decision. A homeowner’s concerns can be broken down into three areas. The maintenance on the property is something that every homeowner deals with. Changing filters are easy to handle yourself. Other things might require a skilled professional but identifying the “right” one can be challenging. Minimizing expenses can reduce the cost of living in the home. It’s good to recognize when a repair is appropriate compared to a replacement. Reputable and reasonable service providers are key to keeping expense low. Managing debt and risk becomes the financial side of the effort. Taking advantage of low interest rates or shorter terms for refinancing, making additional principal contributions are just a few ways to manage debt. Home warranty programs and homeowner insurance tips can reduce risk. We sincerely want to be a resource for you not only when you buy or sell but all of the years in between. It is actually the reason we send this newsletter to you.
More people grill in July than any other month. While grilling is all about good food, fun, friends and celebrations, it is important to make sure that accidents don’t interrupt your activities. Approximately half of the injuries involving grills are thermal burns. If you work with fire, there’s a chance of getting burned.
- Only use BBQ grills outdoors and in ventilated areas.
- Place the grill away from home or anything that could be flammable.
- Keep grill stable.
- Keep fire under control.
- Keep children away from grill.
- Never leave the grill unattended.
- The grill lid should always be open before lighting it.
- Grease should not be allowed to build up in the grill.
- Use long-handled utensils. Gas/Propane
- Check the tank hose and connections for leaks before using it for the first time each year by using a light soapy water solution to see if bubbles appear.
- If you smell gas when the grill is lit, move away from the grill and call the fire department.
- If the flame goes out, turn off the gas for 15 minutes and open the lid before re-lighting it. Charcoal
- Never add any starter fluid or other flammable liquid to a fire.
- Only use charcoal starter fluid and not gasoline, kerosene or other flammable liquid.
- Keep starter fluid away from heat sources and out of reach of children.
- Electric charcoal starters do not use fire but have a coil to ignite the coals.
- When finished cooking, close off the grill vents to suffocate the fire and save some of the remaining charcoal.
Practice safe grilling and enjoy the occasions to cook outdoors and share with your family and friends.