Updated: Saturday, August 17, 2019

Tips on Designing Your Own Floor Plan

Keep Things Easy

While simple living is all the rage, you may not be interested in minimalist design. However, it is important for busy adults to design their homes in a way that keeps things easy.

Do you enjoy outdoor activities such as working on your own lawn or in your own garden? Make sure the entrance youll use the most after these activities is easy to access and that you have a place to dump your muddy shoes. If you have or are planning to have young children, make sure that the first stop in from the garage or the bus has a durable floor thats easy to clean.

Focus on Flow

As soon as you step into your very own home, youll likely start shedding things. It may be a briefcase or work boots. Youll also want to de-stress as you move into your home.

Design choices may include an easy-to-access closet with cubbies and chargers for electronics. If youre planning a custom home sound or lighting system, create a spot for those controllers.

For those who like to entertain, its critical to have plenty of kitchen space for people to gather. An open floor plan is a wonderful way to invite guests into the heart of your home. Plan for an island or a peninsula if youd like your guests to gather in this crucial workspace.

A Word on Security

Security cameras arent just for your front door anymore. If youre away from home for long periods of time, or will have children home alone before you get home from work, the ability to check in on your kids and make sure the interior of your home is secure and safe is crucial. Plans for these tools will need to be made before the walls go up.

Natural Light for a Healthy Brain

The placement of windows and skylights can go a long way to making your home both happy and healthy. Natural light is critical to good brain health and quality sleep.

If nearby houses are closer than you would like, consider putting in frosted or textured windows to allow for natural light without the view. Also, skylights that allow venting are a great way to bring in both sunshine and fresh air.

Not a morning person? Plan your sleeping space away from the rising sun, or avoid a lot of east facing windows. You can enjoy plenty of light with south-facing windows and still sleep in

Build In Some Decadence

Everyone needs a little pampering. As with keeping things easy, its different for every one of us. If you need surround sound in the laundry room, plan this while the walls are open. For those whove always wanted a giant tub, now is the time to treat yourself.

Let this spill into your yard. If your spouse loves to grill, consider building a deck with plenty of space and wiring for a smoker or pellet grill. Few of us can get every luxury weve ever wanted in our homes, but with proper planning you can get at least one feature youve always wanted.

Home design is a lot of fun but also puts a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the buyer. Work with a designer or architect that is willing to put in the time discussing the things you need and the items you really want.


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Which Type of Loan Is Best? Were Doing an Apples-To-Apples Comparison.

30-year fixed-rate conventional

This is a 30-year loan with rates that are fixed every month. These loans follow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines and are not backed by the government like FHA loans.

Pro: With set payments, therersquo;s no need to worry about rising rates. Loans are available for a range of buyers, with options like HomeReady andnbsp;Conventional 97nbsp;that offer as little as 3 down. Also, there is no upfront mortgage insurance fee like you have on FHA loans.nbsp;nbsp;

Con: You have to pay PMI if you put less than 20 down. There also may be higher credit score requirements than FHA loans.nbsp;nbsp;

15-year fixed-ratenbsp;

A 15-year fixed-rate option also has fixed rates for the life of the loan. If yoursquo;re the type who wants to pay your home off more quickly, this could be a good choice.

Pro: You pay far less interest over the life of the loan and pay off your home in half the time.nbsp;

Con: Monthly payments are higher.

FHA

FHA loans are federally insured, which is why down payment and credit score requirements are more >

Pro: FHA loans require as little as 3.5 down. Credit score requirements are also lower than conventional loans. You can typically qualify for a loan with a 3.5 down payment at a 580 score, and may be able to get a loan with a score as low as 500 if you have 10 down.nbsp;

Con: Yoursquo;ll have to pay mortgage interest, which you canrsquo;t get rid of unless you refinance. FHA loans also come with an upfront mortgage insurance fee.

Adjustable rate

ldquo;An adjustable-rate mortgage ARM is a type of mortgage in which the interest rate applied on the outstanding balance varies throughout the life of the loan,rdquo; said Investopedia. ldquo;Normally, the initial interest rate is fixed for a period of time, after which it resets periodically, often every year or even monthly. The interest rate resets based on anbsp;benchmarknbsp;or index plus an additional spread, called annbsp;ARM margin.rdquo;

Pro: Rates are often lower during the introductory or fixed period than what a borrower can get with a fixed-rate loan, making homeownership more affordable initially.nbsp;

Con: Once the ARM gets past the fixed period, monthly payments can skyrocket, leaving owners unprepared and possibly in danger of defaulting.nbsp;

USDA loansnbsp;

Looking to buy in a rural area? You may qualify for a USDA loan. USDA-eligible homes may also be located in some suburban areas. You can check eligibility on their website.nbsp;nbsp;

nbsp;Pros: USDA loans offer low or even no down payments and low interest rates. Rates can be as low as 1 with subsidies on direct loans.

Cons: Household income is capped and anbsp;mortgage insurancenbsp;premium is required for down payments under 20.

VA loans

Veterans Administration VA loansnbsp;help military members and veterans purchase homes.

Pro: VA loans tend to have the lowest average interest rates, and loans are available with no down payment. In addition, there is ldquo;no monthly mortgage insurance premiums or PMI to pay,rdquo; according to VAloans.com.

Con: Theyrsquo;re not available to the general public, and veterans must meet a list of conditions.nbsp;

nbsp;


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Comparing Investing in Individual Deeds of Trusts with Investing in Funds

More often than not, individual deeds of trust [DOTs] provide a higher coupon than mortgage pool funds [Funds], but there are some specific downsides to choosing individual DOTs instead of Funds. First, choosing the right DOT takes due diligence and a certain amount of expertise in many cases. Investing in extremely conservative DOTs that have LTVs at lower than 25 may not need a PhD in economics, but the yields on these types of DOTs are usually much lower than one can earn in a Fund; thus, one has to start looking at less conservative assets in order to produce the desired yield.

Another advantage to investing in individual DOTs is that the investor can pick and choose which DOT to in invest in compared to having the manager of a Fund choose which mortgage fits the desired yield. This is really not much different than an investor choosing to invest in specific stocks instead of investing in a mutual fund; for some reason, however, the public seems to be more at ease in trusting a mutual fund manager than a Fund manager. Could this be because mutual funds are regulated under the Investment Act of 1940? Could it be the >

There are some advantages for investing in a Fund [as compared to an individual DOT] that may outweigh the negatives. For one, there is diversification in a Fund, so the risk is spread amongst many DOTs. Unless the Fund experiences a major disaster, distributions to the investor should be uninterrupted. With an individual DOT, a default usually means months or possibly a year or longer [as in the case of a bankruptcy by a borrower]. If foreclosure proceedings are necessary, the Fund will usually handle them without the need for the investor to get involved or have to come up with money to pay the trustee or other costs, such as an attorney. In the case of an individual DOT, the investor/lender has to front these costs. If regular distributions are a must, a Fund is a more conservative route.

Although individual DOTs usually earn a higher interest rate than a Fund [about 1-1.5 on average], Funds may offer the advantage of offering a reinvestment program whereby the interest can compound, usually adding about 35 basis points, whereas an individual DOT has to take the monthly distribution with no ability to reinvest. The gap between interest rates of Funds and DOTs gets even narrower [for most investors] when considering the income tax issue because of the new QBID [Qualified Business Income Tax Deduction] introduced in 2018. Congress decided to allow Funds the benefit of reducing the income that has to be reported on an investorrsquo;s tax return [subject to certain income limits]. Investing in individual DOTs does not allow for this tax benefit. This 20 reduction in reporting can have a significant impact on the after tax rate of return of a Fund compared to an individual DOT. For example, if a Fund is paying 7, and an individual DOT is paying 8.5, the after tax return [presuming a 40 tax bracket] of the Fund is 4.76 whereas the DOTrsquo;s after tax return is 4.80. This 4 basis point difference is not significant, especially if one were to reinvest the distributions in a Fund.

The most important factor nowadays [at least in California] is the continuity of a investing in a Fund compared to investing in individual DOTs due to the downtime experienced in many investorrsquo;s portfolio when a loan gets paid off. In these circumstances, the investor usually calls his broker for another DOT to invest in and may be told that there are no good loans to look at for the moment. The investor is asked to be patient or may be forced to look at less quality DOTs. There is tremendous pressure in the market right now for loans to fund, as there is significant capital looking for a home. This competition for loans has driven down interest rates that an investor can earn on a DOT as well as adding to the length of time to reinvest capital that has been returned due to payoffs from borrowers. When one looks at the time value of money, this delay in redeploying capital can significantly lower the net, after tax, rate of return desired by investors. Money that is not deployed in new DOTs sitting idle in low earning bank accounts bring the net yield down for the investor. For example, if an investor desires an 8 return on an individual DOT, having money sit idle for three months at 1 produces a pre-tax return for the year of 6.25. Money sitting idle for four months lowers the net yield to 5.67. In addition, in many cases, Funds snap up the better quality DOTs, leaving the less quality loans available for individual investors. The main reason for this is that Funds want to produce steady, uninterrupted returns for their investors. They usually desire to avoid loans that have a more likely default rate, even if the yield could be higher by taking on a bit more risk. Some investors lower their quality investing standards in order to keep their money working; thus, investors have to carefully consider whether the benefits of investing in individual DOTs outweighs the benefits of investing in a Fund.


nbsp;Edward Brown is an investment expert and host of the radio show, ldquo;The Best of Investing.rdquo; He is in the Investor >
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FHA Curbs Cash-Out Refi Limits

ldquo;Refinancing your mortgage to take cash out using your homersquo;s equity may not be as easy to do under new limitations on cash-out refinances >

The previous loan-to-value LTV limit on cash-out refinances was 85; effective for loans on or after September 1, 2019, HUD is lowering the requirement to 80. This change ldquo;seeks to mitigate riskshellip;associated with increasing levels of insured loan balances on cash-out refinance mortgages,rdquo; said HUD in a Mortgagee Letter announcing the change. ldquo;This new requirement is a prudent safeguard that permits FHA to ensure it stays ahead of any shift in housing stability.rdquo;

The last time HUD adjusted the max LTV for cash-out refinances was back in 2009, when they set the current benchmark of 85 ldquo;in response to the weakening housing marketrdquo; and in recognition of a rapid increase in ldquo;the share of cash-out refinanceshellip;as housing prices increased through the mid-2000s. Subsequent studies have shown that a significant increase in foreclosures may have been the result of a high number of cash-out refinances completed prior to the collapse of the housing market,rdquo; they said. Prior to that shift, homeowners could tap up to 95 of their home equity.nbsp;

The letter also noted that FHA cash-out refinances have swelled by more than 250 from 2013 to 2018, HUD reported. There were more than 150,000 of these transactions last year. ldquo;Cash-out refinances comprised 64 of all FHA-insured refinance transactions, up nearly 39 from the year prior,rdquo; said Realtor Magazine. ldquo;The increase in home prices has prompted more cash-out refis, according to the annual Report to Congress issued last fall.rdquo;

Cash-out refinances are a popular option among homeowners whose houses have appreciated because, while rates vary depending on many factors including the strength of the borrowerrsquo;s credit, the money is often less expensive than in other types of lending. And, if the money is used for smart updates or improvements, it can increase the homersquo;s value and provide some safeguards should there be market adjustments.

ldquo;This option can be beneficial to consumers who have seen the value of their home rise in recent years,rdquo; said Bankrate. While many financial experts caution against taking too much money out of your homemdash;and this move by the FHA is intended to help keep owners from ending up under watermdash;ldquo;Taking the money from the cash-out refi and putting it towards paying down high-interest debt or home repairs can be a financially sound decision.rdquo;

nbsp;


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Why an Investment Property Should Be Your First Real Estate Purchase

1. Rates are crazy low.

Lower rates mean more affordable lending, or more for your money if you choose to reach higher.nbsp;

2. Because it will appreciate.

According to Co>

3. Because passive income is good.nbsp;

Yes, itrsquo;s nice to know there will likely be appreciation over time, but the real key to success with investment properties is passive income.nbsp;

ldquo;The best part about rental properties is that they provide a stable income,rdquo; said Mashvisor. ldquo;What would be better than having a check sent to you every month? In order to have positive cash flow, you have to make sure you invest in a profitable rental property.rdquo;

Many real estate investors use the one percent rule when looking for a cash flow-positive property. ldquo;Monthly rental incomenbsp;ge; one percent of purchase price,rdquo; said Norada Real Estate Investments. ldquo;So according to the rule, a property with a total investment price upfront repairs of 200,000 should rent for 2,000/month or more in order to be a good investment. If the rent is only 1,500/month, the 200,000 price would not meet the rule. Or if you had to pay 250,000 for a property that rents for 2,000, it would not meet the rule either.rdquo;nbsp;

4. To turn it into a short-term rental.

The short-term rental market has opened up a new world of opportunity for investors.nbsp;By buying in the right locationmdash;by the beach, bear a ski resort, or in close proximity to a popular annual event like Coachella, you have the potential of making six figures in a short period of time.
If yoursquo;re considering purchasing a home to turn into a short-term rental, be sure to check the local laws. Lots of cities have been cracking down on Airbnb and other services, stripping away some of the income potential for property owners.nbsp;

5. Because you can be a homeowner without living in the home.

What you can afford to buy may not match up with your expectations. Perhaps you donrsquo;t want to live in an attached residence or move to the suburbs, or even out of your current neighborhood. If yoursquo;ve been priced out of what you want to buy for yourself right now, you can still make a smart investment in the type of property other people are looking to rent.

6. Because it can help you buy the home of your dreams down the line.

ldquo;Buying an investment property before your first home does not imply that you wonrsquo;t have the funds to purchase your actual home at some point,rdquo; said Mashvisor. ldquo;In fact, investment properties that have been purchased wisely and have grown in value can offer you a sizeable amount of wealth and equity.rdquo;

7. Because there are tax benefits.

ldquo;Rental real estate has more tax benefits than almost any other investment out there,rdquo; said Real Wealth Network. ldquo;Failure to take advantage of rental property tax deductions, can cost landlords thousands of dollars a year. So why are rental property owners paying more in taxes than they have to? Simply, because they have no idea there are multiple tax deductions they could be taking advantage of. Tax deductions include:

Interest savingsmdash;ldquo;Interest on rental property is typically the biggest tax deductible expense for owners. This includes, interest on your mortgage loan, or other loans used to improve the property, and if you use a credit card for anything >

Depreciation of Rental Propertymdash;Depreciation or wear and tear on the property is not tax deductible in the first year, but, after that, ldquo;Rental property owners can deduct depreciation in smaller amounts, over a longer period of time.rdquo;

Claim All Property Expensesmdash;Certain repair costs, furnishings, and insurance including ldquo;fire, flood, theft, and landlord liability insurancerdquo; can be deducted.

Pass-Through Tax Deductionmdash;ldquo;This is an income tax, not a rental tax deduction, made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Depending on your income, landlords can deduct 1 up to 20 of net rental income, or 2 2.5 of initial cost of rental property, plus 25 of cost for any employees or independent contractors used if applicable. This deduction is scheduled to end in 2025.rdquo;


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Seller Intent: Inertia vs Action

You have not listed your house or condominium unit for sale. Why?

Is the decision not to sell and move the result of your active exploration of housing and life>

Inertia, or the trend toward passiveness or inactivity, describes, in physics, the tendency of a body at rest to stay at rest unless external energy is applied.

In real estate terms, this means yoursquo;ll stay where you are unless an external force or changendash;positive or negativendash;catalyzes you into action and makes moving the right thing to do:

bull; Itrsquo;s inertia if you wait to see what happens and take no action yourself. If you stay in your home or recreational property for another year without researching your other options and making anbsp;conscious decision to stay, inertia has set in. Yoursquo;re not in control of your future with this passive wait-and-see approach.

bull; When you actively explore your housing and life>

Should you stick with inertia and wait until something happens to trigger or force a move or should you be more proactive about your real estate options?

bull; When selling and moving is triggered by an external force or a circumstance forced on you, like unemployment, you may have to act quickly and make snap judgements about what to do next. ldquo;Wait-and-seerdquo; thinking may leave you unprepared to take advantage of available opportunities until itrsquo;s too late. For instance, once a ldquo;hot marketrdquo; peaks and disappears, high selling prices disappear, too. If you waited to see what happened before acting, you may have missed out.

bull; If you maintain awareness of what is going on in the real estate market, what your housing and life>

Inertia is fed by assumptionsndash;things we assume will continue, things we assume will never happen, and things we assume we can control when we canrsquo;t. The list differs with individuals and families.

This might not be the best time for you to list your home. To make the most of real estate ownership, that should be an active decision based on knowledge of the current real estate market and many other factors >

Staying and letting another year speed by without making sure you are really in the right place may cost you in the long run:

bull; Time speeds up and suddenly that full renovation you struggled through is 10 years old and already showing its age. That means, therersquo;s work ahead to keep your home modernized. Is this the best property to invest more time and money in?

bull; What attracted you to the house or neighborhood when you first bought? Is that still why you love it or have your tastes and life>

bull; Do you have little in common with neighbors, so you spend more time alone or have to travel to spend time with friends or those with similar interests?

bull; Do you have more fun on vacation, especially on over-winter extended stays, than during most of the year at home?

These are a few inertia-busting ideas to start you thinking about what more you could have. Search out a real estate professional who respects your wish to stay and your intent to keep exploring options associated with a move. Say a firm ldquo;goodbyerdquo; to anyone aggressive or who pressures you to list.

Yoursquo;ll appreciate help, beginning with answers to questions like, ldquo;If I didnrsquo;t live here, where could I afford to move tondash;near or far?rdquo;

Personal introspection will enable you to further assess your situation:

bull; What or whom do I/we need to be near?

bull; What or whom do I/we want to be near?

bull; What do I/we love about the home that we would want to duplicate in our next property?

bull; What do we want to do differently?

As a real estate owner, you have the right to continually explore the potential of your investment and to decide to do nothing and stay where you are.

Thatrsquo;s not inertia. Once you understand your options, that ldquo;stay hererdquo; decision may represent good business sense and solid property management to protect and improve on your investment and chosen life>

All it takes is a little asking, answering, ldquo;what ifrdquo;-ing, and day dreaming with your family and a real estate professional or two who respect your curiosity about what could be next.


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How Consumers Achieve High Credit Scores

You must first understand how these three digit scores are calculated. Scores range from as low as 300 to as high as 850. Although Irsquo;ve never seen any score as low as 300 or as high as the perfect 850. Personally, I think either is impossible to achieve. That said, those with excellent credit didnrsquo;t get those scores by accident. Credit scores assign values to five different credit patterns. Those are:

bull; Payment History
bull; Utilization
bull; Length of Credit History
bull; Types of Credit Used
bull; Credit Inquiries

Payment History is listed first because it has the greatest impact on a score. This one category alone makes up 35 of your total score. This makes sense because this is the one single measure of someone uses and manages credit. A consumer credit report wonrsquo;t list when account payments were made but will list when a payment is made more than 30, 60 and 90 days past the due date. As long as a credit account payment was made before 30 days, the score wonrsquo;t be negatively impacted, and scores will gradually improve. Note, if someone makes a monthly payment say 20 days past the due date, while it wonrsquo;t impact the score the consumer will likely pay some sort of late payment fee to the creditor. If a payment is made more than 30 days past the due date, scores will begin to falter. More so if a payment is made more than 60 and then 90 days past the due date.

The second most important category is credit utilization. Some may think that carrying a zero balance and leaving the account alone that way is a good way to increase credit scores. Thatrsquo;s not the case at all. And if you think about it, how would any algorithm calculate a credit score if there is no activity, right? Utilization accounts for 30 of the total score. There should also be a running balance instead of paying off the credit account to zero each month. Most creditors report payments at different times so carrying a balance is typically an automatic. However, scores do improve is the running balance is approximately one-third of the total credit line.

How long someone has used credit also contributes to the total score. If someone has used credit for a long time, that counts more toward a score compared to someone brand new to the credit world. Even if someone with a history and a credit newbie have perfect credit histories, the person who has used credit responsibly over a longer period of time will be rewarded. This category represents 15 of the total score.

Finally, using different types of credit accounts helps out. A car loan, credit card and installment accounts are a good mix and accounts for 10 of the total score. Recent credit inquiries also make up the final 10 of the score. Credit inquiries are those when an individual makes multiple requests for new credit accounts within a >

How consumers achieve high credit scores means concentrating on the first two, payment history and utilization. These two alone make up nearly two-thirds of the total score. By paying attention to payment history and keeping a running balance near the magic mark, scores can and will begin to rise from any level.


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Using Solar Panels for a Sustainable Home

What is Solar Power? How is it Used?

In using sustainable solar power, solar panels use photons, or light energy from the sun to create electricity. Crystalline silicon or thin-film cells collect the energy. A junction box connects the solar panel and its output interface. MC4 connectors or USB power interfaces provide weatherproof connections to the system and are weatherproof, too. Not only does a solar panel provide electricity, but the parts of the panel itself are even recyclable when the unit wears out.

Is Solar Energy Sustainable?

In actuality, solar energy is much more sustainable in the long run than are fossil fuels. The sunrsquo;s light continues to be much more sustainable than do most types of energy producing fuels, such as coal.

According to the United Nations, sustainability is explained as the ability to meet the needs of people today without compromising the ability of future generations of people to meet their needs. Solar energy greatly resembles this definition because using solar power doesnrsquo;t diminish the sunrsquo;s future ability to shine. Many experts believe that solar power remains the most critical source of sustainable energy.

Solar Energy VS. Fossil Fuel Effects on the Earthrsquo;s Ecosystem

Energy from fossil fuels began to be used during the Industrial Revolution. Fossil fuels became used as the primary source of the worldrsquo;s energy supply. Natural sources of fossil fuels include:

nbsp;bull; Coal.

bull; Natural gas.

bull; Crude oil.nbsp;

These sources continue to provide us with the energy we need to get around, to have electricity, and to heat our homes. But sources of fossil fuels will come to an end eventually, because the earth isnt continually creating them. Plus, using fossil fuels pollute the world because their use creates >

Compare fossil fuels to using the renewable resource of solar panels. Solar power provides constant sources of energy. Solar power is non-polluting, and can also reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions in the world. Solar power collects the energy from the sun and converts it into electricity without harmful pollution. And there is enough renewable solar energy to use to power the earth as long as the sun exists.nbsp;

Implementing Solar

The addition of solar panels to your home will reduce your >
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5 Things You Can Do If You Cant Sell Your Property

Change Real Estate Agents

Sometimes the problem with selling your home isnrsquo;t the house but the selling agent. The worst performers are ldquo;post and prayrdquo; agents who assume that listing your home on the MLS is all they need to do. The solution is to change your real estate agent. Switching to a high volume real estate agent or someone who specializes in your neighborhood could be all you need to do.

Ask about a Guaranteed Purchase Program

If yoursquo;re moving for work, ask your company or new employer if they have a guaranteed purchase program. These programs will buy your home if you canrsquo;t sell it yourself and then sell it on. Fewer businesses offer programs like these, but you may still get money toward your real estate agentrsquo;s commission.

Make Your Home Look Like What Buyers Want

The problem may not be a bad picture of the front of the house, but that it looks bad no matter how you frame it. Your home may need a facelift. Cut back the shrubbery, clean up the yard, and give it a new coat of paint. Clean up the interior, too, so that it looks like it is well kept. Once this is done, take new pictures if the old ones showed a home everyone else would consider a fixer-upper. In some cases, home staging is necessary so that potential buyers can imagine themselves living in the property.

If your home requires more work than you can handle to attract buyers, then you could sell the property to the real estate investment firm. They visit properties, appraise their condition, and offer a competitive price for them. This is one of the fastest and easiest ways to move a property, especially if you need the money to move into the home you truly want. Theyrsquo;ll even clean up the items you leave behind, so this is the best choice for those who need to close quickly.

Rent It Out

Renting a property out could generate cash flow now while allowing you to wait for the real estate market to improve. Becoming a landlord is a lot of work, though you can hire a property management company to handle that for you. You could also offer the property as ldquo;rent to ownrdquo;, allowing renters the option to buy the property over time. You might be able to find renters who will maintain the property as if it were their own because they hope to buy it one day.


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How to Do DIY Work on Your Property Safely

Even the simplest jobs come with their safety risks. Understanding these risks and what measures you need to take to protect yourself can save you from some nasty injuries. In this post, wersquo;ll take a look at the proper safety procedures that come with using tools and clothing while doing DIY work at home.

Clothing

Protective clothing for homeowners has come a long way since the early days of DIY. These days you can pick up anything that you see in a construction site, from glasses and gloves to hardhats and safety harnesses. Assess the risks involved in your job and determine which clothing will be needed.

Gloves are a staple that should be worn at all times as your hands are always vulnerable. Itrsquo;s also great to have the added strength and grip that comes with wearing the right safety gloves. Other clothing needs to be tight-fitting with no hanging jewelry or other articles that could get snatched.

Clothing tends to be flammable, especially if yoursquo;ve drenched your shirt in deodorant. Keep this in mind when working with fire. If there are chemicals being used, ensure that there arenrsquo;t any holes in your clothing where the chemicals can get to your skin.

Hand Tools

Screwdriver, hammer, pliers, utility knife - these are some of the carpenterrsquo;s essentials that always come in handy - especially when the power is out. Be sure to equip yourself with basic alternatives to your power tools for areas where only hand tools will fit or where the use of gas tools is prohibited due to the lack of ventilation.

Inspect these tools before each use and repair or replace any defective parts before they cause an accident. When it comes to hand tools, safety procedures are pretty basic and we donrsquo;t need to go much further into detail here. Simply stay vigilant and keep your equipment in order.

Power Tools

Here, the risk factor goes up quite significantly. Power tools derive their energy from a variety of sources, with the main one being electricity. This is where most accidents happen. Electric tools draw their power from high voltage outlets, making them highly dangerous around water.

Be sure to check up on your battery-powered tools as well. The cells can leak battery acid, and if the casing isnrsquo;t properly closed, contact with water can be a shocking experience. Modern power tools have a number of different systems built-in to make them safer. Familiarize yourself with these safety mechanisms - theyrsquo;re there for a reason.

Once you have the right equipment, it all comes down to knowing the basic principles of safety when doing DIY work. Keep your body safe and ensure that anyone yoursquo;re working with does the same.


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Understanding Seasonal Income

Regular income is verified by paycheck stubs and W2 forms. Income must be documented to have at least a two year history. This timeline is valid for all sources of income. If someone has only worked for one and a half-years, that individual will have to wait until the two year period has passed. Documentation of the two year period means providing the last two years of W2 forms. The income reported on the forms must somewhat match up with the amounts reported on the paycheck stubs. The paycheck stubs will have both regular pay listed for that pay period as well as a year-to-date amount.

For those that are self-employed, itrsquo;s a bit more difficult to calculate qualifying income if someone doesnrsquo;trsquo; receive a regular paycheck on the first of every month. Self-employed borrowers receive income when their clients pay them for work done. Some clients might pay on the spot while others might need 30 days to get the invoice paid by corporate. For these folks, there wonrsquo;t be two years of W2s but there will be two years of 1099 forms. 1099s are forms issued to self-employed borrowers which shows how much was paid to the applicant in the previous calendar year. And just as employed applicants need to have two years of employment verified, so too do self-employed borrowers. This is validated with the last two years of personal and business income tax returns.

Seasonal income is much like bonus income. Bonus income might be a performance bonus based upon reaching certain goals each quarter or surpassing sales numbers for a particular month. Such income needs to be verified by the employer as having a two year history and is expected to continue into the future. The employerrsquo;s bonus guidelines may need to be provided for the lender to review. If the bonus is a one-off, it wonrsquo;t be counted. The income needs not only to be counted on but be regular enough that it can be used to service current and future debt.

Seasonal income must also come from the applicantrsquo;s regular line of work. The lender must determine if not only there is there a minimal two-year history but also the income will likely to continue. Someone who takes on a second job with the intentions of bringing home more money to help qualify for a mortgage will find out that without that two year history, the funds canrsquo;t be counted, even though itrsquo;s evident by looking at the bank statements that the funds exist and the applicant has access to them. However, someone who teaches summer school would certainly be able to use that income to help qualify, again, with at least a two year history of employment.

If yoursquo;re unsure about using your seasonal income, itrsquo;s important to speak with your loan officer as different loan programs can have different requirements. If there is a history and there is a likelihood of continuance, the lender will probably count it. But you have to ask.

nbsp;


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Problem Area: What Do You Do With a Glass Block Window?

The window, as you can see, is directly over the bathtub and also right in the line of sight if you happen to be: in a towel, changing your clothes, or in the commode with the door open It happens. No one wants to meet eyes with a stranger while theyrsquo;re on the toilet.nbsp;

We also dont want to completely cover over the window because, despite the ugliness of the glass bricks, the natural light is lovely.nbsp;So, that also knocks out dark drapes; no one is going to be climbing in and out of the tub to open and close them, plus, wersquo;d still see the glass brick when they were drawn.nbsp;

There are a few ways we can go to fix this problem, and wersquo;re going through them below. Thoughts? Opinions? Alternate choices? Wersquo;re all ears.nbsp;

Sheer drapes

Yes, heavy drapes are out because we donrsquo;t want to block the light, but sheer drapes could work. Hanging the curtain rod at the same height as the shower tile would also give the space some much-needed symmetry.nbsp;

Shutters

Pretty but expensive. Thatrsquo;s how we feel about shutters in general. According to Realtor.com, you can ldquo;expect to spend 20 to 45 per square foot. Wood shuttersnbsp;will run you 200 to 350 pernbsp;window, while compositenbsp;shutters costnbsp;80 to 200.rdquo;

The per-window cost isnt so bad, but who are we kidding? We know if we start down this road with one window, wersquo;re going to have to do them all. People with shuttersmdash;is it worth it?

Blinds

Frankly, wersquo;re not fans. We have a feeling that if we covered the glass blocks with blinds, the only thing that would change is that there would be two unsightly things on the wall.

Window films

You know wersquo;re up for anything when wersquo;re considering something that is also referred to as a ldquo;decal.rdquo; But, seriously, these are pretty interestingmdash;especially Rhombus, whose grid pattern might? work with the blocks. And then therersquo;s Waves of Sun. It wouldnrsquo;t suck to take a bath with a view of the fake ocean. Right?

Then there are the window films that give you some opacity without a pattern, like this Sand Privacy Film.nbsp;

Decision, decisionshellip;.


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Things to Consider When Moving to A New Neighborhood

Financial

You may have purchased a home with an affordable mortgage interest rate, however property taxes can become a significant part of your expenses. If you moved from another state or even county, its a good idea to find out about potential taxes or local special assessments that will affect your budget. A good way is to confirm the amount with your realtor and title company.

Safety

Some of the best places to find >

Access to Care

On the subject of safety, is the neighborhood close to a police and fire stations, emergency rooms and other pertinent services in the event of an emergency? We all know too well of a hurricanes affect on residents in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, and fires in California. You want to have emergency personnel or shelters nearby.

Convenience

Important deal breakers for some people are how close it will be to their favorite eateries, grocery stores, gym, bank, shopping and volunteering opportunities. If youre used to a 1-2 mile convenient and the new home is 5-to-10 miles away, that could be a big problem. Are you a person who needs a Trader Joes, WholeFoods or Sprouts Market nearby? If you are person that actively participates in volunteering in your community, make sure you still have that opportunity where youre moving to, especially if its one of your passions. Did you know that a neighborhood located near numerous retail stores, helps maintain or increases home value if you choose to sell later on.

Schools

Schools are a very important element as a home buyer. The quality of schools in the neighborhood can influence the future value of the home. By a wide margin, families prefer a highly rated school district. To determine the schools rating GreatSchools is a great source.nbsp;

Neighbors

Dont be nervous to be the one who starts a conversation with people you may find yourself becoming next door neighbors. To be honest, theyll be very interested in meeting their prospective neighbors. Find out if there are block parties, how many young families are here, any people with aggressive dogs, best hangouts, their favorite local places, parks, how many years theyve lived in the area, and more about the community. Some research should be done yourself but it never hurts for a neighbor to confirm what you researched. The better you know your neighbors, the easier it is to ask them to watch your home while youre away on a trip.

Sights, Sounds and Smells

Identify warning signs in the neighborhood. Are homeowners maintaining their yards, does one neighbor have 10 or more unsightly cars parked outside, are there college-aged kids stationed on the street all day? Is there a cow slaughter house within 5 miles away? The stench can travel your way depending on the time of day.

Find out Opinions of Former Residents

People love sharing their opinion on places theyve lived. Online discussion forums like Reddit and City-Data are good places to inquire about your new neighborhood for >

Bonus Tip

There are a few tax breaks for someone moving due to a new job or >
Full Story >


5 Basic Tips to Make Small Bedroom Look and Feel Amazing

However, to create a small bedroom which looks admirable and feel comfortable is not that easy. You have to deal with the limited space in placing the furniture, deacute;cor items, and accessories inside. Moreover, choosing the colors, patterns, and texture to decorate a small bedroom is not as easy as when you have a huge space.

Some simple basic tips to decorate a small bedroom below will totally open your mind.

Choosing the Colors

The very first thing to keep in mind is how the overall look of your bedroom will look like which strongly >

The most popular option to colorize a small bedroom is the neutral shades like white and grey. Those kinds of color will give a bright and calming impression which will not make a small bedroom look too intimidating or stuffy.

Light it Up

When you have a small bedroom, light becomes an essential key to make it look and feel inviting. Beside those lighting fixtures, installing a huge window can add another lighting source which let the sunlight in. Moreover, a window also creates an airy atmosphere by letting the air circulate properly.

If itrsquo;s not possible for you to install a window, you can use the glass ceiling which can light up the room when the sun shines so bright. In addition, a mirror will also reflect the light and create a wider impression.

Adding the Furniture

Nowadays, you can easily find some bedroom furniture which are specifically designed for a small bedroom. They can fit a small bedroom very well and provide great comfort for you. Moreover, you can also find such furniture with very low price tags. Check out this Cheap Bedroom Furniture Sets Under 500 article to find some tempting products to buy

Providing the Storage

You canrsquo;t really place a big closet or wardrobe inside a small bedroom. Therefore, you have to trick it by using multifunction furniture. Pick a bed frame which comes with built-in drawers or a headboard which also works as the shelves.

Make a Statement

Choose one element of the room to become the main focal point which grabs most attention. For instance, you can hang a big wall art with vibrant color on one side of the walls. A single focal point is enough to enhance the attractiveness of a small bedroom.

Well, those are some tips that you can keep in mind when you are about to decorate your small bedroom. Though itrsquo;s not really easy to decorate, a small bedroom is definitely a good option for you who love minimalist concept and simplicity.


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10 Easy Solutions for Creating More Storage at Home

Take a new look at your house

Donrsquo;t have enough linen space? Maybe therersquo;s a corner or niche that could be turned into a closet. It might just take an open mind and a fresh outlook to reimagine a space.nbsp;

Pick the right furniture

ldquo;A hardworking family needs a hardworking living area, one that uses every inch of space available,rdquo; said Better Homes and Gardens. ldquo;Built-in cabinets stash books and media and provide a bonus display surface. Find or design and build furniture that serves more than one purpose.rdquo;

Ottomans are a great option for living spaces because: Theyrsquo;re small, easily movable, can act as a coffee table or an extra seat, and can hide remotes, blankets, and a bunch of other stuff that could otherwise be cluttering up your space.nbsp; nbsp;

Spin the bookcase

IKEArsquo;s KALLAX is one of our favorite finds because it has tons of storage space and you dont need a ton of wall space to use it. Itrsquo;s finished on both sides, so you can also use it as a wall divider. If KALLAX isnrsquo;t your thing but you want to crib this idea, find two bookcases and use them back to back.

Grab some Space Saver Bags

Not everything you see on a late-night infomercial is a waste of money. Space bags are great for off-season clothes, jackets, and bedding because you can compress them to a fraction of the size. According to Amazon, the jumbo sixe is ldquo;More than Big enough to fit bulky bed linens with Pillows, Favorite big winter jacket, entire wardrobes of a season.rdquo;

Roll it out

Therersquo;s a better use for the space under your bed than dust bunnies. All you need are a few rolling storage tubs to reclaim this square footage for your stuff.

Recycle your coat closetnbsp;

Unless you live in a cold climate where lots of jackets, coats, scarves, and boos are needed, your coat closet may be able to serve better uses. Add some basic wire shelving, which you can find in tons of sizes and configurations, and now yoursquo;ve got a place to store linens, Costco goods, or anything that doesnrsquo;t currently have a place to go.

Go above and beyond

Closets typically have a shelf above the hanging rod, but that space above the shelf may go quite high. Make it easier to store items up there by installing another shelf at the top. That way you donrsquo;t have to worry about your stuff teetering or toppling, and you can use all the space available, all the way up to the ceiling.

Hang from the ceiling

Like Forbes said, garage storage is critical. But if your garage doesnrsquo;t have muchmdash;or much room in which to fit itmdash;you can still make it happen. SafeRacks are hanging garage storage shelves you can buy online or at Costco. They get your stuff up off the floor so you can reclaim the space for your cars.nbsp;

Organize your pots and pansnbsp;

Maybe it isnrsquo;t that you donrsquo;t have the space, but itrsquo;s just not well-organizedmdash;especially in the kitchen if you have giant, shelf-less boxes for cabinets or a small pantry with shelves that donrsquo;t allow you to see clearly to the back. The right organizer can change your life. Check out this and this, and your kitchen will never be the same.nbsp;

DIY yourself a solution

If yoursquo;ve got a good imagination and a few good tools, you can make something that will help meet your storage needs. Yoursquo;re going to want to put Bob Vilarsquo;s secret compartments in the fireplace trim, pull-out drawers in the banquette, and definitely the under-the-stairs trick on your to-do list.


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Crime in Canada: Fewer Break-Ins, More Fraud Cases

The good news is that Canadarsquo;s crime rate is 17 per cent lower than it was 10 years ago. The bad news is that it crept up by two per cent compared to the year before.

Statistics Canadarsquo;s Crime Severity Index CSI counts the number of police-reported offences and assigns a weight to each crime, based on the violationrsquo;s incarceration rate. The weighted offences are then divided by the population to determine crime rates for the countryrsquo;s 35 census metropolitan areas CMAs.

In 2018, Canada recorded 651 homicides, which was 15 fewer than 2017. The biggest decreases were in Alberta and B.C., while the largest increase was in Ontario with 69 more homicides than in 2017.

Violent crimes were up by one per cent over 2017, led by a 15 per cent increase in the police-reported rate of sexual assault and a 44 per cent increase in extortion. But violent crimes were down 13 per cent from 2008.

Non-violent crimes were down 19 per cent from 10 years ago but up two per cent from 2017. Fraud, including identity theft and identity fraud, increased for the seventh year in a row and was up 12 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

Because of the number of crimes that take place in Canadarsquo;s largest cities, many people assume that they have the worst crimes rates. Toronto had a particularly bad year in 2018 with three major events impacting the cityrsquo;s reputation as a safe city. Early in the year, the bodies of eight murder victims, who were killed between 2010 and 2017, were discovered and a serial killer was arrested. Later, a van attack in North York killed 10 pedestrians and injured 13. And a year ago, a shooting on Danforth Avenue killed two and injured 13. All of these events drove up Torontorsquo;s crime rate.

Yet, on the Police-reported Crime Severity Index, Toronto had the fifth lowest score out of 35 CMAs.

Quebec City had the lowest score, followed by Saguenay, Que., Peterborough, Ont. and Barrie, Ont. Of the major cities, Ottawa and St. John, N.B. had low rates close to Torontorsquo;s, followed by Montreal, Victoria, Halifax, St. Johnrsquo;s, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

The highest rate was recorded in Lethbridge, Alta., followed by Regina, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton.

The largest drops in CSI were reported in Belleville, Ont., Saguenay and Peterborough. The latter two cities had big decreases in the number of break and enter offences, which helped bring the rate down.

ldquo;According to some police services, part of the increase in fraud was attributable to increased access for reporting fraud online,rdquo; says Greg Moreau of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics in a report on the findings. ldquo;Additionally, certain types of scams have drawn the attention of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and the news media, particularly general online or telephone scams, such as the Canada Revenue Agency scam and pre-paid gift card scams.rdquo;

The biggest increases in police-reported fraud took place in the Northwest Territories, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. Since 2012, the rate of fraud has increased almost every year in most provinces and territories, says Moreau.

The report says that in 28 of 35 CMAs, fraud rates increased. The largest increases were recorded in Moncton, Windsor, Ont., Peterborough, Ont., Trois-Rivieres, Que., St. Johnrsquo;s and Victoria.

The good news for homeowners is that seven provinces and territories reported decreases in the rates of breaking and entering. Perhaps partly because of the increased use of home security systems, the rate has been dropping steadily since the early 1990s. But in 2018, most of the decrease took place outside of the cities, where the rate increased by one per cent. Prince Edward Island saw a 21 per cent increase in the rate of breaking and entering and a 17 per cent increase in theft of 5,000 or under, which does not include shoplifting.nbsp;

Identity theft defined by the RCMP as the preparatory stage of acquiring and collecting someone elsersquo;s personal information for criminal purposes and identity fraud the actual deceptive use of the identity information of another person, living or dead, in connection with various frauds continues to be a concern. The Statistics Canada report says incidents of identity theft and identity fraud increased from 17,639 in 2017 to 19,584 in 2018.nbsp;

The RCMP says homeowners should always be wary of calls or emails that demand personal or financial information and should make sure the person who is calling is really who they say they are.

ldquo;Be particularly wary of unsolicited emails, telephone calls or mail attempting to extract personal information from you,rdquo; advises the RCMP.nbsp;

Identity thieves are looking for your full name, date of birth, social insurance number, full address, motherrsquo;s maiden name, passwords for online services, driverrsquo;s license number and your PIN numbers.nbsp;

Shred personal and financial documents before putting them in the garbage and clean out your mailbox promptly after the mail has arrived. Keep on top of your credit card and debit charges and periodically check your credit reports to make sure you donrsquo;t become a victim of identity theft.

nbsp;


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Fed Cuts Interest Rate for First Time in 11 Years. What Does It Mean to You?

The Federal Reserve just cut interest rates for the first time in 11 years. So what does that mean for consumers, especially those who are looking to buy a home? Wersquo;re breaking it down.nbsp;

Mortgages

Itrsquo;s important to remember that mortgage rates arenrsquo;t set by The Fed. And, as Bankrate puts it. ldquo;The Fedrsquo;s influence over mortgage rates is complicated.rdquo;nbsp;

Mortgage rates are already below 4 as we write this, and they ldquo;arenrsquo;t likely going to respond quickly to a Fed rate adjustment,rdquo; they said. ldquo;Any further movement in mortgage rates will be tied to the outlook ahead. Thatrsquo;s because mortgage rates are more more closely follow long-term yield, like the ldquo;10-year Treasury yield, which serves as a benchmark to the 30-year fixed mortgage rate.rdquo;

Credit Cards

If you have a lot of credit card debt, you may see a little >

When you look at the potential savings in one big lump spread among households across the country, the number looks substantialmdash;ldquo;Considering that thenbsp;average household currently owes 8,390, credit card users would save roughly 1.5 billion in interest as a result of a quarter-point rate cut,rdquo; said CNBC. ldquo;However, that may result in little benefit per cardholder with APRrsquo;s still near record highs. For example, a customer with a credit card balance of 1,400 at a 14.4 rate would only see their financing charge decrease by about 30 cents each month.rdquo;

Savings Accounts

You may see the yield on your savings account drop. ldquo;Prior to the Fed cutting rates on Wednesday, the average interest rate among online banks was 1.69, as opposed to an average of 0.28 offered by brick-and-mortar banks,rdquo; said CNBC. Thatrsquo;s according to annbsp;analysis of savings accounts conducted by DepositAccounts.com in June.rdquo;

Interest on online-only savings accounts could drop as much as 0.11, according to WalletHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou. But these still may be your best bet for a high yield. ldquo;Savers looking for a higher return might consider online savings accounts, which,nbsp;in many cases, are still paying yields of 2 to 2.5 percent,rdquo; said the New York Times.nbsp;

nbsp;


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Finding Down Payment Money

The Bank.

Okay, this is the obvious source. From a checking or a savings account, accessing readily available cash from a bank account is the most common. Consumers can save up a little each month until the minimum amount of funds needed have accrued. The lender will ask for copies of the most recent bank statements showing available funds as well as documenting the source of those funds. Most often the deposits are from an employer via direct deposit. Self-employed borrowers who do not receive a regular paycheck on the 1st and 15th will be asked to provide business bank statements as well.

A Gift.

There are those fortunate few who do receive a financial gift from a family member. Gift funds must also be tracked to make sure the funds are coming from an acceptable source. Gift funds can come from a family member, >

A Retirement Account.

If someone has a retirement account with an employer such as a 401k, that person can take out a loan against the fund. This is allowable per lending guidelines but is also subject to the employerrsquo;s approval. Most retirement funds allow for someone to borrow up to one-half of the employeersquo;s vested balance in the account. With an IRA, first time buyers can withdraw up to 10,000 without penalty. The withdrawal will still be subject to any income tax due.

An Appraisable Asset.

If someone owns something that can be appraised by an independent third party, the proceeds when selling that asset are an acceptable source. Selling an automobile is acceptable, for instance because it has an appraised value. Even a highly prized baseball card is an appraisable asset. Itrsquo;s important to document the transaction from the initial sale to the deposit in the account.

A Down Payment Assistance Program.

Down payment assistance programs are typically overseen and/or issued by a county or state agency. Such programs typically require the borrowersrsquo; gross monthly income to not exceed certain limits and are often available to first time buyers. These programs can also be geographically targeted to help low to moderate income communities flourish. Down payment assistance can come in the form of a grant, which means there is no repayment required, or a loan which can be forgiven after living in the property for a certain period of time, typically three years or more.


Full Story >




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Updated: Saturday, August 17, 2019

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