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5 Doable DIY Projects To Send Your Home Equity Soaring

by The Schnoor Team

5 Doable DIY Projects To Send Your Home Equity Soaring

 

A new front door has the highest ROI, not to mention the boost in curb appeal.

 

You’re going to save money with DIY home improvement projects. Sure, everybody knows that.

 

But did you know how much? Cut professionals out of the equation and you can save half the cost of a project — or more. 

 

What’s more, you get a great return on your investment. Meaning, the financial value you get out of a DIY project is much more than what you put in.

 

Here’s a rundown of some top money-saving projects, using cost and recovered costs data from the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

 

#1 New Steel Front Door

 

Few replacement projects have as much upside as a new steel entry door. Not only will you recover about 75% of the cost of having an entry door professionally installed, but you’ll spruce up your curb appeal big time. Want proof? Ninety-six percent of homeowners responding to the “Remodeling Impact Report” say they are happy or satisfied with their new front door.  

 

Of course, you’ll save even more if you tackle this project yourself. Know your door parts (jambs, threshold, stops) before digging in. You’ll be putting in a pre-hung door that includes jambs, so the old stuff has to come out. If you can, preserve the old casing (trim) that goes around the door. Otherwise, plan to buy new casing.

 

This is a good one to have a friend or spouse lend a hand. It’ll take six to eight hours if it’s your first time. Remember the three-legged mantra of door installation: Plumb, level, square.

 

#2 New Garage Door

 

Tired of looking at that big blank billboard every time you pull into your driveway? Change out your old garage door for a spiffy new steel model and the whole neighborhood will thank you. Save some cash by keeping the same motorized 

 

A steel garage door comes in four panels that are relatively lightweight but awkward — get a friend to lend a hand and you’ll have this project done in a day. Then stand back and admire along with 95% of homeowners in the “Remodeling Impact Report” who said they were happy or satisfied with their new garage door. 

 

 

#3 New Vinyl Windows

 

If you want to replace four or more windows, or a second-story window, then hire the work out. Being up on a ladder with an object as bulky as a window is no place for a non-professional. Pros bring scaffolding, which takes time to set up but ultimately makes the work faster and safer.

Replacing one, two, or maybe three first-story windows is a good DIY job. Anything more and the pros will get the job done with better efficiency in terms of time and hassle.

 

If you’ve measured your rough opening correctly and bought the right window, then one window should take you three to four hours. You’ll get faster with subsequent windows.

 

#4 New Wood Flooring

 

Few projects are as satisfying, while recovering such a high percentage of your investment, as new wood flooring. According to the “Remodeling Impact Report,” 96% of homeowners were happy or satisfied with their professionally installed hardwood floors. Combine that with a 91% return on your investment, and you’ll likely be a very happy homeowner.

For the DIYer, installing hardwood flooring is a bit labor intensive, but the techniques are fairly easy to master. Once you get the hang of it, installing prefinished hardwood flooring should go smoothly.

 

#5 Insulation Upgrade

 

OK, maybe it’s not the sexiest project. After all, it’s tucked out of sight in your attic. But you can feel it with increased comfort, and see the savings on your energy bill. Those are big pluses. 

Upgrading an under-insulated attic space can save you up to 50% per year in energy costs. With a pro cost of $2,100, it’ll take at least a couple of years to pay off your investment with savings. Do it yourself, however, and you’ll only spend about $700 for enough 10-inch-thick fiberglass batt insulation to cover a 20-foot-by-40-foot attic space. You’ll pocket the savings much sooner. 

 

It’s also an awkward project, it can be messy, and you’ll need to bundle up behind protective clothing. However, insulating your attic is a low-skill project that most DIYers can pull off. Just be sure not to stick your foot through the drywall under the attic floor joists!

 

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/save-money-add-value/money-saving-diy/diy-how-much-do-you-save/?site_ref=mosaic

 

JOHN RIHA

 

has written seven books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

 

7 Tips for a Profitable Home Closing

by The Schnoor Team

7 Tips for a Profitable Home Closing

Be sure you’re walking away with all the money you’re entitled to from the sale of your home.

When you’re ready to close on the sale of your home and move to your new home, you may be so close to the finish line that you coast, thinking there’s nothing left for you to do. Not so fast. It’s easy to waste a few dollars here and for mistakes to creep into your closing documents there, all adding up to a bundle of lost profit. Spot money-losing problems with these seven tips.

1.  Take services out of your name. 

Avoid a dispute with the buyers after closing over things like fees for the cable service you forgot to discontinue. Contact every utility and service provider to end or transfer service to your new address as of the closing date.

If you’re on an automatic-fill schedule for heating oil or propane, don’t pay for a pre-closing refill that provides free fuel for the new owner. Contact your insurer to terminate coverage on your old home, get coverage on your new home, and ask whether you’re entitled to a refund of prepaid premium.

2.  Spread the word on your change of address.

Provide the post office with your forwarding address two to four weeks before the closing. Also notify credit card companies, publication subscription departments, friends and family, and your financial institutions of your new address.

3.  Manage the movers.

Scrutinize your moving company’s estimate. If you’re making a long-distance move, which is often billed according to weight, note the weight of your property and watch so the movers don’t use excessive padding to boost the weight. Also check with your homeowners insurer about coverage for your move. Usually movers cover only what they pack.


4.  Do the settlement math.

Title company employees are only human, so they can make mistakes. Before your closing, check the math on your closing disclosure and compare it with your loan estimate.

5.  Review charges on your closing docs.

Are all mortgages being paid off, and are the payoff amounts correct? If your real estate agent promised you extras — such as a discounted commission or a home warranty policy — make sure that’s included. Also check whether your real estate agent or title company added fees that weren’t disclosed earlier. If any party suggests leaving items off the docs, consult a lawyer about whether that might expose you to legal risk.

6.  Search for missing credits.

Be sure the settlement company properly credited you for prepaid expenses, such as property taxes and homeowners association fees, if applicable. If you’ve prepaid taxes for the year, you’re entitled to a credit for the time you no longer own the home. Have you been credited for heating oil or propane left in the tank?

7.  Don’t leave money in escrow.

End your home sale closing with nothing unresolved. Make sure the title company releases money already held in escrow for you, and avoid leaving sales proceeds in a new escrow to be dickered over later.

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/sell/successfully-sell-your-home/7-tips-profitable-home-closing/?pred_search_link_clicked=7+Tips+for+a+Profitable+Home+Closing

G. M. FILISKO

is an attorney and award-winning writer. A frequent contributor to publications including Bankrate, REALTOR Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, personal finance, and legal topics.

Organize Your Home by Feb. 1 in Less Than an Hour a Day

by The Schnoor Team

 

Did you ever notice that your self-improvement pacts with yourself are action oriented? Walk 10,000 steps a day. Fix that leaky faucet. Register for VolunteerMatch.

But “get organized”? It’s a goal so broad that just trying to figure out what action to take makes you wonder what you were thinking in the first place. It’s like you need an organizing plan for your organizing.

Ta da!

Here it is. Follow these steps, spending less than an hour day (sometimes just a few moments), to a better organized home:

1. Do That Project                                                                                                                                    

"What about your space is making you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed?" asks Amy Trager, a professional organizer in Chicago. Is it the paperwork disaster in your office? The pile of clothes teetering on your dresser? Or that mess that surrounds your doorway? Start with what’s annoying you, she says. One hour on that task will get your organizing engine revving.

2. Create a "Go Away" Box                                                                                                                           

Put anything you’re planning to donate in it (or give to a friend, or take to recycle). And keep it by the door so you can easily grab it when you’re leaving.

3. Deal With the Decorations                                                                                                         

Hallelujah — the holidays are over! When you’re putting away your décor, donate anything you didn’t bring out last season, and separate decorations by holiday. No need to dig through your St. Patty’s clovers when you’re searching for a menorah.

4. Create a System for Your Entryway                                                                                                     

Set up a “command center” so your front door doesn’t become a lawless accessories arena, especially during winter months. Add hooks for coats, bins for shoes, and a mail sorter if you need it. (Remember to keep a place for your “go away” box).

5. Wrangle Your Pet Supplies                                                                                                         

Minimize the time spent scrambling when your pup is desperate for a walk or eager for a meal. Hang hooks and cubbies near the door and keep leashes, kibble, bowls, and toys in one convenient spot.

6. Organize Your Spices                                                                                                                     

Arrange your herbs and spices alphabetically, by cuisine, or by brand — whatever makes them easier to find when you’re in the middle of your noodle stir fry.

7. Pare Down Your Utensils                                                                                                                 

You’ve accumulated several dozen kitchen utensils in your culinary career: can openers, microplanes, four (what?!) wine openers. Pare down the collection and use drawer dividers to keep the remainders in order.

8. Reconfigure Your Pots and Pans                                                                                                           

Stop digging around in your shelves for the oversized, cast-iron skillet. Donate the pots and pans you hardly use, and install cupboard organizers to help manage the rest.

9. Throw Away Expired Foods                                                                                                                 

You never use Worcestershire sauce — except that one time. Go through your refrigerator and pantry and ditch or donate anything past its prime.

10. Stack Your Pantry Staples                                                                                                                Make better use of your pantry by sorting through your staple dry goods — think flour, sugar, pasta, oatmeal, dry beans — and putting them in airtight, stackable containers. You’ll free up a ton of space, too.

11. Downsize Your Kitchen Gadgets

You had noble intentions when you purchased that spiralizer. (Zucchini noodles every night, right?) Give those space hogs to someone else with lofty dreams.

12. Say No to Coffee Mug Over-Saturation

Every time you lose a sock, a new coffee mug appears. Keep one or two mugs for every coffee or tea drinker, and donate the rest.

13. Sort Your Food Storage Containers

No singles allowed. Toss any tops or bottoms that have no mates.

14. Reassess Your Display Shelves

Shelves crammed with knickknacks, books you’ll never read, and stuff you somehow accumulated are just a waste of space. Donate books to the library, discard the junk, and arrange what’s left in a way that pleases you.

15. Deal With Your Cables

With a Roku, PlayStation, DVD player, and a cable box, it’s no surprise your entertainment center is a mess. Create ID tags for each plug from bread tags or cable ties, and bundle the clutter together with velcro strips.

16. Put Clothes on New Hangers

Switch your clothes over to the slimmer, grabbier hangers. They use less space and keep your clothes from sliding down to your closet floor. As you do this, discard the clothes you never wear.

17. Corral Your Accessories

Belts, scarves, purses, hats — all the accessories that don’t have a drawer or spot in the closet can end up everywhere. Buy an accessories hanger or install a simple series of hooks to give your wardrobe’s smallest members a home.

18. Purge Under the Bed

Under-bed storage is ideal for out-of-season clothing. But when out-of-season becomes out-of-sight and out-of-mind, clear out those clothes you’ll never wear again from this precious storage space.

19. Declutter Your Desk

When your workspace is swimming with collectibles, staplers, Post-its, and more, paring down can keep you focused when it’s time to hunker down.

20. Shred Old Paperwork

Not every form, statement, and tax record needs to stay in your filing cabinet forever. Check out this list to make sure you’re not wasting space. Shred the rest to ward off identity thieves.

21. Tidy Your Files

Now that you’ve shredded the paperwork you don’t need, tidy up your files by organizing them and labeling them clearly. Colorful folders can help organize by theme (home stuff, tax stuff, work stuff, etc.).

22. Get Rid of Mystery Electronics

Admit it. You’ve got a drawer where black mystery cords, chargers, and oddball electronic bits go to die. Free that drawer up for better uses, or at least get rid of the ones you know for sure are “dead.”

23. Pare Down Your Personal Care Stuff                                                                                             

Your intentions were honorable when you bought that curl-enhancing shampoo — but it expired two years ago, and you haven’t used it since. Throw away any expired potions, salves, hair products, and medicines.

24. Tackle Under-the-Sink Storage                                                                                                         

Clean everything out. You’ll be amazed at what you find (like those Magic Erasers you could never find). Then put back everything you’re keeping in bins you can easily pull out so nothing gets lost again.

25. Hang a Shelf                                                                                                                                         

Wall storage is so often overlooked. Find a spot in your home where a shelf would solve a problem, and hang it. Maybe it’s for some toiletries in the bathroom, or laundry supplies, or for your kid’s stuffed toys.

26. Reduce Your Towels and Linens                                                                                                   

There are the towels you use — and the stack of towels you never use. Donate them to the animal shelter. Those torn pillowcases? Convert to rags or toss. Same for napkins, dishtowels, pot holders, etc.

27. Hang a Shoe Organizer                                                                                                               

Hanging shoe organizers can solve a ton of storage problems beyond the obvious. They can store scarves, mittens, cleaning supplies, craft supplies. You can even cut them to custom-fit inside a cabinet door.

28. Organize Your Junk Drawer for Good                                                                                         

There’s no shame in a junk drawer — but why not organize it? Dump the whole thing on one surface and sort everything into piles. Use drawer dividers to keep each pile in its own space.

29. Store Your Tools the Right Way                                                                                                   

Finding the right Phillips-head screwdriver to put together that cute IKEA bookshelf shouldn’t be so hard. Track down your hammers and screwdrivers, and arrange them in one easy-to-access spot, such as a pegboard.

30. Plan for the Future                                                                                                                               

See how much you’ve accomplished! Take a look around your newly organized home, making note of any spaces you missed. Then dream a bit about your next home project. Maybe paint that dining room finally?

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/storage-ideas-hacks/how-to-organize-your-home/


 

How First-Timers Can Cope with Rising Home Prices

by The Schnoor Team

 

A fixer-upper with the right things wrong could spell instant equity for you.

 

 

In a sign of a robust housing market, existing-home prices are expected to rise 5.8% in 2017 over 2016, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. But rising prices, record-high levels of student loan debt, and stagnant wages make it more difficult for first-time buyers to save up what’s needed for a down payment.

 

 

Consider Nearby or Adjacent ZIP Codes

The old adage in real estate is “location, location, location,” but often the location is the very thing that makes certain ZIP codes so pricey. When looking into a desirable area, consider the nearby or adjacent neighborhoods to scout for more affordable finds. The good news is that if your house is near a pricer area, home prices are expected to remain strong or even rise as demand for the area increases.

 

 

Purchase a Foreclosure or Fixer-Upper

After my own disaster of a renovation, I know better than to think home makeover projects are as easy as they look on HGTV. Still, purchasing a foreclosure or home that needs a little work is a smart move if you want to buy into a more expensive neighborhood and stay in your price range. 

 

Fast Equity Can Help You Trade Up

A fixer-upper can earn “instant” equity, especially with these three projects: a new roof, refinishing hardwood floors (or adding new hardwood floors), and insulation.

Fixer-uppers  can yield significant discounts in major urban areas — as much as 40% to 50%, according to research conducted by realtor.com, but inventory may be low, and the competition may be fierce. 

 

 

Consider a Roommate

If you can afford a home but are concerned about what the monthly payment will do to your lifestyle (and budget) consider renting out rooms in your house to a long-term roommate or on housing-share apps. 

This way, your housing payment gets covered and any extra can go toward paying down the mortgage, paying off student loans, or maintaining your lifestyle.

 

Try a Starter Home Before Thinking of a Forever Home

Think about what you really need in a first-home purchase as opposed to what you fantasize about having. With so many first-time buyers now delaying home ownership until their early 30’s (when a family and kids comes along), many skip the notion of the starter home and leap right into the forever home - often at a cost.

Starting small allows buyers to start putting housing payments into equity, not rent. Should property values rise, after a few years a buyer would then be able to upgrade into something bigger or more practical for their lifestyle.

Also keep in mind that just because you qualify for a loan amount, it doesn’t mean you have to borrow the maximum. When shopping for homes, be sure to find something that sits comfortably in your budget once you factor in insurance, taxes, and home maintenance — and even discretionary funds.

While these tips may not land a first-time buyer in their ideal neighborhood straight away, equity (the amount of your house that you “own”)  builds over time and works in favor of the buyer. Remember: With time and patience, many may be able to cash in on the equity in their first home and move into their ideal square footage or location. 

 

 

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/buy/first-time-home-buyer/home-price-trends/

 

is the award-winning blogger and editor behind personal finance site “Financial Best Life” and author of “The Millennial Homeowner: A Guide to Successfully Navigating Your First Home Purchase.” She’s contributed to such financial sites as “CNNMoney” and “Forbes.”

 

 

 

 

How to Prepare Your Finances for Home Ownership

by The Schnoor Team

Preparing your finances for home ownership begins the day someone decides they actually want to buy a home. After all, saving for a down payment doesn’t just happen overnight! So, how do you best prepare your finances in advance to handle the most expensive purchase of your lifetime?

Below are five areas to tackle in order to ensure home buying success, and these steps can be completed months or years in advance of a first home purchase. To assist in preparing your finances for home ownership, use this worksheet in order to track progress and keep all of your to-dos straight.

Step #1 - Prepare Your Credit

Everyone knows good credit is needed in order to qualify for a mortgage, but preparing your credit also encompasses an important component of financially preparing for home ownership — debt payoff.

Paying off debt, especially student loans and high-interest credit cards, not only frees up money in the budget for down payment savings, it also raises your credit score by lowering your overall debt. Debt payoff is also important for lenders when determining your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio (total monthly debt payments divided by gross monthly income), the primary number lenders look at to determine how much home you’ll qualify for.

Lenders can qualify an individual with up to 43% debt-to-income ratio, though lenders are more likely to make a loan if it’s lower. The debt-to-income number is important for first-time buyers to know as many are struggling with five-figure student loan burdens, which can severely impact their DTI ratio.  

The best way to tackle debt is to use the debt snowball method. List all of your debts (credit cards and student loans for now) in order of highest interest rate and throw all extra money at that amount. When this amount is gone, then go to the next one. Use the accompanying worksheet to list your debt and track your pay off status.

Step #2 - Save for a Down Payment

If you opt for a conventional mortgage and want to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI), which protects the lender in case you default, you’d typically need to put down 20% of the purchase price. It could take years to save up the proper funds for a home down payment. This is why many buyers opt for putting down less than 20% or prefer an FHA loan, where a down payment as low as 3.5% of the purchase price is possible depending on your credit.

You’ll still need money in the bank no matter which type of loan you think you’ll go with, so it’s important to begin saving as early as possible.

Paying off debt will make saving easier over time as you’ll have more money to allocate to your down payment fund.

You may also want to consider:

  • An expense audit, where you cut subscription services and negotiate with your utility providers to lower your costs. Then you automatically put the money saved into your down payment savings account. You’ll never miss it.
  • Halting retirement savings for a period in order to contribute more to your down payment funds, but only if you feel comfortable doing so for the short term. 
  • Funneling any “found” money, such as work bonuses or holiday cash, into your down payment fund. The temptation not to spend is real, but once in your new home, you’ll be glad you sacrificed.
  • Getting a side hustle. Putting even $100 extra away each month can make saving for a home much faster (and easier).

Step #3 - Prepare Your Budget

Have you thought about what your budget will look like post-closing? The expense audit (see above) will help make some room, but to see if you can truly afford a home, try building out a sample budget of what your monthly expenses will look like after you buy a home.

Mortgage calculators can help you get a rough estimate of what your monthly mortgage payment will look like. I recommend adding 2 to 3 times utility rates if upsizing from an apartment into a home.

Step #4 - Shop for a Mortgage

Rate shopping for a mortgage is an important step, so don’t go with the first rate you’re offered (unless it ends up being the most competitive, of course). Shopping for the most competitive interest rate is one of the few ways to actually save money on a home, because the lower the interest rate, the less money you’ll pay over the life of the loan.

Rate shopping is now super quick (thanks, Internet!) and doesn’t impact your credit score, so the few minutes you spend rate shopping will pay off big time for your future self … to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

Step #5 - Consider Closing Costs

Don’t get blindsided by closing costs — you’ll need to save for these too. Typically, you can multiply the purchase price of the home by 3% to 5% and get a rough estimate of how much you’ll need to bring to closing. Even if the seller offers to pay some (or all) of the closing costs as part of the sale, having this money in the bank - just in case - will assure the lender you’re ready to take on the responsibility of a mortgage.

By LAUREN BOWLING 

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/financing/how-to-prepare-to-buy-a-house/‚Äč


5 Tasks Every Homeowner Should Do in January

by The Schnoor Team

Start looking for that contractor NOW if you want your project done by summer’s end.

Whew. The holidays are done. The new year has rung in.

That’s when smart homeowners know it’s time to do these five things that’ll save time, money, and hassles all year long:

#1 Organize Your Seasonal Storage Space

Packing away holiday decor presents a big opportunity. It’s the best time to sort, declutter, and reorganize that space where you store your seasonal stuff.

So before simply stuffing your holiday things back in there somewhere, take inventory, then sort, filter, donate, trash, and re-home as many of your things as possible.

It’ll help keep you more organized all year long, and make it easier to find all your holiday stuff next year

 

#2 Deep-Clean the Kitchen

 All of that holiday merriment-making is rough on a kitchen. Give it a good deep cleaning now that the glittery dust has settled.

Purge your pantry and frisk your fridge, passing what you can on to local food banks. Scrub the walls and kick-boards, and even pull those appliances right out from the walls for a thorough vacuuming to prevent gunk (and stinks!) from accumulating.

 

#3 Plan Summertime Projects Now (Especially if You Need a Pro)

Finalize plans for any landscaping, decks, patios, or other outdoor projects that need warm weather. Two good reasons:

1. If you’re DIYing, you’ll be ready to roll at the first hint of nice weather.

2. If you’re hiring a contractor or other professional, getting your bids and contracts in place now will save you from competing with the spring rush (wait too long, and you may not be able to book anyone!).

 

#4 Create a Schedule to Clean ALL Your Home's Filters

It’s not just your HVAC. The filters in your fridge, your vacuum cleaner, your dryer, your air filter, and other household items need to be changed or cleaned at least once a year to be effective, usually more often — especially your dehumidifier. Yucky mold grows easily there.

Check manufacturer instructions for all the filters in your home, and create a master schedule, then add them to your calendar app to remind you.

 

#5 Save Some Green at White Sales

Linens and towels go on sale in January. It’s a long-standing retail tradition that started back when linens only came in white (hence the name), and still has a solid rep as a money-saver — only in more colors today.

Cut your threadbare bath towels into rags and restock your supply, plus fill in any gaps in your bed linens you may have noticed if you had a house full of holiday guests.

6 Ways to Find More Money for Your Down Payment

by The Schnoor Team

 

Here’s how to get creative. But understand the ins and outs to make the right decision for you.

You’ve done your research. Interest rates are low, and you know the exact area you want to buy your future home in and the details you desire down to the type of flooring in the kitchen. Now the only thing standing between you and a seat at the offer table is figuring out how you’re going to come up with a reasonable down payment.

Aside from going the traditional route of saving slowly and consistently over time to reach your savings goal, consider these other creative options for funding your down payment:

1. Negotiate a Pay Raise

If you’re not comfortable asking for what you want, now’s the time to learn. Research comparable pay for your position, create a list of your accomplishments and the value you’ve added to your company, and schedule a sit down with your boss to discuss compensation. 

Tack on an extra $5,000 to the pay you’d be comfortable with in order to give yourself room to negotiate down if necessary. Anything extra you get in your paycheck should be earmarked for your down payment fund.

2. Tap Your IRA (But Be Aware of the Consequences)

A traditional IRA allows you to contribute pre-tax income to an investment account, which can grow tax-deferred, meaning you pay no taxes on principal (contributions) and earnings until funds are withdrawn from the account. For 2017, tax-deductible contributions may be made up to $5,500 to an IRA account. Translation: You’re saving money on your taxes at today’s rates, but you’ll be paying a future (possibly higher) rate upon withdrawal.

A Roth IRA is similar to the above traditional IRA except that contributions are made with after-tax income and therefore aren’t tax-deductible. For 2017, non-tax deductible contributions may be made up to $5,500. Translation: You’re paying taxes upfront at today’s rates, instead of paying the (possibly higher) rates in place when you begin withdrawals. 

As a first-time buyer, or if you haven’t owned a house for at least the past two years, you can withdraw $10,000 penalty-free from your traditional or Roth IRA to fund a down payment. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll still have to pay income taxes (state and federal) on the distribution you take from your traditional IRA. (That money did go in tax-deferred, after all). Also the $10,000 is a lifetime withdrawal limit.

Remember that if you’re tapping into your retirement account and withdrawing funds, you’re not only setting yourself back on retirement savings, but you’re also losing the opportunity to let time and compound interest work on (and grow) those funds for you. Given the pros and cons, which will depend on your particular circumstances, research and decide if borrowing from your retirement is right for you.

3. Borrow From Your 401(k) (With Eyes Wide Open)

While not an ideal situation for the reasons listed above (you’re losing out on time and compound interest growing your money), borrowing money from your 401(k) could be an option if your company savings plan allows it. 

Keep in mind that this isn’t a withdrawal, but is a loan that you’ll have to pay back with interest. The  monthly payments you need to make repaying the loan may impact the amount of mortgage you qualify for. The plus side is that the interest you’re paying will be going into your account.


4. Leverage Certificates of Deposit (CDs) or High-Yield Savings Accounts

While you don’t want to take risks with the money you plan to use in the next few years to purchase a home, you also don’t want it sitting stagnant either. Look into your bank’s high-yield saving accounts and CD rates to determine if you can get a better rate on your money.  

Consider laddering CDs to maximize your earning power by purchasing different certificates with a variety of maturity dates, such as 6, 12, or 24 months. This provides you flexibility to reinvest the money as the CDs mature and take advantage as interest rates change (increase or decrease) to earn a higher return on your money.  

5. Hang On to Extra Money

Whether it’s a bonus, tax refund, holiday gift, or cash from items you’ve sold, set a plan to stash all extra cash in your home down payment fund. If that feels to stringent, give yourself a little wiggle room with an allocation of 85% to savings and 15% towards a personal splurge.

6. Start a Side Hustle

If your current pay is already stretched as far as it can go with expenses, consider starting a side gig where you can leverage your talents in web design, tutoring, pet sitting, writing, or whatever interests you have. 

Free up a few hours a week in your calendar to dedicate towards building this second income stream and put all funds earned in your separate “home down payment” savings account.

Before Buying, Real Estate Pros Insist on Doing These 4 Things

by The Schnoor Team

 

What you really need to know about buying — from the people who house hunt for a living.

One house you’re looking at has the wraparound porch you’ve fantasized about, but it’s on a high-traffic street. The condo you like has a doorman in the lobby (you can order online now!), but it has no dedicated parking. What to choose?

It’s not every day that you buy a home and make decisions about the next three, five, or 10 years of your life. Since you can’t exactly take a home on a test drive, how do you decide? That got us to thinking about real estate pros. When they’ve seen practically everything on the market, how do they choose?

Compromise for Your Priorities

Veteran real estate agent Nancy Farkas knew exactly what she wanted in her home: ranch style, three bedrooms, high ceilings. But you know what she bought? A two-story Colonial.

Huh?

For Farkas, an associate partner with Coldwell Banker Heritage REALTORS®, in Dayton, Ohio, the home’s location and price trumped style. “I had a dog I had to go home and walk at noon, and the house was close [to work] and the right price,” she says.

Her advice: Make sure your practical and functional priorities don’t get lost in all the home buying hoo-ha (sparkling granite counters, new hardwood floors, a steam shower!). Remember, you can always add the hoo-ha, but you can’t make a home fit all priorities, such as location and price.


Dig Into the Details (Dull, Yes, But Worth It!)

When Grigory Pekarsky, co-owner and managing broker with Vesta Preferred Real Estate in Chicago, was looking for his first home, one of his priorities was to minimize his maintenance costs. He made sure to find out if the house had a newer roof, good siding, and a newer furnace. But he recommends you go even deeper to uncover a home’s not-so-obvious maintenance costs:

  • Scope out the sewer line — especially if you’re interested in an older home — to make sure there aren’t any tree branches or other debris clogging up the works. Otherwise, you might find some nasty sludge in the basement.
  • Look at the trees. How mature are they? Roots from older trees can invade the sewer line; untrimmed branches can pummel your gutters during storms.
  • Know what’s not covered by homeowners insurance. “I learned seepage isn’t covered. Shame on me,” he says.
  • Ask how old the appliances are. You might need to budget for something new in a few years. Sellers are only required to fix what the inspector finds is broken; they’re not going to upgrade working appliances for you.

Seek a House That Matches Your Lifestyle

Having lived the high-rise apartment life as a renter, Pekarsky knew a single-family home was just what he wanted. He was tired of living in a relatively small space with no yard. He wanted a house he could “grow into in the next three to five years.” That meant multiple bedrooms and bathrooms for the family he plans on having. So what he bought — a three-story, single-family with a finished attic bedroom (shown below) on Chicago’s North Side — suits his lifestyle perfectly.

In addition, “you get the biggest value from owning the land,” he says. “In a single-family [home], people aren’t telling you what to do with the investment.”

On the other hand, Matt Difanis wished he’d bought a condo when he bought his first home, a small bungalow ranch in a charming, historic neighborhood in Champaign, Ill. It was first-home love — until it rained.

“If I didn’t clean out the gutters before every rainstorm, the basement would leak,” says the broker-owner of RE/MAX Realty Associates in Champaign. He didn’t realize that taking care of a single-family home wouldn’t be his cup of tea. “I should have opted for a condo without gutters to clean and a lawn to mow,” he says.

Agent Amy Smythe Harris of Urban Provision REALTORS®, in Woodland, Texas, bought a home with a sizable downstairs suite her parents could use now (and she could use years from now). She says her millennial clients aren’t forward-thinking about their lifestyles. Some are childless and say they don’t care about schools, pools, and tennis courts. Then they become parents a few years later and have to move.

“Once they have kids, the first question [they] ask is about school districts, and the second is about where the parks and pools are,” she says.

The pros’ bottom-line advice: Think of your lifestyle preferences and how those might change in the next few years. After all, the typical homeowner lives in a house for a median of 10 years before selling, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® data shows.

 

Look at the House Through the Lens of Resale

All the real estate pros we talked to — no surprise here — emphasized resale. Take appraiser Michelle C. Bradley of Czekalski Real Estate Inc. in Natrona Heights, Pa. When she built her current home — a 2,200-square-foot ranch — she included a full, unfinished basement, even though she has no use for one and rarely ventures into it.

Why would she do that? Because basements are standard in her southwest Pennsylvania market. But Bradley’s not going to finish the basement until she’s ready to sell. That way, she avoids having to clean it and ensures she’ll install the most fashionable bathroom fixtures at sell time.

Her advice: “Don’t buy or build something unique that you can’t resell. If you’re not in an area with log homes, don’t choose a log home. If you’re not in an area with dome homes, don’t choose a dome home.”

Likewise, 

Don’t Overspend for the Neighborhood

If you buy a home priced higher than average for the area, it’ll be difficult to resell at a higher price.

Don't buy a home that's not in line with the neighborhood's average price . When you go to resell, you’ll find yourself in an uphill battle to maintain your higher price.

Other advice from the pros: Watch out for unfixable flaws that could affect resale, like:

  • What’s next to the home, such as vacant land that could be developed, high-traffic businesses, noisy power generation stations, a cell tower, etc.
  • Lot issues, such as a steep driveway that could double as a ski slope in winter, or a sloped yard that sends water special delivery to your foundation.

Of course, a home isn’t just about resale. It’s just one factor to consider. Remember the first point: Be willing to compromise for your priorities. If the home meets your priorities and you’re going to stay there awhile, then resale might be where you compromise.

5 Tricks to Keep Your Pipes From Exploding this Winter

by The Schnoor Team

New homeowners may have heard that winterization is important, but in the hubbub of your first year living in a home you own (finally!), it can be easy to overlook the need to prepare for the cold weather ahead. After all, it’s just not something renters deal with; prepping pipes for winter is often the landlord’s job.

Ideally, you should winterize your pipes in the fall, before winter seriously sets in. But if you’ve forgotten and all of a sudden you’re in the middle of a deep freeze, there’s still time to prevent disaster.

Here are some easy techniques to save your pipes from bursting:

#1 Turn On Your Faucets

If the temperatures have dropped into freezing and intend to stay there, turning on your faucets — both indoors and out — can keep water moving through your system and slow down the freezing process. There’s no need to waste gallons of water: Aim for about five drips per minute.

#2 Open Cabinet Doors

During cold weather, open any cabinet doors covering plumbing in the kitchen and bathroom. This allows the home’s warm air to better circulate, which can help prevent the exposed piping from freezing. While this won’t help much with pipes hidden in walls, ceilings, or under the home, it can keep water moving and limit the dangerous effects of freezing weather.

#3 Wrap Your Pipes

If your pipes are already on their merry way towards freezing, wrapping them with warm towels might do the trick. You can cover them with the towels first and then pour boiling water on top, or use already-wet towels — if your hands can stand the heat (use gloves for this). This should help loosen the ice inside and get your system running again.

#4 Pull Out Your Hairdryer

A hairdryer (or heat gun) can be a godsend when your pipes are freezing. If hot rags aren’t doing the trick, try blowing hot air directly on the pipes. Important note: You don’t want to use a blow torch or anything that produces direct flames, which can damage your pipes and turn a frozen pipe into an even worse disaster. You’re trying to melt the ice — not your pipes.

#5 Shut Off The Water if Pipes Are Frozen

Have your pipes already frozen? Turn off the water immediately. (Hopefully you know where the master shut-off is, but if not, now’s the time to find it!)

Make sure to close off any external water sources, like garden hose hookups. This will prevent more water from filling the system, adding more ice to the pile, and eventually bursting your pipes — the worst-case scenario. This also will help when the water thaws; the last thing you want after finally fixing your frozen pipes is for water to flood the system — and thus, your home.

 

Hunting for just the right home

by The Schnoor Team

 

What you really need to know about buying — from the people who house hunt for a living.

One house you’re looking at has the wraparound porch you’ve fantasized about, but it’s on a high-traffic street. The condo you like has a doorman in the lobby (you can order online now!), but it has no dedicated parking. What to choose?

It’s not every day that you buy a home and make decisions about the next three, five, or 10 years of your life. Since you can’t exactly take a home on a test drive, how do you decide? That got us to thinking about real estate pros. When they’ve seen practically everything on the market, how do they choose?

Four pros who’ve seen it all share their advice and their stories of hunting for just the right home.

Compromise for Your Priorities

Veteran real estate agent Nancy Farkas knew exactly what she wanted in her home: ranch style, three bedrooms, high ceilings. But you know what she bought? A two-story Colonial.

Huh?

For Farkas, an associate partner with Coldwell Banker Heritage REALTORS®, in Dayton, Ohio, the home’s location and price trumped style. “I had a dog I had to go home and walk at noon, and the house was close [to work] and the right price,” she says.

Her advice: Make sure your practical and functional priorities don’t get lost in all the home buying hoo-ha (sparkling granite counters, new hardwood floors, a steam shower!). Remember, you can always add the hoo-ha, but you can’t make a home fit all priorities, such as location and price.

Dig Into the Details (Dull, Yes, But Worth It!)

When Grigory Pekarsky, co-owner and managing broker with Vesta Preferred Real Estate in Chicago, was looking for his first home, one of his priorities was to minimize his maintenance costs. He made sure to find out if the house had a newer roof, good siding, and a newer furnace. But he recommends you go even deeper to uncover a home’s not-so-obvious maintenance costs:

  • Scope out the sewer line — especially if you’re interested in an older home — to make sure there aren’t any tree branches or other debris clogging up the works. Otherwise, you might find some nasty sludge in the basement.
  • Look at the trees. How mature are they? Roots from older trees can invade the sewer line; untrimmed branches can pummel your gutters during storms.
  • Know what’s not covered by homeowners insurance. “I learned seepage isn’t covered. Shame on me,” he says.
  • Ask how old the appliances are. You might need to budget for something new in a few years. Sellers are only required to fix what the inspector finds is broken; they’re not going to upgrade working appliances for you.

Seek a House That Matches Your Lifestyle

Having lived the high-rise apartment life as a renter, Pekarsky knew a single-family home was just what he wanted. He was tired of living in a relatively small space with no yard. He wanted a house he could “grow into in the next three to five years.” That meant multiple bedrooms and bathrooms for the family he plans on having. So what he bought — a three-story, single-family with a finished attic bedroom (shown below) on Chicago’s North Side — suits his lifestyle perfectly.


In addition, “you get the biggest value from owning the land,” he says. “In a single-family [home], people aren’t telling you what to do with the investment.”

On the other hand, Matt Difanis wished he’d bought a condo when he bought his first home, a small bungalow ranch in a charming, historic neighborhood in Champaign, Ill. It was first-home love — until it rained.

“If I didn’t clean out the gutters before every rainstorm, the basement would leak,” says the broker-owner of RE/MAX Realty Associates in Champaign. He didn’t realize that taking care of a single-family home wouldn’t be his cup of tea. “I should have opted for a condo without gutters to clean and a lawn to mow,” he says.

Agent Amy Smythe Harris of Urban Provision REALTORS®, in Woodland, Texas, bought a home with a sizable downstairs suite her parents could use now (and she could use years from now). She says her millennial clients aren’t forward-thinking about their lifestyles. Some are childless and say they don’t care about schools, pools, and tennis courts. Then they become parents a few years later and have to move.

“Once they have kids, the first question [they] ask is about school districts, and the second is about where the parks and pools are,” she says.

The pros’ bottom-line advice: Think of your lifestyle preferences and how those might change in the next few years. After all, the typical homeowner lives in a house for a median of 10 years before selling, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® data shows.

Look at the House Through the Lens of Resale

All the real estate pros we talked to — no surprise here — emphasized resale. Take appraiser Michelle C. Bradley of Czekalski Real Estate Inc. in Natrona Heights, Pa. When she built her current home — a 2,200-square-foot ranch — she included a full, unfinished basement, even though she has no use for one and rarely ventures into it.

Why would she do that? Because basements are standard in her southwest Pennsylvania market. But Bradley’s not going to finish the basement until she’s ready to sell. That way, she avoids having to clean it and ensures she’ll install the most fashionable bathroom fixtures at sell time.

Her advice: “Don’t buy or build something unique that you can’t resell. If you’re not in an area with log homes, don’t choose a log home. If you’re not in an area with dome homes, don’t choose a dome home.”

Likewise, 

Don’t Overspend for the Neighborhood

If you buy a home priced higher than average for the area, it’ll be difficult to resell at a higher price.

Don't buy a home that's not in line with the neighborhood's average price . When you go to resell, you’ll find yourself in an uphill battle to maintain your higher price.

Other advice from the pros: Watch out for unfixable flaws that could affect resale, like:

  • What’s next to the home, such as vacant land that could be developed, high-traffic businesses, noisy power generation stations, a cell tower, etc.
  • Lot issues, such as a steep driveway that could double as a ski slope in winter, or a sloped yard that sends water special delivery to your foundation.

Of course, a home isn’t just about resale. It’s just one factor to consider. Remember the first point: Be willing to compromise for your priorities. If the home meets your priorities and you’re going to stay there awhile, then resale might be where you compromise.

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