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Umbrella Insurance and Homeowner Liability

by The Schnoor Team

Umbrella Insurance and Homeowner Liability

Umbrella insurance offers added homeowner liability protection that kicks in after homeowners insurance reaches its coverage limits.

Accidents happen at home: A visitor trips on your front steps, or a neighbor cleaning your gutters falls off a ladder. As the property owner, you can be held legally liable. Standard homeowners insurance typically offers some liability coverage, but it might not be enough to cover a major claim.

Umbrella insurance provides additional homeowner liability protection that kicks in after your homeowners insurance hits its policy limit. A lawsuit, even one seemingly unrelated to homeownership, can wipe out your net worth—including your home. That’s why protecting yourself against lawsuits is an essential part of protecting your home.

Understand homeowner liability

Liability insurance covers you in the event you get hit with a lawsuit. Some of the liability risks faced by homeowners are more apparent than others. For example, a house guest takes a tumble after slipping on your hardwood floors, or a neighbor’s kid falls off a swing in your backyard. Insurance agents call swimming pools, jungle gyms, and trampolines “attractive nuisances” because they draw children unable to appreciate their dangers.

If someone gets hurt on your property—whether inside or outside, and whether you think it’s your fault or not—you can get sued. Travelers, an insurance provider, says you could even face a lawsuit if your dog bites someone. If your pet or a member of your residence causes accidental damage to the property of others, you’re liable too. Automobile accidents can also lead to lawsuits.

In addition, you can face lawsuits from personal injury, which includes a wide variety of problems, such as emotional distress or sickness or disease. You can be sued for malicious prosecution, humiliation, libel, slander, defamation of character, or invasion of privacy. Although many of these scenarios seem to have little to do with homeownership, the end result of an unfavorable lawsuit judgment can be the loss of your home.

Brian Mittman, an attorney in White Plains, N.Y., says the reality is that anyone can be sued for anything at any time, though it’s less likely that juries will side with a plaintiff where there’s no obvious fault on the homeowner’s part. Some states also have so-called homestead laws that can protect homes from creditors. Consult an attorney.

Start with your homeowner policy

Homeowners are more likely to see a lawsuit if there’s a foreseeable incident with knowledge of a defect. Consider a homeowner whose front steps have loose bricks. A lawyer could argue the homeowner should’ve known about the problem and fixed it. This is an example of what could be a low-payoff situation—a trip to the emergency room and a sprained ankle that heals quickly. Many lawyers would pass on the case.

On the other hand, a visitor’s tumble down rickety basement steps could lead to a long hospital stay and a permanent limp. The homeowner could be found liable and have to pay, even if the injured party has medical and disability insurance. An injured party’s own insurance situation doesn’t necessarily let the homeowner off the hook.

The good news is a limited amount of liability insurance is standard in most homeowner policies. Although terms can vary, $300,000 is typical. Check your policy. For about another $300 a year, you should be able to add $1 million of liability coverage to your homeowners insurance.

Umbrella insurance adds layer of protection

Many financial advisers prefer umbrella insurance over increasing the liability coverage of a homeowner policy because the umbrella insurance applies to your vehicles as well as your residence. Remember, umbrella insurance is an overarching policy that covers liability issues at home and in the car. This is critical since you could lose all of your assets including your home as a result of a major lawsuit stemming from an auto accident.

Umbrella insurance, in general, runs about $300 a year for $1 million of coverage. Premiums can vary greatly depending on a host of factors including your credit and claims history, where you live, and who’s covered. In most cases you can get a policy issued in a couple of hours. The process is faster, and you might receive a multi-policy discount, if you get umbrella insurance through your current insurer.

Keep in mind that umbrella policies by nature come with very high deductibles. They only pay off after a homeowner’s other liability coverage is exhausted. If you use the same insurer, it’s easier to coordinate claims and ensure your homeowners insurance dovetails with your umbrella’s deductible.

Umbrella coverage has its limits

Generally, anything business-related isn’t covered by umbrella insurance. Bob Gustafson, a certified financial planner in Marlborough, Mass., notes that people connected with a home-based business aren’t covered under typical homeowner or umbrella policies. However, many homeowner policies will allow the purchase of a rider for small businesses, which will increase your annual premium between $300 and $400.

Businesses you work with and de facto employees, such as domestic workers, also are unlikely to be covered. Riders are available for full-time domestic workers; occasional house cleaners and babysitters should be covered under a standard policy. Major outside contractors, such as roofers, for example, should have their own insurance. Ask for proof before you hire any contractor.

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/home-insurance/umbrella-insurance-and-homeowner-liability/?site_ref=mosaic

RICHARD KORETO

is a freelance writer. He’s been editor of many financial magazines and is the author of “Run It Like a Business,” a practice management book for financial planners. He and his wife own a pre-Civil War house in New York.

Are You Getting the Home Tax Deductions You’re Entitled To?

by The Schnoor Team

Are You Getting the Home Tax Deductions You’re Entitled To?

Here are the tax tips you need to get a jump on your returns.

The federal tax law signed by President Donald Trump Dec. 22, 2017, may affect home ownership tax benefits described in this article. The new law goes into effect for the 2018 tax year and generally doesn’t affect tax filings for the 2017 tax year. In 2018, HouseLogic will be providing information on the tax provisions affecting home ownership. In the meantime, here’s a detailed summary of the changes.

Owning a home can pay off at tax time.

If you’re eligible, take advantage of these home ownership-related tax deductions and strategies to lower your tax bill:

Mortgage Interest Deduction

To claim the mortgage interest deduction, you must itemize using Schedule A, and your mortgage must be secured by your primary or second home. That home can be a house, trailer, or boat, as long as you can sleep in it, cook in it, and it has a toilet.

Interest you pay on a mortgage of up to $1 million — or $500,000 if you’re married filing separately — is deductible when you use the loan to buy, build, or substantially improve your home.

If you take on another mortgage (including a second mortgage, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit) to improve your home or to buy or build a second home, that counts towards the $1 million limit, and the interest is still deductible.

If you use loans secured by your home for other things — like sending your kid to college — you can still deduct the interest on loans up $100,000 ($50,000 for married filing separately) because your home secures the loan. However, this rule changes for 2018, and the interest on such loans will no longer be deductible unless the proceeds are used to substantially improve a home.

Beginning with tax year 2018, the mortgage interest deduction cap is $750,000, and fewer people will likely itemize (and therefore take the MID) because of the increase in the standard deduction. 

Prepaid Interest Deduction

Prepaid interest (or points) you paid when you took out your mortgage is generally 100% deductible in the year you paid it along with other mortgage interest. However, you must itemize to take it.

If you refinance your mortgage and use that money for home improvements, any points you pay are also deductible in the same year.

But if you refinance to get a better rate or shorten the length of your mortgage, or to use the money for something other than

home improvements, such as college tuition, you’ll need to deduct the points over the life of your mortgage. Say you refinance into a 10-year mortgage and pay $3,000 in points. You can deduct $300 per year for 10 years.

So what happens if you refinance again down the road?

Example: Three years after your first refinance, you refinance again. Using the $3,000 in points scenario above, you’ll have deducted $900 ($300 x 3 years) so far. That leaves $2,400, which you can deduct in full the year you complete your second refinance. If you paid points for the new loan, the process starts again; you can deduct the points over the life of the loan.

Home mortgage interest and points are reported on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040.

Your lender will send you a Form 1098 that lists the points you paid. If not, you should be able to find the amount listed on the closing docs you got when you purchased your home or refinanced.

Property Tax Deduction

Again, for 2017, you can deduct on Schedule A the real estate property taxes you pay if you itemize, without limit. If you have a mortgage with an escrow account, the amount of real estate property taxes you paid shows up on your annual escrow statement.

For tax year 2018 and beyond, you can deduct local and state taxes, including property taxes, up to $10,000 combined. This again depends on whether you itemize, which many homeowners will not be able to do in 2018 due to a large increase in the standard deduction.

If you bought a house this year, check your closing documents to see if you paid any property taxes when you purchased your house. Those taxes are deductible on Schedule A, too.  

Vacation Home Tax Deductions

The rules on tax deductions for vacation homes are complicated. Do yourself a favor and keep good records about how and when you use your vacation home.

If you’re the only one using your vacation home (you don’t rent it out for more than 14 days a year), you deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on Schedule A.

Rent your vacation home out for more than 14 days and use it yourself fewer than 15 days (or 10% of total rental days, whichever is greater), and it’s treated like a rental property. Your expenses are deducted on Schedule E.

Rent your home for part of the year and use it yourself for more than the greater of 14 days or 10% of the days you rent it and you have to keep track of income, expenses, and allocate them based on how often you used and how often you rented the house.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but shouldn’t be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice; tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/taxes/home-tax-deductions/?site_ref=mosaic

DONA DEZUBE

has been writing about real estate for more than two decades. She lives in a suburban Baltimore Midcentury modest home on a 3-acre lot shared with possums, raccoons, foxes, a herd of deer, and her blue-tick hound. 

Student Loan Debt Delays Homeownership 7 Years

by The Schnoor Team

Side gigs or roomies can help shave years off your debt. Lenders like that.

There’s finally proof to what we’ve all long suspected — that student loan debt is delaying first-time home ownership. In fact, a recent study from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and the nonprofit American Student Assistance, reveals that this debt can delay home ownership for 7 years (or more).

Perhaps even more concerning is that more than 50% of respondents are paying off over $40,000 in balances, with some owing more than they earn in a year.

So, how can first-time homebuyers break into the market against such tough circumstances? There’s really only one answer: prioritizing student loan repayment above everything else. Not only will repaying balances save money on interest and allow buyers to save more, but paying off debt also lowers debt-to-income ratio (probably, the No. 1 metric lenders use to determine how much you’ll qualify for).

Below are a handful of ways to earn more so you can owe less:

Earn Money on the Side

In the current “gig economy,” there’s no end to the ways people can earn extra money. The options are varied and (seemingly) endless: from driving for a ride-sharing service, to shopping for personal groceries, to freelance writing or taking surveys online, to opening up your own online store.
And even if it’s a small amount each month, an extra $100 or $200 a month can make a big difference when it comes to student loan repayment.

Using this extra-payment calculator we can see the math. If someone owes $35,000 in student loans at 5% interest, adding $200 each month to the existing $383 standard payment shaves 3.8 years off the life of the loan while saving $3,781 in interest. 

Maximize Earnings at a Full-Time Job

Focusing on ways to earn more in your 9-to-5 job can profoundly impact your finances. Consider researching comparable pay for your role at other companies, list your accomplishments, and don’t be afraid to have a sit down with your manager to ask for more money. Increasing your monthly take-home amount ups the amount you can save or use toward debt repayment, so it’s important to try and maximize take-home earnings when possible.

More math: Say someone makes $40,000 annually and receives a 5% raise, or $2,000 annually. Broken out each month, this is $166 (before taxes). Using the same numbers above, adding $166 to a monthly payment saves 3.4 years on the life of the loan.

Put Any Windfall Cash Toward Student Loan Debt

Receive a bonus at work? Large cash gift from a relative? Tax refund? This money could be put to great use paying off student loan debt. And while it may be hard not to spend it on something nice for yourself, make sure you stay within bounds and put the rest to your outstanding balances.

For example, let’s say you work hard and receive a $2,000 annual bonus at work. You resist the temptation to spend this money, and instead make a lump-sum payment toward your student loans. Even if you don’t pay anything else toward the loan on a monthly basis, this one-time payment shaves 8 months off the debt repayment timeline on a $35,000 student loan at 5% interest. Imagine if you did this every time you received unexpected extra cash.

Consider Refinancing/Consolidation If You Qualify

Refinancing and debt consolidation may intimidate those who aren’t educated on what these terms mean, but those with money savvy know these can be strong tools to add to your debt pay off tool belt.

Consolidation is combining multiple loans into one at a new interest rate. Consolidation may nab borrowers a lower monthly payment, or lock in a fixed rate if they’ve been in a variable rate loan, but may net a longer repayment term. Consolidation is available for both private and federal student loans. 

If the government consolidates your federal loans, they’ll give you a new interest rate that is a weighted average of all the interest rates of all the loans you’re trying to consolidate. During a private loan consolidation, a lender will look at your credit score and give you a brand new interest rate. 

Refinancing is using one loan (at a lower interest rate) to pay off multiple student loans, but it is only offered by private lenders. By applying for a new loan to pay off the others, you’ll get a lower monthly payment, lower interest rate, and have only one payment to worry about.  But, with private refinancing, you forgo federal benefits like repayment plans based on income and loan forgiveness. Weigh the pros and cons of each option before choosing the one that’s right for you.

Both of these are available to borrowers if they have good credit. Plus, they can offer significant financial benefits. For example, by refinancing a $35,000 student loan from 7.6%  o 4.45% interest, borrowers can free up an additional $55 in their budget to save for a home down payment.

Using the steps above, student loan borrowers can make home ownership a reality, provided they’re willing to sacrifice and play it money smart for a few years.

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/financing/student-loan-repayment-strategies/

LAUREN BOWLING
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.”

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/​


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.

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