Want to Put in a Lowball Offer? Consider These 5 Things First

Just about every home buyer wants to find the perfect place at a discount. While this might happen on occasion, it’s definitely more realistic for buyers to have to have wheel and deal in order to get the price point as low as possible.

Putting in a lowball offer – one that is considered a lot lower than the asking price – can be risky, since the majority of sellers may be insulted by such a low number. But by doing your homework first, and keeping the offer somewhere in the vicinity of the listing price, you can effectively boost your chances of scoring the home at a selling price that you’ll be happy with.

Before you put in a lowball offer, consider these 5 factors first.

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What Have Other Comparable Properties in the Area Recently Sold For?

One of the first things that you should do is analyze other recent sold properties in the neighborhood that are comparable to the home you’re looking at. These other properties should ideally be similar in size, location, features, age, and so forth.

This is where a real estate agent can come in really handy – while the average home buyer might be able to find out the asking price of current listings, finding out what previous listings sold for is a lot tougher without the right resources. Your local real estate agent will have access to this information.

Once armed with these numbers, you can identify if the seller of the property you’re looking at is asking for too much. If this is the case, you have good reason to go much lower than the listing price, as long as it’s somewhat in line with what other similar properties sold for in the recent past.

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How Eager Are the Sellers to Get Rid of the Property?

Are the sellers desperate to get the home off the market? Are they in the middle of a divorce? Are they being relocated to a different city for work? Are there two homes being supported at the same time? How willing the sellers are to accept your lowball offer will typically come down to how motivated they are. Try to poke around for information, or get your realtor to do the scoping around for you.

 

Is the Listing Getting Stale?

The longer a listing sits on the market, the more stale it gets. Properties that linger on the market for a long time start to get a bad reputation from buyers, who will typically wonder if there is something wrong with the home if it still hasn’t had any bites.

If its been weeks or months that the property has been sitting on the market, the sellers may become increasingly anxious to sell. Under these circumstances, they might be willing to entertain just about any offer, including a lowballer. At some point they have to sell, and if all they can get is what you’re offering, they just might take it.

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Give the Sellers a Clean Offer

If you’re not going to offer the sellers the price they want, then make the rest of your offer as clean and attractive as possible. One way to do this is to limit the number of clauses and contingencies in the offer, or eliminate them altogether. While you might still want to keep a home inspection clause, don’t start nitpicking with minor clauses, like leaving the window treatments, or fixing the railing on the staircase, or making sure the floors are cleaned before they vacate.

In addition, make sure you’ve got your finances in order beforehand, which includes getting a pre-approval for a mortgage. Any lowball offers should always be accompanied by a pre-approval letter and a sizable deposit check. In fact, the more money you put up front in cash, the more likely the sellers will be to accept your lowball offer.

 

Don’t Insult the Seller

Offering a price that’s much lower than what the seller is asking for can be a sticky situation. Many sellers will be downright insulted by a lowball offer. After all, it’s still their home, and possibly a place where they raised their kids.

Even if you think the listing price is way more than it should be, or the property needs some work, it’s still important to be respectful of the seller while following the rules of conduct of the current housing market. Lowballing the sellers could end the deal, but if you work closely with an experienced realtor who will present the offer expressing your genuine interest and appreciation in the property, your offer might be more likely to get accepted.

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Putting in a lowball offer on a property isn’t always the right move. You’ll have to prepare yourself to lose the house in this case. However, if you follow the skilled advice of a good local real estate agent and be respectful towards the seller, you can bump up your chances of the landing the place.

Wanna be a Landlord? Consider These 6 Things First

With the rental market booming in many parts of the country, there’s good money to be made as a landlord. There are plenty of real estate investors who make a good living as landlords, so why not you? If you want to get in on the action, there are a few things you need to think about first before you channel you inner Mr. Furley and add the title of “landlord” to your name.

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1. Understand the Landlord-Tenant Law in Your State Back and Front

Just about every state in the US has its own specific landlord-tenant stipulations to make sure all happenings are fair and lawful. These provisions include a ton of details, such as how much a landlord can raise the rent year after year, the rights of the landlord to enter the rental premises, and how much notice landlords need to give tenants to vacate the unit, among others.

It’s pretty common for the average landlord to just quickly gloss over these laws, or not bother to read them over at all. If you’re lucky, you’ll land the perfect tenant that pays on time every month, and takes good care of the property. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, and there are plenty of little loopholes and traps that can come up in the most unexpected ways. It’s crucial as a landlord that you fully grasp the law in your state regarding the landlord-tenant relationship so you don’t get burned.

 

2. Be Super Picky About Your Tenants

You’re going to be stuck with your tenant for at least a few months, so make sure you pick the right one. A thorough screening job is an important step, and includes conducting a background and credit check, confirmation of employment, and a phone call or two to previous landlords or other viable references. You want to know that your tenant has been an ideal one in the past. If you find out about any delinquencies on their part, move to the next candidate.

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3. Pick an Investment Property That You Live Close to

While this isn’t entirely mandatory, it sure makes things a lot easier when you’re just a few minutes away from your rental property should a problem arise. Being close by makes it a lot easier for you to conduct periodic checks, take care of repairs, or show the property when it comes time to either re-rent or sell the property. If you aren’t nearby, you might want to consider hiring a property management company that will take care of maintaining the property and collecting rent checks for you.

 

4. Have a Thorough and Customized Lease Drafted Up

A written lease agreement is a no-brainer when becoming a landlord, but you’ve got to make sure that it clearly includes all the stipulations necessary to protect you – and the tenant – under all foreseeable circumstances. While you can get your hands on a generic lease that just requires you to fill in the blanks, you’d be better off having a lease fully customized on your behalf that perfectly fits your situation. Having a lawyer or real estate agent do this for you can save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

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5. Check Up on the Property on a Regular Basis

Even though you’re not living in the property, it’s still yours. As such, you want to make sure your tenants are maintaining their end of the bargain by taking care of the unit. The only way to do this is to pop in every two or three months to make sure everything is up to par. Make sure that you clearly specify in your lease that the tenant is responsible for any damage done to the property while they’re living there. You might even want to have photos taken before the tenant moves in to give you a baseline of what the property should look like while the tenant is living there, and if/when they move out.

 

6. Make Sure You’ll Be Making Money

The whole reason behind being a landlord is so that you can earn a profit. Make sure you do some serious and in-depth number crunching before you buy an investment property and hand the keys over to your tenant. You’re going to need to fork over a lot of money up front first before the rent checks start pouring in. Costs such as a down payment, mortgage, landlord and property insurance, property taxes, and ongoing maintenance fees are all expenses that need to be factored into the equation before you consider becoming a landlord. Make sure that whatever potential rent you’ll be collecting will at least cover all these expenses to make sure you’re not in the hole at the end of the day.

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Renting out a property and regularly collecting rent on it sounds like a viable investment plan, and it can be, as long as you’ve done your homework first. As profitable as being a landlord can be, there’s work – and risk – that goes along with it. The more due diligence on your part, the safer – and more profitable – you’ll be.

The Gloves Are Off: Be Prepared for a Bidding War!

You’ve found the house of your dreams, and are prepared to put in an offer on it. But so are a bunch of other home-buyer hopefuls. The result? A bidding war. While this puts the sellers in the driver’s seat, it forces buyers to get ready for battle. Unfortunately, bidding wars on properties in desirable neighborhoods are common, and are here to stay.

Here are some tips to prepare you for a nasty bidding war to help you come out victorious.

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Go in There With Your Best Offer

Forget about playing the back-and-forth game that comes with a typical real estate offer. You know the drill – buyer puts in an offer, seller signs back with a higher price, then buyer comes back with a slightly higher number, and so on. When it comes to a multiple offer situation, you need to come in with your best shot, and that means offering them the highest amount you’re willing to pay for the house. There’s little negotiating room here. If you’re competing with other offers, you want to make sure your offer stands out, and that starts with a desirable offer price.

 

Get Your Financing in Order Beforehand

When sellers have a bunch of offers on the table, they’re more likely to pick the one that doesn’t require a waiting period to see of a particular buyer can get approved for a mortgage. Instead, they want to see buyers who already have their finances lined up in advance so the process can proceed as quickly as possible. Having your financing ready can help reassure sellers that you’re financially capable of closing the deal.

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Offer a Sizeable Down Payment

Show the sellers the money and put in as much as you can afford towards the down payment. The bigger, the better. Putting a big chunk of change as a down payment will give the sellers more assurance that you’re able to follow through with the deal. There’s nothing that speaks louder than cold, hard cash when it comes to grabbing a seller’s attention. Including a large down payment with your offer will help put you in the spotlight, and give you a leg up on the competition. Just make sure you’re good for the money – you don’t want to make an offer that you’re not comfortable with, or one that will put you in financial distress.

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Limit the Conditions

Ideally, sellers like to see an offer come in with zero conditions. Basically, once the agreement is signed by both parties, it’s a done deal. There are no clauses keeping the deal open that need to be dealt with before the offer is complete. Financing or inspection contingencies in particular can make sellers nervous about any possible delays, so if possible, avoid these conditions if you can. The cleaner the offer, the better in a multiple offer situation. However, make sure that you’re not eliminating anything that you strongly feel could put you in hot water.

 

Come Prepared With a Certified Check

A deposit is always part of an offer. The digger you deep into your pockets, the better off you’ll be in a bidding war. Not only should you offer a hefty deposit, but you should also show up to the offer presentation with a certified check in your hands, ready to be deposited by the seller. The deposit will be going towards your down payment anyway, and you’ll get it back if your offer is rejected. A clean, attractive offer with a large deposit in the form of a certified check can put you in the winning seat in a bidding war.

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As always, having a skilled realtor on your team can help you maximize your chances of winning a bidding war. This scenario isn’t exactly enjoyable for buyers, but with the right teammates and a well-prepared offer, you stand a very good chance of landing the home of your dreams.

DIY Chair Upholstering: Step-by-Steps You Can Totally Do!

Step 1: The Fun Part

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We don’t know about you, but sometimes even the simplest and most fun DIY projects can seem daunting at first. Help yourself out of the DIY jitters by eating your vegetables last!

First, cruise to your local fabric store and pick out the perfect shade of canary yellow or grey ombre. Or browse a bajillion swatches online. You can even find rare and inspiring vintage fabrics of various yardage on etsy.com. You’ll need 2-5 yards depending on how much chair you have.

Once you’ve got the perfect nautical stripes for your guest room or florals for your breakfast nook, move to Step 2.

Step 2: Mise En Place

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To maintain sanity (and fun factor) throughout the process start by gathering everything (we mean everything) that you’re gonna need:

Required: Fabric, sewing machine (in most cases), scissors, flathead screwdriver, pliers, seam ripper, staple gun, erasable fabric pencil, cell phone, tape measure, pinning pins, straight edge, large flat surface (work table or floor), nearby trash can for scraps and batting, spiked lemonade and/or coffee drink

Optional: tack nail strip and tack hammer or rubber mallet, cardboard strip, extra batting (upholstery and fiberfill)

 

Step 3: Paparazzi

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Whip out that cell phone and snap away. Before taking anything apart, record the look of the chair and the way the pieces fit together. Feel free to document the entire process. Also, you’ll probably want to label the pieces as “back”, “front”, “bottom” etc with the fabric pencil before you forget. You can thank us later.

 

Step 4: Pop It Out or Rip It Off

Go ahead and pop out the upholster-able parts of the chair. You may have both the seat and the back to upholster or just one or the other. If it’s the whole chair, use that seam ripper to pull apart the stitching or that screw driver to pop out the staples.

IMPORTANT: Either way, do not rip the old fabric pieces as they come off!

These pieces are your pattern. They make life easy. Do not mess with this part of Step 4.

 

Step 5: Match It, Pin it, Cut it

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Lay out the “pattern” pieces on top of your fabric. Mark the exact outlines with the fabric pencil, then mark 1-2 inches outside of that all the way around to help with pulling things taut.

Then pin, pin, pin all the way around. You cannot pin too much. We repeat. You cannot pin too much.

IMPORTANT: If your fabric has a big pattern, be sure to match the pattern edge to showing edge!

Then cut, cut, cut out your pieces. You can be sloppy-ish as these are not your final edges.

 

Step 6: Batting

If the batting on your chairs is worn and terrible, you lay on some new upholstery batting smoothed over what’s decently left of the old stuff, or punch that up with a little fiber fill underneath as needed.

 

Step 7: Sewing

If you have any questions or hesitations before sewing, use the old pieces again. Go back through your phone or check the labels you wrote. Then rearrange the pieces on the chair to see how the sewing lined up. If you used a seam ripper you’ll notice there’s at least a little extra fabric beyond the seam. This will be your extra ½ inch.

Once you’re (fairly) confident, lay the new pieces good side to good side and line up your edges. Re-pin. (You cannot pin too much.) Sew along the pins and markings, leaving that ½ inch edge.

If you’ve got a pull-over situation, as in the entire back of a chair, pull your pinned fabric cover inside-out over the back and check all your seams and edges before sewing. If the fit is good, go for the sewing. You can keep checking like this as you go.

If your upholstered chair has edges that require tacking, here’s where the cardboard strip comes in handy. Lay that strip on top of the two pieces you’re joining – these pieces should be laid flat, good side to good side. Again, leave the cardboard strip ½ inch inside the edge, parallel to the edge. Then staple that puppy in and fold the fabric over. You should have a clean beautiful edge.

IMPORTANT: If your fabric has a big pattern, be sure to match the pattern edge to showing edge!

Often the bottom of the chair requires less sewing and more pulling taut and tacking down underneath. Don’t staple one whole side. Instead, tack in the center of each side with one staple. Then tug and smooth the fabric into place as you tack along the underside. You might want to trim the excess once everything is thoroughly stapled. (Like pinning, you cannot staple too much.)

 

Step 8: Finishing It Off

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Three things to keep in mind to finish things off: depending on the style of upholstery (just a bottom, just a top, whole chair, etc), you will either need to staple and tuck (as described above) or hem and corner.

 

If you’re really advanced, you can staple velcro strips to the underside of the chair and sew in (really well) a velcro strip on the underside of your hemmed bottom edges and voila!! You’ve got a removable, washable cover. Dang! Go you.

5 Easy Ways to Make Your Bathroom Look and Feel Larger Than it Really is

Designing and decorating a teeny tiny bathroom can be a daunting task. Combining both style and function is a lot more challenging when you’re working with a small space. If your budget is tight, you might be tempted to just pour your resources and efforts into larger rooms in the home. But the bathroom should never be ignored – it’s a highly used space that plays a key role in the value of your home.

If you don’t want to rip down a wall in the bathroom in an effort to physically enlarge it, there are simple cosmetic tricks that you can employ to make it seem as though you’ve expanded the room. Here are a few easy and affordable ways to make a small space grow, at least visually anyway.

 

1. Let the Light Shine in 

Brining in as much natural light as possible in a small space like a bathroom is a fabulous way to make the room appear more open and larger than it really is. Whether it’s from a window or skylight, natural light has the ability to make a space warm and inviting.

If you aren’t blessed with large windows, and instead are stuck with a tiny port hole, light fixtures can go a long way to adding that bright open feeling you so desire. Layering the lighting so that there is both direct and indirect light can add depth and space to a small room. Having a main ceiling light, wall sconces on opposites walls, pot lights in the shower stall and lighting over the vanity mirror can all work harmoniously to open up the space in your bathroom.

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2. Mirrors, Mirrors, and More Mirrors

Thanks to their reflective property, mirrors have a magical way of making a small room seem larger and grander, and the bigger they are, the better. Instead of hanging a small mirror above your sink, install an oversized mirror that runs the length of the wall from the vanity to the ceiling.

If you’ve got a double sink, make sure to opt for one large mirror that reaches both ends of the vanity rather than hanging two separate mirrors. If possible, place mirrors across from a window or a bright light fixture in the room to make it visually seem like there are two windows in the same space.

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3. Blend the Tile and Wall Color Together

Double the space in your tiny bathroom by making the tiles the same color as the walls. Having two different colors will do nothing but chop up the space, effectively cutting it in half – the total opposite effect you’re trying to achieve. Instead, blend the two surfaces together in the same hue to make the room look bigger and more spacious.

Take things a step further with the tiles and extend them as far up as the ceiling. It’s amazing how many builders automatically stop the shower stall tile a couple of inches away from the ceiling and then trim the edges. It probably takes less work and requires less money to tile all the way up to the ceiling, not to mention how much better it looks. Avoiding this unnecessary transition from tile to drywall will create less contrast, and therefore a more spacious feel to the room.

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4. Paint the Ceiling and Walls the Same Color

Too many unnecessary transitions in a space will do nothing but break it up. While this might work for extra-large rooms, it doesn’t really work that well in a tight loo. Painting your ceiling and walls in the same color will create a unifying effect that will eliminate any borders and visually expand the space. This is especially true if the ceiling is angled or has low areas. Expand the vertical element of your bathroom and splash the same coat of paint on the walls and the ceiling.

 

5. Trade Shower Curtains for Clear Glass

A shower curtain or textured glass around the shower stall will do nothing more than make it seem as though there’s an extra wall in your bathroom. While this does provide privacy in the shower, it will just create a visual barrier inside the room. Instead, clear glass will open up the space, and add square footage in a room that desperately needs it.

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Without having to rip down walls, you can make your bathroom look a lot larger with a few tricks of the eye. You don’t have to physically add square footage to visually enlarge a small space!

5 Tips to Score the Best Mortgage

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Mortgage interest rates have experienced historical lows over the past few years, prompting a lot of Americans to hop on the home owner bandwagon in hoards. But even with interest rates being as low as they are, the while mortgage buying process can still seem a little tricky to many.

Don’t sweat it. Here are 5 steps to migrate the murky waters of mortgage shopping, and help you come out saving time and money.

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1. Get Your Hands on Your Credit Report

Not only do you need some liquid cash to be used for a down payment, you also need a decent credit score in order to be approved for a mortgage. Knowing exactly what your credit score is well in advance of even applying for a mortgage is helpful to avoid any unpleasant surprises such as the lender stamping a huge “DENIED” across your mortgage application because of your less-than-stellar credit score.

The health of your credit score will also influence the interest rate you’d be charged should you get approved for a mortgage. You’ll have a lot more negotiating power if your credit score is high.

Do yourself a favor and get a copy of your credit report a few months before applying for a mortgage. Not only will it tell you what your score is, but it’ll also give you a chance to skim through it to see if there are any errors that are negatively affecting your score. If you find a mistake, you can report it and effectively have a few points added to your total. This can make a huge difference when you approach a loan officer. You can also use this time to spruce up your score if it’s lower than you would have hoped.

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2. Scrounge Up Your Down Payment

A heftier down payment can save you a ton of money in the long run. The more you put towards the purchase price of a home, the less amount of money you’ll need mortgaged. Since mortgages come attached with an interest rate, this means less money spent on paying such interest, and more put towards the principal portion.

Having more money up front can also help your lender calculate your loan-to-value ratio. The majority of loan programs usually like to see this number fall somewhere within the 5% to 20% range.

If you can manage to scrape together 20% or more of the purchase price of the home, you can also avoid having to pay that pesky mortgage insurance that lenders require to provide them with added protection. The more money they have to loan you, the more of a risk they consider you to be.

 

3. Shop Around for Mortgage Lenders

You don’t necessarily have to go to the bank that you deal with for your savings and checking accounts for a mortgage. In fact, you’d be better off shopping around for a lender who will give you the most attractive interest rate and mortgage package. Landing the right lender can make a huge difference on your mortgage-buying experience.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by getting an independent mortgage broker to do all the legwork for you. Since these professionals don’t work for banks, they have an unbiased opinion about the lenders who are out there, and will be more skilled at making the right match. They’ll even negotiate on your behalf to get the lowest interest rate and more convenient mortgage conditions to suit your needs.

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4. Decide Between a Fixed or Variable Mortgage

With a fixed rate mortgage, the payment and rate you pay every month will remain the same throughout the mortgage term. A variable rate mortgage, on the other hand, means your rate will fluctuate with the prime lending rate, which means your monthly payment amounts will also change.

So what’s better?

That all depends on the state of interest rates at the time that you’re going through the mortgage process. If interest rates are currently low and are not expected to go down any more, then a fixed rate might be advisable. On the flip side, if interest rates are expected fall, then a variable rate is usually recommended, since you’ll be able to take advantage of a lower interest rate at some point in the near future. By the same token, if there’s a huge difference between the variable and fixed rate, it might not be worth having to pay the premium for the stability of a fixed rate.

 

5. Lock in Your Interest Rate

You’ve gathered your down payment and found the right lender. Now’s the time to lock that interest rate in. But you’ve got some options. Once your mortgage application is complete, you can either lock in your rate if you think it’s the best you can get, or you can choose to ‘float’ your rate. With the second option, your interest basically moves along with the market until you’re ready to close.

Of course, there is some risk with this, as the rates may do nothing but increase. However, if you do get lucky and see the rates sink lower than when you initially signed on the dotted line, you can score a lower rate and essentially shave off some cash from interest payments over the life of your mortgage.

 

With a little homework and due diligence, the mortgage buying process shouldn’t be as painful as you may have initially thought. At the very least, get yourself a team of experts behind you, including a mortgage broker and realtor, to help you navigate through the process to come out unscathed.

5 Problems Your Home Inspector Might Not Catch

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You’ve found your dream home, put in an offer that the seller couldn’t refuse, and sealed the deal. But before you head out to buy new furniture, there’s still one little task that needs to be completed: the home inspection.

Realtors will typically advise their clients to include this clause in a purchase agreement in order to help uncover any problems with the home that they might not have noticed when they first saw it. Yet as helpful as home inspections are, there are a number of things that might not necessarily be revealed during a standard inspection.

It’s important to understand that a few things might not be caught, including the following.

 

1. Structural Problems

A skilled home inspector should easily be able to tell if the roof on a home is sagging. He or she may also be able to spot cracks in the foundation in an unfinished basement. Just about every roof will have its inconsistencies, and many concrete foundations will have minor, insignificant cracks. But when it comes to identifying the extent of potential problems, as well as the potential cost of repair, this is where the home inspector’s job ends.

Home inspectors are trained to spot issues that the average home owner might not be able to spot. They’ll crawl into attics and stick their fingers into wall insulation to uncover any issues. But they’re not licensed structural engineers. If there is something outside of the home inspector’s scope, they’ll refer you to someone else.

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2. Electrical Issues

Think of a home inspection as nothing more than a ‘visual inspection’ when it comes to possible electrical problems. As far as electrical wiring goes, home inspectors aren’t always able to identify the exact source of the issue should a problem be suspected. Sure, they’ll be able to spot something if it looks off, such as a receptacle not having a proper ground, but they won’t exactly be able to determine what is causing the problem, or where. An electrician will have to come into the picture in order to take over where the home inspector left off in this case.

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3. Blocked Sewers

Not every problem with a home is going to rear its ugly head during a home inspection. Issues may not even show up until well after you’ve moved into the house. A blocked or damaged sewer line is unfortunately one of these issues that can be placed under this category.

A home inspector will do things such as run water through the sinks, tubs and toilets, but they’re only there for a couple of hours. This short time period might not be enough for the issue to be exposed.

Inspectors can skillfully estimate the age of pipes and drains, and even make sure there are no trees in the line of the sewer pipe that might cause a problem. But when it comes to in-depth sewer pipe scoping, that nasty job is left to sewer line expert.

 

4. Leaks

Leaks can seemingly show up out of the blue. They might not be there one day, but then show up the next. This is why leaks are a toughie for home inspectors. Many times vacant homes have plumbing that hasn’t been used in a while. If there were leaks, they would have all dried up by the time a home inspection was conducted. A couple of days after you move it and start using the taps, all of a sudden these leaks become apparent. Even the most experienced inspector may miss a potential leakage spot while conducting an inspection.

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5. Faulty HVAC Equipment

Just like sewer lines and leaks, problems with the HVAC equipment may not be there one day then show up the next. When an inspector checks out the air conditioner and finds that the temperatures are within acceptable ranges, the system can seem like it’s functioning fine. But once the summer hits and the temperatures go through the roof, the A/C will be under a lot of pressure to work hard, which is usually the time for it to fail if it’s faulty.

If the inspector has a hint that there may be a problem with the HVAC equipment, a specialized contractor can look into the job. It typically costs anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 to hire these contractors, who will need a few days to complete their inspection.

 

The Bottom Line

Having a home inspected before you finalize a deal is important to help uncover any possible issues with the home that’ll wind up costing you a lot of money and plenty of headaches. But at the end of the day, inspectors are not miracle workers. There are a bunch of things that homeowners think they can do, but can’t. It’s important to be realistic about what the entire scope of home inspector’s job is, and at what point a specialist will need to be called in.

Ultra-Mod Flooring You Hadn’t Considered (But Should)

Leather Belt Flooring

Leather Belt Tiles

If you’re someone who enjoys unique home features, we bet you just can’t get enough of this unique design element. It’s very popular in the UK. So if your style leans anglophile, get on this leather train.

 Bamboo flooring

Bamboo

Click in bamboo flooring that’s harder than hardwood. And gorgeous to boot.

Concrete Flooring

Poured Concrete

OK it’s not the reclaimed barn wood you wanted, but give these gorgeous concrete floors a second look.

Just poor it, level it, and polish it. OK, maybe it’s a tiny bit more complicated than that. But most people probably still think of poured concrete flooring as eminently DIY-able, but we say…hire a pro, sit back, and love your resilient new floors for a lifetime. And don’t forget the radiant heating underneath, the most cost-efficient home heating available happens to work best with a concrete floor. Your pampered eyes and toes will thank you.

Cork Flooring

Cork

Not your mom’s cork flooring. It’s tough, it’s eco-friendly, and it looks really cool. Need flooring for your rustic wine cellar? Here’s where you can buy that delicious design element for yourself.

coin flooring

Coins

You may have seen this already in the trendy restaurant down the street, but adding coin flooring to personal living spaces is seeing a surge in popularity. Besides, if you’re going to spend all that money on flooring, you might as well look at it, right?

If you’re still looking, here are a few more flooring resources.

What the Heck is a ‘Zero-Sum’ Budget, and Why Should You Consider One?

Budgeting. It’s not exactly the sexiest topic out there, but it’s one that everyone needs to think about, talk about, develop, and set in motion. This essential spending plan basically helps you to determine if you’ve actually got the cash to do the things you want or need without sending you spiraling into debt.

While there’s lots of talk about the different ways to budget, what’s less known is the topic on zero-sum budgeting.

Budget

What exactly is this, and how can you benefit from it?

Zero-Sum Budget – Defined

First off, let’s define what a zero-sum budget actually is. Money is allocated based on financial results that you can expect to achieve, then works backwards to accurately allocate to the necessary resource.

OK, so that might sound like a bunch of financial mumbo-jumbo. Let’s put it in simpler terms. Essentially, no dollar is left unspent. Every penny is accounted for. The idea behind this type of budget is to help you make sure that every dollar you make is put to good use before you even get paid. If you do this, you’ll be less likely to blow your cash on money drains. If you happen to have excess in your budget after paying your bills, you can put it towards your debts or savings accounts. Every dime you make is allocated to something.

Let’s illustrate. If you’ve been able to cover all your expenses during the month and have $1,000 left over, you’re not quite done with your budget just yet. That 1,000 bucks need to be told where to go. This gives you the opportunity to make it work for you in areas like getting out of debt, investing, saving for a rainy day, or paying off the mortgage. Make every dollar work for you.

 

How Can You Benefit From a Zero-Sum Budget?

Budgeting itself has its own inherent benefits. But when you tackle the zero-sum budget, you’re really putting your dollar to work for you. Here are 3 benefits associated with a zero-sum budget:

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1. You know exactly where your money is going – The only way that a zero-sum budget will work is if you understand what you’re spending your money on in order to accurately allocate your funds. Just doing this is already putting you ahead, since you’re being forced to open your eyes to where exactly your money is going, and how much you’ve spent on things that were totally unnecessary.

2. You can realize more savings and live realistically – One of the best things about a zero-sum budget is the fact that it leads to more savings. Before you can even start this budget, you need a month’s pay in your bank account, so that’s some savings right there. If you make more money in advance of your budget, you can start to think about how that money should be spent.

3. Your budget is based on real money – Instead of basing your budget on what you anticipate is coming to you, this type of budget is based on actual money that you already have in the bank. This month-in-advance approach is particularly useful for people who have variable incomes, where one month you’re rolling in dough, and the next month you’re dry. Until you’ve got the money in your hands, you can’t realistically assume that you’ll have it when you need it.

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The Bottom Line

The zero-sum budget approach basically gives you the chance to get a clear picture of your finances, and how well you are managing them. Not only that, but it also gives you a financial cushion to fall back on. Scrounging up a month’s salary worth of capital to start with might be tough for some, but this initial sacrifice is well worth it in the long run when you can boast zero debt in years to come.

Rock These 4 Simple Habits to Shake Up Your Personal Finances – in a Good Way

Over 35% of Americans have collections agencies hounding them about their debts and unpaid bills, and almost 30% have more credit card debt than emergency savings. Scary stuff. Being in debt is sort of like being in quick sand – you’re not quite sure how you found yourself there, but you’re drowning fast.

The downward spiral of debt is a dangerous one, especially when that debt is attached to crazy high interest rates, typical of credit card debt. With rates as high as 20%, it can be extremely challenging to climb back out for air. But all is not lost. You can still take action right now to not only get rid of your debt, but start padding your savings account too.

Give these 4 habits a go to get you back on the road to financial health for the long haul.

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1. Commit to Using Cash Only for a While

If you’ve had a torrid affair with plastic (aka your credit card), you may have gotten yourself into trouble every now and then. Financial gurus often suggest that people with dangerously high levels of debt should cut up every credit card owned, and use cash only for expenditures until the debt has been successfully managed.

If you are having a tough time saving because every penny you make is going to towards paying off your ridiculously high credit card debt, perhaps it’s time to start adopting a cash-only lifestyle, at least for a little while until you get a hold of your finances. Just keep one old credit card account open, but don’t charge it. While this may sound like a crazy, impossible task, you’ll soon learn how to live within your means.

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2. Put 1% of Every Paycheck Into Your Savings Account

One percent might not sound like a lot, but it’s something, and it’s a good starting point upon which you can build. Putting a certain percentage of your income away into a savings account will help get you into the habit of saving on a regular basis. No matter how small your bank account is, and regardless of how little you’re putting away every month, the point is you’re still saving.

As you begin to gradually pay off debt and slowly grow your savings, you can take the money you’ve accumulated and start putting more of it towards debt. You’d be surprised at what this forward momentum can do for your saving habits. Before you know it, you’ll be much closer towards paying off your debt.

 

3. Check Your Account Balances on a Daily Basis

Sound like too much? Well, just taking a couple of minutes each day to check your account balances can help keep you in-the-know about your finances and spending habits. While daily account checking might sound a tad obsessive, it can really help keep you honest with yourself about where exactly your money is going. It’ll also help lower the odds of spending impulsively. By having an accurate dollar amount floating around in your head, you’ll be better able to make sound spending decisions.

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4. Reward Yourself (Gently) on PayDay

Much like treating yourself to a donut every once in a while when on a diet, rewarding yourself with a spending treat is also helpful when you’ve stuck to your budget so diligently until payday. Just make sure that this reward is an affordable luxury, and not an exorbitant splurge that you’ll deeply regret. It could be a manicure, a half hour massage, or a new pair of shoes. Over time, you’ll start looking forward to these rewards, helping you stick to your budget without tapping into your savings.

Sticking to these habits, and others like them, on a consistent basis can help turn your finances around for good. After a few weeks or months, they’ll actually come naturally to you without having to force yourself into saving.