Janet Buff, Realtor's Blog

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OCT
31
 Welcome to the most current Housing Trends eNewsletter. This eNewsletter is specially designed for you, with national and local housing information that you may find useful whether you’re in the market for a home, thinking about selling your home, or just interested in homeowner issues in general.

Please click on this link to view the Housing Trends October 2014 Newsletter http://jbuff.housingtrendsenewsletter.com

The Housing Trends eNewsletter contains the latest information from the National Association of REALTORS®, the U.S. Census Bureau, Realtor.org reports and other sources.

Housing Trends eNewsletter is filled with local and national real estate sales and price activity provided by MLSs and the National Association of Realtors, U.S. Census Bureau key market indicators, consumer videos, blogs, real estate glossary, mortgage rates and calculators, consumer articles, and REALTOR.com local community reports.

If you are interested in determining the value of your home, click the “Home Evaluator” link for a free evaluation report:

http://jbuff.housingtrendsenewsletter.com/dispContent.cfm?loadid=2&loadtype=0

Sound decisions can only be made with accurate and reliable information, and I am happy to be a trusted resource for you. Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with this monthly eNewsletter, and I look forward to answering any questions you may have and to the opportunity to be your REALTOR® in the future.

Sincerely yours,

Janet Buff
RE/MAX Pearland
10015 W.Broadway,Suite B Pearland TX 77584 -- 281-414-1811JanetBuff@Remax.net
OCT
29
 Most renters know that paying the rent on time and following the lease will keep them out of hot water, but what does it really take to have a great relationship with your landlord?

The answer may surprise you. (Hint: It isn’t all about the rent.)

The Ideal Tenant

When landlords interview prospective tenants, they’re looking for job stability and steady income first and foremost, but their wish list goes beyond that.

“The quality landlords value most is stability,” said Mia Melle, president and broker of Renttoday.us. “An ideal renter is one who will stay in the home for years to come, raise a family, create memories and treat the home like their own.”

Landlords also like to see that you are good at managing your finances.

“Having a few months’ worth of rental payments in the bank” is very helpful, Melle said.

Do the Upkeep

Once you have moved in, try to treat the space like you own it. Keep everything clean, well-maintained and in good, working order.

“Many times renters aren’t familiar with the cost of home improvements, so something as simple as not watering the lawn and causing the grass to die can result in thousands of dollars to the homeowner to replace the sod once the renter moves out,” Melle said.

Take care of landscaping, clean up spills as soon as they happen and keep children and pets from causing any damage to the walls or flooring, and your landlord will thank you for it.

Always Ask First

After you have lived in a rental for a while, your tastes—or your life—may change. You may decide to adopt a new puppy, or you may want to repaint the kitchen to match your curtains. Before you make any of those changes, ask your landlord if they are allowed. Not only do bigger changes such as adding a pet often require an addendum to your lease, but your landlord will appreciate being considered.

Call for Backup the Right Way

When it comes to making maintenance requests, be careful when and how you contact your landlord.

“A renter should know how to do simple repairs around the property and understand the landlord cannot always be at their beck and call or send a $200 repair guy to change a light bulb,” Melle said.

If you have to call to request a repair, make sure you explain the problem thoroughly and be willing to let your landlord troubleshoot issues with you over the phone. If you can save your landlord a bit of time (or money) you will build a great relationship.

See Things From Your Landlord’s Point of View

“Ultimately, landlords want renters to understand that they are just regular people with jobs and bills and not faceless, emotionless corporations with huge bank accounts,” Melle said.

Understanding that your landlord is just another human being who struggles to manage time and money just like you do will go a long way in building a relationship.

OCT
29
 You’ve crunched the mortgage rates, estimated your tax payments, and taken a realistic look at how much house you can afford. You’ve stuck within your range when scouring the realtor.com® listings, being careful not to bust your budget.

But there are more expenses involved in home buying than just the property costs. And those additional payments, if you don’t factor them in, can be high enough to derail your conscientious planning.

Home-Buying Expenses: Add Them Up

Here are the line items you should keep in mind.

You’ve crunched the mortgage rates, estimated your tax payments, and taken a realistic look at how much house you can afford. You’ve stuck within your range when scouring the realtor.com® listings, being careful not to bust your budget.

But there are more expenses involved in home buying than just the property costs. And those additional payments, if you don’t factor them in, can be high enough to derail your conscientious planning.

Home-Buying Expenses: Add Them Up

Here are the line items you should keep in mind.

Buying Costs

You’ve got your mortgage pre-approved, but that’s not all you will need to fork over to get the keys to your new place. Services that need paying:

  • Your buyer’s agent fee
  • An appraisal to confirm a reasonable market price for the property
  • Inspections of structural, mechanical, pest or other potential issues
  • A real estate attorney to review all contracts (depending on the state)

Property taxes vary widely, up to 4.2% of a home’s value in some states, according to a CNN map published in 2013. Depending on when you buy, you may owe the previous owners for property taxes they have already paid. You may also need to pay fees to a local association, such as a homeowners association.

Moving Costs

Moving into a home can involve major expenses for packing, storing and transporting your possessions and yourself. If you are moving across the country, the costs could be significant. Even moving across town can cost more than you planned for truck rental, movers and equipment.

Utilities

Setting up your telephone, electricity, gas and water—did you budget for these expenses? They could cost more at your new place, especially if you’re moving to a larger home or from a rental.

New Stuff

You may need to purchase appliances or furniture for your new home. Some items, like your old particle board bookshelves, may not be worth the cost of moving. Again, if you are sizing up, you face the potentially fun, but possibly financially draining, challenge of filling the new place.

Maintenance and Renovations

Trees fall on roofs. Gutters need cleaning. Driveways need repair…. A standard rule of thumb is to budget at least 1% of your home’s purchase price each year for home maintenance costs.

Maintenance can include things such as painting, replacing roof shingles, fixing or upgrading plumbing and wiring. The amount you will need to pay for maintenance can depend on the age of the home, the previous owners’ upkeep and the climate.

Homeowner’s Insurance

You won’t be able to obtain a mortgage without homeowner’s insurance covering both the property and its contents. However, the standard insurance may not cover natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes and earthquakes. Depending on where you live, you may want to consider taking out additional insurance to cover such risks.

Private Mortgage Insurance and Title Insurance

If the down payment on your home was less than 20% of the purchase price, you will have to pay for Private Mortgage Insurance. PMI protects your lender in case you default. It’s standard, and fees vary. The rules are complicated, but usually once you have paid down the mortgage so you owe less than 78% of the purchase price, you can drop the PMI payments.

Title insurance offers protection for you (and your lender) if you later discover that someone else could lay claim to the title, and therefore ownership, of the house.

Even if you are lucky enough to avoid paying for PMI, you find a low-cost attorney you can trust, and you have a modern, energy-efficient house, these expenses can still add up to thousands of dollars. That prospect should not scare you away from homeownership, but it always helps to be prepared.

Updated from an earlier version by Ben Apple.

Buying Costs

You’ve got your mortgage pre-approved, but that’s not all you will need to fork over to get the keys to your new place. Services that need paying:

  • Your buyer’s agent fee
  • An appraisal to confirm a reasonable market price for the property
  • Inspections of structural, mechanical, pest or other potential issues
  • A real estate attorney to review all contracts (depending on the state)

Property taxes vary widely, up to 4.2% of a home’s value in some states, according to a CNN map published in 2013. Depending on when you buy, you may owe the previous owners for property taxes they have already paid. You may also need to pay fees to a local association, such as a homeowners association.

Moving Costs

Moving into a home can involve major expenses for packing, storing and transporting your possessions and yourself. If you are moving across the country, the costs could be significant. Even moving across town can cost more than you planned for truck rental, movers and equipment.

Utilities

Setting up your telephone, electricity, gas and water—did you budget for these expenses? They could cost more at your new place, especially if you’re moving to a larger home or from a rental.

New Stuff

You may need to purchase appliances or furniture for your new home. Some items, like your old particle board bookshelves, may not be worth the cost of moving. Again, if you are sizing up, you face the potentially fun, but possibly financially draining, challenge of filling the new place.

Maintenance and Renovations

Trees fall on roofs. Gutters need cleaning. Driveways need repair…. A standard rule of thumb is to budget at least 1% of your home’s purchase price each year for home maintenance costs.

Maintenance can include things such as painting, replacing roof shingles, fixing or upgrading plumbing and wiring. The amount you will need to pay for maintenance can depend on the age of the home, the previous owners’ upkeep and the climate.

Homeowner’s Insurance

You won’t be able to obtain a mortgage without homeowner’s insurance covering both the property and its contents. However, the standard insurance may not cover natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes and earthquakes. Depending on where you live, you may want to consider taking out additional insurance to cover such risks.

Private Mortgage Insurance and Title Insurance

If the down payment on your home was less than 20% of the purchase price, you will have to pay for Private Mortgage Insurance. PMI protects your lender in case you default. It’s standard, and fees vary. The rules are complicated, but usually once you have paid down the mortgage so you owe less than 78% of the purchase price, you can drop the PMI payments.

Title insurance offers protection for you (and your lender) if you later discover that someone else could lay claim to the title, and therefore ownership, of the house.

Even if you are lucky enough to avoid paying for PMI, you find a low-cost attorney you can trust, and you have a modern, energy-efficient house, these expenses can still add up to thousands of dollars. That prospect should not scare you away from homeownership, but it always helps to be prepared.

Updated from an earlier version by Ben Apple.

on Realtor.com
SEP
2
 A home is not a home because of its room dimensions or the color of the walls. It is about how you feel when you walk through the front door. And the way you can instantly envision your life unfolding there. This is about more than real estate. It is about your life and your dreams.

My approach to real estate is one that is built on personal touches, win-win deals and positive results.
Utilizing the latest technologies, market research and business strategies to meet your expectations. I will help you achieve the American dream of owning your own home.                          I specialize in finding the best loan options for first time buyers. I listen to your wants and needs, and I work closely with you, from contract to close. 
  
Contact me today for All Your Real Estate Needs!!
 

Janet Buff
Realtor
The Pearland Home Team
RE/MAX Pe
arland
281-414-1811 - Cell
281-485-Home - office
Search For Homes At:
janetbuff.m.remaxtexas.com
MAY
22
 

Five to seven times a day, the air in your home circulates through the air ducts of your HVAC heating and cooling system, carrying with it the dust and debris of everyday living.

Your furnace filter catches much of the stuff, but neglect, remodeling projects, or shoddy duct installation can lead to a buildup of gunk inside your ductwork that threatens the efficient functioning of your system.

Are Dirty Ducts Hazardous to Your Health?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asserts no studies have proven that duct cleaning prevents health problems. Also, there isn’t proof that dirty ductwork increases dust levels inside homes.

But some people are more sensitive to airborne dust and pet dander than others. If your nose is getting itchy just thinking about what might lurk in your ducts, the $300 to $600 it costs to clean a 2,000-sq.-ft. home is a worthwhile investment. But before you reach for the phone, take a good look to see if your ducts are dirty.

Get the Picture

Wouldn’t it be handy if you could take an incredible journey through your ductwork to see if cleaning is needed? Using a pocket digital camera equipped with a flash, you can come close. Simply remove a floor register, reach as far as you can into the duct (don’t drop your camera!), and take a couple of shots.

If there’s gunk within a few feet of the register, take heart. It’s easy to snake a vacuum cleaner hose into the duct and remove the stuff. However, if you see a long trail of junk and a thick coat of dust beyond what your vacuum can reach, your house may be a candidate for professional cleaning.

Look for These Symptoms

  • Clogs of dust, cobwebs, and debris, or noticeable particles blowing out of supply registers.
  • Visible mold on the inside surfaces of ducts.
  • Rodent droppings and dead insects inside ducts.

In addition, recent construction inevitably creates dust you don’t want in circulation.

“We recommend cleaning after a big remodel job,” says Scott Milas of Mendel Heating and Plumbing, St. Charles, Ill. Milas adds that a new home purchase is also a good occasion — after all, who wants to breathe someone else’s pet dander?

“People get it done after they buy a house,” he says. “It’s like getting the carpets cleaned.”

Good Reasons for Duct Cleaning

  • Cleaning removes accumulated dust so it won’t shed into the household.
  • Removing debris and cobwebs eases airflow and increases the efficiency of the system, in extreme cases as much as 40%.
  • If you have fiberglass ducting, fiberglass gathers more dust than sheet metal.

Reasons to Skip Duct Cleaning

  • Cost.
  • Health benefits are not proven.
  • Dust and debris caught on the interior of ducts isn’t circulating and therefore may not be a problem.
  • Changing furnace filters regularly often does the job, especially when combined with annual furnace cleaning.

    How Air Ducts Are Cleaned............

    Dislodging and removing dust and debris is done with one or more of the following methods:

    • Hand-held vacuuming: Workers use a brush attached to a large portable vacuum equipped with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. However, the hand-held method isn’t completely reliable and may leave pockets of dust.
    • Mechanical brush: A rotating brush is fed into the ductwork. A truck-mounted vacuum sucks away debris. The rotary brush may damage older or poorly installed systems.
    • Air sweep: A truck-mounted vacuum system carries away dust and debris dislodged by a compressed-air hose fed into the ducts. Of the three, the air sweep method usually does the most effective job.

    Note: Some duct cleaning companies advocate spraying the inside of your ducts with chemical biocides. However, the EPA cautions that the spray may be more hazardous than helpful, aggravating respiratory ailments and introducing moisture that encourages mold growth.

    Choosing a Duct Cleaning Service

    It is all too easy to set up as a duct cleaner; some fly-by-nighters do more harm than good. Ask a reputable heating contractor for recommendations, or go to National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) to locate a certified contractor.

    Be wary of unsubstantiated health claims. Resist pressure to clean annually; even cleaning every other year is overkill. Most homes needn’t be cleaned more than once every five years. Also, make sure your furnace will be cleaned as part of the HVAC maintenance service that includes checking the plenum, evaporator coil, and heat exchanger.



    Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/heating-cooling/cleaning-air-ducts/#ixzz32U0GpvnU
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MAY
22
 

We know so well the thrill of owning your own house — but don’t let the excitement cause you to overlook the basics. We’ve gathered up a half dozen classic boo-boos new homeowners often commit — and give you some insight on why each is critically important to avoid.

1. Not Knowing Where the Main Water Shutoff Valve Is

Water from a burst or broken plumbing pipe can spew dozens of gallons into your home’s interior in a matter of minutes, soaking everything in sight — including drywall, flooring, and valuables. In fact, water damage is one of the most common of all household insurance claims.

Quick-twitch reaction is needed to stave off a major bummer. Before disaster hits, find your water shutoff valve, which will be located where a water main enters your house. Make sure everyone knows where it’s located and how to close the valve. A little penetrating oil on the valve stem makes sure it’ll work when you need it to.

2. Not Calling 811 Before Digging a Hole

Ah, spring! You’re so ready to dig into your new yard and plant bushes and build that fence. But don’t — not until you’ve dialed 811, the national dig-safely hotline. The hotline will contact all your local utilities who will then come to your property — often within a day — to mark the location of underground pipes, cables, and wires.

This free service keeps you safe and helps avoid costly repairs. In many states, calling 811 is the law, so you’ll also avoid fines.
Before you start working on your curb appeal, give 811 a call. The hotline will send out folks from your local utilities to mark underground pipes, cables, and wires so you don't sink your shovel into something dangerous.


3. Not Checking the Slope of Foundation Soil

The ground around your foundation should slope away from your house at least 6 inches over 10 feet. Why? To make sure that water from rain and melting snow doesn’t soak the soil around your foundation walls, building up pressure that can cause leaks and crack your foundation, leading to mega-expensive repairs.

This kind of water damage doesn’t happen overnight — it’s accumulative — so the sooner you get after it, the better (and smarter) you’ll be. While you’re at it, make sure downspouts extend at least 5 feet away from your house.

Related: How to Prevent Water Damage

4. Not Knowing the Depth of Attic Insulation

This goes hand-in-hand with not knowing where your attic access is located, so let’s start there. Find the ceiling hatch, typically a square area framed with molding in a hallway or closet ceiling. Push the hatch cover straight up. Get a ladder and check out the depth of the insulation. If you can see the tops of joists, you definitely don’t have enough.

The recommended insulation for most attics is about R-38 or 10 to 14 inches deep, depending on the type of insulation you choose. BTW, is your hatch insulated, too? Use 4-inch-thick foam board glued to the top.

Related: Attic Air Leaks: How to Find and Seal Them

5. Carelessly Drilling into Walls


Hanging shelves, closet systems, and artwork means drilling into your walls — but do you know what’s back there? Hidden inside your walls are plumbing pipes, ductwork, wires, and cables.

You can check for some stuff with a stud sensor — a $25 battery-operated tool that detects changes in density to sniff out studs, cables, and ducts.

But stud sensors aren’t foolproof. Protect yourself by drilling only 1¼ inches deep max — enough to clear drywall and plaster but not deep enough to reach most wires and pipes.

Household wiring runs horizontally from outlet to outlet about 8 inches to 2 feet from the floor, so that’s a no-drill zone. Stay clear of vertical locations above and below wall switches — wiring runs along studs to reach switches.

6. Cutting Down a Tree

The risk isn’t worth it. Even small trees can fall awkwardly, damaging your house, property, or your neighbor’s property. In some locales, you have to obtain a permit first. Cutting down a tree is an art that’s best left to a professional tree service.

Plus, trees help preserve property values and provide shade that cuts energy bills. So think twice before going all Paul Bunyan.



Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/repair-tips/what-new-homeowners-need-to-know/#ixzz32Ty6OGuS
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MAY
22
 

First impressions count — not just for your friends, relatives, and the UPS guy, but for yourself. Whether it’s on an urban stoop or a Victorian front porch, your front door and the area leading up to it should extend a warm welcome to all comers — and needn’t cost a bundle.

Here’s what you can do to make welcoming happen on the cheap.

1. Clear the way for curb appeal. The path to your front door should be at least 3 feet wide so people can walk shoulder-to-shoulder, with an unobstructed view and no stumbling hazards. So get out those loppers and cut back any overhanging branches or encroaching shrubs.

2. Light the route. Landscape lighting makes it easy to get around at night. Solar-powered LED lights you can just stick in the ground, requiring no wiring, are suprisingly inexpensive. We found 8 packs for under $60 online.

3. Go glossy. Borrow inspiration from London’s lovely row houses, whose owners assert their individuality by painting their doors in high-gloss colors. The reflective sheen of a royal blue, deep green, crimson, or whatever color you like will ensure your house stands out from the pack.

Related: Pictures of 10 Great Value-Add Exterior Paint Jobs

4. Pretty up the view. A door with lots of glass is a plus for letting light into the front hall — but if you also want privacy and a bit of decor, check out decorative window film. It’s removable and re-positionable, and comes in innumerable styles and motifs. Pricing depends on size and design; many available for under $30.

A way to get the look of stained glass without doing custom work or buying a whole new door: Mount a decorative panel on the inside of the door behind an existing glass insert, $92 for an Arts and Crafts-style panel 20-inches-high by 11-inches-wide.

5. Replace door hardware. While you’re at it, polish up the handle on the big front door. Or better yet, replace it with a shiny new brass lockset with a secure deadbolt. Available for about $60.

6. Please knock. Doorbells may be the norm, but a hefty knocker is a classic that will never run out of battery life, and another opportunity to express yourself (whatever your favorite animal or insect is, there’s a door-knocker in its image).

7. Ever-greenery. Boxwoods are always tidy-looking, the definition of easy upkeep. A pair on either side of the door is traditional, but a singleton is good, too. About $25 at garden centers. In cold climates, make sure pots are frost-proof (polyethylene urns and boxes mimic terracotta and wood to perfection).

8. Numbers game. Is your house number clearly visible? That’s of prime importance if you want your guests to arrive and your pizza to be hot. Stick-on vinyl numbers in a variety of fonts make it easy, starting at about $4 per digit.

9. Foot traffic. A hardworking mat for wiping muddy feet is a must. A thick coir mat can be had at the hardware store for less than $20. Even fancier varieties can be found well under $50.

10. Go for the glow. Fumbling for keys in the dark isn’t fun. Consider doubling up on porch lights with a pair of lanterns, one on each side of the door, for symmetry and twice the illumination. Many mounted lights are available well under $100.

11. Snail mail. Mailboxes run the gamut from kitschy roadside novelties masquerading as dogs, fish, or what-have-you to sober black lockboxes mounted alongside the front door. Whichever way you go, make sure yours is standing or hanging straight, with a secure closure, and no dings or dents. The mail carrier will thank you.

 
    JAN
    15
     Buying or Selling a Home in 2014? There’s Still Time for New Year’s Resolutions
    JAN
    15
     

    Losing weight is the number one resolution people make each year. Getting more exercise or becoming “fit” is usually not far behind in popularity. Seeing as we’re approximately 2 weeks into the New Year, approximately 30% of people who resolved to change their lifestyle this year have already given up. In fact, only about 8% ever succeed in achieving their resolution.

    At least some of this spectacularly high recidivism is the result of people setting goals in such a way as to almost guarantee failure, and end up exactly where they started (if not worse off).

    Here are the top 5 New Year resolution pitfalls I regularly see people making. By avoiding these, you can increase your odds of being part of that elusive 8% when 2014 comes to an end.

    Pitfall #1: The all or none approach
    People have the best of intentions – they recognize the errors in their behaviour and they decide to do a complete 180 and become a new person. Unfortunately, when changes are too drastic, they can be very difficult to adhere to. If you’ve never gone for a jog, don’t set yourself up for failure by resolving to run 10km every day of the week.

    Solution: Make small, progressive but easily achievable goals to gain some momentum. Also, try focusing on one change at a time rather than attempting a whole lifestyle makeover.

    Pitfall #2: Focusing on outcomes rather than behaviours
    What is a typical resolution read like? “I will lose 30lbs by December 31, 2014.” What is the problem? This is largely out of your control. There is marked variability between any two people going on the same weight loss plan. Also, as we’ve highlighted over the years on the blog, achieving sustained significant weight loss is much less common than many would like to believe.

    Solution: Instead of worrying about the number on your bathroom scale, focus on healthy behaviours. Improve your diet, move more often, reduce the amount of continuous time you spend sitting, get a good night’s rest – any of these will improve your health and the way you feel. And if you happen to lose some weight along the way, that’s a bonus.

    Pitfall #3: Going on a diet
    The issue here is more to do with the concept of “dieting”, understood by many as a quick and temporary fix for years or even decades of poor lifestyle. Literally starving yourself for a few weeks or even months will result in weight loss, but how long can you maintain that before you inevitably resort right back to your unhealthy diet? A diet is not something you “go on”, it is a progressive and sustained improvement in what and how you eat.

    Solution: Avoid diets that are too restrictive or that sound plain crazy (i.e. grapefruit diet). Instead focus on something more reasonable, such as eating breakfast each day, switching pop and juices for water, eating more small meals throughout the day instead of a couple large ones, slowly replacing your chocolate and chips with healthier snack options, etc. Understand that changing your diet for the better does not happen overnight. It has taken me a good decade to significantly reduce intake of chips and pop – it didn’t happen overnight!

    Pitfall #4: Getting a long-term gym membership
    While I fully endorse the use of a fitness facility to be physically active, the key error people make here is committing to a gym with a long-term contract (mandatory at many establishments) when they have no idea whether they will like it. This works great for the gym owners – they get tons of money from people who end up never using the facility. The traffic in all gyms swells dramatically every January. By late February, the gym is back to normal and many who started in January have stopped coming (but continue to pay).

    Solution: When you head over to your local gym demand that you pay on a per session, per week or per month basis – whatever they allow. Do your best to avoid signing up for a year contract. If in June you are still regularly using the gym – then consider a longer term commitment to save some money. More importantly, get over the notion that you need to go to a gym to get in better shape. You can get a perfectly good workout in your home or at the park. You just have to get creative. The stairs at your office or home are essentially a free gym – use them!

    Pitfall #5: Falling for Miracle Weight Loss Cures
    The whole reason behind the development of Obesity Panacea waaaaay back in 2008 was to help debunk many of the bogus weight loss products on the market. Judging by the regular spike in traffic from Google to our site early each year for search terms such as “Acai Berry”, “Slender Shaper”, “Air Climber” – too many people will end up buying some utterly useless product they were made to believe is the panacea for obesity.

    Solution: Unfortunately, there currently exists no cure for obesity – only treatments. Anyone or any product that suggests otherwise is trying to rip you off: run away!

    The best of luck to all of you in 2014.
    Janet Buff

    DEC
    5
     

    Single women: Is buying a home right for you?

    Female homeownership has outpaced that of unmarried men

    Forget being homemakers—single women are now homebuyers.

    Solo females began to outpace lone males in purchasing homes in the early 1990s. By 1999, single women represented about one in five total sales, buying homes at twice the level of single men, a proportion that has held roughly steady since, according to National Association of Realtors data.

    "A lot of people, myself included, take pride in owning a home," says Portland, Ore., lawyer Katie Abbott, 36. She bought a two-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot Craftsman this summer. "There's no reason that it (homebuying) should be limited to only if you're married," she says.

    Before you jump on this trend, take a few important steps to ensure the time is right for you. Buying a house is the biggest financial commitment most of us will make in a lifetime. A wrong move could haunt you for decades, but the right decision will make you a proud homeowner.

    GET FINANCIALLY FIT

    Save a big down payment. Many financial advisers recommend putting down at least 20 percent of the purchase price to make sure you can sell the house in the future, even if prices fall. "The less you put down, the greater the probability of being underwater (owing more than the value of the house) at some point," says Eleanor Blayney, a consumer advocate for the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.

    Take care of yourself. Before you acquire a major real estate asset, make sure you are contributing enough to a retirement fund, have six months of living expenses saved for emergencies and have purchased disability insurance—a must for single women, according to award-winning author and money manager Julie Jason, based in Stamford, Conn. "It's not a simple decision of, 'I like this house; let's go buy it!' The worst thing you can do is put all your money into a house and not put any money into retirement," Jason says. "You're deploying assets to make this purchase that you could be using for another purpose."

    Educate yourself. Shop around to find financial professionals you trust, including a real-estate agent and lender who are willing to answer all your questions and educate you about the transaction. Read all your mortgage documentation. Bone up on real estate basics, home repair, siding and roofs, garden care and home heating systems, even if you have to resort to books with the words "dummies" or "idiots" in the title.

    MAKE SURE THE TIME IS RIGHT

    Plan to stay in the home you buy for five or seven years. When you take out a mortgage, you pay closing fees, moving costs and other "friction" costs that can never be recovered. Make sure that the general area and the specific house will suit your needs long enough to make it worthwhile.

    Consider what would change if you met a long-term partner. How long you would stay in a house depends in part on whether you remain single. Evaluate whether the property could accommodate two residents, or more if you might add children. Before Abbott bought her home, she had a structural engineer make sure she could build into the unfinished attic, which you currently enter through a ladder on the wraparound porch. "It's a home that I could grow and expand into," Abbott says.

    Be sure your job and the local economy are stable. We all heard the horror stories of layoffs followed by foreclosures in the Great Recession. Be wary of buying a home if either your employer or the community is on shaky ground.

    CALCULATE THE COSTS OF BUYING

    Compare owning to renting. You can't necessarily afford a mortgage payment that's the same as your rent bill. There's homeowners' insurance and taxes to consider, and additional utilities and maintenance costs. Ask the existing homeowner what she pays for gas, electric, water, sewer, garbage removal and lawn maintenance. Remember extras like condo or neighborhood association fees. Build it into your budget. Ask colleagues and friends to recommend vendors who can help you keep the house in shape.

    Consider moving costs. At a minimum, you'll spend time away from work and shell out for packing supplies. Then you'll need money to fix up and furnish your new home. Abbott set aside $20,000 for moving, painting, and furnishing her new guest bedroom and dining room.

    Keep in mind you'll be in charge of long-term repairs. During your home inspection, ask the inspector to explain everything that will need to be replaced or repaired, and make sure you know the age of each major system in the house. That will form the basis of your to-do list for the coming decade. "The biggest mistake people make when they buy a home is not to consider the non-routine expenses," says Jason. "You're probably doing one major project a year."


    WAYS TO START SAVING TODAY

    It's a big task to save up 20 percent of the purchase price of a home. Consider these ways to make it easier.

    • Set up an automatic, recurring transfer from your checking account to a savings account. If you never see the money, you won't spend it.
    • Limit eating out and clothes shopping.
    • Switch from pay services to free ones, and save the difference. For instance, ditch the gym membership for running and biking trails. Cancel cable and instead watch free television online or borrow from the library.
    • Sell old clothes, books, music and belongings that you no longer use. Have a rummage sale or sell them online. As a bonus, you'll have less stuff to pack and move.
    • Negotiate better rates for services such as insurance, banking and your phone bill. You never know what you can get unless you ask!
    • Take a second job or start a side-business. If you tutor kids in the evenings or walk dogs, all that money can go into your house fund.
    • Live with your relatives—just for a while. Make sure it's limited, and invite them to your housewarming party when you move.

    This article is excerpted from USA TODAY Modern Woman magazine, which contains articles about lifestyle, health, relationships, money, home, travel and more. Find it on magazines newsstands or at modernwoman.usatoday.com.

     
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