When they say “it ain’t over ’til it’s over” they must not have been talking about credit scores. Keeping your score high is just as important after you buy a home as it was before you closed escrow, so don’t go on autopilot or revert back to old habits.
According to RealtyTimes’ Jaymi Naciri, while you may have met the goal of homeownership, keeping your scores up can benefit you in several ways. For one, you can get more credit cards, including those cards offered by stores with 0 percent financing for things like furniture, appliances and outdoor fixtures with no interest for several months. But watch out. Once your happy no-interest period expires, your rate can skyrocket if you don’t pay the entire balance. Still, if you just want to buy a little time until a few more paychecks or commission checks roll in, it’s not a bad way to go, using their money instead of your own for a short time.
Cards that offer miles, cash back, or some other perk aren’t offered to just anyone, but if your credit is good, they may be knocking down your door. “If you keep your credit score high enough to snag one, you’ll love being able to rack up miles to use for travel or apply a cash back bonus to everyday expenses to keep costs down,” says Naciri.
And here is something you may have forgotten: many employers run your credit as part of the hiring process. Let your credit drop, and it could keep you from getting a new job.
On top of all this, you never know what’s going to happen to interest rates. Good credit means that when rates drop you can jump in a heartbeat if you want to refinance, sell or buy another home.
Maybe you’ve gotten a new job or maybe you’re just looking to relocate and now you’re hitting the road to move to a brand new state. As if buying a home wasn’t complicated enough, now you have to try and do it all from miles and miles away and prepare yourself to enter brand new territory. It won’t be a quick or simple process, but there are things you can do to make sure it goes smoothly.
- Seek Professional Help. This isn’t a process you’re going to want to try and do by yourself. Relying on a trustworthy real estate agent to be your eyes and ears as well as your guide to where the market is and how it works. Unfortunately, you probably won’t be able to get referrals, so be sure to carefully review agent’s websites and reviews to help you choose who to partner with on your quest.
- Be Online and Be Available. Thanks to the internet, buying a house out of state has become much easier over the past few years, but only if it’s used well. Find websites that will provide a good sense of a home’s neighborhood as well as of the home itself. The internet can also allow your agent or the listing agent to do a live video walkthrough of the house, and possibly the neighborhood, with you if you won’t be able to go and actually see the house before moving day. Plus, if your agent will be working for you in this new state, you’ll need to be available to reach at all times just in case.
- Research Taxes and Real Estate Law. Unfortunately, most every financial and legal aspect of home buying varies by state, so it’s important that you do your research. Talk to a local accountant and real estate attorney in order to understand the local tax practices before you make an offer. This is one of those things that you can’t breeze through as it could get you in a good amount of trouble later on, so get referrals from your real estate agent and ask extensive questions until you understand what it is you’ll be living with.
- Schedule Inspections. It is always recommended that homebuyers order an inspection for their potential home, but it’s absolutely vital if you’re buying a home out of state. It’s important to know about any major issues with the home ahead of time so that you don’t find yourself stuck in a new state with a broken heat system and a painful amount of repair costs. Again, ask your real estate agent for a referral and see if you can interview a few before choosing someone to scope the place out.
- Stay Organized. There’s going to be a lot going on and you don’t want to overwhelm yourself as you work to put everything in motion. Write out a schedule for your moving process. Start at your moving date and work backwards adding all the little things you have to get done before that day. Include days to pack and paperwork deadlines and do your best to follow it. Lists can also be a very helpful tool to keep you organized. To-do lists, lists of moving supplies, and lists of things you need to buy once you get to your new home can all help to keep your head clear and eliminate some of the stress that comes with moving out of state.
- Prepare to Pack. With a long distance move, you probably won’t be able to move everything you own and you’ll probably have to minimize the amount of large items being transported. Decide what’s worth transporting and what you’d be ok to lose and hold a yard sale or try to sell some of your stuff online before moving to free up some moving space and make a little extra money. Make sure you have plenty of boxes to pack everything and that you reserve the moving company or rental van well in advance so that you don’t run into any issues.
Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, or HVAC, is extremely important to the comfort level of your home. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of false information out there about how to care for your HVAC system and the best ways to conserve energy. Here are some of the most common myths you’ll find about your HVAC system, and the truths that will keep you comfortable in any weather.
- Closing the Vents in Empty Rooms will Save Energy. This one sounds like it makes a lot of sense, but unfortunately it doesn’t work. Closing vents has the potential to increase air pressure in the air ducts which can cause leaks at their seams.
- The Location of the Thermostat Doesn’t Affect Heating or Cooling. If you put your thermostat too close to vents, radiators, or windows, it may cause the system to continuously shut down before it’s supposed to or leave it running for too long.
- You Should Cover Your Outdoor Unit During Winter. If it’s expected to snow, you should place a board over your system’s fan, but otherwise it’s best to keep the area clear. Covering a unit can trap moisture and speed up corrosion. Also, try to keep it clear of surrounding plants as they can hinder air flow. Keep plants at least 3 to 5 feet away, but see if you can’t keep your unit in the shade as it will then use approximately 10% less energy.
- You Only Have to Change Your Filter Once a Year. Though that would be nice, it is recommended that you change your filter every six months, and even more often if it’s in constant use, subjected to dusty conditions, or you have pets that shed. Dirty filters can block airflow and reduce your system’s efficiency, but changing the filter routinely can lower your HVAC energy consumption by 5 to 15%.
- Turning Your System Off When You Leave is a Waste of Energy. Many people believe that turning your AC up or you heat down a bit saves more energy than turning the whole thing off when you leave. In reality, it is always more beneficial to switch off your system when it’s not being used. Programmable thermostats are worth the investment as you can set them to automatically turn off at your usual time of departure in case you forget.
Of course, your HVAC maintenance is only one part of the efficiency equation. An energy-efficient unit cannot reduce your electric bill alone. Work to keep up regular home maintenance like replacing window seals, loose siding, or poor insulation.
It’s that time of year when it warms up to the point of inspiring you to finally go out to your backyard and ready it for outdoor entertaining. Got a small space? There are always things you can do to turn your outdoor space into a haven for dinner guests.
The first and most important element of getting the space ready is to arrange your outdoor furniture to maximize space. That means placing it around the perimeter of the deck or patio even if you’re used to having it in the middle. Even the table that will hold the buffet should be placed somewhere other than the center, so it gives your guests plenty of room to stand or move around.
Large floor pillows are great for outdoor entertaining, especially when you have limited outdoor seating. Find a few extra spots for guests to sit without taking up too much space (including the grass if it is part of your entertainment area) to add an extra element of coziness.
Now for decor. Experts say to use color wisely in a small space. Stay monochromatic (grays, whites, tans) for the big stuff (furniture cushions) while adding pops of color with pillows, pots, or an outdoor area rug in eye-catching colors and patterns.
Potted or hanging plants can be a focal point, even if there is plenty of foliage on hand. But experts say to place it strategically in your entertaining area to liven things up and make your modest space feel like an exotic retreat.
And don’t forget to put light on the subject! Strings of bistro lights instantly open up a small space and offer a warm glow for a cozier vibe. Covered candles add a nice touch as well. Even those cute little battery-powered mini-lights curled up inside a lantern can add a magical touch.
Now you're good to go! You have an entire summer and fall to look forward to as the weather turns entertainment-friendly. You can use even that modestly-sized back yard as a comfy retreat for both you and your guests. Oh. And don’t forget the food.
It’s no secret that the home buying process is an emotional one, with more ups and downs than an office elevator on a Monday morning. It helps to know what you’re getting into and have the knowledge that will help you combat the confusion and successfully make it through to a new home. Here are our 5 top tips for homebuying.
- Plan Ahead. It’s important that you get all of your ducks in a row before you dive into the process. List out all of your needs and wants for a new home and plan what it’s going to take for you to get there. Interview and hire a real estate agent and lender, work on getting pre-approved, create a budget, and then work on scheduling when you’ll be able to visit houses. Staying organized and on top of the process early on will help you from getting tangled up in everything later.
- Consider Your Safety. Researching a neighborhood before you chose to move is always important, but even more so if you’re concerned about your safety. Look up the area’s crime rate, talk to the police and the people who live in the area if you have questions, and drive around the area in the evening to see what the activity levels and street lighting are like.
- Don’t Waste Time. If you’ve found a good real estate agent, chances are they won’t be sending you to random open houses and will instead be weeding through listings to find houses that suit your needs. Take your agent’s advice and try not get hung up on little things that could distract you from what it is you’re really looking for. At the same time, don’t try to rush the process. This is a big decision and it should not be taken lightly.
- Prepare Your Pennies. You’ve talked to your mortgage lender about your budget and your down payment, but there are other closing costs you need to make sure you’re aware of. You’ll be required to pay inspection fees, taxes, and insurance fees at closing so make sure you plan ahead. Also talk to your lender about your monthly mortgage payments as more goes into that than just the principle mortgage payment. Make sure you’re aware that your monthly payment will also include interest, taxes, and insurance.
- Work With People You Can Trust. Ask advice from the people you know at any point in the process. Look to your friends and family for professional recommendations to help you find your real estate agent and your lender, but also do your own research. Read reviews and talk with various professionals to find someone that you think you’ll easily be able to work with and who will make the home buying process a painless and understandable one.