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When you moved in 20 years ago it was new. It was gleaming. Its glass shelves reflected the excitement with which you chose it among the dozens of models on the floor of the appliance store. But now it's sweating and leaking. It's cycling on and off, letting you know that it's badly in need of repair or, worse, should be replaced.

With a major appliance like this, whether you repair or replace it is a matter of dollars and cents — or perhaps sense. If it costs you half the original price of the unit to fix it then it might be time to say goodbye, replacing it with a new, more efficient model, according to Consumer Reports, whose web site offers repair-or-replace timelines for appliances.

No one will tell you this when you buy one, but Consumer Reports also says that a side-by-side refrigerator with an ice maker is more than twice as repair-prone as top-or bottom-freezer models without an ice maker. They cite a report in which more than 27,000 subscribers reported the issues they had with more than 53,00 broken appliances, electronics, lawn equipment, and more. Ice makers seem to be the culprit, with the repair rate at 36 percent for side-by-sides and 28 percent for top-bottom models. Bottom freezers without an ice maker? 15 percent.

But what about the expensive built-in you had installed that fits seamlessly into your kitchen and looks as if it's part of the cabinetry? The report admits they are worth repairing. Forbes writer Stacy Freed talks about how her Sub-Zero gave out and she called the "Appliance Whisperer" to diagnose the problem. He placed his tool bag on the floor and opened the unit, finding the original product information seal. He asked Freed if she knew how old the unit was. She admitted that all she knew was the brand name and that it was in place when she bought the house 5 years earlier. Oh. And that it matched her cabinetry. He pointed to a small sticker on the inside of the freezer. It read, "NOV86."

According to Sears Home Services, a typical refrigerator has a life span of 10 to 13 years. But Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove (according to their representatives) say their products should last at least 20 years, with some still in existence at 50 years old. You can extend the life of a refrigerator by keeping it clean to reduce the chances of accumulating bacteria, make sure there is proper ventilation around the outside and the inside (built-ins have vents), and don't overcrowd it.

Today's models use less energy than older refrigerators and, since they're on all the time, a new one can save you money in the long run. Look for tears, gaps or air leaks in the door gaskets; change your water filter and clean the dust off the condenser coils a couple of times a year. Signs the big guy has got to go include the need for constant repairs, excessive condensation, the motor is running hot, it’s loud, and its energy efficiency is making your monthly utility bills higher than they should be. Refrigerators are one of the highest energy-consuming appliances in your home.

You can find out just how inefficient your unit is with the EPA's handy-dandy calculator, which can be programmed with the type of fridge you have (side by side, French door, model year, capacity, and your own state's electricity price per kilowatt. The calculation lets you know approximately how much you spend annually on electricity for your fridge and how much you will save in dollars and carbon pollution over five years. In Freed's case she was paying $881 for a unit that was putting out 2,510 pounds of carbon pollution over five years.

A lot of repairs can still be made on all brands of refrigerators, but it comes down to cost. Most people will repair a fridge it's $300 or less—and that could cover fans, motors, some electrical devices. But if it's a problem with a sealed system like Freed's, you might be looking at a repair that's half the cost of a new fridge.

She considered that in 1986 her Sub-Zero had cost the original owner of her home $3,000 — a lot of money back then. To buy a similar-style Sub-Zero replacement now, she was looking at something north of $10,000. So, in the end, she had her repairman clean the coils and install a new compressor. It took a few hours of labor and $900 later, her older, high-end fridge was fixed. Fortunately, Sub-Zero keeps parts on hand for 15 to 20 years — a good, long time, but it's also a reason to stock up on a few parts and be ahead of the game.

Source: Consumer Reports, Forbes, TBWS


General

When you bought the place, it was a blissful move up to a larger home, where all your kids had their own rooms, and there was no fighting over who got the bathroom.

But what about the newly vacant nest? Just when you got the house paid off you discovered missing your kids (or celebrating their newfound independence) left you with a lot of rooms that have no real purpose anymore. Here are some ideas for feathering your now empty nest for the next stage in your life:

  • Home gyms are among the most popular ways to use extra space. Your 10-second commute to this new room will find you canceling gym memberships and saving money in the long run. If you have some workout machines at home, transform your spare room into a gym. Even if you just buy some weights, a yoga mat, and other inexpensive equipment, you can turn your unused room into something useful.
  • A playroom can come in handy if you have entered "grandparentville." No need to trip over toys or mess up the well-kept living room. Paint the walls with chalkboard paint so they can write on the walls, store all of their toys in the room, and allow them to play. They'll love a space of their own, and you'll love not having a mess all over the house.
  • What about a place just to chill all on your own? Sound pretty good to escape the craziness of the day and creating a contemplation room. Decorate it in colors that are easy on the eye — whites, and beiges — with comfortable furniture, throw pillows, and blankets. All designed to clear your head, meditate, and relax.
  • Just because you're no Harry Potter doesn't mean you shouldn't have your own library. For the bookworm in you, install bookshelves to the ceiling, add comfortable, sophisticated places to sit, and throw in cozy area rugs to make a comfy and inviting space. Ah — your favorite book, a cup of tea, and candles.
  • What about that home theater you always wanted? Just because the room isn't huge doesn't mean you can't plant a few recliners in it, shove them against a far wall, and put up a big screen. You may even want to invest in a theater-style popcorn popper.

Source: TBWS


Informational

Like with most things in life, there are a lot of little things that can go wrong when purchasing a new home. These issues come in all shapes and sizes and can severely delay or even cancel it all together. Fortunately, knowledge is power, and being aware of what could go wrong can help you to prevent it from happening. Here are the five most common problems that pop up during or just before closing that can really interfere with your home buying process.

  • Document Errors: It may be something as minor as a typo or as major as a missing document, but either way, document errors can really slow the process down. To help prevent this, it’s helpful to read through all of your paperwork carefully and as soon as you can. It’s also vital that you get every document your lender asks for to them in a reasonable amount of time. This can take a lot of the stress out later and can help keep everything moving right on track.
  • Contract Confusion: It is important that you read and discuss your contract so that there are no questions left about what’s staying and what’s going. Any disputes at all should be put in the contract and acted upon for things to continue going smoothly and for the house to close on time. If a miscommunication arises about properties being sold with the house, the whole thing could end up down the drain.
  • Oops, Never Mind: Unfortunately, it is very common for buyers to change their mind last minute about buying a house, but there have also been times where the seller has simply decided not to sell. Whichever end of the sale you’re on, it’s important that you’re 100% sure especially once you’ve made it so far in the process.
  • Inspection Issues: It is recommended that every buyer order an inspection for a house once they’ve gotten really serious about it, but sometimes these inspections can uncover issues that can completely ruin a deal. Things like structural damage, outdated electrical wiring, or plumbing problems are major red flags for many buyers. It’s smart for sellers to hire a pre-inspection once they decide to put their house on the market so that if these major issues come up, they can be repaired well before they end up as a problem for potential buyers.
  • Change in Buyer Situation: Sometimes people make mistakes during closing, or for some reason their financial situation changes and they no longer qualify for their loan due to change in debt-to-income ratio or credit score. It’s important to pay attention to your spending, your bank statements, and to every one of your bills when buying a house so that none of your information is affected. Even good changes can negatively affect your loan qualifications, so postpone things if you can and try to keep all of your finances as constant and stable as possible until everything has fallen perfectly into place.

Informational

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.

Source: TBWS


Informational

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.

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