What Affects Your Home Insurance?

Research suggests that about 1 in 20 homeowners will make an insurance claim each year. So while it may seem that your monthly home insurance expenses aren’t worthwhile, the chances of needing your insurance are higher than you might think.

There’s are countless factors that influence your insurance rates, so here are few examples—some you’ve probably considered, and some that might be surprising.

Location: Some areas are simply naturally more prone to damage than others. Potential for weather and natural disaster-related damage will factor into your insurance, as will crime rates and fire protection.

Home value: This may seem like a no-brainer at first glance, but there are some extra considerations. The value of your home and the cost to replace your home from a total loss may not be the same—it can often cost more to rebuild.

Pets: Just like certain HOAs and neighborhoods forbid specific dog breeds, your insurance company may also increase your premiums for a specific breed. Breeds with reputations for being aggressive (fair or not) like pit bulls, German Shepherds, and rottweilers can cost you more.

Trampolines and swimming pools: All that fun comes at a price! Insurance companies see trampolines and pools as big risks for injury and even death, and that’ll affect your insurance rates.

Thinking About Buying Soon? Make Sure Your Credit Is In Order

There’s no more important time to work on your credit score than when you’re about to apply for a mortgage. Improving your credit can save you a ton of money—we’re talking about thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. Here are the actions you can take that will have a notable impact on your score.

Pay Down Your Credit Card Balances

Credit utilization is one of the biggest factors in determining your credit score. Your credit utilization should at least be less than 30 percent of your limit, and it’s even better if you can get it below 15 percent. This rule applies to both individual cards and your overall credit limit.

It may even be worthwhile to use some of the cash funds you were planning to use for a down payment to pay off credit card balances.

Do No Harm

While you certainly want to improve your score if possible, at the very least you’ll want to keep it steady. Avoid opening new lines of credit if you’re applying for a mortgage in the very near future. This will cause a hard inquiry to show up on your credit report.

Take Care Of Negative Items

It’s good practice to check your credit report for negative items a few times a year—you can get one free report from each of the three major bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) per year.

If you find any negative items (collections, late payments, etc.), write a letter to the original creditor. Explain the circumstances that led to the negative item, and request that it be removed from your report. It can be surprisingly effective, and removing a negative item will improve your credit score in a hurry. You can find some good templates for a request letter online.

Things You Should Not Throw in the Trash

Most of us fall into the habit of disposing of all of our household items when they’ve broken, expired, or simply are no longer useful. But for environmental and safety reasons, here are some items that need to be disposed of with care:

OLD BATTERIES

Batteries contain chemicals like alkaline, zinc, cadmium, and nickel. These chemicals can be hazardous if a battery deteriorates, so take your old batteries to a hazardous waste center.

CFL LIGHTBULBS

CFL bulbs (Compact Fluorescent Lamp) are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs, but they require different care once they burn out, because they contain mercury. Take them to a waste center.

PAINT

Water-based paint is OK to be thrown in the trash. But oil-based paints can be hazardous. You could take them to a hazardous waste center, or you could donate the paint—community centers and non-profit organizations are a good start.

ELECTRONICS

Replacing your computer, or just getting rid of old junk? Instead of throwing your old electronics straight in the dumpster, take them to an e-waste center, or consider donating if the items are still useful.

SMOKE DETECTORS

Make sure to replace them every 10 years. Ionization smoke detectors actually emit a small amount of radiation, so you should mail them back to the manufacturer.

5 Hot Home Trends

When selling a home, it is incredibly important to consider who you are selling to and what they are looking for. Fixr recently surveyed influencers in the industry to discover who’s in the market to buy and what home features are most attractive to them. Here’s what they found!

Open Floor Plans

Those surveyed believe that Generation X and Millennials will make up a large majority of buyers this year. They will look for an open floor concept, allowing them to maximize on space, choose from a variety of furniture layouts and decoration, and more easily entertain guests.

Smart Home Features

New technologies for automating your home are popping up every single day. From sprinklers to lights to door locks, smart devices are of great interest to home buyers.

Solar Energy

Finding ways to lower monthly bills is a big goal for many home buyers. A home equipped with solar panels not only achieves this but allows home buyers to introduce renewable energy into their home.

Tiny Homes

Many home buyers are looking to jump on the tiny house trend, particularly those who are minimalists or are first-time home buyers.

Voice Control Features

In line with the desire for home automation, those surveyed believe that the addition of voice-controlled devices in the home are a huge selling point. Although investing in improvements and additions that follow these trends may have upfront costs, the payoff will be worth it. Take them into account as you prepare to sell you home and use them to stage your home more effectively and ultimately help you make the sale.

5 Simple Steps For A Better Home Appraisal

If you’re looking to refinance your home or possibly sell, you’ll need an amazing appraisal. A bank will not refinance a home for more than it is worth, and a potential buyer will not pay more than the recognized value of the home.

Here are 5 simple steps for a better home appraisal.

TIDY YOUR SPACE
Make sure your yard looks well-groomed and the interior of your home is clean clutter-free. It is well worth the investment to have the home professionally cleaned and have your yard serviced.

INVEST IN THE RIGHT TYPES OF RENOVATIONS
Kitchens and bathrooms are the best types of renovations. They will typically provide 80% ROI. High-efficiency appliances and upgrades that improve the overall efficiency of the home are well worth the investment.

DOCUMENT YOUR UPGRADES
Provide the appraiser with a list and documentation of all upgrades, renovations, and improvements to the home.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Research and provide your own comparable valuations for similar properties in the area. Note your tone. You don’t want to come off as defensive but rather helpful.

BE AVAILABLE BUT NOT IN THE WAY
Be present to assist with the process but don’t be the appraiser’s shadow. You want to appear helpful, not nervous that he’ll find something wrong!

Appraisals can be helpful in increasing the sale of your home or assisting in refinancing your mortgage. Use these tips and you’ll get a better value for your home.

Prep Your Budget For Buying A Home

Choosing to enter the home buying process is likely the largest financial decision you will make in your lifetime, so it is not one that should be taken lightly. Ensuring that your other current and upcoming financial responsibilities are under control is crucial to having a smooth transaction and being able to enjoy your investment fully. These tips will help you prepare your budget for purchasing your dream home.

Calculate your monthly income. How much money is coming in every month? This is the amount that is left after taxes, health insurance, and retirement savings are taken out of your monthly salary.

Understand your current expenses. Make a list of all your current recurring expenses month to month. Don’t forget to factor in things like loan payments, gym memberships, car maintenance, groceries, self-care appointments, etc.

Determine where you can find savings. Are there any ongoing memberships or subscriptions you don’t use that can be canceled? Can you cut out your daily coffee or eating out lunch? Make these adjustments right away to start saving more.

Boost your financial standing. Before buying a home, it is recommended that you dedicate extra effort to paying off other debts and boosting your credit score. Taking these steps will help you during the loan approval process.

Don’t move finances around. Your lender will review your bank statements during the pre-approval process and then again during underwriting. Any large withdrawals or deposits may throw a red flag so try to avoid these when possible. If you can’t, make sure you have proper documentation to explain the movement of money.

Top Tips For Decorating With Area Rugs

Looking for a fun way to bring an additional pop of color or design to a room with minimal time or money investment? Consider trying out an amazing area rug! Check out these tips for revamping your space with this fun decor piece.

Consider your lifestyle. Do you have two dogs and a cat? A couple of young kiddos running around? You’ll want to take these factors into consideration. Choose a dark color tone to help hid inevitable stains and make sure the material you choose is easy to clean.

Choose the right size. Expert interior designers recommend choosing a rug that is just slightly smaller than the area covered by furniture, leaving enough space between it and the walls for the flooring to still shine through.

Try these trends. Big bold patterns and rich colors are trending in the interior design space right now and rugs are no different. Try using one as the focal point of the room and select neutral-colored furniture to complement it. Build around the rug. Find a rug that makes a big statement and then builds the room around it. Select furniture placement, accent pieces, and colors based on what ties into it. Define the area.

Looking for a way to create two different areas within a single room? Rugs can help you achieve this by defining where one area begins and other starts, such as a reading nook and dining area. Layer multiple. This daring new trend has just popped up on the interior design circuit. Choose two rugs of different shapes and textures and layer them to create depth and a unique focal point.

4 Things You Need To Know About Making An Offer

You’ve narrowed down your wish list, viewed many homes, and finally found your perfect fit. Time to take the leap and make an offer! This can be both incredibly intimidating and exponentially exciting. So how can you throw your hat into the ring with confidence? Here’s what you need to know to make an offer like a boss!

1. Determine Your Price Limit

Work with your agent to determine if the seller’s listing price is fair based on similar home sales in the area, interest in the home, time on the market, and more. Then, figure out the max offer price you are willing to reach that isn’t too financially taxing and settle on what your starting offer price will be.

2. Add Contingencies

Any home sale generally comes with a set of contingencies that must be met before it can be completed. These can include inspections, repairs, appraisals, and more. These need to be selected carefully, as an offer with too many may be less appealing to the seller.

3. Set Your Settlement Date

When you submit an offer, you must present a date to settle, generally about 60 days after the purchase agreement is signed. You want to give yourself enough time to meet your end of the contingencies, secure mortgage approval, finalize loan details, and more. If you are the responsible party for a delay, you may have to compensate the seller.

4. Prepare For A Counteroffer

You may be going up against other offers or the seller may negotiate, so it’s best to prepare ahead of time for a counteroffer. But this isn’t anything to stress about. Talk through the best strategies with your real estate agent.

What You Should Know About Using Home Equity

One of the huge benefits of owning property is the home equity you can build. But with equity comes the temptation to dip into it if a large expense or possible investment arises. There are many strategic ways to use your equity without ruining any personal financial advances you have made. The most crucial step you need to take is to fully understand your options for tapping into that money and the associated risks.

Simply put, your home equity is the market value of your home relative to any loan balances remaining. There are two main ways to utilize this value. Getting a home equity loan provides you with a lump sum of money that you pay off in monthly installments, generally over five to 15 years. As with any loan, you will be required to pay interest on the amount, but it is usually a fixed rate. Choosing to use a line of credit instead offers similar benefits, but instead of receiving the money up front, you are given a pool you can draw from as needed. With this option, the lender provides a maximum borrowing limit and you can choose to use it or not until it is reached.

Before dipping into your home equity in, either way, it is important to understand the possible consequences. In both instances, your home is used as loan collateral. This means if you are unable to make payments on the loan for any reason, the lender can sell your property or take your home in foreclosure. Additionally, there will likely be closing costs and fees you have to pay in association with the loan.

Hidden Fees To Be Aware Of When Purchasing A Home

Purchasing a home is arguably one of the biggest financial decisions you will make in your lifetime. As you start your hunt, don’t forget there will be other costs associated with your purchase then the price of the home. Here are 5 fees to keep in mind as you begin to budget.

HOME INSPECTION

This is a crucial step in the home buying process. The findings that come from the inspection can help you negotiate price and repairs. Generally, you can expect to pay between $300 to $500 depending on the home and the location.

TITLE SERVICES

Title services encompass the transfer of the title from the seller and a thorough search of the property’s records to ensure to no one will pop up with a claim to the property. Additionally, you may need to buy title insurance which will protect the lender or your investment in the home.

APPRAISAL FEE

Before getting a loan, you will likely be required to get an appraisal of the home to determine its estimated value. This will be conducted by a third-party company and the cost can land anywhere between $300 and $1,000, depending on the size of the home.

HOA FEES

Many communities have a homeowners’ association that enforces monthly fees. This money is used for general maintenance and updates to areas like pools, parks, and more. Typical HOA fees are around $200 per month.

TAXES

The taxes each buyer pays at the closing table differ, but it is not uncommon for it to be up to two months’ worth of county and city property taxes. Additionally, there may be taxes for the transfer of the home title.