Consumer Real Estate News

    • The Pros of Buying a Home Warranty

      20 February 2020

      For $600 or so a year, plus a service fee of around $75 every time you ask for repair, a home warranty can be an inexpensive way to have peace of mind as a new homeowner.

      Home warranties cover breakdowns in a home, from HVAC systems to appliances. A broken water heater can be repaired within hours, but if it can’t be fixed, a home warranty can pay for a new one to be installed.

      For homeowners with an older house, they may want more things covered than a newer home would need—such as older appliances—and will likely pay more for it. If you just bought new appliances and have a manufacturer’s warranty for a year or more, you won’t need this coverage. You may be able to exclude new appliances from a home warranty to cut down on costs.

      Things that can be covered by a home warranty include ductwork, electrical, plumbing, dishwashers, refrigerators, ovens, stoves, clothes washers and dryers, and water heaters.

      Things that are unlikely to be covered include expensive items such as septic tanks, wells, heating systems, pools, garage doors, windows and doors, sprinkler systems, pre-existing conditions, and walls. Coverage for such items may cost more. Roofs may also be exempt, though some home warranty companies sell plans to fix leaking roofs.

      Consider Cost
      A big factor in deciding if a home warranty is worth buying is cost. Basic coverage can start at about $300 and go up to $600 or more.

      Some home warranties charge for a service call, such as $75 or so, while others allow unlimited service calls. Contractors are screened and sent out by the company.

      To determine if a home warranty cost is worth it, start by learning how old your appliances and home systems are and if the original equipment manufacturer warranties still cover them. Find out what the expected lifespan of each item is to help you figure out if a home warranty is needed.

      Some home warranty companies require annual maintenance on appliances and home systems to keep the warranties valid. Some may ask how long you’ve had them. Don’t expect the home warranty company to pay for the annual maintenance of your appliances or home systems.

      Read the contract carefully to make sure that old appliances are covered in the home warranty. Some don’t cover old appliances, such as anything more than 10 years old.

      Any home, whether old, new or somewhere in between, will have things break sooner or later. Appliances and home systems only last so long. For $50 a month or so, a home warranty can provide peace of mind when things eventually fail.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • What to Expect from a Home Inspection

      20 February 2020

      A home inspection can make or break a transaction. Without it, you wouldn’t know if you’re buying a money pit or a home that will last a lifetime.

      Homebuyers are responsible for hiring a professional home inspector, who should uncover possible problems before they buy the home. An offer on a home is often conditional upon a successful inspection.

      The inspector should evaluate the physical structure and its critical internal systems. These include:

      • Electrical
      • Plumbing
      • Heating and cooling systems
      • Walls, ceiling and flooring
      • Windows and doors
      • Roof
      • Basement
      • Attic
      • Foundation
      • Insulation
      There are some things a home inspector may not uncover. These can include hidden problems like pests, mold, asbestos and flaws in areas below ground or that are inaccessible, such as wells and septic tanks. Additional inspections, such as for termites, may be needed for those areas. Some states require a pest inspector before a home loan can close. Even if it’s optional, a pest inspection is a good thing to add as a buyer.

      Try to be at the home during the inspection. Follow the inspector around the house and ask questions. You should be able to ask about potential issues and how to make repairs or take care of certain areas of the home.

      Don’t chat the inspector up too much. It could distract them from their work and they could miss something. If you can’t be there, meet with them later to go over the report.

      Remember that an inspection is only a snapshot of the time and day of the inspection. A home might perform differently in the winter than the summer.

      Home inspections are very detailed, so expect to see dozens of issues—many of them small—in the list of deficiencies. The severity of each problem should be listed, and some may even include cost estimates to fix each issue.

      If there are too many problems than you’re willing to handle that are found in a home inspection, you can back out of the sale or negotiate with the seller to make the repairs or lower the price.

      But not all infractions are equal. If you’re going to negotiate some repairs, focus on the red flag items such as the roof, foundation, HVAC systems or other expensive problems. Don’t worry about small details like a cracked electrical cover or small things that can be easily fixed with a trip to the hardware store.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Is a House or a Condo a Better Choice for You?

      20 February 2020

      When looking for a new place to live, the first thing you need to decide is what type of home you want. Many 

      people dream of owning a house, but others prefer to live in condominiums. Each has advantages and drawbacks.

      Pros and Cons of Owning a House
      One of the main advantages of living in a house is the amount of space. Houses come in a wide array of sizes to suit the needs of any family. They typically have yards where children and pets can play and the owners can host family and friends. With a house, the owners are free to renovate, paint and make other changes, subject to local laws and ordinances. Houses also offer more privacy than condos since neighbors are not as close.

      The primary downside of owning a house is that the owners are responsible for all repairs and maintenance. This can cost a lot in terms of both money and time. The burden can feel overwhelming if several things go wrong at once. Electricity bills are typically higher for houses than for condos because houses are larger.

      Advantages and Disadvantages of Condo Ownership
      Many people who like to live in urban areas opt for condos. They are often located near restaurants, entertainment venues and other attractions. Condos typically offer amenities such as pools and gyms that would be too expensive for many homeowners. Condo owners pay fees that cover maintenance and repairs for the building and grounds.

      Some people are reluctant to consider living in condos because they do not like having so many people nearby. Noisy and inconsiderate neighbors can be problematic. Another downside is the need to pay association fees for maintenance. The fees can change from year to year and can be a significant burden. Owners are also expected to abide by rules set by the association.

      Which Is Right for You?
      If you like the idea of having a lot of space to yourself or plan to expand your family, a house may be a better choice. A house is also a good idea if having your own yard is a priority.

      If, on the other hand, you dread the thought of spending your free time mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters and performing other tasks, you can avoid all of that by buying a condo. If you like the idea of having amenities located where you live instead of having to drive somewhere and pay a monthly membership fee, a condo could also be a good choice.

      If you are trying to decide whether a house or a condo is a better choice for you, think about your personality, lifestyle and preferences. Weigh the pros and cons of each type of housing and explore options in your area to see which is right for you.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Managing Credit Responsibly as a College Student

      19 February 2020

      Building good credit in college is one of the best financial moves students can make. Having good credit allows them to qualify for loans, rental applications, auto insurance, phone plans and can help them get a job.

      Being responsible with credit is the best way to establish and improve a credit score. For college students without much credit history, there are small but important steps they can take to build up their score.

      Obtaining a Student Credit Card
      Some credit cards are marketed to students and others who don’t have much borrowing history. Federal laws restrict issuing credit cards to anyone under 21 unless the applicant has the independent ability to repay debt or has an adult co-signer who accepts joint liability for the account.

      Student credit cards may have low credit limits, such as $1,000, but they are otherwise indistinguishable from other credit cards. They may even have features such as cash back, no annual fees and budget management tools.

      Using Credit Cards Wisely
      After getting a credit card, students can start using it slowly and for occasional, small purchases that can be paid for on time. This will help build credit history and help them stay out of debt.

      Students shouldn't let a new card sit in their wallet. They must use it or risk the bank closing it due to inactivity. Putting small, recurring charges on it, such as a Netflix account or other website subscription, is an easy way to maintain use at a low cost.

      Students shouldn't make any big purchases unless it’s an emergency. Having low debt levels on their credit card will allow them to have enough of a credit line available in an emergency, and will increase the credit utilization part of their credit score.

      Building Credit With Student Loans
      One of the last things college students want is to default on their student loans, as this affects credit.

      Borrowers should make at least the minimum payment each month and do it on time. They should borrow only what they need to go to school, instead of using the funds to buy a car or dine out. Once they graduate, they may want to consolidate their student loans to get a better interest rate.

      On-time payments and paying off student loans will improve the credit score over time. If students run into problems making payments, they should contact their student loan provider and ask for forbearance. Federal student loans also offer Income-Driven Repayment plans that base payments on a borrower’s income.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Title Insurance and Why You Need It

      19 February 2020

      Title insurance can be one of those things that someone says you need when you buy a home, but you don’t understand why.

      Without it, you could be left with a nagging question in the back of your mind: "Does the seller really own the property?" If the answer is no, it could be bad if you don’t have title insurance.

      Some people or companies other than the title owner may have rights to the property. For example, the property owner may have sold mineral, air or utility rights to someone else. Or a bank with a mortgage on the property may own an interest in it. The government can also have a lien on the property for unpaid taxes.

      What does title insurance do, exactly? Basically, it covers events related to the title that have already happened. It doesn’t cover future things that happen to the title after it has been issued.

      First, the title company or an attorney verifies that the seller owns the property and is free to sell it. The title search includes searching property records to make sure there haven’t been any clerical errors and that there aren’t any undisclosed heirs, spousal claims, omissions in deeds, unknown liens or fraud with the deed. If there are any errors, they’re fixed before the home purchase transaction is completed.

      Second, the title company contracts an underwriting company to issue an insurance policy, called title insurance. This protects you in court if anyone challenges you to the title of your home. If you lose any equity, you’ll be compensated.

      Two insurance policies will often have to be bought by the homeowner: one protecting them as the owner, and a lender’s policy protecting the lender. The lender requires the insurance because it is providing a loan with the property as security. A problem with the title affects the value of the lender’s security. Only the amount of the loan will be covered in the lender’s policy, and it will decrease as the homeowner pays back the loan.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.