Consumer Real Estate News

    • Can You Qualify for a Mortgage While You're a Student?

      14 April 2021

      If you’re attending college or graduate school and you’re thinking about buying a house, you may be able to get a mortgage. You will have to clear the same hurdles as other applicants, but you may face additional challenges if you’re not working full-time.

      Should You Buy a House While Attending School?
      Homeownership is expensive, even for people with full-time jobs. If you’re only working part-time or not working at all, making ends meet will be tougher, unless you have a spouse or partner who earns enough to cover most of the bills or you receive money from your family.

      Housing prices vary widely from region to region. Costs for university housing also vary from one educational institution to another. If you can purchase an inexpensive property or buy a house and rent out bedrooms to cover most of the mortgage, you may spend less in the long run than you would spend on campus housing. 

      Look at your current monthly expenses and estimate how much a mortgage, private mortgage insurance, homeowners insurance, property taxes, maintenance and repairs would cost. Figure out if you could afford to cover all those costs, either on your own or with help from renters.

      Consider how long you would live in the house. If you expect to complete your degree and then move away, buying a house may not make sense financially. If you plan to put down roots in the area and stay there long after graduation, or if you’re thinking of a house as an investment, buying a property now may pay off.

      How Can You Qualify for a Home Loan?
      A mortgage lender will look at your income, credit score, debt-to-income ratio and other factors that it uses to assess all applications. A lender may be wary if you have little or no income, but it may be willing to approve your application if you get a cosigner. 

      If you have student loans that you aren’t currently repaying, a lender may exclude them when it calculates your debt-to-income ratio. If you’re making loan payments now, that may or may not make it harder to qualify for a mortgage, depending on your monthly payment amount and debt-to-income ratio. Making payments on time can help you build a good credit score.

      The amount of money you can put down will be important. Some lenders will require a substantial down payment, while others will have less stringent requirements. 

      Your age and where you want to buy a house may be relevant. In some states, you will be able to take out a mortgage at age 18, while in other places, the minimum age is 21.

      You may be eligible for a federal program that can help you buy a house. The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Housing Administration offer loan programs that have low down payment requirements and some that are specifically designed for first-time homebuyers.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Why Fixing the Floors Is So Important When Selling a House

      14 April 2021

      Potential buyers are strongly influenced by first impressions. If people form a negative initial impression of your home, it may be impossible to change their minds. They may immediately decide that the house isn’t right for them and may not even bother to look further. Flooring is one of the first things that prospective buyers will notice, so be sure that the flooring in your house creates the impression you want.

      Why Damaged Flooring Can Make It Hard to Sell Your House
      Potential buyers will instantly notice scratched hardwood floors or tile, stained or dirty carpet, damaged or stained linoleum, and pet odors. If the flooring looks or smells bad, it can be difficult for people to get past that and focus on the house’s positive qualities. No matter how much time and money you spend on cleaning, repairing, and staging in other parts of your home, buyers may not care about any of it if the flooring is in bad shape.

      When people view a house, they often make assumptions. If the flooring is damaged, prospective buyers may assume, rightly or wrongly, that you neglected maintenance in other areas. They may worry that the house has serious problems that are less obvious, and they may decide to look elsewhere for their next home.

      Buyers typically want a house they can move into as soon as possible. Many don’t want to go through the stress of making repairs before they move in. Even if you offer to lower the price to offset the cost of repairing or replacing the flooring, buyers may decide that it’s not worth the hassle.

      If other houses in the area that are similar to yours have hardwood flooring, but yours doesn’t, you will be at a disadvantage. Prospective buyers may choose a house with better flooring or they may only be willing to purchase yours if you accept an offer below the asking price. 

      How to Upgrade Your Home’s Flooring
      If your hardwood flooring is damaged, refinishing may be enough to make it look like new. Just don’t try to do it yourself. Refinishing hardwood floors is a job that should be left to professionals, since mistakes can cause more serious damage and can lead to much more expensive repair bills.

      Worn-out or dated carpet should be replaced. Choose new carpet in a neutral color or consider installing hardwood flooring if you can afford it. You may not like the idea of spending thousands of dollars on new flooring that you won’t get to enjoy, but it can pay off. New flooring can make it easier to sell your home and you will likely recoup most of your investment.

      Talk to Your Agent
      Your real estate agent can discuss the features that comparable homes in the area have and how your house compares. Your agent can advise you on whether you should fix or replace the flooring to help attract a buyer and sell your house for the highest possible price.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 7 Steps to Save Money on a Remodel

      14 April 2021

      (Family Features) Every homeowner has a defined budget he or she can allocate toward a remodeling project. Even if funds were unlimited, it’s still in a homeowner’s best interest to secure the best value for each dollar invested in a remodeling project, ultimately increasing the value of the home.

      Consider these tips from the experts at the National Association for the Remodeling Industry to help save money on your next project.

      1.  Determine how far your budget will go.
      Create a wish list of everything you want to accomplish. Disregard cost and simply write down everything you can dream of. Prioritize items from “must haves” to “nice but not necessary.” Find a contractor who will work with you to determine whether your wish list is attainable for the funds you are willing to invest in your home.

      2.  Decide how to handle budget overages.
      If you can’t get far enough down the list with the available money, you could choose to stop the process and continue saving, investigate financing options, re-evaluate your wish list or consider material substitutions. 

      3.  Make material selections you can afford.
      Every project will have a set of required materials, but there are options when it comes to variety, style and quality.

      • Cabinets: Subtle changes like forgoing custom rustic cherry cabinets with plywood cabinet sides for regular cherry cabinets with furniture board sides can achieve the same look at a lower cost. 
      • Countertops: Natural stone and quartz countertops are popular, but advances in the design options for lower-cost countertop materials have rejuvenated their popularity, too. With the proper usage and protection, nearly all countertop materials can support your everyday needs. 
      • Millwork: Painted millwork has dominated the market for many years and solid maple is the preferred choice because the tight grain allows for a beautiful, smooth surface. However, the cost is multiple times that of vinyl and equally appealing when finished properly.  
      • Flooring: Advances in synthetic materials make them difficult to distinguish from natural products. Synthetics generally come with lower cost and more durability, making them a simple substitute for natural products like stone, wood, brick and marble.
      4.  Pay attention to project details.
      It’s critical to ensure every detail of labor and material is specified in the agreement with the remodeler. If it’s not included in the written agreement, it’s likely not included in the work scope. Ask your remodeler what labor and materials are not included and determine what additional expenses you’ll likely incur to complete the project.  

      5.  Ask how you can help reduce costs.
      Talk to your contractor about tasks or materials you can provide that would reduce the project cost without affecting its schedule. This might include jobsite clean-up or obtaining certain materials the contractor would otherwise spend considerable time securing.

      6.  Plan ahead for project timing.
      Ask for a potential timeframe for completing the project, as well as any factors that could affect the schedule so you can anticipate costs such as eating out more often while the kitchen is being renovated or renting living or storage space. 

      7.  Know how you’ll resolve disputes.
      Because of the unique stresses induced by remodeling projects, it’s a good idea to determine before you begin how disputes will be resolved, such as adding an arbitration clause to the agreement that eliminates expensive legal representation. A few deep breaths and a solution-minded approach can also save more than money if conflict arises.

      Find more money-saving advice for your next remodeling project at remodelingdoneright.com.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Redesign Your Dining Room

      13 April 2021

      If you’re unhappy with the current layout and furnishings in your dining room, or if you would just like to switch things up, you have many options. Think about how you typically use the room, any problems you have encountered with its design, and ways to make it more functional and attractive.

      How Do You Use the Dining Room?
      Some families think of the dining room as a place to host formal gatherings and want its design to reflect that purpose. Others use the dining room on a regular basis for ordinary family meals and want a space that is functional and that has a relaxed atmosphere. 

      If you use the dining room for daily family dinners, choose a table that’s large enough for your immediate family and guests. If you use the room only for holiday gatherings and other special events, a long table that can accommodate a large group may be the best choice. If you would prefer to seat guests in smaller groups to promote more intimate conversations, two or more smaller tables can make that possible.

      If the dining room is typically used for formal occasions, you may want to include a cabinet to store dishes and silverware. A table to place food and beverages can help you minimize trips back and forth to the kitchen.

      Where Do You Want People to Focus Their Attention?
      If you have a beautiful table, you may want that to be the first thing that guests notice when they enter the dining room. You may prefer to have their eyes drawn instead to a painting, a light fixture, a rug, a fireplace or patterned wallpaper. Figure out what you want the dining room’s focal point to be and base its design around that. 

      Choose furnishings and decorative pieces that reflect your personality. Look for objects that are unique or that have a personal story behind them so they can help you and your guests break the ice.

      Your dining room should reflect who you are and how you want your guests to feel. Don’t be afraid to experiment with custom pieces, mismatched furniture and less traditional colors, patterns and textures. Select light fixtures that will provide adequate illumination, capture people’s attention and add a sense of style to the dining room.

      Get Help From an Interior Designer
      If you’re feeling overwhelmed and struggling to make decisions, a professional can help. An interior designer can listen to your goals, present a wide range of options that you may or may not have considered and help you choose pieces that will give you the dining room you want without breaking your budget.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Kid-Friendly Ways to Learn About World History

      13 April 2021

      (Family Features) Building an appreciation for history is one way to help kids understand and connect with the world around them. History not only shows how people lived long ago, but it also gives clues about how society evolved into what it is today.

      From playing games and visiting museums to exploring cultural heritage sites virtually, there’s no shortage of ways to engage kids in fun history lessons.

      Historical Literature
      From traditional bound books to digital formats, there’s a practically endless list of titles dedicated to historical people, places and events. If your child has an interest in a particular topic, consider starting with an age-appropriate non-fiction book that gives a high-level perspective of the topic. Then delve deeper by looking into biographies about the people involved and even related fictional tales to build knowledge and a broader perspective.

      Movies or Theater
      Like books, there are hundreds of options for historically themed movies and theatrical productions. All you need to do is pick a topic or era. It can also be fun to look at how different movies depict the same historical topic at different points in time. Watching different genres can help give a fuller picture of an event or topic. Informative documentaries and entertaining historical dramas are also options for looking into the past.

      Virtual Tours
      Another way to look at history is through visiting historical destinations with cultural significance. Travel isn’t always practical, but you can go nearly anywhere in the world with a virtual tour where you can move around sites and monuments to see the details up close. An option like Flyover Zone’s app-based tours even take you a step beyond seeing the monuments as they look today. You can see ruins as they are today and beautiful virtual reconstructions of how they originally looked. 

      One example is “Baalbek Reborn,” a tour of Baalbek, a World Heritage Site in Lebanon, that dates back thousands of years. With this free virtual tour, you can explore the ancient city of Heliopolis, meaning “City of the Sun,” in Roman times. Experts from the German Archaeological Institute who explored the site guide you through the tour and show you treasures that have been compared to some of Rome’s most impressive landmarks.

      Online Classes
      Numerous organizations offer online classes that let you learn about a wide range of historical subjects. Some may offer credit toward a diploma or college degree, but many are simply for the joy of learning. Check with your local library and search the internet for options. Many classes are offered for free and, in most cases, available to do at your own pace in spare time.

      Cultural Events
      Events that celebrate cultural heritage provide a unique look at history and the way it influences modern times. These celebrations often include a well-rounded sampling of everything from traditions to culinary and artistic styles. You can find lectures, demonstrations, performances, sampling and more as you explore the diverse aspects of almost any chosen culture.

      Historical Games
      Play is an important way kids learn, and historical games can provide insight to the past. While some are more historically accurate than others, games set in a historic time period can provide insight about the scenery, lifestyle and customs of the era. Historic video and board games can even pique an interest in learning more about history through other methods.

      Museum Exploration
      Collections of actual artifacts (or replicas) in museums can bring history to life in a tangible way. Especially for younger children, understanding historical details can be difficult. However, seeing museum displays about the kinds of homes or dishes or utensils a historic family used lets kids connect a visual reference with stories they’ve heard, lending a greater sense of reality.

      Find more opportunities to immerse your family in history at flyoverzone.org.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.