Take the shower of your dreams

You must admit, there’s nothing like a nice, hot shower at the end of a very long day. Standing under steamy water, you can almost feel the stress melt away.

It doesn’t take much to kill the shower vibe. Weak water flow, a backing-up drain or moldy tiles can all make that end-of-day routine less pleasurable. We’ve gathered some tips to ensure that when you step behind that curtain (or behind the tempered glass) all will be well in shower-land.

Wimpy water flow?

It’s easy to chalk up a wimpy water flow to low water pressure, but before you do, check your showerhead. Especially if you have hard water, mineral deposits may be the culprit. These can build up, clogging the water-flow holes.

How you clean the showerhead depends on the type you have. Newer models typically screw on to the shower arm so they’re easy to remove. Once it’s off the shower, soak it in vinegar or, for truly tough deposits, use a commercial product, such as CLR.

After soaking for about 60 minutes, used gloved hands and an old toothbrush or small scrub brush to remove the deposits. After replacing the showerhead, run water through it to remove all cleaning solution residue.

If you can’t remove the shower head, or choose not to, grab a rubber band, a plastic bag and your cleaning solution.

Place the rubber band over the showerhead arm. Fill the plastic bag with your solution and slip it over the showerhead. Use the rubber band to secure the top of the bag to the showerhead arm and allow the contraption to remain for at least 60 minutes.

Remove the bag and run the shower to flush out the solution and the loosened mineral deposits.

Backed up drains

Just like our four-legged friends, we humans shed and a lot of the hair we lose ends up in the shower, when we wash our hair.

From there, it travels down the drain where, eventually, it’ll  meet up with a big, ugly wad of hair and join it. So, not only does hair back up the water into the tub while you’re showering, it will eventually cause a more expensive backup if you don’t take care of it.

The easiest and least expensive “gadget” you can purchase to avoid hair clogs in the shower is a strainer that fits over the drain opening.

If you already have a clog, avoid using those chemical solutions you can buy at the supermarket or hardware store. Sure, they’re handy when you’re certain that the clog is a wad of hair, but, what if it’s a toy the kid threw down the drain?

In that case, the solution won’t clear the clog and, worse, it’ll back up onto your feet during your next shower.

“To protect yourself and your pipes, always try to dislodge a clog using common household methods before reaching for the drain cleaner,” say the experts at HIS Plumber in Newnan, GA.

Better yet, call a plumber if you are unsure of what’s causing the water to back up into the tub.

A clean shower is a dreamy shower

Mold on tile, soap scum and a ring around the shower – talk about a buzz kill! To make your shower truly Zen, get rid of the grime and keep it away.

Let’s take a look at some proven home remedies to get rid of the grime.

Mold

Combine household bleach and water (50/50) in a spray bottle. Open the bathroom window, don a breathing mask and gloves and spray the solution directly onto the mold. Allow it to sit for a few minutes and then use an old toothbrush to scrub it off the grout.

Use a clean, wet sponge to wipe away the residue.

Prevent mold buildup by using the fan in the bathroom while showering and allow it to run for about half an hour afterward.

Soap scum

We once met a cleaning lady who swore by the use of Tide laundry detergent (powdered) to clean soap scum from tubs and shower surrounds. It’s less abrasive than cleanser and, at least from what we witnessed, did a far better job.

Ensure that you rinse it completely, however, because it can make the surface quite slippery.

Sure, the aforementioned steps are time-consuming, but just imagine how amazingly soothing the after-shower will be.

Look for these 3 red flags when shopping for a home

Call them “red flags,” or “warning signs” or even “whoa, don’t-buy-this-house” signs, but there are certain symptoms of a sick home that you need to be aware of before you fall in love with a sexy fireplace or a to-die-for backyard. Once you’re smitten, it may be too late.

Now, don’t get me wrong, most houses, even new ones, have something wrong. Even if it’s a problem as easy to fix as a drippy faucet, no home is perfect.

But what we’ll look at today are the biggies – those items that require emptying your bank account to repair. They don’t necessarily need to be considered deal breakers, but should prompt you to have the home inspected by the appropriate professional.

Don’t be crestfallen if you happen to find some of these because the good news is that you found them now, rather than later. Now, as in you can either demand the seller fix them or you can back out of the deal. If you were to learn of these later, after you’ve moved in, the onus would be on you and your bank account to fix them.

So, let’s take a look at a few of the big problems and some of the clues to look for.

“Pee-Yew”

Can you imagine taking a shower and being greeted by raw sewage bubbling up through the drain? Oh, yes, it can—and does—happen. It’s caused by a clogged sewer or septic line.

Consider foul smells coming from the home’s drain a clue for further investigation. Likewise, if you notice these smells outdoors, near the home’s drain fields, if it is on a septic system.

Then, test the drains. Simply turn on the taps and watch the water drain. If it drains slowly, or you hear gurgling sounds from the drain (or from the toilet), call in a plumber.

Sewer fixes aren’t cheap. Tree-root-damaged lines can cost from $4,500 to $13,000 for a 100-foot sewer pipe, according to costhelper.com.

If it’s a septic system that has you concerned, it may need to be pumped. If, on the other hand, the system needs to be replaced, plan on spending from $2,720 to $7,934, according to homeadvisor.com.

“The basis or groundwork of anything” 

That’s the dictionary definition of “foundation.” For real estate purposes, and to keep it simple, it can be defined as “the thing a house sits on.”

A home’s foundation has three functions:

  1. Support the weight of the entire building.
  2. Help the home withstand natural disasters.
  3. Keep ground moisture from seeping into the structure.

“Most homeowners will pay around $4,004 to repair foundation issues. Major repairs involving hydraulic piers can cost $10,000 or more, and minor cracks cost as low as $500. The typical homeowner pays between $1,850 and $6,342,” according to the pros at homeadvisor.com.

Look for sloping or sagging floors (especially in more recently-built homes), cracks in the foundation, walls and floors, doors that don’t operate properly and gaps around window frames or exterior doors.

The experts at hdfoundationrepairs.com go into greater detail on each of these symptoms on their website.

Check the plumbing

Low water pressure is a lot more than an annoyance when trying to rinse the soap of your body in the shower. It may be a symptom of major plumbing problems.

Now, don’t get freaked out. Most of the causes of low water pressure are easy fixes, such as the water softener requires service, or a clog someplace in the lines or mineral deposits in the faucet aerator or showerhead or even sludge in the water heater.

Cracks or other damage to pipes, however, may result in a leak and that too would lower the water pressure. Look for evidence of leaks such as damp spots on the floors and walls, signs of mold or a hissing sound when the water is running.

Leak repair can be costly, especially if the leak is in a tough-to-reach spot.

If you suspect any problems in the home that the home inspection didn’t turn up, we urge you to bring in a specialist. A structural engineer can put your mind at ease about cracks in the foundation and a plumbing contractor can give you an idea of the state of the home’s pipes.

Four easy-on-the-pocketbook ways to update your home’s interior design

You don’t need to be a professional interior decorator to update your your home’s interior.

With a little creativity, and items already present in your home, you can transform it into a showplace.

Here are 4 inexpensive ways to update your home’s interior design.

1. Paint

The quickest and most inexpensive change you can make to your home’s interior design is new paint. Whether you decide to paint entire rooms or just create an accent wall, new color on the walls will create instant glamour.

If you hire a pro to do the job, plan on spending between $380 and $790 for a 10X12 room, according to homeadvisor.com. This is labor only, by the way, and doesn’t include ceilings, trim or cost of the paint.”

Do it yourself and you’ll save big.

2. Rearrange what you have

Are you taking advantage of the focal point in each room? Whether it’s the fireplace or a view outside a window, arrange furniture so that it faces the focal point.

Not sure what qualifies as a room’s focal point? Check out the guide at pellabranch.com.

Try switching up furniture from one room and putting it in another. Sometimes a stylish nightstand makes a great end-table in the living room; or try putting a dresser in the dining room to act as a buffet.

If you need new furniture but the price just isn’t in your budget, think about slipcovering what you already have. Or, buy inexpensive used furniture and put your DIY skills to work.

While shopping for used furniture, don’t overlook Craigslist online. You can find almost anything there and sellers are likely to negotiate on prices.

3. Add Color

New throw pillows, window coverings and rugs are not only great ways to freshen a room but add color as well. The color-of-the-year, by the way is purple, so go on trend by adding pops of it in your accessories. See the shade (Ultra Violet) on pantone’s website.

Flowers and plants add a splash of color to any room, be it a huge bouquet in the entry or small nosegays in the bathrooms. If you lack a green thumb, silk flowers and plants are inexpensive alternatives.

4. Accessories

You don’t need to break the bank when shopping for accessory pieces and accents for your interior design project. If you find you need a few more accessories why not try flea markets and garage sales? Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

  • Mirrors will make any room look larger and lighter. Groupings of mirrors can be an even more dramatic way to open up a room.
  • Art work is another way to add color and interest as well as texture to your interior design.
  • Decorative pillows can be used in bedrooms and living rooms.
  • Look for items such as decorative plates to hang on the kitchen walls, vases, baskets, candle holders and sconces. Other fun things you might want to look for are drawer pulls and handles for your kitchen and bathroom cabinetry.

If you have the budget, by all means, hire a professional to give you some interior decorating ideas. If not, with a little effort you can do it yourself and save some money. Visit pinterest.com to find fellow DIYers and get tips.

Discrimination in Mortgage Lending

There was a time in our country’s history when discrimination in lending was blatant and rampant. In the 1930s, for instance, Americans of color were routinely denied mortgages. Several methods were used, the worst of which was redlining (denial of a loan based on the applicant’s address).

Yes, we’ve come a long way in the nearly nine decades since then, but there is convincing evidence that discrimination in mortgage lending still exists.

To avoid becoming a victim, it’s important to understand what are considered discriminatory practices under the law.

Federal laws to protect Americans against discrimination

Two laws are of significance to the mortgage industry, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and the Fair Housing Act.

While the latter is aimed at the housing industry as a whole (and covers tenants as well), the former is specific to the lending industry. The ECOA’s anti-discrimination laws apply to anyone who provides mortgages as well as those who rent property, appraise property and broker real estate.

It prohibits those offering credit from discriminating against an applicant on the basis of:

  • Disability
  • Familial status
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Color
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Whether an applicant receives public assistance

The Fair Housing Act covers all of the above instances of discrimination with the exception of the last three. It also exempts certain people from the law. For instance, a landlord who rents out units in a four-unit-or-less building, and he lives in the building, is exempt from the Fair Housing Act.

Protect yourself

Discrimination can be quite subtle, so it’s important to know what to look for. An example of this is explained in the results of a Journal of Urban Economics study from two years ago.

The researchers found that much of the lending discrimination that occurs today happens very early in the mortgage process. African Americans, for instance, find that they receive no response from lenders when they email them with questions 1.8 percent more often than white borrowers.

The researchers point out that the results of this are akin to having a credit score that is 71 points lower.

Other subtle forms of mortgage discrimination include a lender who tries to discourage an applicant from applying for a loan, and a lender who won’t give a reason for loan rejection.

Protect yourself by shopping for a loan among several different lenders. Only when you compare offerings will discrimination become obvious.

How to deal with discrimination

If you feel you’ve become a victim of mortgage discrimination, speak with the lender first. If the lender offers an unsatisfactory explanation of what happened, take additional steps.

First, notify your state’s attorney general’s office. Then, file official complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Mistakes to avoid when hiring a roofer

While the average nationwide cost to replace a roof is $7,269, according to homeadvisor.com, costs vary by region, size of the roof and other factors. It’s a huge, expensive job, so it’s understandable that you want to hire the right roofer and get your money’s worth.

So, how do you find this Waldo of the contracting world? Short of a random choice from roofers you find online, we’ve come up with the questions you should ask and how to know you’re choosing the right one.

Common roofing scams

Roof repair and replacement are expensive jobs, so, naturally, the industry attracts its fair share of scammers. Part of your search for a contractor should include being aware of some of the more common scams and how to avoid becoming a victim.

One red flag is the roofer who asks for a down payment upfront, before starting the project. “The company will say it needs the down payment to buy materials or to pay for labor,” cautions Mike LaFollette at Angie’s List. He goes on to say that the scammer will convince the homeowner to sign over the insurance check.

Once they have that check in hand, they never return. Avoid becoming a victim by not paying a down payment until the materials are delivered to your home.

Be suspicious of the roofing door-to-door salesperson. Sure, there are plenty of reputable salespeople who go door-to-door to drum up business, but there are also a lot of bad apples in the bunch.

These folks typically show up in neighborhoods after a storm, which is how they earned their nickname: Storm Chasers.

They’ll use high-pressure tactics (and quote ridiculously low prices) to get the homeowner to sign a contract. The work is typically shoddy and the homeowner has no recourse, as the roofer is chasing storms in another state by the time any problems come to light.

Thoroughly vet any company you’re considering using. Ask for the company’s physical address and then visit the business in person. Avoid any roofing company that only uses a post office box as an address.

How to find a reputable roofing contractor

If you have a general contractor among your family or circle of friends, neighbors and colleagues, he or she may be able to refer you to a good roofer.

If that fails, check the National Roofing Contractors Association website, for members in your area. When you have several names, contact each roofer and request a bid.

  • Ask each interviewee for a copy of his or her business license and tax identification number. This will help assure that the roofer is a legitimate business person.
  • Then, ask to see a copy of the company or roofer’s workers’ compensation and liability insurance coverage.
  • Ask for the names and phone numbers of past clients, then call them.
  • Get the proposal in writing and ensure that descriptions of all work to be performed are complete and include the date the job will begin and end and that payment details are clearly spelled out.
  • Check the Better Business Bureau website to see if any complaints have been filed against the roofer.
  • Ask for a copy of the company’s warranty and read it carefully or have your attorney read it.
  • An extremely low price should set off alarm bells.

Knowledge: The antidote for homebuyer panic

“Buying a home is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make,” is one of the first “tips” you’ll receive when surfing the internet for information about the process.

The statement is ubiquitous, it’s also an understatement and so self-evident that it’s become a cliché.

Most important, though, is that it’s a statement that induces panic.

Don’t let the words get to you. Yes, you’re making a major financial investment when you buy a home, but you’re also buying a HOME. This is a place to live, to build memories and to surround yourself with the things and people you love.

The keys to dealing with homebuying panic include:

  • Gaining knowledge about the process
  • Adequate preparation
  • Following the steps, in order

All of these steps begin with the assistance of one person: your real estate agent.

Knowledge: a brilliant cure for anxiety

I see you shaking your head – yes, suggesting that you choose your real estate agent carefully seems a bit self-serving. That doesn’t make it any less pertinent though, right?

We’re hardwired to fear, or feel threatened by, what we don’t understand. Without getting too technical, there’s a small part of our brain, the amygdala, that tells us when to be afraid, according to some scientists. Short of surgically removing this small, almond shaped structure, the only way to deal with fear is to face it, head on.

“Stress-hardy people focus their energy on those events that they have influence over, rather than situations beyond their control,” according to experts at the University of Minnesota.

And, while there are several aspects of a real estate transaction over which you have no control, there are many more over which you do.

Educate yourself about the buying or selling process by boning up on mortgages, on how to choose your real estate agent and on the processes that will follow and feel your anxiety melt away.

Then, take a preparation and call me in the morning

Even the most experienced professional real estate agent experiences the quickened heartbeat and clammy hands when buying or selling property. The difference between you and them, however, is their experience. They know what to expect, when, so the process is far less foreign.

Being prepared, not only with knowledge, but with practical steps to success, is worth its weight in gold in a real estate transaction. Once accomplished, the typical concerns of a novice fall by the wayside.

Planning is everything

If you won’t be paying cash for a home, you’ll need a mortgage, so the lending process is a good place to start your prep.

To ease your fears, you’ll need to know exactly what will be required to get the money you need for the least amount of effort and at the best price. This means fixing issues with your credit, raising your credit score and saving cash for the down payment and closing costs.

Learn all you can about the mortgage process. Freddiemac.com offers a brilliant walk-through of the process and who is involved in it.

Then, it’s time to get loan preapproval. Remember, the preapproval is an offer from a lender, not a commitment, so don’t just see one lender, but several. Compare the annual percentage rates offered and the terms.

Now that you know how much you can spend on a home, determine where you can afford to live and get crystal clear on what you want in a home. Yes, make a list and then check it, add to it, delete from it, but for heaven’s sake, share it with your real estate agent.

And, choosing that agent is the next step. Surprisingly, most real estate consumers choose the first agent they speak with, according to the National Association of Realtors.

You, on the other hand, won’t make that mistake. You will be spending a lot of time with your agent, so it’s important to ensure that you choose the right one.

    • First, the agent must be an ace communicator. Does he or she return calls, emails and texts in a timely manner? Is her knowledge freely given? Does he communicate in easy-to-understand terms?
    • The agent you choose should also be a good listener. As you speak with agents, pay attention to whether or not they are truly listening carefully to your priorities. The last thing you want is an agent who doesn’t listen and insists on showing you homes that don’t fit what you want.
    • Next, the agent should be experienced in the areas of town in which you’ll be house hunting. Agents who are more active in your chosen neighborhoods tend to be familiar with the market trends, schools and proposed developments nearby that could impact a home’s value in the future.
    • Finally, how’s the chemistry? “Finding the right agent takes balancing credentials and chemistry,” according to the experts at CNN Money. As mentioned earlier, you’ll be spending a significant amount of time with your agent. Don’t add to your stress by choosing one you don’t enjoy spending time with.

Once you’ve chosen your agent, get all the answers you need to relax into the process. Curious about what forms you’ll need to sign and their function? Ask your agent for blank copies so you can familiarize yourself with them. Wondering what happens when you make an offer? Ask your agent to walk you through the process.

Typical homebuyer concerns that you CAN deal with

What if I can’t make my payments?

This is why we suggest that you see a lender first. You’ll be given an estimate of the maximum loan amount for which you qualify. If monthly finances are a concern, plan on buying a home well below that amount.

What if I overpay for a home?

This simply will not happen if you hire the right real estate agent. To ease your mind, ask your agent (if he or she doesn’t offer) to run a comparative market analysis on any home for which you plan to make an offer. Knowing the home’s market value will help you structure your offer.

What if there are problems not uncovered during the home inspection?

Even with the most extensive due diligence, problems with a home may not be revealed. Keep in mind that, although a professional home inspection is a must, you don’t have to stop there. You are free to hire a roofer, plumber, electrician, general contractor, engineer and any other inspector you please to produce additional reports.

Throughout the homebuying process, keep checking your home buying plan, take the steps in order and tell your internal threat detector to chill. You’ve got this.

 

Don’t Wait—Create a Home Inventory for Insurance Now!

In 2017, a total of 16 disasters in the United States caused an estimated $306 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Residents of Montana bore the brunt of wildfires that raged across more than 1 million acres. Californians suffered from fires, as well as flooding and massive mud slides, while hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria devastated homes in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico.

Many disaster-area residents lacked homeowners insurance and, of those who had policies, many had no idea of how to account for their losses. Trying to recall every single item they owned was nearly impossible.

Living in an area not designated as disaster-prone leads to complacency, a dangerous attitude when fires, theft and other losses can happen anywhere, at any time.

Be prepared by taking stock of your belongings, now.

“If you’re going to insure your property and pay for that insurance, you really should be able to document the ownership and the value of the items that you’re insuring,” Mark Goldwich, author of “Uncovered: What Really Happens After the Storm, Flood, Earthquake or Fire” tells houselogic.com’s Gwen Moran.

“If you don’t have proof of the items you owned, it makes filing your claim much more difficult,” he concludes.

There are several ways to create a home inventory, and we’ll get into some of them in a moment. First, however, learn what your insurance company will want to know about these items.

  • Description of item
  • Quantity
  • Manufacturer
  • Make/model/serial number
  • Date Purchased
  • Estimated or Appraised value
  • Appraisal Company
  • Where Purchased
  • Appraisal Date
  • Appraiser Contact Information

Ways to create a home inventory

  • Create a video of possessions – narrate the important points of each item as you film it from all angles. Zoom in on the model and serial numbers.
  • Photographic documentation – Take photos of each item and make notes on the back of each.
  • Go old school and use an inventory checklist. You can find them online at allstate.com, nycm.com and homeinsurance.com.

Keep it safe

All the time and effort spent documenting your home’s inventory is wasted if the documentation goes up in flames during a fire or disappears if your computer is stolen.

Store your digital media online with a cloud backup service such as IDrive or BackBlaze. Read reviews of these and several similar services online at pcmag.com.

Although these services are quite inexpensive, a more budget-friendly way to store your valuable inventory information is to save the information to a USB drive and then lock it up off-site, such as in a safe deposit box.

Tips from the experts

  • The Insurance Information Institute recommends that you categorize clothing when you count items. For instance, “5 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of sneakers…”
  • They also remind you to include items that are stored off-site, such as at a storage facility. These items are typically covered by your homeowners insurance.
  • Keep receipts and copies of appraisals for expensive items.
  • Don’t try to do too much of the inventory at once. If you become overwhelmed by the scope of the inventory project, you’ll be reluctant to return to it to get it finished.

Check coverage on big ticket items. Jewelry, art and collectibles may have increased in value and may need special coverage separate from your standard homeowners insurance policy.

While you’re making your home inventory list, check with your agent to make sure you have adequate insurance for these items before there is a loss.

Again, don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Once you’ve started your inventory, keep going even if you can’t get it all done immediately. It’s better to have an incomplete inventory than nothing at all.

Don’t make these 6 mistakes when applying for a mortgage

There’s a road you will head down when you first decide that it’s time to buy a home. Before taking even the first step, you’ll encounter a fork in that road. Sadly, most first-time homebuyers take the wrong fork and end up disappointed.

Not having a clue about your credit

 Do you know what’s lurking in your credit reports?

It’s bad enough that nearly 80 percent of credit reports contain errors, but did you know that nearly a quarter of them contain mistakes so bad they result in a denial of credit?

Don’t be among those rejected—order copies of your credit reports and go over them, looking for errors. You are entitled to free copies of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months. Get yours at AnnualCreditReport.com.

If you find errors, file a dispute and clear up the problems before applying for a mortgage. The Federal Trade commission offers additional information on how to obtain your free credit report and how to dispute errors you may find in your report.

Shopping without knowing how much you can spend

 That fork in the road we spoke about earlier? Sometimes it takes homebuyers online, looking at homes for sale and, sometimes, to open houses or new-home communities.

Big mistake.

Homebuyers, especial first-timers, tend to overestimate how much they’ll be able to borrow. If you’re among them, and you look at homes, you’ll most likely be viewing those that are out of your price range and, after that, those that you can buy will pale in comparison.

Don’t set yourself up for disappointment – see a lender before looking at homes for sale.

Take the next logical step after repairing your credit—start shopping for a lender, not a home (at least not at this point).

Not shopping strategically for a loan

 It amazes us how casually many people treat the sale and purchase of an investment as large as a home.

A National Association of Realtors’ survey finds that most real estate consumers hire the first real estate agent they meet.

And, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau clams that half of borrowers use this same cavalier attitude when choosing a lender.

Until you obtain a mortgage, quoted terms aren’t set in stone, so shopping for the best terms will save you money on your closing costs and, quite possibly, your monthly house payment.

So, use the same care in finding a lender and comparing loan products as you would if you were considering buying a big-screen TV.

A good place to choose lenders to compare is Bankrate.com. Remember, you want to compare the APR, and the stated rate is not necessarily what you’ll be offered. This is why you must apply for preapproval to determine your budget.

Not being honest

 Remember “liar loans?” It wasn’t that long ago that lenders were approving mortgages for just about anyone with a heartbeat.

Think of those loans as dinosaurs, because they no longer exist. Lending standards have tightened considerably since then and lenders are bound by statute to ensure that the borrower can afford to make payments on the loan.

This means that you are required to provide documentation that proves the income you state on your application. So, be honest on all parts of the loan application.

Switching jobs after loan approval

A common requirement for loan approval is your employment situation. Most want to see at least two years with your current employer (or in your current field), or two years in business if you are self-employed.

It is important to not make any changes to your employment situation during the period of time between loan application and closing on your new home.

Changing your financial picture

Yes, it’s tempting to start purchasing furniture and appliances as the closing date draws near. But, don’t do it.

The lender will run one final credit check, just before closing, to ensure that nothing in your financial picture has changed. If you purchase items on credit or open new credit accounts, your score may go down.

Also, the new debt you’ve taken on may change your debt-to-income ratio and you’ll be denied the loan and the closing will be cancelled or postponed.

For many real estate consumers, the entire mortgage process is foreign and, quite frankly, dull. But, it involves your money—and lots of it—so learn as much as you can and you should sail through the process.

Furnish your new home without breaking the bank

Walking into your new home for the first time may be a bit jolting. Unless it was vacant when you purchased it, the home will look completely different.

The walls will be empty, the floors exposed from corner-to-corner and the prospect of filling all that space may be overwhelming.

It’s also exciting. Finally, there’s no landlord to dictate wall color and you can fill the home with whatever you want and can afford.

Ah, therein lies the rub, right? Affordability. After all, you’ve just shelled out a huge chunk of money to the lender, for the down payment and closing costs. If you’re like many homebuyers, there’s not much cash or credit left to do the things you want to in your new home.

This is where you can get creative, and we have some tips to get you started.

Make a plan

We all know what happens when we go grocery shopping without a list. We impulse shop, right? Don’t let this happen to you when shopping for home furnishings and décor.

Go through each room in the house, making notes of your vision for the rooms and what you’ll need to purchase to bring the vision to life.

If you just can’t picture what you want in a room, consider visiting a few new-home communities for ideas. From wall colors to accessories, you can also find tips online at pinterest.com, realsimple.com and bhg.com. 

Shop “used” first

Before shelling out the big bucks for new furniture, consider shopping for used first. It’s the best way to find affordable yet quality furniture.

It’s important, however, to be able to look beyond condition to the “bones” of each piece.

If you like the style of a coffee table or chair, try to overlook the cosmetic, easily-fixed problems.

So, where to shop for these cheap wonders of the decorating world? Read on.

Garage/Estate Sales

No, they aren’t the same thing. Garage sales are the sale of a person’s or family’s “stuff.”

An estate sale is typically a bit more high-end and is used to dispose of a deceased person’s belongings.

Both types of sales, however, offer a variety of items priced less than you’d find at a retail outlet.

Items for sale at estate sales are typically in better condition, so expect to pay a bit more than you would for a similar item at a garage sale.

Don’t forget to take into account any additional costs for transporting your purchases home.

Find garage and estate sales in your area on craigslist.org, estatesales.net and estatesale.com.

Consignment Stores

The consignment store owner is the “middle man (or woman)” between the customer and the for-sale-by-owner. You’ll find higher prices here than you will at thrift stores and garage/estate sales, but most of the items have been well cared-for.

Thrift Stores

Most larger towns and cities have at least one thrift store, such as Deseret Industries, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, Goodwill, the Salvation Army and privately-owned thrift stores. Here, you’ll find household furnishings and accessories at deep discounts.

The tradeoff is condition – much of what you’ll find has seen better days.

Again, try to look beyond cosmetic issues to determine if an item is salvageable with new upholstery, paint or stain.

Online Shopping

Craigslist’s popularity depends on where in the U.S. you live. In some areas, it’s the go-to website when folks want to buy or sell something. With the addition of OfferUp, you can find home décor bargains without leaving your living room.

On Craigslist, you’ll find a rather extensive section under “For Sale.” A few years ago, the site started allowing retail stores to offer items, but you are given the ability to exclude those listings, which is ideal when you’re seeking bargains.

Etsy is a fun place to shop for smaller items with shipping charges that won’t break the bank.

You might also consider shopping on eBay, although the shipping charges for large items may make them less of a bargain than you had hoped.

Get around this problem by using the “Delivery Options” link on the left-side navigation menu and ticking the box next to “Free Shipping.”

Or, search eBay locally. In the same, left-side navigation menu, you’ll find “Item Location,” where you can search only for items located within a specified distance from a ZIP code.

Shopping smart can help you add dramatic changes to your new home, without spending a fortune.

Real estate lingo defined: What is due diligence?

After a long, grueling search, including several overheated bidding wars, Jim and Claire found the California home of their dreams. They were ecstatic when their offer was accepted and the transaction sailed to an effortless close.

As summer settled in, it was time to crank up the air-conditioner. Curiously, they couldn’t find the thermostat for it. Sure, there was a thermostat for the heater and, isn’t the cooling system typically attached to it?

After searching the entire home, they came up empty. The HVAC system was missing the AC side of the equation—there was no air-conditioning system in the home, despite the MLS listing claiming otherwise.

Who gets the blame?

It’s easy to assume that the listing agent and/or her broker were to blame for this. After all, the box on the MLS listing, right there next to “central air conditioning,” was checked.

Perhaps the homeowners should’ve caught the MLS mistake and brought it to their agent’s attention? If so, perhaps they’re to blame.

In the end, after mediation, the buyers were found to be at fault.

Why?

They didn’t perform adequate “due diligence”

Huh?

Caveat Emptor

You’ve most likely heard the Latin term for “let the buyer beware.” But, did you know that it’s part of a longer statement that admonishes buyers to “beware, for he ought not to be ignorant of the nature of the property which he is buying from another party?”

According to FindLaw.com, there is an assumption, under law, that a buyer of any product will inspect it completely before consummating the purchase.

“This does not, however, give sellers the green light to actively engage in fraudulent transactions,” according to findlaw.com, but it does put a lot of responsibility on buyers’ shoulders.

And, in this case, the mediator found no evidence that the sellers acted fraudulently.

The due diligence period

This time period extends from the minute the seller accepts the offer to when the last contract contingency is removed.

Homebuyers are, therefore, given ample time to perform due diligence. They are even afforded the opportunity to request additional time, if needed.

During this period, the buyer will have the home inspected, shop for insurance and examine HOA documents (if applicable), the lender will work on the buyer’s loan and have the home appraised and the title company will investigate the home’s title.

The buyer, who receives copies of inspection reports, appraisal information and the title search, is well-armed with information during the due diligence period. Savvy buyers will personally inspect the home as well, which Jim and Claire did, twice.

Before the last contingency is removed, the buyer has the opportunity to negotiate with the seller for repairs or the money to have the work performed by someone else. If this doesn’t occur, and the contingency is removed, the buyers are agreeing to take the home as-is.

And, it’s expected that they know what they’re getting into.

Jim and Claire lost their case at mediation, and here’s why:

There was no evidence that the seller exhibited fraudulent behavior. His property disclosure noted that there was no central air conditioning. The buyers either didn’t read the disclosure or ignored what was stated.

The home inspector noted the lack of central air conditioning. Why any homebuyer wouldn’t thoroughly read home inspection results is mind-boggling, but apparently, Jim and Claire didn’t.

The buyers personally inspected the home on two separate occasions and performed an additional final walk-through before closing. While it would be too late to seek remedy after the final walk-through, the prior two inspections fall under the umbrella of performing due diligence.

Don’t let it happen to you

It can happen to even the most experienced homebuyer. It’s easy to be so excited by the fact that you finally found THE home that you either don’t notice or overlook its flaws.

While Jim and Claire’s own real estate agent should have noticed a feature that the couple told her they wanted, in the end it all came down to their negligence.

Buying real estate, even for personal use, is a financial investment. Treat it as such by forcing yourself to leave the emotions aside and approach the purchase with all the seriousness it requires.