How to avoid foreclosure: 2 popular alternatives

A recent Google Trends announcement included a graph of a “breakout trend” for two search terms: Eviction and Foreclosure.

 With unemployment rates at record highs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent business closures, renters and homeowners are still scrambling to make their rent and mortgage payments.

Back in April, “New mortgage delinquencies hit a record, … well above anything seen during the Great Recession,” according to Andrew Van Dam at WashingtonPost.com.

Some of these homeowners are taking advantage of forbearance offered by their lenders, others, because their loans aren’t backed by the Federal Government, are sadly at risk of losing their homes and investment properties.

In fact, when those with deferrals are removed from the equation, “… about 8.4 million households missed a mortgage payment” as of the end of June, according to Van Dam.

If you are among them, read on to learn about how you can avoid foreclosure and the devastation it brings to your credit rating.

The ramifications of foreclosure

There are several tough consequences when a homeowner allows the home to go into foreclosure:

  • You will lose your home.
  • You will lose any equity in the home.
  • There is a waiting period before you can purchase another home. For a conventional loan, you’ll need to wait seven years. If you can prove extenuating circumstances (which you most likely have, given the pandemic), the waiting period is three years.
  • Your credit will need to be repaired before considering another home purchase. “… if your credit score is 680, a foreclosure will drop your credit score on average by 85 to 105 points,” according to FinancialSamurai.com, citing the experts at FICO.
  • The damage to your credit score may affect how much you pay for insurance, whether or not you’ll qualify for a job and even your ability to rent a home.

Alternative number 1: Sell the home

Selling the home is the most obvious choice for the distressed homeowner. Yes, your lender will get paid from the proceeds of the sale and you may not end up with as much money as you’d hoped.

The advantage to this solution, however, is that your credit score won’t be impacted as hard as it will if you allow the home to be taken by the lender.

“If your credit score is excellent at 780, a foreclosure will drop your score by 140 to 160 points. In other words, the higher your credit score the more it will get smashed!”

If you sell the home, however, the late payments or even missed payments won’t be as tough on your credit.

Plus, you may be able to qualify to purchase another home right away.

If your loan is delinquent and you’re considering selling, the longer you wait, the less money you’ll end up with at closing. Reach out to us and we’ll show you how we can sell your home quickly and for the most money the market will allow.

2. Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure

A deed-in-lieu of foreclosure agreement is one in which the lien holder agrees to take the deed back in satisfaction or partial satisfaction of your obligation, in lieu of foreclosure.

Government entities, such as the FHA and the Veteran’s Administration, have their own deed-in-lieu programs with various requirements. Typically, these programs and lenders in general require that the property be lien-free before they’ll accept it back.

Why would a lender agree to enter into this type of an agreement? Since this arrangement is quicker and less expensive than foreclosure, according to Gary Neustadter, Santa Clara Law professor, a lender is more likely to be amenable to the deed-in-lieu agreement if it believes that the home is worth close to market value or to the amount of your debt.

There are tax ramifications to this alternative, so consult with your financial adviser before proceeding.

Frequently Asked Questions about USDA Home Loans (ZERO down payment!)

The dream of homeownership dies hard. Regardless of credit history and/or a lack of financial resources aside from a good job with a steady paycheck, many who share this dream persist against what seems like overwhelming, hopeless odds.

They’re the fortunate, those who chose the right real estate agent and the right lender to advise and guide them through the process.

Buying a home isn’t the futile pursuit the media makes it out to be. There are plenty of mortgage programs out there for low-income, cash-poor and credit-challenged Americans. Those provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are among the best on the market.

There’s a lot to know about the USDA Rural Development home loan programs. So let’s dive into the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions we field.

Is there a minimum credit score to be eligible for a USDA loan?

Homebuyers don’t need perfect credit to buy a home. Those with higher credit scores, however, obtain the best mortgage rates. Since the interest on the loan is part of your monthly house payment, a higher score will help you have a lower mortgage payment.

That said, many lenders won’t approve buyers with a credit score lower than 640. If you have extenuating circumstances (and who doesn’t in the age of COVID-19?), and can document them, you may still qualify for the USDA direct loan, with a credit score as low as 620.

Still don’t fit the bill? Raising your credit score quickly isn’t as challenging as some say. We’re happy to explore your options with you.

How do I check if the home I want to buy is eligible for a USDA Loan?

The USDA insists that homes must be in “rural areas.” The agency further defines the term by stating that the area must have fewer than 20,000 residents.

Many larger cities across the country are within easily commutable distances to such communities, so don’t let the word “rural” scare you off.

We’re happy to check to see if the home you want to purchase is in an eligible area.

How much will I need for the down payment and the closing costs?

The USDA loan has no down payment requirement. Closing costs depend on the lender, your location and the size of the loan. With the Direct Loan, closing costs can be quite reasonable.

What is the maximum amount I can borrow with a USDA loan?

That depends on your income – most specifically, your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). The USDA looks for a minimum ratio of 41 percent for borrowers whose credit score is lower than 660.

Your DTI is easy to calculate. Learn how at WellsFargo.com.

Do I have to be a first-time homebuyer to use a USDA loan?

Nope. The programs are open to repeat buyers as well.

Can I use the home I purchase with a USDA loan as a rental?

No, the loan requires that the borrower live in the home as her or his primary residence.

Does the USDA loan require private mortgage insurance?

No, there is no PMI requirement for the USDA loan. There is, however, a 0.4 percent annual fee in lieu of PMI.

Does the USDA guarantee 100 percent of the loan amount?

No. The USDA guarantees 90 percent and you will be required to pay the difference should you default on the loan.

Does the USDA allow me to use gift money to pay for closing costs? How about seller-paid closing costs?

Yes, to both questions. You will need a gift letter to accompany your loan application. The lender will supply you with this.

Can the self-employed qualify for the USDA home loan program?

Yes, they can. They will need to provide two years of tax returns to verify their income from self-employment.

Still have questions? Answers are FREE, so don’t hesitate to contact us!

 

Confused about the home appraisal process?

There are two steps in the home sale process that we frequently see our clients get the jitters over: the home inspection and the home appraisal. Both processes are performed by a disinterested third party, yet homeowners tend to treat the results as a judgment of their homes.

Then, there are those who don’t understand that the home inspection and the appraisal aren’t the same.

So, let’s clear up the confusion. Knowledge is power, and the more you understand a process, the more you’ll be able to relax into it.

Appraisal vs. home inspection

The home appraisal and the home inspection are both of value to the homebuyer. The buyer’s lender will hire the appraiser and the buyer will hire the inspector.

The home inspector’s aim is to determine if there are any “major defects that will cost the buyer a lot of money above the purchase price to repair,” according to the pros at HomeFrontInspection.com.

The inspector will only “inspect readily accessible, visually observable, installed systems and components.” In other words, he or she will not be able to ascertain what is happening behind the home’s drywall or under the floorboards.

The home appraisal, on the other hand, is a process that lenders insist on before loaning the buyer the money to purchase the home.

The appraiser is an unbiased third party who will determine the home’s value on the current market.

While this person is hired by the lender, “the Appraisal Independence Requirements, or AIR, prohibits a lender’s loan production staff from having direct contact with—or influence upon—any appraisers,” according to Kristin Demshki at PennyMacUSA.com.

The buyer typically pays for the services of both professionals and owns the home inspection report. The lender owns the appraisal but is required to supply a copy upon written request.

Other common misunderstandings about the home appraisal

As mentioned previously, the biggest misconception about home appraisals is that they accomplish the same thing as the home inspection. But, that’s not all that confuses real estate consumers.

Myth: The market value of my home is the same as the tax assessor’s value

Reality: As you know, your property taxes are based on the assessor’s value estimation. value. Assessors use a process similar to that of a professional appraiser, using many of the same public records.

Because the assessor isn’t privy to the particulars of each home (whether the home in question has been updated, for example), his or her estimation of market value may not be the home’s true market value.

At any rate, the assessor multiplies his or her estimation of the home’s value by the county or municipality’s pre-determined “assessment rate, typically 80 to 90 percent.

Here’s an example: The assessor determines that a home is worth $300,000 and the assessment rate is 90 percent. While $300,000 is the market value, the assessed value for tax purposes is $270,000.

Myth: The appraisal is always accurate

Reality: Appraisers are people and, like all of us, they make mistakes on occasion. Most buyers and sellers are satisfied if the lender is satisfied.

Typically, the only time a buyer and seller are interested in viewing the appraisal is when the suggested value is lower than what the buyer has agreed to pay. And, for good reason: the lender won’t move forward if the home is worth less than the amount borrowed.

Again, appraisal reports can contain errors and the buyers are within their rights to request a new appraisal.

When does the appraisal happen?

While time frames vary, FHA borrowers can expect the appraisal to take place shortly after the seller has accepted the buyer’s offer.

What Happens During a Home Appraisal?

Much of the appraiser’s work involves research, back at his or her office. This typically occurs after a visit to the home.

During the visit, he or she will measure the home’s exterior and take interior and exterior photographs. This visit is also necessary to ascertain any conditions that impact the home’s value, both positively and negatively.

The research aspect of the appraiser’s job involves seeking out comparable properties that have recently sold and comparing the subject home to them. He or she will compare the following (and more):

  • Age of the home
  • Condition of the home
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Square footage
  • Amenities
  • Updates

Again, this is a partial list, but it will give you an idea of how the appraiser comes up with a value for the home.

The most important thing for homeowners to do before the appraiser arrives is to ensure he or she has access to crawl spaces, attics, cellars and all the rooms within the home.

While some appraisers claim that the tidiness of a home isn’t considered, the condition is, and a tidy home appears better cared-for.

Flood insurance: What you absolutely need to know

While water is a critical part of life on earth, it can also be deadly. From hurricanes to flash floods, we’re often faced with water-caused disasters.

The number one disaster in the U.S. is flood and it rings up about $2 billion dollars in insurance claims annually.

We are heading into what the experts call “peak flood season,” which occurs between late spring through summer. “This is due to a combination of factors, including a slower jet stream and more humid air,” according to the Weather Channel’s Jonathan Erdman.

Folks living in flood-prone areas who lack flood insurance can be on the hook for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

The National Flood Insurance Program says that the average claim is $46,000 and that only 15 percent of American homeowners carry the policy.

Unless you have a lot of cash stashed away, why wouldn’t you carry flood insurance? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons the experts hear.

I can’t afford flood insurance. I’ll buy it when the time comes

This is a bit like saying that you can’t afford auto insurance and you’ll wait until you’re involved in an accident to buy it.

It just doesn’t work that way.

Besides, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says that there is a waiting period (typically 30 days) after payment of the first premium before the policy kicks in.

There are exceptions to this and you can find out more at FEMA.gov.

Affordability shouldn’t be an issue – at least not when you compare the monthly cost of a policy (about $54 on average) to the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars you’ll spend to repair or rebuild your home.

I’m pretty sure flood damage is covered by my homeowners insurance

According to the Insurance Information Institute, “Standard homeowners and renter’s insurance does not cover flood damage.” If you purchased a separate policy, then you’re covered. But, as mentioned earlier, most homeowners don’t purchase it.

I don’t live in a flood plain

One-fifth of insurance claims for flood damage are from homeowners who live in low-to-moderate risk areas, according to FEMA.

Lenders typically don’t demand flood coverage to folks buying homes in these risk corridors so it’s up to the homebuyer to be proactive.

If you have flood insurance

Just as you should do with your homeowners policy, you should review your flood coverage at least annually.

The National Flood Insurance Program offers up to $250,000 in coverage for the home and $100,000 in coverage for your personal property.

Often, people will buy expensive items and neglect to obtain additional coverage to protect their loss.

Be proactive – it may save you from the devastation of losing your home. The FEMA website offers more information.

Don’t make these 3 home selling mistakes

It’s not hard to make home selling mistakes. After all, selling a home isn’t something you do every day. So, learn from others’ mistakes. Take a look at three of the biggies we see in our real estate practice.

1. Don’t disregard the value of curb appeal

There aren’t a lot of studies on just how much or how little value “curb appeal” adds to a home. The most widely-read is a decade old, published by professor Alex X. Niemiera with the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech.

What his study found is that landscaping can boost the value of home in various ways. The sophistication of the design gives the most bang for the homeowner’s buck–up to 42 percent in additional value.

Larger plants add up to 36 percent to the value and a diversity of “plant material type” is worth 22 percent.

Another study during that time period found that large plants were the hot button with homebuyers, rather than sophisticated landscaping.

The fact is, curb appeal does add perceived value to the home. Not only that, it is the sole determining factor to getting people out of their cars and into the home.

So, in that way, it may determine how quickly the home sells as well. If your landscaping can use a makeover, go online for inspiration. HGTV.com offers amazing before and after photos and we can always rely on Pinterest for inspirational photos. Go to pinterest.com and enter “curb appeal” in the search box.

2. Don’t make expensive improvements for the wrong reason

Naturally you’ll want to make the repairs necessary to get top dollar for your home. The mistake we frequently see, however, is homeowners who feel they need to make expensive cosmetic upgrades to justify a higher selling price.

“A good rule of thumb for improvements is if it costs you $2,500 to update your bathroom, you should see a market gain of $10,000 to justify the improvement,” claims Michelle LeBow at FamilyHandyman.com.

You simply will not see that large of a market gain from an updated bathroom. Let the new owners do the updates and price the home accordingly.

3. Don’t hire the first real estate agent you speak with

According to National Association of REALTORS studies, most real estate consumers employ the services of the first real estate agent they speak with. Americans apparently spend more time researching their Amazon.com purchases or on Yelp.com deciding where to have dinner on date night.

It’s amazing when one considers that a home is many people’s largest financial asset.

Not all real estate agents are alike. Just as some hair stylists, attorneys and plumbers are more experienced, more skilled and offer better services, so do real estate agents.

It’s important that you interview at least three agents before hiring one to help you sell your home.

Moving? How to make it stress-free for your pets

Nearly 70% of U.S. households include a pet. That’s 85 million families with a finned or four-legged family member, according to the American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owner’s Survey.

We all know that moving from one home to another can be stressful on children but it can be equally challenging for our pets.

We’ve rounded up some tips from the pros on how to make the transition easier for your pets.

Visit your pet’s veterinarian

Sure, your schedule is packed in the weeks before moving, but a quick visit to your pet’s veterinarian is important.

If your pet is on medication, ask for refills for the prescription. As well, if your pet is prone to anxiety, ask the vet for medications to help during the move.

Most important of all, though is to ensure your pet is microchipped.

If your pet should get out of the new house before he or she becomes acclimated to the area, there’s a good chance it will become disoriented and find itself utterly lost.

With a chip in place, whomever finds the pet will be able to contact you.

It’s also a good idea to ensure that the pet is wearing a collar with identification tags as a backup.

Which leads us to the second part of the microchip issue. If your pet is already chipped, ask your vet how you can update your contact information to include your new address and phone number (if that will be changing).

Finally, ask for a copy of your pet’s records, including all visits and vaccination records, and a referral to a veterinarian in your new town.

Tips for a long-distance move with a pet

The American Humane Society (AHS) recommends transporting your pet by car, if at all possible.

Before making the trip make reservations at pet-friendly hotels along the route. You can find some at PetsWelcome.com or Pet-Friendly-Hotels.net.

AHS also recommend that you transport your pet in a “… secure, well-ventilated pet carrier.” Also ensure that you have an escape-proof collar, leash, water and food bowls, pet food and bottles of water for those potty/rest stops you’ll need to make.

On moving day, keep the pet in a room with a closed door or in a crate in a quiet area of the home. The last thing you need when you’re on a tight moving schedule is for your pet to attempt a great escape.

Pet-proof the new home

Upon arrival at the new home, secure the pet in a bedroom along with its bed, crate and favorite toy or a piece of your clothing with your scent on it.

Then, head outdoors and check the fence, from top to bottom, for holes or gaps that the pet can fit through. Naturally, if your pet is a cat, he or she can just go over the fence, so this tip is primarily for dog owners.

If there’s a lawn, check it for signs of being recently fertilized (pellets, etc.). Don’t allow the pet into the backyard until you’ve thoroughly washed away any fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides.

Run a quick check of the plants in the backyard to ensure they’re pet-friendly. Check the database at ASPCA.org.

Take your dog on a tour of the neighborhood

Over the course of the first week or so in the new home, make it a point to walk your dog around the new neighborhood. Very soon, he or she will be acclimated to the new surroundings.

If the dog should get out of the house, the neighborhood will be familiar and, hopefully, your dog will be able to find the new home.

Pets have different personalities and some will sail right through a move to a new area while others may become nervous and stressed. Don’t be surprised if your pet begins behaving differently. It’s all a part of becoming comfortable and acclimated with the new surroundings.

Welcome home!

 

Selling your home? 3 things you need to do during the week leading up to closing

The week before your home sale closes will be packed with activity. Not only will you be finishing up your preparation for the move, but you’ll also need to get the home ready for the buyer.

Here are the three most important things you’ll need to do to ensure that the closing isn’t held up.

1. Gather important documents and other materials for the buyer

The day Martha stepped through the threshold of her first home was exciting, to say the least. As she toured it through new homeowner eyes, however, it didn’t seem the same as when she toured it through starry, house-hunter eyes.

But, there on the kitchen counter was a lone garage door opener and a key. She assumed the key would fit into one of the boxes in the community’s bank of them down the street.

But, which one? It took several back-and-forth phone calls, over the course of about a week, to finally determine that her mailbox was number 5. And her mail had stacked up considerably during that time.

So, the moral of that story is to yes, leave the mailbox key but leave a note describing which mailbox the key fits.

Other items to remember to leave for the buyer include:

  • Garage door openers
  • Landscape irrigation system instructions
  • Pool/spa operating manual
  • Security system instructions

2. Complete all of the buyer’s requests

If any non-fixtures were included in the sale, set them aside so that they aren’t accidentally packed for your move. In fact, put a note on the item or items so that movers and family members understand that the items are to remain in the home or garage.

Often, buyers request that the seller remove certain items from the home. This may include things you have stored on the side of the house, an above-ground pool and appliances.

Ensure that these items and any other personal property are removed from the home before you begin cleaning.

3. Time to clean

Buyers are told to expect the home to be “broom clean” and most sellers haven’t a clue as to what this means.

At minimum, you should:

  • Wipe down the insides of cupboards
  • Sweep and wash the floors
  • Vacuum carpets
  • Remove trash from the property (even if this means making a dump run)

Some buyers expect the oven and the interior of the refrigerator to be clean as well.

Finally, plan on leaving the utilities in your name until the sale is finalized. The buyer will perform a final walk-though of the home just before closing and will want to ensure that the major systems are working.

Here’s who to notify when you move

One of the lengthiest “to-do” lists is the one you’ll make when it’s time to move. From gathering moving materials to hiring movers and trying to time everything around a closing date – there’s a lot to do.

One very important chore that often falls through the cracks until it’s found again at the last minute is notifying people of your new address.

Here are the most critical moving notifications you’ll need to attend to.

U.S. Postal Service

This is the most critical notification you’ll make and, thankfully, they’ve made it easy for you to do. You can even specify the date on which you want to start receiving mail at the new address.

Navigate to USPS.com and fill out the form or pick up a change-of-address card at the local post office.

Utility companies

You’ll need to leave the home’s utilities on during the escrow period so that the buyer can conduct inspections. Once your moving date is firm, however, contact all utility companies with a shut-off date.

You’ll also want to determine a date for the utilities to be turned on at the new home and make a request from each company.

Add the ones that fit your situation to your list:

  • Electric
  • Gas
  • Water
  • Trash
  • Sewer
  • Propane delivery
  • Internet service provider
  • Landline phone company
  • Mobile phone provider

Notify those who provide ongoing services

This list includes:

  • Gardener
  • Pool service
  • Pet waste pickup
  • Housekeeper
  • Dog walker

Your pet’s microchip company

Sadly, failing to keep a pet’s microchip information updated is common. Pets in unfamiliar surroundings often get loose, become disoriented and, without a way to find you, the pet usually ends up at the pound.

If you remember which company your pet’s microchip is with, go to the company’s website and file a change of address and phone number (if it will be changing).

Otherwise, take the time to visit your pet’s veterinarian. They’ll typically scan the pet for free. Then you can notify the company of your new details.

Voter registration, Social Security and government benefits offices

Learn how to change your voter registration at USA.gov.

Social Security benefit recipients can change their address online as well. If you don’t have an account at the Social Security website, you’ll need to create one first (it’s free). You can do that at SSA.gov.

Collecting unemployment insurance benefits or public assistance? Call the offices to determine how they prefer you to file a change-of-address.

Your bank

Yes, the USPS will forward your mail, but banking information is just too important to trust anyone else with it.

Take the time to notify your bank, retirement fund companies and credit card companies of your new address.

Driver’s license and registration

DMV.org offers a handy tool for people in all 50 states to determine what is required to change their address with the DMV.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it does list some of the most important notifications you’ll need to make when you move.

What you need to know before you buy a vacation home

A vacation is in order right about now, don’t you agree? And wouldn’t it be amazing to have your own little place, tucked away at the lake, by the sea or in the mountains to get away from the rest of the world and the craziness we’ve been enduring?

If you’re thinking of buying a vacation home, there are a few things you should know and maybe even run by your financial planner.

Can your budget handle two mortgages?

Unless you are fortunate enough to be considered wealthy, making two mortgage payments every month may be challenging.

Before letting the dream of a vacation home carry you away, keep this in mind. Ensure that you can make those two payments and still live comfortably.

PNC Investments senior vice president, Jay Mastilak, suggests that “The basic rule of thumb is that your housing costs – including those for your primary home – should be a third of your overall income.”

Housing costs, as we all know, include more than a mortgage payment. Take a look at the following costs to consider when thinking about buying a vacation home.

Upfront costs

Remember when you bought your current home? You paid a lot of lender fees, which are probably a blur at this point. Here’s a short list of the most common:

·         recording fees

·         loan origination fees

·         credit report fee

·         title insurance premium

·         private mortgage insurance

·         points

·         homeowner’s insurance

·         escrow deposits

·         miscellaneous fees

Naturally, if you pay cash for your vacation home, you’ll avoid all the aforementioned fees.

Ongoing Expenses

In addition to your mortgage payment, consider these additional ongoing fees:

  • Insurance coverage for anything not included in your homeowners insurance. Flood coverage is just one example.
  • HOA fees if the home is located in a managed community.
  • The cost of maintaining the home
  • Utilities
  • Security if you won’t be renting out the home in the off-season.
  • The cost of travel to the home.

Remember that older homes and those that are larger than normal, will most likely have higher maintenance fees than newer, smaller homes.

Will you rent it out?

One way to help pay for all of this is to rent the home out while you’re not using it.

A part of the rental income may be subject to federal and state income tax, so you’ll want to run this by your accountant before making a decision.

You’ll also want to take into account that the home will experience more wear and tear if it’s lived in for a good portion of the year. And, if you’ll be hiring a management company to help locate tenants and collect the rent, there will be a fee involved for that as well.

Your accountant can help you calculate how long you’ll need to rent out the home to cover the costs of owning it.

“If your monthly mortgage payment is less than or equal to one peak week rental, and you rent approximately 17 weeks per year, you should have break-even cash flow on your vacation home,” according to Christine Hrib Karpinski, author of “How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner.”

Again, we aren’t accountants or financial professionals, so run this by yours when making the decision as to whether or not you can swing buying a vacation home.

 

3 Tips for buying a new toilet

Your bathroom is the workhorse of your home. It’s designed to be useful and durable. But, at some point, fixtures will need to be replaced.

Thankfully, when you replace an old toilet, the chances are quite good that you’ll be choosing a more efficient model which will pay for itself over time. This is especially true if the current toilet was manufactured before 1980, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Those toilets use up to six gallons of water during each flush. In fact, toilets are the water hogs of the entire home, “… accounting for nearly 30 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption,” according to the experts at EPA.gov.

When you replace the old model with a new, more efficient one, you’ll save water and money. Go for a WaterSense-labeled toilet and you can save “… more than $110 per year in water costs, and $2,200 over the lifetime of the toilet,” according to the EPA.

The sheer volume of different brands and models of toilets you’ll find at the local home improvement store can make shopping for one a bit challenging. We’ve rounded up some tips that will help.

One piece or two?

Depending on model, a toilet can be one piece or constructed of two pieces (the more traditional design).

A one-piece toilet, because it lacks gaps between the tank and the bowl, is easier to keep clean and recommended for families with children.

The two-piece, or traditional-style toilet may cost less and it is easier to install, especially if you’ll be doing the install solo.

Get the right size

The hole over which the toilet will be mounted and the distance from the wall to the center of the hole is called the “rough-in.” This distance is 10, 12 or 14 inches.

Take the rough-in measurement before you head out to buy a new toilet to ensure it will fit.

How much water does it use?

Different toilet models come with different flush options. All modern toilets (those manufactured since the mid-1990s) use a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush. That’s the standard toilet.

Low flush toilets, on the other hand, may use as little as 1.28 gallons. “While low-flow toilets are often more expensive to install and maintain than traditional toilet fixtures, they can also save you a significant amount of money over time,” according to the experts at home warranty company, American Home Shield.

Since the bathroom is the most-frequently used room in the home, and the toilet the biggest water user, choosing a new toilet with care will pay off in the long run.