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Buying a House as an Unmarried Couple: Here’s What You Need to Know 

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need-to-knowYou don’t have to be married to your partner in order to buy a home together. Whether you are planning on getting married in the future but do not want to wait to start your life together or you are not planning on getting married, buying a home together is possible. Here’s what you need to know about buying a house together as an unmarried couple:

  1. Make sure you have a good idea of your budget. You might have already combined your finances. If not, now is the time to sit down and take a serious look at both of your financial situations to make sure you understand how much money is coming in and where it is going when it is spent. You will also want to talk about whether you want to combine your accounts or if you want to keep them separate. Buying a home is a big decision and one that will affect both of your finances. You will want to make sure you both are on the same page before you even start looking at houses.
  1. Decide whose name is going to be on the title and loan. You will likely have to make a decision about whose name should be listed on the title and loan. This can actually be a great thing for couples. If one of your is carrying a lot of student loan debt, their financial history won’t be considered if the other person’s name is going to be on the loan and title. You can put both of your names on the mortgage, but this can complicate the process.
  1. Talk to a lawyer. You want to make sure that you are getting the same protections and benefits as a couple that is married when you buy this house together, especially if your relationship were to end while you still owned this house. Marriage is a legal contract that, once dissolved, affords each partner certain rights. The same cannot be said for unmarried couples. You can discuss with your lawyer what kind of contract or agreement you should make so that you know both of you will be protected should the relationship end.

Thinking about Living Tiny? 

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Tiny house in female hand isolated on whiteTiny houses are all the rage recently, and when they can be built and transported legally, they are a great option for single people or small families that want to live on less. While these bite-sized homes might not be a great option for everyone, they do come with a number of advantages, including a highly reduced cost over a more traditional home. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before committing to this lifestyle:

  1. Do I really want to live on less? While a tiny home is a great option for those that don’t need much space, a tiny home usually means giving up a lot of the comforts of traditional home ownership.
  1. Can you deal with less space? Less space means less storage space, less space for visitors, and less space for yourself. You might think you only need a few hundred square feet to live in, but once you are enclosed in this small space, it might not be right for you—unless it is.
  1. Do you have somewhere to put it? Choosing a tiny home can be tricky, simply because many municipalities have strict laws when it comes to home size and amenities. There are some ways to get around this (if your tiny house is technically mobile, it can be classed as a mobile home and therefore circumvent a lot of the regulations.
  1. Can you customize it? There are now companies that sell tiny homes, many of which can be customized to fit your needs. If you prefer having a full bedroom, rather than a dining space, for example, you can usually make the exchange. Are you looking at options that allow you to personalize your tiny home to fit your needs?
  1. Can you afford it? While tiny homes are generally cheaper than other types of homes, there is still a cost associated with them. Most companies will require you put a sizeable payment down for your home or even pay for the entire thing up front.
  1. Do you want to build it? Other companies give you the basic building blocks for your home and let you take care of everything else. This might be an option you prefer if you have some experience with constriction.

4 Reasons You Should Go to Open Houses

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Sign - Open HouseEven if you are not seriously thinking about buying a house in the next month, if you are preparing to buy a home, open houses are a great place to start learning about the homes available in a certain area, how much they are worth, and to flush out the list of items you want in your own home. Here are four of the biggest reasons you should go to open houses:

  1. Ask questions of the listing agents. Chances are, you might be encountering those listing agents again when you are starting to look seriously for a home to buy. Now is the perfect time to learn more about the neighborhood, the price of homes of this size and age, and a good idea of what is for sale and what’s going to be for sale in the future. This is your chance to pick the listing agent’s brain before you are working with your own buyer’s agent.
  1. See what is fashionable. When someone is trying to sell a home, they are going to try to make as many positive cosmetic changes to that home as they can. They might paint the exterior, put in new flooring, buy new appliances, etc., just to make their home look more modern. If you are interested in home design trends, visiting open houses in your area is a good way to see what’s “in” right now.
  1. Find a good contractor or designer. If you are going to be selling your own home in the future or are going to want to make changes to a home that you eventually buy, an open house is a great place to get a referral for a contractor or designer. The real estate agent in charge of the open house will likely have a list of names or businesses that they like to work with, including the businesses that helped make that home ready to sell.
  1. Nail down your expectations. You might not know what you are looking for in a home until you are actually inside other people’s homes and looking at what they have and thinking about whether or not it is going to work for you. Getting a concrete look at what’s out there can help you make decisions about what you really want from your future home.

How to Work from Home

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The Glory of the Internet Series - E-commerceDuring your home search, you might have been looking specifically for one with an extra room that you could use as your office. Even if you weren’t on the hunt for a house with a dedicated office space, your work-from-home lifestyle was probably still a factor in your home buying decision. Now that you have your home, you might be experiencing the real life trials of trying to work from that space. Here are some tips to make you as productive as possible:

  1. Dedicate a space just to working. If you are going to be working from home, you need a space where you do nothing but that. The mobility of technology makes it easy to work from anywhere you please, but creating a dedicated workplace in your home is about putting yourself in the right mindset to work. If you use that space for anything else, you’ll find yourself less focused. It is also nice to have a defined area that is yours and that when your family members or roommates see you there, they know you are working and they should not bother you.
  1. Get up and move around. It can be tempting just to sit and work and never move from your space, except to get a drink of water or a snack. This can wreak havoc on your body. Even if you have a desk and chair that cater to good posture and comfort, sitting for hours and hours every day is bad for your body and could contribute to very real health conditions. At least once every few hours, get up, stretch, and walk around your house. Consider intersecting your day with a workout to get your blood moving again.
  1. Look into time management solutions. If you often find yourself getting distracted by chores, television, or other pursuits, it might be time to look into effective time management options. Not only can you install programs on your computer that prevent you from getting on time-wasting websites (like social media), there are also apps and online tools that help you manage your to-do list. Consider making yourself a schedule so you know what you need to get done when, allowing you to better understand your priorities.

Why You Should Buy a Home This Fall

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canstockphoto17639734Though spring is usually the busiest time of year to buy a home, buying a home during the fall comes along with a lot of great perks, including the fact that there are simply fewer people shopping, so there is less competition. Besides the lack of competition, the weather is perfect for touring homes, and nothing really showcases a house better than fall colors in the trees and the nostalgia of Thanksgiving and the winter holidays approaching. Here are four more reasons you should buy a home this fall:

 

  • Homes still on the market from the spring. There will be many sellers who started trying to sell their homes in the spring and are still trying to find buyers. These sellers are more likely to be willing to negotiate, as their homes have been on the market for months. Some may even be so desperate to sell, that they have lowered their home’s price below the market value, simply to attract buyers.

 

  • Sellers during the holiday season are more motivated to sell. When a seller is not motivated, they can sit and wait for the right price to come their way. With the holidays approaching, however, sellers are more likely to be motivated to get out of their current home and into the new one. Having a house for sale during Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas is just disruptive, so many sellers are willing to work with buyers in order to sell off their house quickly.

 

  • Most sellers will want to close before the year ends. If someone puts their home on the market this late in the year, it is probably because they want the gain or loss that comes with selling that home to be on this tax year. That means they will want to sell before the year comes to a close, making them even more motivated to work with people looking to buy homes during this season.

 

  • Fall is not always the best backdrop for homes. Curb appeal and first impressions have a lot to do with a home’s value. While fall colors can frame a home nicely, dying flowers and lawns, as well as harsher fall light that can reveal scratches, stains, and other issues, may encourage a seller to lower their price when the right buyer comes along.

Home Security Tips for First-Time Homeowners

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Privacy concept:  on digital backgroundEven if you choose a safe neighborhood to buy in, there is always the possibility that your home will be targeted by thieves. If you want to protect your home, your family, and your possessions from break-ins, the best way is to fortify your home. Here are some home security tips for first-time homebuyers:

  • Get to know the neighborhood before you move in. Before you even put an offer down on the house you want to buy, do a little research about the neighborhood. Is this neighborhood a safe area? No neighborhood is going to be completely crime free, but you certainly do not want to buy in an area that is known for home invasions. In general, areas with single family homes will have the lowest crime rates, while rental properties will often have higher rates.
  • Get to know your neighbors. Even if you do not intend on becoming best friends with your neighbors, it is still a good idea to get to know them. Being friendly with the people around you probably means that they will look out for you and your home. If there is a neighborhood watch group, join it. If there isn’t, you might want to start one.
  • Perform an audit of your home’s security. It might be helpful to ask your neighbors what security flaws or bad habits they notice. For example, if you often leave your garage door open overnight, this could be a potential entry point for burglars. Walk around your house and test your own windows and doors. How difficult would it really be for someone to get into your home?
  • Prevent, first and foremost. Picking up after a break in is much more traumatic than preventing one in the first place. A home security system is a good option, but even if you opt against one, you can still reinforce your doors and windows to make sure that no one can easily open them.
  • Ask about home insurance discounts. Many insurers will offer you a discount if you take extra measures to protect your home from burglars. Some systems even help you save money, as they can be wired into your thermostat and controlled remotely from a mobile device.

5 Things I Wish I’d Known before Buying a House

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need-to-knowIf you are thinking of buying your very first home, you are probably excited and ready to start the search. But if you have never purchased a home before, there are aspects of the process that might be foreign to you. Here are a few pieces of advice from veteran homeowners:

  • Hire a buyer’s agent. With technology making it so easy to see which homes are for sale in a certain area, you might start to believe that you do not need to hire an agent to help you buy a home. The truth is, however, that an agent can be a huge asset. Not only will they help you get a better price on the house you want to buy, they make sure that the home you buy is actually right for you.
  • Do your own inspection. Don’t just trust what the sellers tell you. Even if the idea of having a mold or termite problem won’t put you off of the house entirely, you want to know what the issues with the house are before you make the purchase. You’ll probably still end up buying the house, but you should know what the obstacles are before you buy.
  • Understand your market. Do some research before you actually get out there are start looking at house. You want to know the average price for homes in the area, as well as their lot sizes and square footage. Having some information about the neighborhood can also help you make sure you’re moving into the right area.
  • Avoid making other big purchases. You might be looking to buy your first home and your first car at the same time, but hold off on making any other large purchases around the time when you are going to buy your home.
  • Know what you can afford. This is why getting pre-approved for a mortgage is so helpful—you’ll be able to know how much home you can afford based on what a lender is willing to give you and how much you can afford to pay each month. You’ll have a much better chance of getting a home that you both love and can pay for when you know your budget before you start shopping.

A Quick Guide to Understanding Your Credit Report 

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stressed woman with computerYou already know that you should be looking at your credit report at least once a year. Understanding what this report says can actually be difficult. There are lots of different terms to contend with and numbers that you need to worry about. What do you really need to know in order to understand your credit report? Here’s a quick guide to get you started:

  • There are actually three credit-reporting agencies in the United States. These agencies are Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Each year, you can get a free report from each of these agencies, as provided by federal law. There are a wide variety of websites that grant you access to this credit report, some of which are free, some of which appear to be free but do actually charge you.
  • Do look at all three of your reports. Don’t just read one of your reports and hope that the other two have the same exact information. Some information might actually be reported to only one or two of the agencies. A mistake might be on one of the reports but not on the others. Don’t order them all at once—order one every four months and compare the reports.
  • Your report has four sections. Once you are looking at it, you will see that it has four sections. The first is your identifying information. Make sure that all of this information is correct. Then you will have your credit history, which will show you what kind of credit you have, how much you have, how much you owe, etc. Public records come next, which might include judgements or bankruptcies. Lastly, there will be a list of people who have inquired to look at your credit.
  • Check for mistakes. The biggest reason to get your credit report is to check for mistakes. Much of the information on it is reported by humans, which means there is a possibility that it could be reported incorrectly. Your report will have a link to a form where you can submit a dispute, which prompts the agency to take a closer look at that item and correct any errors. You can escalate a dispute to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if you feel your dispute was not handled correctly.

 

How to Furnish Your New Home Cheap!

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LivingOnce you have obtained your mortgage and purchased your new home, the next step is probably to start buying furniture for that home. Whether you got rid of most of your old furniture or you are moving from a smaller home or apartment into a larger one and will need more furniture to make it feel cozy, you can actually get the pieces you need without breaking the bank. Here are some suggestions for furnishing your home on the cheap:

 

  • Find the best time to buy new items. If you have your heart set on buying something new, there are certain times of the year that are going to be better than others. For example, appliances are almost always going to be on sale during the month of December, leading up to the winter holidays. June, on the other hand, is often the best time to buy indoor furniture, unless the furniture stores in your area have massive Fourth of July sales. Pay attention to the sales cycles and wait to pick up your bigger pieces until the time is right.

 

  • Be on the lookout for second hand items. Your friends might post on Facebook when they have furniture they want to get rid of, usually and a much lower price than what they originally paid for it. Depending on the friend, you might even be able to get it for free. This is a great way to get gently used items that will look just like new when you actually put them in your home. Even second hand stores will often have a great item for sale, if you can be the first one to see it and buy it. Consignment stores might be a little bit more expensive, but they will also usually have higher quality pieces.

 

  • Make your own. A basic table isn’t really that hard to make. Upgrading a basic table is even easier and you don’t have to have any carpentry skills to get it done. In that same vein, you can make your own art for your walls and even your own throw blankets, usually for much less than you will pay if you were to go out and buy all of these items.

How to Budget when Living Alone

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dog welcome homeIf you are living alone for the first time, whether you have just moved out of your parent’s house or you have gotten home or apartment for the first time without roommates, budgeting for living by yourself can be very different from budgeting for living with family or roommates. While it can be nice to have a space all to yourself, there is no one else to split the costs of food, rent, internet, activities, and utilities. It is definitely a transition. Here’s what you need to know:

Don’t Worry

Living alone might be perceived as more expensive than living with another person or multiple people, but because it is just you, you generally do not need as large of a space nor do you usually have to pay as high utilities. There are lots of options for smaller homes and apartments, whether you are renting the guesthouse behind someone’s home or living in an efficiency or studio apartment, instead of in a one or two bedroom space. You can cut your living costs and still have plenty of money left over to continue living your life.

Don’t Wait

Many people will search desperately for roommates, simply because they do not want to live alone. Why not live alone, though? You can still have your friends over, with the added benefit of not actually having to live with them. When the night is over, you can send them home. Stop waiting for roommates or a partner in order to look for the perfect home for your needs. This will just lead to you waiting around forever to start your life. Start figuring out now how you can afford it, without roommates or family.

Cook Instead of Going Out

One of the biggest mistakes many people who live alone make is to continually go out to eat, instead of making their own food. It can actually be more difficult to figure out how to cook for one than it is to cook for a group. A solution might be to buy a cookbook that is designed to help you make meals for one or to start a dinner club with your friends, where you all chip in money or ingredients to make a dish.