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6 REASONS TO OWN YOUR HOME
- Tax Breaks. The U.S. Tax Code lets you deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage, your property taxes, as well as some of the costs involved in buying your home.
- Appreciation. Real estate has long term, stable growth value. While year-to-year fluctuations are normal, median existing home sale prices have increased on average 6.5 percent each year from 1972 through 2005 and increased 88.5 percent over the last 10 years, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. In addition, the number of U.S. households is expected to rise 15 percent over the next decade, creating continued high demand for housing.
- Equity. Money paid for rent is money that you’ll never see again, but mortgage payments let you build equity ownership interest in your home.
- Predictability. Unlike rent, your fixed-mortgage payments don’t rise over the years so your housing costs may actually decline as you own the home longer. However, keep in mind that property taxes and insurance costs will increase.
- Freedom. The home is yours. You can decorate any way you want and benefit from your investment for as long as you own the home.
- Stability. Remaining in one neighborhood for several years gives you a chance to participate in community activities, lets you and your family establish lasting friendships, and offers your children the benefit of educational continuity. Online resources: To calculate whether buying is the best financial option for you, use the FreddieMac “Buy vs. Rent” calculator.
17 TIPS FOR PACKING LIKE A PRO
Moving to a new home can be stressful, to say the least. Make it easy on yourself by planning far in advance and making sure you’ve covered all the bases.
1. Plan ahead by organizing and budgeting. Develop a master “to do” list so you won’t forget something critical on moving day
2. Sort and get rid of things you no longer want or need. Have a garage sale, donate to a charity, or recycle.
3. But don’t throw out everything. If your inclination is to just toss it, you’re probably right. However, it’s possible to go overboard in the heat of the moment. Ask yourself how frequently you use an item and how you’d feel if you no longer had it. That will eliminate regrets after the move.
4. Pack similar items together. Put toys with toys, kitchen utensils with kitchen utensils. It will make your life easier when it’s time to unpack.
5. Decide what, if anything, you plan to move on your own. Precious items such as family photos, valuable breakables, or must-haves during the move should probably stay with you. Don’t forget to keep a “necessities” bag with tissues, snacks, and other items you’ll need that day.
6. Remember, most movers won’t take plants. If you don’t want to leave them behind, you should plan on moving them yourself.
7. Use the right box for the item. Loose items are prone to breakage.
8. Put heavy items in small boxes so they’re easier to lift. Keep the weight of each box under 50 pounds, if possible.
9. Don’t over-pack boxes. It increases the likelihood that items inside the box will break.
10. Wrap every fragile item separately and pad bottom and sides of boxes. If necessary, purchase bubble-wrap or other packing materials from moving stores.
11. Label every box on all sides. You never know how they’ll be stacked and you don’t want to have to move other boxes aside to find out what’s there.
12. Use color-coded labels to indicate which room each item should go in. Color-code a floor plan for your new house to help movers.
13. Keep your moving documents together in a file. Include important phone numbers, driver’s name, and moving van number. Also keep your address book handy.
14. Print out a map and directions for movers. Make several copies, and highlight the route. Include your cell phone number on the map. You don’t want movers to get lost! Also make copies for friends or family who are lending a hand on moving day.
15. Back up your computer files before moving your computer. Keep the backup in a safe place, preferably at an off-site location.
16. Inspect each box and all furniture for damage as soon as it arrives.
17. Make arrangements for small children and pets. Moving can be stressful and emotional. Kids can help organize their things and pack boxes ahead of time, but, if possible, it might be best to spare them from the moving-day madness.
WHAT A HOME INSPECTION SHOULD COVER
Home inspections will vary depending on the type of property you are purchasing. A large historic home, for example, will require a more specialized inspection than a small condominium. However, the following are the basic elements that a home inspector will check. You can also use this list to help you evaluate properties you might purchase.
For more information, try the virtual home inspection at www.ASHI.org, the Web site of the American Society of Home Inspectors.
Structure: A home’s skeleton impacts how the property stands up to weather, gravity, and the earth. Structural components, including the foundation and the framing, should be inspected.
Exterior: The inspector should look at sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, and doors. A home’s siding, trim, and surface drainage also are part of an exterior inspection.
- Doors and Windows
- Siding (brick, stone, stucco, vinyl, wood, etc.)
- Attached porches, decks and balconies
Roofing: A well-maintained roof protects you from rain, snow, and other forces of nature. Take note of the roof’s age, conditions of flashing, roof draining systems (pooling water), buckled shingles, loose gutters and downspouts, skylight, and chimneys.
Plumbing: Thoroughly examine the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and fuel storage systems. Drainage pumps and sump pumps also fall under this category. Poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion can indicate problems.
Electrical: Safe electrical wiring is essential. Look for the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room.
Heating: The home’s heating system, vent system, flues, and chimneys should be inspected. Look for age of water heater, whether the size is adequate for the house, speed of recovery, and energy rating.
10 QUESTIONS TO ASK HOME INSPECTORS
Before you make your final buying or selling decision, you should have the home inspected by a professional. An inspection can alert you to potential problems with a property and allow you to make an informed decision. Ask these questions to prospective home inspectors:
1. Will your inspection meet recognized standards? Ask whether the inspection and the inspection report will meet all state requirements and comply with a well-recognized standard of practice and code of ethics, such as the one adopted by the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors. Customers can view each group’s standards of practice and code of ethics online at www.ashi.org orwww.nahi.org. ASHI’s Web site also provides a database of state regulations.
2. Do you belong to a professional home inspector association?There are many state and national associations for home inspectors, including the two groups mentioned in No. 1. Unfortunately, some groups confer questionable credentials or certifications in return for nothing more than a fee. Insist on members of reputable, nonprofit trade organizations; request to see a membership ID.
3. How experienced are you? Ask how long inspectors have been in the profession and how many inspections they’ve completed. They should provide customer referrals on request. New inspectors also may be highly qualified, but they should describe their training and let you know whether they plan to work with a more experienced partner.
4. How do you keep your expertise up to date? Inspectors’ commitment to continuing education is a good measure of their professionalism and service. Advanced knowledge is especially important in cases in which a home is older or includes unique elements requiring additional or updated training.
5. Do you focus on residential inspection? Make sure the inspector has training and experience in the unique discipline of home inspection, which is very different from inspecting commercial buildings or a construction site. If your customers are buying a unique property, such as a historic home, they may want to ask whether the inspector has experience with that type of property in particular.
6. Will you offer to do repairs or improvements? Some state laws and trade associations allow the inspector to provide repair work on problems uncovered during the inspection. However, other states and associations forbid it as a conflict of interest. Contact your local ASHI chapter to learn about the rules in your state.
7. How long will the inspection take? On average, an inspector working alone inspects a typical single-family house in two to three hours; anything significantly less may not be thorough. If your customers are purchasing an especially large property, they may want to ask whether additional inspectors will be brought in.
8. What’s the cost? Costs can vary dramatically, depending on your region, the size and age of the house, and the scope of services. The national average for single-family homes is about $320, but customers with large homes can expect to pay more. Customers should be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.
9. What type of inspection report do you provide? Ask to see samples to determine whether you will understand the inspector’s reporting style. Also, most inspectors provide their full report within 24 hours of the inspection.
10. Will I be able to attend the inspection? The answer should be yes. A home inspection is a valuable educational opportunity for the buyer. An inspector’s refusal to let the buyer attend should raise a red flag.