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August 2019

how to get started in real estate investing

How To Invest In Real Estate With Only $1,000 (Yes, You Can!)

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There are numerous articles available online that try and explain to you how to get started in real estate investing. You may think that a real estate investment is not possible with only $1000, but the stock market and the Internet have opened up many avenues that will allow you to become a real estate investor.

Before we get into how to invest in real estate as a hands-on investor, let’s first talk about some more passive options. If at any point the terminology doesn’t make sense, please refer to our handy real estate investing terminology guide.

Stocks

If you take $1,000 and buy approximately 35 share of KB Home stock, you’ll be a real estate investor.

If the stock goes up 10 points you’ll make $350. The stock also pays a yearly dividend of 1.28 percent, so you could pick up a little cash that way also.

REIT ETF

A REIT is a real estate investment trust.

When you purchase an interest in one of these, you trust others to take your money and profitably invest it in real estate projects. If you want to diversify with the world of REITs, you can buy a REIT exchange traded fund or an ETF. Eric Rosenberg explains REIT ETFs this way:

“Real estate investment trusts, or REITs, are a great way to invest in real estate for a variety of reasons. They give shareholders a slice of ownership in a property or portfolio of properties and guarantee a certain percentage of the profit gets paid out in dividends. A REIT ETF is a type of fund made up exclusively of REIT stocks.”

If you want to invest in real estate but can’t afford to invest in properties directly or build a diverse portfolio of REITs, a REIT ETF may be the right starting point for you.

With REIT ETFs, you can invest in a diverse range of properties with one low-cost investment — ETFs can be bought and sold like shares of stock on the stock market, and just like stocks, the companies that create and manage ETFs have to provide information to the public that helps you decide if it is a good investment.”

Crowdfunding

Investing in some real estate projects used to be reserved for those persons that were designated as “accredited investors” by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Basically, if you weren’t wealthy enough to absorb a big private investment loss, you were prohibited from joining the party. 

With crowdfunding, you can invest in real estate projects through various sites just by going online line and searching for real estate crowdfunding opportunities. If the project you invest in makes money, you’ll get a share. 

How to Get Started in Real Estate Investing Traditionally

Listed above are the passive ways to invest $1000 and become a real estate investor.

If you really want to know how to get started in real estate investing with $1,000, and you desire to get in as an active investor, try these methods:

  1. Find investors that buy real estate for cash. These people look for motivated sellers and try to find lowball deals. If they can buy under market, the possibility of nice profits exists. See if you can take your $1000 and buy into one of these deals. Also, see if by adding sweat equity–where you would do actual work—you could be offered a bigger chunk of the deal.
  2. Find a home that you can buy for $1000 down or less and then rent it. This might be a distressed property in a less than desirable area, but if you buy correctly and the area supports the rent you need to generate cash, you could have monthly profits.
  3. Locate investors that are looking for homes and offer to find good deals in exchange for equity. Use your $1000 to buy signs or to buy some advertising that says you represent an investor that is looking for property. Or, use part of your money to set up a website. Note: be careful not to violate any real estate laws that require a broker’s license to conduct this type of business.
  4. Buy property in distressed situations. If people have delinquent property taxes or are faced with foreclosure, you can find good deals. If you are going to do all of the work that goes into finding a property, repairing it and then selling it, an investor may cut you in for a nice sized piece of ultimate deal.

Yes, $1000 is enough to get you started in the real estate market.

Whether you use passive methods like stocks, REITs, REIT ETFs, and crowdfunding, or if you jump into the deals themselves, real estate investing is like any other business—do your homework and put in the time and you can see great results.

For more info on real estate investing, check out our guide to other types of investments here.

how to flip a house

7 Habits of Super Successful House Flippers

1000 500 Taylor Witt

Learning how to flip a house can be a daunting task. But if you’re really looking to add value to your real estate investments, then house flipping might just be for you.

There seems to be a mystique about house flipping when in reality, it’s just a form of basic capitalism—buy a property for a low price and then sell it for more than you paid for it.

Image result for house flipping

The idea of house flipping does infer that the transaction happens quickly, but there is no rule that prescribes a set time frame for this real estate investment.

It is also assumed that the act of house flipping requires the purchase of a fixer-upper, doing repairs and then reselling the unit, but in theory, if you had some powerful information—like Amazon headquarters planning to locate in a certain area—you could try and purchase properties before the news broke and quickly flip the homes without doing any repairs at all.

This, of course, would be the best of all worlds, and if you are thinking of learning how to flip a house, you are going to have to buy low, do repairs and find a buyer that will pay you enough to make a profit.

Let’s now look at seven things the most successful home flippers do:

How to Flip a House: They Find a Deal

This may sound simple, but it takes research and a true understanding of local markets.

Image result for house flipping
Image courtesy of The Duplex Doctors

Pick an area and know something about every house in it. You can either wait for properties to go on the market, or you can pro-actively offer to buy homes in the area for cash before they are listed.

If you are diligent and lucky, you could find a seller before they even decide to list their home.

Everything Is Done with The Final Price in Mind

Seasoned flippers that know how to flip a house can look at a home, visualize the repairs that it needs, such as lawn care upgrades, and calculate a final sale price that will work in the specific market.

Image result for house flipping
Image courtesy of the Washington Post

They don’t blindly buy properties with the idea that thy will merely add their remodeling costs to the purchase price and then mark it up a certain percentage to ensure a profit.

That might seem logical, but just because you send $50,000 repairing a $100,000 home doesn’t mean that you can automatically get your money out of it without considering what the neighborhood will bear. Please, just be mindful of renovation budgets.

They Have an Idea of Who the Buyer Might Be

When fixing up a home, people that know how to flip a house have an idea of who is going to be the end buyer.

If millennials are the target market, for example, smart home features are a necessity. If baby boomers are the likely buyers, a well-landscaped yard might be very important.

If your property is going to be purchased by a person that wants to turn it into a short-term rental unit, you may want to make sure that all furnishings are secure, for example.

They Want Everyone to Win

Successful flippers take the neighborhood into account when they purchase a property to repair and sell. They want the end result to fit in with the surrounding homes and they also want to see everyone’s property values increase. 

They Strive to Understand the Big Picture

Those that know how to flip a home totally understand the basics of flipping that transcend individual projects.

They try to meet certain profit percentage margins, and if a house is not going to fit into their business plan, they will reject it. Yes, there are variances and differences in every project, but a basic understanding of the global process is key.

They Try for Speed

Even if you buy your first flip with cash, the meter is running daily. You will owe dollars for utilities, taxes and insurance, and these will keep accruing until you finish the home and sell it.

If you buy with hard money for example, you could be paying up to 15 percent interest, and mounting expenses are the enemy of good deals.

They Find Where It’s Happening

Finally, good house flippers scour their areas or even the nation to find the best markets — they don’t just find a real estate flyer and sign on for a flip. Lots of fixer-uppers in gentrifying areas are one place to look but do try to exhaust your local area before looking nationwide.

All of those HGTV shows have some basis in fact, and what they do, you can do.

One method we really like is to live in the home you are fixing up. You immerse yourself in that project only, make the home a palace while you are living there, and then sell it and find a new project.

If you can live in a demolition and reconstruction area, you can save a lot of money on personal housing costs.

At any rate, learning how to flip a house is not impossible, but you should take some time to understand exactly the mechanisms of this process.

pests at home

Homeowners Guide to Preventing and Treating Pests

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So you just purchased your house, and when unpacking your boxes you find out you’re not alone. 

Good news: Your place is not haunted.

Bad news: You have squatters.  Possibly hundreds of them.  It’s not unusual to discover your new home has pests. Especially if it has been vacant for a while.

Of the many expenses of new home ownership, professional pest control doesn’t always have to be one.  Below we will explore the DIY methods of identifying, preventing and treating the top three household pests: Ants, Roaches and Mice. You can find these and many more DIY solutions at www.pests.org.

Ants

The best approach is a four-pronged approach:  

  1. Ants enter your home through tiny cracks or crevices – first seal any entry points, especially around heating and cooling units.
  2. Next make sure your home is not ant-friendly.  Reduce any crumbs, open food packaging, sticky surfaces, anything that may entice an ant.
  3. Kill the scouts! Often the ants you see are on a reconnaissance mission – if your home looks hospitable to them – plenty of food, water and shelter they will return and bring the troops!  If the scouts don’t survive – they can’t report just how inhabitable your house may be.  
  4. Find the nest.  Ants are most active at night – try putting out some bait – it could be as simple as sugar water, grab a flashlight and see where they go.  That’s the nest.

Once you’ve done your due diligence it’s time to treat.  Make you own, non-toxic ant poison:

  • 1 Cup warm water
  • ½ Cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Borax

Combine all ingredients, mix well – you can microwave it to make sure the sugar melts.  Once solution is cool, leave in shallow containers (old baby food jar lids or unmatched Tupperware lids are great options) where you see ants (counters, appliances, window-sills) and popular ant highways and bi-ways (along walls/baseboards).  You can also soak cotton balls with this mixture and place in the same areas to avoid spilling or a pet lapping it up.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

After you’ve eradicated the infestation – or better yet before you experience an invasion you can prepare your own ant preventative:

  • ½ Cup water
  • ½ Cup white vinegar

Combine in a spray bottle and apply along walls, windows and doorways.  Be sure to shake before spraying. 

Roaches

If you see roaches skittering across the floor don’t panic – identify!  It’s crucial to first pinpoint which of the 45,000 variety of roaches is sharing your crib. This article can help you do so.  

Once you have some knowledge take thee (and your little roach carcass) to the pesticide aisle!  Yes, you could try to make your own roach poison but because infestations can grow so quick and roaches are notoriously resilient a chemical approach might be the best option considering the many diseases they carry. 

Now your ready to treat: With a flashlight in one hand, and a spray can in the other.  Look under appliances, behind furniture, under cabinets and damp places. Some roaches feed on cardboard and paper materials so check in cluttered places like closets, attics and garages.  Spray all roaches you see and the entire area liberally. If the infestation is especially large, you may decide to fog those areas rather than spay. 

After you have conquered what is arguably one of the hardest pests to vanquish you can now turn to the homemade, non-toxic approach if you choose.  

Roaches love coffee!  You can create a Starbucks they will enter – but never leave with the following:

  • 3 parts water
  • 1 part coffee

Mix coffee solution in large jar – make sure not to fill all the way – roaches will crawl into jar trying to get their caffeine-fix, slip and slide into the liquid and drown.  

Roaches also love chocolate!  Create your own Death by Chocolate:

  • 1 part diatomaceous earth (this can be purchased at any hardware store)
  • 1 part cocoa powder

Combine these powders and sprinkle along baseboards or anywhere you see roaches.  This combination is deadly to roaches but safe for humans.   

Mice

Fortunately, if you have mice, you will know. They pretty much assault all the senses:  You may see them scampering across the floor, hear them scratching the walls or smell the foul odor of deceased mice and/or droppings.  Unfortunately, for every mouse you see, there are likely 10 you don’t.

The only thing worse than mice?  Rats. Your first step in treating a problem is identifying your target.  While you may not see the vermin-in-question you will most certainly see droppings. This chart will help you identify who’s living in your house rent-free.

Once you have confirmed you have a mouse issue. You need to act swiftly, mice reproduce rapidly. Mice can have litters every three weeks. One pair of mice can produce up to 64 pinkies (baby mice) a year.  

Your DIY options range from lethal (with a variety of traps on the market) to humane (mouse buckets, live traps, repellents.  

Depending on the severity of the problem you may want to begin with traps before employing live or repellent options. Of the many traps available the most humane is an electronic trap, such as the Victor Electronic Trap. These are also the most expensive option, but many are reusable improving on their value.  You can purchase live traps or create your own using a bucket. This video will give you step-by-step instructions.  

There are varying opinions on the efficacy of ultrasonic mouse repellents but there are many available at hardware stores or Amazon if that approach appeals to you.  One advantage of a ultrasonic unit is that they are intended to repel a wide array of pests – not just mice. 

To create your own, non-toxic repellent you can use, safe essential oils:  

  • 1 Cup of food-grade diatomaceous earth
  • 1/8 Cup sugar
  • 2-3 Drops 100% pure peppermint oil 

Mix all ingredients and leave in open containers where you see mice congregating.  Refurbish with a fresh mixture weekly for best results.

A simpler solution that has had some success is soap.  Take a very strong-smelling soap like Irish Spring or its generic counterpart, cut into cubes and leave around entryways, attics or crawl spaces.

New home ownership is an exciting time and like most, you want to fill your home with love and laughter not creepy crawlies.  This information should help you treat or prevent the most common pest problems without having to consult a professional. So your house guests are by invitation only. 

New Homeowner Design Tips

5 Design Tips for the New Homeowner

1000 500 Taylor Witt

Congratulations, new homeowner!

You’ve purchased a property that’s all yours, where you and your family can make incredible memories as you grow. It’s a big step (and an important one), but even though the papers are signed and the keys are turned over, you’re not quite finished – yet.

To truly be a homeowner, the house you just bought needs to become more than a house – you need to turn it into your home. The right design elements can make that a cinch. Here are the five key design tips that will help turn your new house into a home.  

Think about the Theme

If your new home purchase is a considerable step-up from the apartment you were just renting, it can be easy to get carried away day-dreaming about all that can be with every room. You might have three or more bedrooms, two or more bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room, a formal dining room, and even more that all need a personal stamp and funky design to make them come alive. Oh, the possibilities!

But cohesion is key: your entire home needs to retain one single, comprehensive theme and color palette that resonates across rooms – otherwise rooms can feel disjointed and the home can lose that “homey” quality.

A good place to start is with painting: painting your entire home with one cohesive color palette is an easy way to make the design transition from room to room seamlessly. Then you can let the individual furniture pieces, textiles or décor items of the space introduce character and difference in each room.

This doesn’t mean that every room has to be white (far from it). Commit to a curated color palette that revolves around one neutral (grey and “greige” are so in right now), and then add accent colors that bring bursts of life to individual rooms.

Painting is a no-brainer design upgrade to add vibrant color: the cost is minimal, you can do it yourself, and it’s an easy way to elevate a space and make it homey and beautiful while putting your stamp on it.   

Mix Old and New

Here’s a common new homebuyer faux-pas: many will hit the big furniture stores and go crazy.

They end up taking home entire living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms, and then walking through the house becomes like walking across a showroom floor: there’s no individuality. Save yourself the embarrassment (and your wallet the massive hit).

Buy a few new signature pieces that will anchor the design of the house (a sofa, a dining table, and maybe your bedroom set), but then don’t be afraid to incorporate old pieces, hand-me-downs, or even thrift-store finds. These long-loved pieces are what bring a home to life, and you’ll be surprised how well they’ll fit in with the new purchases you make.

Mixing old and new brings a homey and eclectic feel to space, and as long as you keep to your general theme, shouldn’t create a clash.

Feng Shui your Space

You don’t have to be a Feng Shui guru to appreciate (and implement) a few of its key and most critical elements.

Live plants in a space (especially in the kitchen above the cabinetry) paired with ample natural light can bring a real feel of Zen to any room. Another important tenet of Feng Shui is the featured piece. In your bedroom, let the biggest piece of furniture (IE the bed) serve as the visual focal point, and put it against the main wall so that when you walk into the space, you feel it really anchoring the rest of the room.

Finally, find somewhere pretty and central in your home to place a small Feng Shui water feature. Nothing says luxury and relaxed-living like the constant trickle of a well-placed fountain.

Don’t Skimp on Lighting

Lighting is perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of room design, and yet it’s arguably the most critical.

A warm, well-lit room can make even the most drab and disjointed arrangement of furniture feel intentional, while a dim room casts nothing but shadows over the new bedroom set that you fell in love with at the store. Before you move furniture in, think critically about the ambient lighting in a space.

Rooms with big windows that give the opportunity for lots of natural light should be supported (IE don’t hide those big windows!). Let soft, opaque curtains carry that natural light through the room and into the halls.

Rooms that don’t have big picture windows will need a boost when it comes to lighting: consider recessed lights in the ceiling or even in built-in furniture (nothing says luxury like an entertainment unit that lights itself!). Once your ambient lighting is well-established, move your furniture in. Then, figure out where additional lighting pieces are needed. Remember, everyone loves entertaining outside as well!

Well-placed floor lamps and paired lamps on end tables can serve as the cherry on top of a beautiful room. When it comes to good lighting, you’d rather have too much than too little.  

Make it Yours

With well-placed furniture, curated lighting, thoughtful and cohesive color palette and Feng Shui design elements, your space is near perfect. Now make it your own: incorporate those elements of a space that just can’t be bought in a store.

Hang family photos, paintings, wall clocks, and other heirlooms passed down over time. Fill your shelves with books and keepsakes. You can even let your clothes bring character to a space by putting hooks on bedroom walls (get those fun hats and beautiful scarves out of that closet and into the light!). While there’s certainly something to be said for minimalism, blank walls and empty bookcases aren’t exactly homey.

The goal is to ensure that your home screams “you,” so let your treasured items do that for you by bringing them out and putting them on display. If you’ve thought about the theme and kept your home Feng Shui, you’re not likely to risk being over-cluttered.

A home is what you make it, so don’t shirk on the design and feel of the space. If you pour your heart (and unload character) into each room, you’ll feel that homeyness every single day Congratulations again on the purchase of your first home: enjoy it!

Kitchen design ideas

7 Ways To Give Your Kitchen a Personal Touch

1000 500 Taylor Witt

The kitchen often becomes the heart and soul of any home, but what can be done when the space feels a little bit…drab? There’s a tricky middle ground between wanting to spruce up a kitchen and feeling the need to do a full-blown renovation. 

In this article, we recommend some (relatively) simple design and décor tweaks that will help you to truly make your kitchen your own. Whether it’s your first home or you’re an experienced owner, these tips can help!

A New Paint Job 

A new paint job is one of the best ways to reclaim a space as yours in a home. Depending on how you go about doing it, painting a room can be fairly affordable and reasonably simple.  

Your choice of color is entirely your own, but just keep this basic rule in mind: light colors make a room feel bigger. Darker colors usually make a room feel smaller because of the way they absorb light. For this reason, people usually choose softer colors in the kitchen, but to each their own! 

As an added bonus, Amanda from PaintSprayerMag also advises that a fresh coat of paint can also increase the value of your home. There is no precise metric of how much, but some estimates suggest a boost of up to $2000 when the job is done well. 

A New Backsplash 

Backsplashes are fun because they present an enormous opportunity to get creative. You can go with a singular concept and feature tiles of one color, or you can get creative and mix and match various designs and concepts.  

Installing a new backsplash is also not terribly difficult. Once the workspace has been prepped, the task can be accomplished using a few straightforward tools that are likely to set you back less than $100 at the hardware store.  

If you want to get the job done quickly, you can get backsplash rolls that are installed more or less the same way as wallpaper, but it can also be very satisfying to install each tile individually.  

Just be sure to let your creativity fly! A dull backsplash blends in and goes unnoticed, while a unique one can serve as an eye-catching focal point in any kitchen. 

A Kitchen Island 

For bigger changes, we have the kitchen island. Adding one of these kitchen centerpieces will be a bigger time and money commitment, but it is also a great way to make the kitchen your central family hangout.  

Why is the kitchen island so great? Mostly because it’s a double-duty design element. While dinner is being made, it’s a great place to lay out all your ingredients, chop up the vegetables, and so on. 

It can also serve as a place to sit down as a family and enjoy a shared meal. Granted, not every kitchen will be able to easily accommodate an island countertop. You need a moderate- to large-sized space to really make it work. 

Upgrade Your Sink 

It sounds like a weird idea, but there is actually wisdom in going all out on a new sink. Why? There are two reasons. New sinks, even with the cost of installation, are not very expensive. It’s a chance to personalize the dynamic of your kitchen without putting a lot of money into it.  

Kitchen sinks are also just in constant use, both by the cook and by the people cleaning up after meals. This means that your new faucet and/or sink basin will be noticed on a regular basis.  

Changing your sink is fast, easy, and affordable: all great buzzwords when it comes time to change the vibe in a room.  

Tweak the Lighting 

Lighting is vital in any room. If it’s done well, lighting will make a space look vibrant, and perhaps even larger than it actually is. If it’s done poorly, the lighting might make the room look smaller, or depressing.  

It can be handy to invest in overhead lighting that can be dimmed or brightened to suit the needs of various situations. Some people also like to put lights beneath or even inside cabinets to further enhance the light aesthetic of a room.  

If you don’t want to pay for all-new lighting, you can improve the look of a room simply by doing away with curtains and blinds. There is really no beating natural lighting anyway, right? 

Get Eclectic 

The kitchen is one of the best spaces in the home to mix and match décor ideas. You can accomplish this with relative ease simply by shopping around for mismatched chairs, rugs, and dinner plates. Granted, decorating in this fashion is always a little risky due to the simple fact that when you do it wrong, the room may clash in an unpleasant way. Do it right, however, and you’ll have a space that is truly your own.  

If you’re trying to go for an eclectic design concept, it’s best to be patient. You may not find all the unique items that you want to fill the space with after just one trip to the store. It could take many trips to the thrift store before you find everything that you’re looking for.  

Establish a Centerpiece 

Regardless of your intent, every room has a centerpiece: a design element, which could include some great new blinds, that people notice and remember. It could be a chandelier, a painting, a light fixture, and I’ve even seen someone put their favorite coffee-maker in there.  

As you customize a space, you can tie the entire design concept together by selecting a centerpiece that reflects the interests of yourself and your family.  

In the kitchen setting, the centerpiece could be anything from a bouquet of flowers to a high-quality wine rack. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the piece is. The only real rule of thumb is that it should reflect both the general theme of the room, and your overall interests as an individual or family. 

best cities for millennials

Top 7 Best U.S. Cities for Millennials

1000 500 Taylor Witt

Millennials, born from 1981 to 1996, are a generation on the move. They are looking for more affordable living, a positive job outlook and a balance between work and a fulfilling personal life. These are the seven best US cities for millennials to move to, whether or not they can afford their first home.

Denver, Colorado

Denver has one of the largest concentrated populations of millennials in the US, representing up to 34% of the people living in some of the downtown neighborhoods. This is a more expensive city for millennials with high average rents. With a well-paying job, the quality of living more than makes up for the costs. You can enjoy lots of parks, climb at the nearby Rocky Mountains, or even ski.

Nashville, Tennessee

While Nashville may be known for country music, it has a diverse collection of industries in health care, compounding pharmacies, finance, publishing, and music production. This gives millennials in the city plenty of employment sectors to choose from. The vibrant nightlife and sprawling neighborhoods mean millennials can always find something to do, from trying one of the many local breweries or attending city festivals.

Seattle, Washington

Seattle is a great place for millennials seeking employment in the booming tech industry. This city has one of the largest tech sectors in the country, which gives millennials job opportunities to work in the industry for big-name companies, such as Microsoft. Although Seattle does have one of the most expensive housing markets in the US, it has accessible public transit around the city. The city’s location on Puget Sound and many parks around the city provides plenty of outdoor activities to keep millennials busy.

Jacksonville, Florida

The millennials moving to Jacksonville will live in a city with multiple beaches, but at an affordable price. The city has a low unemployment rate, and average housing prices are lower in Jacksonville than national prices. The artistic neighborhood of Riverside has one of the largest increases in the millennial population across the city. The draw of the neighborhood likely comes from eclectic shops, trendy restaurants, and high walkability ratings.

San Jose, California

More than 13% of people living in San Jose are millennials. San Jose also has growing incomes, although the average rent is high in the city. Across the city, there are lots of neighborhoods popular with millennials from the bustling downtown area to manicured Rose Garden and Japantown.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis is a Midwestern city with a family-friendly vibe. With great restaurants and an abundant number of the craft breweries millennials love, this city attracts an increasing number of millennials. For an urban city, it has an affordable median rent of just under $1,800 per month. It shares proximity to its sister city of St. Paul, which helps millennials find even more things to explore.

Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital of Washington, D.C., is a magnet for millennials for many reasons. Millennial Wages in D.C. are the highest in the nation. Despite the political environment, millennials in this city are some of the best off in terms of mental health. This small city has a lot of public transit options. Local metropolitan trains go to the suburbs of D.C. Trains leaving the city even go to larger cities along the east coast, such as Boston. This makes it easy for millennials to travel, a popular activity for this generation.

Although they enjoy city living, millennials want a balanced lifestyle. Each of these cities provides a unique experience but has something for every millennial from affordable rent to beach-style living. These cities are some of the best for millennials.

backyard size

Should Home Buyers Consider Backyard Size?

1000 500 Taylor Witt

Often times when families are evaluating a new home, the focus ends up being completely on the home itself, with little thought or regard for the backyard. We’ve outlined four reasons you should pay attention to the size of the backyard when you’re looking at a new home. 

Do You Have Kids?

Perhaps the biggest reason to have a bigger backyard is that it gives your kids a lot more space and opportunities to play.

Kids love playing outdoors at all ages, and they will absolutely love having space to run around and explore. If your children play a sport, the backyard is a great place to work on their skills.

You can kick a ball around in the yard and practice the sports that they are enrolled in. Your kids can break in their soccer cleats, practice passing and dribbling, and even play scrimmages with their friends. 

The same applies if they are into baseball, football, lacrosse… the list goes on. 

Beyond practicing sports, an open space is a great place for kids to use their imagination. The outdoors pulls them away from screen time and engages them in ways that the indoors can’t. 

Hosting Friends and Family?

A larger backyard allows you to host friends and families. Warm summer evenings can be spent hosting BBQ’s, while cool fall and spring evenings can be spent bundled up with a bonfire. 

Outdoor spaces give you a blank canvas to set up for hosting. Larger backyards give you more opportunities, and more space to host bigger groups. 

Some hosting opportunities you have with a backyard:

  • Add an outdoor bar and host a cocktail party
  • Add a built-in BBQ and host a summer party
  • Add a fire pit and host a s’mores night
  • Don’t do anything and host your kids birthday party

When you have the space outside, the options are virtually endless. 

Do You Want a Garden?

Large backyards also give you the opportunity to create a garden. Growing your own fruits and vegetables, planting flowers, or trying your hand at sourcing your own herbs are all great ways to utilize outdoor space. 

Depending on the region you live in, different fruits and vegetables will excel in your climate. Do you research so you know what to grow and what not to. Seasonality also plays a role in what you plant. 

Growing your own fruits and vegetables allows you to start to control your own food source. You’re also growing highly organic produce, and cutting your costs down a bit at the grocery store. 

On the other hand, flowers give you the perfect opportunity to have your favorite annuals or perennials on hand whenever you want. From table décor to festive decorations, flowers are the perfect compliment.

Finally, herbs are relatively easy to grow, and can be used as décor outdoors as well. For example, rosemary is often used as a hedge, in addition to providing a wonderful herb to use in cooking. 

Expanding Down the Road?

Finally, a large backyard gives you opportunities down the road. Perhaps you don’t have any interest right now, but you never know what the future will bring.

One common interest for families as time passes is adding an extension or room addition to their house. When you have a large backyard, this is much easier to consider. 

Further, you might have a relative or parent that needs a place to stay as they age. Having the ability to add a stand alone granny flat in the backyard could be a great option, while also providing additional value to your home. 

Smaller yards, however, make it a lot more difficult to consider. Sometimes, without any additional space to expand on, the idea is squashed. 

Wrapping It Up

Large backyards certainly have their share of upkeep, but they also bring with them a plethora of options and opportunities. Consider exactly what you want and need out of a backyard before you buy a new home, rather than evaluating after its too late. 

Get your credit score

Should You Get Your Credit Report Annually?

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According to the FCRA or the Fair Credit Reporting Act, every individual is entitled to a free credit report annually. Many agencies can help you out with this.

Several credit score and reporting agencies charge you absolutely nothing for a copy of the free report.

You can call up the reporting agencies and get the report mailed to your doorstep or visit the online portals or the central website at the www.annualcreditreport.com.  

How to obtain the annual credit report?

If you are looking for answers on how to obtain the free annual credit report, then you are at the right place.

There are three leading organizations that report the yearly credit score and performance, including Equifax, Experian, and the TransUnion. All you need to do is print the credit report request form and send to the Annual Credit Report Request Service.

Since there can be discrepancies in the report, the pro-tip is to request individual reports from all three of the service providers. 

Documents that you need to supply

You don’t need to provide or handover a large number of documents for obtaining the free credit report. All you need are the following.

  • Your name
  • Social security number
  • And the permanent address of residence

Whether you request the report by mail or by a phone call, keep in mind that the turnover time is around a fortnight. 

Avoid getting duped

There are several agencies and paid services available online that makes you fall prey to their money-making schemes. So, you should stick to the three major credit report service providers as mentioned in the earlier section.

With a professional and reputed service provider, you can be sure of the authenticity of the report. More importantly, you will not have to pay a single dime for your annual credit report. 

If you got charged?

If you have already registered with a paid service for your annual credit report, you can always file a complaint report against your service provider at the www.ftc.gov.

The Federal Trade Commission deals with the application and the fair usage of the FCRA legislations. Recover your money directly to your bank account with the help of the FTC in case you have been charged for the otherwise free credit report. 

Why do you need to check the credit report?

If you are asking why it is necessary to check the credit report once a year, then let us assure you that it is imperative. When you are looking to draw a line of credit from sources like the banks, mortgage lenders and the insurance companies the only parameter to asses you as a liability of risk or good investment is the credit report.

The report helps these lending institutions to decide how much to loan and what to charge you. 

Obtain your credit report and check the fine print thoroughly to make sure there aren’t any mistakes.

If there are, you need to get the report corrected within 30 days of receiving the report.

The credit report is also the perfect tool to observe and analyze bad practices that result in incurring of debt, including late and skipping of payments. 

Take control of your money and manage it better with a free annual credit report. Remember, you can still buy a home with bad credit, but it’s important to take control today!

finding a house after bankruptcy

Finding Housing After Filing Bankruptcy

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What’s the largest bill you have every month? If you are like the vast majority of Americans, it’s your rent or mortgage payment. Read on to learn about finding affordable housing after bankruptcy.

What Is Affordable Housing?

According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, housing is considered unaffordable when a mortgage or rental payment accounts for more than 30% of a household’s annual income. Unaffordable housing is the leading cause of bankruptcy. 

According to HUD, there is not a single market in the United States where a worker making the minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment priced at fair market value, and twelve million households are currently committed to spending 50% or more of their income on housing. 

What Happens When Families Commit to Unaffordable Housing?

The result of this unfortunate economic reality is that millions of families are just one bad month away from default on their mortgages or rents. With no savings, unaffordable housing, and the necessity of an automobile in many rural and suburban parts of the United States, many families rely on credit cards to cover for an empty checking account. 

If you’ve found yourself in this situation, you know it’s just a matter of time before this catches up with you:

  • Your car gets repossessed. 
  • You get evicted for missed rent. 
  • You are sued for unpaid debt. 
  • Your accounts get frozen and wages garnished. 
  • Your mortgage lender moves to repossess your home.

The solution? File bankruptcy. This freezes any collection actions and lawsuits, and offers a path to discharge your debt. Bankruptcy also entails credit counseling that will help you plan for a healthier financial future.

One of the biggest concerns people have after filing bankruptcy, and one of the great fears that often keep people from filing bankruptcy until far too late, is the availability of housing.

Can I Stay In My Home After Bankruptcy? 

The chance to stay in your home will depend on how and when you file bankruptcy and how much income you have available to spend on housing.

Housing and Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires you to surrender all assets above a certain amount. The current federal exemption for your residence is $25,150, or $50,300 if you are married and file jointly for bankruptcy. Any equity you have in your home above that threshold could be liquidated by your bankruptcy trustee. This usually means the home gets sold, you are paid up to the exemption amount, and the remainder goes towards paying creditors.

Housing and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

If you have equity above and beyond the exemption, you may be advised to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 reduces debts by creating a modified payment plan, not by selling your assets. If you file Chapter 13, as long as you have the income to make monthly mortgage payments and you are able to make your plan payments, you can keep your home. 

Housing and Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Chapter 11 might be an option if you are a high-income individual and your home is particularly valuable. Under Chapter 11, you may be able to renegotiate any mortgages out to a 30-year loan.

All of this is under the assumption, of course, that you are still in your home. If you were evicted prior to filing bankruptcy, most states do not recognize any right of redemption. While filing could freeze an ongoing eviction or sheriff’s sale, your bankruptcy cannot undo a sale or get back a house you have already lost.

How Long After Bankruptcy Before I Can Rent An Apartment?

If you are concerned about finding an apartment after filing bankruptcy, there is no need to be alarmed. Because of the housing bubble and financial crisis of 2008, most landlords have experience renting to recently-bankrupt tenants. As a form of risk mediation, you may be expected to provide:

  • a larger security deposit, or 
  • a guarantor for the first several years, or
  • paystubs or other proof of steady income. 

Admittedly, it’s going to be more difficult for someone who filed bankruptcy to secure an apartment than someone with perfect credit. But don’t let fear that you will be locked out of the housing market prevent you from filing bankruptcy, if you desperately need to.

Can I Lease a House After Bankruptcy?

It won’t be impossible, but leasing a house after filing bankruptcy will likely more difficult than simply renting an apartment. A recent bankruptcy makes you a financially high-risk tenant, and you should expect to be asked for a hefty security department up-front and be given absolutely no wiggle-room with monthly payments.

If you can afford it, a lease would be a great way to rehabilitate your credit, as the combination of the housing payment, utilities, and the costs of maintaining an independent household would generate far more records than an apartment.

Consider Alternative Housing Options

Unaffordable housing is the largest contributing factor in personal bankruptcies across the United States. If you are in debt because you can’t afford your current housing, perhaps your goal shouldn’t be “How can I find traditional housing again with lousy credit?”  but “How can I find affordable and satisfying housing?”

The answer to that question may lie in non-traditional housing options. Most people think about apartments, rowhomes, and single-family homes as the only options for a stable residence. However, there are a lot of options available that offer affordable, yet still quite livable housing.

Room Shares

One option is to think like a grad student! If you live near any major university, you should be able to find hundreds of room-share possibilities. Sometimes homeowners rent out an unused bedroom to create a revenue stream after their child has left the nest. Other times, young professionals will sublet a room in their apartment to help keep the cost of living. Room shares can offer all the comforts of home, well below market value. This is easily arranged as well. Basically, all you need to sublet your room is to ask your landlord to sign a sublease agreement contract, so there is no legal ambiguity.

Mobile Homes

If you live in a rural area, you might want to consider mobile homes. Mobile homes have come a long way since the 1950s and the stereotypical airstream trailer on cinder blocks has given way to well-appointed trailers which are nearly indistinguishable from similarly-sized prefab homes and ranchers. 

Mobile homes also have the benefit of being classed as a vehicle, not as an improvement on real property. As a result, once you buy the trailer, you will either pay monthly rent or quarterly property tax on a small lot, saving thousands of dollars a year compared with a traditional home of comparable square footage.

Tiny Homes

The Tiny Homes movement focuses on creating fully-functional houses that cover less than 400 square feet. Some are on wheels, others are permanent structures. Also, many rural families have built sustainable homes across the south and midwest from retired missile silos, repurposed shipping containers, and more. These make for excellent options if you are looking to establish a low-cost homestead after bankruptcy.

This is a guest article written by Mr. David M. Offen. Please find more information below about Mr. Offen.

Bankruptcy attorney David M. Offen, Esq. is a Philadelphia native who attended Temple University and Temple University Beasley School of Law. Mr. Offen is admitted to the bar in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He has helped over 8500 individuals and families over more than 20 years of practice, preventing home foreclosure, car repossession, IRS tax levies, lawsuits over unpaid debt, and utility shut off.