It can be very attractive to pay off your mortgage early. The reason for this is both financial and psychological. Paying down the principle means you’ll be paying less total over the duration of the loan than if you simply made the minimum payments, since interest is based on the principle, not the original loan amount. It will also give you some peace of mind to know that you no longer have any mortgage payments. But those aren’t the only factors at play, and depending on your financial situation, it may actually be better to keep making steady minimum payments.
Of course, if you can barely afford the minimum payments in your budget as-is, the decision is made for you. However, there could be reasons for someone who can afford to put a bit more towards payments to instead hold onto it. One reason is that mortgage interest payments are tax deductible. You may be paying more in mortgage payments, but paying less in taxes. Whether or not this is in your favor in your specific situation is a question for a tax professional. Another is the effects of inflation: as prices and therefore the cost of living continue to increase over time, as long as you make only minimum payments, the total amount you will have owed by the end of your mortgage doesn’t change at all. That means the amounts for payments made towards the end of the loan’s life tend to have lower value in terms of purchasing power, and may be less of an economic burden than other payments you may need to make.
The latter reason doesn’t mean much if you aren’t spending the money on something else, but there’s a good chance you should be. Savings funds, such as retirement funds, and investments both require money to be put into them to gain a profit later. If you don’t have money to invest, you won’t get any in return. Even holding onto the money can be useful, in case it’s needed for emergencies, or a very good investment opportunity crops up.
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Every city in California is required to present a general plan for housing development, which is to be updated each year. The general plan must take into account housing needs based on the population and expected population growth. However, what the general plan doesn’t account for is zoning laws, which currently take precedence over the general plan. This means cities can feign considerations in their general plan while implementing zoning laws that combat their own plan. Even cities that mean well may not be able to get sufficient votes to modify their zoning laws in accordance with the general plan.
That will change beginning January 1, 2024. Under AB 821, development plans that don’t meet zoning ordinances may still pass if the ordinance they fail to meet is inconsistent with the general plan. AB 821 allows for two possible outcomes in this scenario. The local agency controlling development applications has 180 days to either amend the zoning law that is inconsistent with the general plan, or simply process the development application regardless of failure to meet zoning laws. Note that this law doesn’t actually force changes in zoning ordinances. Nothing happens to zoning ordinances that aren’t challenged by a development application designed to further the general plan, and a very stubborn local agency could simply delay processing by up to 180 days, and then possibly a further 90 days in court.
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A kitchen remodel can be extremely effective at increasing both the value and the utility of your home. But it’s also costly, and if done improperly, can be a huge money sink. Too many homeowners neglect to plan their kitchen remodel adequately and end up regretting some of their choices.
Most plans to remodel the kitchen begin with the idea that something is missing or wrong with the current kitchen setup. This could be various things, such as insufficient counter space, odd direction of workflow, or not enough storage, or perhaps you just want an island and don’t have one. However, it’s important to recognize that space is finite. Whatever changes you make, you’re probably sacrificing something else to make it happen. Plan out where you are going to place appliances — both large and small — and how much storage you will need. Consider how you intend to navigate the kitchen while using it, and ensure that the path is both clear of obstacles and sensible. For example, if you fry up some eggs for breakfast every day, you’ll probably want the stove to be relatively close to the refrigerator, and if you make coffee at home, your coffee maker should be near where the coffee is stored.
Another common error is choosing the trendiest materials and colors for your kitchen. It may garner the most interest now, but if you aren’t selling immediately, it’s a mistake. Whatever’s in fashion now will probably be more expensive than other options and isn’t any more likely to stand the test of time than any past trend. Timeless designs and neutral or classic colors will always be at least serviceable.
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In September, the share of homebuyers paying all cash was 34.1%. This is the highest it has been since the beginning of 2014, and an increase of 4.6% from September 2022. However, this doesn’t mean homes are more affordable; in fact, it’s the opposite.
While it’s true that a significantly higher share of buyers are paying all cash, there are much fewer sales overall. Total sales decreased by 23% over the past year. Compare this to a decrease of only 11% for all cash sales. Cash sales aren’t going up, rather sales overall are going down, and cash buyers are less affected.
The reason for this is high interest rates, since cash buyers don’t care what the interest rate is for a mortgage loan they aren’t getting. Interest rates fluctuate up and down on a daily basis, but rarely change by much at a time. But in this case, they hit a two decade high in September at 7.2 and then continued an upward trend into October, almost reaching 8%. As of last week, they had started to drop back down. Despite this decrease, with how erratic rates can be, that isn’t a sure sign that rates are now trending downward.
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Certainly, one of the benefits of a home inspection is peace of mind that the property you’re buying or selling doesn’t have any major issues. However, some issues can be hidden even after an inspection. Home inspections are typically visual assessments by a single individual. Some things could be missed, particularly if the home is large, and problems that are difficult to see visually can easily escape notice.
If a mold, mildew, or pest problem is easily seen by a home inspector, it means the damage is already done. You’ll need specialists to detect these issues before they arise. The same is true of faults in the foundation or structure as well as environmental hazards such as lead and asbestos. There are also some things that records may show but that an inspector wouldn’t have any knowledge of without access to these records, such as outdated plumbing and wiring and unpermitted home renovations.
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Halloween is upon us. If you’re expecting trick-or-treaters, you’ve probably already done all your preparations. But just in case you’re doing things last minute, or just want to check to make sure everything is okay, here are some tips to ensure trick-or-treaters’ safety so that their Halloween scares don’t become an actual danger.
While low lighting can produce the type of ambiance you may want for Halloween, it’s not a good idea. Kids can easily trip and fall, especially if your decorations require cords. Don’t use candles, either, since they are potential fire hazards. Of course, you should also make sure to keep hazards away from where kids are likely to be walking — which does include your lawn, even if you have a walkway. The risk is greater if your decorations can potentially cause jump scares, so try to avoid that type of decoration.
Tripping isn’t the only danger to kids’ health. Strobe lights and fog machines can cause seizures or asthma attacks. Pets can be a threat if not properly secured, and can cause scares if they can see the kids even if they can’t reach them. Even if you love baking homemade treats, don’t give them to kids — you don’t know what allergies they may have.
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The Tenant Protection Act (TPA) was originally passed in 2019, and outlines the conditions under which a landlord can legally evict a tenant. The TPA has been revised and updated in the past, and is receiving a new update with the passage of bill SB 567. The new law goes into effect April 2024, and adjusts the requirements for no-fault evictions, as well as setting the fine for a landlord’s violation of the laws at three times the cost to the tenant plus additional fines.
Under current regulations, a landlord can perform a no-fault just cause eviction if the landlord or their immediate family intends to occupy the residence, or the landlord intends to demolish or substantially renovate the residence. Under SB 567, mere intent isn’t enough. Rather than only planning to occupy the residence, the landlord or relative must have already occupied it for at least 12 continuous months as their primary residence. Demolition or renovation plans require a written notice including permits, a description of the plans, and an expected duration, as well as the opportunity for the tenant to re-rent the property at the same price if the plans don’t go through. There are other conditions under which a landlord can perform a no-fault just cause eviction, but they aren’t affected by SB 567.
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It’s very common to submit late payments, for any of various types of bills or loans, including mortgage loans. Sometimes people just forget to pay. Sometimes they’re waiting for their next paycheck. Maybe some bills are more lenient on late payments than others, so they’re prioritized lower in the budget.
Whatever the reason, most people assume the only downside to a late payment is an extra fee. That’s not the case. The occasional late payment won’t have any impact, but repeated late payments do show up on your credit report. This will reduce your credit score and make it more difficult to qualify for a loan. If possible, you should make sure to pay bills on time, even for small things like phone bills.
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Have a bit of extra space in your house, and wish you could use it for something, but aren’t in a position to downsize? You can rent out single rooms, even if your home is a single family residence. It can even be a basement, if it’s large enough to serve as a bedroom. That way, the extra space doesn’t go to waste, and you even earn a bit of extra income. Of course, not everyone wants strangers living in their home, so this idea may not be for everyone. But if you don’t mind or even would prefer another occupant, it’s a win-win for you.
Keep in mind that renting out a room is still renting something out, and you must still follow regulations. Read up on the Fair Housing Rules if you don’t already know them, and talk to an expert, particularly if there’s something you’re unsure about. And of course, the same guidelines apply for finding a tenant. That means being very specific with what’s being offered and what sort of tenant you’re looking for, making sure to request background and credit checks as well as references, and meeting the prospective tenant in person before signing the deal. If you don’t want them in your home before you’re sure you want them as a tenant, your first meeting can be in a public space, like a coffee shop — though keep in mind your tenant will want to see the property before they sign.
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Fall may not be the single most common season to buy or sell a home, but it’s certainly one of the most common. It’s a good idea to get your home staging right for the season, because it’s not a time that you want to miss out on opportunities.
Fall makes it more difficult to set the stage, but that makes it all the more important. You’ll want to rake leaves in front of your house, because leaving them makes the area look less cared for and therefore less appealing. Shorter days in autumn mean it will get dark earlier. Make sure to amp up the lighting so people can actually see the home they’re attempting to buy. Also note that prospective buyers are likely to spend more time inside the home, as autumn weather tends to be unpredictable. Maintain a comfortable temperature in your home and highlight appealing aspects of the home’s interior. If you really want to go all out, fresh baked cookies are sure to feel cozy to your buyers.
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Many people may consider hardwood floors to be the fancy, expensive option. But there’s a reason hardwood is more expensive than other types of flooring. It has several benefits that make it an excellent choice if you are planning to update your flooring.
Hardwood is one of the most durable flooring options. Vinyl and laminate floors scratch and dent easily, and the damage can be permanent. Carpet needs to be replaced frequently, and you may also need to remove it if it causes allergy issues. Even if your hardwood floor is damaged, in many cases, it can be solved with sanding or refinishing. Chances are, if the damage is severe enough to warrant replacing hardwood flooring, the same would be true if you had that sort of damage to any other type of flooring. Because of how long hardwood can last, it’s potentially a money saver despite the higher upfront cost — not to mention it also improves your home’s value when you eventually go to sell it.
With all the color and pattern options available for vinyl and carpet flooring, it may seem like hardwood is the boring option. It doesn’t have to be. Hardwood is also available in several colors, textures, and grain patterns. Granted, the available colors are mainly various shades of brown. But the neutral tone makes it easy to accent with rugs and decor that can be exchanged at low cost whenever you want a change.
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You may have been told that a listing is contingent or seen a list of contingencies. But what is a contingency, exactly? A contingency is a condition that, only if met, causes a transaction to proceed as normal. It’s a way to protect both the buyer and the seller in case something goes wrong. It both assures the seller that the transaction will go through as long as the condition is met, and may enable the buyer to renegotiate or back out if it isn’t met.
Not every contingency is something the seller can necessarily provide, though, so it’s never a guarantee of a successful transaction. There are several types of contingencies. There is one that the majority of sellers can meet without any effort, and that is a title contingency. This specifies that the seller must be able to demonstrate that they have clear title to the property. In most cases, this isn’t difficult, but things such as inheritance could complicate this. A couple types of contingencies relate more to the buyer. These are financing contingencies and sale contingencies. Transactions with financing contingencies are contingent on the buyer being able to acquire financing. Sales contingencies refer to the sale of the buyer’s current property. This is normally used when the buyer is reliant on funds from the sale of their home in order to afford the new home. The last two common contingencies rely on a third party, an inspection contingency and an appraisal contingency. As the name might imply, these make the transaction contingent on a successful inspection and an appraisal at or above the purchase price respectively.
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The average time it takes to sell a home from listing with an agent to closing the sale is about 90 days. Many factors affect how long it takes to sell a home. These elements can include market conditions, buyer financing, the time of year, and the prep time to get a home ready for marketing.
A home that is in good condition, has good curb appeal, and is in a good location will attract buyers more quickly. Competitively pricing a home is key to having a reasonable time on the market. A cash buyer and one who is willing to buy a home in as-is condition can expedite the closing time.
Once an offer is accepted, the average closing time will be 30 to 45 days. The buyer’s loan is processed during this time along with the lender obtaining an appraisal. Property inspections also occur during the closing process. The title and escrow companies will then coordinate the signing of all the final documents, collect the buyer’s closing funds and finalize the settlement statements so the transaction can close.
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With many of us feeling the squeeze of a higher cost of living, you may be looking for a few ways to lower your utility bills that won’t involve a complete change of lifestyle. Here are just a few simple ideas to reduce your utility costs.
-Switch your switches to dimmers. We don’t always need our lights on full brightness, so using a dimmer switch instead can help save on electricity by only using as much light as you need.
-Fill your freezer. You may not expect this, but having a full freezer actually helps to insulate it, keeping your food cool while using less energy to do so.
-Let food cool before refrigerating. If you’re saving leftovers from your dinner, putting them in the refrigerator while they’re still warm actually causes the fridge to have to work harder to cool them down. Let them cool first.
-Unplug unused chargers. Did you know that many phone and laptop chargers continue to suck electricity even when your phone isn’t connected? Make sure to unplug any that you aren’t using.
-Use solar night lights outdoors. Solar night lights spend the day soaking up the sun’s energy then turn on in the evening when it’s dark. It saves the need for any electricity or batteries and is totally green, helping the environment and your wallet.
-Lower your hot water heater temperature. Do you really need the hot water to be totally boiling? You can turn the temperature down so that your water is only as warm as you need it to be.
-Cold wash your laundry. Most laundry washes are just as thorough when washed cold. Switch your machine settings to cold washes rather than hot to save unnecessary extra spending on heating the water.
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When applying for a mortgage loan, your lender may ask you for an insurance binder. In that event, you’re going to need to know what it is, and how to acquire it. An insurance binder is a temporary proof of insurance. If your loan is being insured, you’ll need to ask the company insuring it to provide an insurance binder before the loan can be approved. This temporary proof of insurance exists because the official proof of insurance probably won’t come until after the deadline for loan approval has passed.
Mortgage loans aren’t the only situation in which you may need an insurance binder. You may also need proof of insurance to buy a car, start a business, or rent property. Some of these may involve loans as well, but even if they don’t, it’s still possible you need to be insured for other reasons. The insurance binder in these situations is exactly the same thing — temporary proof of insurance before the official proof of insurance arrives.
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Most people don’t purchase their retirement home until after they retire. There are certainly valid reasons for this. You may not know where you’ll want to be living, especially if you move frequently. After retirement, you’ll have more time to go house hunting and think about your options. But just as there are justifications for waiting, there are also advantages to buying your retirement home early, primarily financial.
An important one is mortgage approval. It’s significantly easier to get approved for a mortgage while you still have an income. Unless you plan to pay cash for your retirement home, you’ll want to consider whether or not you can qualify once your income is gone. Not to mention this income is probably also what you’ll be using to pay the mortgage. By purchasing while you still have an income, you’ll have a better understanding of how much your payments are and how much you can save.
If you have the money to purchase a retirement home without selling, that can be an excellent boon for you, especially in the long term. It prevents the need to deal with moving while you are still working. You can turn it into income property, allowing you to use the rental income to pay the mortgage, or just for extra income. You’ll also be building equity in two homes at once, while home values continue to inflate naturally, as they do over time. If you start early enough, by the time you retire you may be able to use the sale of your old home to pay off the mortgage on your retirement home.
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As of August 2023, interest rates are somewhere around 7%, possibly higher. While this isn’t astronomically high — they have historically been over 10% — it’s too high for current homeowners to want to exchange their homes. This is because 92% of current homeowners with a mortgage have an interest rate below 6%. Almost a quarter even have locked in an interest rate below 3%.
High home prices are actually somewhat helping current homeowners, since the price boost increases their equity. Prices have increased 14% in the past two years, which results in approximately $86,000 in equity over that time period. However, this may not be enough to offset the increased mortgage costs, especially for those with very low interest rates. Assuming a mortgage of $500,000 and a current interest rate of 3%, a new purchase with the same loan amount would result in a $1,200 increase in mortgage payments per month.
Normally, when demand is low like this, supply is high. This isn’t the case right now. Previously, we would have been able to blame declining construction due to increased construction costs. That’s no longer the case, though, as construction has largely, though not completely, recovered. It may even be simple lack of demand that is the final obstacle to a full recovery for construction. To see the real problem, remember which group we’re talking about — current homeowners. These are the same people who would be selling to buy a new home. If they’re not willing to buy in the current mortgage climate, they’re not selling either.
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The share of teachers able to afford homes near where they teach is dwindling rapidly. This year, teachers can afford only 12% of homes within 20 miles of their schools. This is a decrease from 17% last year. In 2019, before the pandemic, they could afford 30% of homes in their school’s area. Fortunately, there are options to help teachers.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is sponsoring a program called Good Neighbor Next Door, which sells homes in revitalized areas to certain government workers at half the listing price. This program is available to pre-K through 12 teachers as well as law enforcement officers and firefighters. Some of Fannie Mae’s programs, while not specifically aimed at teachers, have qualifications that teachers frequently are able to meet.
In addition to federal programs, there are also state and private programs to help teachers. California created the School Teacher and Employee program back in 2018. This specific program is discontinued, but is now folded into their MyHome program, opening it up to more people. The private program Homes for Heroes provides a 0.7% rebate on home purchases made through the organization’s specialists. It is available to firefighters, EMS, law enforcement, military, healthcare professionals, and teachers.
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Want to keep the exterior of your home looking nice, but don’t want to spend time or money on landscaping? That becomes significantly easier if you know what types of landscaping require the least maintenance. Obviously, you could just replace your lawn with artificial grass — and of course, that’s still an option — but there are much more ecologically friendly options as well.
Knowing what to plant where and how can save you a lot of time. Native plants will usually require less maintenance than non-native plants because they’re naturally adapted to the local climate. This is particularly true in arid or semi-arid regions where there are native succulents. Planting using mulch is effective for both water retention in the soil and suppressing weed growth. Organizing your garden for efficiency can also help. Place plants with similar needs in the same area to streamline your watering schedule, or plant them in containers that can be easily moved if necessary or just to mix up your home’s appearance.
Other options don’t have anything to do with plants. Part of landscaping is the concept of hardscape versus softscape. Softscape is the plants, as you’re used to. Hardscape is any non-plant element of the landscape. This can include things that simply exist in the environment, like your home’s walls or the driveway, but it can also include intentionally placed features. Use stone paths, fountains, or even retaining walls as elements of the landscape. You can also acquire purposefully decorative concrete, which is concrete with added color, texture, or patterns.
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Moving can be a challenging experience filled with mixed emotions. It involves leaving behind familiar surroundings, friends, and routines, which can create a sense of loss and instability. However, it also presents opportunities for personal growth and new experiences. If you’re moving soon, check out these three tips for dealing with the emotions it may bring.
Talk openly about how you feel with your household. Bottling up emotions can create barriers to contend with inside the household alongside the already charged feelings of saying goodbye to your old home. This can be especially true if you have children. Being open to discussing the impact of the move on you all can help to create a sense of togetherness, give each other emotional support, and alleviate any feelings of grief or anxiety.
Seek out community events in your new neighborhood. Activities such as volunteering or joining classes or local groups can help speed you on the road to meeting new people with similar interests in your new neighborhood. Finding people with similar interests in your new community can help give you a sense of belonging.
Stay connected to old friends. In the age of social media, it is easier than ever to stay connected with your old friendship group, no matter how far away they are. Don’t just rely on liking and commenting, though. Have video calls with your pals when you can, and perhaps carve out time to go visit them when you’re able to, ensuring those relationships are not broken by distance.
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