4 Outdoor Projects That Offer the Most Paybacks

Outdoor projects can help boost a home’s value by up to 10 percent, according to a new realtor.com® report. Outdoor showers, barbecue stations, entertainment pools, and firepits are the top projects that realtor.com® researchers found with the biggest potential increases to a home’s price.

For its research, realtor.com® analyzed listings at its site for summer-related outdoor features in single-family homes listed for $150,000 or more.

An outdoor shower offers the biggest return on investment, according to realtor.com®’s research. Researchers found that homes with outside bathing areas had a 97 percent price-per-square-foot premium. They speculate that such a feature may be appealing since it’s usually found in homes that are near a beach or an expensive property with other luxury amenities.

Researchers also found that homes with barbecue stations are 26 percent more expensive than those without. In Utah, homes with barbecue stations tend to be listed for 58 percent more per square foot than other homes in the state.

Also, entertainment pools—with enough space around them for others to lounge—could give a home a 26 percent increase in its value. In New York state, homes with such entertainment pools were 224 percent pricier per square foot than those without.

Firepits and backyard fireplaces are also proving to be a hot way for homeowners to boost their home prices. Homes with firepits or backyard fireplaces had a 25 percent premium, according to researchers.

“Outdoor features can give a home a special quality in the market,” says Javier Vivas, realtor.com®’s director of economic research. “And anytime you have a unique feature, it can bolster the prospective value of a home.”

Don’t Let a Killer in

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer you don’t want in your home but because it is colorless and odorless; you may not even be aware the deadly condition exists. The Center for Disease Control says more than 400 people in the U.S. die annually from carbon monoxide poisoning and over 10,000 require medical treatment each year.16485740-250.jpg

Unmaintained furnaces, water heaters and appliances can produce the deadly gas. In addition, other sources could be leaking chimneys, unvented kerosene or gas space heaters or exhaust from cars or trucks operating in an attached garage.

The Environmental Protection Agency suggests the following to reduce exposure in the home:

  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted
  • Install and use an exhaust fan vented to the outdoors over gas stoves
  • Open flues when fireplaces are in use
  • Do not idle car inside garage
  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up central heating systems annually

Headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and feelings of weakness or fatigue are a few of the most common symptoms. Lower levels of exposure to carbon monoxide may be mistaken for the flu.

Carbon monoxide alarms should be on every level of a home and especially, in sleeping areas. The alarms can be purchased for as little as $25 and plugged into the wall like a night light.

Regardless of the government requirements, no one would want to put their family, guests or themselves at risk for something so deadly.

Facts and Figures about Homes for Sale in Greenville, SC

Homes for Sale: Greenville SC

Typical national real estate web sites may only cover 20% of what is for sale in a particular location and many display homes already sold. Only a broker or agent affiliated site can give you the most up-to-date home listings.

Accelerate your home search. Search locally!

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Facts and Figures about Homes for Sale in Greenville, SC

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Price Trends – Homes Sold vs. Homes Listed for 29607

Understand the difference between “listing prices” (what sellers are asking for) and “sold prices” (what buyers are willing to pay).

By comparing these price trends, you’ll have a good idea of where the market is heading. The median listing and sold property prices are calculated based on the market activity each month.

Some sales are not immediately available from public records. As they become available, the data are updated.

Chart Price Trends - Homes Sold vs. Homes Listed <!– Chart Temporarily Unavailable –>

Real Estate Market Inventory Trends for 29607

Review the inventory and health of the market by looking at the number of sold and listed properties.

To understand if the market inventory is growing or shrinking, compare the number of sold properties to new listings. If inventory is growing, the market could be trending toward a buyer’s market. If inventory is shrinking, then it could be a seller’s market.

Gauge the health of the market by comparing the number of standard to distressed listings. If the number of distressed listings is greater, the market could be unhealthy and more likely a buyer’s market.

  • Sold: Properties sold that month
  • New: Listings that are new on the market
  • Distressed: Listings that are short sales, bank owned, or up for auction.
  • Standard: Non-distressed listings
Chart Additional Statistics for Single Family Homes and Condos in 98034 <!– Chart Temporarily Unavailable –>

Additional Statistics for Single Family Homes and Condos for 29607



Median Age
Number of Homes
Homes with Children

(white collar versus blue)
Price per square foot

Income by Household for 29607

Review the distribution of household income levels in a community.

Income levels are listed along the left side of the chart, and the number of households are displayed along the bottom.

Chart Income by Household

Property Ownership for 29607

This chart shows home occupancy within an area.

A high percentage of ownership can indicate an area where people like to live and stable property prices. While a high percentage of rentals could indicate an area with shifting demographics, a younger community, or possibly a downtown area.

High vacancy rates can indicate that the market is unhealthy and that it could be tough to sell a home in this area.

Chart Property Ownership

Homebuyer Beware: Due Diligence Can Save You From Despair

Caveat emptor: Let the buyer beware. Sure, we’ve all heard it before and we know what it means. Sadly, many don’t pay heed.

There is an investment rule that all homebuyers should learn about called “due diligence.” Investopedia defines due diligence as “an investigation or audit of a potential investment,” and notes that “generally, due diligence refers to the care a reasonable person should take before entering into an agreement or a transaction with another party.”

In a real estate transaction, the buyer is expected to perform all the necessary inspections, review all pertinent documents and perform all calculations before making the purchase. If they don’t, and something goes wrong, they have little recourse in a court of law.

Read on to learn about some nasty surprises that can occur when buying a home and how to avoid them by performing due diligence.

Read the Fine Print: Developers Can Retain Mineral Rights

home buyer beware 300x199 Homebuyer Beware: Due Diligence Can Save You From DespairWell, probably not gold, but there could be oil beneath that home you have your eye on. If it’s a new home, read the paperwork carefully because some developers are tenaciously hanging on to the mineral rights of land for sale in new home communities.

Homebuyers will learn quickly that when they purchase a condominium, they will actually own only the interior of the unit. The ground it sits on is owned in common with the other homeowners in the development. When purchasing a single-family home, however, the expectation is that ownership includes not only the home, but the land as well – and anything that “runs with” that land.

Reuters journalists Michelle Conlin and Brian Grow looked into the practice of developers severing the mineral rights from land they sold, and found that it’s common in at least 35 states. Unsuspecting homebuyers nationwide may own land that is leased to oil companies for drilling and fracking.

The report tells the story of a Colorado homebuyer who never suspected that he didn’t own the mineral rights beneath a home he recently purchased, until a neighbor invited him to a neighborhood meeting with a company called Mineral Resources. At the meeting, officials told them “the company was about to begin drilling under their neighborhood – and that it was putting 22 well heads right across the street (the number has since been reduced to about 16).”

Many of the homeowners present said that they were never made aware of the mineral rights issue when they bought their homes, according to the report. They would have been aware, however, had they read the mineral rights disclosure in their paperwork.

Protect yourself from this and similar situations by running all purchase paperwork by a lawyer. The cost of a legal consultation could be worth its weight in gold – or oil – even if it’s just for the peace of mind.

Pay Heed to Dodge HOA Headaches

We’ve all heard of various homeowners association (HOA) nightmares. Jackie Faye of NBC-17 News refers to HOAs as “little governments,” and some homeowners even call those that sit on the board “little despots.”

Still, in the run-up to purchasing in a managed community, homebuyers should be aware of the propensity for an HOA to run amok. The unknown dangers are only to be found in the huge stack of papers known as the HOA Resale Package, or simply the HOA documents.

These documents can run into the hundreds of pages and typically include, at the very least:

  • Governing documents
  • Current budget
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Disclosures
  • Information on pending litigation
  • HOA meeting minutes

Your job, as a potential buyer exercising due diligence, is to read and understand every word on every page of these documents. If legalese makes steam come out of your ears, you’ll want to hire a lawyer to break it down for you. If you choose to forego legal counsel, be prepared for any number of problems that may arise after you’ve taken possession of your new home.

Take the example of a couple who purchased a condo only to find out shortly after closing that homeowners were being assessed $850,000 to repair construction defects. Their share amounted to $7,500. Were they swindled? Not at all. It was common knowledge to those who lived in the community, and this particular couple would have known about it too – had they read the HOA documents. Instead, they learned about it three days after closing on the home.

If you plan to rent out the unit, you’ll find out if that’s possible by reading the HOA documents. Want to work out of your home? Read the documents – it may be forbidden. If you’re anxious about future assessments, read the HOA’s financial statements to find out if the organization has savings to pay for them.

Performing due diligence entails more than merely hiring a professional home inspector. It also requires that the buyer ask the right questions, investigate thoroughly and read every document before signing.

Top First Time Home Buyer Tips


First time home buyer tips are something everyone who is going to purchase real estate for the first time should seek out and use to their advantage. Buying your first home is a problem! If you are like most, it will be the biggest purchase you have ever made.

The fact you’re buying a home for the first time leads to a mix of emotions including excitement, anticipation, and anxiety. While it may be impossible to eliminate the stress that comes with your first home purchase, you can certainly minimize it by going into the situation prepared.

Do your research and follow reliable information as it applies to you, so your first home buying experience is a good one.  Let these tips for buying a first home be your guide to a stress-free real estate transaction!

Our first home buying tip is not to rely on family to know everything about purchasing real estate!

When you set out to buy your first home, you are more than likely going to get advice from many people including family and friends. Many of them have been there and done it already so you can expect they would want to lend a helping hand. 1st time home buyer tips will be plentiful from lots of sources! Do keep in mind though that some of the people giving you advice have only purchased a home one or two times in their lives. This does not make them real estate experts.

When it comes to the hard decisions, always rely on the Pro’s who will be involved in the transaction including your mortgage broker, attorney, real estate and insurance agent. While family and friends have great intentions, there are times where I have seen some of the worst advice you can image given to first time home buyers.

Get Specific About What You Want

Make sure you have a general idea about the type of property you would like to buy. You could be in the market for a million dollar home or a simple condominium purchase. Regardless of what you can afford, it is worthwhile to think about what you want. How your purchasing power compares to others does not matter. Buying a home will be your biggest expenditure thus far, and it is important to get what you want out of it.

Decide on basics like the neighborhood, size, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. It is entirely reasonable to be more detailed than this, though. You can consider what you care about – a garage for working on your car, a playroom for children, a basement for your wine collection. Personal choices are important.

Prioritizing what you want makes it easier to recognize it when you find it. It is unlikely you will get everything you dream of but you will happier with your purchase if it fits your wants and needs.

When meeting with a Real Estate agent for the first time, they will most certainly be asking you what your top considerations are in finding a home. Giving the Realtor an accurate picture of what you hope to achieve makes the process of finding a home for you much easier.

Get Pre-Approved For A Loan

Another critical first time home buyer tip is to get your financial house in order! You can’t start shopping until you know how much money you have to spend. Your idea of what you will qualify for may be accurate, but it may not be. Find out what your maximum loan amount will be and consider how you want to use that money. One of the first things you should do when setting out to buy your first home is to get pre-approved for a mortgage! Keep in mind that there is a distinct difference between getting pre-approved vs. getting pre-qualified over the phone.

While a pre-qualification letter may help you understand how much you can afford to pay each month towards a mortgage payment, it doesn’t do much to solidify your position as a legitimate home buyer. When the time comes for you to submit an offer on a particular property the owner and the sellers Realtor are more than likely going to want you to be pre-approved!

A savvy Realtor or seller is not going to accept a pre-qualification letter as it isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. The only way a seller is going to have some reasonable assurances, you will get the loan is by providing them with a pre-approval letter. Providing the seller security, especially if you are competing with other buyers is one of the best tips for buying your first home.

Getting pre-approved is also for your piece of mind as well. You may be able only to afford $200,000 when you wanted $300,000. You may also qualify for $500,000 – but can you afford to keep a half-million dollar home in good repair? While getting a mortgage is a big part of buying your first home, bear in mind that it is only part of the home buying expenditures. Taxes, insurance, buying furniture and other household goods can add up quickly.

Find out how much you have to spend and then decide how much home you can afford keeping all these other expenses in mind.

Look Thoroughly For Potential Homes

It is important to make sure you do some home buying research before making a purchase. Your agent will be able to help significantly with finding the perfect first home. However, it is still worthwhile for you to do your searching using as many avenues as you can think of – including driving around favorite neighborhoods in search of for-sale signs, searching online listings and putting the word out to family, friends, and co-workers. You never know where the perfect home will come from.

There are many buyers who enjoy going out and looking at Real Estate open houses before actually committing to an agent. This allows you to freely peruse homes at your leisure, typically on a Sunday. When you are ready though seek out a great real estate agent to work with you!

Get A Good Real Estate Agent

One of the best first time home buyer tips I can give you is to hire an outstanding Real Estate agent! You do not have to go through the home buying process alone. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. There are numerous reasons to hire an exceptional Realtor, including gaining access to the best available homes, having someone working regularly to find the house you want and having an agent on your side in negotiations.

Having a professional in your corner is always beneficial, whether it is a mechanic fixing your car or a real estate agent helping you buy your home. But, as with a mechanic, not all real estate agents are created equal. Some are far more motivated and skilled than others, so you need to screen agents before choosing yours.

Landing a good agent means interviewing several Realtors, getting current references and taking a hard look at their histories. You want an agent that has a history of successfully helping people in situations similar to yours. Hiring a Real Estate agent is important. You want someone on your team who will be fighting for you every step of the way. Finding an agent who gives you an out of this world Real Estate experience will be hard if you go at it willy-nilly.

Make The Right Offer

Make sure you understand local home values! Negotiation is a fine art, not something learned in a day. This is part of why you search for agents that set reasonable goals for their clients and tend to obtain these aims. You want someone who understands what a home is worth and can argue the value points reliably. There may be any number of things that can give you an edge in negotiations, from pet damage to kitchen appliances. The problem is knowing just how much those things should affect the value of the home.

A top notch buyer’s agent is going to be looking out for your interests. The best of the best will try to make sure you are paying fair market value or below for the home you are interested in. If you feel you are working with an agent who is concerned about their pocket book and not yours, dump them fast.

Realtors who put themselves before you are not the type of agent you want in your corner when it comes time to negotiate. I tell people all the time the best real estate agents are not worrying about where their next sale is coming from. An agent who needs a deal is going to give you different advice than one that doesn’t. Keep that in mind! As a first time home buyer, it is important to realize that not all real estate agents are created equally.

Listen to The Home Inspector

Another important first time home buyer tip is to find a top notch home inspector! If the seller accepts your offer, the next step is a thorough home inspection. A home inspector will look over the entire property and determine if there are any common home inspection issues, as well as anything out of the ordinary you should be aware of.

In some circumstances depending on the loan product you use, it is possible you may be required to have a few more inspections done besides the general inspection. For example, VA loans require a termite inspection.

You should listen carefully to what the inspector has to say about the home even if you are madly in love with it. Serious home issues can quickly ruin any enjoyment you would get out of your new purchase and could turn your dream home into a nightmare. Almost every home even if it is new is going to have some issues. It is extremely rare to ever find the “perfect” house. The home inspectors job is to find these problems for you.

One thing to remember is that like any other profession there are some really good inspectors and some that are not so great. Much like Real Estate agents, home inspectors have two roles – do their job of discovering defects and then communicating the problems found to you. Don’t underestimate the communications skills!

Over the years I have encountered some fabulous home inspectors who clearly are very thorough and find 99% of what they should be discovering about the home. There are some, however, that are awful communicators.

Sharing information about a home to a first time home buyer is different than the exchange of information with someone who has bought multiple homes.  Frankly, a first-time buyer should be treated with kid gloves. Many home inspectors have great intentions but don’t realize that everything they say is treated like it’s the gospel. How information is presented to a first-time buyer is critical. I have seen on numerous occasions where the delivery of discovered issues has made the customer feel uncomfortable enough to want to back out of the sale! I am not talking about large issues but things that are common in many homes.

How information is presented to a first-time buyer is critical. I have seen on numerous occasions where the delivery of discovered issues has made the customer feel uncomfortable enough to want to back out of the sale! I am not talking about large issues but things that are common in many homes.

Some inspectors don’t care – in fact, there is a small minority of them that don’t mind if you back out of a sale because they want you to call them back for your next inspection. While this is not a common practice because the majority of inspectors are real professionals, it is something to keep in the back of your mind. Your real estate agent will more than likely point out whether the inspector has gone overboard and the homeowner more than likely will as well.

If there are problems but they are not complete deal breakers your agent will let you know the next best step. You should be able to renegotiate the price if the inspection shows you will need to make major repairs later on.

Be A Responsible First Time Homeowner

The last tip I will leave with you is to take responsibility for your purchase. Once you have closed on the house and moved in it may feel like all your work is done. It is important to remember though that you are just getting started in home ownership. Where before your landlord covered repair expenses, now those expenses are yours to bear. Having new expenses can be quite a shock if you are not prepared for it.

Start saving for home maintenance immediately. Your home should last several lifetimes if properly cared for. If maintenance is ignored, though, you could find yourself losing out on your investment and your living quarters. Take care of maintenance and always keep a back fund for emergency repairs and you should be able to enjoy your home for many years to come.

Make sure to keep your home insured for an amount that will cover you loses in the event of a tragic event such as a fire. By following this first time home buyer advice, you will increase your chances dramatically of have a smooth and pleasant Real Estate transaction. Best of luck!

First Time Home Buyer Expenses

Buying your first home is undoubtedly an exhilarating experience. You have been imagining home ownership for years and are so thrilled to be making it a reality. When you view your dream home, you begin to envision how great your life will be in it, and you can’t wait to sign on the dotted line. One of the best tips for buying your first home is understanding how the purchase will impact your overall financial health.

This is when you need to take a deep breath. It is crucial that you don’t let the excitement of it all cloud your sensibility. What you have to keep in mind is there will be first time home buyer expenses you did not necessarily think about.

You need to look at the full picture of what this home is going to cost you. If after you account for all of these extra first time home buyer expenses, you can still make it work, then start packing and enjoy your new life in your ideal home.

Extra expenses when buying a home is not always the first thing a first-time purchaser thinks about. None the less it is an important consideration.

Home Maintenance

Since this is your first home purchase, you are probably used to a landlord taking care of all of the maintenance involved with your home. You have become used to only making a phone call when something goes awry and then having it fixed with no loss to you.

As a homeowner, you don’t have this luxury. If something breaks, you have to fix it. You are also in charge of keeping the lawn looking good, which likely means you are going to need to purchase some new equipment and tools. You need to make sure you have the budget to set aside some funds each month to cover these unexpected costs. If you are in a cold weather climate and have a long driveway, don’t forget about the need to have someone plow you out when that big snowstorm hits!

Appliances and Furnishings

One of the most common extra expenses when buying a home that is often forgotten about is appliances! Unlike rentals, the majority of new or re-sale homes on the market do not necessarily come with all the appliances included. Without appliances included, you are possibly going to have to get yourself a fridge, washer, dryer, and perhaps a microwave before you can move in. Not to mention, you will probably need to get some new furniture to fill your larger space. You can buy the majority of these items used if necessary, but it will still cost you a pretty penny, and you need to be aware of it.

One of the larger expenses that many do not think about is the window treatments which can add up quickly. You are more than likely going to want to have curtains at the very least in the baths for privacy. Window treatments can be far more money that you ever expected especially if you want something of decent quality.

If you have been living at mom and dads to save money and have never rented a home, then you probably are going to need to budget for a lot more household items like silverware, glasses, cleaning essentials, tools and maintenance equipment like a lawnmower. Last but not least don’t forget you will also need to budget for food!

Mortgage and Homeowners Insurance

As a homeowner, you are going to want to protect your investment. In fact, you usually don’t have a choice when it comes to homeowner’s insurance. You often have to show proof that you have it when it comes time to close on your home. The insurance will protect you in the case of a fire or burglary. If you live somewhere that is prone to natural disasters (earthquakes, flooding, etc.), you will also want to get the additional insurance for those. There are of course ways to reduce your home insurance costs and should be something you should seriously consider. There are some things you can do that are easy to save money. For example, having the insurance carrier for your car also do your home.

On top of the homeowner’s insurance, if you put less than 20% down on the purchase of your home, you are also going to need to get mortgage insurance. This protects the bank funding your loan just in case you don’t make your payments (even though you know you will).

The good news is that the premiums for both of the insurances mentioned above can usually be included in your monthly mortgage payment, but that also means your payment is going to be higher than you initially thought.

Property Taxes

Another thing you don’t have to pay as a renter is a property tax. This annual fee is non-negotiable and is usually disclosed on the home listing, so you know upfront how much it’s going to be. The percentage of tax you will be responsible for will vary based on the state that you live (with an average about 1% to 2% of your home’s value).

Again this can vary as there are some states where taxes can take up a much larger chunk of your hard earned money. In most cities and towns the taxes you will pay will be based on your properties assessed value combined with the local tax rate.

You can usually choose whether to divide this amount by 12 and include it in your monthly mortgage payment, or you can opt to pay it on your own as a separate bill. Either way, you need to be prepared for this additional first time home buyer expense.

Earnest Money

The earnest money is the money you submit to the seller with your offer. It shows the seller you mean business so they can feel comfortable taking it off the market while the sale processes. If your offer is accepted, this money gets applied to the down payment or closing costs. If the offer gets rejected, you get this money back.

You need to plan on having typically at least 5% of the price of the home set aside for earnest money, but the more you can offer, the better. This is also one of those things that can vary from state to state so it would be important to consult with a real estate agent to determine before hand what is an average amount a seller will be looking for. For example, sometimes the norm for purchasing new construction will be ten percent down.

Down Payment

Thanks to the big housing crash in 2008, it is very rare that you can buy a home without a down payment. You need to prove that you are responsible enough to make your monthly payments, and having a substantial down payment saved up is an excellent way to do so. For FHA loans, you can get away with a 3.5% down payment, but most mortgages (conventional) would like to see closer to 5- 20% down.

If you are fortunate enough to be buying a home in a rural area, you might also qualify to get what is called a USDA loan. These loans are one of the few no down payment options left, but you can’t be purchasing in a city or densely populated area to get this type of loan. Again it would make sense to consult with a good Realtor before hand to see if this option is even available to you.

Closing Costs

If you are feeling a little overwhelmed by all of these extra expenses, it’s not over yet. You also need to be prepared to pay the closing costs. They cover everything from preparation fees to attorney’s fees (too many other charges that you think are random that do have a purpose). Unless you can negotiate with the seller to pay the fees, you need to plan on an extra 3-4% of your home’s value to be paid at closing to cover these charges.

One of the first-time homebuyer expenses that are often forgotten about is real estate title insurance.  Real Estate Title Insurance is a type of insurance that covers financial loss from defects in the title to your property and the invalidity of mortgage liens.

A real estate title policy is put in place to protect an owner’s or lender’s financial interest in a property against loss due to title defects, liens or other matters. The insurance will defend against a lawsuit attacking the title as it is insured, or pay back the insured for the monetary loss incurred, up to the amount of insurance provided for in the policy.

This is an expense that you should seriously consider as a first time home buyer. It is a one-time expense that if you ever need it will more than pay for itself. Just ask anyone who has ever had to defend a claim without title insurance. It is a real nightmare!

As you can see, there are some extra first time home buyer expenses that you may not have thought much about. It is critical to go into your new home feeling confident you have the financial means to owning your first home.

Many home buyers overextend themselves and then get caught in a real financial bind. Do yourself a favor and have a healthy reserve in case of emergencies. You never know when disaster can strike like losing a job or have some unexpected health issue.

5 Hidden Home Toxins in your Home

Most American households are teeming with toxins. Some products, like cleaning agents, flame retardants and pesticides, are widely known to be harmful to our health. But other products are less discernibly dangerous. Here’s a look at five surprisingly toxic household items:

1. Laundry Detergent Packets

The concentrated cleaning power of liquid laundry packets does more than lift stains and brighten blouses. In fact, when ingested, packets can cause loss of consciousness, excessive vomiting, drowsiness, throat swelling and difficulty breathing. What’s more, eye contact can cause ocular burns leading to temporary vision loss.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, highly concentrated, single-load liquid laundry packets are particularly harmful to young children. In fact, more than 10,000 children under the age of 5 were reportedly exposed from January through November in 2016 alone.

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2. Air Fresheners

Air fresheners — be it in the form of spritzes, sprays, diffusers, gels or plug-ins — promise to mask the odor of our ordinary lives with the tranquil scents of Cashmere Woods and Hawaiian Breezes. But in many cases, air fresheners are delivering far more than they promise. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, air fresheners may contain phthalates – a class of chemicals shown to cause cancer, liver toxicity, kidney toxicity and reproductive problems in animal studies. What’s more, air fresheners may also contain harmful agents such as formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

3. Vinyl

There’s a certain satisfaction in the smell of something new — whether it be a new car, new flooring or new running shoes. Unfortunately, that ‘new’ smell typically signifies the presence of Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) — a plastic harmful to human health and the environment.

PVC (or vinyl) is commonly found in everyday household items such as inflatable toys and mattresses, shower curtains and bath mats, and plumbing supplies and flooring. A known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor, PVC contains phthalates, lead and other compounds known to interfere with child development and cause damage to the liver, central respiratory and nervous systems.

4. Philodendrons

These hearty houseplants are highly toxic to humans and pets. In fact, ingesting them can cause burning, blistering and swelling of the lips, tongue and throat; burning and irritation of the eyes; slurred speech; skin irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. According to the National Library of Medicine, the poisonous ingredient in Philodendrons is Calcium oxalate, a chemical compound that forms envelope-shaped crystals, known in plants as raphides.

The compound is also found in Peace Lilies, Calla Lilies and Elephant Ear, among other common houseplants.

5. Humidifiers

Most people are privy to the many health benefits of humidifiers: They add moisture to the air to treat dryness and irritation of the skin, nose throat and lips; and they also help to ward off illnesses like the common cold and flu. But what most people don’t know about humidifiers is that, over time, they can become highly toxic. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recent studies by the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have shown that dirty humidifiers can disperse microorganisms and minerals into indoor air — causing significant health problems, particularly in people suffering from asthma and allergies. Fortunately, proper care and cleaning can prevent the growth and emission of such harmful bacteria.

Waiting Will Cost More

An economist responded when asked how interest rates would change: “They may fall some and then, rise and after that, they’ll fluctuate.”43276292-250.jpg

Just because interest rates have been low for ten years doesn’t mean they are supposed to be low. The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates twice this year and are expected to go up twice more plus three times next year.  Mortgage rates have risen from 3.95% to 4.62% since the first of January.

Increased rates directly affect the payments on homes but so does the price. With inventory levels remaining low, the prices will continue to go up. When interest rates and prices rise at the same time, it costs buyers a lot more.

If the mortgage rates go up by one percent and prices increase by five percent in the next year, the payment on a $250,000 home could go up by $200 a month. In a seven-year period, the buyer would pay $18,000 more for the home.

People planning to buy a home, need to investigate the possibilities of accelerating their timetable to take advantage of lower rates and prices. Use the Cost of Waiting to Buy  calculator to see how much more it could cost you to wait.  Call Profile.BusinessPhone} if you have questions about what can be done now.

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What Is A VA Loan? A Veterans Guide To Home Ownership


For those dear men and women that choose to serve the USA through military service, our country owes a great bit of gratitude. One of the ways we show that gratitude is through the VA loan. Since 1944, qualifying veterans have used the benefit offered through the federal government to purchase a home and carve out their little spot in the world.

VA loans are not for everyone. Even those who have served could have better financing alternatives. The following information is intended as a guide to help you understand who is eligible for a VA loan and how these mortgages work.

Many people ask what is a VA Mortgage? Another common question is how does a VA loan work? Our guide should give you a great understanding of the VA mortgage.

With this information on VA mortgages you’ll be able to make sound decisions on whether this is a viable financing option for your needs.

Basics of the VA Mortgage

There are several types of loans available for most homeowners. However, the VA loan is unique in the fact that only qualifying veterans can apply for the mortgage.

These following VA mortgage facts offer a few distinct advantages over other loans.

  • Down Payment is not required – The most talked about aspect of the mortgage is the fact that a down payment is not mandatory. A qualifying veteran that is approved for a mortgage will not be asked to pay any money as a down payment. This one feature can save the veterans thousands of dollars.
  • No requirement for private mortgage insurance – Conventional loans, as well as FHA loans, ask the borrower to pay private mortgage insurance if the borrower does not pay at least 20% down. The private mortgage insurance protects the lender, not the borrower if the loan is not entirely repaid. This insurance can often add a significant fee to the monthly payment for the mortgage. However, in the case of the VA mortgage, there is no private mortgage insurance requirement.
  • Great interest rates – Although the VA mortgage is not offered directly through the Veterans Administration, the loans are partially guaranteed by the federal government. This allows lenders to offer the loans at very competitive terms and interest rates in comparison to other types of mortgages.

All of these benefits make the VA mortgage a cost saving way to purchase a home for veterans.

Determining VA Eligibility

The most important criteria for the VA Mortgage is deciding who can use the benefit and buy a home. The Veterans Administration offers the advantage to 4 different types of veterans.

  • Active duty service men and women – a person must have served at least 90 days in the military during a time when the country is at war.
  • Active duty during peace – a person must have served at least 181 days as a full-time military personnel during a time the country was at peace.
  • National Guard or Reserves service – A person must have served at least six years in either the Reserves or the National Guard.
  • Surviving spouse – A person must be a surviving spouse of a person that either (a) perished while serving in the line of duty or (b) died due to a disability related to their service.

For any military person that falls into one of the four categories mentioned above, they can contact their local lender and acquire their Certificate of Eligibility. Also known as the COE, the certificate can be obtained online by any lender who is qualified to offer a VA mortgage. The certificate outlines the veterans time of service along with other basic information.

After determining eligibility based on service, the veteran must also demonstrate they are financially eligible for the loan. This means the veteran will need to show proof that they can repay the loan.

For a veteran that is employed full-time, the lender will ask for basic documents such as the recent pay stubs covering the last 60 days, the past two year’s W-2 forms and the last two year’s tax returns.

For self-employed veterans, the lender will ask for the veterans personal and business tax returns from the previous two years.

The lender will use this information to calculate the veteran’s debt ratio and residual income. Although the VA loan does not expressly limit the debt ratio, if the veteran’s current debt and proposed home payment are more than 41% of the gross monthly income, there will need to be compensating factors to qualify for the mortgage.

The veteran will need to have enough residual income to support themselves and their family. The residual income figure is based on the size of the family and fluctuates slightly for different parts of the country.

In a nutshell, the Veterans Administration is trying to ensure that the veteran has enough money after all the bills are paid to take care of necessities like food, clothing, and insurance.

VA Appraisal and Closing Costs

After the veteran chooses a home and places a contract to buy the home, the lender will order an appraisal of the property. An appraiser that is approved by the VA will inspect the home to determine its value. Once the home is appraised, the lender can prepare the paperwork for the loan closing.

There are several costs associated with buying a home, regardless of the type of mortgage used. The following list represents the most common items that may be charged at the time of closing

  • Appraisal fee
  • Home Owner’s Insurance
  • Title exam/Title Insurance
  • Credit report fee
  • Mortgage electronic registration system fee
  • Closing fee
  • Title recording fee

It is also possible for the seller of the home to pay part or all the closing costs. The VA Administration states that up to 4% of the home’s purchase price can be used to cover the costs. This is a point of negotiation that should be discussed between the seller and the veteran’s real estate agent. It is not uncommon for the offer price to be increased to offset any requested closing cost credit.

The VA Funding Fee

Although we mentioned that there are no down payment or private mortgage insurance requirements for the VA mortgage, there is a fee attached to all VA home loans. This item is known as the funding fee.

The premise of the funding fee is to provide money to the Veteran Administration to continue offering the guarantee for future VA home loans.

For qualifying veterans that are buying their first home, the fee is 2.15% of the home’s purchase price. If the veteran uses their VA benefit again, the fee increases to 3.3%.

Thankfully, this fee does not have to be paid up front. The VA loan guidelines will allow the fee to be added to the total loan amount, thus giving the veteran the ability to pay the fee back over time.

There are two groups of people that are not required to pay the funding fee.

The first group is surviving spouses, mentioned earlier. Since the veteran passed away either in service or due to a service injury, there is no need to charge the fee.

The second group is veterans whose income derives from disability pay based on their service. If a veteran was rendered disabled by their service in the military and is currently receiving disability compensation, they are not required to pay the VA funding fee.

These facts about how VA loans work are quite often not realized until speaking with a qualified mortgage professional.

More than Just a Purchase Option

Although the most common use of the VA loan is for the purchase of a home, the VA mortgage can also be used as a refinance option. There are two ways to use the VA benefit for a refinance.

  • Streamline Refinance – For any veteran that is currently paying on a VA mortgage, it is possible to refinance the loan to get a better rate, a lower term, or both. This option is called the Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan, or commonly known as Streamline Refinance.
  • Cash-out Refinance – If a person has more value in their home than what they owe, they can refinance the mortgage to get the equity in cash. A qualifying veteran that currently has a mortgage, whether it is a VA mortgage or other type of home loan, can use the VA home loan to refinance.

For the streamline refinance, the veteran usually does not need a new appraisal or a new Certificate of Eligibility. As long as the last 12 mortgage payments have been made on time, the loan should be a simple transaction.

VA 2nd Tier: Having two VA Home Loans at the Same Time

Although the Veterans Administration frowns on allowing veterans to have two mortgages at the same time, there is a unique situation that will allow this. Learn which scenarios allow for the use of Veteran’s second-tier entitlement below.

Consider an active duty soldier that has been stationed at a particular location for a few years and decided to buy a home near the base. Two years after the home purchase the soldier gets new orders requiring him to relocate across the country. In this situation, it is possible for the veteran to retain their first home, rent it out, and buy a 2nd home at the new location.

There are quite a bit of calculation involved to determine how much the veteran can qualify for to get the 2nd home. But, it is possible.

Another scenario that allows for a 2nd loan is the purchase of a home after foreclosure. Once again, this situation will require some calculations on the part of the lender to see how much of the VA benefit was used on the first loan and how much is available for the 2nd mortgage.

The lender will also be very careful about reviewing the veteran’s qualifications and reviewing the debt to income ratio to make sure they can make the new payment. But it is possible for a veteran to buy a 2nd loan with the VA benefit after going through a foreclosure.

Summing Up What Is A VA Loan

Without a doubt, the VA mortgage is one of the best ways for qualifying veterans to purchase or refinance a home. With all of the features designed for saving money and making sure the veteran can afford the loan, it is a great way to finance a home. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of a VA loan and how they work.

Deductible Dilemma

The purpose of insurance is to shift the risk of loss to a company in exchange for a premium. Most policies have a deductible which reduces the amount of the claim that is paid by having the insured share in the first part of the loss.38973594-250.jpg

In the process of managing insurance premiums, policy holders often consider higher deductibles to lower the premium. Lower deductibles mean less money out of pocket if a loss occurs but also results in higher premiums. Higher deductibles result in lower premiums but require that the insured bear a larger part of the loss.

A small fire in a $300,000 home that resulted in $2,500 of damage might not be covered if the policy holder has a 1% deductible. If the homeowner can afford to handle the cost of repairs in exchange for cheaper premiums, it might be worth it. On the other hand, if that loss would be difficult for the homeowner, a change in the deductible could be considered.

Homes in high-risk flood areas with mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders require additional flood insurance. However, each homeowner needs to assess the risk of being able to financially sustain a flood loss on their home when flood insurance is not required. The recent events in south Texas and Louisiana are evidence that the unexpected can happen.

It is important to review your deductible and discuss risks with your property insurance agent so that you’re familiar with the amount and make any changes that would be appropriate before a claim is made.  The FEMA website has information and frequently asked questions about flood insurance.