10 Terms First-Time Homebuyers Should Know

In about a month or so, it won’t just be spring. It’ll be home selling and buying season, and you’ll start seeing the “For Sale” signs posted in yards as well as online advertisements beckoning prospective homebuyers.Vocabularly_FullSize

But before you allow yourself to be beckoned, it would behoove you to familiarize yourself with the following 10 terms – especially if this is your first time making one of the biggest purchases of your life.

1. Fixed-rate mortgage.
This means the interest rate you pay on your home loan won’t change. Over the years, your mortgage payment will likely change some – property taxes will likely rise, your homeowners insurance might climb or fall, or you might shed your PMI (a term we’ll come back to). But generally, if you have a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly mortgage payment won’t change much over the years.

2. Adjustable-rate mortgage. Also known as an ARM, this is essentially the opposite of a fixed-rate mortgage. You’ll have a fixed rate for several years, maybe five or 10, and then the interest rate adjusts according to the fully indexed interest rate, often the prime rate, which is what banks charge their most creditworthy customers. So while your interest rate and payments will likely be lower in the beginning than those of the homeowner with the fixed-rate mortgage, hope that interest rates remain low throughout the life of your loan. As interest rates climb, so too will your own interest rate and monthly payments.

3. Prequalified.
This can be a confusing term, mostly because homebuyers tend to mix it up with preapproved, says Rick Hogle, chief strategic officer at Supreme Lending, a mortgage company in Dallas.

If your lender tells you that you’re prequalified for a house, that’s a good start – but you’re still a long way from being a homeowner. “Prequalification requires less documentation,” Hogle says. “It provides a general idea of the loan amount in which a homebuyer might qualify.” This way, you can start looking a home and have a sense of what type of house you can afford.

Preapprovals are a much bigger deal, Hogle says. These require the submission of many more documents, such as pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns.

Preapprovals are really for homeowners who are ready to commit to buying a house. If you’re preapproved, you’ve basically been told that the bank will lend you money for a house, provided you don’t blow things in the meantime, while you’re house hunting, like missing a bunch of payments or racking up credit card debt before you’re actually approved.

4. Conventional loans.
These are the typical loans that many people, but not all, apply for when they want a mortgage.

“Those with low credit scores usually won’t qualify for conventional loans,” says Passard Dean, associate professor of accounting at Saint Leo University in Saint Leo, Florida. “In the past, you were also required to put a down payment of at least 5 percent. However, with the new guidelines from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, you can now put a down payment as low as 3 percent.  These loans generally require a credit score of above 650.

5. Federal Housing Administration loan. Have poor credit? You’ll probably get one of these, also known as FHA loans.

“These are excellent for first-time homebuyers with subprime credit scores,” Dean says. “In addition to more relaxed credit scores and lower upfront costs, the down payment can be as low as 3 percent.”

6. Appraisal.
This is an estimate that determines what your property is worth. Banks need homes to be appraised, in part, so they don’t lend you, say, $300,000 for a house that’s only worth $175,000. After all, if you can’t pay the loan, the bank will send you packing and will sell the home. But most people won’t buy a $175,000 home for $300,000, and knowing that, the bank doesn’t want to lend you more than your house is worth.

7. Private mortgage insurance.
This is a monthly insurance payment you’ll have to pay if the down payment on your house is less than 20 percent of the appraised value or sale price. If you don’t want to pay the PMI fee – which often ranges from .03 to 1.15 percent of the original loan, divided into 12 monthly payments – you’ll have to fork over a bigger down payment or buy a cheaper house. Usually, PMI insurance isn’t something you pay forever (it just seems like it, if you have a small down payment.) Typically, after your payments reach 20 percent of the value of your home, you stop paying PMI.

8. Closing costs. These are fees related to buying a house that your lender charges you, or you rack up from various third parties, such as a home inspector. According to the online real estate database Zillow.com, expect your closing costs to be 2 to 5 percent of the purchase price of your home. That may sound like a lot, but there are many costs involved in closing the deal, from buying title insurance to paying for points and attorney and surveyor fees.

9. Points. One point is a charge equal to 1 percent of the loan amount. So if you’re buying a $200,000 house, and a lender is charging you 2 points, that’s $4,000. Three points, $6,000. And why do you care? Because points are prepaid interest. The more points you pay, the lower your interest rate will be. If you’re planning to live in your house a few years, you could make a good argument for not paying points, but if you believe you’ll go the distance with a 30-year mortgage, it generally makes financial sense to pay as many points as you can afford to snag that lower interest rate, which, in the long run, should save you money. Ask your lender to do the math.

10. Escrow.
When you hear your real estate agent throw this word around, you’ll know you’re probably near the end of the home buying process.The word can be used in a few different ways, but when you think escrow, think of a third, neutral party. For instance, you may have looked at a house, loved it, made an offer and offered a deposit – which would then be put in escrow.

That is, it’ll be put in a third-party account, probably set up by your real estate agent. This way you aren’t giving the homeowner your deposit, also sometimes called earnest money. Usually you can’t recoup these deposits if you back out of the contract, but if the seller decides to sell the home to somebody else, you most certainly would get your deposit back. The escrow account keeps your deposit safe so the homeowners don’t inadvertently spend your money and put you through the hassle of having to get them to repay you.

You might also hear your lender talking about an escrow account where your property taxes and homeowners insurance go until they’re paid.

Of course, you can buy a house without truly understanding real estate and lender speak. Those professionals will walk you through everything, and you can likely nod your way through it all. But that doesn’t mean you should. After all, some would argue that’s how many homeowners got themselves in trouble before the 2007 recession, making decisions they shouldn’t have, and buying homes they didn’t realize they really couldn’t afford.

From: US News

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How to Buy in New Construction

new home buildBuying “new construction” is a bit different from buying a previously-owned home. For one, because there is no previous homeowner, you don’t have to deal with a seller’s emotional tie to the property, which typically influences the negotiating process. Whether you’re designing and building a custom home or buying a home that’s built on spec in a new subdivision, you’ll only have to work with the builder.

As with buying a previously-owned home, you have to figure out your budget and secure financing before you even begin house hunting. Get pre-approved by a bank or mortgage lender. Decide how much money you want to invest in a new home. And don’t overlook the extras like property taxes, insurance, furniture, window treatments, landscaping costs and maintenance that can drain your bank account.

“It’s absolutely critical for new homeowners to know what they can afford based on their income, debt and credit score,” says Rosy Messina, vice president of sales and marketing for ICI Homes in Daytona Beach, Fla. If you’re considering buying a newly-constructed home, follow these five steps to guide you through the process:

Step 1: Weigh the Pros and Cons

Nothing beats the feeling of being the first person to live in a newly-built home. Everything is shiny and untouched. You can buy a brand-new home in one of three ways: buying a house already built on spec; having a semi-custom home built as part of a development (you can choose from a set palette of finishes and upgrades); or having a purely custom home designed and built to your specifications.

But before you get caught up in the sparkling new paint and granite countertops, evaluate your situation and see if new construction fits your lifestyle. Here are some questions to ask yourself, particularly if you fall within the first two methods of new-home buying:

  • New homes are typically far from the city center; will you mind the commute?
  • Are you willing to coax a new lawn into existence, and can you wait 20 years for sapling trees to mature?
  • Will the cookie-cutter nature of new subdivisions drive you bonkers?
  • New houses tend to be built right on top of each other. Do you mind the closeness and potential lack of privacy?

Step 2: Research Neighborhoods and Builders

When buying in a new subdivision, consider working with a buyer’s agent who knows the area well, can set up home tours and walk you through the closing process. When researching real estate agents:

  • Remember, the listing agent works for the builder, not for you. They’re trying to hit a quota, not help you make the right decision for you and your family.
  • Many states regulate how agents deal with new subdivisions. If you have your own agent, tell him up front that you’re interested in looking at new homes. He must accompany you on your first visit to any new subdivision; if he doesn’t, the builder’s sales rep will get the full commission if you buy a home there.

When researching neighborhoods:

  • Look online for listings for new home construction.
  • Drive around the neighborhood and check out the amenities and the quality of the homes.
  • Walk the community. Ask homeowners about their experience.
  • Go to model open houses, keep a journal and take photographs. Don’t try to cover every model house in the area in one day.
  • Check with the developer about potential homeowners’ association (HOA) fees and rules; some are incredibly expensive — and strict. They may not allow storage sheds, certain paint colors or finish materials, solar panels or even vegetable gardens. Be sure to find out if the HOA can assess penalties for infractions.
  • Ask whether cable and Internet are readily available and from what companies; your new house will be wired for cable but that does not mean the cable company offers service to your neighborhood.
  • If the development is still under construction, you’ll be dodging giant contractor trucks and facing jackhammering at 7 a.m. for a while.
  • Research the zoning laws for the neighborhood, as they can change quickly.
  • Visit the city planner’s office to see what’s in store for a particular location.
  • Ask your agent about plans for the area.

Whether you’re buying a new home that’s being built or building a new home from the ground up, you can choose the builder you work with.

“The buyer is more educated today,” says Rhonda Hoeft, area sales manager for The Estridge Collection in Carmel, Ind. “It’s amazing how much they know as opposed to five years ago. At least 80 percent of prospective buyers who walk into our sales office have researched our homes and the builder.”

In this uncertain economy, builders are feeling the pressure. To make certain you choose a financially-sound builder, Sharon Hanby-Robie, real estate agent and American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) in Lancaster, Pa., suggests, “Go to the courthouse to see if a lien’s been filed against the builder, then go to the construction site. Talk to subcontractors to see if they’re being paid.”

When researching builders:

  • Make sure there are no Better Business Bureau complaints on file against your builder’s company.
  • Ask local real estate agents if the builder has a good reputation in the community.
  • Visit your builder’s previously constructed homes; ask the occupants whether the craftsmanship has stood up to time, use and weather.

Step 3: Know What’s Standard and What’s Extra

Ask the builder about amenities and upgrades. Amenities are features that benefit the entire community like a clubhouse, health and fitness center or a gated entrance. Upgrades refer to added features or items you pay extra for to enhance your home, like certain types of flooring or appliances.

Get a feature sheet on the line of homes you’re interested in and read them very carefully, then compare feature to feature. Find out what comes with the base home price. If you don’t understand exactly what the builder is offering, ask and take notes. There are no dumb questions. Not knowing can cost you real money. Some things to keep in mind:

  • If the stove is included, visit the showroom to see the model. If you’re offered the basic stove and you’re a gourmet cook, it makes sense to buy the upgrade.
  • Make decisions on upgrades early in the process — every change costs money.
  • Have a good idea of what you need and want. They are two different things when it comes to upgrades.
  • Builders rake in the cash on upgrades because they can get parts and labor relatively cheaply. The markup is huge, so investigate each option you’re considering to see whether it would be cheaper to bid it out after you move in.
  • Builders, in general, need to sell quickly to make a profit. If you’re stuck haggling over price, get them to throw in the upgrades you want at a reduced cost or for free — it’s a way to get more value that’s appealing to both sides.

Step 4: Get an Inspection and Home Warranty

Once you decide to buy a new home, make your sales contract contingent on a final home inspection by a professional you hire. Never assume that because a home is newly constructed, it isn’t going to have defects. Municipal inspections for code violations are nowhere near as thorough as an independent professional inspection. If possible, have the home checked during each phase of building, when potential problems are easier to spot. If the builder objects to this, consider it a red flag.

Protect yourself with warranties. All new homes come with an implied warranty from the builder stipulating that any major defect of the structural integrity of the home must be repaired. Ask for a builder’s warranty for a period of time following move-in (a year, for example) that covers any defects in craftsmanship. Preferably, this warranty should be backed by insurance.

Home warranties vary in length, what they cover and typically run from one to 10 years; the manufacturer covers appliance warranties. Make sure any warranty you receive explicitly states what is covered and what isn’t, and what the limitations for damages are. For extra peace of mind, have your real estate attorney look over the warranty to make sure it’s kosher.

Step 5: Close the Deal

Builders often have in-house mortgage lenders or ties to an outside lender. New homebuyers can use the builder’s lenders or find their own financing. Ask your agent for information on special funding programs available for first-time buyers. Contact at least two lenders and compare terms, fees, rates and points.

“You are committing 30 years of your life to the process of homeownership,” says Messina. “Learn as much as possible about the mortgage process by reading everything you can find.”

Kriss Lindblom did just that before he and his partner, Angela Diesner, closed on a Pulte-built home in Maricopa, Ariz., last year. “I read every piece of paper they gave me, every contract, disclaimer, declaration of covenants and restrictions, the bylaws of the community association.”

“I sat there with a pen and paper and anything that stood out I called the sales associate and questioned it,” Lindblom says.

If you’re not comfortable with the legal process, get an attorney. Remember, sign nothing until you fully understand the meaning of the words.

From: HGTV

Make Your Home a Hot Commodity This Winter

The great thing about our area is that we are a 12 month market, which means that homes will sell **all year long**. There are serious buyers that are looking (and NEED to buy) throughout every season in Charlotte. Although the holiday season can be a hectic time to show and sell your house, christmas-housethere are distinct advantages to staging and showing your home at this time of year – you have a chance to show your home at its very best, adorned with warmth and cheer that’s sure to charm. Nothing is more inviting than a home brimming with greenery, twinkling lights and holiday decorations.

Inviting and Warm

First impressions are important. If you live in a snowy area, make sure walkways are cleared. Do you have late fall leaves littering the ground? Rake them up. Also, make sure the walks and stairs are free of ice.

A few exterior holiday lights or decorations show pride in ownership and seasonal cheer, but they don’t add anything during the day when potential homebuyers will be looking at your home, so don’t overdo them. Another thing to consider: Would-be buyers may view it favorably if nearby homes are brimming with lights – it shows unity and neighborliness – so you’ll want to find a tasteful balance.

As you set out to win over holiday homebuyers, here are a few other tips to keep in mind:

  • Trim outdoor trees so unexpected winds don’t knock down branches that could damage your home or hurt someone.
  • Place a holiday welcome mat outside the front door.
  • Keep the door area clear of bicycles, toys or parcels left by the mail carrier.
  • Hang a festive wreath on your door.
  • Play holiday music in the background.
  • Keep the house cozy. Entering a cold house could chill potential buyers’ enthusiasm.
  • Light a fire in the fireplace just before the agent shows your house. (But never leave a fire unattended.)
  • Choose a tree and decorate it to complement the room where it’s displayed. You don’t want the tree to appear to take over the entire living or family room. Remove furniture, if necessary.
  • Keep decorations on the conservative side. You want your house to be noticed, not your decorations.
  • If your house is being viewed in the evening, tell your agent how to turn on the holiday lights. And be sure the agent turns the lights off, or you have a plan to be home immediately, following the showing.
  • Make sure your agent turns the home security system back on after showing your house, especially if you have gifts under the tree.
  • Be certain your windows are sparkling clean.
  • Let there be light. Open blinds and curtains and turn on interior lights to reduce the pervasive dreariness of winter months.
  • Bake holiday cookies and treats to fill the home with enticing aromas before the prospective buyers arrive.
  • Leave those holiday treats and hot chocolate for your guests.

Ultimately, you want to convey the love, comfort and joy your family has shared in the house so that buyers will be eager to move in and create their own holiday memories.


From: Realtor.com

15 Fall Maintenance Tasks Every Homeowner Should Tackle

With fall in the air, your thoughts may turn to what needs to be done to your home before winter sets in. Many tasks are done much more easily when the weather is still nice. Plus, taking care of routine maintenance tasks now can save you aggravation and money down the road.

Rain gutter full of autumn leaves

“If you don’t do these things and you end up having to do repairs, it can cost so much more later,” says Leah Ingram, cost advisor for HomeAdvisor.com and a frugal living expert who publishes the site SuddenlyFrugal.com.

She recalls that one year she didn’t have leaves removed from the roof of her New Jersey home, which would have cost about $300 for a professional crew to complete the job. The result was an ice dam that caused $3,000 in damage from water leaks inside the house.

Many fall maintenance routines are designed to prevent water damage and guard homeowners from safety hazards, especially from fires. “Water is a homeowner’s worst enemy,” Ingram says. “People don’t think about the kind of damage it can do.”

The use of fireplaces, candles and space heaters, all more common in winter, can be a fire hazard if you don’t keep up with routine safety measures. “Unfortunately, house fires are fairly common in the winter months,” says Anne Reagan, editor-in-chief of Porch.com, which publishes advice for homeowners and matches them with professionals who do home repairs and maintenance tasks.

While homeowners can do some routine tasks themselves, others such as inspecting chimneys and repairing roofs, are best left to professionals. HomeAdvisor, which matches homeowners with contractors, publishes a True Cost Guide of how much homeowners pay for various jobs. As cold weather approaches, it may get harder to get appointments, and you may also be less inclined to go outside and work, making it crucial to plan ahead and knock out projects in fall.

“The fall is a really busy time usually for homeowners,” Reagan says. “It’s when we start preparing for winter. … When it’s really cold and wet outside, you don’t want to do those things you need to do.”

Even if you live in an area where snow and ice aren’t likely, fall is still a good time to catch up with routine maintenance. Water and falling branches can cause equally expensive damage in the tropics as it does in the snowbelt.

Here are 15 fall home maintenance tasks to tackle now:

Clean gutters and downspouts. Leaves and debris gather in gutters, which can cause ice dams and other water damage when snow falls and then melts, or during rainstorms. This is an easy task to do yourself if you can climb a ladder safely.

Remove leaves. Not only do you want the leaves out of your gutters, you want them off your roof and off your lawn. Despite what some may believe, letting leaves decay on your lawn does not provide fertilizer. “It’s actually helping fungus and mold build up, which can kill your lawn,” Ingram says.

Repair any damage to your roof. “Anywhere you had shingle damage, that needs to be fixed and replaced,” says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, which franchises handyman services nationwide. If water can get under your shingles, it can get into your home and cause damage.

Clean your chimney. Have a chimney sweep come in every year to check your fireplace for safety and clean out the remains of last year’s fires. “If you use your fireplace regularly with wood, you’ve got to get that soot out of there,” Ingram says. You also want to make sure that the cover to your chimney is intact and that birds or other critters haven’t chosen to move in, Sassano says.

Check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. It’s smart to test the devices and replace the batteries every six months, making this a chore for fall and spring. Also, make sure you have enough fire extinguishers and that they are in the right place.

Change filters in heating and air conditioning units. Most forced-air systems work better when the filters are clean. While some filters are advertised to last several months, people with pets or old houses with a lot of dust should change filters monthly.

Caulk around the windows. Cold air can easily enter your house around windows. Caulking wears out after a few years. This is a chore many homeowners can do themselves for less than $20.

Repair, add or replace weatherstripping. Good weatherstripping on exterior doors can save energy and help you feel more comfortable in winter. If you can see light from the outside coming in around your doors, it’s time for repairs.

Wrap exposed pipes. Pipes in exterior walls or outside can easily freeze during the winter, and wrapping them makes that less likely. “There’s nothing more costly than having a pipe burst in your house,” Sassano says.

Shut down and drain sprinkler systems. You also want to turn off and drain exterior spigots, plus drain and bring in hoses.

Aerate your lawn. By using a machine to poke holes in your lawn, you help air and water get to the roots. This is best done when the lawn is wet. The process helps it grow back next season. “When it snows and the snow start to melt, the aerated areas help the water get to the root system of your lawn,” Ingram says.

Trim trees. Proper trimming keeps trees healthy, and you should hire someone for the job who knows what he or she is doing. In cold climates, you want to keep weak branches that may become weighed down with snow from falling on your house or car. In warmer climates, you want to avoid wind damage.

Change the direction of ceiling fans. Fans are set to run counterclockwise in summer, which creates a cool breeze under the fan. But they should run clockwise in winter. “Heat tends to rise, and you don’t want to waste it up at the ceiling level,” Sassano says. “You want to bring it back down to where the people are.”

Inventory your snow equipment. Make sure your shovels are in good repair, your snow blower is tuned up and you have sand and salt on hand. “It’s really just easier to get them now before the stores sell out,” Reagan says.

Clean and put away your summer equipment. Now that the warm weather is gone, there’s no need for your lawn furniture, barbecue grill and water toys. “It just makes your springtime so much easier,” Reagan says.


From:  US News

Summer Home Maintenance Musts

With the change of each season comes a new set of maintenance tasks for your home. Now that summer’s here, you’ll want to prepare your home and yard for the onslaught of summer heat. From air-conditioner upkeep to hanging a clothesline, these simple chores will help keep your home happy and healthy.

Check detectors. Check your home’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they’re working properly.

Inspect air-conditioners. If you haven’t already, prep air conditioners and fans for their busiest season:

  • With the help of your spouse, install window air-conditioning units. Remove and clean the filters before firing up the AC. If you have central air-conditioning, consider a professional servicing.
  • Clean all ceiling fans and other fans with a damp rag. If you have high ceilings, a ceiling-fan duster can help you de-grime hard-to-reach blades.

Enjoy a dry spell. Install an outdoor clothesline to dry your laundry in the summer sun; you’ll save money and energy by skipping the dryer. Plus, who doesn’t love the smell of air-dried sheets?

Clean your outdoor cooker. Give your grill a deep cleaning with these simple steps:

  • For gas grills, turn the heat up to high and let the grill cook with the lid closed for about half an hour. Allow the grill to cool and then brush it off with a grill brush. Wipe down the exterior with a damp sponge and a gentle cleanser. Clean the grill’s drip pans.
  • For charcoal grills, completely empty the grill and wipe out any ashy residue. Then clean it inside and out with hot water, a scrubby sponge and some liquid dishwashing soap. Let the grill dry completely before using it again.

Polish your porch. Thoroughly sweep painted porch floors; then mop them with an all-purpose cleaner. If there’s a lot of built-up dirt on the floorboards, you may need to scrub them with a brush.

Analyze your deck. Look over your deck for signs of rotting and hammer in any nails that are poking up. Then, determine if your deck needs sealing. Sprinkle water on the deck’s boards. If the water beads up, you’re in good shape; but if it soaks right in, it’s time to reseal that sucker.

Wash your windows. If you didn’t tackle exterior window washing in the spring, now’s the time to get your glass clean.

Make much ado about mulch. Add a layer of mulch to keep weeds down and help the ground retain its moisture in the heat. It’ll give your plants a chance to grow.

Be a leak detective. Check your hoses and exterior faucets for leaks — even a tiny drip can add up to a big waste of water. Pinhole leaks in hoses can be covered up by winding regular electrical tape around the (dry) hose in overlapping layers.

Primp your plants. Deadhead both perennials and annuals to keep them productive. If you have visible dead foliage from spring bulbs, pull it out to maintain a tidy look, but if the daffodil or tulip leaves are still green, leave them alone; they’re busy nourishing the bulb to bloom again next year.

Plan your watering schedule. Train your garden to endure dry days by watering deeply a couple times a week, instead of watering lightly daily. This style of watering will promote the growth of deep, strong roots.

Stop dirt at the door. Keep summer’s mud and muck outside with not one, but two doormats at your main entry door. Place a coarse mat at the exterior and a softer, cloth one on the interior to catch the most dirt. Better still, instruct family members to remove their shoes upon entering. If you live near a beach, a tub of water for sandy feet placed by the door works wonders for keeping sand outside where it belongs.

From: http://ideas.thenest.com/real-estate/buying-a-home/articles/summer-home-maintenance-checklist.aspx

Top 10 Common Repair Costs

Congratulations on buying your first house. Now, you have to learn how to keep it in good repair. To be safe, you should set aside money every year — 1% to 3% of your home’s purchase price — for repairs and maintenance.

The good news is that most repairs are simple, inexpensive, and DIY-friendly. If you can fix stuff yourself, you’ll only pay for the cost of materials and save a bundle on these common repairs and replacements.

home-repair-costs-graphic_9c0241e43cd11f8849c6898f3d8635b2

1.  Replace Toilet Fill Valves

That annoying sound of water continually filling and draining from your toilet tank is often caused by leaky fill valve, which a plumber can replace, stopping water waste and restoring quiet. Plumber rates vary widely around the country, from $45 to $150 per hour, and the job will take about two hours — the minimum some plumbers require just to take the job.

Labor: $50 to $200

Materials: $11 to $23

Total: $61 to $223

2.  Repair a Leaky Faucet

The water torture drip-drip-drip from a leaky faucet won’t just drive you insane, it can drive up water bills, too. Depending on the type of faucet you have, fixes typically involve replacing damaged rubber washers (10 for $2), O-rings (10 for $2), or a faucet cartridge ($8 to $30).

Labor: $95 to $300

Materials: $2 to $30

Total: $97 to $330

3.  Replace Ceiling Fan

If you’ve got a ceiling fan, sooner or later the motor will burn out, the blades will warp, and fashions will change, so you’ll need to replace it. Replacing isn’t a big deal, because upgraded wiring, a reinforced ceiling box, and a light switch with ceiling fan controls are already in place. What you’re paying for is an electrician’s time — one or two hours — and a new fixture.

Labor: $50 to $200

Materials: $54 to $1,000 and up

Total: $104 to $1,200

4.  Repair Drywall

Nicks, gashes, and smashes inevitably mar your beautiful walls. You’ll have to patch and paint to make them look as good as new. A painter can do both jobs and will probably give you a flat rate that will include patching or filling blemishes, then sanding, priming, and painting.

Painters charge $25 to $62 per hour for labor or $2.68 to $4.60 per square foot including materials. Figure it will take about three hours to repair a wall, including drying time for the patching compound and paint. It’s a good idea to save up painting chores so you have enough to keep a painter busy while repairs cure.

Materials include paint at $12 to $50 or more a gallon, which should cover about 350 square feet; plus another $10 to $50 for brushes, rollers, drop clothes, and drywall patching compound.

Labor: $75 to $186

Materials: $22 to $100

Total: $97 to $286

5.  Repair Cracked Tile

Tile is hard and durable, but drop something heavy on it and it’s likely to crack — a reason to always order more tile than you need so you’ll always have spares. To replace cracked tiles, a handyman must pry out the damaged tiles, scrape away old fixative, re-glue new tiles, and spread new grout. Replacing a 2-foot-by-2-foot section of tile should take one to two hours, not including the drying time required for the adhesive to set.

Labor: $30 to $125 per hour; with possible $150 to $350 minimum charge for a handyman

Materials: $1 to $20 per square foot

Total: $34 to $430

6.  Replace Caulk Around Tubs, Sinks, and Showers

Caulk is the waterproof seal around sinks, tubs, and showers that prevents moisture from seeping through gaps and onto drywall and flooring. When caulk cracks or peels, it should be replaced immediately to prevent mold and rot.

A handyman can dig out old caulk around a tub and reseal with new in about an hour.

Labor: $30 to $125 per hour; with possible $150 to $350 minimum charge for a handyman

Materials:  $1 to $4 for a tube of bathroom caulk

Total: $31 to $354

7.  Fix Gutters

Gutters and downspouts carry water from rain and snow away from your house and onto the ground. Sometimes the weight of wet snow and soggy leaves puts too much pressure on gutters, causing them to pull away from the house or pitch at inefficient angles.

A gutter contractor will clean gutters, and replace or reinstall supportive hardware and hangers. To restore the correct pitch, the contractor must detach and reattach each gutter section.

Labor: $127 to $282 (depending on length of gutter)

Materials: $10 for five hangers; $6 to $9 for gutter sealant

Total: $143 to $301

8.  Fix Out-of-Alignment Doors

Over time, your house moves as its foundation settles and building materials expand and contract with changes in humidity. The movement often is noticed when doorframes shift slightly, causing hinges to creak and doors to not shut properly.

Adding wooden shims to frames and hinges can bring doors back into alignment and let them easily open and close once again. Replacing worn-out screws with longer screws helps secure hinges tightly.

A handyman can fix a door in about an hour. Materials will include shims and screws.

Labor: $30 to $125 per hour; with possible $150 to $350 minimum charge for a handyman

Materials: $5

Total: $35 to $355

9.  Repair Ice Damming

If your house isn’t insulated correctly or your roof isn’t designed correctly, melting roof snow can run off and freeze around roof edges. Eventually, this can form an ice dam that creeps up your roof, damaging shingles and forcing melting water into your home.

One popular solution to ice damming is to install a heating cable along the roof’s edge, which warms the area and prevents freezing. It’s not a DIY job. Roofing contractors will install the cable, and an electrician will install outlets that will juice up the cable. If you want a thermostat to turn the cable on and off automatically, that’ll be extra, too.

Labor and materials: $30 to $60 per linear foot

Total: $371 to $1,319 (average job cost)

10.  Fix a Faulty Light Switch

Sometimes you turn on the light but nothing happens; or sparks crackle, and the light turns on. It’s disconcerting, but most likely it’s an easy fix. An electrician will turn off the power, take off the faceplate, check and perhaps tighten wires; or replace the switch. All told, it will take less than an hour.

Labor: $50 to $100 per hour

Materials: $1 to $6 for a single pole light switch

Total: $41 to $106

From: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/repair-tips/home-repair-costs/?cid=eo_em_mkt_newsletter

What First-Time Buyers Should Look for in a Starter Home

You’ve dreamed for years of buying your first home, and now it’s time. You’ve created Pinterest boards dotted with photos of beautiful home decor, watched all the episodes of HGTV’s “House Hunters” and spent hours trolling listings online. You know exactly what you want.

But have you done the math?

home-buying-rehoboth-beach-real-estate1When it’s time to search for a starter home, many young — and not so young — people quickly discover that their budget won’t cover their dream home. That means making tough choices and doing some serious thinking about what matters: Will granite countertops make you happier than living 15 minutes closer to work? Is a third bedroom worth giving up a second car? Is living inyour dream neighborhood more important than having a yard?

“It’s not all about the house,” says Karen Carr, a certified financial planner at the Society of Grownups, a Boston group that holds seminars on homebuying in its effort to provide financial advice to young adults. “We talk a lot about buying for your life now and then the life you want in the next few years.”

Carr quizzes her clients about why they want what they want in a home, helping them drill down to what’s most important in their lives. The hope is they will realize some features, like commute time and having enough room to start a family, should be weighed more heavily than others, like the countertop material or the wall color, which might look nice but don’t really affect how they will live.

“We try to match their expectations with their budget,” Carr says. That’s a challenge in a city like Boston, where the median price of homes sold in December was $490,000, according to multiple listing service data analyzed by Signal Real Estate. Plus, Carr says, it’s such a strong seller’s market that many properties draw multiple offers.

One of the more important questions for first-time buyers is how much they are willing to compromise on location. In many large cities, for example, homes closer to town are more expensive than homes in the suburbs. That means buyers have to decide how far out they’re willing to move to get more space.

Most experts agree that if you buy a home, you need to make sure you can live in it for at least five years, and maybe longer. The needs and desires of young singles or couples without children are often different from the needs and desires of families, where schools and space matter more.

PulteGroup, which builds new single-family homes and townhomes throughout the U.S., sees two main types of first-time buyers. These newbie homebuyers want different things in starter homes, says James Zeumer, vice president of corporate communications.

Younger buyers, who may not have children, typically want to be closer to urban areas and are willing to live in attached homes, such as a townhouse community. Families, who are a little older, are more interested in a single-family home with a yard and are willing to move farther into the suburbs to get that, he says.

A National Association of Realtors survey of first-time buyers between July 2013 and June 2014 found that the median age of these buyers was 31 and that the median home size purchased was 1,570 square feet. Of those buyers, 75 percent chose a single-family home, 10 percent chose a townhouse and 10 percent chose a condo or co-op. More than half, 54 percent, were married, and 15 percent were unmarried couples. Unmarried women made up 18 percent of first-time buyers, and single men accounted for 11 percent.

More important, 75 percent of first-time buyers said they had compromised on their home purchase, most commonly on the size and price.

A Realtor in Mobile, Alabama, says many of her buyers want to keep costs low and are realistic about what they can afford. “After the economic crash, I think we’ve learned to be very frugal,” noting that many peers saw their parents struggle with mortgages during the real estate bust. “We watched how they suffered and how it declined so quickly.”

In Mobile, first-time homebuyers can get a three-bedroom, two-bath home — the size most are seeking — for $90,000 to $125,000, and the seller traditionally pays closing costs, which is practically unheard of in Boston.

She says her clients want modern appliances, fenced yards for pets and a home that requires little renovation. “They live such busy lives that the last thing they’re wanting to do is rip up carpet on the weekends,” she says.

First-time buyers also like open floor plans, flexible spaces and plenty of storage, with everything wired for technology, Zeumer says. Families like spaces off the kitchen where kids can do homework and still be seen by parents, as well as entryways with cubbyholes, hooks and cabinets. At Pulte, buyers choose their own options for the entry-level brand, and Zeumer says these buyers are very cost-conscious.

“They’re going to be very thoughtful with regard to the price point,” he says. Most buyers want three bedrooms and two baths and choose homes of 1,000 to 1,400 square feet, he says. Popular upgrades include wood or tile flooring and improvements in the master bath and kitchen.

Here are five things to consider as you prepare to buy a starter home:

Is buying now really a good idea? Take a look at your lifestyle, your job, your family situation and your budget to determine if this is the right time to lock yourself into a home for five to seven years.

Do you have enough money? Looking just at the mortgage payment gives you an incomplete picture, Carr says. “A lot of people just go straight to the mortgage payment,” she says, figuring that they can afford a payment equal to or slightly more than their rent. “That’s a gross oversimplification.” Be sure to add up the additional cost of property taxes, homeowners insurance, condo or homeowner association fees, utilities and maintenance. Every home, even a new home, will need repairs and preventive maintenance.

Drill down and separate what you need from what you want. Before you even look at homes, figure out what compromises you are willing to make. Location for space? A second bathroom for modern finishes? A great neighborhood for your own yard?

Get a good home inspection. If you’re buying an existing home, as 88 percent of the buyers in the Realtors’ survey did, accompany your home inspector and take notes. He or she will give you an excellent overview of how long the major components or your home will likely last, making it easier for you to plan for replacements during your ownership.

Know what’s easy to change and what isn’t. First-time homebuyers often have no experiencerenovating homes, so they don’t realize what features and finishes are easy and inexpensive to change and what is likely to become a major project. Real estate agents and home inspectors can provide insight on these topics, and you can also do your own research. Changing all the carpet before you move in, for example, is normally not difficult and is not nearly as expensive as adding wood floors. New kitchen counters are much less expensive than new cabinets. Rewiring a house is expensive, but changing a light fixture is not.

From: https://homes.yahoo.com/news/first-time-buyers-look-starter-home-184716129.html