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After the mortgage payment, the largest homeowner expense is for utilities and the major component is energy.  Contributing factors include air leaks, insulation, heating and cooling equipment, water heaters and lighting.Where does my money go.png

Computers, monitors, TVs, cable and satellite boxes, DVRs and power adapters are spinning your electric meter even when they’re not being used. Even though they only represent a small percentage of a home’s total energy consumption, about 3/4 of the electricity is used when the products are turned off.

Unplugging devices can actually make a difference in the size of your electric bill. Plugging several of these offenders into a power strip with a single on/off switch may make the task easier. Most computers have options to put them

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Whether you’re refinancing your current home or buying a new one, something worth considering is a 15-year loan rather than a 30-year term. The payments will be a little higher but you’ll get a lower interest rate and you’ll build equity much faster.30348233-250.jpg

Let’s look at an example of a $300,000 mortgage with the choice of a 30-year term with a 3.92% rate compared to a 15-year term with a 3.2% rate. The payments would be $682.28 higher on the shorter term but the equity would be considerably higher even after you adjust for the higher payments.

Another benefit is that the shorter-term loan creates a forced savings situation where the savings on longer term loan might end up being spent rather than being saved and invested.  A conscious decision to pay more

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Consider the goal of funding a child’s college education in the future. If “other people’s money” in the form of a scholarship is not a possibility, there still may be another way to use some “other people’s money.”26458431-250.jpg

A $25,000 investment into a mutual fund paying 5% would earn $1,250 in the first year. Alternatively, the $25,000 as a 20% down payment to purchase a $125,000 rental home appreciating 3% a year would have gone up by $3,750 or three times that of the mutual fund in the first year.

The mutual fund’s growth depends on the value of the money invested. Rental real estate benefits because a 20% down payment controls a much larger asset because you’re using “other people’s money.” Leverage allows the investor to profit not only from the amount

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In the late 80’s, both FHA and VA began requiring buyers to qualify to assume their mortgages. The main reason there haven’t been many assumptions in the past 25 years is that interest rates have been steadily going down and if a person has to qualify, they might as well do it on a new loan and get a lower interest rate.

Based on projections by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the MBA and NAR, rates for the second half of 2017 and 2018 are expected to be higher. When interest rates on new mortgages are higher than the rates of assumable FHA and VA mortgages in the recent past, it becomes more advantageous to assume the existing mortgages.

FHA and VA loans originated with lower than current interest rates have great advantages for buyers and sellers.

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    Anytime a lender and borrower can agree on rates and terms, it can be a good match but IRS has specific rules that govern the transaction especially when the parties are family or friends.26614035-250.jpg

    The loan must be done in a business-like manner with a written note specifying the loan amount, interest rate, term and collateral. IRS requires that the mortgage be a recorded lien to allow the interest deduction.

    Sometimes, a friends and family situation might have a less than normal interest rate on the mortgage. However, the rate charged in the note is regulated by the minimum applicable federal rate which is published monthly by IRS based on current Treasury securities. For July 2017, the rate is 2.57% for terms over nine years.

    The seller must report the

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    There is increasing difficulty for first-time home buyers to save for their down payment as indicated in the graph.  Several factors that contribute to this trend include rising rents, rising home prices, student loan debt and flat wages.down payment graph.png

    Some would-be buyers feel they cannot buy a home today but a large part of those decisions may be based on inaccurate assumptions.

    Nine out of ten non-owners believe they need ten percent or more for a down payment. The typical down payment for first-time buyers is six percent. VA has 100% loan programs as well as USDA for certain qualifying areas and buyers. FHA is known for 3.5% down payments. And FNMA and Freddie Mac have down payments as low as 3% and 5%.

    There are gift provisions available for buyers who

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    If you haven’t heard of a CLUE report, it has nothing to do with the table game searching for a murderer. It is a report showing the insurance claims on your home and car for the past five to seven years.10340976-250.jpg

    This database is used by insurance companies to evaluate risks and determine rates. C.L.U.E. stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange. Rates can be increased not only due to legitimate claims but data entry errors also. Sometimes, simply asking a question without filing a claim can be logged as a claim.

    For that reason, similar to verifying the accuracy of your credit report, it is important to check out the CLUE report on your home and car. The reports are free and there is a process for correcting mistakes.

    An interesting and

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    Mickey Mantle said “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

    Similarly, if people planning their summer travel knew they were going to have an emergency, they would have the right things available. Only 5% of drivers carry all recommended emergency supplies in their cars.9111296-250.jpg

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that all Americans have some basic supplies on hand in order to survive for at least three days if an emergency occurs. Some of these things would be more important if you lived or traveled in remote areas.

    • Reflective hazard triangle or road flares
    • Spare tire
    • Jumper cables
    • First-aid kit
    • Flashlight and extra batteries
    • Cell phone and charger
    • Crucial medications
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    Businesses must treat customers fairly if they expect to do business with them again or get recommendations to their friends. Customers of stores like Nordstrom’s understand that a salesperson is an employee and represents the company.13959026-250.jpg

    The line becomes less clear in some industries, especially ones that involve real estate. Agency is a legal relationship authorizing a person to act for or in the place of another. It involves responsibilities that exceed treating a person fairly.

    The duties a buyer or seller can expect to receive from a real estate salesperson or broker include but are not limited to honesty, accountability, full disclosure, representation and reasonable skill and care. Buyers and sellers might additionally expect obedience, loyalty

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    Hands-only CPR can save lives.  The American Heart Association states that “Almost 90% of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die.  CPR, especially if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.”  Most people who survive a cardiac emergency are helped by a bystander.

    1. Check for responsiveness – shake the person and shout “Are you OK?”11700251-250.jpg
    2. Call 9-1-1 – either tell someone to call or make the call yourself
    3. Compress – Push hard and fast in the center of the chest at a rate of 100 per minute.

    The victim should be flat on their back preferably on the floor. Place the heel of one hand on the center of the victim’s chest and place the heel on top of the other hand lacing

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