10136616_SA pre-purchase home inspection is a recommended part of the home buying process. An investment of about $300 to $500 can help you avoid an unexpected defect that could cost thousands of dollars, even tens of thousands, after you sign on the dotted line. Here are some questions to help you select the right home inspector for you:

How long have you been an inspector? How many inspections have you performed? An inspector should be able to provide an overview of his or her qualifications and background as well as some customer referrals. Ask if the inspector is a member of any state or national inspection organizations, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors, or if they have participated in any type of continuing education.

What does your inspection cover? Home inspections typically cover the basic systems of a home, such as the electrical and heating systems, and the roof. If you want more specialized information about a home, such as a radon test, termite report or to certify it has no structural or septic issues, you likely will need to hire a specialist to do those inspections and/or tests.

Do you provide a written report? The answer should be ‘yes.’ An inspector should be able to provide samples of the written reports they provide their customers. The report on your property should be furnished within 24 hours of the inspection.

Will I be able to attend the inspection? Again, the answer should be ‘yes.’ And you should consider being there during the inspection. It’s a great opportunity to learn a lot about the property you are about to purchase. Some inspections can take two or more hours.

Your inspector will play an important role in the purchase of your home. Here are some more questions that can help you choose wisely.


How safe is your home for children?

Sep 7
Category | General

43207339_SMoving into a new home? If you have children, it’s a great time to make sure your home is safe for the smallest members of your household. Every 30 minutes a child in the United States is injured as a result of a TV or furniture tip-over incident. Most of those injuries happen at home, involving children younger than 7 years of age.

So how do these injuries happen? Generally, they come from climbing. Children spot a toy atop a dresser or bookshelf and decide to monkey their way to it. The unfortunate result is that the child’s weight tips the furniture over. When it comes to television sets – which constitute about half of all injuries – the problem usually comes from oversized screens toppling over.

What can you do to keep your children safe? Here are tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

Secure your television. Televisions that are not wall mounted should still be anchored so they won’t topple over.

Read all instructions. Follow all manufacturer instructions to secure TVs and furniture.

Secure top-heavy furniture. Bookshelves, dressers and other types of furniture are prone to tip-overs. Secure furniture to the wall and/or install anti-tipping devices.

Remove tempting objects. Remove items that might tempt kids to climb, such as toys and remote controls, from the top of the TV and furniture.

For tips on how to make your home safe, check out this guide.


21054033_SNo, you won’t get the lowest interest rate with a low credit score, but you can qualify for a mortgage loan. It’ll take more work and probably cost more, but it’s possible. Here’s how you should prepare for the process.

Know your credit situation

You know you missed payments, declared bankruptcy or have other blemishes on your credit record, but have you ever looked at your report in detail? Get a free copy at, and look for any mistakes. You can contact the credit-reporting agencies if you find anything that needs correction.

Next, look at your credit score. Lenders base many of their decisions on how high or low scores are. Some financial institutions provide their customers with a version of their FICO score, the most widely used credit score. Or you can pay a small fee to obtain yours.

Is your score very low? If you’ve corrected the behavior or situations that damaged your credit, consider waiting a few months. As the blemishes to your credit record age, they’ll affect your score less.

Don’t make it worse

Disputing possible problems on your credit report, being current on all your bills and other common sense practices can improve your credit score over time. At the very least, don’t do anything to make your loan application look worse.

Obviously, don’t open any new credit accounts, but don’t close any accounts either. It won’t hide anything, and you’ll only reduce your available credit. And if you’re shopping around for a lender, make sure you pick one within 30 days of your first application. The credit agency will ignore multiple credit checks within that amount of time, but after that, each hit will damage your already delicate credit.

Talk to your lender

Find a mortgage lender who handles mortgage products that may work for your situation. In addition to mortgage products, he or she likely knows of buyer-assistance programs that could help you.

And don’t be afraid to discuss what happened with your credit. Missing a car payment because your wife needed an expensive medical procedure is different than missing a car payment because you bought a boat. If extenuating circumstances contributed to your credit problems — and you can show evidence that supports your story — you may get the benefit of the doubt if the lender has any flexibility.

You can get a mortgage loan. It’s going to take time and patience, but with a lender’s assistance, you can find a product that works.


Documents you'll never want to toss

Oct 20
Category | General

4566764_SIf you’re like most Americans, you have amassed quite the collection of financial documents, including receipts, invoices, pay stubs, bank statements, utility bills and old tax returns. Most can be tossed after a certain period of time. But there are some things that you’ll want to consider keeping forever. Here are some of them:

Federal and state tax returns. While some experts say that you’re probably safe pitching your personal federal and state tax returns after seven years, others say it’s a better idea to hold onto them forever. After seven years, some financial planners recommend tossing the mound of supporting paperwork used to prepare and file a return while still holding on to the actual return. You can either keep paper copies of your tax returns or scan them and store them electronically.

Personal records. Birth certificates, Social Security cards, marriage licenses and divorce decrees all should be kept in a secure, fire-proof box as long as you live.

Estate planning paperwork. The same applies to wills, trusts, life insurance policies, health care directives and other estate planning information.


980286_SYou’re ready to move on. Maybe the house is too small, you’re moving because of a job, or you want to be closer to family and friends — the top three reasons for selling a home, according to the National Association of Realtors.

No matter the reason, the selling process can be stressful. You can’t eliminate all the complications of a real estate transaction, but here are three ways you can reduce the stress with some preparation.

Set a realistic price

Some sellers ask for more than the market will bear, assuming that buyers will want the property and offer less. But most buyers won’t even make an offer if it’s priced out of line with similar homes in the area. Properties with inflated prices stay on the market longer than average and often sell for less than homes that are fairly priced to start with.

Don’t put up the sign until the house is ready

Even though you’re ready to sell, is your house ready to be shown? Fix the leaky faucet, repaint the dingy dining room and replace the broken front step before you list the house. You’ve lived with these annoyances for years, but these problems will distract a buyer. When the property looks its best, you’ll have your best chance of success.

Make the house easy to show

Keep your schedule flexible. Although it’s inconvenient to tidy up on a Tuesday night, it’s in your best interests to eliminate any obstacles for people who want to purchase your home.

Leave home

When buyers view your house, you should be anywhere but home. They will feel uncomfortable looking through a home when you’re present, and they want to be free to discuss the pros and cons of the house without fear of offending the owners.

Following these steps will put you in good shape to sell your home. Talk to your lender to figure out the best way to leverage your sales proceeds for your next purchase.

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