7 Programs That Help First-Time Homebuyers

programs-first-time-homebuyersEver been through the actual process of buying a home? It’s as hard as competing in the Olympics. There are people to deal with, paperwork full of jargon to read and fill, and fees to pay. Reading through the jargon may make you feel like you want to just skip over and sign the papers. That may sound as easy as skiing downhill, but it may ruin your financial future or just make it an uphill task. It will, therefore, be in your best interest to consider the homebuyer programs listed below. They could make your financial future be as you imagined it.

FHA

If you have a credit history that is not very firm or it is just your first time to buy a house, this is the program to choose. The Federal Housing Administration guarantee a portion of the mortgage for you. That makes it affordable to most Americans. The FHA backing gets you loans that go as low as 3.5%. Start at the HUD.gov website, they have a list of local FHA lenders.

VA

If you are a service member, a veteran, or surviving source of a military member, the US Department of Veterans can help you buy a home. This program is quite generous and depending on their evaluation, you may not even be required to pay a deposit or to have mortgage insurance. As you would expect, this military program is designed to work more on accuracy, than speed.

USDA

usda-loanDo you live in rural America? Well, the US Department of Agriculture assists people in rural America to buy homes. It offers 100% financing through lenders by offering them mortgage guarantees. There are however minimum income qualifications that you need to meet.

Home Upgrade Programs

Do you have more money to spend? If you do, you can have a bigger home. The following programs offer you that option.

I. The Energy Efficient Mortgage program

This program awards you their support by offering you green energy mortgage benefits. All you need to do is improve your home by installing green energy sources. They will then allow your lender to change your loan limits based on energy efficiency improvement. You do not have to make any other financial obligations.

II. HUD 203(k) loans

These loans are for you if you want to improve your home to increase its overall value. They evaluate the improvement you want to make to determine the final value of your house. They then allow you to borrow more funds to make those improvements based on their evaluation of your property. You then make the payment as part of your main mortgage.

Good Neighbor Next Door

This program started as the Teacher Next Door Program. However, it later expanded to include firefighters, medical technicians, and law enforcement officers. That necessitated the change its first name. You will get a 50% discount on account that you commit to living in that house for 36 months. These homes are located in revitalized areas. They are also listed for only seven days in the Good Neighbor Next Door’s website.

Dollar Homes

HUD offers one dollar homes. These homes are acquired by FHA through foreclosures. There are so few of them, and they are listed on their website. We checked them out and found one listed for $17,900. That means you have to be very careful in your search.

Fannie and Freddie

These are government sanctioned companies that offer mortgage with as little as a 3% down payment. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac work with local lenders to offer incredible rates.

Other Options

You will find more links to more affordable home loans in the Department of Housing and Urban Development website. There are many local and state governments that offer loan assistance to home buyers.

If you are looking for an affordable option to own a home, your solution lies in the above resources. They will give you low interest rates and you may get a bargain if you buy a house closer to where you live. They could even help you have an opening ceremony for your new home.

Does A First Time Buyer Need A Home Warranty

is-home-warranty-worth-itWhen you’re buying your first home, you’ll want everything to be as perfect as it can be. A home warranty can bring you peace of mind that repairs will be easier if something does go wrong. This is especially true if you are not the handy, DIY type. There are a few things you should consider when thinking about a home warranty.

Do Some Research

The first thing that you should remember is that you will still need homeowners insurance to cover you if your property were to become damaged by fire, flood or storms. A home warranty will ensure that the warranty company will make simple repairs to your home at a discounted rate. Some companies may also cover you for repairs or replacements that you may need for your appliances such as a washing machine or fridge. Different companies will offer different services and the prices will vary so it pays to shop around to find a plan that has everything that you need for the right price.

What Does It Cost?

It will usually cost no more than a few hundred dollars to take out a home warranty and this is usually a cost that is paid up front. Some companies will also offer an option where you can pay in installments. The actual cost of the warranty will depend on the services that you include in your policy. The age and size of your home do not matter as much to the cost of the policy as you think it might. The main determination of cost will be the things that you want included in your policy.

Service calls are not usually included in the price that you will pay for your premium and so there will be an additional cost if someone does need to be called out to your home. So if for instance you notice that all of a sudden you don’t have hot water in your house, don’t simply call to make a warranty claim unless you actually checked to make sure your water heater pilot light was still lit. Now, if it’s something more serious like a major water heater leak, the service call is usually worth it. The actual cost will be determined by the severity of the problem, how many people are needed to fix it and the length of time the repairs will take. Any fee that does need to be paid will be considerably cheaper than if you did not have a warranty in place.

Pros Of A Home Warranty

  • If your home is more than five years old then you can expect that repairs will become more frequent and a home warranty has the potential to save you a lot of money.
  • You have peace of mind that any repair you do need can be made at a discounted rate.

Cons Of A Home Warranty

  • You may face a dispute about a claim that you have made if the home has not been properly maintained by a previous occupant.
  • If you do not need to make a claim then you will have been paying premiums for no reason.

Before you sign the contract for a warranty make sure that you are completely satisfied that you will be able to make a claim if you need to. In some cases you may be able to negotiate with the seller that they will pay for the warranty for the first year, especially if they are keen to make a quick sale.

Seasonal Storage Tips for Garage Tools

seasonal-garage-storageThe garage may not be the central location of your home, but it’s much more than just the place the car gets parked. For many people, the garage is where most home projects take place and where the tools for those projects are stored. If you’ve ever set out on the epic quest of finding the right kind of drill bit or the right size wrench then it may be time to reorganize your tools and garage. Storing tools properly can do more than just save time, it can also extend the life of your tools.

Cold Weather Prep

Spring cleaning is pretty common across the nation, but its sister season, fall cleaning, can do just as much good. In late fall before storing away lawn tools, take the time to clean them up. Whip away grass, dirt and any other debris that could be stuck on them. This will keep metal from rusting and make pulling them back out next year a breeze. I like to also sharpen the lawn mower blade at this time along with any pruning shears. You’ll be amazed how dull a blade is after a season’s worth of mowing. sharpen-mower-bladeIt takes about 15 minutes total to take the lawnmower blade off, sharpen using a bench grinder, and put it back on. Spend the time to actually do some research and read some bench grinder reviews if you’re looking to get one. I’ve found too many of the cheap brands don’t last more than a year. Stick with a major brand such as DeWalt or Porter Cable.

Organize with Shelving and Hooks

Shelves and hooks make a perfect addition to any garage storage plan. Many handheld gardening tools, such as shears and watering cans, can end up piled in the corner. By adding shelves or hooks you can keep creepy crawlers from making a home among the handles and you’ll have an easier time of keeping them dry. While it’s a fantastic goal to always keep your shelves organized throughout the year, the reality is that you’ll need to do a major reorganization at least once a year.

Store the Grill

Grilling out is a big summer past time and there are few things better, but the grill needs to be properly stored away during the colder months when it’s not being used. Give the grill a good cleaning and scrap out any gunk or grease that may be left behind. If your grill uses propane then remove the tank and store it in a safe area. Cover the grill with a tarp or blanket and put it somewhere out of the way in the garage. While custom fit fabric grill covers may look great when new, I’ve found they deteriorate too quickly during the freezing month and prefer to use a good old tarp.

Car Tools

IF you’re a car person, there’s a good chance you keep all kinds of car tools in your garage. What better place? These tools should be available year round. If you don’t already have a tool chest go ahead and get one. You can also set up a spot just for your car tools. That way they’ll be separated from seasonal tools and won’t get lost in the jumble. Since things like floor jacks probably won’t get much use during the winter, it’s a good idea to remove the handle and store the jack somewhere out of the way, like under your workbench.

Home-Buying for Those With a Physical Disability

Owning your own home is a wonderful, if sometimes intimidating, experience. It you’re buying your first home, the experience can be even more exciting but intimidating all at the same time. Owning a home is normally the most expensive asset a person may have and it helps any person feel much more a stalwart member of the community.

kitchen-handicap-accessableReal estate agents sometimes mention that it’s easy for them, as they drive down a street, to point out rentals as opposed to owner-occupied homes. The former simply don’t show the care. The lawns are frequently improperly cared for, the overall appearance just doesn’t show the care a homeowner lavishes on the residence that fills a person with the pride of ownership.

Unfortunately, unless we’re having a home constructed to order, most homes are built following a pretty standard set of rules. The width of corridors, doorways, the height of counters and cabinets, all these are normally of a standard measure.

But for those of us who are physically disabled, many of the standard features of every home can be more than a challenge; some can make it impossible for the new owner to enjoy the full benefits of home ownership. Even those who are not wheelchair bound still would appreciate some of the tips below. After a severe car accident that left my neck in severe pain, I was forced to use a cervical traction device multiple times a day. Needless to say, I understood for a short period of time how difficult common tasks could be.

If you’re confined to a wheelchair, stairs are of course, out of the question, although it is quite possible to have a stairwell elevator installed. In the kitchen the counters may be uncomfortably high, and the kitchen sink is for adults who can stand on two feet and look down into them. Here below are listed some installations to consider for a disabled person who intends to buy a home.

The Kitchen and Bathroom

We should consider the height of kitchen cabinets. Those below the counters may be easily accessible, but those above are often even too high for average homeowners to reach in comfort. Now is the time to consider whether this would be a serious problem.

It’s important too, to consider the placement of appliances in the kitchen. Normally, in more modern kitchens, appliances are placed in a way that makes working in the kitchen convenient, but in many older homes, these designs had not been so well thought out. Some homes predate the arrival of modern refrigerators, so we find them in an odd location, sometimes not even in the same room as the range and kitchen sink. When we’re confined to a wheelchair, convenience is a major concern.

The bathroom too may have cabinets for storage of towels, etc. Some cabinets could make difficult if not impossible for a disabled person to reach in and remove towels or tissues, etc. It’s important too, that the knobs or pulls on cabinets and drawers be easily within reach and that these doors operate easily and smoothly. There is nothing more frustrating than a cabinet door that sticks.

Is it easy to get in and out of the bath or shower easily? In some homes, a walk-in or sometimes a roll-in shower may be available where a bath chair may allow the disabled person to shower in comfort. While there are tubs with doors making entry and exit easy, they would appear to present problems of their own and the homeowner should give the matter serious thought before going to the extra expense. Sturdy handrails around baths, toilets and perhaps other areas in the home can be an extremely helpful safety aid, even for those who are not wheelchair bound but nevertheless use a cane or walker and have difficulty with balance.

Hallways and Stairs

buying-home-disabilityMany homes have hallways that do not consider wheelchairs. In some older homes, a wider hallway may be found, but in today’s homes, most hallways are barely three feet wide. While this may allow the passage of a wheelchair, the hallways must be kept clear of furniture and other objects at all times. It is important of course, for the disabled person to get from room to room without constant difficulties.

As to stairways, these can be impossible for some. But even for those who are mobile, a staircase can present a formidable challenge. Sturdy railings are of course vital. A fall on stairs can be life-threatening. As mentioned above, stair lifts are available, but these too, like the walk-in baths, can be costly extra expenses for the new homeowner.

Exterior Concerns

A disabled homeowner doesn’t want to negotiate a long arduous trip, especially one encumbered by steps, to get from the garage to the entrance of the home. Just getting from the vehicle to the door of the home shouldn’t try the owner’s patience and wear a person out.

Therefore, it’s important to consider any steps between the garage and the entrance to the home. If the entry is from within the garage, there still may be at least one step to hurdle before gaining entry.

Lighting and Switches

Another consideration that may easily be overlooked is the height and location of lights and light switches as well as electrical outlets. It’s important that the disabled owner be able to reach all of these without too much trouble. It’s hard enough for those with debilitating back pain to figure out the best way to sleep with lower back pain, and not having a light switch within easy reach after getting in bed is one of the worst feelings. Even smoke alarms and carbon-monoxide detectors should be located within easy reach of the homeowner.

The home should have adequate indoor lighting. Rooms that lack sufficient lighting can be dangerous for a disabled person who may not clearly see obstacles in the way.

It the homeowner relies on a land line, it’s important to have plenty of phone jacks installed so that any room can be used to make a telephone call, especially in an emergency. Fortunately, these days most of us have a cell phone that is handy to keep on our person at all times.

It’s a good idea to know the distance to the homes of neighbors and the distance medical personnel would have to travel to the home, and it’s also import to consider making it as easy as possible for medical help to get to the owner when necessary. Another extra but perhaps worthwhile expense would be to have an alarm that one wears at all times, alerting a company of an emergency. This can be especially important if the homeowner lives alone. The more access a disabled person has to assistance the better.

How You Can Achieve Your Dream Garage Makeover

garage-makeoverYour garage is a space that should never have to be one that contains a lot of clutter. If you’re looking to give your garage a bit of a makeover, consider making note of the following steps:

  • A useful idea is to create an entire wall system that can hold items such as tools, bicycles, extension cords, garden hoses, and even that new fishing life vest you bought last season but keeps getting buried in the garage. Take the opportunity to pay a visit to your local home improvement store, where you’ll find everything that you need to create a complete storage bin and/or shelving system for your garage.
  • If you’re looking to use your garage as a space to park your car, which is what this area was originally designed for, yet you want to make sure that it won’t bring in a lot of dirt, bugs, etc., there are all sorts of different remodeling ideas that you can utilize in order to help make this a reality. One of the most popular styles is the pegboard system, which enables you to hang tools and other items that could otherwise create clutter around the space.
  • It’s worth noting that the garage is most often used in every home as a space to store things that are seen as unfit to occupy any other spaces inside the home itself. Despite this, however, this doesn’t mean that your garage has to be a messy area, despite all of the clutter contained within it. Consider turning this space into an area that is more functional instead.
  • Set up specific zones throughout the entire space, which will help to reduce how often you will need to search for something important. For example, keep items that you use the most such as extension cords close to the garage door and seasonal items such as your daughter’s Puddle Jumper life jacket in a separate shelf or cabinet. Additionally, lawn care items such as hoses and lawn mowers, as well as sporting equipment, should also be placed close to the door since these items often get dirty and this will prevent you from tracking mud and/or dirt into your home.

garage-before-after

  • Consider upgrading the flooring as well, as there’s really no reason to continue to stick with the traditional concrete nowadays. In fact, there are other finishes that you can choose from, such as a simple acid wash and a sophisticated epoxy coating, both of which are available in many styles and colors.
  • Upgrade all of your cabinets and shelves by painting them, which will give them a more polished look rather than leaving them with a traditional “unfinished” look. If you are implementing storage zones, one useful tip would be to paint each area in a different color.
  • If it’s needed, replace the garage door itself by having a brand new one installed. The garage door is typically seen from the street, which makes enhancing its overall visual appeal a great idea. You can achieve this by simply painting a faux finish on your current door or installing a custom door for an extra amount of curb appeal.
  • If you’re someone who doesn’t park vehicles in your garage, consider making the space an extension of the rest of your home itself. For instance, you could transform the space into another bedroom, an office, or a workout room.

Top 10 Garage Tools for the First Time Home Owner

tools-homeownerChanging from being a rent paying tenant to a new home owner means that you can no longer call a landlord to fix problems. At some point, you will need to do minor repairs and maintenance yourself. Here are 10 essential tools that should be a part of your starting toolbox.

  1. Screwdrivers. Screwdrivers come in two types, a flathead or a Phillips head. From around $4 you can buy a 4 in 1 screwdriver that has different sized flathead and Phillips head pieces.
  2. Hammer. You simply cannot have a toolbox worthy of the name if there is no hammer in it. You can buy a basic one for around $5 to a maximum of $200 for a curved handle model complete with a lithium-head.
  3. Cordless Drill. This is another power tool that is an essential piece of DIY kit. Once you own one of these you will never want to be without one. The beauty of a battery powered drill is that you can take it anywhere in your home or garden. Proceed vary from $20 up to $300. Spend a bit more and get a lithium-ion powered drill.
  4. Ladder. At some point sooner rather than later you’re going to have to use a ladder. There are so many different tasks in a house that require you climbing up and down a ladder to get done. Depending on their size and the material they are made from, figure spending between $50-$100 for a good 6-foot ladder.
  5. Tape Measure. A 25 foot tape measure can cost as little as $3. The modest cost can be recuperated by measuring the width and height of furniture and only buying items that fit in gaps.
  6. Level. Whether you are putting up shelves, hanging pictures, or putting up a TV bracket, you can use a level to make things are straight. Most levels are 4 foot long with the basic type starting at $10 and the most expensive LCD display ones costing $175.
  7. Set of Pliers. Get hold of a 5 set of pliers. With pliers you can do just about anything to wires. A $11 five piece set will give you all sorts of options around nails, screws, and wiring.
  8. Circular Saw. To put it simply, if you make your own shelves or anything or similar you are going to need one. If you have lots of things to cut through or up then hand saws are simply too slow. The least expensive 7.25 inch saw starts at $40 while the best 12 inch model will cost $900. A corded 10″ model is the sweet spot in terms of value.
  9. Stud Finder. These are really useful when it comes to hanging up art. A basic stud finder starts at $3.50 while the best digital ones will set you back $80.
  10. Air Compressor. A small portable compressor will pay for itself quickly even if you only use it to inflate tires or kids toys. Once you start other projects such as trimming windows or putting together garden boxes, you’ll wonder how you ever made it without one. A small Central Pneumatic pancake model will only set you back about $60 but better quality brands will be $150+. It’s a good budget compressor and Central Pneumatic air compressor parts are cheap and easy to find.

harbor-freight-tools

Other Tips

  • Make use of any tool sharing scheme or co op tool bartering programs in your area.
  • If you have a Harbor Freight Tools store nearby, they are a gold mine for putting together a decent set of tools for cheap.
  • Try to buy at bargain prices by going around yard sales and visiting thrift shops.
  • If you know people that have too many tools ask if you can have some.