The Home Column

Home is where the heart is, right? I bought a home in 2005, about six months before the peak of the housing market boom, and chronicled the entire home buying journey. Since then, I’ve kept up to date on all things related to housing, mortgages, and taxes in this column.


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 The Home 
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Why toilet paper was the best thing I got for Christmas this year

The Gift of Necessity is the ultimate care packageWhen I was little, about once a month the most glorious package would arrive at our house. It was from a far-off land called Brooklyn, sent by one of the most magical women on Earth, my Grandma. The excitement was so high that we were required to wait for every member of the family to get home before digging in.
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 The Home 
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Evil bedbugs will devour your blood, wallet

Bedbugs are gross, incredibly expensive to get rid ofIt starts small: waking up with a few itchy red bites on your skin, and maybe finding some of their empty shells in your bedroom. But a bedbug infestation can eventually get really, really bad, costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars to resolve and potentially torpedoing your home’s value in the process.
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 The Home 
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How to get the most out of your HOA fees

What are you getting for your HOA fees?In my neighborhood, which is still being developed, HOA fees aren’t much of an issue. They are small — just $25 a year — and only cover road maintenance.

But other neighborhoods with HOA fees offer a lot more amenities, and charge a lot higher price for them. If you live in such a community, it makes sense to know what you’re paying for, and how to get the most out of those hefty monthly dues.

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FHA loans drop off as housing market recovers

FHA LoanWhile the housing market is far from a complete recovery, it is making progress. The S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Home Price Index rose 12 percent between July 2012 and July 2013, according to the most recent numbers, and just about every facet of the housing market is showing improvement. With the economic situation improving (albeit slowly), more buyers feel comfortable with their options and lenders are more open to extending credit.

With these changes, FHA loans, which had gained in popularity during the Great Recession, are dropping off. More homebuyers seem to be looking to conventional loans.


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 Taxes, The Home 
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The mortgage tax deduction: beyond the hype

House and Money on ScalesOne of the benefits of homeownership that many of us hear about is the mortgage interest tax deduction. After all, how many loans out there provide you with a tax deduction for the interest that you pay? (Student loans and business loans, as well as mortgages.)

But are you really benefiting from the mortgage tax deduction? And is it really something that has a big impact on your finances? As with most matters of personal finance, the answer depends on your own personal situation.


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5 Tips for Selling Your Home Faster

sell home fasterThere is a chance (but just a chance, mind you) that my family could pick up and move halfway across the country. One of the things I am not looking forward to is trying to sell my home.

We’ve been in this home since 2007, and it’s the first home we ever bought. Consequently, it will also be the first home that we sell. And we will probably want to sell it as quickly as we can.

In order to get a little perspective on how to sell quicker, I got 5 tips from real estate consultant Katie McCartney, who works with Cam Taylor Co. Realtors in Columbus, OH:

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How to Choose the Right House for Your Situation

buy the best houseEven after the turmoil seen in recent years, buying a home is still considered one of the major financial milestones in life.

Choosing a home, though, can be fraught with pitfalls, especially if you want to get the right home for your situation. Buying a fixer upper might work for some people, but is it really the right choice for you? And what about purchasing the best home in the neighborhood? Is going high end the right decision?

It all depends on where you’re at, and what you expect to do with your home. Kim Clark, the owner of Bayside Realty Consultants, offers some things to think about as you attempt to find the right house for your situation:

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Beware Real Estate Agent Buyer Contracts

Signed ContractsWe had some friends over the other night and they were sharing with us their home buying experience and how challenging it was for them. They were in a similar situation to ours – they’ve outgrown their home and were actively searching for their “forever” home. They weren’t in a rush to buy anything that fit, they were picky. They also knew that the home they wanted was outside their price range at the moment so they were happy to put in bids below asking price and hope they got lucky. Worst case, they would wait a year or so to build up a cash cushion for a larger down payment so they could get into a price range that fit their wants and needs.

As it turns out, the realtor they were working with wasn’t down with this strategy. There was some name calling, someone threw out the words “unethical,” and it came time for the two parties to go their separate ways. There was a catch – my friends signed a contract. I don’t know the exact details but it was a mess to get out of the contract and our friends have to wait a period of time for the term to expire. Until yesterday, I didn’t know real estate agents had their clients sign contracts. I’ve only ever bought two houses and both with the same agent and in neither case did the words “contract” ever come up.

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