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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Should You Be Taking Advantage of HARP?

home redToward the beginning of February, I began the process of refinancing my home with the help of Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). This is a government program that recently expanded its eligibility requirements. However, many people aren’t aware of the fact that they might qualify for this program, which is fairly helpful — if you can get through some of the nightmarish paperwork.

Another reason that others might be reluctant to take advantage of HARP is that they don’t realize that this is a legitimate program. It sounds suspicious at first, and some of the less than truthful advertising surrounding HARP has also turned off some homeowners. But, if you still have a mortgage rate above 5%, HARP, if you qualify, can be a really good thing.

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5 Alternatives to Foreclosure

ForeclosureFor many homeowners, foreclosure is still a very real threat. When you have a financial setback, it can be difficult to keep up with your mortgage payments.

If you want to avoid foreclosure on your home, here are 5 alternatives:

1. Mortgage Modification

If you have started missing payments, you might be eligible for a Home Affordable Modification. A mortgage modification is an agreement between you and the lender to change the terms of your loan so that it is more affordable. A mortgage modification can help you avoid foreclosure, and you might even be able to to stay in your home.

(For those who aren’t in danger of foreclosure, and haven’t missed payments, but who are having trouble refinancing, HARP might be able to help with that. I’m going through a refinance through HARP right now.)

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How to Get Money for a Mortgage Down Payment

Lakeland New Homes Among the Most Affordable in NationEven after the recent real estate market crash, there is a fascination with homeownership. Many still see buying a home as a rite of passage — and a sign of adulthood.

Whether you decide to wait on buying a home, or whether you decide that now is the time to take the plunge, you will need to save up for a down payment. For the most part, lenders are still skittish about 0% down home loans. At the very least, you will likely need 3.5% down for a FHA loan.

So, as you try to drum up the money for a down payment, where can you turn? Greg Cook, a representative of Platinum Home Mortgage, has 30 years in the business, and he has some ideas of where you can turn for help with that down payment.

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5 Reasons to Avoid Refinancing Your Home

refinanceMy husband and I are in the process of deciding whether or not to refinance our home. We’d like to take advantage of record low interest rates, but there are thorny issues that tend to get in the way.

While refinancing is generally thought of as a good thing, especially if you refinance to a fixed rate, or to a much lower rate, it’s not for everyone. In some cases, it just doesn’t make sense. Here are 5 reasons that you might want to think twice about refinancing your home:

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How to Be a Profitable Landlord

Landlord and Tenant LawAbout eight years ago, if you were a Bargaineering reader, you were treated to a series of posts in which I talked about the home buying process. Until that point, it was one of the biggest financial decisions of our life and it looks like we’re going to take the next step.

We’ve been looking at homes on and off for fun the last few months, going to open houses for homes we liked, and just being casual. This past weekend, we started looking at them more seriously with our realtor friend (Christina Elliott at her firm Cornerstone Real Estate) and I was wondering what we could do with the home we’re in now.

One of the options is to keep this house and rent it out. So, I turned to my friend Josh, who happens to run BiggerPockets, easily one of the largest real estate investment sites out there. We talked about it briefly on the phone but I thought it would be so much better if he wrote a guest post about it. So here it is!

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How to Avoid Purchasing Your Own Haunted House

HauntedDid you grow up in a neighborhood where there was a “haunted” house? You know, the house that everyone knew about that usually had an overgrown yard and broken windows? The house that sat empty for years except for the teenagers that frequented it for weekend parties or the younger kids who dared one another to go into the house at night?

This type of house was a hot ticket around Halloween, and kids scared one another with stories about what happened in the house and whose spirit haunted the house. You know the house I am talking about.

As a home buyer, you may hope that all houses with sordid histories are so easy to identify, but the problem is that they often look as nice or nicer than the other houses in the neighborhood.

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5 Totally Cool Tiny Houses

Tiny HouseOne of the more interesting real estate trends right now is the tiny house. These are little houses that are often as small as 65 square feet, and can be up to 874 square feet. These tiny houses try to make maximum use of the small space, creating livable spaces that don’t take up much room.

On top of that, many tiny houses are built on trailers, so they can be wheeled around. It’s also possible, with a tiny house, to live off the grid. As you might expect, tiny houses are favorite dwellings for those who are self-sufficient as well as those who are interested in increasing their levels of sustainable living.

However, tiny houses don’t have to be drab. Many tiny houses are interesting and attractive to look at. And, if you are really interested in it and creative about your arrangements, they can be just as great to live in as other homes — and give you a new perspective on what’s really important in life. You don’t need a huge house Here are 5 cool tiny houses:
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Shop Around for Cable: DirecTV vs. Comcast vs. Verizon

Zenith RemoteFinance blogs often explore how customers can save money on cable or even cut their cable, and while this can definitely save money, making such a big change can leave some customers without their favorite shows. Those who want to watch a number of sports on television or watch specific regional teams have few alternatives.

So if you don’t want to cut your cable and just want to know what packages are out there so you can try to negotiate for a better offer, we’ve put together some of the current promotions available from some of the largest carriers. If you have one of these competitors in your area, check out their regional offer and see if you can get your current provider to match it. If they won’t, switch!

And if you’ve previously cut the cable and want to have it again or you’re just planning to sign up, here’s a quick recap of what’s out there:

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