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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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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5 Coolest Houses in the United States

Disney HouseSometimes, bigger isn’t always better. There are plenty of interesting, big, and expensive homes out there. However, many of these houses aren’t totally unique. Indeed, some of them just don’t have the same “cool” factor that you might see in a home inspired by Disney.

Even though some of these homes may not be as huge or as expensive as other homes, many of them are fairly large, and they are also relatively expensive. CNN Money offers a look at some of the most unique — and the coolest — homes in the United States:
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How to Freeze Fruits and Vegetables for Off-Season Enjoyment

PeppersWe joined a CSA this year for the first time. When we learned that our share was not quite enough for our family of five, we decided to get another small share of a different CSA. Little did we realize that now we had almost too much produce! The dance to use up our produce before it went bad began. Now, at the end of summer, both CSAs are abundant!

While I have learned new ways to use vegetables, including many I have never seen before such as ramps, I have also learned how to properly freeze many of these veggies. Now, our deep freezer is full of local, organic produce that we can use throughout the winter.

If you subscribe to a CSA or want to take advantage of the low produce prices at the farmer’s market, here are some strategies to preserve them in the freezer:

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Can the Government’s Settlement with Big Banks Help Your Mortgage?

HouseAs part of the government’s settlement with five of the country’s largest banks, there is money available to help borrowers refinance their mortgages. The idea is that refinancing to a lower interest rate can help borrowers make their payments with greater ease, and the banks can meet the terms of the agreement.

“There is a long history of institutions settling claims to avoid litigation,” Dr. Andrea Heuson said. Heuson is a Professor of Finance at the University of Miami in Florida. Heuson pointed out that banks don’t have to go through discovery, and deal with legal fees, when they settle like this. “[This is] just another one of those solutions that involves some retribution…It’s a pretty good agreement, given the way institutions are taking advantage of it.”

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Should You Pay Your Mortgage Off Early?

HousingOne of the goals that many people have is to pay off the mortgage early. Once you have paid off your consumer debt, it seems natural to turn your thoughts toward your mortgage. But is it always a good idea to pay off your mortgage early?

It’s exciting to think that you could “truly” own your home by paying off the mortgage. After all, who wants the threat of the bank taking your home away. Plus, there is pride in the idea that you have paid off such a large purchase. However, you do need to consider some of the realities of the current housing market, and look at your situation before you make that decision.

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Home Improvement Projects You Can Do Yourself

More and more people find themselves staying in their homes for longer than they had planned thanks to a depressed housing market.  However, there are plenty of small projects you can do yourself that just might make you fall in love with your home all over again and potentially increase your home’s value.  Even if you have no do it yourself experience, you can likely do several of these projects.  Others might require a bit of research on the Internet, but they can reasonably be completed by an amateur.

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What is a Relo Addendum?

I’ve been looking at homes on Redfin lately (no plans to relocate, just window shopping) and a term I’ve seen pop up a few times is “Relo addendum required.” Relo addendum is short for relocation addendum and it usually means that the home is being sold through a relocation company. This happens when the owner accepts a job with a relocation package but can’t sell their home before they need to move. The home is then sold through a relocation company, who requires this addendum because they don’t want to deal with the hassle of learning local requirements. The addendum typically removes all warranties, sells the house “as-is,” etc. (If you see “bank addendum” then it means that the bank owns it.)

Ultimately, you negotiate with the seller and, if all is peachy, the seller, the relocation company, and you all agree on a price and the house is sold. Right before settlement, the relocation company may buy the house from the seller (if they don’t own it already) and then sell it to you. I don’t really know why this is necessary but that seems to be standard practice.

It’s important to review this addendum because it usually contains clauses that supersede clauses in the original sales contract.

Here’s another thing I thought I’d gripe about… considering how advanced we are technologically, why is the MLS still so backwards? I feel like I should be getting printouts on a dot matrix printer. The information contained in the system is so obfuscated and you’re constantly dealing with terms like this throughout a listing. Why can’t things be in plain English?

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