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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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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Frugal Home Security Tips

Those who grew up a generation or two ago lament about the good old days when they used to leave their windows open at night and their homes unlocked, even when they weren’t home. Those days are gone, yet even with locked windows and doors, burglars still invade homes.

You may picture a thief breaking a window or kicking in a door, but they are usually more sophisticated than that. My mom’s home was burglarized; the group of men came in a work van and used a ladder at the side of the house to jimmy open the window. A neighbor actually walked by and thought my mom had hired a work crew; instead, all of her possessions of any worth were stolen.

If you want to protect your home but don’t want to spend money on a pricey security system, there are plenty of techniques you can use.

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America’s Biggest, Most Expensive Homes

The Neptune PoolWe often think that the very rich live differently from the rest of us. And when you look at some of their homes, it seems obvious that they are a world apart. The homes of the super wealthy aren’t just homes; they’re practically works of art in some cases.

Right now, the world’s most expensive home is valued at $1 billion and located in India. It’s also 27 stories high, and has 400,000 square feet, and is called Antilla. It’s even possible to live in the world’s most expensive apartment building at One Hyde Park in London, with apartments costing about $11,000 per square feet.

But America has it’s own share of expensive homes, even though there aren’t any that are at the $1 billion mark. Some of the most expensive homes in the United States include:
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Reasons to Wait on Buying Your First Home

Real EstateIf you’ve been thinking about buying a home, you’ve probably heard or read, in about a million difference places, that now is a fantastic time to buy a home. Interest rates are absurdly low, with 30-year fixed mortgages well under 4%, inventory is high, and it’s a great time to be a buyer. I don’t, and I don’t think anyone can, dispute any of that. It really is a fantastic time to buy a home, whether it’s your first, second, or fifth house; but before you pull the trigger, I have a few words of advice from a homeowners (we bought seven years ago) for those of you who are looking at buying your first home.

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Where to Buy Boric Acid

Longtime Bargaineering readers know that every spring we have our annual battle with ants trying, successfully, raid our kitchen area in search of food. We’ve tried almost everything, from traps to a service, and the most effective way, besides keeping things as clean as possible, has been boric acid as suggested in our post on how to get rid of ants safely. This year, we continued the annual struggle and we turned to boric acid again because it’s the safest of all the things you can use. Just mix it 50-50 with sugar into a slurry and put it in places you know the ants, or other insects, go and watch them munch their elixer of death (or is it slurry of death?).

You can buy boric acid at most drug stores, whether it’s superstore like Wal-Mart or some place smaller like Walgreens. If not there, home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot always have it too.

If you want to simplify things, home improvement stores will also probably sell commercial products that use boric acid as a way to control ants, roaches, etc. That might be easier than making the slurry yourself, just read the label to see what else they use. We use boric acid because it’s pet safe in very small quantities, the commercial products may not be.

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