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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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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 The 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.

 The Home 
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Could You Live in a Tiny House?

Tiny HouseOne of the movements that has been gaining some traction since the financial crisis of 2008 is the tiny house movement. Many consumers are becoming disenchanted with the idea of living in large homes filled with stuff. Instead, the idea is to turn to tiny houses.

Most of these tiny houses have between 65 and 874 square feet. Tiny houses take “small” to a whole new level. I know that some people would say that my home, at 1760 square feet, is small, but even the largest tiny house is half the size of my home. I’m trying to imagine living in a space that is half the size of my current home, which I am fairly comfortable in, and I’m not sure I could do it — although the idea of a tiny house, and the simplicity that comes with it, is intriguing.

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 The Home 
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8 Items to Have in Your Emergency Preparedness Kit

Recently a severe storm ripped through our area with 80 to 100 mile per hour wind gusts. Our windows rattled and the hail started falling, so we found ourselves under the basement stairs, away from the windows. In that moment, we realized how unprepared we were for any type of emergency.

Had there been a tornado, or had we been without power for any significant amount of time, we would have been in a difficult position. Don’t let wild weather find you unprepared; instead, take the time to create an emergency preparedness kit. You may want to include:

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 Banking, The Home 
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Victim of Foreclosure Abuse? Consider a Foreclosure Review

Foreclosure SignsMany homeowners found themselves facing foreclosure due to circumstances beyond their control — and even through mistakes made by lenders. Shady practices by various lenders have resulted in foreclosure abuse that has been coming to light. Earlier this year, a number of lenders reached a $26 billion settlement that requires them to take steps to redress some of the abuses that some homeowners have experienced.

That news made big waves while a smaller program was mostly overlooked. This other program allows homeowners to sign up for an Independent Foreclosure Review. That review, conducted according to guidelines set forth by the Federal Reserve and the Comptroller of the Currency, could result in up to $125,000 for homeowners who have suffered from foreclosure abuses.

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 The Home 
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Ooma Review: Frugal VOIP Home Phone Service

Home phone service can be costly, running a minimum of $25 to $30 a month. Once you add in long distance, you are looking at $35 or more a month. Some people try to eliminate this cost by moving entirely to a cell phone for both their mobile and home needs. However, if you want to keep a home line, consider using a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) system; one we have used (and are still using) is Ooma Telo.

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 The Home 
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How to Prepay Your Mortgage

mortgagesOne of the downsides of listening to Sirius XM radio is that you start to hear the same commercials over and over and over again. It’s one of the reasons why I thought to do more research into stock loss companies. After listening to numerous ads from companies like 9 Year Mortgage (pay off your mortgage in 9 years!), I thought I’d do an analysis of all the various mortgage prepayment strategies.

There is only one way to pay off your mortgage faster – pay more money and pay more often. Outside of paying more and paying more often, there isn’t much else you can do besides refinance so your interest rate is lower. The only services that are legitimate are the ones that help you manage the payments and keep you on track, but those usually are more expensive than they are worth.

For our examples, we’ll use Bankrate’s mortgage calculator and it’s default values to help calculate the savings of these different strategies. The default values are:

  • Mortgage – $165,000 for 30 years fixed at 7% interest
  • Payoff Date – April 23, 2042
  • Monthly Payment – $1097.75
  • Total Interest – $230,189.68


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 The Home 
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Four Spring Maintenance Activities

LawnmowerGood money management comes with preparation. Those who foresee and plan for expenses long before they have to be paid are in a better position to avoid debt in their lives. Of course not all expenses can be planned for but many of our expenses occur on a regular schedule. The seasonal maintenance required on our home is one such regularly occurring expense.

If you own a home, what do the experts recommend you do for the upcoming Spring and Summer season? A lot but fortunately, most of the items come at a low cost.

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