As 2016 came to an end, it was time to consider New Year Resolutions. The infamous saying “new year, new me” automatically popped into my head, as society has drilled this concept into my mind for as long as I could remember. But aren’t you so tired of hearing this phrase? Every year, over and over, people claim that they will make resolutions and change areas of their lives, only to let it fall through just a few weeks later.
Let’s vow to make this year different! This year, do not quit on your resolution. Let 2017 be the year of positivity and gratefulness, savings, health, prosperity and accomplishments:
- Positivity & Gratefulness: Positive thoughts lead to positive outcomes. This year, let’s try to work on letting stress go! Focus on the happiness of waking up for another day. Whether succeeding or failing in a project, focus on the experience you gained while trying. Take a moment each day and appreciate everything around you – the beauty in nature, the smile of a coworker, a good cup of coffee – anything that you are grateful to have in your life. Say thank you more often. Enjoy a meal with family or friends. Avoid complaining or judging others, or yourself. Focus on the law of attraction, and do what you can to boost your attitude of gratitude!
- Savings: 2017 will be the year of saving! Whether you are saving money, or working to save your credit, let 2017 be the year you accomplish this goal! Work smarter, not harder! Open a savings account (if you do not have one already) and anytime you can, put money in it. Even if it is only five dollars, no pressure. If you save one dollar a day, that is 365 saved in a year, five dollars a day saves $1,825, and so on. Make sure to pay bills on time or ahead of time if you can. Keep the balances on your credit cards low, and pay off debts rather than transferring them around. Do not close any open accounts, even if you are not using the credit card, and do not open credit accounts that you do not need.
- Health: Work on your overall health for 2017, and no, this does not mean lose 50 pounds. Try to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, as a way to let go of some of the stressors from your day. Eat Breakfast! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day; it gives you energy, which leads to productivity. Meditate before bed, and reflect on calming your thoughts. Take a vacation to a destination that you have never been before. Explore your roots by going to visit the place where your ancestors lived. Grow as a person by taking a volunteer trip, or take a “staycation,” and just stay home and watch movies all day long, resting and relaxing.
- Prosperity and Accomplishments: 2017 is the year you will accomplishment your goals! Make a commitment and stick to it. Keep track of your progress, and if you fail for a moment, keep going. Ask for help when you need it. Focus on being consistent. Whether your goal is to purchase your first home, start a family, open a business, buy a car, etc. Do not stop working until you achieve it.
Make 2017 YOUR year.
New Year, Fresh Start- to be a better version of yourself.
A current trend in luxury homes is building big on smaller lots. Sure, there’s not much privacy, between you and your neighbor, but there’s less lawn for maintenance. And more importantly, it means that you can get a newer luxury home in an urban area.
This 6,315-square-foot Spanish Revival home at 2240 Inwood Dr. Houston, Texas, is listed at $4.9 million.
Will Holder, president of luxury homebuilder Trendmaker Homes says that homebuyers will see a lot of new construction where homes are built deep and wide on smaller lots. Al Ross Luxury Homes says to differentiate his homes, he is building, a lifestyle not just a home. For example, all of his homes come with a one-year personal concierge maintenance service that offers the homeowner complimentary seasonal flower and plant renewal; driveway and garage concrete cleaning; seasonal spray washing and cleaning of the home’s exterior; gutter and fireplace cleanings; light bulb replacement; dryer exhaust cleaning; maintenance of appliances, plumbing and pipes; touch-up of scuffs and scrapes; and attention to any mechanical, technical or electronic issues — all free of charge for 12 months.
Each home is equipped with such luxury amenities as elevators, energy-efficient air conditioning and heating, backup generators, and state-of-the-art smart home systems that control everything from sprinkler and mosquito systems to sound and video, with the touch of an iPad.
If you are looking for assistance in obtaining financing as a first-time homebuyer and you qualify under CDBG, HOME, SHIP or Surtax income guidelines, you may benefit thanks to the loan program between the Miami-Dade County Public Housing and Community Development and local home mortgage lenders.
Homebuyers in Miami-Dade County now have a chance to own a home of their own at below-market mortgage rates. If you’re a homebuyer looking for a manageable mortgage, this new program may make it possible for you to buy the home you want right now.
Public Housing and Community Development will work with you and local mortgage lenders to provide a low-interest second and/or a third mortgage using the appropriate source of funds to bring your out of pocket costs to an affordable level.
Public Housing and Community Development invites low- and moderate-income persons who are first-time homebuyers to apply for a mortgage loan subsidy through the County’s loan program. Program participation is limited to one time only per family. A maximum 30-year fixed-interest mortgage is available for persons who qualify. You will also be required to obtain a first mortgage from an approved participating lender.
These 10 mortgage tips can help you with your mortgage decisions in 2014.
1.Document your finances: Lenders will be extra diligent when underwriting home loans in 2014, as new mortgage regulations go into effect in January. The rules put pressure on lenders to verify that borrowers have the ability to repay their loans.
2.Lock a rate as soon as you can: Rates will likely climb in 2014 as the Federal Reserve is expected to reduce the pace of the economic stimulus program that has long helped keep rates low.
3.Refinance now — if you still can: Many homeowners lost the opportunity to refinance at a lower rate when rates jumped in 2013. But those who are still paying more than 5 percent interest on their home loans might still have an opportunity.
4.Buyers, use your bargaining power: As mortgage rates climbed, lenders lost a big chunk of their refinance business. In 2014, they will turn their attention to homebuyers and will fiercely compete for their business. Buyers should take advantage of bargaining power they gain with that increased competition.
5.Learn your rights as a borrower: Mortgage borrowers will get many new rights as consumers this year when new mortgage rules created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau go into effect in 2014.
6.Take good care of your credit: It’s nearly impossible to get a mortgage without decent credit these days. That will continue to be the case in 2014. If you are planning to get a mortgage, monitor your credit history and score until your loan closes. The best mortgage rates usually go to borrowers with credit scores of 720 or higher. You may still get a mortgage with a score of 680, but lower scores will mean higher rates or higher closing costs.
7.Don’t overspend: Lenders don’t want to give out loans to borrowers who will have little money left each month after they pay their mortgages and other debt obligations such as credit cards and student loans.
8.Consider alternative mortgage options such as ARMs: A homeowner planning to keep a house for seven to 10 years could take advantage of lower mortgage rates by choosing a seven- or 10-year ARM instead of the 30-year traditional fixed-rate mortgage. Rates on adjustable-rate mortgages can be as much as one percentage point lower than on fixed-rate loans.
9.Considering an FHA loan? Reconsider: Mortgage insurance premiums on FHA loans are likely to continue to rise in 2014, and after recent changes, the borrower is now required to pay for mortgage insurance for the life of the loan. Try to qualify for a conventional loan before you apply for an FHA mortgage.
10.Don’t panic:Yes, mortgage rates will likely climb in 2014. But don’t panic, thinking you have to buy a home now to grab a low rate. If you are shopping for a home, do your best to move quickly, but remember that this is one of the biggest financial decisions of your life. Get your mortgage and buy your home when you feel ready.
Updating your house to make it more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly can be costly. Installing a solar electrical system or replacing your hot water tank with an on-demand system can set you back thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. You may not save enough money on these types of upgrades to cover your investment for decades. However, there are several quick and inexpensive green upgrades you can make to your house that will start paying off quickly.
• Install Faucet Aerators – $10
An aerator is a device that fits on or into the end of a faucet. It forces water through tiny holes, restricting water flow but making the flow feel stronger. It can be used on either kitchen or bathroom sinks and can be found in water saving showerheads. An aerator can cost as little as $10 and can lower water use by up to 50%.
• Replace an Old Dishwasher – $300
According to Energy Star, if you replace a dishwasher built before 1994 with a new Energy Star model, you will save 10 gallons of water per cycle. At one cycle a day, that’s 3,650 gallons of water per year. New energy-efficient dishwashers start at around $300.
• Install Ceiling Fans – $50
They can make both your air conditioner and heat unit operate more efficiently. Ceiling fans circulate the air in the house, drawing the cool air from the air conditioner and distributing it around the house. They also push warm air from the heat pump down from the ceiling back into the living space to reduce the amount of time the furnace has to run. Most ceiling fans have a switch that reverses the direction the fan turns for the winter setting.
• Swap out Older Toilets – $150
Older toilets can use up to 3.5 gallons of water for every flush, which can add up to over 7,100 gallons per year- per person. New efficient toilets use as little as one gallon per flush or just over 1,900 gallons per year.
• Buy Compact Florescent Light Bulbs – $3 Each
Changing your light bulbs from incandescent to compact florescent is the easiest green switch of all. Compact Florescent Light bulbs (CFLs) cost $2 to $3 each but can save up to $40 over the course of their lifetime. They last 10 times longer than incandescent and use much less electricity.
The Bottom Line
Going green isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. There are many inexpensive and cost-effective changes that make a noticeable difference. Once the savings from these changes start accumulating, they can be used to start investing in larger upgrades.
1. Replace your refrigerator
This is one of the biggest energy-guzzling appliances in the house and there have been big changes in the efficiency of this appliance over the last five years. Replacing older dishwashers and dryers can make a big difference too.
2. Install a programmable thermostat and a timer for the water heater
Just as you would flip off the lights before heading out to work, you should turn the heating or cooling off or down while you’re away. Program the thermostat for a higher temperature when you’re gone in warmer months, or lower in cooler months. These thermostats can be had for $150 at big-box hardware stores.
Likewise, don’t heat your water when you’re not there to use it.
3. Put a solar film or solar shades on the outside of windows to cut the heat
If you’re moving into a house with single-paned windows, or living in a climate with extreme heat, you should consider putting something on the outside to reflect the light.
4. Don’t let the heat escape
Also, caulk window and door frames to make sure they are airtight. And if possible, use honeycomb-type shades on the inside to trap the heat before it is absorbed into the room.
5. Use compact fluorescent bulbs
This is kind of a no-brainer, experts say, because it’s so cheap to do and saves so much on your electricity bill.
6. Change the filter on your air conditioner regularly
This monthly maintenance helps it run more efficiently and minimizes wear and tear on your unit. Arranging furniture so it doesn’t block air vents also is important to maximize the flow of cooling from your system.
7. Put in shady landscaping
Planting a tree or some vegetation outside a big window can shade your house from the strongest rays of the sun and stifle freezing winds. Planting low-water native plants can also cut your water bill; lowering the total cost you pay for you home each month.
8. Invest in an attic fan
These inexpensive fans can make a difference in the temperature of the whole house and keep your air conditioning from working so hard.
If you haven’t started saving yet for Christmas, it might be a bit challenging. But it can definitely be done — you don’t need to rely on credit to have a good season. When you save a little each month all year, the Christmas season becomes something worth anticipating.
Create Your Lists and Check Them Twice
Before any dollar amounts are discussed, create a set of lists to outline your holiday priorities. What starts as a simple list of each holiday your family celebrates will eventually turn into a detailed list of the specific items you’ll need to buy for each meal and which gifts will be purchased for each person. Be thorough in yo ur list-making by including who you’ll give gifts to, any potential travel, hosting requirements, grocery lists, any necessary home improvements, décor, and miscellaneous expenses that will inevitably creep in such as postage and increased electric bills if you’ll be turning on any decorative lights. Also, don’t forget about year-end charitable giving donations as those will also impact your budget.
Count Your Pennies or better yet, track them. Remember that a budget is a fluid entity, so be diligent in your efforts to track where your money is going. Not only will you be able to identify potential overages before they happen, but you’ll also have this information as a reference point for setting next year’s budget. A bit of planning and organized action now will lead to less stressful, debt-free holidays in the future
A number of new requirements regarding home loans issued through the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) went into effect, requirements that have mortgage brokers and real estate agents shaking their heads in disappointment. This is because it will be much more difficult to obtain an FHA loan.
Historically, FHA home loans have offered favorable terms to borrowers with less-than-perfect credit and little money to put down. For many first-time homeowners, an FHA loan was their ticket onto the real estate ladder. However, according to Yahoo! Finance some of those potential borrowers may be shut out by the new FHA guidelines.
Changes to FHA lending standards include:
- Collections and judgments against borrowers must now be counted as debts when calculating the borrower’s debt-to-income ratio
- Judgments must be repaid in order to obtain an FHA loan
- Beginning in January 2014, a borrower’s debt-to-income ration cannot exceed 43%; previously, a debt-to-income ratio of as high as 55% was acceptable
All of this adds up to significantly tighter lending standards for those wishing to obtain FHA loans. Certainly, mortgage brokers and real estate agents are nervous that these new requirements will have a negative impact on their customer base. But consumer protection supporters are praising the new guidelines as important steps towards preventing those who can’t afford to buy homes from obtaining loans that will get them into trouble.
For those interested in acquiring an FHA loan in the wake of these new requirements, the best thing to do is review your credit report carefully and get current with any outstanding debts. Not only will this improve your overall credit score, thereby making you more attractive to lenders, it will also allow you to more easily qualify for an FHA mortgage.