Countering Rising Urban Rents

Rising urban rents, created by urban development initiatives, especially in major cities, may cause some people to relocate to the suburbs or to seriously consider homeownership for the first time. At its best, urban development creates business expansion, solid social and community infrastructures and easy access to public transportation and public services. Urban development can also put restaurants, historic sites and entertainment within walking distance. Those are the pluses.

Zoning laws can also entice developers to raise urban rents, impacting your cost of living, whether you rent an apartment or a house. And you said that you’d never move to the suburbs or buy a house before you’d saved a hefty down payment.

Save money when you move from renting to homeownership

It’s not only rising urban rents that may cause some traditional renters to think about buying a house. Low mortgage interest rates, growth in large New England cities and an increase in housing values can also make buying a house attractive. Even over a short term, opportunity to pay a $1,500 mortgage on a house you could one day own outright versus paying $2,500 a month in rent that could rise in another year can quickly look like the smarter option.

To counter rising urban rents, empower yourself with housing price negotiation tools. Types of housing price negotiation tools include:

  • Strong down payment (you may have to give yourself one to two years to save a good down payment)
  • Good credit scores
  • Flexibility regarding house type and location
  • Rewarding money management habits
  • Job stability
  • Knowledge about housing markets
  • Clarity around what you want in a house

The sooner you start building resources to use during housing price negotiation discussions, the more influence you may have on the overall price you pay for a house, including closing costs. Start early; be open to change and track your results.

Make yourself attractive to sellers and lenders

If you recently started a new job and only worked six to nine months at your two previous jobs, you may have more price negotiation power if you wait to buy a house until you’ve been at your current job more than a year. Signs of job stability can put you in a better light in the eyes of lenders.

Despite how long you’ve worked with your current employer, start paying debts down. For example, you could make larger payments on credit cards, starting with credit cards that have higher interest rates. If you have student loans in default, contact lenders and set up workable payment arrangements. Reduce spending on clothes, takeout food and other entertainment. Put this money in an account that you’ll use to grow your down payment.

Also, learn about current mortgage interest rates including different types of mortgages like adjustable and fixed mortgages. You could ask friends and consult local government agencies to find out what average property taxes are in areas you are considering buying a house in.

After you identify debts that you are going to pay off, where you want to live, the type of mortgage you want and the average property taxes in areas you’d like to buy a house in, compare the total cost of buying and owning a house to renting. Compare immediate costs, which would include the down payment, house inspection fees, realtor commissions and any travel costs, and long term costs of owning a house versus renting. You might find that it’s cheaper to buy a house versus renting, especially over the long term.

5 Surprising Ways to Save Your Credit Score

When you are looking to buy a home or refinance it is important that your credit is in tip-top shape. It is often a credit score that gets in the way of a home buyer and their dream home. Credit today means everything as far as your purchasing power. So if you want to be ready when opportunity knocks read on for some for smart ideas on how to keep your credit score going up.

1. Use your credit cards.

This may sound funny but it is important to have credit over having no credit. Paying in cash and over using credit cards isn’t always a good move for your credit score. Cards that are seldom used are often shut down or closed by the credit card companies. Because 30 percent of your credit score is based on your debt-to-credit-limit ratio you will want to have a high your total available credit. Having one account closed increases that ratio of available credit to debt and thus lowers your credit score.

2. Pay off your credit cards.

It may seem to make sense to pay off the highest-interest card first and save the most money in the end. But your credit score will get a bigger boost from knocking off the lowest-balance card. Instead of spreading your monthly payments equally among credit cards, pay down the lowest-balance card first and pay minimum balances on the rest. As you pay off each card, apply the money you would have paid on it to the next-lowest-balance card.

3. Don’t close cards once they are paid off.

The length of time you’ve had credit determines fifteen percent of your score. By closing your oldest account, you can shorten the length of your credit history causing a big hit to your score.

4. Keep the balance low

Much of your credit score is determined by your debt-to-credit-limit ratio on individual accounts. Maxing out one card raises your debt-to-credit-limit ratio and your credit score. So be sure to keep balances as low as possible. Try to target no more than 30 percent of your credit limit.

5. Stay away from retail-card accounts.

These are a big no-no. Retail store cards often have lower limits and higher interest rates. So running up balances on low-limit store cards affects your credit score more negatively than does using one or two bank cards. So in the long run the fifteen percent you were going to save on the one purchase will probably cost you more in the end.
 

Maintaining Your Septic System

If your home has a septic system, or you are thinking of buying a home with a septic system, you should know that septic systems need regular maintenance. Owning a septic system means getting on a schedule of checkups and clean-outs.

Septic tanks should be inspected a minimum of once every two years, however, once a year is ideal.  An inspection will check sludge and scum levels and tell you how rapidly solids are accumulating in the tank. This will give you the opportunity to remediate any problems before they happen. Make sure to hire a licensed septic-field inspector.

You may not need your septic pumped every year but pump it often. How often it needs to be pumped depends on several factors: tank size, size of household, volume of solids in the wastewater and how much you use the garbage disposal. Always use a licensed septic pumper and hauler to pump your tank.

Keep a maintenance record on your septic system. Make note of things like the date the system was serviced, who serviced it, what work was done, and a description of the system’s health.

 

Communicating with Your Pets: How to Understand Dog and Cat Body Language

If you’re anything like me, your household pet is like a member of the family. Most of us have a soft spot for our pets. When they’re hurt we feel their pain. When they’re sick we get worried sick about what might be wrong. A difficult part of owning a pet is that since we can’t verbally communicate (aside from some commands and accolades) we aren’t able to always read how they’re feeling.

Fortunately, much work has been done when it comes to understanding the nonverbal languages that our animal companions speak. Reading body language and understand your dog’s bark and cat’s meow can help you be a better pet owner and a better companion to your dog or cat. In this article, we’ll let you in on some little known facts about what the body language of your pet means.

Do you speak dog?

Our canine companions tend to let us know how they’re feeling. When they’re scared they lower their tail and cower. When they’re happy they attach us while licks. However, there are many misconceptions about the body language of dogs. Here are some important ones every dog owner should know:

  • Yawning. As humans, we yawn when we’re tired. Dogs also share this trait. But if you own one you’ve probably noticed them yawning much more frequently than we do. This is because they also yawn when they’re unsure of a situation, if they’re around someone new, and if they’re trying to diffuse tension.
  • Whale eye. This is phenomenon occurs when your dog tilts her head and stares out of the corner of her eye, exposing the whites of her eyes. This can be mistaken for a “cute puppy” look, but it normally means they are afraid.
  • Face-licking. As humans we tend to see face-licking as a sign of affection. In dogs, however, it is more likely a friendly sign of appeasement. It is usually seen in puppies and if it carries on into adulthood it can be problematic if your dog frequently licks other dogs’ faces who might not appreciate the gesture.
  • Tail position. Horizontal can mean the dog is alert. Facing upwards can mean dominance and aggression. Tail down can mean the dog isn’t feeling well or is sad. Tail tucked can mean fear and aggression.

What’s your cat thinking?

Cats tend to be a bit more subtle in their communication than dogs (with the exception of when they’re hungry and meowing incessantly). However, if you pay attention you can still get a glimpse into how your cat is feeling. There are three main indicators you should notice when trying to read your cat: the tail, eyes, and ears.

  • Tail. A cat’s tail will tell you a lot about their mood. A tail standing up and wagging means a cat is happy. However, a straight up, rigid tail can mean a cat who is aggressive. Similarly, a cat who is thumping their tail or waiving it with force can also be trying to show dominance and aggression.
  • Eyes. Cat’s eyes are very intense and expressive. Dilated pupils and a focused look can mean the cat is surprised or scared, but can also mean it is hunting something. Relaxed pupils, blinking eyes, or closed eyes, however all mean that the cat feels comfortable and not threatened.
  • Ears. Ears pointing up are somewhat ambiguous; it can mean playfulness or attentiveness. Ears pointing back, however, are a sign of fear and aggression.