Archives for January 2019

Goal-Setting: When The Goal is Buying a Home

Goal-Setting: When The Goal is Buying a Home

Saving for a down payment can seem like an overwhelming task if you’re on a tight budget. It’s just plain not easy to make a plan, stay on that plan no matter what, stay motivated even when your plan goes temporarily awry, and – finally – achieve your desired result. So how do you get from “Broke wannabe homebuyer” to “Gimme those keys!”? It’s simple. Just set a goal.

“The idea of goal setting involves establishing specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-targeted (S.M.A.R.T) goals,” said Wikipedia. “On a personal level, setting goals helps people work towards their own objectives.”

So how does that relate to your down payment? It’s no different than setting a goal to lose weight or get a college degree or excel at your job. They all take determination. But when it comes to buying a home and getting together the money required, there are tricks and tips you can use to make it easier and make that goal achievable.

1. Make a plan and write it down

Get out a piece of paper or type into your phone/computer a definitive statement that encapsulates your down payment goal – as long as it’s in a place you can easily access it. Then break down that goal by the amount you need to save weekly or monthly and a goal date for being able to buy that house. The simple act of putting your plan down on paper (or on screen) makes it real. Take out the piece of paper or pull up the email you wrote to yourself whenever you need a pick-me-up.

Huffington Post recommends writing goals down in a brand-new notebook or keeping them “in Evernote (download on your desktop and the app for your phone and tablet) so that you can reference them weekly.”

2. Make some budget cuts

It may not be easy. But saving for something as important as a new home is worth it. Look over your monthly bank statements for areas to cut back. Take out any set monthly expenses—rent or existing house payment, car payment, and anything else that can’t change.

Then look at car insurance, health insurance, and anything else that could change if you made changes to your coverage.

Then consider things like cell phone bills, cable, internet service. If you’re not using all your data on your cell phone plan, that may be a place to trim. Perhaps you don’t need such fast DSL service. Every little bit helps.

And here’s one that really hurts: cutting out your daily Starbucks latte. I know. We’re crying with you.

Can’t go cold turkey? Cut back from five lattes a week to two. You just saved over $500 in a year.

3. Let someone else make some cuts

If you’ve gone through your budget carefully and don’t see any (or many) easy places to cut, let a best friend or close family member take a look at your budget. They might see some things you don’t, or might be able to ask some hard questions you aren’t willing to ask yourself (maybe you don’t need EVERY SINGLE MOVIE CHANNEL DISH OFFERS?!).

Cutting back on your cable or satellite TV doesn’t seem like much. But paying $30 less per month less could save you $360 in a year. And you can always go to their house to watch Game of Thrones while you’re in savings mode.

4. Know how to bounce back

So you went out to lunch with a friend and the next thing you know, you’re at the mall dropping a couple hundred dollars on clothes. Or you went to the sporting goods store to buy a gift and walked out with $200 in non-returnable camping equipment.


Go ahead and feel the pain of the buyer’s remorse. Slap yourself on the hand. And then tell your bad-influence friend they aren’t allowed to come around again until you’re a homeowner. After all, you need somewhere to place the blame. And now you can move on and get back on your plan.

5. Look for ways to make extra money

Do you have skills you could use to bring in a few bucks? Perhaps you can put your Spanish fluency to good use and tutor high school kids. Maybe you can take that piece of furniture you refinished and turn it into a weekend business, hitting early-morning garage sales on weekends and selling your pieces on Craigslist.

6. Cook your dinner

Eat out five nights a week now? Cut back to two. If you’re not a fan of cooking, sub in easy-to-make or already-made meals on the other three nights. Grab a roasted chicken from the supermarket plus a bagged salad, or a ready-to-nuke meal from a specialty market like Trader Joe’s or Costco.

7. Not ready to give up your restaurant habit?

Those coupon packs that come in the mail actually have some useful stuff inside, including restaurant discounts. If you can save 20 percent off your bill a couple times a week, you won’t feel so guilty for dining out.

Another great way to save when eating out is by timing it to nights when restaurants have specials, like kids’ eat free nights. Googling “kids eat free” should yield list of participating restaurants in your area.

8. Don’t become a hermit

Cutting back doesn’t have to mean locking yourself in your house, never using any gas, never going to any movies or seeing your friends socially.

But make sure your friends and family know about your plan so they can support you while you’re saving. And you can involve them in your plan by enlisting their help to plan fun and free (or cheap) get-togethers.

9. Channel Stuart Smiley

You don’t have to stand in the mirror and repeat “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me” over and over (but it would be hilarious if you did). By simply staying positive, you can keep on keeping on. If you believe at all in the power of positive thinking, this is the time to act on it. And if you don’t, fake it!

10. Keep your eye on the prize

When everyone runs off to the Caribbean for their summer vacation, you’re probably going to want to chuck it all. But remember that the Caribbean isn’t going anywhere. You can luxuriate on an island with turquoise water lapping at your feet while you drink something frothy out of a pineapple next year – after you’ve closed escrow.

And it’ll taste so much better with the jangle of a new set of house keys in your pocket.

Source: Goal-Setting: When The Goal is Buying a Home

Because It's Ugly, and 3 Other Big Reasons Your Home Isn't Selling

Because It's Ugly, and 3 Other Big Reasons Your Home Isn't Selling

Ever wonder why some homes sell and others don’t? There is no magical fairy dust that can turn a loser of a house into a palace. And, in fact, if there were such a think as magical fairy dust, sprinkling it in your home would make a big mess, and that’s a big no-no if you want to sell.

Getting your home sold is not all that hard if you stick to the basics. But if you’ve got some of the problems below, you may just be sitting on that unsellable home for a while.

Problem No. 1: Because your home is ugly

Yes, your home is ugly. If your Realtor didn’t tell you that, let us go ahead and say what he should have. And just so we’re clear, “ugly” can also stand in for:

• Cluttered
• Outdated
• Dirty
• Messy
• Tacky

Very few people – investors looking for a deal aside – can walk into an untidy mess of a house and see the potential. If you’re not willing to clean it up, clean it out, and maybe make a few overdue updates, you may not get it sold. That goes double for over-personalization that is so in your face buyers can’t see past it.

“Everybody’s taste is different, so less is more when it comes to decor at sale time. Loud patterns and bold colors can be big distractions,” said MSN.


You need to de-ugly-fy that house but quick. Pretty places around you are selling. If you have similar plans, similar features, similar lots and they’re selling while you’re sitting, it’s not hard to figure out why.

Take a good long look. If you don’t see anything wrong, bring in a few friends for their opinions. But only the ones who might actually tell you the truth.

Problem No. 2. Because your price is unrealistic

This is the No. 1 most common problem with homes that are not selling, says MSN. “If you’re guilty of having “a ‘what the heck are they thinking?’ price tag,” they say, you can expect to sit on the market for a while.

“Price is usually the overriding factor in any home that doesn’t sell. Whatever its problem, it can usually be rectified by adjusting the price.”

Adds U.S. News: “Without question, the No. 1 reason a home doesn’t sell is price. Sellers have an emotional attachment to their homes and tend not to be objective about the true value.”


If it is an emotional attachment that’s getting in the way, take the emotion out of the equation and think of it simply as a business transaction. Many times the issue is a seller owes more than the home is worth or simply wants a higher price. But it’s the market that sets the price. And if it’s telling you your price is too high, it’s probably best to listen.

When all else fails, listen to your agent, who should have provided you with comparables that spell out recent sales and market trends. (Also See: It’s The Price That Sells a Home)

Problem No. 3: Because it’s a ‘project’ house

Maybe you’ve made the decision to sell and you just don’t want to put any money into a house that’s no longer going to be yours. But a house that looks like it’s going to take too much work – or too much money – to fix up is a turnoff.

“If a home looks as if it’s going to cost half as much to repair or renovate as it does to purchase, it’s going to take a long time to move,” said MSN. “Today’s buyer is a lot more reluctant to take on a ‘project,’ especially if there are houses around it that don’t need as much work. Ditto for homes that have strong pet or mold smells.”

The Solution:

“Fix it, or prepare to lop a large amount off the price,” said MSN.

Problem No. 4: Because you’re not cooperating

This is also the No. 1 reason houses end up overpriced. Uncooperative sellers also tend to ignore other advice from their agent, about keeping the home tidy (see No. 1), being available when needed, being open to price reductions, being able to make the house available for open houses, and agreeing to terms when there is a contract discussion.

“No offense, but maybe you aren’t showing your house off enough? If you aren’t using a real estate agent and work away from your home, your time might be limited, of course. But you should try to make your house as accessible and available as possible for a Realtor and a potential homebuyer to easily drop by and take a tour (which means having the place clean, too),” said U.S. News. “Having your home be shown only by appointment or only at designated times will severely cut down on the number of showings you get, and if the house isn’t getting shown, it isn’t going to get sold.”

The Solution:

Get in or get out. Or get in to get out. You have to commit yourself to a process that, quite frankly, can be inconvenient and a hassle in order to get your home sold, especially in more competitive markets. Being agreeable and available, however painful, for this finite amount of time, will pay off in the end.

Source: Because It's Ugly, and 3 Other Big Reasons Your Home Isn't Selling

What You Don’t Know About Real Estate Could Cost You

What You Don’t Know About Real Estate Could Cost You

What you don’t know about real estate, real estate professionals do. PJ Wade identifies significant knowledge gaps for buyers and sellers and reveals how professionals fill those gaps—when asked.

It’s what you don’t know about real estate that could cost you when buying or selling.

• First-time buyers usually haven’t seen enough houses or condominium units to fully understand where real estate value lies.

They may not have been caretaker of a house and, therefore, don’t notice subtle signs of damage, sloppy construction, poor maintenance, or worn-out elements. Those who have visited friends’ houses will rarely have toured the properties with an eye to determining value. First-time-buyer naivety is often preyed on with the latest buzz words, staging, hot shiny appliances, and a coat of fresh paint.

• First-time-in-a-longtime buyers may not realize that they are out of touch with advances in materials, modern design approaches, or evolving lifestyle essentials.

This can lead them to under- or over-value new houses or condominium units. For example, quartz kitchen counters have gained popularity over marble and granite for several reasons. Open-concept design is preferred by those with small children or those who live to entertain, but not by those who are untidy, relish quiet spaces, or are energy conscious. Residential elevators are increasingly common features in multi-story and age-in-place homes, but they may seem out of place to those not in touch with housing trends. Misevaluation of factors like these may mean missed real estate opportunity.

• First-time sellers who base resale value on their total cost of acquiring and maintaining real estate ownership, plus expected profit, have missed the point.

Emotions, including pride of ownership, can get in the way and prove expensive. Sellers may believe that their cost of buying and transforming the property into their home, plus money spent on maintenance and upgrades, plus profit and the cost of selling, including commission, add up to their actual “bottom line” for resale value. Problems arise for sellers when this must-have sale price is not in line with market value, which is value determined by the real estate market – current buyers and previous sales. When the seller expects more than market value, this “over-priced listing” may take longer to sell, may eventually sell for less, or may fail to find a buyer. First-time sellers may lack experience evaluating how their property compares with local property values and appraising their property from the perspective of current active buyers.

Value determination and marketing – or communicating action-enticing value to potential buyers – represent two different professional real estate selling-skill sets, neither of which are usually possessed by sellers.

• Empty-nester and downsizing sellers may decide, in theory, that smaller and cheaper are the characteristics they desire in their next property, but some discover it’s a different story in practice.

When faced with the actual move to a smaller house in a cheaper location, they may find the mental leap too great. Downsizing is often wrongly considered merely moving into a smaller property. In reality, this less-space move usually involves adopting a different lifestyle, living in a different neighborhood, adjusting to different status, dealing with different interior finishes, and the list can go on.

Many faced with wanting a change find they lack the real estate knowledge and planning expertise to make the shift gracefully acceptable and financially successfully.

• Newbie real estate investors may believe that crunching numbers to determine how much profit they want and what it will cost to achieve this profit is all it takes.

Creating an offer to purchase, which entices a property owner to sell for the buyer’s desired price, requires special professional expertise. Then, offering the property for profit-generating rent that will attract qualified prospective renters involves a different set of professional skills. Many new investors possess neither skill set, which are both common in real estate professionals.

The emotional element regarding what sellers will sell for and what renters will pay to live in the resulting investment property can influence financial gain and bottom-line projections. Skill and experience is essential to investors taking all this into account to create profit.

What you don’t know about property ownership and real estate transactions can cost you when buying or selling, wherever you fit in on the list of buyers and sellers above. Do you have experience with contracts, financing, interior design, renovation, conflict resolution…? Then, there’s marketing – both using it to persuade others and personally fending off its effects when you’re making decisions.

What you don’t know about real estate, real estate professionals do. They are committed to studying and keeping up to date on what matters. Most have spent years on the job perfecting their expertise and learning local markets.

Would you surgically operate on yourself or drill your own teeth? It’s that extreme an issue when you don’t engage available professional skill and knowledge to work for and with you.

Concentrate on learning what the right real estate professional can help you achieve.

Not the least of which is discovering what you don’t know about buying and selling. When you think, my goal is “buy my dream home” or “sell at my dream price,” understand what will have to happen and what you must do to achieve the desired outcome.

If you don’t know where to start, no problem.

Real estate professionals are trained to know what needs to be done for prospects and clients every day, every offer, every transaction…. Do you know what you’ll gain with professional help? How determined are you to achieve real estate goals and exceed your expectations, as quickly and hassle-free as possible?

To continue learning about buying and selling real estate, checkout more Realty Times articles by PJ Wade The Catalyst:

4 “Big Regrets” to Avoid When Buying a Home 
Trends Cost Sellers Money
Ready to Talk About Real Estate?

Source: What You Don’t Know About Real Estate Could Cost You

5 Reasons to Buy a Fixer-Upper Instead of a Perfect Place

5 Reasons to Buy a Fixer-Upper Instead of a Perfect Place

“Location, location, location” is the mantra when it comes to where to buy a home. But when it comes to what to buy, it gets a little more complicated. There is definitely a contingent who would insist that you would buy the best home you can afford. But while there is something to be said for buying a move-in ready home, a place that needs a little love can be downright irresistible.

You don’t have to go all Chip and Joanna here, but buying a fixer-upper makes sense for so many reasons

.It costs less

“Fixer-uppers list for an average of 8% below market value,” said LearnVest. If you’re on a budget or are being priced out in your market, this is a way to get a literal foot in the door. How much depends greatly on the location. “Fixer-uppers in Phoenix have the smallest cash discount, saving buyers just $1,000 off list price. But you can save a lot of money in expensive markets like San Francisco, where fixer-uppers are discounted an average of 10%—giving homebuyers $54,000 in upfront savings for renovations on the median home.”

You may be able to finance your renovation

One of the major drawbacks of buying a home that needs to be fixed up is having to come up with the cash—especially after you’ve just put so much money into your down payment and closing costs. There are a few different types of loans that package the mortgage with funds for renovations, and they often come as a surprise to buyers who have only focused on FHA and 30-year conventional loans.

“Whether you need a new roof or your kitchen is outdated, there is a mortgage that’s right for your fixer-upper,” said Bankrate. Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle loan and FHA’s 203(k) loan both bundle a mortgage and funds for renovations. They each require a minimum credit score of 620. You’ll need at least 5% down payment for HomeStyle and just 3.5% for the 203(k).

It gives you the opportunity to build value

With an already-updated home, “If a seller has redecorated or improved the whole place, that seller is reaping the benefit,” said Forbes. “If the home’s value has been raised, the buyer is paying for it. Also, consider this reality: A seller who re-does a whole house in order to sell is not likely putting in the highest-quality materials. They’re cutting costs to maximize profit. But if you buy a fixer-upper, you might be able to secure an undervalued property, improve it and get the benefit of the extra equity. It’s a core real estate concept. If you can find the right property, this could mean thousands of dollars almost immediately.”

You can do renovations over time

There may be a few things you can’t live with in a fixer-upper, like the grungy carpet and cruddy plumbing fixtures, but no one (other than design shows) says your place has to be perfect the day you move in. Taking your time to make updates as you’re able gives you the opportunity to save money and recover from all the expenses of buying the home and moving in.

It allows you to put your stamp on it

When you buy a home that was lived in and fixed up by someone else, it reflects their taste and style—or at least the taste and style they think will help the house sell faster. If you buy a house with the intention of fixing it up, you get to update and upgrade it to your standards, and you have the money to do so.

“One of the primary reasons people buy fixer-upper properties is for the opportunity to make the space their own,” said Green Residential. “Instead of purchasing a home in which someone else designed the layout, chose the materials, and dictated where different elements were placed, you can buy a basic structure and then take charge. It’s like building your own home without having to go through the lengthy process of drawing plans and constructing it from the ground up.”

Source: 5 Reasons to Buy a Fixer-Upper Instead of a Perfect Place

What’s the Real Impact of the Government Shutdown on Real Estate?

What’s the Real Impact of the Government Shutdown on Real Estate?

National parks are a mess (literally), air travel is being jeopardized as TSA agents call out sick and air traffic controllers are asked to work for free, and the Panda Cam at the National Zoo is offline (gasp!). But how is the government shutdown impacting the real estate market? It depends which part you’re looking at.

“An NAR survey of 2,211 members found 75 percent had no impact to their contract signings or closings. However, 11 percent did report an impact on current clients and 11 percent on potential clients,” said the National Association of Realtors. Among those impacted by the shutdown, 17 percent had a closing delay because of a USDA loan.”

The most impacted areas of the market surround:

Buyer uncertainty

Consumer confidence is always a topic of conversation when it comes to real estate, and with rising interest rates and a roller coaster stock market, a government shutdown only makes the issues that much stickier. According to the NAR study, “The most common impact, at 25 percent, was the buyer decided not to buy due to general economic uncertainty, though they were not a federal government employee.”

Loan approvals/Closing delays

Whether or not your loan and/or closing is impacted by the government shutdown largely depends on the type of loan you are getting. “If you’re getting a Federal Housing Administration or Department of Veterans Affairs loan, it’s likely you can expect delays in the underwriting process, and it’s possible your closing date will be pushed back as well,” said the Dallas Morning News.

HUD has said that while new FHA loans will be endorsed during the shutdown, “Some delays with FHA processing may occur due to short staffing.” In addition, new Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM), more commonly referred to as reverse mortgages, are on hold for now.

While the White House has insisted that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) process tax refunds during the shutdown, it’s made no such mandate in regards to helping consumers who need info because they’re buying a home. That means that buyers won’t be able to requests tax return transcripts, which may be required by lenders, thereby delaying the purchasing process.

Source: What’s the Real Impact of the Government Shutdown on Real Estate?

How To Keep From Going House Poor

How To Keep From Going House Poor

The only thing worse than not being able to buy a home when you want to is owning a home and not being able to do anything but sit inside because after your house payment, HOA fee, taxes, and household bills, there’s nothing left.

A few smart strategies can help you avoid becoming house poor.

Think hard about that preapproval amount

Just because the bank tells you that you can buy a $400,000 home doesn’t mean you have to spend all $400,000. It might be that you’re not comfortable with a payment that high if it means you won’t have a cushion and can’t continue to contribute to your savings.

Things you’ll want to consider:

Can you continue to invest the way you want to?

Will you be able to keep up (or build) your emergency fund – “A savings account stuffed with six months expenses or more is a vital part of financial stability,” said Money Under 30.

Are you going to have enough money left over to establish a bank account buffer? “Whether you’re 15, 25 or 65, if you’re having trouble with your money and want to improve, the very first step you should take is to build a bank account buffer,” said Money Under 30. “A bank account buffer is my name for what other people may call a cash cushion, mini emergency fund, rainy day fund or back-up savings. When you have a bank account buffer in place, you don’t have to worry that a poorly timed Starbucks break you charged to your debit card will overdraw your account and trigger a $35 overdraft fee.”

Calculate your ENTIRE payment

Principle and interest will only tell you part of the story. Same with principle, interest, taxes, and insurance. If you’re not also taking into account any Private Mortgage Insurance you need to pay, your Homeowner’s Association fee, and any special assessments, you’re not looking at the whole picture.

Budget for additional expenses

This is not the place for that buffer referenced above, but, rather, a way to make sure you can really handle the home you want without living paycheck to paycheck or, even worse, going into even more debt just so you don’t sink. If you don’t currently have a yard or are renting, you may not be accustomed to paying landscaping fees. If your new home has a pool, don’t forget to budget for that pool cleaner. If you’re moving to a larger home, you may also have an increase in costs for your house cleaning service and utilities, and if your commute is longer, you may be paying more in gas and tolls. They are the little things that can creep up and affect your bottom line.

Don’t do improvements right away

You might want to wait a few months to see how your expenses pan out before you empty your savings on a new kitchen. Ditto for buying a houseful of new furniture. The desire to fix up the house to your standards or pack it with all-new everything is strong. But a little patience can go a long way. Spreading out your purchases while you increase your savings and waiting for sales and zero interest credit offers can help keep your budget in check.

Be careful with an equity line

Having equity in your home is great if it means you made a smart investment. But using it irresponsibly can quickly make your budget spin out of control. The good news is that, according to CoreLogic’s MarketPulse, the number of homeowners who are under water is dropping – now about a third of the 2010 total. The bad news is that equity can be tempting, and stripping your home of it—and making not-so-smart decisions with the money – can create an underwater situation. If you take out a line with the intent on doing some updates or renovations, you’ll want to make sure that you can comfortably afford the new payment and that the renovations you’re making will provide a return on investment.

Get a home warranty

Experts are on the fence about this—some say you absolutely have to have one while others find it a waste of money. But if you’re the type for whom coming up with thousands of dollars to replace the faulty air conditioner that’s no longer conditioning anything or a refrigerator that’s stopped refrigerating will be a hardship, the minimal monthly output is far outweighed by the peace of mind of knowing most of your large repairs will be covered.

Claim a homestead exemption

In some states, you can file a homestead exemption to lower your property taxes. Savings can add up to hundreds of dollars per year or more. You can get more information and learn who’s eligible here.

Change your tax withholding

One of the great benefits of homeownership is the tax writeoff. If you leave your withholdings alone, you may expect to get a big chunk of money back at the end of the year, as long as nothing else has changed. But by adjusting your withholdings, you can hold on to more of your money every month to help offset higher expenses.

After you buy a home, “payroll withholdings should also be reexamined and, perhaps, reduced to account for the reduction in net tax liability,” said HGTV. “Talk to your tax preparer or use the IRS withholding calculator, to get the numbers right.”

Source: How To Keep From Going House Poor

10 “Skips” That Will Help You Save for a Down Payment

10 “Skips” That Will Help You Save for a Down Payment

New year, new house. That’s the plan, right? But the daily habits that only cost a couple bucks here and there may be doing more damage to your budget than you realize, making it impossible to save for that down payment.

What constitutes “discretional income” varies from person to person and situation to situation—what you have to play with today might be far more than last year, thanks to that raise. When you’re saving for a big-ticket item like a house, discretionary income can really take a hit. Maybe your weekly outing to your favorite sushi spot doesn’t seem so necessary anymore (Or, maybe you just need to come during Happy Hour!). This is just one of the adjustments you can make to your lifestyle when saving for a down payment. If your goal is buying a house, these “skips” will be well worth it.

Skips the Starbucks

Your grande latter costs $3.65, and if you get it five days a week, every week…well, you really should go out and buy some Starbucks stock. You only order a grande coffee, you say? OK, $2.10 per day, five days a week, every week is over $500 a year. Even if you bought yourself a machine to make lattes at home (and you have several options here, some for under $200), you’d still save a bundle overall.

Skip the lunch out

It’s just lunch, and it’s not like you’re going anywhere fancy, but all those meals can take a chunk out of your bank account and leave you scrambling for ways to make up the money. “If you go out for lunch Monday through Friday for a year, you might spend $10 a meal—a pretty good deal at most dining establishments. This adds up to $50 weekly,” said Money Under 30. “Spend $50 a week on restaurant food, and in total you’re spending $2,500 per year, near the national average.”

Spend $50 on dinner a couple times a week, and that’s another $5,200. Now consider that you only need a minimum of 3.5 percent for a down payment and the current median home value in the United States is $222,800. That means you need under $8,000 for your down payment, but…ooooops! You just spent it on sandwiches and pasta.

Skip the commute

You probably think mainly in terms of gas and tolls when you consider how much you’re spending on your commute, and that certainly adds up. Can you negotiate a work from home scenario a few days a week? It can save you a bunch—and save the wear and tear on your car (and your nerves), too. But there’s more to the commuting calculation. “The true cost of car commuting not only goes beyond what we spend to maintain a car each year, but what we could have done with that money to ensure a better future,” said Strong Towns. Check out this sobering infographic that will have you marching into your boss’ office to discuss remote opportunities ASAP.

Skip the dry cleaner

Want to save about $500 a year? Take New York Magazine’s ‘Ask the Strategist’s’ advice and use one of their 19 alternatives to dry cleaning, including using mesh laundry bags and specially formulated soap.

Skip the car wash

The average price of a car wash is about $7. Is just cutting out this activity and washing your car at home going to get you that down payment? Of course not. But every little bit helps, and the $364 you’ll save after a year of weekly washes can put you over the top or give you a cushion should moving expenses exceed your budget.

Skip the gym

You could save $54 per month (that’s the average monthly payment of a gym membership across the country), not to mention the cost of your cute workout clothes and fancy shoes, by cancelling your gym membership. Instead, do these 25 great at-home exercises.

Skip the cable

Cut the cord and save about $1,200 in a year. Of course, you’ll have to replace the cable with something, so you’ll likely be adding back some costs. “Assuming you’re one of the 83 percent of consumers who pays for both TV and internet, switching to a web-based service shouldn’t be too expensive,” said Mental Floss. “An Amazon Prime plan costs $99 a year, a basic Netflix subscription costs $132, and Hulu costs $96. Even if you spring for all three choices, you’ll still only be paying $327 annually, saving you about $875 if you’re a former cable subscriber.”

Skip the movies

The average cost of a movie ticket went up again last year—by 3.96% to $8.97. Of course, the ticket is just the beginning of the expense. A family of four can easily hit $100 when you add in popcorn and drinks and Red Vines. Since a trip to the movies is our family’s favorite outing, we would never tell anyone to stop going. But, there are some ways to save. Money Crashers has a great rundown, including going to matinees, which are less expensive than evening shows, and buying at the box office instead of online so you save on the convenience fees. Another great tip is going with another family. If you buy a large popcorn, it usually comes with a free refill, which the concession stand will give you right away. Now you have two tubs of popcorn for half the cost.

Source: 10 “Skips” That Will Help You Save for a Down Payment

The Smartest Smart Home: Five Things to Buy Now that Will Help Sell your Home

The Smartest Smart Home: Five Things to Buy Now that Will Help Sell your Home

If you’re getting ready to put your home on the market, you’ve undoubtedly heard that it needs to be in the best possible shape to attract legit buyers. But what else can you do to make it stand out? The answer: Turn it into a smart home.

Not only do smart home features make your place seem updated and well-taken-care-of, but they can also make your home sell quicker and fetch you a higher sales price. “According to a 2017 survey conducted by t3 sixty, a brokerage consulting firm for residential real estate, 40 percent of realtors believe smart homes sell faster, regardless of price,” said Cornerstone Home Lending. “This smart home selling potential has increased 33 percent in the past year.”

If you’re ready to invest a few bucks into some Smart Home features, here are the ones that should give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Home security

T3 Sixty research confirms that home security and video “is the fastest growing sector in smart home technology,” said Coldwell Banker in its Smart Home Study. “The T3 Sixty survey shows that 36.4 percent of homebuyers ask most often about smart home security. Video feeds allow homeowners to easily check in on their home, pets and family while traveling or at work. It is also the Smart Home feature that consumers respond to most in marketing.

This exploding segment of the Smart Home market accounted for just under $2.6 billion in sales in 2015, according to Statista, and more than $6.7 billion as of 2017. “It is expected to surpass $20 billion by 2021.”

Smart appliances

“Smart appliances win big in the ROI game, expected to bump the average ROI up 11 percent more than standard appliances,” they said. “In the 2017 Concept Community study conducted by MFE, 18.2 percent of people listed appliances as the smart home feature with the highest ROI.”

Smart lighting

Automated lighting was noted by more than eight percent of participants in the survey as having high ROI when it comes to smart home features. This feature is especially salient when real estate agents point out not just the ease of use of the lighting system, but also the potential savings. says that “LED lights use at least 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer, than incandescent lighting.”

Smart thermostats

This is an easy “entry point” into smart tech for home, and one that can have a great ROI. It is also another item that real estate agents should be pointing out to buyers,” said New York magazine’s Intelligencer. “The core of the smart home is about the service, right? So you can show how it will change and affect your life and how you interact with your house. If I walk into four houses in the same neighborhood, and one has a Nest thermostat and the agent has educated me that it could save 10 to 12 percent in my heating and cooling, that’s going to stick out in my mind. While the other houses maybe I’m going to forget about. The thing with having a smart home is, you have to work with a listing agent that can convey those benefits because if you don’t, it might as well not even be there — it just doesn’t matter.”

According to a Nest study, the company’s smart thermostat saved consumers on average 10% to 12% on heating and 15% on cooling,” said Security Sales and Integration. “Based on typical energy costs, that translates to an average savings of $131 to $145 a year.”

Source: The Smartest Smart Home: Five Things to Buy Now that Will Help Sell your Home