AQUAFLOR: The Newest Line of Laminate Flooring

Good news, the future of laminate flooring is here and just in time for renovation season. Introducing Avalon’s exclusive new high quality laminate collection Aquaflor. Thanks to groundbreaking technology, Aquaflor looks and feels like hardwood, but without all the maintenance of hardwood!

Each plank is imprinted with HD images to give a realistic wood look and embossed to give a realistic wood grain feel. But unlike hardwood, Aquaflor can withstand vast temperature changes and has waxed edges on each plank. This means you don’t have to worry about the effects of big spills or wet mopping seeping into the cracks and ruining your floors. This also means you can finally get the hardwood look you’ve always wanted in your kitchen now! And because of its dense core and “Diamente” finish—the crème de la crème of protective finishes—Aquaflor has one of the hardest wearing and scratch resistant surfaces; also making it the perfect choice for high traffic residential and commercial spaces.

aquaflor colors

It’s simple to install too—yet another advantage to add to the list. Aquaflor is installed free floating with its angle drop and lock system. And unlike other laminate flooring, it doesn’t require transition molding in spaces that are up to 105 feet in length and/or width. Hello seamless open floor plan!

Even with all these great features, with any large purchase, especially for your home, it’s important to know that you’re protected. Which is why Aquaflor comes with excellent warranties to give you peace of mind.

  • Industry leading 48 hour spill and wet mop warranty
  • Lifetime warranty for residential use
  • 15 year light commercial use warranty
  • 5 year heavy commercial use warranty

Layers of Aquaflor laminate flooring

So when weighing your flooring options for your next renovation, ask one of our yourinsurancesearch design experts about Aquaflor. Because no matter what space you’re working with—it’s got you covered!


At yourinsurancesearch Flooring, we want to make sure you’re happy from your first step in our showroom to your first step on your new flooring—and as your partner in home design, we’ll be there every step along the way. Consider us your “One-Stop Shopping” destination for all things flooring…(and window treatments)!

Our design consultants are equipped with the knowledge to guide you through the wide selection of products we offer, and our expert installation team is professionally trained to make sure everything gets installed the way you envision. We know your home is an expression of your sense of style, and we’re here to make sure you’ll be proud of it for years to come.

Stop by one of our 14 showrooms and we’ll be happy to work with you to figure out what’s best for your lifestyle.

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Tax Season Is Here…And So Are The Scammers

The start of each new year typically brings renewed resolve to get healthy, strengthened desires for personal improvement, and of course, tax season.

Tax season can mean different things to a lot of people. Some look forward to a large refund; for others, it’s one more thing to tack onto their to-do list. For the scammers out there, it means the annual opportunity to rake in fraudulent refunds has finally arrived. Tax scammers are ruthless. They’re unaffected by the thought of families and individuals dependent upon what is likely their biggest check of the year being denied this financial relief.

If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that there will be scams this tax season. Fortunately, there are safeguards you can take to stay protected this tax season.

  • Schedule time with your tax preparer now so you can get your taxes done as early as possible. This will help decrease the chances that a fraudster will get your refund before you do.
  • Sign up for Scam Alerts from the FTC to stay abreast of all the dirty tricks scammers are currently using.
  • Talk to someone in your HR department to see if you can get your W-2 before it’s mailed out. This will help ensure that you actually receive it so you don’t have to risk it being lost or stolen in the mail.
  • Never send emails with personally identifiable information (PII) attached. It’s best to never send them through email at all, but if you must, you should encrypt your message by making a change in your email’s security settings.
  • Beware of computer scams. These can come via email or as popups on your computer asking for your personal information. The IRS saw an approximate 400% surge in phishing and malware incidents in the 2016 tax season.
  • Always use a professional, trustworthy tax preparer. Sometimes, even national tax preparation chains can scam you out of your money or use less-than-secure procedures when it comes to handling your personal information. Make sure you use someone you trust.
  • Never provide any personal information over the phone to someone who says they are from the IRS. The IRS will never contact you via phone, email or social media.

Tax season is stress enough as it is; worrying about tax fraud shouldn’t have to be a part of it. Maintain a peace of mind by filing taxes as early as possible and by enrolling in an Optima Protection Plan 

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Can I Buy a House in Washington with Student Loan Debt?

This is part of an ongoing series that addresses common questions from home buyers in Washington State. Today’s question is: Can I buy a house in Washington with student loan debt?

The short answer is yes, it’s definitely possible to qualify for a mortgage loan and buy a house in Washington while carrying student loan debt. But the amount of debt you have can affect your chances of qualifying for a loan.

Buying a Home in Washington With Student Loan Debt

Many Americans today have student loan debt, and the average amount per person has risen steadily over the last decade.

According to a 2017 report from the National Association of REALTORS, 46% of home buyers 36 years of age or younger who have debt reported having student loan debt with a median outstanding balance of $25,000.

Student loan debt can affect home buyers in Washington in a couple of ways:

  • It can reduce a person’s ability to save money for a down payment, which is often required when buying a house.
  • It can also inflate a person’s overall debt-to-income ratio, which could make it harder to qualify for a mortgage loan to buy a home in Washington.

The existence of student loan debt by itself is not a deal-breaker when it comes to getting a mortgage loan to buy a house. It’s the amount that matters most. Specifically, banks and lenders are concerned with the amount of debt a person has in relation to his or her monthly income.

Which begs the question: how much is too much?

If you’re going to use a mortgage loan to buy a house in Washington State, your debt-to-income ratio will come into the picture. As you might have guessed, this is a comparison between the amount of money you earn and the amount you spend each month on your recurring debts.

These days, most mortgage programs set a limit somewhere between 45% and 50% for the total debt-to-income ratio. But there are exceptions to this. Based on this standard, a would-be home buyer whose combined monthly debts accounted for more than 50% of monthly income might have a harder time qualifying for a mortgage.

New Rule Could Help Borrowers Qualify for Mortgage Loans

There is some good news on this front. Recent developments might make it easier for Washington State home buyers with student loan debt to qualify for mortgage financing.

Fannie Mae recently increased its debt-to-income ratio limit from 45% to 50%. (Fannie Mae is one of the two government-controlled enterprises that purchase home loans from lenders. Freddie Mac is the other.)

This change could increase access to mortgage financing, particularly for Washington home buyers with student loans and other forms of debt.

The Fannie Mae rule change applies to conventional mortgage loans that are not insured or guaranteed by the government. The rules for government-backed FHA home loans are similar. According to current HUD guidelines, the total or combined debt-to-income limit for borrowers is 43% in most cases. But it can be as high as 50% if there are “compensating factors” that offset the higher level of debt. So that range is pretty standard across the different loan programs.

To recap: Yes, it’s possible to buy a house in Washington State while carrying student loan debt. It’s the amount that matters most. Home buyers who have a healthy balance between their income and debts have a better chance of qualifying for a mortgage loan.

 

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3 Ways Life Insurance Can Benefit a Charity You Love

Would you like to make a charitable gift to help organizations or people in need; to support a specific cause; for recognition such as a naming opportunity at a school or university? Perhaps you would do it just for the tax incentives. There is any number of reasons, and life insurance can be one of the most efficient tools to achieve these purposes. So the question becomes, how does this work?

Let me list the ways.

1. Make a charity the beneficiary of an existing policy. Perhaps you have a policy you no longer need. Make the charity the beneficiary, and the policy will not be included in your estate at your death. This also allows you to retain control of both the cash value and the named beneficiary. If you want or need to change the charity named as beneficiary, you can.

2. Make a charity both the owner and beneficiary of an existing policy. This gives you both a current tax deduction along with removing the policy from your estate. Once you gift the policy, you no longer have any control over the values.

3. Purchase a new policy on your life. Life insurance is an extremely efficient way to provide a large future legacy to a charity in your name without needing to write the large checks now. The premiums are given directly to the charity which then pays the premiums on the policy. The charity also owns the cash value as an asset. I am using this concept in my own planning.

Many charities would prefer to have their money upfront, but if you cannot write that large check or don’t want to part with your cash today, a gift of life insurance is a most efficient method to leave a large legacy in your name.

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The Effects of Childhood Obesity

September is not only back to school month, but it’s also Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in the United States that affects more than 30 percent of children. This number has tripled since 1980 making it one of the biggest threats to the health of American children. If trends continue, children today could be the first generation to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents.

When you are a parent, your goal is to protect your children. While you don’t have control over everything your children encounter, you play a major part in their health and wellness. Preventing and managing childhood obesity starts in the home. It’s easy to put the TV on for the kids while you get caught up on household chores. Sometimes that’s the best fix for that particular situation. It becomes a problem when this behavior becomes a habit and a lifestyle for your family.

Why is childhood obesity a health problem?

Childhood obesity has negative immediate and long-term health concerns. Obese children are being diagnosed with health conditions that used to be only seen in adults. Unhealthy weight can lead to medical problems such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Liver disease
  • Bone and joint issues
  • Eating disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Respiratory problems such as asthma
  • Sleep apnea

Unfortunately, obese children may also face psychological difficulties such as:

  • Being teased and bullied
  • Becoming a bully
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Depression
  • Poor social skills
  • Stress and anxiety

Being a parent is stressful enough without having to think about your children dealing with health and/or emotional problems. And being a child these days can’t be easy with social media and unrealistic “expectations” that exist. There are simple ways to help establish good habits and encourage healthy lifestyles for your family.

Develop healthy eating habits.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes you need a reminder on how you can encourage healthy eating at home.

  • Eat lots of veggies, fruits, and whole-grain products
  • Choose lean meats
  • Limit sugar and sugar-sweetened drinks
  • Limit saturated fat
  • Recognize portion control

Get active.

Again, this may seem like common sense, but keep in mind how easy it is for kids to get in the routine of watching TV, playing video games or spending endless hours on the iPad.  As a parent, encourage your kids to get involved in sports or other physical activities at school.

Here are few ways to sneak some physical activity into family time:

  • Make a game out of household chores. After completing a chore list, have a reward of a dance off or play catch. If you’re feeling really creative you could pretend that all the toys need to be saved from the dirty floor and put safely in the toy chest. Be as fun and creative as you want to encourage everyone to help out.
  • Take pre and post dinner walks. If it’s a struggle to get the family to get out and go on a walk, make it interactive by playing “I spy” or a similar game.
  • If you have that TV show you just have to watch, use the commercial breaks as quick fitness breaks. Get the kids up and dancing or have a sit-up or push-up contest. It’s amazing how much kids love burpees!
  • Get extra steps in whenever possible. Take the stairs, walk to the store or park at the end of the parking lot. Just like adults, kids can benefit from the extra activity.

Instill good habits into your kids while they are young so that healthy living becomes a way of life. If childhood obesity isn’t managed, it can lead to serious health issues as an adult.

Obesity not only causes serious health conditions, but also leads to increased health care costs and higher life insurance premiums. One of the first things life insurance companies look at when determining your premium is your height to weight ratio and your health status.

Here at Quotacy, our goal is to get you the best price and policy for your unique situation. We work with multiple insurance carriers to shop your case and compare pricing and options. Feel free to contact us with questions or use our free quoting tool to see how much it would cost to protect your family.

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Love and Mortgage: Should Newlyweds Buy or Rent a Home?

Somewhere in your mind, you might have an idealized image of a newly married couple triumphantly sweeping into a dream home with the wife in the husband’s arms. As corny as the tradition might seem, you can also see it as a powerful symbol — two people making their first entrance into the home they now share as owners.

Should you and your new spouse follow that example, or do you have reservations about adding a mortgage to the mix? Consider some of the pros and cons of renting vs. buying as newlyweds, and then take your time in deciding whether home ownership is another threshold you want to cross together.

Your Solution Depends On Your Situation

You’ve probably made dozens of decisions together on your way to the altar, making the call on everything from the registry to the diplomatically arranged seating chart at the reception. And now’s not the time to give in to judgment fatigue.

Take some time to evaluate the respective merits. You may find that personal finances, career aspirations and even the value you place on independence vs. convenience could influence your decision of whether to rent or buy.

The Case for Renting

Some of the reasons that could make renting a home preferable to buying include:

Lower Start-Up Costs — Moving into an apartment typically means paying some moderate expenses, such as first and last month’s rent, specified deposits and the like. Buying a home typically means spending several thousand dollars on a down payment, closing costs, agent’s commission, attorney’s fees and more. If you still haven’t figured out how to pay off the honeymoon, the initial investment could loom large in your decision-making.

More Mobility — The U.S. Census Bureau reports that after age 18, the typical American can expect to move nine times. If you happen to get a new job in a different state, you’ll have a much easier time (relatively speaking) breaking a lease than you would be selling a house.

Repairs Aren’t Your Responsibility — If the toilet springs a leak at 3 a.m., a renter can call the landlord to get it fixed. For homeowners, the burden of arranging and paying for repairs, and possibly filing an insurance claim, falls entirely on them. When it comes to upkeep, a conscientious landlord can be a real convenience.

The Case For Buying

Factors such as these could tip the scales in favor of homeownership:

It’s Usually More Economical — For couples who plan to stay in the same area for several years, buying a house is generally considered the more affordable choice. The expert consensus favors ownership as a much better source of value than renting in just about every U.S. housing market. Also, you can help protect your investment with a home insurance policy that may provide coverage for weather damage, break-ins, and other hazards.

Ownership Builds More Wealth — One aspect of the pro-buying argument revolves around the central idea of wealth accumulation: Homeowners nurture an investment in something that will one day belong to them, rather than simply renting space from month-to-month or year-to-year. Even if you move to a new house before you pay off the mortgage, you still have the equity you’ve built up in your current home.

A Sunnier Market Outlook — Although memories of the housing bubble bust still linger, many indicators point to a stabilized recovery. New regulations have helped curtail risky lending practices, home prices have reached realistic levels and the economy has rebounded. With mortgage rates at historic lows, 2016 could be an advantageous time to become homeowners.

Whichever Way You Go, Go Thoughtfully

The decision to buy or rent as newlyweds depend on immediate realities and long-term possibilities. Do you have plenty of money on hand? Do you have job security? When might you start a family?

You’ll need to consider all these factors, and more, as you figure out whether crossing the threshold right away is a realistic option or just a romantic notion.

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Owe Money to the IRS? 4 Steps to Lower Your Debt

Are you one of the millions of Americans who owe money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)?  Whether you are behind because you have been overwhelmed and have not had time to get your taxes done, or you fear that you simply do not have enough money to pay, it is important to get a handle on your personal tax situation as soon as possible.

Once the IRS realizes that you have not paid your taxes, they will begin to reach out to you. First by email, then communication will get more serious the longer your taxes remain unpaid.  The most serious consequences are wage garnishments, levies on your bank account and liens on your property. These consequences should be avoided at all costs as they can lead to serious financial hardship. There are several important steps you can investigate today to lower your tax debt and get back on the road to financial freedom:

How to Help Lower Your Tax Debt

  1. Installment Agreement: An installment agreement is a monthly payment plan that you establish with the IRS so that you can pay your debt over time, rather than in one lump sum.  It’s essentially like a credit card payment and you will pay over a period of months (or years) your debt as well as interest and fees that have accrued.  In some cases, individuals qualify for a partial payment installment agreement, which allows you to make monthly payments on a reduced dollar amount.
  2. Offer In Compromise: An offer in compromise gives you the opportunity to settle your debt for less than you actually owe.  This is particularly useful when you owe the IRS more money than you can afford.  An offer in compromise requires much paperwork and is not always granted, but can save you thousands of dollars if you qualify.
  3. Bankruptcy: There are instances in which your tax debt may be eligible to be waived under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. Doing so requires some intricate knowledge of tax law and bankruptcy law so you may want to consult with a professional if you are considering this route.
  4. Seek Professional Tax Support: Getting out from under tax debt with the IRS is not easy and there is no magic way to make your back taxes go away.  Working with a professional and experienced tax firm can help you determine the best possible course of action for your situation.  Beware of companies promising to get rid of your tax debt, you may want to continue looking.

Reach Out Tax Relief Today for More Information

yourinsurancesearch Tax Relief has extensive experience working directly with the IRS to help thousands of Americans find their way out of tax debt.  Our team understands complex tax law and can review your tax returns and income documentation while being open and honest about the strategy that has the best chance of success.  Our team can help you with the detailed paperwork required should you decide to move forward with an Offer in Compromise or installment agreement request.  You can make progress and get rid of your tax debt once and for all.  Our team will work hard for you.

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Why Do I Need to Sign the Medicare Scope of Appointment Form?



The Medicare Scope of Appointment is a form which Medicare beneficiaries must complete to designate, prior to their appointment with an agent, exactly which items they wish to discuss. In other words, this form is how you tell your agent which things he or she can present to you.

The form serves to protect you from unwanted solicitation. The background of the form is kind of interesting.

Here’s the deal:

When Part D was rolled out in 2006, it was the first retail drug coverage offered to people on Medicare. Prior to that, for over 40 years, Medicare provided no significant coverage for people to fill their ordinary prescriptions. So over 20 million people got the opportunity to join a drug plan for the first time.

Anytime you have that kind of massive enrollment, there will be dishonest people out there who will do just about anything to make a quick sale. For example, they might show up to talk about your Medicare needs, and then try to sell life insurance too. This is not allowed.

(This, incidentally, is why I advise you to never, never, never invite a stranger into your home to discuss any Medicare insurance products with you. It’s not safe these days. It’s also not necessary when there are honest agencies like Boomer Benefits who can explain all of this to you easily over the phone. PLEASE do not risk your safety or comfort by inviting a stranger to your house who might then try to pressure you into enrolling in a specific policy).

20+ Million Medicare Beneficiaries (Oh My!)

During this mass enrollment of people into Part D, there were complaints from beneficiaries who had invited an agent into their home to discuss drug coverage. Some individuals reported they felt intimidated into enrolling in a plan. Others said they had intended to enroll in a drug plan and then found themselves enrolled into a Medicare Advantage plan that they didn’t want and that their doctor wasn’t in the network for. Medicare Advantage plans have lock-in periods so they were stuck in these plans for as much as a year.

It gets worse:

Sometimes they fraudulently signed people’s names. They even enrolled dead people using old data. (Seriously if these con artists would just get a REAL job!)

Of course, all of this led to a series of Congressional hearings. Some new rules were created to help clarify the allowed process. So today, when you meet with an agent to discuss either Part D or Medicare Advantage products, that agent is required to document your permission at least 48 hours in advance on the Scope of Appointment form. On your form, you will check the items that you want to discuss with your agent. If you don’t check something, then the agent cannot discuss that type of policy when meeting with you.

The Medicare Scope of Appointment was originally designed just for in-person meetings. However, here at Boomer Benefits we have collected this form for years even though our appointments with Medicare beneficiaries are often by phone.

We feel it is respectful to you as the beneficiary. You get to designate what you would like us to help you with.

Bad Apples

We know you hate extra paperwork. So do we!! As a business owner who runs an honest agency, it disappoints me that just a few bad apples out there have created so much more work for both you and us. Like anything else, there are always some bad guys out there willing to bend the rules.

The bottom line though is that these people DO exist. You should always read online reviews about anyone you are choosing to do business with.

An ethical agent will send you a Scope of Appointment form at least 48 hours prior to the appointment in which we go over the Summary of Benefits for the plans you are interested in. You can then feel comfortable that we have your best interests in mind and will only be discussing products which interest you.

Your Options When Completing the Scope Form

The Medicare Scope of Appointment form lists several products that you can give your agent permission to talk with you about. These include:

  • Stand-alone Part D Drug plans
  • Medicare Advantage plans (Part C)
  • Dental/Vision and Hearing Plans
  • Hospital Indemnity products
  • Medicare supplement plans.

You will place your initials in the box next to the items you give permission to discuss. Then you’ll sign below where it says Beneficiary Signature. (You are the Medicare beneficiary).

Medicare scope form

Put your initials in the boxes next to the Medicare products you want help with. Sign where it says Beneficiary because you are the Medicare beneficiary.

Your agent must turn this form in along with any enrollment form you complete for a Part D or Part C plan.

What If I Don’t Know What I Need?

If you aren’t sure which products you need to know about, it’s okay to mark them all or ask us for help. I have 1000% confidence in my team to share with you only the products that best suit you based on what you have indicated to us is most important to you. We are the good apples here, and our 500+ online five-star reviews speak for themselves.

Please note that this form is only required if the appointment will include discussion of Part D or Medicare Advantage products. If you wish to speak about only dental or Medigap, we don’t need to collect one.

How do you feel about the Scope of sales Appointment form? Are there any other items you think should be included on the form? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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What Should You Know About Home Warranties When Flipping a Home?

With foreclosures and short sales being offered for far less than their market price in many parts of the country, buying and flipping these homes can provide local investors with a unique opportunity to earn a large profit over a fairly short renovation period.

However, those who have financed this real estate through high-interest means may need to make a sale before a balloon payment comes due. Having a home sitting on the market for weeks or months at a time can be a costly prospect.

In some cases, offering potential homeowners the promise of hassle-free ownership through a home warranty can be the difference between a home that’s snatched up quickly and one that languishes on the market for months.

Read on to learn more about the coverage afforded by a home warranty, as well as some of the factors you’ll want to consider when deciding to purchase a warranty for a home you’re planning to flip.

What a Home Warranty Covers

A home warranty is a type of insurance policy designed to protect home buyers from any sudden and unexpected costs upon the purchase of a new home. After spending money on a down payment, moving expenses, and the other costs inherent in moving a household, the last thing a home buyer wants to deal with is an expensive HVAC repair or leaking dishwasher.

By offering a home warranty as part of the sale, sellers can provide buyers with peace of mind, which is especially important when selling a recently renovated home.

Most home warranties offer coverage that complements a homeowners’ insurance policy. While homeowners’ insurance can pay to replace appliances that are damaged in a fire or when a tree crashes through a window, a home warranty will pay to replace appliances that malfunction or stop working entirely, even paying to replace the damage that can result from a leaking refrigerator or clogged dishwasher.

Home warranties can cover larger home systems like the furnace, air conditioner, and water heater as well. During the time period for which the home warranty is in effect (usually a year or two after purchase), any problems with these systems should be covered unless subject to a specific policy exclusion.

Although home warranties are meant to benefit the buyer by protecting from unforeseen expenses, they can provide benefits to the home seller as well. In today’s litigious environment, many home buyers won’t hesitate to file a breach of contract lawsuit if they run into problems with their new home that arguably should have been disclosed prior to sale.

Lawsuits are particularly a problem when it comes to home flipping, as the quick renovation and sale process often doesn’t provide enough time to see whether any plumbing, insulation, or other problems develop.

What to Consider When Flipping a Home

There are a few factors you’ll want to take into account when deciding whether to offer a home warranty on a flipped home that you’re hoping to sell. Although home warranties can be a low-cost way to offer peace of mind to a buyer, they’re not right for every sale transaction.

Local Market Conditions

In some hot markets, like San Francisco and Seattle, homes are being snapped up at well above listing price hours after they hit the market. If you live in one of these areas, or another part of the country experiencing a real estate boom, you may not need to worry about a home warranty as a selling point; it’s likely your home will quickly sell regardless.

On the other hand, those who are in slower-moving real estate markets may want to consider offering a home warranty to provide a bit of an edge over similar homes in the area. The longer a home sits on the market without any “bites,” the more it may become a turnoff to prospective buyers, so doing all you can to make your home marketable before it hits the market can be the key to a quick sale.

Manufacturer Warranty Coverage

If your flip included replacement of your home’s HVAC system or appliances, it’s likely these items are covered by their own manufacturers’ warranty; offering a home warranty to cover these items could be redundant, costing you extra without providing any added benefit.

Instead, if you choose to offer a home warranty, you may want to exempt appliances and other items that are already covered in favor of adding renovations that aren’t subject to their own separate warranty.

By keeping these factors (and the ebb and flow of your own local real estate market) in mind when flipping a home, you’ll be in a prime position to gain as much profit as possible from your recent foreclosure or short sale purchase.

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Valuable Lessons for First-Time Home Buyers


But you live and you learn. And in the end, that’s all anyone can do. With that said, I wanted to share some of our mistakes and other things we’ve learned since we bought our house, in case they might prove helpful to someone else going through the home buying process. Looking back on my own experience, here are some tips I’d recommend to any first-time home buyer:

1. Start Saving Right Away

The earlier you start saving for that down payment, the easier it gets. We didn’t start worrying about it until it was too late, and we had to get a mortgage for more than 80% of our home’s value. If we had been on the ball even two years earlier, we wouldn’t have had to do that.

 

2. Don’t Rush Things

Because of the timing of my wife’s pregnancy, we felt rushed into our home purchase. With a baby on the way, we knew our apartment would soon be exploding at the seams. Although I’m happy with our home purchase, I wish we hadn’t rushed it so much.

 

3. Build Your Emergency Fund

When you’re a first-time home buyer, it’s easy to be shocked by the many “extras” that appear in your monthly budget. Things that didn’t exist before–like larger utility bills, home repairs, and lawn maintenance–start adding up and making a huge difference in your bottom line.

 

If you want to be as prepared as possible, build your emergency fund for several months–or even years–before you commit to the home buying process. The money will be there when you need it that way, which will make the entire purchase a lot less stressful.

4. Price-Shop for a Mortgage

The easiest way to get the best mortgage rates is to shop around as much as you can. When we were going through the home buying process, I was surprised at how much lower (and higher) mortgage rates from different firms could be.

 

We ultimately chose the lowest rate out of three and went with our credit union. However, I really wish we would have taken the time to explore different loan options, as well as rates from at least a few more mortgage brokers. Saving just a half a percentage point on an average-priced home could lead to tens of thousands of dollars in savings over the years.

5. Pay Attention During the Home Inspection

During the home inspection process, we thought we did everything right. We followed the home inspector through every room. We asked questions. We took notes. One thing we didn’t do, however, was check things out for ourselves.

 

6. Get a Second (or Third) Opinion

When you’ve fallen in love with a house, it’s easy to overlook things that may not be quite right. Unfortunately, those “love blinders” can cause expensive mistakes if you fail to notice something wrong with the property.

 

That’s why it’s important to bring a family friend or relative along. Since they aren’t buying the property themselves, they’re more likely to see it for what it is. So get a second or third opinion from someone who isn’t blinded by love goggles. Different eyes spot different things, and friendly eyes will tell you the problems they see.

7. Shop Around for Homeowners Insurance

It can really pay off to shop around for the best homeowner’s insurance policyyou can find. And don’t be afraid to move your other insurance policies and bundle them together—most insurers offer a generous discount if you package both your auto and homeowners policies, for instance.

 

But your search shouldn’t just be for the cheapest policy you can find; this is likely the biggest investment you’ll ever make, so you want a high-quality policy that will serve its purpose if you should ever need it. So don’t shop just on price alone–consider the quality of the policy and its coverage options. If you ever need to file a claim, you’ll be glad you did.

Another way to save some money on your homeowners insurance is to evaluate the actual value of your house’s contents, and insure them accordingly. At first, we went with a default amount suggested by our insurance agent, simply because we didn’t know any better. Later, having actually calculated the value of everything in the house, we adjusted that figure downward quite a bit. Remember, don’t count irreplaceable items–you wouldn’t replace them anyway, and they have no real replacement value.

8. Don’t Go Furniture Shopping the Day After You Move In

When you’re a first-time home buyer, it’s easy to forget that your new home will bring with it a whole new set of expenses you’ve never had to worry about before. So before you go on a furniture-shopping spree, take some time to figure out what your new budget might look like, and what you actually need for your new home.

 

If you take some time and shop around enough, you might even find an awesome furniture sale or liquidation, or discover some used furniture on Craigslist that suits your needs perfectly. Don’t rush into a furniture purchase. You have plenty of time, so use it.

We had a bunch of cheap furniture from our college days at our old apartment that we didn’t bring with us. By pure luck, we happened to stumble upon a liquidation sale at a furniture shop and outfitted our living room very cheaply, but it was really a mistake to decide that we needed new furniture for our new house. Upgrade it later on–you can have a few empty rooms for a while. Save up until you can afford what you actually want instead of buying furniture just to fill a room.

9. Offer to Help Others Move for Years in Advance

How does this help you? Well, imagine over a three-year period that you help 10 different families move. When you move, you can call any of these people to help you move—and five families can unload a truck and unpack boxes at an astounding rate.

 

Our big mistake wasn’t the help we received, but how I managed it. Don’t have everyone come and help you at once. Ask two friends to come one day and two friends to come another day instead of having them all come at once—you’ll be far more productive that way.

10. Know What You Can Change, and What You Can’t

When you buy your first home, the whole process feels daunting. The idea of spending thousands of dollars to replace or update old or unsafe systems or outdated appliances is especially unsettling and can seem like an insurmountable obstacle.

 

But every home has some issues. Some of them are things you can live with, while some are things you can’t; some are things you can change, and some are permanent features.

The number-one thing you can’t change about a house is its location, so remember: When you buy a home, you’re not just buying a house, you’re buying the neighborhood. Explore the surrounding area before you submit an offer and fully commit to the purchase.

Meanwhile, other problems can be fixed, or at least endured until you are able to fix them. For example, that problematic hot water heater was something we could change about the house. But if we had let that issue scare us away from buying it, we might have missed out on the chance to live in a family-oriented community with great neighbors.

More Tips to Improve the Home Buying Process

Your home will probably be the most expensive purchase you ever make. That’s why it’s important to research every aspect of the home buying process–and make sure you do things right from the start.

 

Part of that process involves getting your own financial house in order. Here are some steps you should consider taking as you prepare your finances for the prospect of a mortgage:

Make Sure Your Credit Is in Good Shape

If you want to qualify for the best mortgage rates possible, it’s essential that you get your credit score in tip-top shape. If your credit score needs work, there are plenty of steps you can take to improve it. Some of them include paying down debt, diversifying the types of credit you use, and paying your bills on time, every time.

Pay Down Your Debts

Not only can paying down debt improve your credit score, it can increase your chances of getting qualified for a mortgage—and improve your financial well-being, too. Once you owe less money, you should have more expendable income each month that you could save for your new home’s down payment—or for repairs or upgrades once you move in.

 

Paying down your debts can also help you qualify for a mortgage, since lenders prefer to have your total debt obligations—including your new mortgage—to represent no more than 43% of your income.

Avoid New Debts

Another piece of the puzzle while you’re preparing for a mortgage is staying away from new debts. Remember, any monthly obligations you have could stand in the way of taking out a mortgage for the home you really want to buy. As you prepare to buy a new home, try to stay away from taking out any new loans, including car loans. You’ll be in a much better place to get your ideal mortgage, and ideal mortgage terms, if you are debt-free.

Resist the Urge to Buy All the Home You Can ‘Afford’

This one is really important. When you first apply for a mortgage, the bank may be willing to lend you more than you really need. However, there are a lot of really good arguments in favor of buying less house than you can afford.

 

For example, the lower payments that come with having a smaller mortgage can be beneficial when you’re getting ready to start a family or saving for retirement. Meanwhile, a smaller home can mean less money needed for repairs, utilities, and upkeep.

Regardless, you should only buy as much home as you need and only spend as much as you’re comfortable with. Who cares what the bank says you can afford?

As intimidating as it can be, buying your first home is a wonderful, exciting experience — especially if you educate yourself about the process beforehand. Do the readers have any more suggestions for things they’d do differently with their first home purchase?

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