August 23, 2011 2:03 pm
Q: What is equity?
A: It is the cash value of your property over and above what is owed on it, including mortgages, liens, and judgments.
The amount of equity almost always grows in a home over the years, although national and regional economic slumps or overbuilding might result in a temporary dip in prices.
The good thing is you can borrow against the equity that builds up in your home and use it for any number of reasons, including home improvements and to pay for college costs. It also is a source of income for you once the home is sold.
Equity is also what makes seller financing possible. If you have money to spare, you can always lend some to the buyer and collect interest on it.
August 22, 2011 5:03 pm
In today’s economy, most of us have already figured out a few strategies that will help conserve cash. But taking the long view to building wealth may not be as easy for the average American, even with a regular paycheck.
Following are tips from five experts in the fields of money, debt, real estate and consumer affairs that may help set you on the right road to a more secure future:
• Consistent investment – Says Ric Edelman, CEO of Edelman Financial Services, “The best way to build wealth remains unchanged; invest as much as you can (maybe more than you thought you could) into a diversified set of low-cost mutual funds—and keep doing this for many years, no matter what.”
• Get rid of high-cost debt – From David Jones, president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies, “Paying off just one high interest credit card—and not using it again—will free up money to pay off other debts and/or move to a wealth-building plan. It may not be easy, and it will take time, but it must become a dedicated goal.”
• Buy a home – Ron Phipps, president of the National Association of REALTORS®, suggests: “Mortgage rates are low, selection is great, and prices are about one third lower than five years ago. Homeownership remains a long-term vehicle to financial independence—and, by the way, you get to live in your investment.”
• Start your own side business – Says Robert Paglianini, president of Pacifica Wealth Advisors, “Whether you can mow lawns, write marketing copy, babysit or paint houses, use your free time and your special skills to build a second income from your own side business.”
• Trick yourself into saving more – “One way,” suggests David Bendix, president of Bendix Financial Group, “is to see your human resources person ASAP and arrange to up your deductions a bit. Chances are you won’t miss the few bucks in your paycheck, and it’s a pretty painless way to save more.”
August 22, 2011 5:03 pm
Many car owners can expertly maneuver through rush hour traffic, but far fewer can expertly navigate their way under the hood. Automotive issues can leave many of us wondering "What's that sound?" and "Do I really need this repair?" or even worse, ignoring a problem altogether.
Drew Torrey and Matt Saunders are the national champions of the 62nd annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition. Their automotive know-how helped them beat 10,000 other high school automotive technology students from across the country to earn the championship title and tens of thousands of dollars in automotive scholarships and tools. These highly qualified students offer the following advice to help car owners properly maintain their vehicles while protecting themselves, their passengers and their wallets.
Do a little light reading. Read your owner's manual and service booklet carefully. The auto manufacturer created this information specifically for your car, and it can answer a lot of questions, including which maintenance services you can do at home and which ones require a trained service technician. Heeding this advice can save you time and money in the long run.
Pump it up (or deflate it). Make sure your car's tires are inflated to the proper pressure (measured in pounds per square inch or PSI). Improperly inflated tires wear out more quickly and can increase the possibility of a dangerous blowout. To find the recommended inflation pressure for your tires, check the tire information decal that is likely located on the driver's doorjamb, or in your owner's manual. Do not, however, rely on the PSI figure molded into the sidewall of the tire. You'll need just one small tool—an air pressure gauge—to check your tire pressure.
Pay attention. Do not ignore your "check engine" light just because you don't know what it means. It can actually alert you to a variety of different problems, from a loose gas cap to a faulty oxygen (02) sensor. If the check engine light comes on, first tighten the gas cap to see if that solves your problem. If that doesn't work, visit your auto technician for further diagnosis, as the problems at-hand could cause increased exhaust emissions and decrease your fuel economy by up to 40 percent (according to the U.S. Department of Energy), potentially costing you more money in the long run than a professional repair would.
Put on the brakes. If your car's brakes squeak while you're driving but stop making noise when you apply pressure to the brake pedal, your brakes may be in need of professional service. Your auto technician will be able to make a definitive diagnosis, but it's possible you could need new front disc brake pads and additional brake system work.
Fill 'er up. If your car's automatic transmission seems to be shifting erratically you could be low on transmission fluid. You can check the level and add fluid using the procedures described in your owner's manual. If it's time to change the fluid, visit your local automotive shop. In either case, pay attention to this condition—ignoring a small problem with your transmission now could mean you'll have to shell out the money for a whole new one later on.
For more information on the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, visit www.autoskills.com.
August 22, 2011 5:03 pm
Parents are moving in with their adult children. College grads are coming home to Mom and Dad. Siblings are moving in with one another after a home foreclosure. Across America, the need for home design that supports multi-generational living is on the rise.
In 2008, an estimated 49 million Americans, or 16.1 percent of the total U.S. population, lived in a family household that contained at least two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation, according to the Pew Research Center.
"Factors such as job losses, home foreclosures and a changing attitude toward multi-generational living have all contributed to the rise," says Sarah Reep, director of designer relations and education at KraftMaid Cabinetry. "Now families are finding relatives at both ends of the age spectrum living together under one roof."
To understand how this collision of social, economic and generational influences will impact kitchen design, Masco Cabinetry, home of the KraftMaid, Merillat, QualityCabinets and DeNova brands, commissioned the GenShift 2011 study.
"Living in a multi-generational home can be a great experience, but it can also be very challenging," adds Reep. "It's important to take each generation's ideas and needs into consideration, especially when it comes to home design."
To keep multi-generational households running smoothly, Reep recommends the following tips:
Get creative with lighting. Different tasks and generations require various levels of lighting. A combination of recessed, pendant and under-cabinet lighting provides both aesthetics and functionality. Adding dimmer switches is a way to add even more flexibility.
Add a splash of color. While monochromatic color schemes have been popular in recent years, older generations may prefer contrast between countertops and cabinets in order to maximize visual acuity.
Vary countertop heights. Lowered counters will create a workspace for small children, wheelchair users and those who prefer to sit while preparing meals. Homeowners can also use the varied heights for different tasks, such as lower counters for kneading dough and higher counters for cutting vegetables.
Install the right hardware. Older or smaller hands may have trouble grasping or pulling certain types of kitchen hardware. Consider larger drawer and cabinet handles that are easier to grasp and more ergonomically friendly.
Keep counters clutter-free. The GenShift 2011 study found a common theme when it comes to kitchen cabinetry accessories—more storage in a clean design style. Creative storage solutions like a wall appliance garage and pull-out cabinets create easily accessible storage places for "must-have" items.
For more information on the GenShift 2011 study, visit www.genshiftkitchen.com. For more design tips from Sarah Reep, visit www.kraftmaidbydesign.com.
August 22, 2011 5:03 pm
For busy parents who have spent the summer months juggling work and a house full of kids, back-to-school may seem like their own vacation. But just the opposite may be true. With September around the corner, parents have work to do: school clothes need finding, and backpacks and lunchboxes need filling. Then the not-so-much-fun begins: getting breakfasts ready as early as 6 a.m., lunches packed and ready to go by around 6:30, and dinner on the table when everyone is home from work. It's a tough schedule, but it can be made easier by preparing ingredients—and even whole meals—in advance. Take some tips from some people with really tough schedules.
"The farm families who own Cabot Creamery Cooperative know what a long day is like, and they'll tell you the key to getting through it successfully is by planning ahead. Our family uses this same strategy when it comes to planning meals," says Cabot's Registered Dietitian Regan Jones. "Breakfast would never make it on the table in time for my kids to be on time for school if we weren't prepared in advance."
A good way to start off any early morning meal is by serving something that was prepared the day before. "That way, you don't have to rush out of bed, and if you burn the toast or realize you've already used the last egg in the carton, the kids won't have to go to school hungry," says Regan. "Muffins are always a good option for a quick breakfast, and they are easy to make. You can even bake them on a lazy Sunday, freeze them individually, then warm them in the toaster oven for a few minutes before serving."
When it comes to packing a lunch, simple is best. A traditional sandwich paired with a nutritious snack is the way to go. "Instead of putting prepackaged cookies or cake in your child's lunchbox, satisfy their sweet tooth with something healthy," adds Regan. "Kids love bite-sized foods, so fill a small container with grapes or berries, cubed cheese and nuts. The variety of texture and flavor will keep them interested and away from the empty calorie desserts."
For a delicious dinner after a long day, there are two key things to remember: (1) a single-dish dinner saves time, and (2) prepare your ingredients in advance. "Any chef de cuisine worth their salt keeps their kitchen running flawlessly by being prepared. Why should your kitchen be any different?" notes Regan. "If you're expecting a tough day at work, prepare your ingredients the night before. This includes chopping vegetables, measuring ingredients, and getting your spices and seasonings in order. You can even take the process a step further by choosing a casserole-style single-dish meal. By preparing all the ingredients and placing them in a baking dish, all you have to do when you get home from work is heat the oven and pop in your dish." Toss together a quick side salad, and dinner is served, leaving you plenty of time to brush up on your algebra.
For more family-friendly recipes from Cabot, visit http://www.cabotcheese.coop/recipes.
August 22, 2011 5:03 pm
Equity. Value an owner has in a piece of property less the debt against it. For example, if the market value of a house is $150,000 and the owner has paid off $10,000 of a $75,000 mortgage, the owner has $85,000 equity.
August 22, 2011 5:03 pm
Q: What is a loan-to-value ratio?
A: The loan-to-value ratio, or LTV, is the loan amount expressed as a percent of either the purchase price or the appraised value of the property. It is an important factor considered by lenders before approving a mortgage.
Few lenders will lend the full value of a property unless they have guarantees such as those offered by the Veterans Administration (VA). Otherwise, the risks are just too high because if the borrower defaults in the early years of the loan, the lender is stuck with a bad loan.
This is why lenders prefer a down payment of 20 percent, with an 80 percent LTV.
Buying private mortgage insurance, which insures the lender against default, can reduce the LTV to 90 or 95 percent, making it possible to have a down payment of 10 or 5 percent.
August 19, 2011 5:03 pm
With August winding down, it’s nearly time to focus on Fall. Get rid of any end-of-summer blues by planning a fun Fall project, like redecorating your living space. While you may want to wait for September to de-summer your space, here are a handful of fun fall decorating tips:
1. Take down summer. The first step is to go through your house and remove your summery decorations—beachy blue hues, those light white drapes or bright colored plates and pillows.
2. Incorporate orange. Orange is fun and versatile, with hues ranging from vibrant to deep. Grab an orange pillow or throw for your couch, place a few pretty orange bowls along your dining-room table and fill with fruit, or run an orange rug down your entry hall.
3. Fireplace fun. While the weather is still warm and a fire is the last thing on your mind, that doesn’t mean you need to neglect your fireplace. Place a few fun candles of varying heights inside your fireplace for a cozy effect, and decorate your mantel with fall colors and foliage.
August 19, 2011 5:03 pm
Most people have one: that room in the house that they wish was just a little larger. What many don't realize is that with a little work and some TLC, they could have exactly what they're looking for.
Here, Lowe's offers 10 designer tricks to help you make any room look larger:
1. For the illusion of a larger room, use a color scheme that is light rather than bright or dark. Pastels, neutrals and white are all color possibilities.
2. Use a monochromatic color scheme on the furniture, rugs and walls. Select different shades and textures of your single color.
3. Lighting is a key element in opening up a space. Recessed spot lighting is visually appealing and is perfect for a small space. A torchiere light is great for bouncing light off of the ceiling and back down on the room. Skylights and solar tubes are natural alternatives for adding light to a room.
4. Limit the number of accessories to avoid the cluttered feeling.
5. The floor and the ceiling are the fifth and sixth walls of every room. A light-colored flooring such as light oak or a light-colored carpet will make the room appear brighter and more open. The same applies to the ceiling—use a light color or white to "open up" the space above.
6. Increase the appearance of the size of the room by adding wall mirrors. They not only reflect images, they reflect light and color. Be a little daring! Use mirror tiles to mirror an entire wall. Your room will appear to double in size.
7. Don't place too many pieces of furniture in a small space. A love seat may work better than a full-size sofa depending on the size and shape of the room. Add two medium-sized chairs or two small wood chairs. Place the chairs closer to the wall and then pull them into the area when additional seating is needed.
8. Add paintings or prints to the walls. One large painting works better than a group of small paintings.
9. The visual balance of a room is also important. A large, brightly colored element can overwhelm a room and decrease the appearance of space.
10. A glass table, whether it is a dining, coffee or end table, will keep the appearance of an open and free space.
For more how-to project ideas, visit Lowe's How-To Library at http://www.lowes.com/cd_How+To+Library_615580068_.
August 19, 2011 5:03 pm
Encroachment. A building or other improvement that extends beyond its boundary and intrudes upon the property of another.