Thirty-two percent of American households are renters, according to the National Multi Housing Council. Generally, more people younger than 30 occupy rentals, while the percentage of people who own their home increases with age, NMHC statistics indicate. People decide to buy a home for many reasons, but the recent real estate market downturn caused many Americans to rethink their assumptions about renting and owning.
Even with many real estate experts predicting the market will continue to improve, it pays to carefully evaluate how home ownership does - or doesn’t - figure into your long-term financial goals. If you’ve been renting and wondering if it’s time to apply for a mortgage and buy your own home, consider these points:
1. Renting isn’t always the cheaper option, and comparing your monthly rent payment directly to a mortgage payment won’t give you a clear picture of the financial impact of either option. Online calculators, like Guaranteed Rate’s rent vs. buy online calculator, can give you a better understanding of the comparison. With mortgage rates consistently low and rental markets competitive across the country, real estate experts agree that in most major metropolitan areas it will still be cheaper in the long run to buy than continue to rent.
2. While the days of zero-money-down mortgages are essentially over, it’s a misconception that you need a huge amount of money to buy a house. Yes, you’ll almost certainly need a down payment, but different lenders will require different percentages. Research your mortgage options before you begin house hunting so you’ll know how much you’ll need to save in order to secure a mortgage - and the home of your dreams.
3. Although the mortgage application process is detailed, it doesn’t have to be drawn out and tedious. Many lenders now allow you to initiate the process online, and Guaranteed Rate has recently overhauled its website to allow borrowers to apply for a loan, track the approval process and receive their home loans all online. The eighth-largest retail mortgage company in the U.S. allows customers to choose and customize their loans, submit an application and receive an official approval letter all at www.guaranteedrate.com. Automating the application process compresses the traditional time frame from days - sometimes, even weeks - into minutes. As part of the process, applicants also receive the credit reports from all three major credit bureaus.
4. Buying a home affords you the opportunity to really grow your roots, but the flipside is that in order to get the most out of your investment, you need to stay put for a while. If you anticipate being in your current job and living in your current town for at least five years, the long-term investment of buying a house will make more sense for you. If you anticipate a job change or a move within a few years, you may want to hold off on buying a house. The good news is, doing so gives you more time to save toward a down payment so you’ll look even more appealing to lenders when you are ready to buy.
While only you can decide if homeownership is right for you and your family - and if now is the right time to buy - keep in mind a few statistics from Trulia.com: 42 percent of renters say they regret not having bought a home, and 31 percent say they want to buy a home in the next two years.
Permanent Change of Station (PCS) and Personally Procured Moves (PPM) come with military assistance to help soldiers and their families make the transition. Families can also take advantage of the do-it-yourself (DITY) option offered by the military, which could make the overall transition much smoother.
No matter how quickly the move happens, or what kind of moving assistance your family requests, here are some moving tips from Penske Truck Rental to help keep everything in order.
* Planning - PCS notifications can come without a lot of warning, or families may know about a potential move far in advance. For both instances, getting a plan in place is a good start. Gather important information into one folder, containing phone numbers, contact names, dates, receipts and checklists in this folder so you can easily track everything about your move. For some planning tools that focus specifically on military moves, visit the U.S. Department of Defense website.
* Moving - Many families choose the DITY option because it gives them more control over the move, and they can also potentially make some money in the process. The military provides an allotted cost for moving, and if you can come under that cost through your own planning, the military will pay you the difference. For example, Penske Truck Rental offers active military personnel a 10 percent discount when they reserve a truck online, and an additional 10 percent off when they show an active military ID while picking up the truck. Penske will price-match any competitive offers on one-way truck rentals as well. Visit www.DITYmove.com to learn more.
* Weights - Military rules require soldiers to certify the weight of the rental vehicle when empty and after it’s fully loaded. Weight limit reimbursements are set depending on a soldier’s rank and dependents, but the traditional weights are estimated at 1,000 pounds per room, excluding bathrooms and storage areas. Then add in the estimated weight of large appliances, garage items and items in storage. Compare this number to what is allowed and determine if you can reduce the load in any way to avoid paying overweight costs. To help with weight certifications, Penske offers a Certified Public Scale locator tool online to help DITY movers in finding weigh stations.
* Contact info - File a change of address form at your local post office so mail can be forwarded, and also make certain your new information is updated with your specific branch of the military.
* Explore - Get to know your new neighborhood, both on and off base. If you have children, explore the schools and the after-school activities available. Learn a bit about the city’s history and gather information on the services the city offers so that on moving day, your water and electricity will be available when it’s needed.
When in the military, a move is practically inevitable, but the process can be much less stressful on both emotions and finances with a little organization and planning from the get-go.
Gone are the days when hackers were the weekend enthusiasts you tolerated on the golf course, when viruses were the things that gave you the flu or a cold, and Phish was a popular jam band who served as the inspiration for your favorite flavor of Ben and Jerry’s. With the rise of the Internet and electronic devices has come the rise of cyber-related crime.
Cybercrime, as it is called, is defined as a criminal activity using computers or other electronic devices to victimize people, organizations or businesses.
"Despite improved security and international crackdown efforts, cybercrime has thrived over the last decade, growing by double digits year after year," says Clint Kirkwood, a professor of Criminal Justice at Argosy University, Orange County and 28-year veteran and retired commanding officer of the vice section of the narcotics division of the Detroit Police Department. While estimates of the cost of cyber crime to businesses and the private sector vary, a 2012 publication released by Javelin Strategy and Research, the annual cost of identity theft alone was $37 billion. "Today, some of the most successful criminals do not have to leave the comfort of their own homes to pull off crimes bigger than ever. All they need is an Internet connection, a little tech savvy and a lot of bad will," says Kirkwood.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 300,000 complaints in 2012, which included such crimes as FBI-related scams, identity theft, advance fee fraud and a host of romance, work-from-home, auto auction, loan intimidation and other scams.
"Since the take-off of social networking and the paperless way of conducting business, cyber-based criminal activity has skyrocketed in many corners of the world," says Gary Gonzales, a professor in the Criminal Justice program at Argosy University, San Diego and police detective in his 16th year of service with the San Diego Police Department. "Criminals are masking themselves as potential customers, clients or even professionals to lure innocent people into a web of deception and greed. From copyright infringement and cyber bullying to child pornography and spamming, the impact is enormous."
Knowing the threats you face online and the tools available to help you keep a watchful eye is critical in protecting yourself in the digital world. There are simple precautions that computer, mobile phone and other digital users can take to ensure their safety. Do not open emails/attachments from unknown or suspicious sources, nor answer email messages that ask for your personal information.
"The widows of Nigerian generals desperately seeking your financial assistance and notifications that you’ve won a European lottery are obvious scams but some email fraud can be much more difficult to distinguish," says Arabinda Banerjee, senior vice president of Technology Infrastructure at a leading bank in Tampa, Florida and faculty member at Argosy University, Tampa.
"In general, if it seems too good to be true or requires you to send money in to receive a reward, be sure to avoid it. Emails with vague but feel-good subject lines like ‘Congratulations!’ or the name of a friend and the message ‘has shared a picture/video’ can be malicious emails, even when apparently sent out by one of your friends." Do an Internet search using the term ‘scam’ and some of the key words from the message, advises Banerjee. If it’s a known scam, you’ll likely see it pop up in your search engine results.
Invest in a good anti-virus software and firewall, the experts suggest. While this will not guarantee 100 percent protection, they will definitely reduce your risk greatly. Be sure that any WiFi connection you are using to conduct financial business is locked and protected and any stores you are making purchases from are reputable. In addition, be sure to monitor your financial accounts monthly to determine any fraudulent charges and report suspicious activity immediately.
Change your passwords frequently and create passwords that are difficult to guess. Do not use the same ID/password in all websites. While keeping track of multiple logins and passwords may be an inconvenience, it’s a necessary protection against hackers.
Nearly two-thirds of surveyed homeowners report that a home inspection during the selling or buying of a house saved them money.|
Selling, buying or just putting a house on the market may raise many questions. Can I get a good price? Are there any problems I should fix prior to listing my house? If I buy this house, will I encounter problems that may make me regret my decision?
The sale price of a house depends on many factors, including the market, location, size of the property, age of the house, condition of the structure, what appliances might be included in the sale and even how nicely the property and building were landscaped and decorated - just to name a few.
Having a qualified professional inspect your house prior to putting it on the market - or for prospective buyers, before closing on a sale - can help guide your decision. But many homeowners and prospective buyers are unsure what’s included in a standard home inspection, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). A qualified home inspector will review these aspects of a property:
- Roof, attic and visible insulation
- Foundation, basement and structural components
- Walls, ceilings and floors
- Heating and central air conditioning systems
- Windows and doors
- Water fixtures and faucets
Nearly two out of three homeowners recently surveyed by ASHI reported they saved a lot of money as a result of having a home inspection during the selling/buying of a house. Sellers use inspections to help determine potential problems that can be repaired or replaced prior to listing - potentially getting them a higher sale price. And buyers use the inspections to determine if they want to invest in the property, or help negotiate for a better price that would include the repair and replacement of potential problems.
Not all home inspectors are certified and licensed. ASHI’s “Find an Inspector” tool allows homeowners to locate an inspector in their area. Always check with your local inspector for a complete list of services provided.
"It’s important for homeowners to do their homework before hiring an inspector," says Kurt Salomon, ASHI president. "Look for a home inspector certified through the ASHI Certified Inspector Program, which is the only home inspection association program approved by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies."
The following elements are not included in a standard home inspection:
- Septic system
- Electrical wiring and plumbing that is not readily accessible (for example, behind drywall or plaster)
- Water conditioning or softening system
- Swimming pool
- Backyard fences
- Lawn irrigation system
- Household appliances
- Compliance with local codes
- Appraisal to determine market value
Before hiring a home inspector, inquire about what is covered in the inspection and ask to see a sample report. Although some inspectors provide ancillary services, it may be necessary to consult a specialist for concerns that extend beyond a standard inspection. Often your inspector will help you make this determination.
Hiring a certified home inspector and having questions answered before putting your house up for sale - or before finalizing a purchase price - can not only help save money, but also allow you to go through the process with more peace of mind.
Why is it that a steak from a restaurant just seems to taste better than what you make at home? Often, it’s because the chefs in the restaurant know the secrets of great grilling.
"Steak is a summer staple for many home cooks when the weather permits, but things can go awry if you’re not clued in to the secrets of how to prepare a great steak," says John Li, senior vice president of research and development for Outback Steakhouse. "As veritable steak experts, and with summer grilling season upon us, we want to help people preparing to try their hands at grilling steak.
Li offers some advice for grilling successful steak meals this summer:
* Start with the right steak. Build a relationship with your local butcher - either at your grocery store or, if you’re lucky enough to have one in your neighborhood, the area butcher shop. Learn where they source their meat, if it’s aged and for how long. Many cuts lend themselves to grilling, but sirloin, filet, strip and rib eye remain the most popular. Sirloin and strip steak are usually the best options if you’re feeding a large group, as they provide abundant flavor and are usually less expensive than other cuts.
* Prep the grill properly. Once you’ve got the right meat, ensure your grill is ready to cook it to perfection. Start with a well-cleaned grill and preheat it. If you’re using a charcoal grill, wait until the coals are white. For gas grills, use a thermometer. Many newer models have built-in gauges on the lids that indicate when the grill is hot enough to use.
* Add some seasoning. While the grill is preheating, prep the steak by patting it dry. Removing moisture allows for optimum surface contact with the grill and creates a wonderful seared flavor. Rub with the seasoning of your choice; there are many, but keep in mind simple salt and pepper works well if you’re starting with an already flavorful cut.
* Get grilling. Once the grill and steak are ready, place the meat on the grill. You can achieve a fancy diamond-shaped grill pattern by rotating the meat 45 degrees when you turn it, but the meat will taste just as good without it. Cooking time will vary depending on the cut of meat and the grill itself. Generally, thinner steaks (about 1 inch thick) will need about four minutes per side to be rare, five for medium and seven for well done. Thicker steaks (2 inches or more) will need about six minutes per side for rare, eight to 10 for medium and 12 for well done.
* Let it rest. Overcooking is a sure-fire way to dry out steak. As soon as the steak has reached your desired level of wellness, remove it from the grill and let it rest for about five minutes before you serve or cut it. This allows the juices to set well in the meat before you dig in.
Not sure where to start? Try this recipe from Outback Steakhouse:
4 rib eye steaks, 12 to 14 ounces each
4 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Evenly season each steak with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Coat each steak with a half tablespoon of vegetable oil. This may be done up to three hours prior to grilling, storing in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before grilling.
Start the grill. Place seasoned steaks over the hottest portion of the grill and cook on the first side about four to five minutes, rotating 90 degrees after three minutes to achieve restaurant-style “cross marks.” Turn steaks over and cook for an additional three to four minutes to achieve a medium-rare doneness. Remove from grill and allow to rest for five minutes before topping and serving.
Of course, even in summer there are times when you just won’t feel like cooking your own steak. Whether it’s a special night out, a family celebration or you’re just in the mood to sink your teeth into something you didn’t have to cook and won’t have to clean up afterward, restaurant steaks are still a good option. At Outback Steakhouse, for example, guests can enjoy a variety of cuts and preparations that allow for a custom experience, without any of the hassle.
Here is the basic, honest, truth: most of the people get into Internet Marketing because they are convinced it is an easy way to earn quick money. Their approach is to make a fast website, put up some advertising and a few affiliate links and then sit back and watch while they earn real cash. There are a large amount of individuals who do this and also earn lots of money on the internet. But what if you want more than some extra or even quick cash (quick cash, naturally being a misnomer)? Can Internet Marketing really be leveraged to produce a worthwhile and long term career?
The quick and dirty answer is that yes, you are able to make Internet Marketing your long term and sustainable career. You only need to take on the project properly. The procedures and programs you use to build something to earn fast money are not all that different than the methods and systems you will use to build long term profits. So what would you do if you need to develop a sustainable career on the internet?
It is very important that the first thing you do, in order to earn long term money online, is accept the fact that you are going to have to do real work. You will have to do actual and real work on a daily basis and you will have days when you feel fantastic about what you do and days when you wish you could find something else to take on. This causes it to be just about like every other occupation that is out there. If you want to produce lasting cash flow by working lots right now and not at all later on then you are going to be in for a rude awakening in a little while. So be ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
There are a few ventures that lend themselves much better to a long term career than others will. Affiliate marketing, to use one example, is a great task for someone who wants to earn money on a part time basis or to supplement your already existent income. Is it truly possible to earn a full time income in this manner? You could if you pick out only the right products and then work like crazy to promote them. A far better approach, nevertheless, is to create your own products or websites and then promote those. This gives you full control over the projects you take on and how you accomplish them. And you will end up more likely to stick with it in the long run. If you want to give a service on the web this works much the same way. Writers, for example, need to create websites for themselves and create portfolios that they can point to as examples of their work.
Finally, perhaps the most significant thing that you need to recognize is that, when you want to build a long term and reliable income on the internet, you need to truly dedicate yourself to your task. You might have fun and feel rewarded by your efforts but first you should tell yourself “yes, I really want to do this.” Making a half hearted effort is not about to get you anywhere.
by: Tanaka Ara