5 Important Questions When Choosing Your First Home
Moving into your own place can be exciting and frightening at the same time. The American Bankers Association suggests considering the following questions when choosing your own home.
1. How much money do you have saved up?
Start with an evaluation of your financial health. Figure out how much money you have for a down payment or deposit on a rental. Down payments are typically 5 to 20 percent of the price of the home. Security deposits on rentals are usually about one month of rent and more if you have a pet. But be sure to keep enough in savings for an emergency fund. It’s a good idea to have three to six months of living expenses to cover unexpected costs.
2. How much debt do you have?
Consider all of your current and expected financial obligations like your car payment and insurance, credit card debt and student loans. Make sure you will be able to make all the payments in addition to the cost of your new home. Aim to keep total rent or mortgage payments plus utilities to fewer than 25 to 30 percent of your gross monthly income. Regulatory changes due to take effect next year will limit debt to income on most loans to 43 percent.
3. What is your credit score?
A high credit score indicates strong creditworthiness. Both renters and homebuyers can expect to have their credit history examined. A low credit score can keep you from qualifying for the rental you want or a low interest rate on your mortgage loan. If your credit score is low, you may want to delay moving into a new home and take steps to raise your score. For tips on improving your credit score, visit aba.com/housingmonth.
4. Have you factored in all the costs? Create a hypothetical budget for your new home.
Find the average cost of utilities in your area, factor in gas, electricity, water and cable. Find out
if you will have to pay for parking or trash pickup. Consider the cost of yard maintenance and
other basic maintenance costs like replacing the air filter every three months. If you are planning
to buy a home factor in real estate taxes, mortgage insurance and possibly a home owner
association fee. Renters should consider the cost of rental insurance.
5. How long will you stay?
Generally, the longer you plan to live someplace, the more it makes sense to buy. Over time, you can build equity in your home. On the other hand, renters have greater flexibility to move and fewer maintenance costs. Carefully consider your current life and work situation and think about how long you want to stay in your new home.
10 Tips to Green Your Home and $ave Money
Whether you’re a renter or a homeowner, chances are you care about protecting the environment – and saving money. Here are some tips from the American Bankers Association to help you do both.
Location, location, location efficiency.
- Carefully consider the location of your home. If you’re close to work, shopping and entertainment, you may not need a car. Without a car you would save money on gas, car insurance and maintenance, not to mention reduce pollution. If you’re thinking about moving further out, try to find something near public transportation and shopping.
Light up the house, not the electric bill.
- Replacing incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs will save you about $6 a year in electricity costs per bulb and more than $40 over its lifetime. According to ENERGY STAR, if every American home replaced just one light bulb, we would save enough energy to prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Remember to recycle used CFL bulbs.
Some like it hot, hot, hot…or cold, cold, cold.
- Closely monitor your thermostat. Adjusting it just a few degrees while you’re out can save energy and money. You can make it easier by installing a programmable thermostat. Use fans and close the blinds during the warm months and let the sun in for natural warmth in the winter. Also, change your filter every three months.
How low can you go?
- One way to save water is by using low-flow toilets. The most cost-effective way to do this is to simply take a 1 liter plastic bottle, fill it with water and place it inside the tank. This will reduce your water use per flush. Another way to save water is placing an aerator on all of your faucets.
Make it mean-green-clean.
- Cleaning supplies can be expensive and are made with toxic chemicals. You can save money and the environment by making your own cleaning supplies. All you need are some basic household ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda and borax to clean everything from windows to tile. Look online for recipes and suggestions.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
- Sticking to this mantra can help you save money around the house. Use a rag instead of paper towels. Buy products in bulk, concentrate or refillable containers to reduce packaging waste. Look for products made from recycled content. And don’t forget to recycle!
Win-dos for your windows.
- There are a number of ways you can make your windows more energy efficient without replacing them. For better insulation from the weather you can caulk exterior joints, put shrink wrap on them or hang blackout curtains.
Fan the green flames.
- To keep your refrigerator running efficiently, keep the fan clean. The motor won’t have to work as hard if the fan is clear of debris.
- Houseplants are like living air-filters. English Ivy, rubber trees, peace lilies and red-edged dracaena can help clean the air and look pretty too.
Vampire energy is sucking you dry.
- On or off, anything plugged into the wall sucks energy. Vampire power costs U.S. consumers more than $3 billion a year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Unplug your electronics and appliances when they're not in use.