Property Search

How Much Are Mortgage Fees? The Costs That Come With Your Loan

When shopping for a home, it seems like there’s something to pay for at every step of the way. To get your mortgage approved—thereby allowing you to actually buy your house—you’ll have to pay mortgage fees. The most common mortgage fees also fall under the umbrella of closing costs, those expenses you pay when you close on your house that help facilitate the sale (i.e., the appraisal fee, the title search, and the processing fee).

Although it’s difficult to put an exact figure on the mortgage fees (they vary from state to state) you can expect to pay, there are some costs that almost every mortgage has in common. We spoke with Amy Bailey Oehler of PrimeLending about what they are and how much money a home buyer should plan on paying for the loan.

Mortgage fees you’re likely to pay

  • Appraisal ($450 to $650): An appraisal by a licensed appraiser will almost always be required by the lender. The price varies depending on the size of the property and the type of loan you’re getting. “A lot of lenders will require payment for the appraisal upfront,” says Oehler. “The appraisal fee goes directly to the appraiser. If the loan doesn’t close, but the appraisal was completed, then the appraisal fee is nonrefundable.”
  • Closing fee ($300 to $600): A representative from the title company will come to your closing to supervise the transfer of title, and you’ll have to pay for the service.
  • Credit report fee ($25 to $50): This is the fee to pull your credit report.
  • Inspection ($450 to $500): The inspection isn’t a requirement for the loan, but it is highly, highly recommended. This is another cost that is paid before you reach the closing table. Generally, you can negotiate either fixes, concessions, or a drop in sales price based on any problems the inspector finds.
  • Lender’s title insurance (usually 0.5% of the purchase price): This protects your lender if something was missed in the title search. The cost depends on the size of the policy and is set by the state.
  • Survey ($350 to $500): Most states require a survey of your property before you can get a loan. If a survey doesn’t already exist that can be used, you’ll have to pay someone to do it.
  • Title search ($300 to $600): Your lender will do a search to ensure there are no liens on the property or anything that could prevent you from purchasing it. Sometimes this will be bundled with other title fees in your closing document.

Mortgage fees you might have to pay

  • Application fee ($100): Some lenders charge a small fee when you submit your application. This is also sometimes bundled with the origination costs.
  • Attorney fee ($150 to $500): In some states, you bring your own attorney to the closing table; in other states, you don’t. If not, the lender might need to consult an attorney to look at closing documents or contracts.
  • Flood certification ($5 to $10): This tells the lender if the home is in a flood zone.
  • Homeowner’s title insurance ($1,000 on average): You aren’t required to take out a title insurance policy for yourself, but it’s highly recommended. If any liens were missed during the title search, you will be on the hook for any costs to clear them unless you have this insurance.
  • Origination or processing fee ($300 to $1,500): This fee covers the cost to prepare your mortgage. Sometimes you won’t be charged this fee at all. Make sure to read your Loan Estimate and Final Closing Disclosure carefully to see if/where you are being charged.
  • Points (1% of your total mortgage): Points are lender fees paid to reduce your interest rate. These are different from “origination points,” which are just another way of presenting mortgage origination fees.
  • Underwriting fee ($400 to $600): This fee is paid to your lender to cover the cost of researching whether or not to approve you for the loan. Some lenders bundle together the underwriting with origination fees or processing fees.
  • Wire or courier fees ($30 to $100): If documents need to be sent overnight or money needs to be wired, you’ll pay these fees at closing.

How to reduce mortgage fees

As with any deal, the best way to cut mortgage costs is to shop around for the best deal. Some lenders charge more for their services, and if the overall rate isn’t any better, look for someone with lower fees.

Also, make sure you understand every fee you’re being charged. There might be some optional fees you can choose to waive—just don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Saving $500 on an inspection could cost you big in repairs later. If you have an FHA loan, you can sometimes use your loan to pay for closing costs, but be aware that it could increase your interest rate.

Another potential way to save is through bank loyalty programs. Sometimes if you get a loan from the bank you have other accounts with you can reduce your origination costs.

If you are a veteran, you can qualify for a Veterans Affairs loan, which requires no down payment and has lower closing costs overall.

To save cash, you can always try to negotiate with the seller to pay some of your closing costs. Depending on how motivated the sellers are to close on their property, they might be willing to pay title fees, points, and even transfer taxes.


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When you’re selling your home and your house is on the market, it’s almost inevitable that strangers will enter your house. Even if you don’t host an open house or showing, there may be strangers coming in and out to appraise your home, do renovations, clean the house or perform other necessary jobs related to the sale of your house.

Although the vast majority of these folks will be well-intentioned potential buyers, you have no way of knowing for sure who is and is not targeting homes for sale for all the wrong reasons. The good news is, you can take precautions in order to keep your home and family safe. Here are a few things you can do to protect your home and family:

De-personalize your home

Remove all family photos, diplomas, kid’s drawings and other display items that may inadvertently give away personally identifiable information. For example, while a school photo may seem innocuous, it could give away information like what school your child goes to, what sports they play, or what grade they’re in – all of which can be used by a stranger to potentially track down and approach your child.

Check all of the walls, shelves and display areas of your home to be sure you’ve cleared the house of all such items to help keep your family life private.

According to home staging expert Darlene Parris, depersonalizing your home also allows buyers to “picture themselves making their new home out of your home for sale,” so you’ll be helping to make your home more presentable to potential buyers too.

Speaking of photos, taking pictures of each room before and after showings is also recommended. This should help you quickly identify any out of place or missing items, especially for children’s rooms, since kids may be less likely to notice if things have gone missing. If necessary, they can also be used as evidence for a police report or insurance claim.

Protect your confidential information

Things like prescription medications, checks, or bills and letters that contain confidential information should be locked away or removed from your home completely. Don’t forget to check your trash as well, especially if you don’t shred your bills or take special precautions when it comes to sensitive data.

And be vigilant; monitor all of your accounts for fraudulent activity and consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report. In the United States, this can be done by contacting one of the three major credit bureaus and is free of charge.

“An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. When you have an alert on your report, a business must verify your identity before it issues credit,” according to the Federal Trade Commission.

In Canada, report fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center by calling them toll-free at 1-888-495-8501 or by using their online reporting system.

Secure your devices and other valuables

Computer security expert Avi Rubin warns that “anything that has software in it is going to be vulnerable” and can be compromised, so tablets, phones, memory drives with personal data or any electronic devices that are connected to your email and social accounts should be removed from the house completely.

Your smart TV or refrigerator could also make you vulnerable to more tech-savvy criminals.

“Attacks such as those launched by smart TVs and fridges do not at this point threaten people’s lives. However, they do compromise people’s privacy insofar as they reveal information about victims that they might not otherwise want disclosed,” says security journalist David Bisson.

Upgrade the password and login information for all of your devices, and consider installing locator apps on all of them as well.

Other valuables like family heirlooms, jewelry and fur coats should also be locked away in a safe, safety deposit box or other secure location.

Talk to your agent

Ask your real estate agent to walk you through what they do during an open house and go over the details of the safety procedures that they follow. Check to see if they keep a visitor’s log, whether they use a lockbox to store your house key and how often they change the code, etc. Suggest enhancements if you’re unhappy with any of their policies.

“As an industry, we collectively work very hard to promote safety awareness among our members,” says Chris Polychron, president of the National Association of Realtors.

Real estate agents are particularly knowledgeable when it comes to safety and will have your best interests at heart as well, so an honest conversation voicing any concerns will be beneficial to both parties.

In case of emergency

If there is an incident at your home, or you suspect theft or vandalism, call the police immediately. The police should also be able to work together with your real estate agent, using visitor logs and other information gathered during showings.

You can also go online to create an emergency or safety profile to help expedite the information gathering process when you dial 9-1-1. Tools like Smart911 allow you to create profiles with information about your home and family that may be valuable to first responders.

“Even the simplest of details can help our officers during an emergency,” says Sgt. Brent Kock of West Des Moines Police. “From knowing the access points to the home, whether there is a pet we need to be aware of when approaching or entering the home, or just knowing the name of the person in distress can enhance the safety of our citizens and our officers.”

Check with your city or local police department to verify which tools or apps are available in your area. For example, in Toronto the police have an app that allows users to file damage to property reports, amongst other things. Edmonton and Ferguson also have similar apps.

Taking practical steps to eliminate any opportunities for wrongdoing is the best place to start. Work with your real estate agent to establish an action plan, and maintain an open channel of communication so you can alter the plan as needed.


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How to remove pet allergens from your new home

You’ve found the home of your dreams, the paperwork is signed and the keys are in hand. What do you do if your new home was once shared with a four-legged friend that you or one of your family members are allergic to? Read on for tips and ideas to help everyone in your household breathe a little easier.

Use a HEPA vacuum cleaner

While bacteria, dust mites and pet dander are most often found in furniture and beds that get moved out of the home before new owners arrive, carpeting is often a haven for allergens that even thorough cleaning can leave behind. Using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter can bring relief by removing irritants from carpeting.

Install washable window treatments

Window shades and washable drapes are also a better choice for allergy sufferers, compared to long drapes and blinds that can collect dust and are more difficult to clean, according to WebMD.

Invest in new flooring

Bare floors are the best bet if you want to reduce pet allergens in your home. “Animal allergens are sticky. So you must remove the animal’s favorite furniture, remove wall-to-wall carpet and scrub the walls and woodwork,” reports the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Consider replacing old carpeting with hardwood floors or tile.

Get your air ducts professionally cleaned

Although there is no scientific evidence to support claims that air duct cleanings improve air quality, the system components of forced air systems can become contaminated with dust, pollen and other allergens. “It is surprising how much garbage you can find in your ducts,” says allergist and immunologist Julie McNairn, MD.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency you should consider a duct cleaning if your ducts are clogged with debris and contaminants, which are then released into your home. However, the EPA also notes that service providers could further contaminate your system if they don’t clean all of the components properly, so enlisting the help of qualified professionals is key. The EPA also suggests asking your service provider about any chemical treatments that they plan to use before they do so because these practices are not backed by data.

Food for thought

Moving into a new environment can trigger allergic reactions that you’ve never experienced before. For example, horse allergies affect nearly 4% of all people with allergies. Horse dander is often found hundreds of yards away from the source, which means you don’t necessarily have to own horse property yourself to be affected. Be sure to thoroughly research and explore potential neighborhoods and to ask about area allergens before closing the deal on your new house.

If you or a family member begin experiencing symptoms in a new city or environment, check in with your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. “It is important to work with your doctor to learn what triggers your allergies and determine the best treatments for you to enjoy your life unencumbered by allergies,” says Dr. Cary Sennett, AAFA’s president and CEO.


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To decorate or not to decorate: Selling your home during the holidays

The housing market doesn’t come to a standstill during the holidays, and several real estate experts have found that buyers shopping for homes during this time are more motivated and deadline-driven.

“Homebuyers who shop during the off season, and in particular around the holidays, are typically very serious about getting into a house,” says Sharon Voss, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association.

Buyers may be looking to relocate for new jobs before the start of the new year, or they may want to close a deal before the end of the tax year. Whatever the case may be, should you put the holidays on hold for you and your family, or go ahead and decorate your home?

Why you should decorate

According to Blake Miller, “You don’t have to pretend the holidays don’t exist if your home is on the market this time of year.”

Decorating your house will allow you and your family to celebrate the season while also offering any potential buyers a festive experience, and helping them to envision how the home will look dressed up for any occasion. “Houses show better when decorated for the holidays,” adds real estate coach Mike Ferry.

And in neighborhoods where most of the homes are dressed up, your home will give the added impression of unity and neighborliness.

However, if you do plan to decorate your home, home-staging experts suggest doing so conservatively and with the following tips in mind:

  • Keep it secular to avoid putting off potential homebuyers of different religions
  • Stick to neutral colors and decorations that complement your current décor
  • Keep it simple – decorations could give your home a cluttered appearance, and pose as safety or tripping hazards
  • Avoid decorations that block or hide important features of your home
  • For security reasons, don’t leave any gifts under your Christmas tree during showings

Find out how to decorate your home on a budget

Why you shouldn’t decorate

Holiday decorations could negatively affect your home’s appeal, whether it’s because they make your house seem small and cramped, or because they’re too much of a distraction for buyers who are trying to envision themselves in the home, some experts caution sellers to consider the implications of decorating before they do so.

“While it is impossible to define what would be inoffensive to every person in every market around the country, sellers should be mindful of who their potential buyers are and how their home and its decorations show,” says real estate expert and author Brendone Desimone.

Other reasons cited for skipping seasonal decorations include:

  • Religious décor could alienate potential buyers
  • Protecting your privacy, since personalized decorations and Christmas cards could reveal private details about your life
  • The appearance of untidiness caused by real Christmas trees shedding nettles, in addition to blocking off the part of the house where they are placed

If you do decide to put up some decorations, be sure to have professional photos of your home taken prior to doing so. This way buyers will also have a good idea of what your home looks like under normal circumstances.



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How to choose a real estate pro online: 5 Secrets to finding the perfect agent

What should you be looking for when you start your real estate search and are trying to decide on an agent to represent you as a buyer or seller? And how can you tell which real estate agent will do the best job? Here are the five things to look for when deciding:

1. Testimonials

What better way to learn more about a real estate agent than from people who have worked with the agent themselves? Real estate agents often rely on referrals, which means the best ones get the highest praise from other people. Check out the testimonial section of agent websites to read what previous clients have to say about the agent you’re researching. You can find reviews on Facebook, Google+, Trulia, Yelp and Zillow.

2. Personal blog

An agent’s blog should provide important information that contributes to your knowledge of the real estate market and your target neighborhoods. Their posts should be a good indicator of how well they know the community and whether they’re involved in local happenings. If their blog is updated frequently with relevant content, you know the agent is on top of trends and should be better able to assist you

3. Inventory

Inventory, or the number of homes that an agent represents, is a good indicator of how busy an agent is. While a buyer’s agent may not have as many listings as a seller’s or listing agent, this should give you a good idea of how invested they are when it comes to their clients. In addition to current listings, taking a look at sold listings and the history of sold properties (i.e. number days on market, price reductions etc.) should give you a better idea of what and how much they can do for you, if you choose to hire them.

4. Map-based searches

Most agent websites have maps integrated into their listing page, so you can search for homes based on a geographic location. As you browse real estate inventory online, you’ll notice that some agents have invested in more complex mapping technology that allows you to do everything from exploring a neighborhood to creating customized and automated searches. The agents who offer smart tools are the ones to watch.

5. Chat service

Having customer service representatives who are ready to help with questions, requests for information or even to help you schedule appointments is an added bonus. Being able to use a chat service also makes it a lot easier when you’re pressed for time and need an immediate response.

This guest post was written by Alyssa Williamson, a Team Leader at ReadyChat. Headquartered in Toronto and Founded in 2013, ReadyChat serves hundreds of real estate agents and brokerages with their intuitive live chat software comprised of best in class technology and 24/7 live chat-support agents.


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Dreaming of Living in a Tiny Home? Here’s the Truth From People Who’ve Done It

You’ve stalked them online and binge-watched them on TV. You’ve pinned more than a few diminutive but adorable interiors. And maybe you’ve even daydreamed about building your own tiny home. But actually living in one full time? Well, that’s seems like a whole different ballgame. (A miniature ballgame, perhaps, maybe four innings?)

After all, tiny houses are, well, tiny. Where are you going to fit all your stuff? Can everyone hear you go to the bathroom? How will you keep from killing your spouse, or—god forbid—your kids and pets? Are you going to end up miserable, trapped in a tiny box in the middle of nowhere?

Well, with the tiny-home craze in full swing, we’ve been wondering about these things, too. We hunted down some tiny-home veterans to see what it’s really like when people stop being polite and start getting real—inside their teeny-weeny little houses. Here’s what we learned:

Tiny truth No. 1: They’re really tiny

Tiny house exterior
A customized tiny house

Kim Ksal / Bless This Tiny House

We’d be remiss if we didn’t begin by reinforcing this obvious nugget of truth: Tiny homes are really small.

Just ask Kim Kasl, founder of Bless This Tiny House and co-author of the book “Turning Tiny.” She lives with her family of four in a 267-square-foot home, which is smaller than most studio apartments.

Living with less has actually given her family more freedom, Kasl says.

“We call it ‘family-style minimalism,’” she says. “Removing excess space between us, clutter, and unnecessary projects, and stress leaves room for an abundance of everything good.”

But to make this all work, the Kasl family had to downsize a lot.

Annelise Brevard found herself sharing a 5-foot closet with her husband and storing all of their food in a minifridge when they moved into their 8-by-21-foot home. But the adjustment wasn’t hard for Brevard, who co-founded Brevard Tiny House, a custom home design and building company. A few modifications helped her family fit everything they needed.

“We did end up building a wall cabinet in our kitchen for Tupperware and a few other kitchen things that we forgot in our original design,” Brevard says.

Tiny house loft
The catwalk

Kim Ksal / Bless This Tiny House

On the plus side, making additions as needed isn’t as difficult as you might think. Many tiny-home owners are able to completely customize the design of the home to make the small space work for their lifestyle from the get-go. Kasl’s home, for example, has an open floor plan, two sleeping lofts, and an adorable catwalk she’s converted into a small library for her children.

Tiny truth No. 2: Finding a spot to build can be tricky

Tiny homes are a relatively new design concept without clear-cut rules, so it isn’t immediately obvious where you can actually put them.

“Tiny homes are not really traditional houses (they are not always built to code), they aren’t  RVs, and they aren’t mobile homes, either,” Brevard says. “So finding ‘parking’ for a tiny house can be a difficult process.”

Many owners choose to buy land. Some stay mobile, moving among RV-friendly sites. Brevard found a workaround by planting herself in another family’s backyard.

Any way you swing it, it’s something you’ll have to think about far in advance.

Tiny truth No. 3: You’ll have to adjust to more than just a lack of space

Tiny house interior
Tiny-house interior

Kim Ksal / Bless This Tiny House

As with many of life’s transitions, kids adjust pretty quickly to tiny-home living. Quite possibly much faster and easier than you will.

Kasl, for one, had little trouble getting her children on board. “They were young when we moved in—we celebrated every step—and now it’s very much natural and normal for them,” she says. “Their adjustment was easy.”

But for the adults, it was a different story.

“There was an awful lot to learn,” Kasl admits. “The composting toilet, the wood-burning Kimberly Stovetowing, leveling, and skirting—all of them were new experiences,” Kasl says. “The challenges have been exciting, though.”

In retrospect, some of the stress of acclimation was self-imposed. After all, they could’ve just gotten a standard toilet instead of a composting one. But had they gone that route they’d run smack into the main challenge of tiny-home living: Finding the space.

“While we had a traditional flush toilet, the entirety of our bathroom was 3 feet by 5 feet. This included the toilet and a 2-by-3 shower. We installed a tub faucet in the shower to act as our sink, and only had a curtain as a door,” Brevard says. “We needed more space.”

Tiny truth No. 4: Even in a tiny house, you’ll have big home maintenance tasks

Once you get used to climbing skinny ladders and cooking in a smaller kitchen, life in a tiny house isn’t that different from life in any other house—especially when it comes to home maintenance. Note: A smaller space won’t get rid of the dreaded weekend DIY project(s).

“We had only rented before living in the tiny house, and the routine maintenance that homes require—like winterizing, keeping an eye on the propane levels, or dealing with a faulty appliance—was something new to us,” Brevard says.

Tiny truth No. 5: You just might love it

Tiny house view
Sometimes you get a view, too!

Kim Ksal / Bless This Tiny House

While downsized living is a bit unconventional and comes with some challenges, tiny home owners seem to love it.

Brevard, who temporarily moved into an 800-square-foot home after her husband was relocated for work, is eager to go back to her smaller space.

“After tiny living, even this size can get a little lonely, since there are different rooms, rather than everything all in one,” she says.

Kasl agrees, noting that her family dynamic has changed.

“We are achieving our goals,” she says. “We get to be a one-income family that says yes to every opportunity and is flexible.”

Tiny living also pushed them to spend more time outdoors. “The door is always open, and the kids go in and out all day,” Kasl says. “We’ve seen the kids become more adventurous, creative, inventive, and they take initiative pursuing their interests.”

For whatever reason tiny-house living might be beckoning to you, remember that it’s not just a place to live—it’s a lifestyle.

“Tiny houses have a quaint, whimsical, Pinterest appeal,” Brevard say. “But life in a tiny house is busy and real. It’s an adventure.”


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Working with Real Estate Agents

wwa-fwThe North Carolina Real Estate Commission requires that everyone who will be working with a real estate agent be provided with a Working With Real Estate Agents Brochure.  This pamphlet explains the types of working relationships that may be available to you.

Seller’s Agent–The agent represents the seller
Buyer’s Agent–The agent represents the buyer
Dual Agent–The agent works for both the buyer & seller

It is important for each individual to know if an agent is working for them as their agent, or working with them, while acting as an agent of the other party.

The brochure also explains how agents are paid, and touches on some of the many services a real estate agent can provide. Click here to download the brochure.

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Will That Home Work as You Age?

Many older adults say they want to stay put in their homes as they age. But how many older adults will actually be able to do so is another question.

Indeed, “a recent AARP study … showed that 71 percent of 50 to 64 year olds want to stay in their homes and their current communities,” says Rodney Harrell, director of Livability Thought Leadership at AARP. “But communities as we build them often don’t have the options that people need to age well. The idea of a livable community is one that has housing, transportation, and other options that allow people to stay and thrive in their homes.”

For example, older adults have found the following community amenities are most important to them to live near (a.k.a. 1 mile or less):

  • Bus stop: 50%
  • Grocery store: 47%
  • Pharmacy/drug store: 42%
  • Park: 42%
  • Hospital: 29%
  • Church/religious: 29%
  • Train/subway: 23%
  • Big box store: 18%
  • Entertainment: 16%
  • Shopping mall: 13%

AARP has launched a Livability Index to help older adults search for the right home. It factors in seven categories of livability in judging neighborhoods, including on housing, transportation, environment, health, engagement, and more.

If people do desire to age in place, they must carefully assess a home when they buy in the first place whether it will meet their needs as they grow older and under several scenarios too.

“If you are on that cul de sac and your spouse has passed, your kids live elsewhere and your income is much lower and you are no longer driving, then suddenly that dream house, which wasn’t planned for long term, is isolating,” says Harrell. “You may no longer be able to access the second floor and the functionality and usefulness of the house is suddenly gone.”

In fact, Harrell continues: “When we look at places through our livability index, some of the most prized communities are very low on livability index for three reasons. First, these neighborhoods score low because they are so homogenous. Their lack of variety of housing options limits the type of home owners who can live and continue to live there. Next, they are expensive – if your income changes for any reason, you can’t live there. And the third reason is that there are no alternative transportation options.”

Source: “What’s Your Neighborhood Score for Aging in Place?” BUILDER (Aug. 19, 2016)

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14 Foolproof Ways to Lower Your Living Expenses

We’ve all been there. Can’t resist the new model year of your current car. Hey, it’s only an extra $90 per month (plus an insurance bump of $37 a month, but who’s counting?). Seduced by the cushy sectional that would pull the whole living room together and will only cost $60 per month. That great deal for upgraded Internet and all the move channels. What’s another $23 a month?

Problem is, before you know it you’re sinking in bills and your monthly payments have become a burden. Here are 14 ways to lower your monthly nut and get back to stress-free living.

1. Renegotiate everything

That means cable/satellite, phone and cell phone contracts, Internet service, bank fees, even your gym membership. You never know what’s possible until you ask.

2. Lower your credit card rate

If you have decent credit, you might be able get your credit card company to lower your rate and/or maybe get rid of some of the fees. Transferring a balance to a card with a lower rate is another good trick for lowering payments and doesn’t even require you to ask a representative for anything.

“If you don’t have an account with a lower rate, shop for one,” said “Also, see if an offer for a balance transfer might provide a lower rate. Before jumping at a balance transfer offer, though, run the numbers on a balance transfer calculator to make sure the deal makes sense after you consider the fees and the duration of the teaser rate.”

3. Cut the cord

You could opt to get rid of your cable or satellite altogether and use streaming services instead. It’s a growing option that can save you a good amount of money while still providing a wide variety of viewing options. For example: “Netflix and Hulu Plus both cost $7.99 per month each, while Amazon Instant Video will cost you $99 per year, which is $8.25 per month,” said GottaBe Mobile. “This means the total cost for these three services all together would be $24.23 per month, which is a lot less than you’ll ever pay for a cable subscription.”

How does that compare with your current bill? It’s about one-sixth of what we’re currently paying. Calling DISH in 3…2…1…

4. Refinance your house

If you have enough equity in your house and rates have dropped since you bought (or refinanced the last time), you might be able to refi and lower your monthly payment. Remember that refinancing will add to what you owe, so if you were trying to pay your home off quickly, this would be counterintuitive.

5. Refinance your car

Refinancing your car could save you “hundreds of dollars each year and sometimes thousands over the life of the loan,” said Bankrate. But only if you do it under the right circumstances. Check out their “5 situations when it makes the most sense to refinance your car” to see if you meet the criteria.

6. Do a leak check

A leaky home is one you’re paying too much for in heating and cooling bills. Do an energy audit to check for drafts coming in through window or under doors, among other places, and you could save more than $1,000, said RH Foster Energy.

7. Eat in

Or, at least bring your lunch to work a few days a week. According to Jeff Yeager, author of “The Cheapskate Next Door, a family that commits to eating at home can save $3,000 in one year and eat just as well,” said ABC News.

8. Carpool

The Daily Green calculated that the average American uses about 7 gallons of gas per week commuting to and from work,” said abc News. “Share your ride and the gas bill with just one friend, you each save $650 a year. If four of you carpool, you each save nearly $1,000.”

9. Shop smart

One of the greatest sources of waste in our household? Food that has to be throw away at the end of the week because it’s gone bad. And we’re not alone. USA Today says Americans trash $640 worth of food every year.

Meal plan, buy only what you need for a few days and hit the market again mid week, use coupons, freeze leftovers – all of these tips will help.

10. Check your balance

Hidden costs may be lurking – memberships you didn’t realize you still had, anything you put on autopay that you’re no longer using, old dating sites, gaming and iTunes charges you’re unaware your kids are making. Look over your bank and credit card balances carefully to eliminate the riffraff.

11. Buy store brands

Some might be close to or equal to the name brand stuff you’re buying. “Store brands often cost 25 to 30 percent less than name brand equivalents, which is an added benefit for customers,” said CheatSheet. They can help you figure out which store brands are worth it, and when you should stick to the name brand.

12. Pay insurance and other bulk payments in full

Yes, coming up with large chunks of cash to pay for car insurance, home insurance, and home warranties can be rough. But some of these may end up costing you more if you have to pay a “convenience fee” for splitting up the payments.

13. Clear out the clutter

You know what they say: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Do a sweep of your home, setting aside anything you don’t need or want anymore. Whether you list it on eBay or Craigslist, have a yard sale, take any acceptable items to a resale store, or all of the above, you may be surprised at how much money you can make for stuff you didn’t even like anymore.

14. Donate!

You won’t get paid for donating your old clothes, household items, and the like, but you will get a tax write-off at tax time. Be sure to get or complete an itemized receipt.

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8 Reasons Why You Should Work With a REALTOR

Not all real estate practitioners are REALTORS – However each and every one of our Executives ARE licensed Realtors!  The term REALTOR® is a registered trademark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics. Here are five reasons why it pays to work with a REALTOR®.

1. Navigate a complicated process. Buying or selling a home usually requires disclosure forms, inspection reports, mortgage documents, insurance policies, deeds, and multipage settlement statements. A knowledgeable expert will help you prepare the best deal, and avoid delays or costly mistakes.

2. Information and opinions. REALTORS® can provide local community information on utilities, zoning, schools, and more. They’ll also be able to provide objective information about each property. A professional will be able to help you answer these two important questions: Will the property provide the environment I want for a home or investment? Second, will the property have resale value when I am ready to sell?

3. Help finding the best property out there. Sometimes the property you are seeking is available but not actively advertised in the market, and it will take some investigation by your REALTOR® to find all available properties.

4. Negotiating skills. There are many negotiating factors, including but not limited to price, financing, terms, date of possession, and inclusion or exclusion of repairs, furnishings, or equipment. In addition, the purchase agreement should provide a period of time for you to complete appropriate inspections and investigations of the property before you are bound to complete the purchase. Your agent can advise you as to which investigations and inspections are recommended or required.

5.  Property marketing power. Real estate doesn’t sell due to advertising alone. In fact, a large share of real estate sales comes as the result of a practitioner’s contacts through previous clients, referrals, friends, and family. When a property is marketed with the help of a REALTOR®, you do not have to allow strangers into your home. Your REALTOR® will generally prescreen and accompany qualified prospects through your property.

6. Someone who speaks the language. If you don’t know a CMA from a PUD, you can understand why it’s important to work with a professional who is immersed in the industry and knows the real estate language.

7. Experience. Most people buy and sell only a few homes in a lifetime, usually with quite a few years in between each purchase. Even if you have done it before, laws and regulations change. REALTORS®, on the other hand, handle hundreds of real estate transactions over the course of their career. Having an expert on your side is critical.

8. Objective voice. A home often symbolizes family, rest, and security — it’s not just four walls and a roof. Because of this, homebuying and selling can be an emotional undertaking. And for most people, a home is the biggest purchase they’ll every make. Having a concerned, but objective, third party helps you stay focused on both the emotional and financial issues most important to you.


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