3 Ways Pest Infestations Can Affect the Price of a Home

House pest infestation is a huge deal in terms of taking care of the family’s overall health and wellness. This is because having any type of pests that thrive in home can cause a number of diseases, especially to children who aren’t yet aware and protected from of the dangers these animals can cause them.

For instance, German cockroaches in the home are both repugnant and unhealthy.  Research has shown that children growing up in homes with German cockroaches are more likely to suffer from allergies and asthma.  In fact, their droppings and shed skin can carry certain pathogens and can cause certain allergies.

The threat to any family’s health is just the tip of the iceberg.

Aside from the harmful effects of having these pests live in and out the house, they also affect the house itself – the aesthetic value and livability of any human living space is diminished by the presence of these unwelcome guests. Thus, selling an infested house is extremely difficult.

Pests at home greatly influence the price of the property for sale. Find out what are the negative effects of these unhealthy and unwanted critters to the price of any house on the market.

Structural Damages are Inevitable

Pests at home can be a primary source of structural damages at home. The perfect example is the carpenter ants. This type of ants is one of the most destructive ant species known to man. Carpenter ants generally target already-weakened wood where they can do more damage. While they don’t eat wood, they can chew through almost any natural material (i.e. just like the wooden structures of your home) and create a series of tunnels. They use these tunnels to form a nest, which they can run from towards any part of the house, like the pantry, dining area and the kitchen.

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Rodents are also suspects for destruction of one’s home. These animals have been known to gnaw on the house’s electrical wiring and pipelines. When they reach a water line and have chewed a hole in it, water could leak out, damaging property and potentially leading to a flood. Moreover, depending upon the pipes they have damaged, one’s home could experience a gas leak, or the sewage system may break.

As rodents can chew on any material, no area of a home is safe. Along with wires and pipes, mice and rats may also go after furniture, sheetrock, wood, and foundation – high-priced items that could be permanently compromised.

Termites have proven to be yet a different type of pest. According to the National Pest Management Association, termites cause over $5 billion in property damage annually throughout the U.S. Extensive termite damage can make floors or walls sag due to loss of structural integrity.

Overall, this is a hard catch for any potential seller and buyer. A seller would have to repair the damages these pests did. This could eventually lead to having the price increased in order to even out the house repair investment. A potential buyer would obviously say no to a house that’s crawling with critters inside. This is why professional pest control services like those provided at smoothquotes.com can help a lot. They can ensure skilled contractors at reasonable prices.

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Its Aesthetically Challenging

Obviously, structural damages at one’s home can be a reason for a home to become less appealing to anyone who’s looking to buy a house. Adding salt to the wound, having dead bugs line window ledges, the attic, and the basement can surely fend away any potential buyer as it is classic evidence for an infested home.

Generally, small holes in the walls, on the floors, and all around the house are signs that a house is infested. Burrows in garbage areas and weedy spots near the property are also a bad sign. Rats love to gnaw on things, and finding little gnaw marks can be a sign of an infestation. It is important to remember that buyers would want to do a full inspection of the place, and each detail will definitely be noted.

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In addition, rats and mice tend to travel the same paths every day, and can leave trail marks along the way. Rats run along the walls, and can leave dark grease marks. Fecal droppings, urine trails, and footprints through dust paths may also be seen. Evidently, this picture is simply not too pleasing to the eyes.

As much as pets can be a problem aesthetically, pests also give off certain odors that are unpleasant. There are certain recognizable smells that pests give off. Experts claim that bed bugs have a distinct, musty odor, while mice tend to give off a stale, urine smell that’s similar to ammonia. As for roaches, they have been said to have an “oily” odor.

The bottom line is that the first thing a potential buyer looks at is how a home appeals to them. This first impression is very important in any probable deal. It is safe to say that when a house is not good in terms of aesthetics, and does not appeal to a potential buyer visually, it is be harder to sell. Thus, when it’s harder to sell, there is a tendency for sellers to lower the property’s price, making it harder to get back the money invested in the first place.

Home Insurance Does Not Cover Damages

The staggering thing about infestations is that they are not covered under homeowner’s insurance, and the responsibility for cleanup falls under normal house maintenance. In fact, most insurance policies exclude a number of pests that are common at home, listing the following animals and insects in the exclusion — “bats, rats, mice and other rodents, bees, termites and moths, vermin, birds, fish, reptiles, insects and spiders.” What these insurance companies are inferring is that pest control is an owner’s problem and responsibility.

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Why don’t the homeowners’ insurance companies cover infestations and in some unfortunate cases, deny claims for property damage done by pests? One issue is that it’s hard to determine how much damage an infestation can cause, and a great deal of it has to be related to the property owner’s lifestyle.

For the average homeowner who catches an infestation before it’s multiplied, such exclusions have never been a problem. However, many people don’t learn about the exclusion until it’s too late and when there’s a lot of money on the line. Homeowners who have just caught an infestation usually don’t immediately think of their homeowners insurance — it’s those who learn the costs of extermination who call insurers.

That’s under the deductible amount of most homeowners insurance policies. $10,000 for pest control and extermination? Time to call the insurer. However, most insurers would think the homeowner with the $10,000 claim likely missed an important step in trying to eradicate the pests, or just outright wasn’t performing preventable maintenance.

How does their bill get that large? Insurers know that most of the time, when somebody has a large “extermination claim,” it isn’t a pest problem that just popped up yesterday. It is assumed that there had been enough time for the growth of the infestation, thus enough time to work on the problem in the first place.

If a new owner has already moved in, and there’s an infestation, he or she has to spend money for extermination. Obviously, that’s a bad deal for any buyer, so the tendency is to up the original price range and include the price for extermination. All in all, that’s a hard deal to sign on in terms of the property’s price.

6 Ways To Improve the Resale Value of Your Home

By doing simple upgrades to your home, you can look to re-sell it at a much higher rate. Here are some simple ways to improve the quality of your home so that its resale value can be through the roof.

  1. Nice Kitchens Add Value

Buyers of all kinds have long focused on the kitchen, but it holds particularly true to the newest wave of first-time homeowners – the millennials. A modern or updated kitchen topped the list of ideal home features in many surveys on millennials, who registered this part of the house as the most important. With more and more people going back to the basics of preparing their own meals, the kitchen deserves to be one of the prime features of any home.

With this in mind, if you plan to sell, don’t rip your kitchen down to the studs. A smaller investment can have serious impact. For as little as $5,000, you should be able to add a new suite of appliances, as well as a new countertop and flooring, giving you a much fresher, more coordinated look. Applying a new coat of paint to the walls or cabinets and updating the hardware can also breathe new life into the space.

For example, you can improve both the quality and aesthetics of your kitchen if you upgrade your appliances and try out stainless steel finishes. Though it has been around for decades, this appliance finish conveys a clean, contemporary design which tells your buyer subconsciously that all your appliances are modernized. For the latest spin on stainless products, look for new versions of black stainless steel from KitchenAid, LG and Samsung, each with a softer, less reflective finish, but the same cachet as the original.

  1. Pay Attention to the Landscape

Tangled trees and unkempt bushes can obscure views, darken interiors, promote mold and block a good look at the house. This, in turn, can be a major turn off for many potential homebuyers.

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People forget about their trees more than almost anything, yet landscaping is one of the top three investments that bring the biggest return. According to a 2007 survey of 2,000 brokers conducted by HomeGain, an online real estate marketing site, an investment of around $400 or $500 dollars in landscaping can bring a return of four times that amount. It could really make a significant difference in the price. It might cost you more in upgrading your home, but landscaping might just be that one thing you need to close that deal on the house.

  1. Make Your Home Energy Efficient

There’s a lot of consideration for potential buyers if the house that they look to buy is already energy-efficient. Lowering your home’s energy costs can save you money for as long as you live there, and it is expected to be a major selling point down the line. People, according to most surveys conducted by home brokers, look for energy-efficiency more than they look for safety.

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Older homeowners who have felt the sting of escalating energy costs tend to be driving the interest. However, there are some early adopters among younger buyers, too, especially in regions of the country with more extreme weather. If they can see that your appliances are tilted on energy saving, it’s a good sign for them. Also, oftentimes, smart buyers ask for previous electricity bills and judge how much they can potentially spend when buying the home. That being said, it’s best if you can start being an energy saver as soon as possible.

Of course, never forget about water heating, which accounts for 16 percent of energy costs in the typical home. Spending $1,800 to $2,400 on a new unit is another way to impress efficiency-minded buyers.

  1. Functionality Over Aesthetic

Stain-prone stone countertops, grime-collecting ornate cabinets, and dust-catching wall-to-wall carpet used to be symbols of luxury, but today’s homebuyers are more likely to equate them with extra work. The younger generation in particular would much rather spend their time entertaining at home than fussing over it.

This means that beyond a home’s cosmetic finishes, it’s important to keep the major mechanical systems in working order. Many first-time buyers may have used up much of their savings on the down payment, so they want to know that the heating system, plumbing and electricity have been recently updated. Central air conditioning is also in demand because it eliminates the need to switch window units in and out.

In addition to including the age of the system, it helps if you can also point to its reliability. For example, Consumer Reports surveys have found American Standard and Trane to be among the least repair-prone manufacturers of gas furnaces.

A new roof can also help prevent fears of water damage, ice dams, pest infestation and other home disasters that can result from an old, shoddy roof. For a typical 2,300-square-foot house, you might be able to put on a new shingle roof for as little as $6,000. You’d also need to make sure that your floor is built well (including the backyard or the parking space) so looking for good asphalt paving services should be on top of your list.

Furthermore, more carpets are being replaced with long-wearing hardwood flooring with a durable factory finish. Engineered wood flooring, which uses a thin veneer of real wood or bamboo over structural plywood, tends not to wear as well as the more solid alternative. It does have the same look but costs less, making it a good choice if you plan to sell soon.

  1. Investing in Smart Technology

High-tech features offer notoriously bad returns on investment because technologies tend to evolve quickly. For example, one of the biggest flops in recent years is the fully wired audiovisual system. That being said, you should be investing on smart technology – those kinds that don’t fall off easily – rather than simply the trending ones.

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Certain smart devices add to home value and interest, including programmable thermostats. It has practically the same benefit with a range of products, such as lights, door locks, and security systems. Those smart features have broad appeal with millennials who grew up on smartphones, so they’re used to being able to control things at their fingertips. Surely, their age group would pay three to five percent more if they can control everything with their mobile phone.

A whole house generator might also be a good investment. Power failures are a reality for a lot of homeowners. As such, stationary generators can usually power the entire property. A professionally installed unit can range from $7,000 to $15,000, according to Porch, a website connecting consumers with home service pros. The Generac 6241, priced at $3,500, excluding installation, is a top pick.

  1. Invest in Good Advertising and Photos

Lastly, to increase the value of your house, your overall advertisement should be crisp. The first step is to look for a real estate agent who can really sell houses. Then, make sure your real estate agent offers great photos that show your home in its best light when it comes time to list. With this, home buyers seeking for a new place can appreciate your home from the pictures online before even making a decision to visit.

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Look for a frugal way to get a good advertisement by hiring a photographer, or researching online on how to take good photos of your house. Time and time again, customers would always be attracted by the first impression, especially when your advertisement photos are really good.

What you Need to Know about Individual Voluntary Agreement

Individual Voluntary Agreement or IVA can be of great help to businessmen, especially those with tricky debts and other financial challenges to face.

Technically, an IVA is an agreement that is made with your creditors to pay off your debts over a set period of time. It is definitely one option that you can use to pay off your debts. Basically, it is a formal, legal debt solution. This means that it is approved by the court, and as such, your creditors have to stick to it.

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If IVA is something that you want to consider for yourself, you need to know more what it is, who can avail of it, and the pros and cons of this debt solution.

IVA Basics

An IVA is something that just doesn’t happen. It a well thought of plan and must be done professionally. IVAs must be set up by a qualified person, called an insolvency practitioner. This could either be a lawyer or accountant. The insolvency practitioner charges a fee for the IVA, and they don’t come cheap. Then again, ultimately, the insolvency practitioner totally deals with your creditors throughout the life of the IVA.

IVA

Here’s how IVA works: if you decide to get an IVA, you need to work out a repayment plan with the insolvency practitioner. The repayment plan is discussed with the creditors, and if they agree, you need to pay back a set amount each month, usually for five years. Your monthly repayment can then be paid directly to the insolvency practitioner who would then distribute the money to your creditors. In this way, some of your monthly payment may be kept by the insolvency practitioner to pay for their fees.

Take note that if you go to a debt management company for an IVA, you need to find out about how much they charge before you make your decision. A debt management company is likely to be more expensive because they charge a fee on top of the insolvency practitioner’s fees. Then again, there are companies that you can inquire with and who may give you a better practitioner fee depending on your budget. You can start off with Creditfix – Individual Voluntary Arrangement in order to get a head start with this highly viable option.

Generally, you need to take note of the following before deciding if an IVA is good for you:

  • Your savings and personal pension payments are usually used to pay your creditors.
  • If you own a home, you may have to re-mortgage it.
  • It may affect your job, for example if you’re an accountant or a solicitor.
  • If your financial circumstances drastically change, you could struggle to keep up your IVA payments. If your creditors won’t accept less, the IVA might fail, and you might head for bankruptcy.

The Pros:

  • IVAs are legally binding on your creditors: Your creditors can no longer take any further legal action against you; they also cannot contact you either by post or phone. If approved, the creditors have to abide by the IVA as agreed. This includes writing off a percentage of your debt.
  • Affordable payments: You need to make an affordable monthly payment that takes into account all essential payments in your budget.

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  • You’re not forced to sell your own home, or any big property: In an IVA, you would not be forced to sell any of your major properties. Then again, you would be expected to attempt to re-mortgage your house, if any, 6 months before the IVA ends.
  • You can keep certain assets: Speaking of being forced to sell any big property, an additional advantage of IVA is that it is possible that you can retain assets such as vehicles. Extra IVA payments may also be offered in place of retaining other assets, and your creditors have to decide if they agree to this.
  • IVAs are time bound: Most IVAs have a time frame of 5 or 6 years. However, this may be extended by 12 months if you have equity in your property which you cannot release for the benefit of creditors.
  • You pay something back: IVA clients often don’t want to go down the bankruptcy route as they realize that their creditors, in most cases, won’t see any return on the money borrowed. However, in an IVA you would offer to repay a percentage of the debt owed to your creditors, showing you have made your best efforts to repay as much as you can.
  • They are adaptable if things change during the term of the IVA: 5 or 6 years is a long time, and during this time, there may be a number of changes in your circumstances.  IVAs can be really flexible, and if required, you should be able to vary the terms of the IVA with the agreement of your creditors.
  • You have support: A licensed Insolvency Practitioner can guide you through the process. Their support and experience should act as a reassurance through the course of the IVA.

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The Cons:

  • An IVA can be strict: You are asked to stick to a budget for 5 or possibly 6 years, and this come with a review of your income and expenditure every 12 months to make sure that the payments still remain affordable for you.
  • An IVA could affect your job: An IVA is a form of insolvency and could affect some professions; you would need to check the terms and conditions of your employment.
  • Rejection and failure are still lurking in the shadows: Creditors could reject the proposal outright, or the IVA could fail at anytime due to a significant change in your circumstances that could mean you are unable to pay. This is something that you should always take note of, and it is in direct relation to the first con of an IVA being strict.
  • It still has criteria to follow: Unfortunately, IVA is not for everyone, so you need to take advice to ensure that this is indeed the best solution for you. Also, this can be dependent on who your majority creditors are and their attitude towards IVAs.
  • It may hit your Credit Score: An IVA stays on your credit file for 6 years from the day it starts. You won’t be allowed credit above £500 for the duration of your IVA, and it may be difficult to gain any credit until the IVA has cleared from your credit file.
  • An IVA is a long term commitment: 5 or possibly 6 years is a longer time frame than bankruptcy. People going bankrupt may be discharged after just 12 months and have to pay contributions for 3 years. An IVA is a legally binding agreement for both you and the creditors which may contain legal sanctions to make sure you stick to the contract.

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  • It is a public record: An IVA is a form of insolvency, so it is listed on the Insolvency Service website. This database can be searched by anyone.
  • It entails fees: All IVA firms have to charge a Nominee and Supervisory fee; this is taken from payments you make into the IVA and is not an additional cost to you. Some IVA firms charge an upfront fee for the drafting of an IVA proposal.
  • Bankruptcy may be near: If your IVA does fail, there is a risk of bankruptcy proceedings.

3 Golden Rules for Financially-Free Teens

Nowadays, the reality of this world is that money has gotten harder to earn and easier to spend. With the lavish trends on technology and innovation, as well as the overall approach on human living, people are more likely to spend their earnings to appease their human needs and wants. Furthermore, the reality is that people purchase basic necessities in equal allocation with things that they want.

The perfect example is how most people are inclined to allot money for their weekly groceries the same way they set aside money to buy the newest iPhone.

People often disregard proper financial management in their lives, causing monetary disasters evident in the increasing cases of unpaid debt, growing interest on bank loans, and “normality” of filling bankruptcy. Any of these experiences can be quite excruciating, given the implications of such financial problems, not to mention the eventual economic instability and decline.

In times like these, financial advising and management can draw the fine line between an impending catastrophe and a smooth, worry-free life.

This is the reason why people should be taught the importance of managing money at a young age.

Teaching financial management to young individuals can help shorten their learning curve in properly handling their money, honing money-smart, reasonably thrifty and more responsible members of the society.

What better timing to teach the essence of financial management than at their best developmental stage, wherein they are generally more prone to making wrong judgments, more adaptive to critical changes, and more malleable in their ways.

Lesson #1 – No Money? Don’t Spend.

The simplest yet most profound lesson any professional financial advisor can give is that an individual should not spend money he or she doesn’t have. This is a lesson that people of all ages should follow but can be most applicable to those in their teenage years. Why?

Don't spend money you don't have.

For a young adult living in the trend-dependent, hip lifestyle of this generation, it is inevitable to be caught in waves of societal mainstream. This can ultimately have them running off swiping their (or their parent’s) credit cards left and right whenever and wherever they like. There is nothing wrong about wanting and having the latest accessories, the luxury gadgets, and the expensive clothing from time to time. However, what is critical is how a person has programmed his or her mind on spending, or how he or she evaluates the significance of every purchase as something that can be paid back later.

In a twisted way, the term shopaholic has become a socially-accepted “fact” nowadays. Still, something that has become a norm does not equate to socially (and financially) right. Spending credit money is something that all young people should absolutely avoid. Though it may be true that the major implications of lavish spending will be felt in a later time, the psychological repercussions can still appear readily.

Studies have found that people who frequent buying stuff tend to justify their expenses as investments. Evidently, this is not always true. Furthermore, the more frequent these lavishly buying of these investments, the consumer can experience an inexplicable satisfaction with every purchase, leading to a form of addiction. It exhausts the person, and also exhausts their bank account.

In this light, as early as possible, young adults should have a firm grip on themselves, a strong sense of control, and an impeccable assessment of what needs to be bought versus what doesn’t.

Lesson #2 – Get Insured.

Having life insurance is one of the smartest investments to get into to ensure financial freedom. More so, it is smarter if a person be insured at an early age. We say, the younger the better.

Getting an insurance policy is imperative for a money-smart individual. This is because it protects him or her from the risks of financial losses, damages or liabilities for damage caused by a third party. Insurance companies can vary in wide arrays, but the most significant ones involve health and life protection.

Having health insurance can benefit a person in periods when professional medical care is necessary. In this time when professional healthcare can be very costly, it would be a gift to be able to save one’s self and his hard earned money.

Health and protection is actually encompassed within life insurance. It allows individuals to get what they deserve during the span of their lifetime. Leading life insurance like American General (AIG) and up and coming insurance companies which provide Term Insurance offer a variety of choices in their plans that can ensure support to those who want to set-up and be prepared for their future.

A flotation device symbolizing life insurance.

Getting started early is an effective start in every young adult who wants to be financially stable in the future.

In addition, life insurances offer various benefits for people seeking them. Not only does it inculcate the values of being thrifty, it has been proven to be a safe and profitable long-term investment which ensures returns in the long-run. Similarly enticing is the fact that insurance acts as risk covers — Which allows people to live comfortably amidst the uncertainties of life.

Growth through dividends is also a major hook for this type of investment. There are policies that offer an opportunity to take advantage of economic growth without too much investment risk. In totality, the collective income of the company and all shareholders is distributed among the policyholders through annual announcement of dividends and bonuses.

In the end, being insured can give young individuals the opportunity to truly prepare for the success of their future.

Lesson #3 – Save Save Save!

Simply put, the most common way to go about being financially free is by saving. There comes a time when financial problems in the family may arise or business may not be going too well. Little by little, preparing for a rainy day can save your wallet and lessen the stress of your mind.

Prepare yourself by saving an emergency fund. Any amount saved should be put preferably in an account where it could only be accessed in dire need. Excess allowances, earned money from part-time jobs, or any money that a young adult can get his hands on should be put in a separate account for emergencies only.

However, saving money does not only prompt opening a bank account. Saving coins in a traditional coin bank is not a bad idea. It is a good start since its accumulated value can still be of great significance, more so in times of need.

Every little bit of money helps, such as what you can save in a piggybank.

Even at a very young age, people should be taught the essence and value of saving. This can be taught to teens by letting them have their own savings account where they can learn the responsibility of growing and handling their money safely. Ultimately, when a situation comes when money is hard to find, there is always an option to tap their rainy day stash.

The 21st century has prompted people to become hasty spenders because of growing trends and the inevitable evolution of one’s financial mindset. It is imperative to train young adults as early as possible to set their minds on integrating a sense of living in the moment and enduring for the future.

Challenges will absolutely come, but in spite of all the financial hurdles an individual may run into, living life today and creating a life for tomorrow can still be achieved through good money management and proper financial advising.

The Best Finance Apps to Keep Track of Your Budget

Keeping track of your finances through you own version of bookkeeping – maybe through a logbook or a handy notebook – was considered the norm when the age of mobile devices began to take over. Nowadays, there are many applications and software that can provide you the most convenient bookkeeping solution possible, and most of them are free!

If you’re looking for the best finance application to keep track of your budget, here’s the cream of the crop:

Pocketguard

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App Description: PocketGuard makes personal finance fun and easy. It categorizes and organizes your expenses, monthly bills and subscriptions into clear, beautiful tabs and graphs, so you will always be on top of your finances.

Available for both Android and iOS, PocketGuard is a one-size-fits-all bank account tracking and budget management app. It can show you how much you’ve got in your accounts, as well as how much you can afford to spend for the day.

Yes, you’ve read that right! The app can help create your budget plan with your bank account. The app connects to your bank and card accounts through an encrypted, read-only connection. This allows users to quickly view the status of your accounts and transactions while remaining secure.

The app automatically sorts your purchases, subscriptions, and bill payments, and factors in your previous spending factors to provide you an estimate as to how much you can safely spend from your accounts without going into the red.

Mint

mint

App Description: From Intuit, the makers of TurboTax, QuickBooks, Mint Bills, and Quicken: The free Mint app helps you spend smarter and save more. Easily pull all your accounts, cards and investments into one place so you can track your spending, create a budget, receive bill reminders, and get customized tips for reducing fees and saving money.

Mint’s mobile apps for iOS and Android takes on the competition by offering a comprehensive look at all your account balances – accounts, budget plans, and even you credit score. In addition, all data is updated in real time as long as you’re connected to the Internet. It automatically categorizes your transactions, alerts you when you’re about to go over your budget, and lets you opt-in to push notifications about bills.

Its unique feature includes the Trends feature, which helps you track your credit cards, cash, spending, income, and net worth over time. Charts and graphs can then show you an infographic point of view about where you’re spending money.

Intuit’s Mint Personal Finance not only helps you track your income and expenses, but also your financial state as a whole. Aside from allowing for in-depth personal budget management and expense logging, the Mint app lets you sync your bank and card details for an up-to-date and secure look at your financial status. You can also view your personal finances offline: the app stores information from a user’s latest download so they can still review their bank accounts, track credit card spending, or see when their bills are due.

Spendee

spendee

App Description: Spendee gives you the power of unique data analysis in an adaptable environment that automatically and thoroughly analyzes your income and expenses, giving you intelligent advice on how to make the most of your money. The app is beautifully designed with a sleek, simple layout and built with a precise user interface that is both enjoyable and comfortable to use. Simply punch in the numbers, and see your money analyzed and expressed as informative and easy-to-read infographics.

Perhaps the most fun way to keep track of your expenditures, Spendee goes for a modern look with all the comfort and ease of infographics as you manage your accounts. Enjoy data synchronization in real time while keeping your data safe and synchronized in all your iOS and Android devices. Expenses are quickly logged into categories, with the option to snap photos of bills and receipts for easy storage.

There is also a “sharing wallets” feature: with each wallet, you have the option to give access to members of your family, friends, business partners and others for common registration and tracking your finances if you want to pay for the premium service of the application. The best thing is, you can track your expenses for any categories and wallet members. This feature can totally be harnessed for the better budget management of the whole family.

Spendee also features a brightly colored and user-friendly UI that comes with great budgeting tracking tools whether you’re a free user or a subscriber. The Feed tab lets you easily scroll through your expenses, while the Overview mode offers useful infographics on your spending over time, as well as a breakdown of what items and categories you’re spending your money on.

Spendee has also added a budget creation tool, making it not only an expense tracker but a legitimate budgeting app.

Qapital

qapital

App Description: Say hello to Qapital – the app that makes it easy to save for the things you really want. We use the ways you’re already spending your money to trigger micro-savings that we automatically put aside for your Goals. That means while you’re busy dreaming and planning, we’ll be doing all the work to make it happen.

Qapital can easily match the best online bookkeeper out there in the app market. Personal finance app Qapital helps you to have the mentality to save through gamification and tiny actions you take every day. It makes saving for goals easy, though it requires you to open a new savings account. If a big time saving is too much of a leap for you, Qapital app can help you save little by little.

You can use Qapital to round up change on debit & credit purchases, and save it towards a Goal. It also helps its users to set a budget and save when they stay under it; there is even an interesting feature that “punishes” users whenever they indulge in guilty pleasures.

Qapital offers to its users FDIC-insured savings – no monthly or annual fee, no minimum deposit, goal-based savings, and automated transfers with guaranteed no hidden fees.

Expensify

expensify

App Description: Can’t stand your expense reports? Look no further! Expensify makes capturing receipts, tracking time or mileage, business travel and creating expense reports quick and easy. Acknowledged by the tech community as the best app for expense reporting, Expensify takes the time, paper, and headaches out of your expense reports! Simply put, Expensify does expense reports that don’t suck!

Expensify gained its popularity by narrowing its target market: while it can be useful for anyone, it focuses on travelers. If you’re a business traveler, then Expensify is easily your best friend when it comes to making easy expense reports. It allows you to manually track expenses, photolog receipts and even import purchase info from your credit card for IRS validated eReceipts.

Its best feature is Smart Scan, which allows users to photograph a receipt, have the information “read” from the image, and automatically generate expense data. The app includes input options for travel mileage, time and rate based expenses, as well as automatic currency conversion.

Expensify can also be in sync with your car or any vehicle that you use through its Mileage Entry feature where you can manually enter the distance, use your phone’s GPS, or take a picture of your odometer. Travelers can find this extremely handy so that they won’t neglect taking care of their finances while still enjoying each and every moment of their wanderlust.

3 Smart Moves for Getting the Best Life Insurance for Career-Starters

Having yourself insured is one of the most important factors when it comes to your finances. More so, it is smarter if you can be insured at a young age, especially when you’re just starting your career.

insurance-agent

True enough, life can be so unpredictable that the inevitability of unfortunate circumstances may be more likely than you had thought. This is why life insurance plans have become “basic requirement” for many; not only in the United States, but also in many parts of the world.

In the U.S., 2/3 of the population have already acquired their own life insurance plans because of the emphasis put on them by the government. These plans have proven to be a useful tool to help an individual and their family minimize the impact of any possible financially challenges in the future, especially in the continuation of their family’s financially stability in case the insured passes away.

fun-costs

However, many issues become more difficult when you are just starting your career. At this point, you may encounter problems with regards to understanding how to get the best out of your money with life insurances. As such, below are some ways how career-starters like you can grasp the essence of affordable and financially manageable life insurance.

Understand the Pricing and Get Several Quotes

First things first – life insurance plans vary in the policy price. This is because these plans are based on a person’s current financial stature as well as projected lifespan. A right price for a life insurance plan is the one that best suits your income as well as the coverage. For career starters like you, this can prompt a good projection of your income or salary.

man-talking-on-phone

However, before even trying to know what price is most suitable, you should understand first how life insurance plans prices are established. According to the Department of Financial Services, the premium rate for a life insurance policy is grounded on two fundamental concepts – mortality and interest. Often, a third variable is the expense factor which is defined as the sum the company adds to the cost of the policy to cover operating costs such as selling insurance, investing the premiums, and paying claims.

Life insurance is based on the sharing of “the risk of death” by a large group of people. The amount at risk must be known to predict the cost to each member of the group. Mortality tables are used to give the company a basic estimate of how much money it will need to pay for death claims each year. By using a mortality table, a life insurer can determine the average life expectancy for each age group.

The second factor used in calculating the premium is interest earnings. Companies invest one’s premiums in bonds, stocks, mortgages, real estate, etc., and assume that they will earn a certain rate of interest on these invested funds.

The third consideration is the expenses of operating the company. The company estimates such expenses as salaries, agents’ compensation, rent, legal fees, postage, etc. The amount charged to cover each policy’s share of expenses of operation is called the expense loading. This is a cost area that can vary from company to company based on its operations and efficiency.

Now that you understand the concept of pricing in the life insurance industry, you are now a little more equipped to pinpoint what factors affect the prices. With the large number of companies offering plans, it is paramount that you compare these prices. One simple thing to do is to get several quotes from these companies. If you intend to get cheaper life insurance, then you need to avoid policy riders and additional insurances such as option to purchase child policies or more insurance at a future date without going through medical exam process.

Be Critical in the Coverage Policy

With several company quotes at hand, it would now be easier to determine which one would fit your budget. However, it does not follow that the cheaper the policy, the better it is for you. It is also an important factor to inspect the coverage of these life insurances.

policy

Insurance coverage is the amount of risk or liability that is covered for an individual or entity by way of insurance services. Insurance coverage, such as auto insurance or life insurance, is issued by an insurer in the event of unforeseen occurrences.

You should understand first that there are multiple types of life insurance coverage. The two basic types of life insurance are term and permanent. The one that’s right for you depends on many factors highlighted by the amount of coverage you need and the length of time the coverage will last.

Term insurance provides protection for a limited period of time and pays a death benefit if something bad happens to you during that period. Term coverage can meet a wide variety of business and personal needs, and is a practical way to provide the most coverage for your premium dollar.

On the other hand, permanent policies can provide valuable protection for one’s family. They offer the potential not only for guaranteed lifetime protection but also for building cash value. How that cash value grows is based on the amount of premium paid and the death benefit option selected.

If you are hoping to acquire a life plan, you must always take note on what type of insurance you actually need. There are many guidelines out there that you can follow, but the best tips to save on your life insurance tells you that since the coverage varies depending on its type and on which provider, you must always base your decisions in favor of your preferences.

Save and Invest Early for a Better Life Insurance

Since you have now realized the pricing and coverage policy that surrounds life insurances, it is now time for you to do the hardest phase in the setup. Save and invest early.

saving-money

Saving is an important facet in your current and future financial status. This is because there comes a time when financial problems may arise or business may not be going too well. It is in these bad circumstances where saved money can provide its best benefit.

If that’s the case, how does one go about saving?

Any good saver first establishes where to put his or her money. You can opt to simply open a bank account, preferably a savings accounts, where you can deposit your money. Also, you can still go for the traditional coin bank. It is not a bad idea at all, considering the fact that it can hold significant money when the time comes. Besides, every penny counts when it comes to your future.

If you ever want to save more for a better life insurance, you should consider the wonders that can be brought by investing. Investing early is much more preferred since money will require time to grow. The question is – where do you invest?

Banking is the most common used approach for saving money, and is a form of investing as well. Over time, money saved in a bank account can accumulate interest. It may be true that if you are just starting your career, it is harder to have a significant amount of interest. This is because most banks only give interest not greater than 5% based on what you have in your savings account. Then again, since you’re starting early, you have a longer time to accumulate the money to pay for a better life insurance policy and more coverage in the future.

8 Factors a New Real Estate Buyer Should Know

If you’re new to the playing field of real estate, buying a property might be an experience that could turn out to be a bit too confusing for you. As it is, it’s nothing like buying your favorite snack at a convenience store; it’s not just you giving cash in exchange for a house. There are many terms and conditions that you still need to understand fully before anything else. If you’re a new buyer – or a relatively new one – and wanting to lessen the cost on a property you desire, here’s what you ought to know:

Price

Of course, the seller wants the highest price they can get while the buyer wants the smallest price they can get. Buyers and sellers try to negotiate the best price possible for them. The thing is that that “magic price” is obviously going to be different for both parties.

talking-with-their-agent

There’s nothing else to do than for both of parties to meet halfway.

Buyers don’t want to overpay or price themselves out of a resale in the future; while sellers want to make sure the deal makes sense and fits well in their financial plan. If you want to get the best initial price, you should have an idea of the pricing, then take into account the market situation, and other factors that might affect the price.

Closing costs

One thing that many new prospects in the real estate market take for granted is the closing costs. Closing costs are fees associated at the closing of a real estate transaction. The closing point is when the title of the property is transferred from the seller to the buyer. Closing costs are incurred by either the buyer or seller.

Buyers have to pay prepaid closing costs for their mortgage. This payment is for the money that the mortgage lender holds in escrow, for items like taxes and insurance. Usually, a buyer may ask a seller to pay a flat amount toward their closing costs, or up to a percentage for what’s an allowable contribution for the lender. Sometimes this can be up to 3% of what’s included in the mortgage.

What you can expect is that if a buyer asks the seller to make a concession on their behalf, they’re likely going to have to pay a higher asking price.

Closing date

Due dates and closing dates affect the monthly cash flow from the buyer to the seller. Also, sellers almost always negotiate for the best case scenario for themselves, like upping up the speed of when the money will be remitted to them. This might be a small factor, but something that you should still be mindful of.

The money involved in real estate is not that liquid in terms of free use or being able to be used in other engagements. Initially, the cash involved is further used in any remaining project development activities (i.e. documentation, final aesthetic touches and labor costs). In this regard, the closing date serves as a benchmark for both parties’ next steps.

Financing Contingencies

Financing Contingencies are clauses in a real estate contract that stipulate various conditions that must be met by the buyer and the seller for a sale to go through. For example, many buyers write into the contract that being able to close on the sale of their own home is a condition of the offer to purchase the new home. That way, if the sale of their own residence falls through, they are not obligated to go through with the purchase of the new property.

happy-real-estate-agent

If you’re a buyer competing with all cash offers, you need to figure out if they can drop the financing contingency. This can help shorten the closing time line. Buyers can do this by having their mortgage fully approved prior to making an offer. As such, the pre-approval shows that their finances are in order and they can afford the property.

Sale Leaseback

A leaseback is an arrangement where the seller of an asset leases back the same asset from the purchaser. In a leaseback arrangement, the specifics of the arrangement are made immediately after the sale of the asset, with the amount of the payments and the time period specified. Essentially, the seller of the asset becomes the lessee and the purchaser becomes the lessor in this arrangement.

Fortunately, a leaseback is neither debt nor equity. In fact, a sale leaseback is more like a hybrid debt product. The buyer does not increase its debt load but gains access to capital through the sale of assets. This is much like the corporate real estate version of a pawn shop transaction. The company goes to the pawn shop and in exchange for a valuable asset, receives a certain amount of cash. The only difference is that there is no expectation for the company to buy back the asset.

Additional Repairs

It is also often very helpful if you pay attention to the physical details of a property when buying a home, especially when there are things that need to be repaired. When a home is out-of-date with appliances that don’t work – cracked ceilings or pool foundations, for example – a buyer can ask for a lower price because of the cost to bring the home back to current standards. These factors can net you essential discounts.

This is why there are advertisements like “Need help selling my houses and I’m embarrassed. Get a cash offer.” In this case, professional realtors help those who want to sell subpar assets and are not confident enough because of some issues with their properties. Whether you are seller or a buyer, keep in mind that this type of unit tends to go for a lower price.

Furniture and Appliances

The previous homeowner’s personal property, such as chandeliers, window treatments and cabinets, should be part of the deal. Whatever is excluded needs to be stated when the contract is finalized. Sometimes, having furniture also grants you functionality that you didn’t know you needed, and can make you make the most out of your money.

discussing-optioins

Meanwhile, the appliances should also be taken into account. The stove, dishwasher, microwave and any built-in appliances may come with the property. Again, these things should be included in the contract.

Home Inspections

There are many benefits to having a home inspection before you purchase a house. According to home inspectors, homes are sometimes not particularly well cared for by homeowners, who are slow to fix leaky faucets, replace heating or A/C filters, or clunky furnaces.

If properties with homeowners living in it can be uncared for, imagine what condition a foreclosed home can hide. For example, mold can grow if the water hasn’t been turned off, which renders the environment moist. If the home is boarded up and there is no ventilation for weeks or months, black mold can grow fairly quickly.

inspecting-the-house
Because of the importance of a proper home inspection, you should make the purchase of the home contingent on your approval of a home inspector’s report. When making a written offer for the home, simply make the home inspection a condition of the purchase. If your home inspection comes back clean, you can proceed with the sale with confidence. However, if the report is negative, you can reduce your offer, make the seller pay for any repairs, or even back out of the contract altogether.

8 Steps in Buying your New Home

Buying your own home and starting a brand new household is not an easy task. Since everybody think it is easy, they eventually commit a lot of mistakes. People most often buy a home that’s more expensive than what they can afford. People oftentimes look at sweet deals and end up in a pile of debt because the deals are actually based on ridiculous credit interests. People also take mortgage plans that they cannot pay off in the long term just because their income cannot match their expenses.

All these factors greatly contribute to why starting up a household is not only a difficult but also a demanding task. It requires a lot of thinking and planning beforehand. You wouldn’t want to just jump into buying a house in a suburb just because it’s a “great” deal. Now, if you are just starting to plan to buy your house, here are the steps that you should consider following for you to make it through your mortgage alive.

just bought new home

Step 1: Know Thyself

The first step is to evaluate your financial capabilities. Know how much you can and willing to pay. You can always start with understanding your credit score.

A credit score is a number calculated from a formula created by Fair Isaac based on the information in your credit report. You have three different credit scores, one for each of your credit reports. Credit reports are kept by the three major credit agencies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. They show whether you are habitually late with payments and whether you have run into serious credit problems in the past.

Generally, a low credit score may hurt your chances for getting the best interest rate, or getting financing at all. So get a copy of your reports and know your credit scores. There’s an online app MyFICO.com where you can check your credit score.

After clearing your credit score, you can now look at your assets. Know how much all your debit is as of the moment, so you can start setting your budget.

Step 2: Set your Budget                        

You now need to determine how much you can afford. While the most common way is to add all your income and subtract your expenses, you can now document every detail of your finances easily with online applications such as CNN Money’s Real Estate Calculator. If you want to go for an easy-to-use yet professional app, you can try Quickbooks Online to guide you every step of the way by allowing you to use accounting disciplines in keeping track of your finances.

future home

For a more accurate figure, ask to be pre-approved by a lender who will look at your income, debt and credit to determine the kind of loan that is in your league. The rule of thumb is to aim for a home that costs about two-and-a-half times your gross annual salary. If you have significant credit card debt or other financial obligations like alimony or even an expensive hobby, then you may need to set your sights lower.

Step 3: Show the Money

At this point, you need to come up with cash for your down payment and closing costs. Estate sellers wouldn’t just straight up give you a house out of installment deals. Normally, they would want to get 20% of the home’s price as a down payment. If you can put down more than that, the lender may be willing to approve a larger loan. If you have less, you’ll need to find loans that can accommodate you.

Once you’ve considered the down payment, make sure you’ve got enough to cover fees and closing costs. These may include the appraisal fee, loan fees, attorney’s fees, inspection fees, and the cost of a title search. They can easily add up to more than $10,000b – often running upto 5% of the mortgage amount.

If your available cash doesn’t cover your needs, you have several options. First-time home buyers can withdraw up to $10,000 without penalty from an Individual Retirement Account. You can also receive a cash gift of up to $14,000 a year from each of your parents without triggering a gift tax.

Step 4: Look for an Agent

Most real estate sellers list their homes through an agent. Just a reminder – these agents work for themselves. It follows that they can offer more time to focus on your account, holding you accountable to your financial obligation. Then again, since these agents are usually self-employed, they would want you to pay as quickly as possible to ensure you clear the loan as early as possible, and for them to get their commission in the earliest time, too.

couple embracing in home

Professionally speaking, you would want to have an “exclusive buyer agent”. Sometimes, buyer agents are paid directly by the buying clients themselves, on an hourly or contracted fee. Other times, they split the commission that the seller’s agent gets upon sale. A buyer’s representative has the same access to homes for sale that a seller’s agent does, but his or her allegiance is (supposed to be) only to you.

Step 5: Look for your desired house

There are tons of criteria for looking for your desired house,but it all boils down to location, location, location.

Location of the house tells you whether living there is economically advantageous so you can easily find a new job or entrepreneurial opportunities. The location can also determine if your house would be perfect for the quality of life you seek for your family.

just bought home

When the house already checked the more important criteria, you can now look into the added features like that of aesthetics or bonus amenities.

Step 6: Make an Offer

Now that you’ve found the house that you want, have a little help with your exclusive agent so that you can make your bid. If you’re working with a buyer’s broker, then get advice from him or her for an initial offer. If you’re working with a seller’s agent, devise the strategy yourself.

Know that negotiation is an art. Try to line up data on at least three houses that have sold recently in the neighborhood. If you really want the house, don’t lowball because it would irk the seller too much.

Remember that your leverage depends on the pace of the market. In a slow market, you’ve got muscle; in a hot market, you may have none at all.

Step 7: Iron out the Contract

Have your lawyer or exclusive buyer’s agent review the documents to make sure the deal is contingent upon: a.) you obtaining a mortgage, b.) home inspection that shows no significant defects and c.) guarantee that you may conduct a walk-through inspection 24 hours before closing.

It would also be best if you can make a good-faith deposit – usually 1% up to 10% of the purchase price – that should be deposited into an escrow account. The seller receives this money after the deal has been closed. This serves as your safety net in case of a problem: if the deal falls through, you get the money back only if you or the home failed any of the contingency clauses.

Step 8: Close the Deal

A couple of days before the actual closing, the lender sends you the final HUD-1 Settlement Statement that lists all the charges you can expect to pay at closing. The HUD-1 Settlement Statement is a form prepared by closing agents itemizing all charges imposed on a buyer and a seller in real estate transactions. The HUD-1 is used primarily to settle reverse mortgage and mortgage refinance transactions.

keys to home

Review it carefully and thoroughly. Make sure that everything that you and the seller have settled is intact. This form includes deal elements like the cost of title insurance that protects you and the lender from any claims someone may make regarding ownership of your property. The cost of title insurance varies greatly from state to state, but it usually comes in at less than 1% of the home’s price.

Make sure that you see through all these steps meticulously. Buying your first home is very important, and you wouldn’t want to make mistakes that can injure you for a long time.

3 Steps to keep track of your finances for your New Home

Owning a new home proves to be one of the most exciting stages of one’s personal life. Not only does it provide a new ambience to a person and his or her family, it can also bring about a new sizzle in their outlook in life.

future home

The reality is that there are various factors which may contribute to people moving from one place to another. Aspects like being able to have more job opportunities in a different place, family preferences, and security can bring about thoughts of moving or even migrating. Ultimately, going out there and making that step towards a place you can call your own give off the most scintillating off all feelings.

However, along with the thrills of the new comes the reality behind it – how a mortgage reflects on one’s finances. Yes, owning a new home entails financial consequences and most often, it is not the lighter kind. Expenditures like new furniture and equipment, water and electricity bills and mortgage can be daunting when unorganized.

This is why it is important for those who just moved into their new home be reminded that finances should be tracked to avoid any unsurvivable debt.

Depriving one’s self of his or her needs for the sake of cutting some dollars off the bills may not be the best thing to do. Nor does buying all wants and needs only to find oneself running dry and unable to eat for the rest of the day.

With that said, the question now arises, how does one actually keep track of his or her finances after moving in? It is time to think a L.O.T and save a LOT! Here are ways to do just that:

L is for Learn the Value

In this time of earn-it-hard-spend-it-easy, the best way to go against the tide of mindless spending is to learn the value of the things one buys. This equates to spending wisely on the true necessities of life. Financially-stable people are best at knowing the value of their money.

One thing is for sure – being ‘money-smart’ is a requirement for people who want to be truly financially-stable especially after just being burdened by the finances of a new home. Then again, how does one become truly money-smart?

Every financially successful person has set his or her mind to buy only what is needed. Sure, a Poundex 2 Pieces Faux leather Sectional Right Chaise Sofa is as appealing as it could get. Maybe sitting on it does feel like being cuddled by a polar bear, or maybe not. However, at $600,  it may not be the most necessary part of every home.

Practically speaking, a person who knows the value of his or her money would not spend $600 for furniture that can be substituted by a same comfy, cheaper $100-alternative that is made of essentially the same leather material.

home finance

This is not to say that luxuries at home are bad. The point is that for a person aiming to be financially independent, one has to inculcate a sense of awareness as to how one spends his or her money.

It is more enticing to buy furniture for a new home with a credit card on hand, but it is exactly what people should avoid. Credit cards are thought to provide a huge plus in one’s financial self-worth. This is actually a wrong notion because credit cards promote spending, and spending equals lesser money. Successful people always make it a point to eliminate any debt that may accrue interest. Accumulative interest in turn can cause huge headaches financially.

O is for Organize Future Expenses

Since there is no actual way of predicting how much one’s electric or water bill will be every month, it is still important that people gauge the amount they will have to pay for the services they utilized. Organizing funds for future expenses can make a person better prepared for next month’s payables.

There is a list of necessary expenses a new homeowner must take into consideration. For a home to survive the test of time, home maintenance services such as plumbing and electrical repairs may prove to be necessary to have a better home for the family. If unprepared, a person can expect a huge headache with regard to where to find the money needed to afford these important services.

The same is goes to water and electric expenses. Each person living in a new home should have an idea or gauge on how many kilowatts of electricity the household consumes on average, as well as how many cubic meters of water they use in order to prepare the funds required every month. In fact, there is a way to determine which appliance largely affects a home’s energy consumption.

check finances

Organizing funds for future payables at an earlier time can prove vital in many ways simply because it helps a person estimate the amount he or she still has left with to circulate on other needs or wants.

T is for Track Records

A simple way to keep oneself away from spending too much is by showing that a person actually spent too much. Looking at one’s bills is an important aspect in finances. Keeping track of them proves much more vital than it seems.

There is a plethora of ways one can track his or her records. Usually, paper bills, which are sent to home addresses, are recorded in a notebook every month. This is a good way to view the trend of payments, as well as to provide clues on the factors that made the accumulated amount so. However, with the shift of many companies to electronic and paperless billing, plus the combination of companies who still print on paper, many people are finding it hard to track their records.

With the help of technology, keeping track of finances can be done easier. MYOB Accounting Software is one of the most efficient software used to help record and take into account personal finances. Other people use spreadsheets using Microsoft Excel and other tools online to help them keep track of their finances.

Once information for at least a month has been collected, an individual can get a good baseline of information to use to create your personal budget. Creating the budget is a good first step, but the most important thing is to follow the budget.

computer finances

People should make time weekly or monthly to track their spending, and start to see if they are actually keeping to the budget. Using a personal finance program or an online service is probably the easiest way to do this on an ongoing basis. Continuation in tracking where your cash is going is vital. People may be surprised to find out how the frequent small amounts they spend actually add up to big sum.

After tracking the status of a personal budget, one may notice some areas where adjustments become necessary. It is important that he or she does not just increase his or her budget without considering alternatives. While they may have limited choices, if prices or expenses go up, it is just proper to go for better deals before giving in to the extra expenses.

How to build you budget for your new home

Building a new home for you and your family requires a lot of discipline especially when it comes to finances. Taking the time to manage your money better can really pay off. It can help you stay on top of your obligations and even save thousands of dollars each year.

However, if you still consider yourself a beginner when it comes to managing your finances, you need are going to need help. Here are some pro tips on how to manage your budget well so that you won’t have to waste your hard-earned money.

couple working on filances

What’s the Point of Budgeting?

Before everything else, what is the point of having a budget anyway?

A budget done correctly is the most precise tool for analyzing your finances imaginable. It answers two key questions: first, do I spend more than I earn? The second is what can I afford to spend?

finance work

An instinctive assessment is easy – if you’re eating up your savings or building up debts, you’re likely to be overspending. Before you can solve any financial hurdle, it is important to get an accurate idea of the size and scale of the problem.

As Charles Dickens said in Mr. Micawber, “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result – happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds six, result – misery.” Major overspending can lead to a debt spiral and severe problems.

This is why the Budget Planners are all designed to definitively answer this problem and give you a real assessment of your finances.

Once you know where you’re spending, you can start to alter and prioritize what you do with your money to enable you to stick within your means. While the budget planners include tools to enable you to work out how to prioritize within your means, the real difficulty is sticking to it.

How to set up a budget

The first step into proper money management is setting-up a budget. It will take a little effort, but it’s a great way to get a quick snapshot of the money you have coming in and going out.

Setting up a budget means that you will less likely end up in debt and less likely to get caught up by unexpected costs. You want yourself to be inclined to have a good credit rating and be more likely to be accepted for a mortgage or a loan. With all of these, you want to be able to spot areas where you can save, so that you will be in a great position to save up for other funds allotment like a holiday getaway, a new car, or another fine dining treat for you and your family.

family matters

To get started on your budget, you’ll need to work out how much you spend on household bills, living costs, financial products, family and friends, travel, leisure, and other essential stuff. List all of them. At this point, it is best for you to take advantage of technological advancements right now and use applications that can help you with your planning.

You can keep track of your finances by using accounting software. If you want a professional accounting approach to your budget management, you go for bookkeeping software like that of Xero Software. This kind of software allows you to use ledgers, books, and other tools of bookkeeping to keep track of your finances. You can also use pre-made applications such as Budget Planner that focuses most especially on allowing you to set-up your budget.

Getting your budget back on track

If you’re spending more than you have coming in, you need to work out where you can cut back. This could be as easy as making your lunch at home, or cancelling a gym membership you don’t use.

finance problems

You could also keep a spending diary and keep a note of everything you or your family buys in a month. If you do most of your spending with a bank card, have a look at last month’s bank statement and work out where your money is going.

It is also important to get your whole family involved because it is of outmost importance that all of you work together to follow the projected budget. Sit down together and make a plan that you can all stick to. Work out how much spending money is available and agree between you what you’ll each have.

Setting a savings goal

Some people find it hard to get motivated about saving, but it’s often much easier if you set a goal. Your critical move is to have some emergency savings – money to fall back on if you have an emergency, such as a boiler breakdown or if you can’t work for a while.

family at computer

Try to get three months’ worth of expenses in an easy or instant access account. Don’t worry if you can’t save this straight away, but keep it as a target to aim for. The best way to save money is to pay some money into a savings account every month.

Once you’ve set aside your emergency fund, it would now be the best time put your focus on savings for your main goal of getting your new home. You might be tempted to take that holiday or get that car you have always wanted. You might get easily distracted at this point. This is why your goal should always be checked and reinforced on you. This is the best time to put your energy in keeping your eyes on the prize.

Applications that can help

Aside from the ones mentioned above, here are other applications that can help keep track of your finances and investments.

Personal Capital

One of the most comprehensive apps for tracking all of your financial activities, Personal Capital makes it easy to monitor and track your net worth. You can link multiple investment accounts separately and have easy access to your portfolio performance and investment allocations on your mobile device or desktop. You can also make use of the Investment Checkup tool, which will map out your target allocation and make recommendations. If you like to be very hands-on with your portfolio management activities, this may be the best tracking tool for you.

Ellevest

Senthil Kumar, vice president of marketing at Oracle Financial Services, says that “digital technologies have transformed the way people can track investments.” Kumar calls out Ellevest, one of the newest players in the financial-tech industry designed for women interested in investing, as an example of online platforms changing the way people are managing their money.

Ellevest provides a personalized portfolio based on your age and zip code, gives you the option to customize your plan based on your goals and allows you to fund your plan and set up contributions online – all the things a financial adviser would do. You can get access to tracking tools and get updates and alerts if you start falling short of your goals. If you don’t like the idea of setting up face-to-face meetings with a financial adviser, the tools available through Ellevest could make it easier to track your investments and also learn about investing in the process.

Ticker

If you like to review graphs and reports on your own rather than relying solely on recommendations or suggestions from a software program, try Ticker to see detailed, real-time data about the value of your accounts, profits and losses and other important details. You can set up push notification alerts based on different “triggers,” including price changes, volume changes and certain percentage thresholds based on your goals. The app also makes it easy to review the real-time market value of your accounts in a few screen swipes. Use the app to compare portfolio performance metrics side by side.

The Art of Negotiation: How To Make It Big In Real Estate

More often than not, real estate transactions boil down to negotiation.

Sellers won’t give the lowest price any more than the highest paying buyers are willing to pay. If you’re a buyer and you want to get your dream house in Hollywood, you’ll need to negotiate. If you’re a seller and you want to sell your property in Texas, you’ll need to negotiate. Negotiation is part of a creative process, and here’s why:

Professionals negotiating.

Negotiation is an Art.

It is generally wrong to pose an aggressive posture in any of your interactions with real estate agents, be it as a buyer or a seller. Contrary to popular belief of “you should be in a commanding position”, you actually should be easy to get along with and easy to talk to.

Then again, you should never forget that you are in that meeting or in that open house for one reason: to find the best way to address your real estate needs. This means that while you are negotiating the deal, every piece of information that you provide to the other side (to the buyer if you’re the seller, and vice versa) should be carefully released at just the right time, spoken in just the right way and designed to improve your position in the transaction.

Arguing over the asking price.

The “art of negotiation” is not just a simple isolated exchange between two parties, but rather a continuing effort. You must remember every action that you take during the entire transaction, beginning with submittal of offer to close escrow. Many real estate transactions where the buyer or seller got past the “offer and acceptance” phase and then acted like the deal was done, only to find themselves not having a deal because of cold feet.

As the saying goes, it ‘ain’t over till the fat lady sings. Thus, don’t give up your position too early: don’t make unnecessary concessions, and don’t compromise without gain.

Don’t be clumsy. You might insult the other party.

This is perhaps the main reason why many negotiations fail. There is an art to creating an offer to buy a home at the best price, and it’s not just about being the cheapest or tuning out to be the most affordable. It’s about the manner in which the transaction is handled.

Most people understand that if you walk up to a person selling their home and you bring a rather condescending tone on how they do business, the chances are that the seller will actually look at your offer as pretty low.

This is because you have put the seller into a “compromised position.” You have forced the seller’s sense of pride to overrule their desire to sell the home to you. Once you have put the seller in this position, it is difficult to correct it. Very few buyers are able to correct the mistake of insulting the seller. Pride is a really big deal.

On the other hand, insulting the buyer is just a mortal sin. There’s no way you can make up for a hurting buyer. You may well have botched your chance of selling a house, and may just end your career if the word spreads about your professional misdemeanor.

A mental arm wrestle.

As such, most people understand the obvious concept, but people often don’t realize how many different ways they can put either a seller or buyer into this defensive position. For example, buyers take the approach of including a defect-list in their offer which highlights every undesirable feature in the property, doing so to support a low offer.

At the end of the day, this is the same thing as saying “your house is undesirable and here is why”. The seller is insulted and either discards the offer, or counters at a higher price than they might have if they were not insulted.

Low-Ball offers don’t work.

A crazy low-ball offer is another common way to insult the seller. For most real estate buyers who are serious about finding a home that truly meets their needs, low-balling is a mistake. Buyers spend a lot of time searching for the right home, even before they look for a realtor. Once they find a great home and start writing an offer, their priority now shifts from “finding the dream house” to “winning this negotiation and get the house below fair value”.

More often than not, you won’t find “below market value” and “perfect home” in the same transaction. This is simply because its whole concept defies logic: how many times have you shopped for a product and have been willing to pay a premium for a particular product because it has all the features you highly desire?

The point is that just attempting this tactic often kills the deal, and the buyer usually ends up at square-one when the day ends. You’ll just waste a lot of time, or probably throw away a chance at your dream home. Stay focused on your true goals and negotiate realistically.

With this is mind, you can finally sell your Houston house for cash like you’ve always wanted.

Real estate tug of war.

Negotiate with Information, not Opinion.

Subjective price negotiation is a common scenario in almost every real estate transaction. Though it comes as a normal case, the challenge is to put your foot down on the best price that is justified by market comparables, yet giving an offer that is presented in such a way that it does not insult the seller.

Use the local market data to prepare and then support your offer: this is by far the most effective tool in price negotiations. Showing a seller market data is way more persuasive than simply saying, “I just feel like you are over-priced”. You can make your negotiation argument stronger by not basing on feelings alone, but rather using the real data that you can get your hands on.

Coming to a financial agreement.

Another reason market data helps is because many real estate agents barely know how to perform a market analysis. Simply put, they don’t really know what the property is worth, nor have property properly appraised. If the buyer-agent produces data that supports their client’s offer, many times the seller’s agent is swayed by the data and recommend that their client accepts the offer.

Meanwhile, this also holds true for the seller. If you can show the facts and the mathematics behind the numbers you are presenting as the best deal for the house (be it cheaper, or simply the right price for the right home), you can easily persuade the buyer to tender to your realtor service.

Structure the offer in a way that it will be accepted.

A good buyer’s agent coaches their clients about the best ways to position themselves and their offer to increase the likelihood of the seller’s acceptance. The saying “first impressions last” fits perfectly in this case.

This is also true for a strong buyer’s market; because if you want to pay the lowest price for a piece of property, you then have to be sure that all the other components to your offer, other than price, are as attractive as possible.

This includes a conditional loan-approval from a reputable lender, timeframe for close of escrow, use of qualified inspectors, amount and type of earnest deposit, contingencies and how they are structured, comparative analysis of the property, and the professionalism and attention to detail in the offer.

A financial compromise.

Remember that while price is very important to the seller, there are other aspects to consider in a deal. For instance, the seller only wants to go through the escrow process one single time to not waste any, so if all the components of your offer must say “I can close”, your lower-price offer may be preferable to a higher offer that says “I am not so sure this is the right house and I may be a pain and NOT close escrow”.

All things considered, real estate is all about proper communication. To master real estate, you should also master the art of negotiation to have the most success.

3 Essentials In Finding Your Dream Home

The reality of today is that there are an enormous amount of factors that contribute to people moving from one place to another. Factors such as being able to have more job opportunities in a different place, family preferences, and overall security can bring about thoughts of moving to a new place or even migrating.

A beautiful modern house.

Thus, it is important that you look deeper on the factors to watch out for when scouting for a better home.

The thing is that there are various facets to consider to find the perfect place to live. This is important so that you can establish your life in a new property with ease. However, there are a great number of facts to consider, so many that confusion sometimes arises in this regard. It is just important that you take time to look at what really matters most. Prioritizing these factors may just get the job done for you.

C Is For Comfort

What comfort does the new home you’re looking at provide? A seemingly obvious fact is that people will always look for a place that brings about a sense of comfort and relaxation. With good reasons, considering that you are actually going home to this property every day!

A happy family.

There is nothing wrong with being thrifty and finding the cheapest possible purchase of a new house. However, you shouldn’t compromise the comfort of a new home. Besides, it is exactly why you call it YOUR home. At the end of the day, you might just realize that as much as you saved your money, you are not satisfied. This may end up with you finding a new and better place all over again, which is likely to exhaust you, and exactly why you should consider comfort first.

Comfort can be achieved in a plethora of ways. If you are fond of the serenity and tranquillity, then you may consider purchasing a house that is in a suburban area. You may even find yourself a place that is surrounded by a lush environment. On the other hand, if you’re a person who is involved in the hustle and bustle of life, then you may find some place in the city that provides the right amount of space and efficiency to work and saves you commuting time.

On another note, one thing that may bring about your dream lifestyle is security. The sad truth is that the world is evolving to be a dangerous place for all kinds of people; it is significant that you find a home that provides a sense of safety for you and for your family. Finding a neighborhood which implements proper security measures should be of utmost importance. Security brings about a sense of comfort, and comfort brings about the true meaning of living.

Brother and sister

A Is For Affordability

Imagine you need to move to New York for a job that you finally got and had always wanted. Sadly, you have to sell your Houston house fast to get your initial funds to afford a place in the Big Apple. If you got more than enough for the sale, it is your lucky day! However, when the returns seem to be a little less than what you expected, affordability becomes a huge consideration when trying to buy a new house.

You have to take into account the money you have right now in order to effectively scout for a new house or apartment. This is because of the simple fact that you can’t be in a place that forces you to surrender all your assets. Proper budgeting and estimation may just save you from the hassle it brings in the long run.

Similarly, money plays a huge factor on how you enjoy or thrive in the new surroundings. Since at the start of your move, there will be other expenditures such as purchasing of furniture, house equipment, and other basic necessities to satiate your lifestyle. In the business side of things, you may have other fees that may add to your financial stresses like business permits, equipment, and machinery essentials in your field of work and taxes.

Expensive houses lead to no cash.

Truth be told, moving is not an easy thing to do. It is as if you need all the calculators in the world just to run keep track of things. Whether you have the right amount funds or not, affordability still plays a major aspect in a lot of things, yet it is especially important to be considered in the field of real estate.

P Is For Preferences

You always have to follow your heart, especially when you are trying to buy a new home. A key factor on living the best way and finding a perfect home is that it suits you and your personality.

A lavish mansion.

The analogy is pretty simple. If you think a house’s rooms are stacked and lack space, then you might just find yourself constricted. Find a house that satiates your eyes and lets you breathe. If you think a home’s ceiling is too low, then you may just realize that you’re planted and can’t go any higher.

Buy a home that lets you get up in the morning with no problem, and you can feel the sense of accomplishment with the newest purchase

You have to be satisfied in the home you are prospecting to buy. It is YOUR home anyway. With a sense of having to follow your preferences comes the feeling of being truly at home. If you want a house that is child friendly, then you must purchase a house that has room for a child to grow and thrive. If you are an enthusiast for food, then you might want a place in the house to fill the equipment you need in your kitchen, or rather, a large kitchen.

The list goes on and on with regard to satisfying what you want for your home. What better way to do that than make your house a representation of you? Trusting your intuition is the right thing to do. This is also important in trying to find the best house that says ‘this is the one.’

Moving from one place to another is a part of life that everyone needs to face sooner or later. Since there are a lot of factors you must consider in moving, it becomes almost confusing and mind-boggling. This is why you should look at the most important ones which ultimately sum up the factors that need to be looked at.

It is significant that you consider comfort from your potential home. If you find yourself comfortable in a house, also try considering security and safety. Doing so can help you feel as protected as possible, and that’s important.

Then again, you always have to look out for the affordability of the place. If you have the right amount of money, then you should just go for it. If you don’t, there are always the other ones which give you the same comfort factor. After all, you should follow your preferences.

It is important that you contemplate your wants and needs in your home. Make your place a symbol of prosperity, comfort and security. You may just find yourself living in perfect harmony if you pay close attention to these things.