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By:Phil Goldberg

Did you know . . . One of the issues that always comes up when working with buyers is how much money the buyer is how much money they plan to use for a down payment.  When working with buyers that say they are getting all or some of their money from a gift, FHA requires a “paper trail.” I want to show you what is needed because this alone could hold up a deal or worse yet, kill a deal.

The gift letter itself must contain the following verbiage:

  • Name, address and telephone number of the donor
  • The dollar amount of the gift
  • The relationship of the donor to the borrower
  • That no repayment is required

There are four ways to verify the transfer of the funds (only one is required ):

  1. If funds are already in a borrower’s account…
    1. Obtain a copy of the withdrawal slip from donor’s account
    2. Obtain a copy of deposit slip and bank statement showing the deposit into borrower’s account.
  2. If funds are provided at the closing table…
    1. Obtain a copy of withdrawal slip from the donor’s account
    2. Or. obtain a bank statement showing the withdrawal from the donars account
  1. Must be paid in the form of a certified check
  2. If funds are going to be “wired” at closing…
    1. Donor to provide documentation of the wire transfer
  3. If donor is borrowing funds…
    1. Donor to document the loan
    2. Funds were borrowed from an acceptable source—bank, credit union, home equity line of credit, etc.
    3. Cash on hand is NOT an acceptable source of gift funds

For your best chance of getting your loan approved, follow these ten simple rules!

Thou shall not change jobs or become self-employed

Thou shall not buy a car, truck or van unless you plan to live in it

Thou shall not use your credit cards or let your payments fall behind

Thou shall not spend the money you have saved for your down payment

Thou shall not buy furniture before you close on your house

Thou shall not originate any new inquiries on your credit report

Thou shall not make any large deposits into your bank account

Thou shall not change bank accounts

Thou shall not co-sign for anyone

Thou shall not purchase ANYTHING until after the closing

By: Jane Hoback

Published: January 14, 2011

Deep clean your house and you’ll brighten rooms and help maintain your home’s value.

De-bug the light fixtures

See that bug burial ground within your overhead fixtures? Turn off the lights and carefully remove fixture covers, dump out flies and wash with hot soapy water. While you’re up there, dust bulbs. Dry everything thoroughly before replacing the cover.

Vacuum heat vents and registers

Dirt and dust build up in heat vents and along register blades. Vents also are great receptacles for coins and missing buttons. Unscrew vent covers from walls or pluck them from floors, remove foreign objects, and vacuum inside the vent. Clean grates with a damp cloth and screw back tightly.

Polish hardware

To deep clean brass door hinges, handles, and cabinet knobs, thoroughly wipe with a damp microfiber cloth, then polish with Wright’s or Weiman brass cleaner ($4). Dish soap shines up glass or stainless steel knobs. Use a Q-tip to detail the ornamental filigree on knobs and handles.

Replace grungy switch plates

Any amateur can wipe a few fingerprints off cover plates that hide light switches, electric outlets, phone jacks, and cable outlets. But only deep cleaners happily remove plates to vacuum and swipe the gunk behind. (OK, we’re a little OCD when it comes to dirt!) Make sure cover plates are straight when you replace them. And pitch plates that are beyond the help of even deep cleaning. New ones cost less than $2 each.

Neaten weather stripping

Peeling, drooping weather stripping on doors and windows makes rooms look old. If the strip still has some life, nail or glue it back. If it’s hopeless, cut out and replace sections, or just pull the whole thing off and start new. A 10-ft. roll of foam weather stripping costs $8; 16-ft. vinyl costs about $15.

Replace stove drip pans

Some drip pans are beyond the scrub brush. Replacing them costs about $3 each and instantly freshens your stove.

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By: Jan Soults Walker

Published: October 11, 2010

Window cleaning with non-toxic ingredients and reusable cloths protects your health, preserves resources, gains a streak-free view, and stretches your budget.

Mix a green window cleaning solution

Commercials cleaners leave behind a waxy residue on windows that can result in streaks. A homemade window cleaning solution made with vinegar and water helps cut through grime, minimizes streaking and water spots, and prevents windows from fogging.
The first time you clean your windows with a homemade vinegar solution, include a few drops of dish detergent to eliminate the waxy buildup. Combine these ingredients in a spray bottle for streak-free windows:

  • ¼-cup white vinegar
  • ¼- to ½-tsp. eco-friendly dish detergent
  • 2 cups water

After an inaugural washing, keep your windows spotless with a window cleaning solution made from 2 teaspoons white vinegar mixed in 1 quart warm water. (Too much vinegar can etch window glass, which results in clouding.)
You can whip up gallons of window cleaning solution for a few dollars: A 32-ounce bottle of white vinegar costs about $2. A 16-ounce bottle of eco-friendly dish soap costs about $3.50. By comparison, a 16-ounce bottle of commercial window cleaner costs about $3.

Polish to a sustainable shine

Use microfiber cloths, rather than paper towels or newspapers, for window cleaning. Paper towels are manufactured from trees and end up in the landfill. Newspapers can blacken your hands and fall apart. Microfiber cloths are affordable, lint-free, and can be washed and reused again and again.
A six-pack of reusable microfiber cleaning cloths can be purchased at national discount stores for less than $10. By comparison, an eight-pack of bargain-priced paper towels costs about $9.

Window cleaning tips

  • Window cleaning on a sunny day can dry the solution too quickly and create streaks, so select a cloudy day to work.
  • Begin window cleaning by spritzing the glass with your homemade vinegar solution. Wipe away grime with a damp microfiber cloth. Rinse this cloth often in clean water.
  • Follow with a dry microfiber cloth to polish the glass to a shine.

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Spring Cleaning Guide

By: Alyson McNutt English

Published: September 30, 2009

Make spring cleaning less of a chore by following these smarter–and mostly greener–tips for this annual rite of homeownership.

Bathrooms

When it’s time to get down and dirty, many people start with the bathroom. Allen Rathey, founder of The Housekeeping Channel, says removing mineral deposits, rust, and such from toilets doesn’t have to mean chemical warfare. Don rubber gloves and use a pumice stone to erase stubborn stains. If you want more scouring power, Rathey recommends mixing baking soda with acidic vinegar. The concoction is just as effective as conventional cleaners, and there are no toxic fumes to inhale. This approach works equally well on tub and shower stains.
Buy your supplies in bulk to save. A 64-ounce bottle of vinegar costs about $4; a 12-pound bag of baking soda, about $7. Both items can be used throughout the house. For just $1 you can mix equal parts vinegar and water in a 32-ounce spray bottle to make a terrific all-purpose surface cleaner. That’s about $4 cheaper than buying a spray cleaner at the store.
Spring cleaning is the perfect time to extract dirt from porous grouted surfaces. For tile floors use your usual cleaner, but don’t mop. Instead, run a wet/dry vac, which will suck contaminants out of the grout. Mopping drives the grime into the grout rather than removing it. According to Rathey, grout can harbor stinky bacteria that leave a bad odor in the bathroom. This technique is more time-consuming than mopping, but it’s worthwhile to do at least once a year.

Kitchens

The kitchen can be a tough room to clean because there’s usually so much stuff in it, says Justin Klosky, founder and creative director of The OCD Experience, an organizational service. Before you break out the broom, go through your cabinets and drawers, and put together a box of items to donate and a box of items to store somewhere besides the kitchen. Clear your countertops of everything except items you use nearly every day.
After you’ve de-cluttered, you can get to work cleaning. Cloud Conrad, vice president of marketing for cleaning company Maid Brigade, says one tool you shouldn’t overlook is an all-purpose microfiber cloth (about $5). These aren’t run-of-the-mill dusting rags. Microfiber is a densely woven synthetic fabric that picks up dirt and greasy deposits without chemicals thanks to its unique composition. You should be able to clean surfaces like countertops, sinks, and stoves with warm water, a microfiber cloth, and a bit of elbow grease, Conrad says.
Since you prepare your food in the kitchen, consider using green commercial products for surfaces, or make your own vinegar/water spray. Conventional cleaners may remove dirt, but they can also harbor some nasty substances you don’t want in your PB&J. Microfiber, vinegar, and baking soda will clean and disinfect almost every kitchen surface at a fraction of the price. Don’t neglect once-a-year chores like vacuuming refrigerator coils (unplug your fridge first), and tossing out expired food from the back of the pantry.

Bedrooms

Since bedrooms are such individual spaces, there’s a lot of diversity in what needs to happen. Most homeowners should at least rotate and flip innerspring mattresses, and store out-of-season sheets and clothing. Also go through your closet, and donate or Freecycle items you haven’t worn in the last 12 months. For carpets and mattresses, consider using a professional cleaning service. Figure a typical mattress will cost about $70-$90 to clean, a bargain considering how much time you spend in bed.
Even if you’re getting your carpet professionally cleaned, you still need to break out the vacuum, says Leslie Reichert, owner of The Cleaning Coach. Use the hose attachment to get to the hidden particles along baseboards, under your bed, and in your curtains, favorite environments of dust mites. If you have a large-capacity dryer, throw curtains in on high heat for good measure to kill the little pests.

Living area

Another surface you should consider getting professionally cleaned is living room upholstery. It can be tricky to know exactly how to deep-clean different types of fabrics, says Rathey, especially if there are stains you can’t quite identify. Costs vary widely depending on the size of the furniture piece and the quality and state of its covering, but a typical sofa might run $70 to $90.

Microfiber cloths are great to use in the living area as well. Make sure you have cloths for each area of the house, though, so you’re not cross-contaminating bathroom, kitchen, and living areas. Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe down windows, wood, mirrors, the tops of bookshelves, ceiling fan blades, and even the plastic housing of electronics for a quick, chemical-free clean.

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By: Jan Soults Walker

Published: January 3, 2012

Want to reface your kitchen cabinets? Smart decision. It’s more cost-effective and takes less time than a full remodel. Here are options and costs.

Kitchen cabinet refacing pros

  • It’s about half the cost of a total cabinet replacement. You’ll also save the time, cost, and hassle of tearing out your old cabinets.
  • It’s a green kitchen remodeling solution because old cabinets stay out of the landfill.
  • You can continue to use your kitchen during refacing.
  • You’ll give your kitchen a new look in a week or less.

Kitchen cabinet refacing cons

  • Pricey options, such as expensive replacement hardware and exotic veneers, can drive up the cost of refacing and reduce savings.
  • Refacing materials can’t fix an inefficient layout.

What are your refacing options?
Your choices for the finished look of your cabinets is virtually limitless. Veneers are available in a wide variety of colors, patterns, textures, grains, and more, which you can mix or match to get a relatively low-cost kitchen facelift.

  • Rigid thermofoil (RTF) doors, which feature a durable plastic coating over fiberboard, are an affordable alternative to wood or laminate doors.
  • Plastic laminates come in hundreds of colors and patterns, are durable and moisture-resistant, and are reasonably priced. You can pick matching or contrasting laminates for your doors and drawer fronts.
  • Real wood veneers include many standard species, such as oak, cherry, and maple, and you also can choose from an array of stain colors. Wood veneers are the most expensive option. Wood must be carefully sealed to protect against moisture.

Further customize and update the look of your cabinets with new kitchen cabinet hardware.
What does refacing cost?
A professional cabinet refacing for a typical 10-by-12-foot kitchen starts at around $1,000 to $3,000 for laminate. Expect to pay $2,500 to $6,000 for real wood veneer. Costs can rise to $7,000 to $9,000 or more for a large project with high-quality wood veneer.
Finishing the project with new hardware (pulls, knobs, hinges) runs $2 to $4 per piece, up to $20 to $50 each for high-end hardware.
In comparison, completely replacing old kitchen cabinets with new cabinets starts at $4,000 to $5,000 and up for stock cabinets; $8,000 to $10,000 for semi-custom cabinets; $16,000 to $20,000 and up for custom-made cabinetry.
Can my cabinets be refaced?
Refacing is feasible if your existing cabinet boxes are structurally sound and in good condition. Cabinets with water damage, warping, and broken frames are poor candidates. Particleboard cabinetry sometimes requires fasteners, in addition to adhesives, to ensure that the veneer is secure.
What’s involved
A professional installer will come to your house to measure your cabinets and determine the amount of veneer required, the correct sizes and quantities for door and drawer fronts, and how much hardware is needed. Newly ordered doors and drawer fronts may take 1 to 2 weeks for delivery.
When all the materials are in hand, your installer removes old cabinet door and drawer fronts, and prepares the surface of the cabinet boxes by washing the exteriors with a degreaser and lightly sanding the finish. Any significant flaws in the surface are repaired or filled to ensure a smooth, secure fit for the new veneer.
The installer applies veneer to the cabinet faces and any exposed cabinet ends, then mounts the new doors, drawer fronts, and hardware. The process typically takes 2 to 4 days.
Can I do kitchen cabinet refacing myself?
Detailed instructions and adhesive-backed veneers make cabinet refacing a feasible do-it-yourself project.

If you have extra time, patience, the necessary veneering tools, and a knack for precision, you can save money by tackling kitchen cabinet refacing on your own.
If you opt to do your own kitchen cabinet refacing, you’ll spend about $200 to $500 on average for materials. Specialized tools (rollers, blades, irons) add $5 to $60 to the cost.

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By: Gretchen Roberts

Published: January 19, 2012

Can’t afford an entire kitchen remodel in one fell swoop? You can complete the work in 5 budget-saving stages (and still cook dinner during the down time).

Stage one: Start with a complete design plan
Your plan should be comprehensive and detailed — everything from the location of the refrigerator to which direction the cabinet doors will open to whether you need a spice drawer.
To save time (and money) during tear-out and construction, plan on using your existing walls and kitchen configuration. That’ll keep plumbing and electrical systems mostly intact, and you won’t have the added expense — and mess — of tearing out walls.
Joseph Feinberg, vice president of Allied Kitchen and Bath in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., recommends hiring a professional designer, such as an architect or a certified kitchen designer, who can make sure the details of your plans are complete. You’ll pay about 10% of the total project for a pro designer, but you’ll save a whole bunch of headaches that would likely cost as much — or more — to fix. Plus, a pro is likely to offer smart solutions you hadn’t thought of.
For a nominal fee, you also can get design help from a major home improvement store. However, you’ll be expected to purchase some of your cabinets and appliances from that store.

  • Cost: professional designer: $5,800 (10% of total)
  • Key strategies: Once your plans are set, you can hold onto them until you’re ready to remodel.
  • Time frame: 3-6 months

Stage two: Order the cabinets, appliances, and lighting fixtures

Cabinets  and appliances are the biggest investments in your kitchen remodeling  project. If you’re remodeling in stages, you can order them any time  after the plans are complete and store them in a garage (away from  moisture) or in a spare room until you’re ready to pull the trigger on  the installation.

Remember that it may take 4-6 weeks from the day you order them for your cabinets to be delivered.
If  you can’t afford all new appliances, keep your old ones for now — but  plan to buy either the same sizes, or choose larger sizes and design  your cabinets around those larger measurements. You can replace  appliances as budget permits later on.
The same goes for your lighting fixtures: If you can live with your old ones for now, you’ll save money by reusing them.
You’ll  have to decide about flooring, too — one of the trickier decisions to  make because it also affects how and when you install cabinets.
You’ll  need to know if your old flooring runs underneath your cabinets, or if  the flooring butts up against the cabinet sides and toe kicks. If the  flooring runs underneath, you’ll have some leeway for new cabinet  configurations — just be sure the old flooring will cover any newly  exposed floor areas. Here are points to remember:

  • Keep old flooring for cost savings. This works if your new cabinets  match your old layout, so that the new cabinets fit exactly into the old  flooring configuration. If the existing flooring runs underneath your  cabinets and covers all flooring area, then any new cabinet  configuration will be fine.
  • Keep your old flooring for now and cover it or replace it later.  Again, this works if your cabinet configuration is identical to the old  layout.

However, if you plan to cover your old flooring or tear it out and  replace it at some point in the future, remember that your new flooring  might raise the height of your floor, effectively lowering your cabinet  height.
For thin new floor coverings, such as vinyl and linoleum,  the change is imperceptible. For thicker floorings, such as wood and  tile, you might want to take into account the change in floor height by  installing your new cabinets on shims.

  • Cost: cabinets: $16,000 (27% of total); appliances and lighting fixtures: $8,500 (15% of total); vinyl flooring: $1,000 (2% of total)
  • Key strategy: Keep old appliances, lighting fixtures, and flooring and use them until you can afford new ones.
  • Time frame: 2-3 weeks

Stage three: Gut the kitchen and do the electrical and plumbing work

Here’s   where the remodel gets messy. Old cabinetry and appliances are  removed,  and walls may have to be opened up for new electrical  circuits. Keep in  close contact with your contractor during this stage so you can answer questions and clear up any problems   quickly. A major kitchen remodel can take 6 to 10 weeks, depending on   how extensive the project is.
During this stage, haul your refrigerator, microwave, and toaster oven to another room — near the laundry or the garage, for example — so you’ve got the means to cook meals. Feinberg suggests tackling this stage in the summer, when you can easily grill and eat outside. That’ll reduce the temptation to eat at restaurants, and will help keep your day-to-day costs under control.

  • Cost: $14,500 for tear-out and installation of new plumbing and electrical (25% of total)
  • Key strategies: Encourage your contractor to expedite the   tear-out and installation of new systems. Plan a makeshift kitchen while   the work is progressing. Schedule this work for summer when you can   grill and eat outside.
  • Time frame: 6-10 weeks

Stage four: Install cabinets, countertop, appliances, flooring, and fixtures

If   you’ve done your homework and bought key components in advance, you   should roll through this phase. You’ve now got a (mostly) finished   kitchen.
A high-end countertop and backsplash can be a sizable sum of money. If you can’t quite swing   it, put down a temporary top, such as painted marine plywood or   inexpensive laminate. Later, you can upgrade to granite, tile, solid surface, or marble.

  • Cost: $12,000 (21% of total)
  • Key strategy: Install an inexpensive countertop; upgrade when you’re able.
  • Time frame: 1-2 weeks

Final phases: Upgrade if necessary

Replace the inexpensive countertop, pull up the laminate flooring, and put in tile or hardwood, or buy that new refrigerator you wanted but couldn’t afford during the remodel. (Just make sure it fits in the space!)

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