Archive for March, 2010

Factors that determine the amount you can borrow for a mortgage

The question that comes most often when you start the house buying process is how much can I borrow for a mortgage The main factor that determines such a situation is that how much mortgage payment you can handle depending on your monthly income and your monthly debt or obligations.

How much can you borrow?

When you ask yourself the question of “how much can I borrow for a mortgage”, it will depend on the following major factors:

• Monthly income: Usually housing expenses do not exceed 25% – 28% of the homeowner’s gross monthly income. The housing expenses include monthly mortgage payments with interest, property taxes and home owners insurance, if any. You can also consider the overtime bonus and commissions, income from self employment, interest and dividend income, rental income, as income, if not your steady employment.

• Debts: Your monthly debts and obligations will also be taken under consideration by the lenders. Your housing expenses and your long term debts should not exceed 33% – 40% of your gross monthly income. Long-term debt is usually considered by the lenders as monthly expenses. So it is advisable that you pay off as much debt as possible before you apply for a mortgage.

• Down payment and closing costs: Lenders will expect you to have enough money available to make the down payment, which is usually 20% of the price for the house. They also expect to get closing costs which is 3% – 6% of the loan amount. The sources for a down payment may be savings, stock and bonds, mutual funds, etc. There are some mortgage programs that allow using a gift of money or grants, (which need not be repaid), as a part of your down payment.

• Credit score: If your credit score is not good, then you will not get the approval of getting a mortgage from the lenders.

So, answering the question, “how much can I borrow for a mortgage” is not as easy as one might think. It depends mainly on your current financial situation. You have to calculate your monthly expenses and income to calculate the maximum mortgage payment that you can afford. There are also many other factors that lenders take into consideration. You should fully understand those factors in order to determine how much mortgage you can really afford to take.

What choices you should think about when remodeling a room

When remodeling a room in your home there are many choices to think about before starting this task. You should consider your home’s equity, your home’s needs, beautification, the time you have on your hands, and your budget. When remodeling a room or your home as a whole, each of these components plays an important role on what choice to make in remodeling.

Let’s say you want to update your bathrooms appearance to increase the equity of your home but your kitchen needs work done as well, not for beautification but because your kitchen needs major repairs. Naturally, the kitchen repairs would be more important then increasing your equity by updating your bathrooms. Your home’s needs always come before wants in this scenario.

The time you have on your hands and the budget you have to work with are of great importance in choosing which room to remodel and how the remodeling should be done. Your bedroom may be too small and your bathrooms may need updating. When do you want the overall work done? How much is each job going to cost if done one at a time? Can you get a discount if you hire the same person to do all the work at once? These are important decisions to work out before you get started on remodeling any room in your home.

Having a plan, your budget worked out, knowing what you want done, and how you want the remodeling done before getting started will make the process of remodeling less stressful. Using these strategies in choosing what room to remodel or how you want the room remodeled will also help you make the process of remodeling a room simpler and more efficient saving you time and money.

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Do it yourself or hire a professional?

Remodeling a room in your home or doing something as simple as cleaning your gutters, some jobs warrant a homeowner doing it themselves and some jobs warrant hiring a contractor. Taking into consideration the job at hand, the cost, supplies need to do the job, and the risk involved if the job isn’t completed correctly is vital in deciding which to do; hire a contractor or just do it yourself.

For example, your rain gutters need to be cleaned, do you hire a professional or do the job yourself? Considering the job, cost, supplies, and risk involved will give you the answer as to who should clean the gutters. If you have a ladder, gloves, and a hose then the cost to clean your gutters is practically free. What about the risk involved in cleaning your gutters? Are your gutters too high to reach with your ladder safely? Do you have any health risk in which you shouldn’t be on a ladder? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions then this otherwise simple job should be done by a professional or by someone who can get the job done safely.

Now let’s talk about remodeling your kitchen, do you hire a contractor or do you do it yourself. The answer to this is more obvious. Taking the job, cost, supplies, and risk into consideration will let you know what to do when remodeling your kitchen. Do you have experience in remodeling kitchens? The cost could be pricy when remodeling your home, and more supplies are needed to remodel a kitchen then to clean your gutters, also, the risk are more costly if you can’t complete your remodeling job or if you make a mistake. In this case, hiring a professional would be a better choice when it comes to remodeling your kitchen.

Assess the situation, the job at hand, cost, supplies needed, and the risk in doing work around your home yourself. Doing so will help you to make the right decision on working on your home yourself or hiring a professional

Top 5 things to avoid when choosing a contractor

How many times have you watched a court television program or witnessed a case involving a homeowner and a scamming contractor? Don’t let that homeowner be you, be aware and do your research prior to hiring a contractor to do work on your home.

Here I provide the top 5 things to avoid when choosing a contractor for your home:

1. Never hire a contractor that wants more then half of your money up front or is offering a price that is too good to be true – this contractor is either hurting for money or is going to run with your money!
2. If this contractor doesn’t have a listing in your local phone book nor has a listing of only a P.O. Box for their address, you may want to turn the other way – chances are this contractor isn’t as serious about their business as you’d want them to be.
Did your prospective contractor come to you by knocking door to door? If so, tell this contractor, “No thank you,” and shut the door! You should shop for your contractor; your contractor shouldn’t shop for you.
3. Don’t hire a contractor that doesn’t have their license, and make sure it’s still in good standing before hiring them to do work on your home.
4. Don’t choose a contractor that doesn’t have good references that you can contact – you want to make sure that the contractor has completed quality work and checking references is a great way to be sure you’re hiring the right person.

Do your research and make sure the contractor you hire is reasonable, and get your agreement in writing. Taking these steps will ensure you aren’t scammed by hiring the wrong contractor.

Gardening as a form of exercise

Is gardening exercise?

When gardening you’re benefiting yourself with more then relaxation, you’re reaping the rewards of exercising because you’re actually getting a great work out as well. While gardening, you’re working out many parts of your body and relaxing at the same time, imagine that!

How is it that a hobby that brings forth relaxation could be a sole source of your daily workout regime? When gardening, you’re shedding calories just as if you were stretching, weightlifting, and doing moderate cardio. Raking the lawn works as a leisure bike ride would, trimming trees and shrubs works just as well as walking at a moderate pace, clearing brush and stacking wood benefits you as a light aerobic class would, turning compost is just as well for you as lifting weights, and raking is like jumping on a row machine.

For those gardeners that want to lose weight, what better way to lose weight then to be informed. provides a comprehensive list of what counts when gardening in regards to how many calories are being lost while you work. A few examples, go dig for one hour and shed approximately 340 calories, or plant seedlings for an hour and you will lose about 306 calories.

Spring is near, a perfect time to reap the benefits of gardening. Grab your gardening supplies, enjoy the sunshine, relax, and burn some calories. What will you be doing in your garden today?

Deciding which vegetables to grow for beginner gardeners

Choosing the right vegetables to grow in your garden is dependant on many factors, today we will address what vegetables to grow for beginner gardeners. Let’s face it; some vegetables are easier to grow versus other complex vegetable varieties. We aim to set you up for gardening success not failure.

There are many great vegetables for beginner gardeners that you can start growing with ease as seeds. A few examples of vegetables to start from a seed and can be planted directly into the ground are beans, cucumbers, summer squash, radishes and lettuce. These vegetables will not only be simple for you as a beginner but these vegetables require little maintenance and grow fairly quick.

Vegetables that are great for beginning gardeners for summer harvest are plenty. You can start with the vegetables as followed: Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, and Cucumbers. Dependant on space, corn is ideal for gardening ease and summer harvest as well.

It is encouraging to look forward to new vegetables year round. What about vegetables great for the beginner gardener for spring and fall harvest? Lettuce (mentioned above), Broccoli, Spinach, and Peas are great for spring and fall harvest.
All in all, do your homework, plant what vegetables you fancy most, and enjoy yourself. For those of you that have vegetable gardens, please share what vegetables you recommend our beginner gardeners to start with to lead them to gardening success by commenting below.

Choosing the right flowers for your garden

When choosing the right flowers for your garden it is a good idea to look at the color, height, blooming season, and placement of the flowers in making your decision. It’s a good idea to not chose too many flowers of the same color, size, or type as well as it would be a good idea to not choose enough flowers of the same color, size and type. Your flower garden should be one that you could maintain with ease, and one that is of balance.

Many choose perennial, annual flowers, mum plants, shade plants, and climbing plants. Mum and shade plants can handle different soil types, if you don’t have tons of time on your hands or the budget to adjust the pH of your soil then these would be a good choice for your flower garden.

In regards to placement, many factors play a part in your flower garden. Will you need flowers that grow better in shade or flowers that thrive in the sun? Are you placing your flowers in a circular flower bed or along a wall? For example, in a circular flower bed it may work best for a taller flower to be placed in the middle to flow onward upon the shorter flowers. Your flower garden may, also, look best if you place your flowers by color to create a colorful pattern that is visually stimulating from all angles versus just planting a bunch of flowers in the circular flower bed just to look a mess.

Another factor of great importance is a flowers blooming season. If all of your flowers bloom in spring, then you have a pretty bare garden during other seasons. Planning your flower garden according to the flowers blooming season while considering the other key factors listed, will create a beautiful flower garden year round.

Hiring a good Contractor

Hiring a contractor to do a home improvement project can be intimidating. Taking the proper steps, asking the right questions, and understanding where to find the answer to your question will make the process in finding a quality contractor easier. Aiming to lead you in the right direction in hiring the right contractor, listed below is a guide to help you make the intimidating process in hiring a contractor a great experience.

The key steps in finding a quality contractor for your home improvement needs are as followed:

• Avoid scams
• Search for a quality contractor
• Interview your prospects
• Check references
• Discuss payment options
• Write a contract
Avoiding scams

There is a scam out there for most transactions these days, hiring a contractor can be one of those transactions. Simply put, don’t sign a document without reading it thoroughly. Don’t agree to a home equity loan if you can’t afford the payments, don’t deed your property to anybody; don’t agree to financing without doing your homework. More importantly, if the deal sounds too good to be true then it probably is too good to be true.
Search for a quality contractor

Searching for a quality contractor can be a job in itself. Seek recommendations from friends, family members, or the local lumber yard. Make sure the contractor has a listing in the local phone directory as well. Once you have a list of contractors to choose from you can proceed to the interviewing process
Interview your prospects

The answers you receive when interviewing a contractor are just as important as the rapport you have with the contractor. During the interview find out how long they’ve been in business, make sure they have their contractor’s license with the state you reside in, will you need any permits for the project, will subcontractors be used, and find out what type of insurance the contractor uses along with what the insurance covers. The more information you gain the better.

Check references

Request references from your prospective contractors. When checking references, ask questions in regards to their performance, if there were added cost, if the project took longer then expected, and make sure their reference would hire them again if needed. Some references may let you see the work that was done at their home, so ask if you can stop by at their convenience.
Discuss payment options

Discussing payment options will help you in several ways. If the contractor asks for half the money up front, there is probably a problem and you may want to choose another contractor. According to How to Hire a Contractor by Tom Silva, a general rule for “large projects, a schedule usually starts with 10 percent at contract signing, three payments of 25 percent evenly spaced over the duration of the project and a check for the final 15 percent when you feel every item on the punch list has been completed.” It’s good to never pay with cash as well.
Write a contract

Writing a contract out is the most important step in hiring a contractor to work on your home. According to your written contract should include the contractor’s personal information as well as their license number, payment schedule, and the start and completion dates. The contract should include that the contractor is responsible for obtaining any permits needed to finish the project, the cost of materials should be listed, and warranty information, the contractor’s obligations, and an agreement of at least 3 business days should be specified in regards to your right to cancel. Any added oral agreements should be added to this contract as well.

This can be a lot of information to take in, but it is crucial that no stone is left unturned when hiring a contractor. The proper research, the right questions asked, and getting a contract in writing will help to ensure a job well done with your home improvement needs.

How to choose a home

Choosing the right home for your specific needs is a crucial element in the purchasing of a home. Location, size, your lifestyle needs, and the price of your home should be considered when choosing to buy a new home. These elements should be evaluated at the present time and for the future. Your needs may change in the future and that is just as important as your current needs when making a long term commitment such as buying a home.

Location should be considered when purchasing a home for many reasons. For example, if you travel often you may want to consider living near a family member or a friend so that house sitting is an easier option or living near an airport so that you have convenient access to the airport. Do you have children or plan to have children in the near future? Some school districts perform better then others districts do, this would be a good reason to purchase a home in a favorable school district.

Equally important is the size of the home you are looking to purchase. Family size, present and future, should be considered when it comes to the number of bedrooms your home is equipped with and the living space provided in the home you choose. Do you have pets? You may want a larger yard for your pet’s needs? Do you work from home? A quiet office space may be something to look for in a new home.


As for the price, the overall price of your home, the monthly mortgage payments, and your home owner expenses should all be factored when choosing a home. As discussed in Deciding to buy your home, “homeowner’s insurance, private mortgage insurance, home association fees, property tax, and maintenance and improvement cost are added expenses for many home owners.” Make sure the home you choose is affordable in all areas of cost for you, as the home owner.

Doing your research and choosing the right home in regards to location, size and price will lead you to a successful home ownership. Buying a home is a huge step and a big responsibility. Choosing the right home for your needs is very important for that reason, this huge step should be one that brings you comfort knowing you’ve made a great investment in a home that is ideal for your needs.