When you are thinking about buying a home there are some things you need to know before you get started. I used to own a mortgage company and I’m also a realtor so I have a few tips for you. Both of my licenses are inactive at the moment but I keep up to date on my continuing education classes. I can activate my licenses at any time. I owned a mortgage company for about 15 years and was actively selling and listing homes for over ten years.
Before you get started looking for a home, you need to get your affairs in order. I know that house you just saw around the corner is darling and you want it. Today. Well, you need to be prepared before you start looking for a home. Before you start looking online or cruising neighborhoods for the perfect home, you need a plan.
When You Buy A Home
- Save for a down payment/closing costs (or ask the seller to pay the closing costs-when the offer is submitted)
- Get pre-approved for a loan
- Find a real estate agent
- Start looking for a home
- Submit an offer on a home (make a copy of the earnest money check), your loan officer will need it
- Real estate agent will order inspection
- Loan officer will order appraisal (required to determine value) and termite inspection if needed
- Close on your home
Home Loans Available
Here are few types of loans, your loan officer will explain the pros and cons to each. Your loan officer will get your VA Certificate of Eligibility if you qualify for a VA loan.
- FHA as of today requires a 3-1/2 percent down payment, this loan has PMI (private mortgage insurance)
- VA government insured loans requires zero down, this loan has a VA funding fee but no PMI
- Conventional loans are the most popular with 5, 10, 15 and 20% or more down payment (under 20% down will have PMI)
- ARMS-adjustable rate mortgages, this means the rate is adjustable, the rate will go up typically
- Rural Housing is 100% financing and has PMI
- Loans available can be 10, 15, 30 and 40-year loans
Good Credit for Home
This is when you need to be prepared to have good credit when you apply for a home loan. Your FICO credit score is critical because it will determine your interest rate. The credit scores you have access to are different than the ones we use as loan officers. We pull three credit bureaus, not just one like the credit bureaus we have access to check on the Internet.
Please do not apply for unsecured credit, car loans, furniture stores or have your credit pulled until you know the loan officer YOU really want to use. If you have applied for credit in the last 90 days the lender will wonder if you are out buying “stuff.” Right before you close on your loan they pull credit AGAIN and check to make sure your ratios are acceptable to the lender.
The lender will also call your employer to make sure you are still employed the day the loan is funded. In other words, don’t go shopping for that big TV, furniture, car, or get 10% off at the checkout counter at your local store if you open a credit card to save 20%. No, no, no. If you want a home you must be careful with credit inquiries. Please do not quit your job, yes I have seen this happen. One of my loan officers had a buyer quit his job a week before he was supposed to close on his mortgage loan. Of course, that loan didn’t close.
Please pay your rent on time, the loan officer will send out a rent verification letter to your landlord. You may not have any credit, but this is a great way to show you pay your rent on time, therefore you have great credit. If you have a car loan that is a better loan than unsecured debt. The reason being the loan is a “closed-ended” loan. It will eventually be paid off. If the car is within so many months of being paid off, the lender may not count the debt because it will go away.
If you are wondering about student loans, yes they will be counted depending how long they are deferred. Yes, loan rules will change so be aware. Your loan officer if she or he has the experience, they will know the changes.
Paperwork for Home Loan
Here are a few items you will need to take to your loan officer:
- Start gathering bank statements (three months-every page)
- IRA’s or 401K statements, stock statements (three months worth)
- Paystubs (30 days)
- W-2’s and 1099’s (2 years)
- Personal Tax Returns-every page (2 years)
- Business Tax Returns if applicable (2 years)
- Overtime is typically averaged for two years
- Self-employment income will be averaged over two years
- Driver Licenses
- Social Security Cards
Expectations of Your Home
Please remember a few things, never buy the biggest most expensive home in the neighborhood you are looking at because it may not appreciate enough to help you buy your next home. If the prices are $200,000.00 to $300,000.00 typically the next wave of buyers will be looking at the lower priced homes and you’ll have an easier time selling when the time comes.
I suggest you and your partner, if you are buying a home together, write down your expectations you want with your new home before you go looking. For instance, 2 bedrooms, 3 bedrooms, how many bathrooms, yard size, carport, garage size, the distance of the commute to work, to name a few things. Ask the realtor if the home has an HOA, this will really impact your budget and parking that trailer on the side of your home. An HOA, homeowners association, will have a monthly fee depending on the common areas, whether they mow your lawn, replace shrubs, etc. You may have to have the color of your front door, entryway lights, home color, garage color approved by the HOA if you plan to make any changes after you move in.
If your home is in a flood zone, that will add a monthly fee if you can even get flood insurance. If you can see a creek, river or culvert near the home, it may be in a flood zone. Be wary of vacant property adjoining the home you are looking at because that may become a commercial building, shopping strip mall or apartments looking directly into your backyard. I always pointed that out to my buyers because you don’t know what is zoned for that plot of land today, and it could change next year.
If you walk into a home with purple walls (my favorite color), remember you can paint the walls, paint is pretty cheap, so don’t get too discouraged with some features you may want to change. On the other hand, look at the floorplan, the size of the rooms, the moldings. the ceilings (for cracks-settling), the cabinets, etc. since some repairs could be more expensive. Things like the lights can be replaced later as desired. Ask when the furnace/AC was serviced, I usually did that as a realtor. I look at the windows, the window screens and the roof (not with a ladder) the inspector will do that.
Check the bathroom for caulking around the tubs and showers, has it been maintained? I’m a clean freak so I look for clean homes. If the home is immaculate then the house has probably been maintained properly. Remember, once you buy, you no longer have a landlord to replace the dishwasher, water heater, etc. As a realtor, I always checked the date on the water heater, hoping it showed the date it was installed.
Ask how old the furnace and the AC are, they may be the original ones when the home was built. Remember, an inspector will check some of this stuff, but it can still break down a month later. As a realtor, I always bought a home warranty for my buyers. Trust me it was used twice, once on Christmas Eve when the furnace went out and another buyer when the AC went out. Those were the most expensive ones that were replaced, whew, it saved my clients $4,000-$5,000 each.
Choosing a Realtor and Home Mortgage Loan Officer
Oh my gosh, these are the most important people you will use to help you find your dream home. I know you may have a cousin who has a best friend with a twin sister that does real estate every once in a while. STOP. I can hear you say, but I need to help her, I get it. But this is the biggest purchase you will make for your family. You need someone who knows the area, has extensive expertise and is looking out for you, not their pocketbook.
They may not know a commercial building is going in on that lot right behind the house you are looking to buy. An experienced realtor with integrity will be looking for a home’s flaws or positive features. When I owned my mortgage company before I took the classes to be a realtor, I knew the good realtors and the not so good ones. You want a realtor that is looking out for your best interest.
Typically a really good realtor knows the best loan officers. They may not be at a bank. They may be a mortgage broker like I was or a direct lender. Check references and ratings. Reputable title companies know the best realtors and loan officers. Trust me, if you have a moving van loaded, that loan better close on time.
Home Moving Expenses
Sometimes realtors provide moving trucks to help their buyers. You can hire a moving company, but it may be more be expensive than you planned on. Get a bid in writing if that is your only option, and check references. Just expect several hundred dollars to rent a truck if you are moving clear across town. Moving a few items in a personal truck is expensive and annoying to people helping you. You can buy used boxes with used paper for packing online or at moving companies. We bought and sold our boxes online before and after we moved once.
Here is a post I wrote on maintaining a home. Maintain Your House by Linda
Changing the Home Locks
Please have your home locks changed once you move into your home. I always gave my buyers a $300.00 gift card to a reputable locksmith so they could have new keys made or the locks replaced. It’s all about safety.
Please remember, buying a home is the biggest and most important purchase your family will make. Take your time and enjoy that home with your family. It’s all about the memories.
My favorite things:
Copyright picture: AdobeStock_64479058 by Andy Dean
Many if not most people including preppers have decided that bugging in, staying at home in the city is the best way to go. I am not going to say that bugging out to the wilderness/bush is going to be easy, certainly if you have had no previous experience & have not learnt any primitive skills, then it will be very hard for these people. But is the option of bugging in really a good idea? I don’t think so.
In the city when the electricity goes off there will be no power, no cooking, no sewage so no toilets, & no water on tap. We are talking a major shtf situation here, long term problems. Not safe to go outside & I don’t think you will be safe inside. Preppers boo hoo the idea that gangs, raiders, thugs could run a Mack truck through a house or set their home on fire. Think again! If they can’t simply break in & take what you have, they will destroy your home.
So you have food & water supplies, how long do you think they will last? There will be no hunting, no foraging. The supermarkets will have been raided & all stocks gone. Too dangerous to cook outside & too dangerous to bury your toilet buckets outside.
Think about it.
Shipping containers help deliver products we consume every single day, but for a growing number of modern homesteaders and off-gridders, they also form the structure for their homes.
On this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio, we discuss everything you’ve ever wanted to know about shipping container homes. Our guest is Adam Hellicar, the owner of Honeybox, Inc., a Canadian-based company that buys shipping containers and then constructs houses of all sizes. He even built one on a mountaintop!
Adam tells us:
- Why the benefits of shipping container homes outweigh the drawbacks.
- How shipping container homes can be insulated so homeowners stay comfortable during scorching-hot heat and frigid-cold weather.
- Why such homes are an ideal solution for people who live off the grid.
We learned a lot about shipping container homes from Adam, and we know you will, too!
15 Ancient House Designs that You can Build Really Cheap What would you do if one day you had to build your own shelter from scratch? No convenient housing materials or modern tools, just you and nature. It probably sounds intimidating to most, but we should remember that people have been building shelters for thousands …
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Living IN the Land Sure, we’ve all heard of living off the land, but how would you like to live IN the land? A few architects have made it possible, and the homes they have designed are nothing short of spectacular. This new school of design has gone beyond traditional structure-focused architecture and instead, creates …
It is cool in our modern-day society to be “green.” Who doesn’t like to pat themselves on the back for embracing the cutting-edge ideas of local foods and frugal living? I sure do. But is the concept of being green really as avant-garde as we like to think it is?
The answer is probably not. Our great-grandparents supported many of the same sustainable principles we do today, and may have even done them better back then than we do now. Their practices in food, household goods, clothing, homes and landscapes all offered fine examples of sustainability – which they perhaps would have called common sense. They also saved money along the way.
1. Food. Some of the food choices our great-grandparents made that society calls green include:
- They cooked from scratch. Breads, cakes, meatballs, stews and confections were made from whole foods bought in bulk, in contrast to today’s mixes and pre-made convenience foods which include lots of packaging.
- They ate foods that were local and in season. Instead of Granny Smith apples being shipped from Argentina and fresh summer squash in January, they relied primarily on what was available from nearby. They had fresh fare in season, and stored or preserved food the rest of the year.
- They grew much of their own ingredients. Vegetables, fruit, dairy, eggs and meat were often raised right in their backyards. It does not get much greener than stepping out the back door to harvest fresh vegetables and eggs for a homemade meal.
- Organic food was the norm. Instead of going out of their way to buy groceries that were free of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and non-food additives, they lived in a world where it was safe to assume most foods did not contain those things.
2. Household goods. Our ancestors chose well when it came to everyday use items in their lives. Some of their more notable sustainable practices were:
- There were not a lot of single-use or disposable goods in those days. Coffee singles, individual yogurt containers, blister-packed lunches, and Styrofoam cups of microwave soups were not on the market. Instead, our great-grandparents had more practical and reusable options.
- They homemade a lot of items, from tools to toys to accessories.
- What belongings they could not make themselves, they often repaired and modified as needed. Their go-to option was making the most of what they already had. Buying new was the last resort.
- Items were repurposed as much as possible. String was saved for reuse. Purchases and gifts were carefully unwrapped so that the paper could be used again. Containers were washed out and upcycled.
- They just plain needed less goods. Great-grandma and great-grandpa did not own smart phones, video games, electric fingernail buffers or paper shredders. They spent much of their time doing the work required to provide for their needs. What spare time they had was devoted more to simple pleasures and less to being entertained.
3. Clothing. Except for those belonging to the wealthiest people, wardrobes were modest. Clothing was kept until it wore out. Sweaters were sometimes pulled apart and re-knit into a new garment. Children changed into play clothes and shoes when they got home, in order to make their more valuable garments designated for school and church last longer.
New clothing was often purchased strictly for church and special occasions. When good clothing began to show wear, it was reassigned to everyday use. When it became tattered and torn and needed patching, it would be demoted again to farm and outdoor wear. When clothing items were no longer wearable at all, they would continue to serve as rags for cleaning.
4. Homes. People in our great-grandparents’ day observed “green living” in their homes by using less energy and more renewable materials and fuels. Some of the ways they did so are as follows:
- They used natural cycles to regulate heat and cold in their homes. During summer months, they opened windows in the evening to allow the cool air in, and kept blinds and draperies closed to the sun during the day.
- They adjusted themselves to the weather instead of the other way around. People wore sweaters in the winter and took care to stay cool in summer.
- They planned their cooking so as to use the stove minimally. Rather than heat the oven for bread in the morning, cookies at midday, and a roast in the evening, it made more sense to bake items back-to-back for maximum efficiency.
- They used the coolest water possible when washing clothes, and hung the wash outside to dry.
- They were diligent about using energy only when necessary. Leaving lights on during the day or in an empty room was a no-no.
- Homes were of sensible size. McMansions with over 4,000 square feet and four bathrooms were unheard of.
5. Landscapes. Like the homes themselves, yards were moderate in size and purpose. Just think about some of our lawns today. We add fertilizer to make the grass grow, herbicides to kill off the dandelions, and pesticides to eliminate the insects. Then the kids and pets need to avoid being on the grass because of all the toxic additives, so the only person who has any contact with the four-acre lawn is the dad mowing it on a lawn tractor while his kids are inside playing video games. Our great-grandparents did it differently.
I plan to continue doing my best to live “green,” and hope you do as well. But in doing so, let us all remember to thank our ancestors who paved the way by practicing common-sense strategies in their generation.
What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:
A Minnesota city is asking a court for a warrant to enter a rental home in order to check to see if the place is clean. If the city wins the case, then inspectors apparently would be able to enter such a building anytime they wish.
The renters and tenants say they have nothing to hide but are opposing the city’s move based on principle. If they want to leave dirty dishes in the sink, they say, they it should be perfectly legal.
“Your home is your castle—irrespective of whether you rent it or own it,” said Anthony Sanders, an attorney for Institute for Justice, which is representing the renters and tenants. “What we do in our home is our business, not the government’s. The mere fact that someone rents a home, rather than owns it, should not give the government the right to disrupt their life, invade their privacy and search every nook and cranny of their home—all without providing a shred of evidence that anything is wrong. It is a fundamental violation of the Minnesota Constitution’s protection against illegal searches.”
Sanders is representing the renters as well as Jackie and Jason Wiebesick, the owners of the rental unit in Golden Valley, Minnesota.
The city of Golden Valley is asking the Minnesota Court of Appeals to grant the warrant even though there have been no allegations that ordinances have been violated. Instead, the city wants to see if the tenants are following minimal standards that include keeping the kitchen and toilet clean, the Institute said.
City Not Backing Down
The city tried to do an end-run around the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures by asking Hennepin County Judge Susan Robiner for an administrative warrant to search the duplex; the warrant was requested without the knowledge of the Wiebesicks. The city argued that no evidence of wrongdoing is required for the issuance of an administrative warrant.
Robiner turned down the warrant application, ruling that the city’s request violated the Fourth Amendment. The city appealed Robiner’s ruling to the court of appeals.
“Both the United States Constitution and the Minnesota Constitution provide that persons shall be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and impose a warrant requirement supported by probable cause,” Robiner wrote. “The privacy interest in one’s home is well-recognized as of greatest constitutional significance.”
The city had sought the administrative warrant after the Wiebesicks and their tenants refused to let an inspector into the duplex.
“What’s at stake is a simple matter of making sure we have safe housing that meets minimal standards,” Golden Valley Fire Chief John Crelly told CBS Local Minnesota. “In general, there are no unannounced inspections.”
But the Wiebesicks see it quite differently.
“Tenants should enjoy the same level of privacy in their homes as homeowners,” said Jason Wiebesick. “We’ve done nothing wrong and we have nothing to hide. The city of Golden Valley shouldn’t be allowed to force its way into innocent people’s homes.”
Said Institute for Justice attorney Meagan Forbes, “Golden Valley is doing what countless cities do: forcing their way into people’s homes without any suspicion they’ve done anything wrong. This has to stop.”
The ordinance in Golden Valley allows city inspectors to enter rental units to check on things like the cleanliness of kitchens and bathrooms. At least four other cities in Minnesota have similar ordinances.
The League of Minnesota Cities, an organization of municipal governments, has filed an amicus brief in support of Golden Valley’s petition request, CBS Local Minnesota reported.
Should cities have the power to inspect homes for cleanliness? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Rammed earth homes made out of natural resources such as sand and clay have been around since before people had axes. In fact, the technique to build them has been used by nearly every culture on earth at one point or another, and now it’s making a great resurgence here in America.
There is no wonder as to why it’s surging in popularity. There are very few other building materials where you don’t have to cut something down, use chemicals or pollute your environment.
There are many reasons why you’d want to build a rammed earth home, but here are just a few.
1. They use perhaps the lowest cost building material around. In fact, over and above just a little bit of cement, you can build your walls for free if you don’t count your labor time to do it yourself.
2. There are some that have stood for many hundreds of years. Once you build it the right way, it’s here to stay.
3. You can get an R factor similar to, or even better than, log homes. They are super easy to cool in the summer and can retain heat well in the winter depending on your build (which we will discuss latter).
4. They are fireproof. Sure, your wood doors and window frames might burn, but that’s about it.
5. You won’t have termite problems, ever. You’ll never have to think about any type of bugs eating your home. If you have wooden doors, window frames and rafters, then you have the possibility there. But, other than that, no worries.
6. They’re energy-efficient. If you have a great seal around your doors and windows, then you have a very, very airtight home. This greatly decreases the heating and air conditioning requirements. It also is a blessing for any allergy sufferers, as these homes can maintain a more pollen-free environment.
There are no set formulas for your earth materials mixture. However, there are some guidelines that you need to follow or you’ll run into problems.
Guideline No. 1
Your earth material needs to be sandy, but not too sandy. Most builders recommend between 50 percent to 75 percent sand in your earthen mixture.
When your sand level gets too high, you could end up with walls that can crumble. If your sand level is too low, you’d end up with mud that will shrink and crack as it dries.
Guideline No. 2
Don’t go too heavy on the clay. If you do, you’ll again end up with shrinkage and cracking as it dries. Clay being about 10 percent of your earthen material usually works well. Too much more and you’ll see it start to get a little soupy on you.
Guideline No. 3
Mix in fine-powdered cement at approximately 10 percent of your earthen mixture. This material was not available thousands of years ago. But, there is no reason you wouldn’t want to take advantage of it and create a home several times stronger than the ones they made that have stood the test of time.
Guideline No. 4
You don’t want your moisture level to be at anything more than 10 percent. If it is, you’ll be compacting mud instead of ramming earth.
One easy test is to make a squeezed ball of your material in your hand and drop it to the ground. If it breaks and shatters, then your mixture isn’t right. If it splats, it’s too wet.
What About Colors?
Varying the colors of the batches of your earthen mixture that you will lay down in layers can produce walls with an amazingly aesthetic appeal.
As an example, a Sedona Arizona red dirt layered with a slightly lighter, browner mixture has a really nice look that will give your walls far greater appeal. You can get colored earth from many locations or just stick with the local stuff so you blend in.
There are two basic wall types that you can use in the construction of your rammed earth home.
The first is to build walls that are 12 inches thick, which is the standard building thickness. You can (as some do), go 24 inches thick and end up with the really deep window and door wells that are prevalent in straw bale homes due to their wall thickness.
Either thickness will be more than strong enough. The strength of your walls won’t really be an issue.
The second is to do two 8- to 12-inch walls with a layer of insulation sandwiched in between. This offers better insulation, which can pay dividends over the life of the home.
How to Build Your Rammed Earth Walls
Before you build your walls, you need a good foundation. There are many guides on building foundations, but here’s a tip: Be sure to check your local splash and frost lines for the height and depth at which you should set your foundation. This is one of those things where, later, you’ll be happy later you did.
Another tip: Build your forms/molds out of five-eighths inch marine plywood so they will be light enough for one man to handle if needed and an easy job for two guys.
Line the interiors of your forms with shoot steel so that your walls are super smooth when you pop off the forms. You’ll like the look a whole lot better than the rougher look wood will leave. Plus, at times you can see the wood grain in the walls with uncovered plywood forms. You may have seen that on concrete walls, where you can see the plywood marks in it. Shoot steel will solve that.
Ramming the Walls
Be sure to have half inch or one-fourth inch rebar stubbed up two inches tall, once every foot, where the center of your wall will go. This will help anchor the walls well.
Build your forms on both sides of the stubs and lay in four inches of your earthen mixture at 10 percent or a little less moisture.
There are many rams on the market, but at a minimum go with one that’s at least six-feet tall and at least 15 pounds. This size will likely use a one-inch pipe to attach to the hammer head.
Hammer that four inches down until it sounds (rings) like you’re hammering rock.
Lay down your next four inches and repeat the process of hammering until you hear that distinctive sound.
Be sure to tarp the walls at night to keep the rain off of them or it will seep between the walls and forms and you’ll have problems.
Removing the Forms
Rammed earth fully hardens as it dries. So, as soon as your wall is packed, you can remove the forms. This is a good time to smooth any rough spots if you’re going to leave the rammed earth exposed as the interior or exterior.
Windows and Doors
As you come to your windows and doors, you frame them. They MUST be well built as you’re going to be ramming earth on top of them.
Tip: When putting in your form frame for a window, drill two or three one-eighth or one-fourth inch holes into the rammed earth below the frame. Drop in a short piece of rebar into each hole with an inch or two stubbed up. Re-hammer the earth around them to set them.
You’ll now have pre-built window mounts that will be in those walls like they were poured in concrete.
Now, just build your walls right around those frames, hammering the material just like you would in any other part of the wall.
There you have it. Those are the basics of building your rammed earth home. Get a manual to learn more about the nitty gritty. But, the above is really the basics of how you get it done. The rest is just details and measuring tapes.
What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
Who is the slave and who is the Master?
Questions to Provoke Thought and Action.
Personal liberty is the birthright of all persons and our Constitutional documents recognize that liberty is personal and cannot be sacrificed by a majority vote of representatives, but only by individual consent? What would change if powers given in our Constitutional documents no longer limited parliament but were actually used as a justification to extend parliamentary authority over every realm of human life? What if our Monarchs, first Minister in Australia, Prime Minister Turnbull made himself a Monarch? What if the Prime Minster assumed that everything he did was legal just because he has the numbers in the House of Parliament? What if he could interrupt your regularly scheduled radio and TV programming for a special message from him? What if he could declare war on his own? What if he could read your emails and your texts without a search warrant? What if the violation of the right to privacy is a gateway to all other government violations of personal liberty? What if the High Courts, Justices no longer looked to the Constitutional documents to determine the authority of a law, but rather simply to what other Justice’s who preceded them thought about it? What if the rights and principles guaranteed in the Constitutional documents were so ignored that our grandparents would think they were living in the old Soviet Union? What if the States were mere provinces of a totally nationalized and fully centralized government. What if the Constitution was amended stealthfully; not by Constitutional amendments dully ratified by the people in a referenda but by the constant and persistent expansion of the Government’s role in our lives? What if our parliaments decided that its own powers were above the Constitution? What if the Constitutional document were no longer the Supreme Law of the Land? What if you believed that our Constitutional documents represented the moral principles of our forefathers who valued our rights and freedoms at a higher in price than the parliament powers to interfere with them? What if those who wrote the Constitution believed that personal liberty is the default position and parliament power the exception? What if the Constitution means that our rights should be maximum and governments control minimum? What if the greatest right protected by the Constitution is the right to be left alone, the right to be oneself, the right to answer only to one’s own free will? What if our parliament is essentially the contradiction of that liberty?