Topics:Real Estate Home Warranty 101 Budget Smart Homeowner Tips Repair and Maintenance Home Warranty Companies Interior Design
Guest Post by Mission Federal Credit Union Anyone who has started a large home project knows that budgeting properly is everything. Your budget ultimately decides how much you can do, how quickly you can do it and at what price-point. Your budget will be one of the driving forces behind the contractors you hire to do the work and the materials they use to finish the job. Everything comes down to the amount of money you’re willing to spend. Yet, budgeting for home improvements or repairs can feel like an uphill battle. Even when you think you know how much a project will cost, it inevitably goes over budget, over your timeline, and sometimes over your stress threshold. How can you set a practical budget for home repairs or improvement, while still being realistic about the surprise costs that can arise? Here are ten tips to help you set your expectations and budget: 1. Start with a preferred budget and set a maximum cap for unseen issues It’s always possible to do more and spend more money, but that’s not practical for most people. Start by going through your finances and deciding what you’re willing to spend and where your limit is. It’s easy to be allured by the possibility of all the new updates, but you don’t know exactly what things will cost until the work begins. For that reason, stay on the conservative end of your budget and make it clear that you won’t go above a certain price. 2. Research the best way to pay for the work Few of us have the cash at hand to pay for renovations or home repairs outright. You’ll probably need to pay with credit or a loan, so think carefully about which options work best for you. You might be able to use a credit card depending on the project. Keep your credit card limit and the interest rate in mind before deciding to max out your card. If you’re a homeowner, you could consider taking out a home equity loan or a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit), both of which allow you to borrow against the equity you’ve built in your home. A home equity loan is ideal for items like a new roof, solar panels or all new hardwood flooring, because you know approximately how much it will cost before you start the work. A HELOC, on the other hand, works well for ongoing repairs and a bathroom remodel (pricing out each towel and accessory can get tedious) because you only borrow money as you need it. Look for great interest rates to keep costs as low as possible and consider exploring credit union home loans, like those from Mission Federal Credit Union, for their competitive rates and terms. 3. Consider a Home Warranty Another option to take care of the cost of home repairs is purchasing a home warranty. Costing typically between $300 and $600 per year with a $50-$100 service fee per trade service visit, you can get coverage for all of your major home systems and appliances. Especially if you have an older home, a home warranty may be worth it and could save you money in repairs. Here is a list of common systems and appliances that top-rated home warranty providers usually cover in their basic warranty plans: Heating system Electrical system Plumbing system Plumbing stoppage Water heater Whirlpool bathtub Oven/range/stove Cooktop Dishwasher Built-in microwave Garbage disposal Ductwork Garage door opener Ceiling and exhaust fans A home warranty can not only provide peace of mind that you won’t have to pay out of pocket for these pricey repairs, but it can also save you money and free up more money for your desired home improvements. It’s important to note that home warranty companies often allow you to customize your own plan, so you can select the specific home systems and appliances that you want coveraged. 4. Be clear about what you want Before you meet with a contractor, list your must-have items and your would-like-to-have items, knowing that you may have to sacrifice your wants for your needs depending on your budget. When you’re first meeting with a contractor, be clear about your project goals and expectations. Your largest goal might be to update your kitchen with new appliances and replacing the countertops, while replacing or refinishing the kitchen cabinets might be lower on your list of priorities. Consider all the possible updates you might want to make and let your designer and contractor know where your stopping point is, both in terms of time and money. 5. Consider where you’re willing save money You’ll also want to consider areas in which you’re willing to forego “top-of-the-line” products to save money. Are you willing to refinish the cabinets rather than replace them? Can you live with the existing faucets or replace them with faucets from your local hardware store and not the designer showroom? Are you able to recycle existing items to save on materials? Also ask the contractors where you could jump in to help complete the work. You might be able to save money by helping with demo, painting, or installation of small items. 6. Finalize the details before the work starts Many surprise costs arise when you haven’t made decisions about materials or finishings. If you know exactly what you’re buying — hardwoods versus laminate, granite versus polished concrete — and what you’re willing to pay for it, you’ll have a much clearer idea of the total cost. 7. Get a hard quote rather than an estimate An estimate may give you a rough idea of what a project will cost, but the actual cost can vary quite a bit from the estimate. A hard quote, on the other hand, details the various expected costs and time required for each step of the job. Because of the amount of work that goes into a hard quote, you’ll likely have to pay a fee. However, it’s worth it to have a clear idea of what you’re getting into so you can adjust as necessary. 8. Stick with a fixed-price contract Generally, there are two kinds of contracts for home improvements and repairs. There’s a time-and-materials contract, which allows for increases in cost of materials and extra time required for labor on more difficult projects. Contractors usually prefer this kind of contract, because it allows for flexibility and often means the contractor can charge more in the long run. A fixed-price contract, however, begins with a detailed budget agreed upon by both parties. This budget then requires that the contractor carefully consider all costs and materials required to add to the budget. Then, once work has begun, any additional work and costs outside of the original budget must be discussed. 9. Communicate regularly throughout the project It’s easier to be surprised by costs and timelines when you’re not in regular contact with the people completing the work. Make sure you’re speaking to your contractor regularly so you’re up to date on the project’s progress and know where you stand on your budget. 10. Be prepared to go over budget anyway Renovations and home repairs rarely stay precisely on budget. There’s almost always a surprise of some kind once the work begins — a problem with electrical, dry rot in the framing, evidence of a leak — so plan on spending a little more than the quote estimates. If you put some money aside under the assumption that you’ll need it, it won’t be as jarring when you have to use it. 11. Keep your end goal in mind Let’s be honest — it can be tough to live through a home renovation project. Remember why you’re doing the work and what you hope to achieve at the end of it to keep your spirits and patience on the right track. Picturing the “why” of your project will also help you make smart decisions throughout the process. It’s easy to get wrapped up emotionally in the project details and delays. Knowing that your new larger bathroom will help simplify your life, even if the perfect wall mirror is out of budget, will help you choose a mirror that’s just as nice and fits within your budget. As you get started on your project, remember that home repairs and improvements can be difficult to budget for precisely because it’s hard to know what you’ll find once you start construction. Be open and honest with your contractor about your budget cap and work with them to keep costs on budget, and remember that communication throughout the entire project is key. Even after all that, it’s best to plan to overshoot your budget just a bit anyway. Whether you use a Home Equity Loan, a HELOC or another form of credit to pay for improvements in your home, it’s a good idea to meet with a mortgage lender to make sure you choose the right loan for your needs. For home repairs, consider researching top home warranty companies to decide if a home warranty is right for you.Know your limits and remember your ultimate goal for each home project — to make your home an awesome place to live! The content provided in this blog consists of the opinions and ideas of the author alone and should be used for informational purposes only. Mission Federal Credit Union disclaims any liability for decisions you make based on the information provided.
Guest post from Credit.comEvery day, millions of Americans are talking with banks, advisors, and finance industry leaders to see if buying home warranties is worth the effort. Many people hold a simplified view of warranties in general. The line of thinking is that if an item breaks, malfunctions, or needs basic work, a home warranty goes into effect to replace or fix the issue at hand. Generally, this is true. For example, according to bankrate.com, “When your 20-year-old refrigerator springs a leak, what do you do? Your first instinct may be to decide between a costly repair and an even costlier replacement.” With a home warranty, the refrigerator repair could potentially be free. Home warranties defined Many contemporary home purchases come with home warranty policies considered by buyers to be a significant perk built into the purchase. The warranty goes to work for the homebuyer when significant repairs on certain appliances, plumbing, heating, and cooling equipment are required. Thus, homebuyers have a boosted sense of confidence when making their home purchases, with the knowledge that even if costly repairs might eventually be required, they will be covered by the warranty. Issues associated with home warranties According to Tri-Region CEO Carl Knighten, “A home warranty contract promises to keep working items working for a certain time period, usually one year.” In today’s day and age, a year is nothing, especially when it comes to a long-term investment such as a home. One trend for homebuyers is to seek out a home they fall in love with and want to spend the rest of their lives in. Long gone are the days when the majority of the populace moved around from area to another. More people today are staying put, investing in their homes through remodeling and renovation and personalizing them to their heart’s content. For the person or family who loves their home and has no intention of moving soon, a one-year warranty is practically a joke.Major equipment will rarely fail, break, or need replacement within a year's time. It is only after many years of inclement weather, rust, corrosion, and other conditions such as age that homes often need significant repairs. Two types of home warranties Homebuilder warranties: Attached to newly built homes, these warranties are priced into the selling price of the home. A Home Builder warranty usually has coverage lasting six months for appliances and spans ten years for structural damage defects, a single year of coverage for paint, drywall, and stucco, and two years covering HVAC and electrical and plumbing defects. Home warranties via company policy: Home warranties are company policies put in place for the buyers of pre-existing homes. Typically, real estate agents or the seller of the home pay for the home warranty policy and build it into the price of the home. Costing around $200 to $300, home warranty policies will cover specific appliances, in addition to the furnace, plumbing, and air conditioning systems for a year. There is almost always a deductible involved of around $100 per repair that applies to each repair service rendered. Additional facts about home warranty policies Available to homeowners and homebuyers, particularly after the purchase of a foreclosed property Banks will not pay for home warranties on homes that are sold via short sale or foreclosure, so the cost of the warranty is the burden of the buyer Home warranty policies are thought to give homeowners and homebuyers peace of mind in potentially problematic situations, but many people who buy these warranties are unclear on what coverage entails Warranties exist to ensure important components in the home function properly and do not provide homeowners with new equipment or any kind of replacement What often happens is that the consumers get angry and confused, as inevitably the decision to purchase new equipment or pay the deductible for repair services becomes an issue. They also dislike the overall lack of control they have in any type of repair process, including the specific subcontractor sent to perform the work.People want home warranty policies to be clearer, but that also means that consumers need to realign their expectations for repairs and replacements and realize they are ultimately getting the services they are paying for. If you have a cheaper home warranty policy, you are likely going to have to pay a higher deductible, and you aren’t going to get as much coverage as you would for a more expensive plan.Consumer complaints typically arise because customers don't understand the terms of their home warranty contract and what's covered in their policy. Anyone interested in a home warranty should read through the fine print to ensure the policy is clear before signing a contract.Thankfully, home warranties have a variety of plan options for consumers so they can personalize their contract to best fit their needs. Home warranties can be beneficial if you make yourself familiar with the policy beforehand. Benefits of home warranties Undeniably, home warranty policies can provide a bevy of tangible benefits for some homeowners. Particularly with recent purchases of older homes, home warranties can save owners a significant amount of money, depending on the extent of repairs needed. However, this will not apply to every homeowner. Some homeowners will rarely, if ever, have to contact their home warranty company for a repair, thus having spent the money on an unneeded policy.However, homeowners can not always accurately predict if they will need a home warranty or the potential extent of repairs their property will need over time. As a result, homeowners need to set realistic expectations to make the policy worthwhile. Making your home warranty policy optimal for your situation largely depends on the property you bought. After doing a self-inspection, hire a professional to do a comprehensive inspection of the home. Factoring in the age of the home and the overall condition, you can then research to compare the coverage levels available and their associated deductibles to decide what is right for your particular situation. Plenty of homeowners will insist on buying a home warranty for the peace of mind it affords, despite the condition and age of the home. Purchasing a home warranty is not so much a guessing game as it is a compilation of information and your set of expectations attached to the home warranty. An older house with a few obvious issues is a great candidate for a home warranty, while a house built two years ago that exhibits no issues through professional inspection might not benefit from a warranty. Taking care of your property is an important factor that comes into play as well. Keep up with regular maintenance, servicing, and cleaning of important equipment and systems. Doing so may save you from ever having to get in contact with your home warranty company. Even so, the company will come fix your equipment that has failed from normal wear and tear, but you will pay a deductible.Home warranties are vital resources for countless homeowners and can save them money. For many other homeowners, a home warranty is essentially a waste of money for a resource that never ends up getting utilized. To decide whether a home warranty is a good decision for you, take stock of the age, condition, and usage of appliances in the home. Read reviews of top-rated home warranty companies, such as Landmark Home Warranty (rated #1 on Best Company) and determine what home warranty company is right for you.
Like many homeowners, you've probably wondered if you should get a home warranty. You want protection for your home systems, but is it worth the cost? There are mixed opinions about whether purchasing a home warranty is the right choice, and it can be a difficult decision. With the information below, you can decide for yourself if a home warranty is right for you. What is a home warranty? A home warranty is a service agreement meant to cover the repair or replacement of systems and appliances in your home. If a covered system or appliance needs fixing or replacing, you make a claim to your home warranty company, and a service provider will come to your home to diagnose the problem and determine how to move forward with fixing or replacing the item. Why do I need a home warranty if I already have homeowners insurance? A home warranty is different than homeowners insurance. Although they both offer protection for the home, it is a different type of coverage. Homeowners insurance protects you if your house sustains damage from a fire, lightning strike, windstorm, theft, etc. What does a home warranty cover? A home warranty covers major systems and appliances in your home, such as cooling and heating systems, washers and dryers, electrical systems, plumbing systems, kitchen appliances, etc. Many home warranty companies allow you to customize your home warranty coverage by choosing which systems and appliances you would like coverage for. How much does a home warranty cost? The average home warranty costs between $350 - $600 per year, depending on the type of coverage you choose. Basic coverage is at the lower end of the range, while more extensive coverage is at the higher end of the range. If you can afford the upfront cost of the home warranty as well as the possible additional service fees, a home warranty is most likely worth it for you. Even though you have to pay a yearly cost for a home warranty as well as additional service fees, this is still likely to be significantly cheaper than fixing your systems and appliances out of pocket. How much do home warranty service fees cost? The average home warranty service fee ranges from $50 - $100. Do home warranties require a home inspection? Usually, home warranties do not require a home inspection. Many home warranty companies advertise no home inspection to make the process simpler for the customer. However, some home warranty contracts state that preexisting conditions for your systems and appliances aren’t covered. Without showing your home warranty company the condition of your systems and appliances at the time of the purchase agreement, your claims could go unapproved. Consider doing some kind of inspection with your home warranty company to ensure you both know the condition of your systems and appliances at the time of purchase. Is a home warranty worth it? The answer depends on numerous factors: What experienced home warranty customers have to say The reputation of home warranty companies in your area The age of your systems and appliances Your ability and inclination to do home repairs yourself Your desire for peace of mind Your budget What experienced home warranty customers have to say Ask for a home warranty when closing on a house Realtor Patricia Vosburgh advises all her clients to include a home warranty with the closing deal. She explains doing this helps with the sell and also ensures the homeowner has coverage in case anything breaks after purchase. Vosburgh mentions that costly repairs such as an air conditioning system can be upwards of $3,000, so the cost of a home warranty is worth the initial cost. If you’re in the process of buying a home, see if the seller can throw in a home warranty as part of the closing deal. Find a reputable company As a home inspector, Michael Marlow has significant experience with home warranties and has had a home warranty for every house he has owned since 2000. Unfortunately, Marlow found out the hard way that not all home warranty companies deserve your business:We purchased a new construction home in 2003, and about 18 months later (right after the builder’s warranty expired), we started having problems with the HVAC just quitting… Over the course of the next four years, we had the home warranty company send out a tech for the same problem, paying a service call each time, and they repaired it. Mind you it was a different company each time. When the system finally died in 2008, we called them again, and their service technician reported that the system had been so modified by previous technicians that the system could no longer be repaired. The solution the home warranty company provided me was to give me cash in lieu of repairs, so they gave me $700. It ended up costing me $7,000 to have the system replaced.Marlow also reports hearing from past clients that some home warranty companies have claimed preexisting conditions on claims when his inspection report clearly notes that the system was working at the time of the inspection.Fortunately, Marlow switched home warranty services and now has a more trustworthy home warranty company. If his home inspection says a system or appliance was working at the time of inspection, the home warranty company will not deem it a preexisting condition. He also doesn’t have to worry about the home warranty company refusing to service a system because of previous attempts. If you find the right home warranty company, you don’t have to worry about dishonest business practices and a company ripping you off. Read the fine print To avoid any miscommunication between you and your home warranty company, Marlow advises “Read the fine print. Don’t just go by the flyer or your realtor’s recommendation; Get a copy of the full policy and read what is covered and what is not covered.” Morgan St. James, an author and home warranty customer, notes that a home warranty can definitely be worth it, but there are some things to look out for — and reading the fine print is one of them. "In my opinion, a home warranty is worth it if you have researched what the particular company covers. I’ve maintained one on my home since it was new (18 years). The main advantage is that it is a hedge against unexpected expenses, but only if your particular warranty covers the item that has gone kaput. "My first company replaced a water heater (expensive repair), repaired my air conditioning compressors and thermostats, replaced a valve in the tub of one of my bathrooms, fixed my built-in microwave, worked on a refrigerator repair, and miscellaneous other items. Well worth it, right? However, after 12 years, they changed their exclusions and, of course, the previously covered item I called about was now excluded as well as several other items." To avoid this, "If your policy automatically renews, check any changes in exclusions for the coming year." Look at home warranty reviews Real estate expert, Benjamin Ross, notes a similar problem to Marlow. "Some home warranty companies will go to great lengths to repair before they replace a part or unit. They will repair even if the best option is to replace them. This can be very frustrating for the homeowner. Scheduling multiple appointments for the same problem with no end in sight can be very frustrating and inconvenient." Like any industry, not all home warranty companies are trustworthy. Reading online reviews can help you avoid situations like Marlow’s and Ross's. The common theme in customer reviews seems to be home warranties are worth it if you find a trustworthy company that will not take advantage of you. Make sure the company you choose has trustworthy sales tactics and that they don't try to cheat you out of replacements based on contractural issues or a claim of pre-existing conditions. Even having home warranty issues in the past, Ross still says that home warranties are worth it. "I have used them for years and saved thousands of dollars. Just be sure you understand the ins and outs of the agreement." James has similar thoughts to Ross. "Read what their customers have to say about [the home warranty company]. There will always be negatives on any company, but what is the percentage of good to bad and what was the experience of the customers with a low rating? Ask home warranty companies if they're licensed in your state David Moreno and Benjamin Joseph, founders of Liberty Home Guard, explain that an important part of vetting home warranty companies is to ask them if they're licensed. "It is of the utmost importance to homeowners that entities are licensed in the states in which they operate. Even if a consumer lives in an unregulated state (like Maryland), he/she should still ask the company if they service regulated states (like California, Arizona, and/or Texas). If the home warranty company says yes, then the consumer should do his/her due diligence to verify this information by asking for the company’s license number, or just by searching the particular state’s database. This is a great way to tell whether the company is being forthright with you or not." Look into the claims department Moreno and Joseph also note that the claim process can make or break a positive home warranty experience. "Consumers should call a company’s claims line to see how the people on the claims team (that is, the department actually servicing customers) interact with them. Are the claims personnel willing to talk and answer questions? Do they answer questions quickly and in a professional manner? Are they effective communicators and the type of people you would want behind you? "Of course, it's always important to read the contents of the policy, but frankly and unfortunately, there are too many providers out there who promise the world in a policy and then don't deliver. As an example, if an AC unit has a refrigerant leak, that's virtually always irreparable. However, many home warranty companies that promise the world in their policy opt for the very short-term and damaging repair job of pumping the system full of more refrigerant, which is bad for the system, bad for your home, and bad for the environment. "By opting for this quick-fix, these companies are potentially exposing your household to harmful chemicals. At Liberty Home Guard, for these types of breakdowns, it is standard procedure to replace the unit, and we don't shy away from such replacements. In other words, we don't apply short-term fixes to long-term problems, and we don't promise the world with no intention of delivering." Take into account the age of your systems and appliances Real estate agent and homeowner Ian Bush advises “when deciding if you are going to purchase a home warranty, I think you have to consider the age of the appliances in your home, their typical lifespan, and whether or not you can afford to fix or replace them when they fail.”Bush has lived in his home for 18 years, so many of his appliances are at the end of their life. He purchased a home warranty to reduce the cost of the repairs and replacements when they fail. Bush notes that because most home warranty policies include three tries to repair followed by a replacement, it is a relatively inexpensive way to protect your systems and appliances. Having older appliances makes a home warranty worth the investment, and Bush ended up saving significant money and time in the long run. Ben Mizes, a licensed realtor and CEO of Clever, agrees that you need to take into account the age of your appliances. "Home warranties are a great option for homeowners who might not be able to afford large and unpredictable repairs or homeowners who own old homes that will need many repairs. A typical home warranty costs between $300-$700 annually and will cover major appliances and systems, although warranties usually won't cover pre-existing conditions or problems that are caused by a lack of maintenance." We discuss his last point of lack of maintenance in the next section. However, if you have a newer home and your systems and appliances are in good shape, you may consider holding off on a home warranty. Melanie Hartmann, owner and CEO of Creo Home Solutions, has advice for those in this situation: "if you have time left before the bulk of your systems will need to be replaced, it may be more cost effective to set the money you'd pay for a home warranty aside in a high return savings account. This way, you have access to the funds when they are needed and can choose the company you want to fix or replace the system. Additionally, depending on the account that is set up, you'll also earn interest on the money that is set aside. Hartmann does note that "this will only work for those who can set the account up and only draw money from it when needed." If you can't guarantee that money for home repairs, "it may be best to purchase a home warranty from a reputable company so that there is no temptation to spend those funds on something else." To help you determine the age of your systems and appliances, check out the infographic below that shows the average lifespan of systems and appliances and their average replacement costs. Infographic from Landmark Home Warranty, the #2 rated home warranty company on BestCompany.com as of December 2019. Practice proper maintenance on systems and appliances Andrew Helling, a Nebraska-licensed real estate agent and the owner of REthority.com, advises everyone who has a home warranty to complete proper maintence on covered systems and appliances or else home warranty companies can deny coverage. Helling explains why: "Home warranty companies exclude appliance or system failures due to improper installation or maintenance. For example, furnace filters should be changed at least every 6 months to avoid HVAC damage. If the filters are not changed and the system fails, the home warranty company will not cover the damage because the system was not properly maintained." If you opt for a home warranty and pay all of this money upfront, you don't want to be denied coverage just because you weren't properly installing or maintaining your systems or appliances. We suggest keeping a list of all necessary maintenece work and completing it regularly as well as ensuring the installation of all systems in your home is done correctly and efficiently. Use home warranties for your peace of mind When asked if her home warranty is worth it, homeowner Carol Gee didn’t hesitate to say “yes.” Gee first had a home warranty as part of a closing gift from the seller of her current home. At first, Gee and her husband did not use the home warranty, and they wondered if they really needed the $350 yearly expense. Two weeks before the end of her home warranty agreement, Gee walked into her laundry room only to be greeted by several feet of water — her water heater had died. Gee’s husband called the home warranty company to explain what happened and by the following day the technician had installed a new water heater and hauled the broken one away. Since then, the Gees have used their home warranty for their air conditioning system, furnace, oven, and garbage disposal.Now that they know how helpful a home warranty can be, the Gees don’t want to be without it, especially now that they are retired and don’t want to worry about unexpected repair costs. Gee happily recommends home warranties to everyone she knows. Gee sums up her home warranty experience by explaining that home warranties are like life insurance and car insurance: you hope you never have to use them but you are so glad you have them when something goes wrong. A home warranty gives you peace of mind that you won’t be left scrambling when a major system or appliance breaks. We also spoke with Becky Beach, designer and blogger for MomBeach.com, who told us that she's had a home warranty for years and it not only gives her peace of mind every year, but it also saves her a great deal of money. "The home warranty company that I have is American Home Shield and have had it for 5 years. It has saved us so much money! Our A/C went out during the Summer in both units, upstairs and downstairs, so our home warranty company covered most of the cost. I can't imagine what we would have to pay out of pocket. "The plan covers all of our appliances too like the fridge, washer and dryer, and dishwasher. We had a problem with our fridge's ice maker so called the home warranty to get a technician out there." However, Beach notes that even though a home warranty is great for saving your money on repairs, you often have to pay a small chunk in repair fees. "Every time a technician comes out, it costs us $70. That's a complaint I have because in the case of our A/C going out, they had two different technicians from two different companies service our top floor and bottom floor units. That was a big headache! I wished they would have had both units be serviced by the same company." So if you are interested in a home warranty, be prepared to pay the required service fee for every visit. And if you want the technician to be from the actual company, ensure the home warranty company you select doesn't outsource its work to third-party technicians. Use home warranties for systems and appliances you can’t or don’t want to fix yourself Like many homeowners, Debi Goldben is handy when it comes to minor home repairs. However, there are costly and difficult repairs that she does not want to do herself. With major systems and appliances that are difficult to fix, Goldben feels a home warranty is “worth its weight in gold.” Since having a home warranty, Goldben has had numerous major systems and appliances fixed and replaced, saving her at least $3,000.A home warranty is a great resource because it can take care of all the major fixes you can’t or don’t want to do yourself. Many home warranty companies even offer customizable coverage that allows you to choose the systems you want covered, which ensures you are only paying for the coverage you want. Ask for a home warranty when closing on a home Often times, you can receive a home warranty as a closing gift from the sellers of the home you're buying. Then, you don't have to pay the annual fee and you only have to worry about service fee costs. Connie Heintz, with the company DIYoffer, did just that and she's grateful that she did. "When I purchased my second home, I asked the seller to include a one-year warranty in the price of the house. I figured that by taking responsibility for the cost of the warranty, they’d be more incentivized to make repairs before I moved in. Luckily they were happy to oblige, as there was a major plumbing failure a few months after I bought the property. If I hadn’t done that, I would’ve been stuck with a hefty bill." Heintz makes a great point that if sellers include a home warranty as part of the transaction, they'll be more incentivized to make system and appliance repairs before you move in. And from the seller's point of view, incentiving a home warranty with the sell of your property will likely encourage someone to buy. Anything that makes your offer stand out above the rest is worth it. Be selective about the home warranty plan you select Many consumers opt for basic home warranty packages thinking it will cover most home repairs and are disappointed when they come across a more complex system or appliance issue and their home warranty doesn't cover it. Home warranty packages are not one size fits all, so you need to make sure the plan you're getting covers everything you need it to. To help with this, Melissa Zavala, a Broker of Broadpoint Properties, suggests the following: "It is important to take time to check what is covered and add additional coverages before purchasing. As an example, plumbing from the main to the home is often not covered unless you pay for the extra option. So, spending a few minutes looking that over and considering the benefits of the add-ons can be a good idea." Zavala notes that this is when home warranties can still be a valuable purchase. "When used properly, it can save you big bucks on roof issues, hot water heaters, dishwasher and oven issues among others. Most newer model ovens have a computer microchip that provides the digital display and wears over time and is very costly to fix. So having a home warranty just to address that single issue can save a person hundreds of dollars, maybe even thousands depending upon the type of oven." If you do your research and get the type of coverage your home needs, a home warranty definitely has its perks. Let’s recap. A home warranty is worth it if: You received a home warranty as a closing gift You can afford the yearly cost and the possible additional service fees You have found a trustworthy home warranty company with good reviews You read the fine print and understand exactly what your home warranty entails Your systems and appliances are likely to need a repair or replacement within the year You want peace of mind knowing your home’s systems and appliances are covered in case they break or need replacing You don’t want to or can’t fix certain systems and appliances on your own Let us know what you think — Take this poll Do you think a home warranty is worth it? Yes No Created with QuizMaker
Saving for a house can be a daunting task, but is one of adulthood's most exciting milestones. You're settling down into a new home, but you're also giving up a large sum of your money in the process. So, how do you prepare for such an important purchase? The obvious thing to do is to put aside money from your income and save it for a down payment. But how can you do this without breaking the bank and becoming completely overwhelmed? Identifying unique saving techniques that will work better than or in addition to your current saving methods can be stressful. Well, that’s where we come in. We’ve done the research for you and asked financial experts, homeowners, and real estate agents what they advise potential homeowners to do when saving for a house. Here are some ideas that can help you on your journey to home sweet home: Save Expected Monthly Mortgage for a Year Jimmy Thai bought his first home a year and a half after his college graduation, and from there he purchased additional rental properties every three years. As you can see, he definitely had success with his money-saving efforts. Thai suggests, “Put away your expected monthly mortgage payment for a year to see if this discipline impacts your spending and/or lifestyle. After a year, either you have 4% toward your down payment and know how to deal with a mortgage payment, or you learn that you are not ready for a mortgage obligation.”Although Thai’s advice may take a little longer to implement into your saving routine, it is definitely worth considering. This way, you not only know if you’re ready to handle a mortgage payment, you’ll also have the experience of paying one, so you won’t be ill-prepared when you do finally own a home. Cut Back on Costly Habits Desare Kohn-Laski, broker and owner of Skye Louis Realty, shared this tip: “We all know when trying to save for a house that budgeting is essential. But what about the simple ways of saving that don’t require you to balance a checkbook every time you swipe a card? Think about that one daily or weekly purchase that probably has a less expensive option. For example, if your kryptonite is a Grande latte from Starbucks every morning, try kicking it old school for a while and making a cup of coffee at home before work. (Keurigs are lifesavers). Even if you don’t have a caffeine addiction, I’m sure there’s one weekly treat you give yourself, whether it’s eating out or Happy Hours after a stressful day at the office. Cut back on these small expenses and watch your bank grow.”Kohn-Laski’s advice is a simpler approach to saving money that could help you save money without breaking the bank. Habitual purchases such as getting a daily or weekly coffee can really add up. While cutting back and putting that money towards your house instead may seem small at first, like Kohn-Laski said, soon enough you will see your bank account start to grow. Try House Sitting Kelly Hayes-Raitt, a blogger and published author who discovered housesitting as an appealing way to save for a house, offered this unique advice: “I save money by not paying for accommodations. I house sit around the world where I live in other people's homes at no cost in exchange for caring for their pets while they go on vacation.” She adds: “Not only do I save money for my own home, but I ‘try out’ communities by house sitting. And, by living in a variety of apartments and condos, I learn what features are important to me that I'd like in my own home.”Hayes-Raitt’s advice, although unconventional, could be a great way to avoid paying certain living expenses and to “try out” communities and find out what you want in a home and neighborhood. Some people may not be able to house sit as often as she did, but if you have the time and the resources, this is certainly something to consider that could help you save money for your future house. Take Advantage of Partnering Options Keith Jenkins, an experienced real estate agent and investor, lent us some of his honest advice on how to save for a house without having to use your own money: “Really the best idea for saving for a house is not to! It is totally possible to purchase a house with none of your own money. Many people use ‘no money’ as an excuse as to why they cannot own a home. But if everyone waited until they had enough money... they probably would never ‘own’ a home. The best way to purchase property is with other people's money (OPM). Partnering on deals will help a new homeowner gain experience, and take most of the risk out of the deals.”Jenkins also gives us insight into his own experiences: “Personally I've even partnered on a deal and purchased a house with none of my own money and none of my own credit. To the truly serious, money is not an issue when it comes to becoming a real estate investor, or a first-time homeowner.”Jenkins's advice is especially something to consider when you don’t have a lot of your own money to put up but you are looking to purchase a home sooner rather than later. He reminds us there are other options even when you feel like there are none. Utilize Money-Saving Apps Chasen Nick, a Digital Marketing Strategist for RAMS Home Loans, one of Australia's largest lenders for first time home buyers, had a specific strategy when asked for his advice about saving money for a home: "My favorite way to save and manage my money is by utilizing an app called Qapital. The app gives you the ability to set up an automated savings account where you decide what triggers a deposit. It’s kind of like a game in which you make up a rule that allows you to round up your extra change each time you buy something with the card that’s connected to your Qapital account. So let’s say you create a rule that rounds your purchases up to the next $5 and you spend $7 on a purchase, then $3 will be placed into your savings account. Over the span of three months, I’ve managed to save almost $1,000 without even realizing the money was gone." Nick adds, “When you stay informed of how much money is in your account at all times, it allows you to budget differently.” Nick’s advice is a unique approach to saving money that is most likely different from what you are currently doing. It doesn’t require much money out of pocket, but it adds up with every purchase you make. Start Your Own Business Deborah Hanamura, Executive Director of Marketing & Communications for Paladino and Company, provides a more traditional route for money saving. Hanamura recently bought a house in the intense and competitive Seattle real estate market. She and her husband started from scratch when they began to save for the house and she says, “The way we saved wasn’t necessarily innovative or surprising. But essentially my husband started a side business that he could do on the weekends and evenings, and we saved every penny from it to produce a down payment in the span of about 18 months. Now that we’ve bought the house, he is continuing to do some work, but not nearly at the pace that he was when we were in saving mode.” Be Transparent about Your Goals Hanamura also explains, “I was also very transparent with people about my goals. I did not travel for weddings, holidays, etc. because it certainly didn’t make sense for him to work that hard only to spend it on airline tickets. And while we did things, like I would challenge myself not to buy any clothes for six months, and I brought my lunch to work every day, we did still remember to enjoy ourselves and take the occasional weekend getaway.” Consider Working with a Financial Planner Hanamura continues, “We also worked with a financial planner, and we established some smart guidelines about how to divide our contributions to our retirement plans so that our future financial security wouldn’t be compromised by our downpayment goals. In the end we were able to handle the down payment, closing costs, appraisal gap, and moving expenses without touching our safety net of savings.” Keep Your Eyes on the Prize Hanamura ended by saying buying a house became a reality in less than two years because she and her husband kept their eyes on the prize without becoming distracted by unnecessary expenses. Regardless of what money saving methods you are using now or decide to use, Hanamura’s experience shows us that whatever you do to save money, commitment is key. Pay off Credit Card and Other Debt First John Reinmuth, a Certified Financial Planner, suggested the first step to saving money for a house should be to “pay off any credit card or consumer debt first.” Reinmuth identifies two benefits to having a zero balance: "It improves the buyer's credit score. It reduces the percent of the buyer's income already allocated to debt servicing. Both the credit score and the total of current debt factor into the lender's willingness to underwrite a loan. The improved credit score and eliminated debt increase the likelihood of qualifying for a mortgage with less than a 20% down payment. This, in turn, reduces the money needed for the down payment. Thus, they have the same effect as increases the saving for a house down payment. While paying off these debts, the potential home buyer should avoid making credit card purchases until any continuing balances have been paid off." If you’re uncertain about how to pay off your credit card debt effectively, consider an automated debt management app such as Tally. According to personal finance expert Bethy Hardeman, “Tally helps people overcome their credit card debt by determining the smartest and fastest way to pay it down, then actually takes action for them based on this information. Tally is able to save people money in two ways - by giving them a lower interest rate and by helping them manage their payments, guaranteeing they will never pay a late fee again.” Ask Loved Ones to Match Your Savings Reinmuth has another, more creative tip for putting aside a down payment: "Ask parents to match your increased savings: Dollar for dollar, 50 cents per dollar, or some other ratio. A gift facilitates a mortgage down payment much better than a personal loan. The lender will ask for a written statement regarding whether parental participation is a gift or loan, and will add any loan amount to other debt servicing. My wife and I matched savings for my son and daughter-in-law to purchase their first house in 2000. This encouraged them to look for as many ways as possible to save, as each $1 they saved in effect became $2. At the time of our gift, we had already determined that our savings and pensions were sufficient for retirement." Reinmuth understands that “with escalating house values, saving for a down payment can feel like reaching for a target that keeps moving farther away.” And he is right. But if you find a way to save money that works for you and gets you into your dream home, that target can be something you hit with a bullseye. It just takes patience. Start a Side Hustle Jennifer Beeston, the Vice President of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate Mortgage, is also a financial vlogger, and she educates people on money and mortgage matters. Beeston advises this when saving for a house: "A great way for buyers to save for a home is by doing ‘side hustles.’ They stash all their ‘side hustle’ income for their down payment. A few potential side hustles are working for Uber part time, or signing up with Fiverr.com and charging for one of your skills. Local side hustle examples would be dog walking, part-time personal assistant for a busy family, meal delivery, etc. The amount of ways I have seen people make money with a few extra hours every week is astounding. If you have the will and any skill, you can make extra money." Beeston’s advice is similar to Hanamura’s in that you have to step outside of your comfort zone and take on extra jobs that may be stressful in the moment, but ultimately will make it easier for you to save money and buy the house you want. Whichever strategy you decide to go with as your money-saving method, our advice is to plan, stay committed, and don’t give up. You’ll hit that bullseye eventually, and we hope these tips get you a little closer to your target. Once you’re settled in your dream house, come back and check out the best home warranty companies so you can get the necessary protection for your home's systems and appliances.