3 Red Flags To Look Out For When Buying A Home

We all know that interest rates are still incredibly low. Plus, although they are rising, home prices are still affordable. However, don’t let this lead you into believing that any home purchase is a good one. Yes, we are currently in a buyer’s market. However, you do have to exert due diligence before you buy. There are plenty of red flags out there telling you to move away from a purchase. Some problems can be fixed, of course, but sometimes you should just move on. There are two things you definitely have to look into.

First and foremost, check the neighborhood. This is of absolute vital importance. The community is either growing and decline and you need to find out which one it is. If there are many foreclosed homes and businesses, the community is going through tough times. Do also come back to the neighborhood on different days and at different times. This is also a great opportunity for you to get to know the traffic. Do also come at least once at night, so you can see whether the streets are safe and quiet at night or not. Speak to the police and ask for statistics on local crimes.

The second key factor to look into is for you to figure out whether you are looking at a foreclosure or short sale property. Indeed, these properties tend to be the cheapest, but that is because they often require a lot of work or because the entire neighborhood is declining.

At the end of the day, you should never purchase a property that you haven’t had inspected professionally. With the information above, you should be able to tell whether or not you might want to hire a professional inspector, or whether it is a clear no on the purchase. If there are any existing problems, you may want to consider not buying the property at all, or asking for a very significant discount as you will have to invest in the repairs sooner or later. Also, always trust the advice of home inspectors. They are there to make sure you don’t buy something that isn’t worth your while.

Surround Sound Basics: Here’s What You Need to Know BEFORE Purchasing and Installing Your New Speakers

When it comes to surround-sound audio, there are so many choices that your head might spin. Not to mention many brands, wires, terms. It can be very difficult to choose. Below are some things that you should know about surround sound.

The main surround sound format is known as five-point-one. The numbers in the name refer to the number of speakers the format can use. So five-point-one uses five discrete full-range audio channels – three speakers at the front, which are stereo left and right, plus a center-channel mono and two surround sound speakers at the side or rear of the listener. The “point-one” in five-point-one refers to the sixth, low-frequency effects channel, which carries bass sound to the woofer or subwoofer.

For home theater surround, there’s new refinement to five-point-one, called seven-point-one. This format adds two more speakers, which allow for two surround speakers to be placed behind the seating area, and the other two to the sides of the listening position. If a DVD movie is mixed in seven-point-one surround sound, there will be seven separate channels of audio. But since most DVDs and other content are currently mixed in five-point-one surround, often those two extra speakers will be duplicating the same audio heard with five speakers.

After choosing between five-point-one and seven-point-one, it’s time to buy speakers. Here are some basic rules of thumb to follow when selecting the speakers:

1. Get five, or seven, timbre matched speakers. Although timbre matching is quite technical, it simply means that each speaker will produce similar sounds.

2. Match the speakers all around the room so the sound is seamless. A small center channel speaker from one manufacturer and large floor standing speakers from a different manufacturer isn’t the best bet, even though this setup is found in most homes.

3. For most people with a medium-size living room or den, tall bookshelf speakers make a lot of sense. They’re a convenient size that won’t overwhelm a room and can be found in almost every price range. Typically, bookshelf speakers don’t bring a lot of bass, but that’s okay because the subwoofer will handle those low frequencies.

4. Only a dedicated home-theater space or large multi-purpose room should contain speakers of the large variety, meaning 38″ and up. Although the best of the speakers in this range do sound great, and can be loud, it’s really overkill for most rooms.

5. The subwoofer is also an important part of the overall surround-sound system. It delivers all of the deep bass impact on DVDs, as well as music. Most mid-priced systems, though, come with a woofer. This is fine for music, but deep bass won’t be heard on DVDs. To hear them, shell out more for a real subwoofer with a bigger woofer driver, bigger amplifier and a bigger cabinet. Go ahead and get the biggest and most powerful subwoofer the budget will allow. This bass boost will make any size satellite speakers sound bigger and better.

6. Some consumers get caught up in power ratings when buying speakers, but in reality those numbers are just an advisory from the manufacturer. It’s not necessary to match a 100-watt amp with speakers rated at 100 watts, but use these ratings as a guide for choosing speakers that fall at or above the amp’s wattage.

7. When shopping for speakers, one of the big mistakes most people make is listening to unfamiliar program material like a DVD the store may have on hand. There’s no way of knowing whether a speaker system is really to the buyer’s liking. Bring familiar CDs or DVDs. After listening to familiar sounds, one speaker system is going to stand out over the other.

Lastly, every home theater and speakers come complete with cables, but consider getting after-market cables. They’ll make for better video and better audio, and the cables will last longer without problems. There are a lot of inflated claims about the performance of some cables, with price tags to match.

First Time Homebuyers: Here Are The Countertop Appliances That You Need to Have

There are certain countertop appliances that every kitchen needs. If you’re setting up a new home, or simply taking stock of what you have, use this list to make sure you have the essential appliances in your kitchen. Once you obtain everything on this list, you can move on to the more specialized appliances that also are nice additions to your kitchen.

A blender is essential for making smoothies and other frozen drinks, pureeing soups, mixing custards, chopping soft ingredients and achieving other chopping and emulsifying tasks. Choose one with a powerful motor (500 watts or more should be good for most tasks) and a sturdy jar made of glass or heavy-duty polycarbonate. Make sure the jar is big enough for the volume of recipes or drinks that you think you’ll normally be making; if you often entertain or cook for a crowd, you won’t want a blender jar that is so small you’ll have to make everything in batches. An alternative to consider is an immersion blender.

Food Processor
A food processor can chop, slice, grate, blend, knead dough, puree, emulsify and so much more. You can save lots of time in the kitchen if you use your food processor for everyday tasks, such as grating cheese, chopping onions, slicing vegetables and kneading biscuit dough.

A food processor is among the most expensive countertop appliance you can buy, but investing in a high-end version means you’ll have a more powerful motor, a larger-capacity bowl and a sturdier design, as well as some useful accessories, such as grating disks or emulsifying attachments.

Toaster Oven
Sure, it takes up more space than a regular toaster, but a toaster oven is useful appliance to buy. Toast or heat thicker, stickier items like homemade bread, oversized bagels, French toast or waffles, or melt cheese, broil a sugar topping or brown breadcrumbs. You can also use a toaster oven to cook small quantities of food, such as a few cookies or a mini pizza, without having to waste energy and heat up the house with your conventional oven. Some toaster ovens even can double as a microwave, but as long as the toaster oven you choose has a toast setting, a temperature-adjustable oven setting, and a broil setting, you’ll have all you need. Invest in a couple of extra baking sheets and broiler pans that fit inside the oven; you’ll find yourself using them frequently.

Countertop Grill
Whether you have an outdoor grill or not, a countertop grill is still one of the handiest appliances ever for making a quick and healthy lunch or dinner. Use it to cook burgers, fish, steak or chicken breasts, or to toast panini-style sandwiches. Features to look for in a countertop grill include a “floating” hinge to evenly cook thicker foods without compressing one side, removable grill plates for easy cooking, or even plates that interchange with smooth plates to convert the grill into a griddle. You might also want to make sure the grill you choose opens flat.

Tips For First-Time Homebuyers: Here’s How You Can Save Money By Purchasing a Home With a Guest House or a Duplex

Buying your first home is exciting, but the price tag can cause major concern for even the most prepared homebuyer. Investing in a multi-unit property with a mother-in-law apartment or other rental unit can bring in additional income to help cover your mortgage and alleviate that financial anxiety. Take the time to explore the benefits of investing in a multi-unit property and consider whether or not you are prepared to take on the responsibility.

Benefits of a guest house
As people continue to live longer and healthcare costs continue to rise, demand for multi-generational housing is growing. More homeowners are able to build and rent these units on their properties thanks to lobbying efforts by groups like the AARP, which have helped loosen local regulations. If you’re looking to purchase your first home, take advantage of these efforts and start reaping the benefits.

Reliable, steady income

Scour your local Craigslist listings and you’ll find dozens of people looking specifically for mother-in-law apartments. Renters like the privacy and homey feel of an accessory dwelling over renting a room in an apartment complex. Thanks to this demand, savvy buyers know they can rely on a steady stream of income from a rental unit. Many homeowners use this money source as a way to save for retirement or pay down their mortgage.

Resale value
Because multi-unit dwellings are such a hot real estate item, you likely will not have trouble reselling the property when you’re ready. 20% of buyers are willing to pay more for a house with an accessory dwelling. These potential buyers are looking for additional space for a variety of reasons: a tenant, a relative; multi-generational households are especially popular with immigrant families; or a detached home office for freelance or telecommuting jobs.

Tax benefits
Taxes will take some of your rental revenues, but rental properties can actually bring you additional tax benefits. Expenses that you can deduct from your taxes include repairs, maintenance, insurance, supplies and travel. Consult a tax professional for details on the best way to get tax benefits from your rental property.

Ask yourself before you buy
Before you jump into a new job as property manager, there are some important things you need to consider first. Ask yourself these critical questions before buying a home with a rental unit. Can you afford the price and time commitments for purchase? With the increased appeal of and competition for these properties comes an increased price tag. If you are looking to purchase a home quickly, one with a rental unit may not be available on your timeline.

Are you ready to be a landlord?
Being a property manager goes beyond collecting a rent check each month: it’s a 24/7 job. You need to maintain your unit and ensure your renter is happy with their living situation. In fact, tenants have basic rights you must guarantee as a landlord. Check with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for specific requirements in your state.

Can you legally rent it?
Depending on state rental laws and city requirements, an in-law apartment sometimes cannot legally be rented out because it violates zoning ordinances. Perform your due diligence when looking into purchasing a home with a rental unit. Check with your local building department for the certificate of occupancy, and contact your city’s planning and zoning office to find out the local zoning requirements.

Owning a first home is exciting. While the cost of home ownership can be daunting, you can free yourself from some of that monthly mortgage stress by buying a home with a rental unit. Just make sure you’re prepared for the property manager duties.

Don’t Forego An Alarm System In Your House…Read Here to Find Out The Major Benefits To Professionally Securing Your Home

One of the biggest benefits to having a monitored home security system is that it provides constant monitoring even when you are unable to do so yourself. Leaving town for business or going on vacation can be nerve wracking even with a home security alarm, but with monitoring services there is always someone to respond to emergency situations. These services do not act like house sitters, but they do track significant events and dispatch emergency personnel when needed. Home security systems are able to respond to alarms triggered as a result of a house fire, a carbon monoxide leak, a significant temperature drop or increase, an intruder, or a natural disaster such as a flood. Without the watchful eye of a monitoring company, the damage caused by these tragic events could be much worse than they otherwise would be. Some other reasons to have one are:

You Can Save on Homeowners Insurance

A house alarm will save you money on your homeowners insurance policyHomeowners insurance is a mandatory part of becoming a homeowner in most circumstances. The cost of this type of insurance coverage varies on location, coverage, payment plans, insurance company, type of house and a few other factors. Some people see homeowners insurance as a waste of money, those who have ever had to use it (or wish that had had it to use) will disagree.

Homeowner’s insurance is designed to cover private homes and the possessions therein from losses or damage that can occur as the result of a number of devastating events. Homeowner insurance covers most events such as fires, tornadoes and hurricanes. Flood insurance is generally not included and must be purchased separately since floods are a more common occurrence. The cost of homeowners insurance is generally not taken into consideration by first time homeowners when buying their home, but a significant discount is generally given to homeowners with home security systems installed. The total discount given as a result of homes having security systems differs based upon the features of the system (for instance, a system monitored by a central monitoring station should provide a larger discount compared to one that is not monitored) and the amount of coverage purchased initially and the company offering the insurance. In general, homeowners receive a 10-20% discount on their insurance by having a functioning home alarm system installed.

You Can Keep an Eye on Your Home Remotely

For some homeowners, the ability to keep an eye on their home even when they are away is one of the biggest perks of having a home alarm system. As technology has improved, many home alarm systems now allow users to log on to the internet via their computers or smartphone and access their home security system remotely. This type of system allows the home alarm to be remotely armed or disarmed, cameras to be monitored, household lights to be turned off and on, air conditioning or heating to be turned on or changed, and motion detectors to be monitored. All of these functions not only allow homeowners to watch for intruders, but they also help to protect the home remotely. Turning on lights at a specified time through remote access can help to give the illusion that someone is at home even when they are not. Accessing the heating or air conditioning can help to prepare the home for sudden temperature changes to prevent pipe damage and can also help to save on electric or gas bills. In most cases remote access comes with a small fee, but it offers homeowners the opportunity to take charge of their home even when they are out of town.