Consumer Real Estate News

    • How to Organize Your Attic

      27 March 2020

      An attic can be an ideal storage space, but if it's not organized, it can turn into a total mess. If you've lived in your house for several years, chances are your attic has gotten cluttered and could use some organizing.

      Get Help
      If the job is too big for you to handle yourself, ask family or friends to help. Talk about what you want to keep and what you want to get rid of and discuss ways to organize the space. You'll need to make more decisions as you go through the cleaning process, but setting guidelines at the beginning will help you avoid misunderstandings and arguments.

      Decide What Stays and What Goes
      As you go through items, sort things you want to keep into piles. You can put clothing in one area, sports equipment in another, photo albums in another, etc. You can further separate items by person, season, or any other category that makes sense.

      Attics tend to accumulate a lot of junk. You may find things that you have no need for, that you intended to fix but never did, or that you forgot you owned in the first place. Be prepared to get rid of things. Items that are in good shape can be sold or donated. Others can go in a dumpster.

      It’s fine to hold onto something that has sentimental value, but if you haven’t thought about a particular item in years, you might want to discard it. If you come across something that has no value to you, but might have sentimental value to someone else, ask the person if it's okay to get rid of it before you do.

      Get Organized
      The items you decide to keep will need to be organized and stored appropriately. Things that need to be protected from extreme temperatures and moisture, such as photo albums and documents, should be placed in sealed boxes or plastic containers. They should be labeled with a description of what's inside and the name of the owner. Put labels on the sides of containers so they'll be visible when the boxes or bins are stacked. Clothing can be stored in containers or hung on poles. If you have items that are too large to fit in boxes, or that would be difficult to store because they have irregular shapes, you can put up shelves to organize them.

      You'll Thank Yourself Later

      An attic can be an excellent place to store items that have intrinsic or sentimental value, but it often becomes a place where things are put and forgotten. If your attic is cluttered and crowded, set aside some time to go through everything, weed out the junk and organize the things you want to keep. Get help from others to make the process less overwhelming. It might take several weekends to get it done, but you'll be pleased with an organized storage space where things are easy to find.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Transitioning From a Car Lease to a Purchase

      27 March 2020

      Leasing can be a smart way to test out a car for a few years without buying it. A lease can give you all of the latest technology and some time to determine if you like the car enough to buy it.

      If you want to buy it before the lease expires, read the terms of the lease agreement to see if an early buyout costs extra, typically charged in finance fees. It may be worthwhile to wait until the lease ends.

      To make sure you're getting a good deal, research the different ways the car is valued. The first is retail value, which is how much you'd pay to buy it from a dealer. The second is wholesale value, or how much the car would cost at auction. Pricing is available at various websites such as Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds. Be sure to compare the same make, model and mileage.

      Compare these numbers with the residual value—that's an estimate of the car's value at the end of the lease and will be stated in the lease agreement. A purchase-option fee may be added. Your research will help you compare your car's value to the residual value to see if it's close to what you've estimated it to be.

      Don't contact the leasing company first if you're thinking of buying. They'll come to you, usually 90 days before the lease expires. If they already know you're interested in buying, you lose an advantage when negotiating.

      Start the negotiations by finding financing elsewhere, since that is where the leasing company is likely to start as a way to make more money off you. Check with your bank and other lenders for lease-buyout loans.

      Some leasing companies may have a policy against negotiating a buyout price, but it doesn't hurt to ask. Request that they waive the purchase-option fee and offer financing discounts and other incentives to buy.

      Remember that you have some leverage when offering to buy a leased car. You can walk away and find another car, leaving the leasing company the work of finding another buyer for the car when they already have a ready and willing buyer in front of them. Remind them of this opportunity and how much higher their price is than what you've found elsewhere, and you hopefully can move them toward a deal.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 4 Ways to Save on Child Care

      27 March 2020

      For working parents, child care is a cost they often can't avoid—and it's an expensive one.

      The cost of child care for two children is more than housing costs for homeowners with a mortgage in 35 states, according to a 2017 report by Child Care Aware of America. Massachusetts was the least affordable state for infant care in a daycare center, at an annual average cost of $20,125.

      If you can't afford to be a stay-at-home parent, here are four options for making child care less expensive:

      In-Home Daycare Centers
      Daycare centers are the most popular and the most expensive, mainly because they provide daylong care. A drawback for some parents is that they have a number of children at a center and don't provide one-on-one care.

      Infant care in a daycare center cost $10,926 annually in the United States in 2016. A more affordable option is an in-home daycare center at a provider's home, which averaged $7,961 for infants in 2016. Annual costs for toddlers was $9,562 at daycare centers and fell to $7,398 at in-home daycare centers.

      Babysitter
      If you only need sporadic care, a babysitter who can come to your home can be inexpensive, depending on how often you need them.

      The national average pay is $13.44 per hour. The average hourly babysitting rate is higher in cities with a high cost of living, according to a study by care.com. The rate was $16.65 in San Francisco, and babysitters in all 75 cities examined earned more than $11 an hour.

      Other Parents
      Meeting other parents at your child's school or through playdates is a good way to learn how they save on child care. For example, you may find out that they're available to take care of your child a few hours a day and are affordable. Or they may know a good and inexpensive nanny, babysitter or daycare center.

      Youth Clubs
      Your local Boys and Girls Club, YMCA and other organizations may offer a safe and fun place for your children to play during the day. The fees can be low, such as $90 a week.

      These may not work for toddlers, but for children who don't have a parent at home after school, they can be a place for them to hang out until their parents pick them up after work.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 5 Ways to Save for a Family Vacation

      26 March 2020

      Coming up with the money for a last-minute family vacation can be difficult. But with a little planning, saving for some time off that you expect to take anyway — such as during the summer — can make it a lot easier.

      Here are five ways to pay and save for a vacation ahead of time:

      Start a Vacation Fund
      Automate your vacation savings by contributing regularly to a vacation fund each month. Set up an automatic transfer from your paycheck or checking account to a savings account that's only used for vacations.

      You don't have to save a lot of money to have a good vacation. In 2016, Americans who took a summer vacation spent an average of $941 per person, according to American Express.

      Plan and Pay Ahead of Time
      Along with saving throughout the year, planning a vacation months in advance and paying for part of it can save you money—along with increasing your happiness during the planning phase and not having to worry about how you'll pay for the vacation when you're supposed to be enjoying the time off.

      While last-minute deals can be a bargain, you can also save by booking early for the busy summer travel season.

      Get the Right Credit Card
      Getting a credit card with a sign-up bonus that offers airline miles is a smart way to get at least one free flight for a vacation. Before signing up for a credit card, however, check the website of the airline you want to fly to find out how many points it requires for your flight. Some airlines require fewer miles than others.

      Look for an airline credit card with no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee and one that lets you earn miles or points on purchases and redeem them for travel on airplanes and at hotels, among other perks.

      Cut Expenses
      Find ways as a family to cut household expenses together, then automatically put that savings into your vacation fund.

      Can you cut out one meal out each week and eat at home instead? Automatically move that $20 per person from your checking account to a savings account.

      Get a Side Gig
      Uber, Lyft, Etsy, TaskRabbit and Vayable are some of the many side jobs people do in their spare time to make extra money. Some do them full-time. A side gig can become your vacation fund, with all of that money dedicated to paying for vacations only.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Best Days to Save at the Grocery Store

      26 March 2020

      Shopping at the grocery store on weekends may be convenient for most people, but it's not so advantageous for their wallet.

      Weekends are the most expensive times to shop for food, according to research by the consumer shopping app Ibotta. With the high traffic, there's no reason for retailers to drop prices then.

      Many people have difficulty grocery shopping and running other errands on weekdays, but it will save them more money in the long run. Here are some items that may be cheaper during the week:

      Produce Is Cheaper on Fridays
      Before the weekend hits, stock up on apples and broccoli on Friday to save about 1 percent, according to Ibotta. Organic produce can also be cheaper on Fridays.

      Thursday Snacks
      If you're preparing for a party or just want to get some snacks for yourself, buy them on a Thursday to save about 1 percent. This way, you can also make them last through the weekend, when you're more likely to eat them.

      Midweek Bread
      Buy bread on a Wednesday to save about 2 percent. Another way to save on bread? Buy it in bulk and freeze the loaves until you're ready to use them.

      Beer Wednesday
      Instead of waiting until the weekend and shopping when everyone else is, plan ahead and buy beer on a Wednesday and you can save about 1 percent.

      Wine a Day Before Beer
      Wine was found to be cheapest on a Tuesday, offering about 4 percent savings.

      Friday Ice Cream
      Buying ice cream on a Friday will not only save you money, but it will also allow you to hold off on the indulgence until the weekend. Fulfilling an ice cream craving on Friday should save you about 1 percent.

      Overall Sales
      Saving 1 percent on an item doesn't sound like much of a savings, but it can add up throughout a year of shopping on weekdays. A quick weekday trip to the supermarket in the morning or late at night should also make it easier to avoid the crowds.

      Also, look for overall sales at grocery stores on Wednesday and Thursday. On these days, perishable products are more likely to go on sale, so ask your grocer and you can get a leg up on everyone else.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.