When Do Mortgage Payments Start?

A little bit of mortgage Q&A: “When do mortgage payments start?”

New homeowners (and those refinancing a mortgage) often wonder when mortgage payments start, as there’s sometimes a considerable gap between loan closing and the due date of the first monthly payment.

For example, you may have been told by your real estate agent or mortgage broker that payments won’t start for 45 days or longer and express some intense optimism as a result.

But you might be skeptical as well, and for good reason. Why would it take so long to start paying your mortgage lender back? Let’s find out!

Mortgages Are Paid in Arrears

when mortgage payments start

  • Unlike rental payments that are paid a month in advance
  • Mortgage payments are paid after the fact (arrears)
  • Because interest must actually accrue before it becomes due
  • So once the month is over you pay interest for that time period
payment date

This loan was closed in early August, but the first payment isn’t due until October.

This phenomenon occurs because mortgages are paid in arrears, not in advance, meaning payment is made at the end of a certain period, such as one month.

Because interest is accrued on a mortgage balance each month, it cannot be paid until after the fact.

Simply put, your mortgage payment made on the first of the month will cover last month’s interest, along with taxes and insurance, and principal (if applicable).

This differs from monthly rental payments, which are paid in advance for the month they cover; if you rent a property, your payment due on say August 1st covers rent for the month of August.

You are paying the landlord ahead of time for the privilege to live in their property.

It makes sense if you think about it. With rent there isn’t a loan involved, and thus no interest. So it doesn’t need to accrue first before it is paid.

You just make your payment and get to stay in the property for the month.

With a home loan, it’s the opposite, which explains the time lag you might experience after first taking out a mortgage.

First Mortgage Payment Determined by Closing Date

  • Your first mortgage payment is driven by the closing date
  • If you close late in the month, your first payment will be due about a month later
  • If you close early in the month, you may get nearly two months before the first payment is due
  • Be sure to speak with your loan officer about timing this if you want payments to start sooner or later

It’s gets tricky when you start making mortgage payments, as the start date of your first payment is determined by your closing date.

Example: If you close your mortgage on August 20th, your first mortgage payment isn’t due until October 1st.

However, at closing, you would need to pay the remaining interest for the month of August, or 11 days worth; this is typically known as prepaid interest, and appears as a closing cost.

In this particular example, assuming your mortgage rate was 5.50% and the loan balance was $300,000, the daily interest rate ($45.83) x 11 would be $504.17.

Some borrowers think they’re skipping a monthly mortgage payment, but in fact they’ve paid the 10 days of interest in August and the full month of September by the time the October payment is due.

You can, however, avoid costly out-of-pocket upfront expenses by closing at the end of the month.

Doing so cuts down on the amount of prepaid interest that is due initially, but it doesn’t make a difference long-term. And your first mortgage payment will be due sooner.

If you close early in the month, you’ll pay many more days of prepaid interest at closing but your first mortgage payment won’t be due for about two months, as our scenario above illustrates.

For example, if you close on the 7th of August, you’ll pay about three weeks of interest at closing, but you’ll have nearly two months to make your very first mortgage payment.

In fact, because lenders typically provide a grace period to pay up until the 15th of the month, you could actually have more than two full months before the first payment is due.

However, if you close very early in the month, say on the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, there might be an option to receive a credit from the lender for those few days of prepaid interest.

Then you’d make your first payment the very next month for the full amount of interest due.

This way you can start tackling your mortgage if your goal is to pay it off sooner rather than later. And you can keep closing costs down if money is tight, or if cash to close is an issue.

But don’t forget about other prepaid items, like homeowners insurance, property taxes, and HOA dues, for which reserves may also increase if your loan closing date falls into the next month.

There is an advantage to closing early in the month though; mortgage lenders are typically a lot less busy.

This has to do with a company’s monthly funding goals and getting those loans closed by month’s end for the borrower’s sake.

And really, you should have enough money set aside for closing costs regardless of when your home loan funds.

Read more: 21 mortgage questions commonly asked, answered.

(photo: thejaymo)

About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for nearly 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

4 Areas Not to Skip in Your Move Out Cleaning

Most standard leases won’t penalize you for normal wear and tear to your apartment, so it’s OK if the carpet looks a little more worn or the paint a little faded by the time you move out. However, the parameters of your lease will most likely hold you accountable for making your apartment look as nice when you move out as it did when you moved in, which can require some extra care on your part.

It may feel like a tedious job, but you probably did put down a security deposit when you signed that lease, and you do want that money back, right?

First, check to see if your landlord or management company has a move-out checklist. This will help keep you on track to getting your security deposit back in full. Then, be thorough when you clean. Imagine how you want your next apartment to look when you walk in with that first moving box and give the same consideration to the people who just signed a lease on your current place.

Tackling stuff beyond the basics during your move out cleaning

Getting that “like new” feel to your apartment means doing more than just the basics. While it’s important to clean the countertops, floors and bathrooms well, here are few items you might not spruce up as frequently that need your attention before moving day.

1. Hard to reach spots

cleaning window sillcleaning window sill

Everyone has those hard-to-reach spots around their apartment that often get ignored on cleaning day. While that’s fine for regular cleaning, they’re not the spots to avoid when preparing to move out. Make sure you check these key areas for dust:

  • Crown molding
  • Baseboards
  • Ceiling fans
  • Air vents
  • Window sills
  • Tops of high cabinets and appliances

Spend some time wiping them down with a good duster and/or multi-surface spray if they look a little dingy.

2. Grimiest places in the kitchen

oven cleaningoven cleaning

Even though it may feel like the grease that has accumulated on your stovetop and in your oven is impossible to clean, you can return these appliances to their cleanest appearance with a little work.

Ammonia or a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda can serve as homemade cleaners for your stovetop, helping to break down grease and make it easier to wipe away the grime. Cleaners designed to target grease specifically can also often be found at hardware stores.

Many ovens offer a self-cleaning option, which is ideal if your oven is moderately dirty. This process heats your oven up to burn off the grime, so if your oven has a lot of build up, don’t use this option. Too much grease can smoke up during the self-cleaning process and be quite dangerous.

Oven cleaner is another option, but it can be a little rough on the person doing the cleaning, so make sure to wear safety gloves. For the natural route, baking soda, water and vinegar sprayed on and left overnight can loosen the build-up.

3. Newly emptied spaces

cabinetscabinets

Packing up all your belongings creates empty spaces where your stuff once lived. You may suddenly notice how dirty or dusty the inside of your cabinets is or a strange spill that has sat in your fridge for nobody knows how long. Wipe down all the insides of cabinets in your kitchen and bathrooms, and give special attention to the shelves in your fridge and freezer. Complete the cleaning by wiping down the outside of each. as well.

4. Walls and floors

guy fixing wallguy fixing wall

General wear-and-tear typically doesn’t include carpet or wall stains or the holes from hanging pictures. It’s easy to take care of this common damage. Attack carpet stains with a carpet cleaner or use baking soda. Extreme stains may require you to rent a professional-grade carpet cleaner from your local hardware store.

Wall stains can typically be wiped clean. For small holes in walls, fill them with spackling paste, using a putty knife. Once dry, smooth over with sandpaper and you’re good to go.

Don’t forget your move out cleaning!

There are always last-minute items lingering, so a quick walk-through will help ensure you leave your apartment in the same condition it was in when you first arrived.

Comments

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Primary Residence vs. Second Home vs. Investment

Sometimes I’m surprised I miss the most basic of mortgage definitions, seeing that this blog has been around for more than a decade, but alas, I’ve never written about occupancy specifically.

So without further ado, let’s talk about the three main types of occupancy with regard to qualifying for a mortgage because they’re pretty important.

Mortgage Occupancy Type

mortgage occupancy type

Primary Residence (Where you live)

  • This is the property you live in
  • All or most of the year
  • Underwriting guidelines are easiest for this property type
  • And mortgage rates are the lowest

This is your standard owner-occupied property, a home or condo you plan to live in full time. Or at least the majority of the time. It may also be referred to as your principal residence.

It can be a single-unit property or a multi-unit property, but you must live in it most of the year.

The property should also be reasonably close to where you work, if applicable, and you must sign a form that says you plan to occupy said property shortly after closing.

Now the good news. Since it’s your primary residence, mortgage rates are the lowest, and it’s also easier to get a mortgage because guidelines are more flexible. This means you can potentially put less down or refinance at a higher loan-to-value (LTV).

We’re talking a 3% down payment mortgage, which is pretty much the lowest down payment you can get away with unless the lender has a zero down program, which again would likely only work on a primary residence.

Additionally, you can get all types of different loans, from an FHA loan to a VA loan to a USDA loan. There are few restrictions because it’s a property you intend to occupy.

For this reason, unscrupulous borrowers will sometimes try to fudge the occupancy and say they live in the property, even if they don’t intend to. This is not a matter to be taken lightly as it constitutes fraud.

If you’re a real estate investor, or simply own more than one property, it’s imperative that your bank statements and other important documents are mailed to your primary residence each month.

If you claim one house to be your owner-occupied property, but your bank statements and other financial materials are currently going to another one of your properties, it’s a red flag.

The mortgage underwriter will surely question the occupancy, and your mortgage application will very likely be declined.

Here’s a common scenario. A borrower submits a home loan application for the subject property as their primary residence.

When conditioned to provide verification of assets, they use bank statements from another property they own and the file gets declined for occupancy fraud.

In the eyes of the bank/mortgage lender and the investor, it doesn’t make sense for a borrower to send bank statements, cable bills, and other financial statements to a property they don’t occupy for the sheer reason it wouldn’t make sense if you didn’t live there.

Banks and lenders will likely decline a file if it’s listed as owner-occupied, or at best they’ll counter the borrower to re-submit the loan as an investment property.

Anyway, if the property in question will be the home or condo you plan to reside in, it is considered your primary residence.

Second Home (Where you vacation)

property rates

  • A second home is another way of saying vacation home
  • Not necessarily that you own two homes
  • Should be in a vacation area far from your primary residence
  • Can only be a single-unit property and mortgage rates can be slightly higher

Then we have the second home, which as the name implies, is secondary to your primary residence.

In a nutshell, this means you already have another home you live in full-time, or most of the year, along with this secondary property, which is often referred to as a vacation property.

Think your cabin by the lake, or your ski chalet up in the mountains. Or perhaps your beach house, if you happen to be so lucky.

Distance is a factor here by the way, as is location. Lenders generally want it to be at least 50-100 miles away from your primary home, though exceptions are allowed if it makes sense.

For example, if you live inland and have a beach house 30 miles away.

It should also be a single-unit property, for obvious reasons. And you should occupy it for some portion of the year.

Put simply, it has to make sense as a second home, otherwise the lender may think you’re going to rent it out.

Because the property isn’t your primary, there will likely be a pricing adjustment for occupancy. This has to do with risk.

In the event of financial distress, a borrower is more likely to stop paying on their second home as opposed to their primary. This means mortgage rates must be higher to compensate.

Expect a rate that is higher, all else being equal. How much higher depends on all the loan attributes, but maybe .125% to a .25% higher than a comparable loan on a primary.

Altogether, not too bad. The illustration above might give you a sense of what to expect.

Also note that there will be LTV restrictions as well, meaning you’ll need a larger down payment for the purchase of a second home, or more equity if refinancing the mortgage. Chances are you’ll need 10% down, or a max LTV of 90%.

You may also find that mortgage credit score requirements will rise, so you might need a minimum credit score of 680 instead of 620.

Investment Property (The one you rent out)

  • This is a rental property
  • Can be condo or home, single-unit or multi-unit
  • Typically require large down payment
  • And mortgage rates can be much higher

Finally, we have the investment property, which again as the name makes abundantly clear, is a property you plan to hold as an investment of some kind.

This generally means it will be rented out, and that it will generate income. This type of occupancy comes with the most restrictions because someone else other than the borrower will be living in the property.

Additionally, the borrower will be a landlord, which isn’t as easy as it might sound. That all equates to more risk, which results in more LTV restriction and higher mortgage rates.

You might be looking at a max LTV of 85%, meaning a minimum 15% down payment. This can get more restrictive if it’s a 2-4 unit property. If you want cash out, expect an even lower max LTV.

Also expect higher asset reserve requirements and higher minimum credit scores.

As far as rates go, it could be .50% to 1% higher than a similar loan on a primary residence, depending on all the loan details. It can get really pricey if the LTV is high and it’s a 4-unit property, for example.

In other words, it’ll be harder to qualify and you’ll have to pay more to finance your non-owner occupied property.

The takeaway here is that it’s easiest (and cheapest) to finance a primary residence, followed by a second home, and then finally an investment property.

Each has different rules and guidelines that borrowers must adhere to if they want to qualify for a mortgage. Knowing this beforehand is important to avoid any unwanted surprises.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

10 Things You Should Do Before Applying for a Mortgage

I recently wrote that you should look for a mortgage before searching for a property to buy because unless you have lots of cash, you’re going to need a loan.

Now let’s talk about what you should do before you apply for a mortgage to avoid common setbacks that could, well, set you back.

1. Rent a Place First

While it might sound like a no-brainer, renting before you buy a home or condo is a smart move for several different reasons.

For one, it’ll show you firsthand what goes into homeownership. If things break or go wrong while renting, you can typically call the property management company or landlord for help.

Once it’s your own place, you’ll be fixing it yourself or paying out of your own pocket for a professional to assist you.

Additionally, if you rent first you’ll have a lower chance of payment shock, which is when monthly housing payments jump exponentially.

Mortgage lenders like applicants who have shown in the past that they can handle large housing payments to ensure they don’t default for that very reason.

So renting will make you both a more knowledgeable homeowner and a better candidate for a mortgage.

That being said, it’s perfectly acceptable to live at your parents’ house before you apply for a mortgage too, at least in terms of qualifying.

2. Check Your Credit Scores and Reports

Most cliché advice ever. Yes, but there’s a reason. It’s very, very important, if not the most important aspect of home loan approval.

It also happens to take a lot of time to fix credit-related issues, so it’s not a last-minute activity if you want to be successful.

These days it’s also super easy to check your credit scores and reports for free, thanks to services like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.

Simply taking the time to sign up and monitor your credit could make or break you when it comes time to apply for a mortgage.

It may also save you a ton of money as higher credit scores are typically rewarded with lower mortgage rates, which equates to lower monthly payments and lots of interest saved.

If your scores aren’t all good, tackle the issue(s) immediately so you’re in excellent standing (760+ FICO) when it comes time to apply.

3. Pay Down Your Debts

Similarly, knowing much how outstanding debt you’ve got, along with the associated minimum payments, can play a huge role in a mortgage approval.

Simply put, the less debt you’ve got, the more you’ll be able to afford on your given salary, all else being equal.

It can actually be a win-win to pay down debt prior to a mortgage application because it’ll boost your purchasing power and probably increase your credit scores at the same time.

The result may be even more purchasing power thanks to a lower mortgage rate, which drives payments down and increases affordability.

To determine how much debt you’ve got, grab a copy of your credit report and add up all the minimum monthly payments.

These all eat into your affordability, so eliminating them or reducing the balances can help.

4. Put the Spending on Hold

Staying in the credit realm, avoiding unnecessary swiping (or now dipping/tapping) weeks and months before applying for a home loan can have a big impact.

First off, your credit scores may drop as a result of more outstanding credit card debt. It’d be silly to make a small or medium-sized purchase that jeopardized your very large home purchase.

Secondly, the new debt may eat into your DTI ratio, thereby limiting what you can afford, even if you pay off your credit cards in full each month.

In other words, it may be best to just wait and make your purchases a month later, once your mortgage funds.

This is also true during the home loan process – don’t go buying the furniture until the mortgage crosses the finish line.

5. Organize Your Assets

Now let’s address assets, which are a close second to credit in terms of importance.

After all, you’ll need them for your down payment, closing costs, and for reserves, the latter of which shows the lender you’ve got money to spare, or a cushion if circumstances change.

But it’s one thing to have these funds, and another to document them.

You’re typically asked to provide your last two months of bank statements to show the lender a pattern of saving money.

To make life easier, it could be prudent to deposit all the necessary funds in one specific account more than two months before application.

That way the money will be seasoned and there won’t be the need for explanation letters if money is constantly going in and out of the account.

The ideal scenario might be a saving account with all the necessary funds and little or no activity for the past 90 days.

6. Think of Any Red Flags

Asset issues are often red flags for loan underwriters. They hate to see money that was just deposited into your account, as they’ll need to source it and then determine if it’s seasoned.

Same goes for recent large deposits. They need to know that it’s your money and not a gift or a loan from someone else since it wouldn’t technically be your money.

Try to think like an underwriter here. Make sure assets are in your own account (not your spouse’s or parents) well in advance and that it makes sense based on what you do for a living/earn.

Also take a hard look at your employment history. Have you been in the same job or line of work for at least two years, is it stable, any recent changes?

Any weird stuff happening with any of your financials? If so, address it personally before the bank does. Work out all the kinks prior to giving the underwriter the keys to your file.

And don’t be afraid to get a pre-qual or pre-approval just to see where you stand. You can have a professional take a look for free with no obligation to use them when you really apply.

7. Decide on a Loan Type Yourself

I see it all the time – a loan officer or broker will basically put a borrower in a certain type of loan without so much as asking what they’d like.

Not everyone wants or needs a 30-year fixed mortgage, even though it’s far and away the most popular loan program out there.

An adjustable-rate mortgage may suit you, or perhaps a 15-year fixed is the better play.

Whatever it is, do the research yourself before the interested parties get involved.

This ensures it’s a more objective choice, and not just a blind, generic, or biased one.

8. Think How Long You’ll Be in the Home

Along those same lines, try to determine your expected tenure ahead of time.

If you know or have a good idea how long you’ll keep the property, it can be instrumental in loan choice.

For example, if you know you’re just buying a starter home, and have pretty strong plans to move in five years or less, a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage might be a better choice than a 30-year fixed.

It could save you a ton of money, some of which could be put toward the down payment on your move-up property.

Conversely, if you’re thinking forever home, it could make sense to get forever financing via a fixed-rate product.

And also pay mortgage points to get an even lower rate you’ll enjoy for decades to come.

9. Understand Mortgage Rates

This one drives me crazy. Everyone just advertises interest rates without explaining them. Where do they come up with them? Why are they different? Why do they move up and down?

These are all important questions you should have the answers to. Sure, you don’t need to be an expert because it can get pretty complicated, but a basic understanding is a must.

This can affect the type of loan you choose, when you decide to lock your mortgage rate, and if you’ll pay discount points.

If you’re simply comparing rates from different lenders, maybe you should take the time to better understand the fundamentals while you’re at it.

This can help with negotiating rates too, as an informed borrower who knows the mortgage lingo will have an easier time making a case if they feel they’re being charged too much.

10. Check Reviews, Get Referrals, and Shop Around

Lastly, do your diligence on lenders upfront, not after applying.

It’s a lot harder to shop once you’ve applied because you won’t want to “lose your place in line.”

You could also lose your deposit if a lender charges you upfront and you go elsewhere.

It’s a lot more difficult to even be bothered once you’ve given someone all your financial information and signed a bunch of disclosures.

Whenever you buy a TV or a car, or even a toaster, you probably put a decent amount of time into research and price comparisons.

You don’t just show up at Best Buy or the car lot and purchase something that day.

With a mortgage, it’s even more important to put in the time since it’s such a massive cost, and one that sticks with you a lot longer. Try 360 months longer.

If you make missteps or fail to shop for a better price, it’ll sting month after month, not just once.

Remember, real estate agents influence lender choice for nearly half of home buyers. Wouldn’t you rather make that choice yourself?

(photo: Javi Sánchez de la viña)

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

How to Get Rid of Cigarette Smell

The struggle is real.

Getting rid of the cigarette smell in your apartment is a common question. But the smell is only the beginning of the problems that residual smoke can cause.

Smoking materials contain toxins like ammonia, arsenic, formaldehyde and acetone. American Cancer Society reveals that there are thousands of chemicals in tobacco smoke. More than 70 are carcinogenic and can potentially cause cancer. Several are radioactive. The chemicals in cigarettes contribute to heart disease, respiratory problems and stroke.

Even if you aren’t in the room with a smoker, the scent, the health risks and the toxins can linger in the air for hours. The exhaled chemicals create a sticky residue. The residue combines with other indoor pollutants, clings to surfaces and infiltrates carpets and air ducts. The chemicals can even contaminate dust.

The chemicals that linger on surfaces and absorbed into objects is thirdhand smoke. You can’t eliminate thirdhand smoke by opening a window or putting out an air freshener. Unless you scrub or replace every item in your home or seal thirdhand smoke in under a new coat of paint, it poses a lingering threat to your health.

Get rid of the cigarette smell before you even move in

The best time to deal with cleaning up thirdhand smoke is before you move in. A thorough check-in is an important part of the move-in checklist. So, if your new home smells smoky during your walkthrough, insist that your landlord or property manager resolve the issue right away.

If the smell is definitely emanating from your apartment (and not drifting in from neighbors who smoke) the property might shampoo the carpets, deep clean, scrub the walls and provide air purifiers. If the smell is very strong, replacing the carpet and repainting the walls may also be required.

Once thirdhand smoke has infiltrated an apartment it’s very difficult to get rid of. So, resist the urge to live with the smell or hope it goes away on its own. It won’t.

How to get rid of the cigarette smell in your apartment

If the smell is minor or if you’re cleaning up an apartment you already live in, there are several ways to banish that cigarette smell from your home. It isn’t enough to simply mask the odor. You have to clean every surface, absorb and neutralize the smell and purify the air.

1. Throw away the source of the smell

cigarettes

To get rid of the cigarette smell in your apartment, first, toss out all the smoking materials. Then clean out everything they’ve touched and anything you don’t want to keep.

  1. Put the contents of ashtrays into a garbage bag. Make sure you wet the remnants down first to eliminate fire risk.
  2. Tie up the garbage bag and remove it from the apartment.
  3. Throw away unsmoked cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco. If you just quit, you don’t need any additional temptation. And keeping extras on hand will just encourage guests to smoke forcing you to clean all over again.
  4. Toss out anything that’s too smoky to salvage or that you don’t want to commit time to clean. That can include furniture from a smoking area, ashtrays or porous items like magazines, newspapers and cardboard boxes that soak up the smell.
  5. Set aside garbage cans for cleaning.

2. Increase airflow

open windows

Still, stale air makes that smoky smell even more potent. So, get the air moving to help things smell fresh.

  1. Open windows to get the air flowing.
  2. Place portable fans in the windows of the smokiest rooms.
  3. Make sure the blades are blowing out, pulling the smell outdoors.
  4. Run the fans for a full day, if possible. If it’s too cold, try for an hour or two at a time.

3. Sprinkle and steam

steam cleaner

If you can’t wash it by hand or throw it in a washing machine, try a sprinkle of baking soda and a steam cleaning. It’s simple but effective.

  1. Sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) on rugs, carpets, mattresses and sofas and anything else that can’t easily be laundered. The molecules in it bind to odors, neutralizing them.
  2. Let it sit for several hours (or even a full day) when there’s no foot traffic.
  3. Vacuum up baking soda residue.
  4. Repeat the process if the smell persists.
  5. Then, steam clean carpets and upholstery if the label says it’s safe to do so. You can rent a cleaner or purchase your own at a big box store.

4. Wash what you can

washing clothes

A run through the washing machine is a quick and easy way to eliminate odors. Be sure to check labels to make sure everything is machine washable.

  1. Launder all clothing that’s been exposed to smoke.
  2. Then, move on to bedding.
  3. Don’t forget to remove decorative items like tablecloths, pillow covers and washable couch cushion covers.
  4. Dry items outdoors, if possible. The sun’s UV rays also break down odor-causing compounds, so a little sunshine will help.

5. Scrub all the hard surfaces

scrubbing hard surfaces

After you’ve cleaned or discarded clothing, textiles and other soft items, move on to hard surfaces. Pay particular attention to walls, counters and floors. Don’t forget about ceilings, windows, window sills and light switch covers. The smoke residue will be sticky, so you’ll have to scrub.

You can make your own natural cleaners or purchase heavy-duty cleaners at the local home improvement or hardware store. Leave options like sodium phosphate to your landlord or to the pros they hire, since it can damage paint, metal and wood finishes. Here are a few of the most popular natural options you can make at home.

Using vinegar to remove cigarette smoke smell

Vinegar is a very effective smoke residue remover. Fill a bucket or spray bottle with a solution made of two-thirds distilled white vinegar and one-third water. This will effectively clean most surfaces.

  1. Spray walls, floors and counters with the water and vinegar solution.
  2. Wipe clean with a sponge or soft, clean rag, rinsing frequently.
  3. For windows, use a 50-50 water and vinegar mix and wipe with a newspaper or lint-free cloth.

Using ammonia to remove cigarette smoke smell

For tougher stains and residue, try an ammonia solution. Just take care to make sure the mixture isn’t too concentrated. And never combine it with bleach or cleaners that contain bleach. It can result in toxic fumes that cause headaches and seizures.

  1. For counters and floors add a tablespoon of ammonia for every cup of water.
  2. Wear protective gloves and open the windows to additional ventilation.
  3. Test in an inconspicuous place before applying to surfaces.
  4. To protect painted walls, reduce the concentration to 1/4 cup of anomia per gallon of warm water.
  5. Let it sit on surfaces or walls for a few minutes, then wipe it off with a clean sponge or rag.
  6. Follow with a rinse of warm water.

6. Don’t forget the ventilation

replacing air filter

To get rid of the cigarette smell in your apartment, you need to clean every space, no matter how small. That includes the spaces that move air through your home. Turn off the power before you start disassembling.

  1. Put in a maintenance request for a clean furnace filter.
  2. Vacuum out the ducts so polluted dust doesn’t move through the ducts into the rest of the apartment.
  3. Scrub the air vent covers and registers to remove dirt and grime.
  4. Wipe down the vents in air conditioning units.
  5. Clean all fan blades, fixtures and light bulbs on ceiling fans.
  6. Gently remove vent covers on the microwave and range top in the kitchen.
  7. Vacuum or dust inside.
  8. Wash the fan covers with soap and water.
  9. Put in a maintenance request to clean out exhaust fans in the bathroom, as well. This is a little more complicated, so your landlord may prefer you let the pros handle it.

7. Clean overlooked items

cleaning window blinds

Once you’ve tackled the big items like furniture, carpets, walls and counters, it’s time to think small. Make sure you’ve scrubbed all surfaces, even the overlooked ones.

  1. Look high and low. The tops of kitchen counters and baseboards are dust magnets.
  2. Wipe down little things like lamp bases, towel racks and window blinds.
  3. Place un-washable items outdoors in the sun (or by the window) to let the UV rays neutralize the smell.
  4. Put a cup of baking soda in a garbage bag with any items you can’t wash, like books or important papers. Let them sit in a sealed bag for a day, then shake off the powder.

8. Neutralize odors

baking soda

As we’ve already learned baking soda and vinegar can effectively get rid of cigarette smells. But activated charcoal works, too. Use all three to help neutralize odors in your apartment.

  1. Place bowls of baking soda around the room to absorb the smell in particularly pungent areas. The baking soda will eventually reach a saturation point, so you may have to rotate fresh bowls in.
  2. Boil a pot of vinegar on the stove for a few hours to neutralize the smell of stale cigarette smoke. (Don’t worry, the smell of vinegar will fade in time.)
  3. Purchase small bags of activated charcoal at home improvement and hardware stores and set them around the apartment.

9. Purify the air

air purifier

Once you’ve removed or neutralized the odors and cleaned the surfaces as well as you can, turn your attention to the air itself. An air purifier that meets HEPA standards will filter out 99.97 of larger particulates like many of those found in cigarette smoke.

  1. Set up purifier with approved HEPA filters.
  2. The most effective options also have an activated charcoal filter to filter out smaller particles, as well.
  3. Change the filters as recommended.

Snuff out the smoke

These cleaning, deodorizing and air purifying tips can help you get rid of the cigarette smell in your apartment. They can help whether you’re moving into a new home or refreshing your existing space.

Source: rent.com

What’s the Difference Between a Joint Lease and an Individual Lease?

Renter on bed, debating over individual or joint lease apartment optionsFilling out the application for an apartment and then reading through the lease can be a confusing process. We understand.

One of the things that might be a bit hard to understand before you sign on the dotted line is the difference between an individual lease and a joint lease. We’re going to break it down for you.

Individual Lease Apartments vs. Joint Leases

An Individual Lease

As explained by the University of Kentucky, an individual lease means you’re financially responsible only for your part of the rent and other expenses associated with an apartment. Under this scenario, each roommate has his or her own lease. So, if your roommate moves out unexpectedly and each of you has an individual lease, then the landlord can’t force you to cover your ex-roommate’s part of the rent. Think of this as a “by the bedroom lease.”

“Individual rental agreements mean that each tenant is responsible for their own behavior and decisions separately,” according to Tenants Union of Washington State.

A Joint Lease

On the other hand, a joint lease — in legalese, this refers to the lease’s “joint and several liability” clause — puts full financial responsibility for the rent and related expenses on all of the tenants, the University of Kentucky says. In this situation, all of the roommates are listed on a single lease. Think of this as a “by the apartment lease.”

“Unfair as this practice seems, this clause is enforceable. If may be a good idea to have one tenant responsible for paying the rent and have all roommates pay that person,” the University of Kansas recommends.

Tenants Union of Washington State gives this example of what can go wrong if you have a joint lease:

You and two roommates share an apartment, and all three of you are listed on the joint lease. Each of you is supposed to pay one-third of the rent. But if one of the roommates fails to pay, the landlord could send a notice to all three tenants demanding payment of the one-third of the rent that hasn’t been collected. If that rent isn’t paid within a certain period, all three roommates could be evicted — not just the roommate who didn’t pay his or her share of the rent.

Under a joint lease, you also could be left paying for damage caused by a roommate. The Tenant Resource Center offers this example:

Joey punches a hole in one of the walls one night and then relocates to Mexico for work a couple of weeks later. Kyle, the remaining roommate on the joint lease, moves out of the apartment, but still lives in the same town. Since Kyle is easier to track down, the landlord likely will come after him for money to fix the damaged wall.

Tips for Handling Joint Lease & Individual Lease Situations

To avoid sticky lease situations with roommates, experts offer these tips:

  • Get an individual lease for each roommate, instead of a joint lease covering all of the roommates.
  • Carefully screen roommates before moving in. Pick a roommate who’s responsible, not flaky, and who’ll pay his or her fair share.
  • Avoid surprises by reading through the lease to make sure you know what your rights and responsibilities are.
  • Consider going to court. If a roommate moves out and you had a joint lease, you can sue the ex-roommate in small claims court to try to recover the money that you were stuck paying for something like a hole punched in a wall.

Whether you’re aiming for a joint lease or an individual lease on an apartment, you can start your apartment hunt on ApartmentSearch.com and always come out on top. Regardless of the type of lease you sign, you’re eligible to receive $200 in rewards!

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

How to Manage Your Debt Effectively

Love it or hate it, debt is an integral part of modern life in the United States. And, when you think about it, debt in itself really isn’t a bad thing. Neither are credit cards or loans.

high five

They only become a potentially negative thing when they’re misused or mismanaged. And once they get out of control, they can head down a long spiral and bring you down with them.

The wise use of debt — whether it’s revolving (like credit cards and lines of credit) or fixed (like a secured car loan or mortgage) — is like the skillful use of the right tool at the right time for the right purpose.

So, it’s important to realize that avoiding debt isn’t really the answer. In fact, trying to go through life without incurring any debt or using credit can be unnecessarily difficult and troublesome. It can even impact non-credit-related situations like renting an apartment. The skill Americans truly need to focus on developing is how to manage debt effectively.

Following are 7 tips to help you manage your debt more effectively:

1. Think Before You Sign

Banks, retailers, and many other organizations make credit very easy to obtain if you have a good credit score.

Nearly every department store or specialty shop has its own credit card that you can sign up for instantly while you’re making a purchase, and it often comes with the enticement of an immediate discount off your purchase.

Even if your credit score isn’t very good, there are many lenders who are willing to offer credit at high interest rates, from 25% APR credit cards to 33% payday loans.

The point to keep in mind is that lenders and retailers want you to spend money with them. They’re not concerned in the least with what more debt is going to do to your budget, your lifestyle, or your future.

So, the first tip is simple:

2. Avoid Applying for Credit Impulsively

Don’t sign up for additional credit as an impulse buy or based on desperation. It’s always going to be a bad idea under those circumstances.

However, if you frequent a certain store and routinely spend money there anyway, and you’re confident you can be responsible with a new credit line, it may be beneficial to sign up. The point is, that needs to be a conscious decision, not a second thought for the sake of a one-time 15% discount.

3. Educate Yourself About Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a 3-digit number calculated by credit reporting agencies based on a number of factors, many of which the average American couldn’t even name. While it may seem somewhat arbitrary, that doesn’t change the fact that that 3-digit number can determine:

  • Whether you qualify for a 0% introductory interest rate or have to settle for a rate that fluctuates at “prime plus 23%”.
  • Whether you’re considered financially trustworthy or not, and therefore whether a landlord will rent to you or certain employers will hire you.
  • Whether or not you can afford to buy your own house one day.
  • And much more…

There are numerous situations that are partially or fully out of your control that can result in damage to your credit score. However, much of the damage done could be avoided if consumers simply understood the basic factors that affect their credit score. Then, they could actively work to improve a bad score or maintain a good one.

So, our second tip is: Seek out reliable information about managing debt effectively and educate yourself, so you’re equipped to take strategic action.

4. Assess Your Current Debt Situation

As you learn more about managing debt and understanding your credit score, you’ll begin learning terms like credit utilization ratio and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. These simple calculations have a huge impact on your score, and on how willing lenders may be to offer you favorable terms or to offer any credit at all.

  • Credit utilization ratio is the percentage of your currently available credit that you’re already using. (A simple example: If you own one credit card with a $1,000 credit limit, and it has a current balance of $200, you have a credit utilization ratio of 20%.)
  • Debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of your monthly or annual income that goes toward paying off debt you’ve already incurred. (Another simple example: If you earn $6,000 per month and the combined total of your existing car loan, mortgage, and minimum credit card payments amount to $2,000, you have a debt-to-income ratio of 33%.)

There are other important factors as well, but these two figures form a significant part of the calculation when determining your credit score. If they’re going to offer you the best possible terms, lenders want to be relatively confident you’re able to easily afford to pay for the credit they’re offering you.

They can make that decision based, in part, on how much of your current reliable income is already going toward other debt you’ve incurred in the past, as well as how much of your available credit you’ve taken advantage of thus far.

5. Keep Your Credit Utilization Ratio Low

If you already have four credit cards and they’re all maxed out, when you apply for a new credit card, it’s a pretty good bet you’re going to max that one out too. You already have a 100% credit utilization ratio.

This shows you’re probably not great at managing debt, and there’s a good chance you’ll eventually overdraw your ability to pay. So, the credit card company may decline your application, or they may offer a lower credit limit and/or a higher interest rate to help mitigate their risk.

Of course, if your income is such that, even with all those maxed-out cards, you’re having no trouble at all making the monthly payments, (your DTI ratio is still low,) they may not worry about your utilization at all. And that’s where debt tends to snowball quickly and dangerously.

To sum up, here’s the tip: To improve your credit score and make sure you’re managing your debt effectively, you should shoot to maintain a credit utilization ratio and a DTI ratio of no more than 30%. In other words, you’re taking advantage of available credit, but you’re coming nowhere near the maximum you can afford to spend on it.

6. Make and Keep a Budget

This one requires very little explanation. Everyone realizes that creating a budget is necessary if you’re going to manage your spending. The more formal your budget, the better.

If you’re currently in good shape, your credit score is high and your debt is low, A strategic budget can help keep it that way while improving important tools like emergency savings and investments.

If you’re on the other end of the spectrum, your credit score is low and/or your debt is getting out of control. A budget can be the lifeline you need to slowly but surely pull yourself out of that downward spiral one penny at a time.

The formula is very simple: Income > Expenses.

Of course, putting it into practice is a little more challenging. There are plenty of tools available, from a pile of envelopes with cash set aside for various expenses to smartphone apps, but the real value of budgeting depends on your own self-discipline and willingness to stick to the plan you create.

So, for this tip: Make a budget that consistently keeps your income above your expenses, and do everything you possibly can to stick to it.

7. Get Professional Help with Credit Repair If It’s Needed

While all of the above tips are self-serve actions you can take right now to make a difference in your debt management, many Americans are already in a situation where it may not be possible to turn it around completely on their own.

For instance, if the loss of a job, divorce, military deployment, or other major life events caused you to unexpectedly rely on credit cards for months, you may be in a desperate situation that isn’t really even your fault.

Likewise, if you’re like so many Americans who grew up, finished school, and left home without ever learning the basics of financial responsibility, you may have gotten in over your head in debt without even realizing that was possible.

No matter what the reason is for your current situation, you don’t have to go it alone.

Hire a Credit Repair Company

Get in touch with a reputable credit repair agency and discuss your situation with a professional who can help. For a small fee, they can take the reins on your situation by:

  • Investigating your credit report to confirm its accuracy and completeness
  • Working with creditors on your behalf to negotiate payment plans or better terms
  • Disputing errors and eliminating inconsistencies on your report
  • Setting up a realistic budget and debt reduction plan
  • Guiding you through the challenges that will inevitably rise as you resolve your situation

So, the final tip is this: If you need help getting out of snowballing debt and getting yourself to the point that you can effectively manage it going forward, don’t hesitate. Get the help you need.

In modern America, completely avoiding debt is not only difficult, it’s potentially harmful. However, incurring debt without managing it effectively can be even worse. Follow the tips above, and you’re sure to get a solid handle on debt and use it skillfully.

Source: crediful.com

6 Factors to Consider When Seeking a Family-Friendly Rental

Family-friendly rentals are more abundant than you might think. Keep these factors in mind to find the perfect one.

Anyone who has ever rented knows it has its advantages. You don’t have the stress of a mortgage, the landlord is on the hook for repairs, and, best of all, it’s easy to move when you desire a change in digs.

The same benefits hold true for families that rent, but with so many individuals’ well-being on the line — spouse, kids, pets, maybe even aging parents — shopping for a rental means keeping a few extra tips in mind.

The three factors that concern rental-seeking families the most are location, value, and convenience, according to Carol Jackson, an area vice president at Morgan Properties.

Knowing that, take these key considerations into account when searching for the perfect rental for you and your family.

Schools and childcare

Mollie Churchill was already renting her urban Baltimore row house when she gave birth to her son, who is now two. While one of the first tips for any renter is to seek a home near good schools, for Churchill, finding a good nanny share was of more imminent concern.

Luckily, her location lent itself to success: “It’s easier to find someone to share with, since I live in a place where there are just more people,” Churchill says of her urban neighborhood.

Whether in a suburban or urban location, access to quality childcare and schools will be a deciding factor for many families.

Overall location

Parks, playgrounds, Little League teams, nearby museums — a rental’s location dictates a family’s quality of life. It also determines the daily work commute, which should be kept to a minimum for sanity’s sake.

City location isn’t the only consideration to keep in mind, however. An apartment’s location within a complex can be just as important. Will your child be spending substantial time on the basketball court or at the playground? “Consider a unit near those facilities so you can keep tabs from the window,” says Jackson.

Safety

A host of safety issues come into play when families shop for a rental, especially in units built before 1978 that may contain lead paint. “Ask about the presence of lead and request to see the landlord’s lead-free certification if applicable,” advises Churchill. “If your landlord is squeamish, then that’s a big red flag.”

You should also ask if childproofing is allowed, such as installing gates or cabinet safety locks.

Finally, ask yourself if the apartment’s decor is appropriate for children. Will your baby be tempted to put crumbly pieces of the oh-so-chic exposed brick wall in her mouth? If so, then the lease might be a pass.

Space

Sarah Murtaza is expecting her first child later this year and is worried about space in the 1-bedroom apartment she shares with her husband in the heart of Washington, D.C. They’re already pondering where to put a bassinet and crib. “Building a nursery or finding space for baby clothes is a challenge for us right now,” Murtaza says.

For expanding families, an in-building storage space, a tiny study, or a high person-to-closet ratio can provide the square footage necessary for new belongings.

If these aren’t an option, see if moving into a larger, albeit pricier, unit within the building is possible. Changing units is often permitted, and some management companies even waive move-in fees if you do it.

Amenities

What Murtaza’s unit lacks in space, the building makes up for in amenities, including a rooftop deck, a trash room on every floor for easy diaper disposal, and a dishwasher, washer, and dryer in each unit.

Conveniences like these can be a deciding factor in whether to sign a lease, as are playgrounds, dog parks, and other family-friendly spaces.

Scams

Shopping with a child in tow often adds frustration to the already tedious process of finding an apartment. That said, Marc Hagerthey, a Maryland-based real estate agent with Re/Max Components, advises that you never take any shortcuts, and be wary of Craigslist scams.

“Make sure you are dealing with the property owner by researching your local property tax records online, or make sure you are dealing with a reputable property management company,” he says.

A dream rental for you and your family is out there — follow these tips, and you’re sure to make the search a smooth one.

Related:

Source: zillow.com