Are Shipping Containers the Future of Swimming Pools?

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

One Canadian couple is making a splash transforming shipping containers into backyard swimming pools. (We always knew those shipping containers were universal!)

Paul and Denise Rathnam launched Modpools earlier this year and the idea has taken off, with orders mostly coming from the hottest locales in North America, particularly California, Nevada, Texas and Florida.

“The traditional pool is a symbol of excess and waste. This is a little more modern, more modest. We’re repurposing something rather than recycling. This pool can be resold, and you can take it with you if you move,” Paul Rathnam told Vancouver Sun.

It’s an interesting concept, for sure, and the design, once installed, looks pretty slick. It’s as if your backyard was always destined to house a shipping container.

The standard size Modpool is eight feet wide by 20 feet long, and just over five feet deep. It also comes with a clear, acrylic window on one side, which is actually a pretty spiffy design element. Customers can opt to add another acrylic window on the other side for a see-through look if they want one.

In Canada, after delivery, a Modpool will cost you $35,000 plus tax, which could be a cheaper alternative for families planning on installing an in-ground swimming hole.

Would you buy a Modpool for your home? Tell us what you think!

Nick Caruso is RISMedia’s senior editor. Email him your real estate news ideas at nick@rismedia.com.

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Everyone wants a magic and immediate path to wealth. The bad news? The path doesn’t exist. Wealth is attainable through more conventional means. If you come to understand the real estate industry and if you deepen your own firsthand experience as you buy and sell investment properties, you’ll be on the road to success.

Along the road, there are six core principles that will make or break each real estate investment deal. They are the most important concepts you will learn. I call them the Big Six. With each successive deal I negotiated, I grew to recognize the common elements. The Big Six are part of a sequenced step-by-step formula that enables you to identify and purchase the right income property at the right price.

The elements of the Big Six Formula that will guide you into the basics of buying income properties are the following:

Location
Location is the single most important component of any real estate deal. It is crucial in determining your investment success. Look for properties that are situated in an “A” location. Such locations include the socioeconomic levels of the people who live or work in a particular neighborhood, its proximity to shopping centers, public transportation, crime levels, the nearness of prestigious universities and medical facilities, traffic congestion, zoning restrictions, the quality of schools, fire and police protection, and even the reputation of the local government and its officials.

Building Quality and Design Efficiency
Design efficiency interfaces with building quality. When you find an investment property you’d like to buy, you will need to scrutinize both elements. Look for properties that far exceed minimum construction requirements and that have useful and innovative design elements. This will not only make the property attractive to tenants but will add value to the property in the future. Design features on apartment complexes that stand the test of time include walk-in closets, large kitchens with windows, and his-and-her bathrooms. In an office building, a common area factor of 15 percent is desirable as well as a ratio of four parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of rentable space.

Tenant Profile
Tenants can represent either an asset or a liability in an investment. When you invest, your mission is to make sure your tenant profile is the former and not the latter. Just as you want a well-constructed and well-designed property, you’ll want stable tenants who are a good match for your property and have appropriate lease agreements. Find out how much rent is generated and whether it is at market rate or under market. You want to focus on finding an income property that offers the opportunity to increase rental income and, by doing so, multiply the value of the property so that you can resell it at a substantial profit.

Upside
This fourth element refers to the cash flow growth possibilities offered by a particular property along with the likelihood that the property will increase in value. A property may cost $1,500,000 to construct, but if it brings in only the income of a $900,000 property, then it is worth only $900,000.  The key to increasing value lies in buying a solid Class B property in an “A” location where the rents are under the market, the leases are short term, and there are no options to renew the leases.

Financing
In the musical Cabaret, there is a song with the lyrics “Money makes the world go around.” It could just as easily be used to describe real estate’s role in the economic landscape. The free flow of money and access to credit is what adds vibrancy to property investment. Before you get started, you’ll need to get a number of finance-related items in order. The first thing you should do before applying for a mortgage loan is to review your credit reports and your credit scores. Also, learn the terms, understand the components of a mortgage and how they interact, and be open to the full range of financing options available. Banks and other financial institutions make money from mortgages. They are willing to negotiate. Be creative—you may be surprised at the terms you’re able to obtain from a bank or insurance companies, especially in today’s low interest rate environment.

Price
The successful evaluation of a property’s price has to do with how much information you can gather about a seller and the property than it does about the price tag on the real estate deal. You must look at the value of the property, which is not the same thing as its price. The crucial concern is not just how much the property costs, but what kind of income it can generate for you. A property may be architecturally perfect and engineeringly sound, but if you’re locked into long-term, under-market lease rates, the value will be eroded.

If you master these principles, wealth will be within reach. However, it’s not enough to just understand and utilize the Big Six. You must execute them in order. That’s because they all fit together snugly to form your customized real estate formula.

Author Kenneth D. Rosen, CCIM, is a real estate investor and the president of Kendar Realty, Inc.

Investing in Income Properties, The Big Six Formula for Achieving Wealth in Real Estate, Second Edition is currently available at InvestingInIncomeProperties.com in both hard back and digital versions. It is also available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of RISMedia.

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As people reach retirement, their current house may simply be too big for their needs. Paying large utility bills, maintenance costs and property taxes for an older home on a large lot can often drain nest eggs and retirement funds. During a time when you have a lower income and too much house, there may come a time when downsizing to a smaller home will fit better into one’s lifestyle and budget.

Retiring to a Custom Home
When you hear about a retiree downsizing to a smaller place, most people think that the person will be packing up and moving into an apartment in a senior community or a mother-in-law suite in their adult children’s homes. Yet many retirees still want their freedom to come and go as they please in their own place. Purchasing a smaller home then becomes the ideal option.

One interesting trend is that retirees are looking to custom build a new home that is smaller in size. The retiree may be at a unique advantage of having the financial independence to cover the costs of home construction without straining their retirement funds. At this point of time in their retirement years, most retirees have already paid off the mortgage for their other home as they now own the house outright. With the home value having appreciated, they can now ask for a higher sales price that can cover the land purchase and all the home construction expenses.

Building a Home Tailored to Health Needs
Another advantage to having a custom home built is that it can be designed to current medical conditions or physical restrictions. You can work with builders and architects to design the home so that it can make your daily life easier as you grow older. The custom build may have wider first-floor spaces and hallways to accommodate mobility devices. There can be outdoor ramps by front entrances for wheelchairs and walkers, as well as lower kitchen cabinets so you can get items without having to stretch to reach higher shelves. In addition, bathrooms can be designed for retirees with physical disabilities who may have problems using the shower, tub or toilet.

You can have more flexibility when having a smaller home built with adaptable features. The custom home can be later modified for different life stages without having to deal with costly renovations later on that can be a major disruption to your daily life.

Custom Home Offering Less Maintenance Hassles
During retirement, retirees often don’t want to deal with major maintenance and repairs that are associated with larger, older homes. Even downsizing to a smaller, existing home can lead to stress as there may be significant issues with the existing house that will need to be dealt with before moving in.

By having a custom home built at a smaller size, buyers will know that everything in the house is new. They will have new wiring, plumbing, mechanical systems, appliances, a roof, a foundation and other aspects. Even if something should break during those first few months, builders normally provide a builder warranty that will cover defects and provide repairs.

Downsizing to Your Custom Dream Home
Downsizing to a custom home has many advantages. Buyers can have the home built at a chosen destination that offers everything they could possibly need during their retirement years.

It helps to perform comprehensive research regarding the real estate market when purchasing land at another location. Also, researching building plans and contractors can make the difference in purchasing a custom home built with superior craftsmanship. A real estate agent’s help can be just what buyers need to find a new place that is specifically designed for their golden years.

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Selling your home can be an exhausting, overwhelming process, and it is even more so when you have toddlers in the house. Ideally, your home will look as close to a model home as possible and will be in pristine condition when buyers tour the home; however, as a parent, you may understand the need to have toys and games available for the kids.

You may want the home environment to be comfortable for your family, and you may also have concerns about keeping your home in pristine condition when your little ones are constantly making messes in various areas of the house. While staging a home with kids in the house can be challenging, you can accomplish your goals more easily by following these tips.

Think About Hidden Storage Areas
As soon as you first learn you are expecting a child, you may begin gathering toys, clothes, gear, furnishings and more. Your house may now be filled with their items, as well as their artwork, projects and more. Your kids will continue to need access to these items on a daily basis, but you must find a way to conceal them during showings. After all, a primary goal of staging is for buyers to see themselves living in the home, rather than to see signs of your family life all around.

Consider clearing out closets and cabinets with unnecessary items so that the kids’ items can easily be stored in them. Use storage bins with a lid that you can easily pull out of the closet or cabinet as needed. When a buyer opens up closet or cabinet doors during a home tour, they will only see the neat organization of storage bins. As a side benefit, this will make it easier for you to move out of the home, as well.

Re-Decorate Bedrooms and Playrooms
Your kids’ rooms may be painted pink, blue or other bold shades. These may be cute for your kids, but they are often undesirable for most buyers. Buyers will see these walls as a to-do project, and they may even have trouble envisioning their family living in the space. It is best to re-paint these rooms a neutral shade before you list the home.

You should also focus on the playroom. Store away most, or all, of your kids’ toys. Bring a couch, a TV or other items into this space to make it less age-specific. This can broaden the appeal of your home.

Create a Routine to Follow Before Tours
Some sellers can easily run out the door at a moment’s notice when an interested buyer wishes to tour the home. In most cases, these are single adults or couples who do not have kids and who are able to keep their home perfectly clean on a regular basis when listing their home. For parents with young kids in the house, you may need to sweep, mop and vacuum before a house tour.

You may also need to put the kids’ toys back in their storage bins, ensure there are no messes in the bathroom, wipe down the counters, empty dirty diapers from the diaper pail and more. It is wise to create a checklist of items that you need to do before each home tour. In addition, tell your agent that you need a notice of at least two hours before a tour to ensure that your home is ready to show.

Selling your current home and moving into a new home can provide you with great benefits. For example, you may have plans to move into a larger home, a more desirable neighborhood, a more affordable home or something else; however, before you can move forward with your relocation plans, you must find a buyer for your home. These simple staging tips can make the sales process much easier for you and your family.

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If you were around during either run of “The Jetsons”—first in 1962 and again in 1985—you may have watched the show and wondered if the technology the futuristic family used would ever become a reality. In fact, quite a few of the gadgets used on the show have become commonplace in real life. From robotic maids to video chatting, here’s a look at how the future predicted by “The Jetsons” has become the present, and how you can get in on it today.

  1. Robot Vacuums
    The Jetsons had robotic helpers that took care of all sorts of daily tasks around the house. Rosie, the family’s robot maid, was always working to keep their home in tip-top shape. While we may not be quite at the Rosie level with our robots, little helpers like the Roomba from iRobot can get you pretty close.

Roomba will take care of the vacuuming for you. It may still need some maintenance—like emptying dust bins or making sure the floor is clear so it can do its job—but if you hate vacuuming, this little guy is going to be your best friend. These types of home automation devices promise to free up tons of time for more important activities in your day-to-day lives.

  1. Smartwatches
    Way back when Steve Jobs was just a boy, the Jetsons had little square watches they would watch TV on. While the Apple Watch doesn’t have the ability to stream television—yet—it does bear a striking resemblance to the gadget the Jetsons used almost 50 years before the Apple Watch was unveiled.

Even if you can’t catch up on your Netflix queue, today’s smartwatches have a lot of futuristic capabilities. You can take calls, set reminders, check sports scores, see weather forecasts, and do other tasks right on your wrist.

  1. Video Calls
    Another technological capability that probably seemed far-fetched at the time “The Jetsons” aired was video chatting. The characters would call each other up and communicate as if they were face-to-face. These days, apps like FaceTime and Skype make it as easy as tapping a contact name.

Of all the advances in technology that have accompanied the smartphone craze, video chatting might be the most life changing. Grandparents can see their grandkids from thousands of miles away at any time. Soldiers can chat with their spouses and children from across the ocean. The impact this tech has had on families can’t be overstated.

  1. Talking Tech
    In “The Jetsons,” George was woken up each day by a talking alarm clock built into his bed. After being rudely startled awake, he could silence the alarm with his own voice—usually an angry grunt or groan.

If you want the talking alarm clock experience, plenty of options are available. Smartphone apps like the Rock Clock allow you to rise every morning to Dwayne Johnson’s soothing vocals, while dedicated alarm clocks that talk to you are available for the old-school consumer.

It isn’t just alarms that talk, though. It’s possible to have anything on your screen read to you using accessibility tech like screen readers, and digital assistants like Siri and Alexa will not only speak info to you, but also have actual conversations with you.

  1. Flat-Screen TVs
    At a time when many TVs were still black and white and all of them were thick and bulky with tiny screens, “The Jetsons” featured flat-screen TVs with huge screens that lowered from the ceiling. In the ’60s, this would have been unthinkable.

Today’s televisions are ultra-thin and often very light with huge screens and ridiculously high resolutions. LG unveiled a model at CES this year that is less than 2.6 millimeters thick and weighs only 17 pounds—and it’s a 65-inch display!

TVs that retract into the ceiling are also a thing. Companies like Nexus 21 can install a TV concealment system that makes it impossible to tell anything is there until you’re ready to watch, keeping your walls and living space open until show time.

  1. Drones
    The Jetson kids were dropped off at school each day by robotic drones—a far cry from the school buses most of us grew up with. While we are still a long way off from personal drones to chauffeur us around, the technology is advancing rapidly, and drones are being used for a variety of purposes.

Consumer-oriented drones are basically futuristic RC cars, and military drones fly combat missions while keeping our troops out of harm’s way. Even Amazon’s delivery drones can have an order to your doorstep in less than 30 minutes. Self-driving cars are also coming along nicely, so it might not be long before these technologies converge to bring us our very own Jetsons-style transport pods.

  1. Pill Cameras
    A piece of technology that’s easy to miss both on “The Jetsons” and in everyday life is the PillCam. On the show, George swallows a little robot that travels around his body and performs a checkup. If you’ve had any sort of digestive issues in the last several years, the chances are good you may have swallowed a very similar device.

The PillCam is exactly what it sounds like—a camera in a pill-shaped case that you swallow. It can be a little hard to choke down due to the size, but once swallowed, the camera goes to work, imaging your digestive tract and transmitting the info to a receiver. This helps diagnose a variety of illnesses, like Crohn’s disease, and helps the patient avoid a much more elaborate and invasive endoscopy procedure.

“The Jetsons” first aired in 1962, and, 50 years later, the show’s futuristic vision of life has very nearly become a reality. What do you think our homes and lives will be like in another 50 years?

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(TNS)—Search on the web for “best time to book airfare” and you’ll find many conflicting answers, all of them completely wrong—and not only are they wrong, but they do a disservice to consumers who fall for this “voodoo” airfare economics.

One site gives a “guide” of 47 days before travel, although it admits that there is “quite a variance” depending on route and destination. Keep in mind that the booking site in question doesn’t offer or track Delta or Southwest, which together control about 35 percent of the domestic market, so its predictions have to be taken in that context.

Another site’s founder has infamously insisted that the best time is Tuesday at 3 p.m., (that site also doesn’t track Southwest or Delta). Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Company claimed earlier this year that the best day is not Tuesday but—wait for it—Sunday.

But wait: Skyscanner says it’s exactly seven weeks in advance of travel.

So who can you believe? Answer: none of the above.

There is no magic formula.

The best idea: sign up for “airfare alerts” by email. Search the term on the web and you’ll find many options from reputable companies that send out email alerts. Before you sign up, however, make sure that they at least include Delta Air Lines (that excludes such popular apps and sites as Hipmunk and Hopper along, with several others). If they also include Southwest, all the better, but few do.

These alerts all work a bit differently. Some only allow you to track specific dates, which is cool, except what if leaving a day or two earlier would have saved you hundreds? Some allow you to specify “to” and “from” specific airports, because a fare from Baltimore Washington International (BWI) might not be as ideal as one from closer-in Washington National DCA. Most alert systems treat “nearby” airports as equal, but tell that to someone who doesn’t want to trek out to Baltimore or Dulles when National is just a Metro ride away.

Another big annoyance is that the lowest fares are often on airlines that people hate to fly (because they charge for carry-on bags and seat assignments), so look for a service that allows you to eliminate alerts from airlines you’d never fly even if they were free (Airfarewatchdog.com does allow specific airline choice).

Another reason for signing up for several alerts: all online travel agencies do not show the same prices. I recently saw a fare from New York to South Africa flown on Delta and KLM for $200 less round trip if bought on Priceline versus the exact same flights, dates and airlines if booked on Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, or on KLM’s or Delta’s own websites. Some online travel agencies offer negotiated rates that are far less than the airlines themselves sell for. It’s worth searching more than one site.

Twitter is another great source for being alerted to short-lived airfare deals. Follow the #airfare hashtag, where over a half-dozen accounts tweet out unadvertised deals. The #flights hashtag is also useful. Follow the accounts you find there.

Once you’re signed up or following, you have to act. An airfare from L.A. to Singapore (this is a recent example) might go down, unadvertised, to $398 round-trip including tax on Singapore Airlines, whereas other airlines were charging $800 for the same travel dates but on less desirable connecting flights. But that fare, even if it’s good over several months of travel, might appear for just three or four hours and then it goes back up to $800. Now that airlines allow you to pay for a fare and cancel within 24 hours without paying a fee, the strategy is to book it, hold it, and then get your friends and family on board and sort out hotels.

George Hobica is founder of the low-airfare listing website Airfarewatchdog.com.
(c)2017 Airfarewatchdog.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Your house is likely to be the biggest investment you make in your entire life. Whether you’re planning to sell it or you’re there for the long haul, it is important to take care of your investment. As any real estate agent will tell you, the first thing people notice about your home is the exterior. You need strong curb appeal to make a good first impression.

With that in mind, here are six simple DIY projects to help boost your home’s value:

Invest in Your Landscaping
Landscaping is often regarded as one of the top three ways to add value to your home in terms of return on investment. HomeGain.com conducted a survey of 2,000 brokers in 2007. The results indicated you could possibly quadruple an investment of $400-$500 on well-planned landscaping.

That said, just throwing a couple hundred dollars at plants is not a good approach. Instead, focus on creating a healthy, vibrant lawn. Fill in dead or sparse areas, fertilize, and clean up edges along your sidewalk, pathways and gardens. Trim overgrown bushes and shrubberies and cut down tangled tree branches. Plant flowers and plants to brighten up your landscape—just be sure to plant perennials that will come back year after year, not annuals that will die within a year and never return. Also, look for plants that are native to your region or are drought-tolerant. They need less water and maintenance, saving you money in the long run.

Upgrade Your Front Door
Your front door is the entryway to your home and it sets the tone for the rest of the house. Make a good impression by ensuring your home’s entry point (including the area directly surrounding the door) is attractive and eye-catching.

The first thing to consider here is whether to replace your existing door or not. If the door you have is good quality and a style you like, you can save some money by just freshening it up a bit. Refinish the wood or paint it for a pop of color; clean and polish the hardware or replace it with something that will add more of an accent; and replace the hinges if they are worn. If you decide to replace the door, look for a well-insulated, energy-efficient, secure door; this is not something you want to cut corners on by going with a cheap alternative.

Illuminate With Outdoor Lighting
Outdoor/exterior lighting adds value to your home in three important ways. First, it helps keep you and your family safe. It’s important to be able to see where you are going to avoid a fall. Second, it adds a layer of security. Keeping your property well-lit is a good way to deter a would-be thief from targeting your home. Third, it enhances the aesthetics of your property. Show off your beautiful home and well-maintained landscape.

Consider which of these aspects are important to you. If safety is your goal, focus on pathways, entryways and steps. If you are more concerned with security, perimeter lighting set on timers and motion-activated flood lights are your best bet. If you want to add curb appeal, light up your trees, unique landscape elements, and water features.

The second thing to consider is what type of lighting to go with. Solar is great because you don’t need wiring and don’t have to pay for power. LED lights produce a bright, crisp light and are energy-efficient. Halogen lighting, though affordable, is being phased out for the most part. Consider replacing existing halogen bulbs with LED replacements (also called LED retrofitting).

Discover the Magic of Pressure Washing
You see your home every day, so you might not notice as it slowly gets dirty and the colors and features become dusty and dim. Just spending an afternoon with the power washer can dramatically add some pop and resuscitate your curb appeal.

First and foremost, read the instructions and specifications of the pressure washer you purchased or rented. Check the water flow in gallons per minute in addition to the PSI, and get one with different pressure settings if possible. Confirm it is okay to use on all the areas you are planning to wash to ensure nothing will be damaged. You’ll probably be okay on things like sidewalks and driveways, but double check that your siding and windows can withstand the pressure. Turn off power to electrical outlets and fixtures and cover them. You may also want to cover plants and flowers if they are close to your house or the area you’ll be cleaning. You’ll likely want to use detergent (only use detergent that is specifically made for pressure washers) for the grimier parts of the job.

Create a Beautiful, Functional Space With a Fire Pit
Adding a fire pit is a cheap, simple way to help get the most out of your outdoor space by breaking it up into different areas. Fire pits consistently poll well among potential homebuyers (especially younger ones), and came in first in expected popularity of design elements, according to the Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey. One of the great things about taking on this project is that it can be as simple or as grand as you like. You could DIY a very basic one for as little as $150, or you could go all out and include a gas line (with professional help) and a fancy fixture if you have a bigger budget at your disposal. If you are not as handy, you can get a kit with everything you need and step-by-step instructions. However, building your own fire pit is not overly complicated and will allow you to completely customize it to fit your personal taste.

Upgrade Your Home’s Technology
These days, homebuyers want the latest technology. It’s easy to understand why when you look at all the amazing things technology can do for your household. Having these advanced features can be what sets your home apart from similar ones on the market.

You can install smart locks for added safety and convenience. You’ll never have to stumble around trying to get your keys out of your pocket while carrying groceries again, thanks to Bluetooth technology that will pick up on your phone approaching—and you’ll never stress again wondering if you forgot to lock the door when you rushed out. Smart sprinklers can save time and money. The sprinkler system can adjust based on weather patterns and temperature so you’ll save money by not wasting water.

These are all projects that offer a good return on your investment and can be done without a professional, saving you around 40-60 percent of what you might be charged. Plus, these projects can be wrapped up within a couple days, meaning you could conquer them over the course of a weekend or two. Get out there and start building some sweat equity the smart way!

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(TNS)—When you find the home of your dreams, make an offer and apply for a mortgage, you might not give much thought to the cost of title insurance—but that can be a mistake.

A title policy defends buyers (and their lenders) from future property ownership claims, surprise liens and other potentially costly complications with property titles.

Homebuyers usually purchase title insurance as part of closing costs and often take the first title insurer suggested by the seller, says Rafael Castellanos, founder of a title insurance agency in New York.

Unfortunately, many buyers get sticker shock when they realize how much title insurance is. “The fees are generally about 1 percent of the loan amount,” Castellanos says.

However, buyers can cut the cost of a title insurance policy by hundreds of dollars if they are willing to ask questions and get independent guidance.

Here are four ways you can save money on title insurance.

Shop Around for the Best Deal
Title insurance involves a two-part process. First, a search of a property’s title history is conducted to look for errors or problems with the deed. Then, an insurance policy is underwritten to protect the buyer if any issues are discovered.

In several states, insurance providers are allowed to set their own prices, which means the insurance premiums can vary widely. Homebuyers won’t know which title companies offer the best rates unless they shop around.

A good place to start comparison-shopping is the website of the American Land Title Association, which provides a search engine based on geography.

Another option is to ask an independent attorney for help in understanding local regulations, costs involved and insurance company recommendations.

“Buyers need someone who has an independent thought and who is well-versed in real estate,” Castellanos says. “The best person for that is often an attorney.”

Negotiate the Add-On Fees
In states where insurance is highly regulated, title insurers don’t have much wiggle room on their rates. So, homebuyers won’t find much difference in premiums from one company to another.

However, in nearly all cases, extra fees are part of the transaction when you buy a title insurance policy. These add-on expenses include mail and courier charges, copy fees, and costs for searches and certificates—and these charges can be negotiable, even when the insurance premiums are not.

Experts say you often can reduce these costs simply by calling the title insurance company and asking to have some of the fees removed. If the insurer balks, you can always look for another provider.

Ask for the ‘Simultaneous Issue Rate’
Homebuyers purchase title insurance to protect themselves. At the same time, their mortgage company will likely require that a separate insurance policy be issued in the lender’s name.

It is typically the borrower’s responsibility to pay for both.

“The bank partners with you,” Castellanos explains, “but they need to be protected and confident that they have a valid first lien against the property, so they require this insurance.”

Although the two insurance policies are independent of one other, borrowers can buy them together and save.

“When the policies are issued at the same time, in some states there is something called the ‘simultaneous issue rate,'” Castellanos says. It includes a highly discounted premium for the lender’s insurance.

As a result, the total title cost for both policies is usually a lot less than if they were purchased independent of each other. Always be sure to ask for this discount.

Ask the Seller to Pay for Your Policy
When a local real estate market favors buyers over sellers, homebuyers may feel emboldened to ask sellers to pay for title insurance.

That used to be a very unusual request; however, in a buyer’s market, sellers are motivated and may be more willing to negotiate.

“You will see people financially negotiating on every term, including asking someone to pay for their title insurance,” says Edward Mermelstein, a real estate attorney in New York.

However, he cautions buyers not to lose sight of the overall goal, which is to close the sale.

There are many other concessions buyers can ask for in a deal—such as a reduced purchase price or a home warranty—that save even more money than having the seller pay for title insurance.

©2017 Bankrate.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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The post 4 Ways Every Homebuyer Can Save on Title Insurance appeared first on RISMedia.

So you’re up for making your home truly state-of-the-art? I’ve got a great list for you. Here are nine gadgets to be on the lookout for:

Moen’s U lets you customize the perfect shower before ever stepping in with just a few taps on your smartphone.

Smart and Blue’s Hydrao smart showerheads let you instantly control your water consumption and energy needed to heat it by lighting up the water spray with different colors depending on the amount of water used—and it’s powered by the shower’s natural water-flow.

Luke Roberts Smart Light – This LED pendant lamp, from Austrian startup Luke Roberts, lets you place light in any direction, illuminating only certain areas of a room through simple gestures on your phone.

Kuri – Created by Mayfield Robotics, this app uses a camera to check on pets, kids, or guests when you’re away. It sets reminders, uses Wi-Fi to connect to things like weather reports, and works with IFTTT to control some connected devices, according to CNET.com.

Hello Egg – From RnD64, this works with the Eggspert web and mobile application to fully automate planning weekly meals, supervising the pantry, organizing shopping lists, and even ordering grocery delivery. Hello Egg also projects voice-navigated video recipes and answers cooking-related questions with a connected 24/7 support team of cooking experts.

CUJO creates a guarded firewall gateway between your devices and their connection to the internet by analyzing for malicious intent, whether it’s coming in from the internet, going out to the internet, or making moves across your network.

AirTV is the only major streaming platform that integrates local over-the-air (OTA) programming with your streaming services. Just add an AirTV Adapter and an OTA antenna to get local channels in HD, without a monthly cable bill.

Sony A1E – Unlike most TV speakers, sound comes to you from the entire screen, immersing you in a new entertainment experience—if there can be such a thing!

LG W7 – Capturing Best of the Best recognition at CES 2017, the W7’s picture-on-wall design allows the television to lay virtually flat so it seems blend with the wall and disappear.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post 9 Home Gadgets to Save Energy and Entertain appeared first on RISMedia.

(TNS)—Tempted by that offer for a new credit card with an interest-free grace period? Don’t succumb to the first attractive zero percent interest credit card offer that comes your way—unless it’s the right card for you.

First, come to understand your own motivations. A credit card with a no-interest introductory offer may be a good choice if you’re looking to consolidate debt through a balance transfer or if you’re contemplating a vacation or big purchase but don’t have the cash to immediately pay for it.

Then, compare the terms of the cards you’re considering. Doing so can help you avoid potential pitfalls and choose the best offer for your circumstances.

Before you take the zero percent plunge, consider these five tips to make sure your decision is the right one.

Look Beyond the Offer
Zero percent interest cards offer a free promotional period on purchases, balance transfers, or both for a set time, typically anywhere from 12 to 21 months. After that teaser period, the card’s standard annual percentage rate will kick in.

Examine that go-to rate closely.

If the standard APR is higher than the rate you’re charged on your current cards—and you even occasionally carry a balance—it probably doesn’t make sense to use the new card after the intro period expires.

Some zero percent interest cards double as a rewards credit card and charge an annual fee. Make sure you’ll be able to take advantage of the rewards you’ll get in return for paying that fee. Otherwise, move on to another card.

Although it’s possible to close the card after the promotional period is over, it’s not recommended. Like all credit card applications, before you’re approved, the issuer will do a “hard” credit check, which can adversely impact your score. And every time you close an account, you reduce your available credit, which can also ding your credit rating.

Have a Plan
The best way to take advantage of a zero percent credit card is to pay down a huge debt transferred from an existing credit card during the introductory period.

Use that interest-free time to pay off your debt entirely (or reduce it substantially) before the intro rate expires and you begin paying interest, possibly at a higher rate than your original card. Paying the maximum monthly amount you can afford, without accruing interest, can give you a leg up on wiping it out completely.

A balance transfer calculator can help you determine how much you’ll have to pay each month to retire the debt before the end of the introductory period.

“A balance transfer is just the first step in a two-step process,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst. “The second—and more important—step is to use that lower rate to accelerate debt repayment and get the balance paid off for good. Otherwise, you’re just moving money around.”

Even if you can’t pay the debt in full by the end of the intro period, always make sure to pay on time. A late payment could void the promotional period, possibly trigger a penalty APR and cost you a princely sum in late fees.

Mind the Fees
Don’t be fooled: When it comes to balance transfers, a zero percent offer doesn’t mean you’ll be able to pay off your debt for free.

Balance transfer offers typically come with a one-time fee that ranges from 3 to 5 percent of the amount being transferred, although there are cards that charge no fee. Most of the time the math will work in your favor, even if you’re moving a substantial sum to a new card, but it’s smart to ensure that what you’ll save on interest payments is greater than the upfront fee.

Let’s say you want to transfer $5,000 to a card that charges no interest for 12 months. If the card charges a 3 percent transfer fee, you’d pay $150 to move the balance to a new card. Use a calculator to determine what you’d pay in interest on your current card over the course of the intro period.

Even if you have a cheap zero percent APR on your current card, your interest payments during that year would be much higher than the transfer fee—even assuming you paid off your entire balance.

Alternately, you may find that the best balance transfer credit card for you is one with a shorter promotional period but doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee. In some cases, it may be a better option than a card with longer terms that has a hefty upfront charge.

Beware the Purchase APR Pitfall
It might be tempting to splurge a little with a new card—especially if you won’t get charged interest on new purchases for a year or longer. Spending beyond your means is how debt accrues in the first place, and even an interest-free purchase still has to be paid for.

So, if you get a zero percent credit card to help manage your debt, be cautious about spending.

“Don’t get too enamored with the zero percent on new purchases,” says John Ulzheimer, a nationally recognized credit expert formerly with FICO and Experian. “Make purchases you normally would have made anyway like dry cleaning, gas, groceries—and pay it off so you don’t get into more debt.”

If you carry no credit card debt and want the card to finance a big purchase that’s beyond your monthly budget, like an appliance or furniture, proceed with caution, as well. Do this only if you can pay off the purchase during the intro period.

Make Sure You Qualify
Like most of the best credit card offers available, the better your credit score, the more likely you are to qualify for a great offer on a balance transfer card.

“Because of the structure of the cards, they’re really reserved for people with great credit. Even though you may want one, you may not qualify,” says Ulzheimer.

Overall, issuers rejected 17.7 percent of credit card applications between October 2016 and February 2017, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Even if you are armed with a high enough credit score to qualify for the best offers, in some cases, there may be a cap on the balance transfer amount. Check the fine print to see if the balance transfer card will meet your needs before applying.

“Your balance may be (so) large that the new issuer won’t accept it,” says Linda Sherry, director of National Priorities at watchdog group Consumer Action.

©2017 Bankrate.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post 5 Things to Know About No-Interest Credit Cards appeared first on RISMedia.

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