October 6, 2012 |
If your furnace is 15 years old or more, now might be the right time to exchange it for a more efficient model. The obvious reason is to reduce your energy costs, keeping in mind that winter is on its way. Data from the U.S. Department of Energy show that if your current furnace has an AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating of 50 percent, one with 90 percent will save you $44.24 a year on every $100 you now spend on fuel costs. In addition, upgrading your furnace or boiler from 56 percent to 90 percent efficiency in an average cold-climate house will save 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year if you heat with gas, 2.5 tons if you heat with oil. But financial and environmental considerations are only part of the story.
September 29, 2012 |
Good credit is important, especially when you're looking to buy a house. Mortgage lenders have to know whether you're able to repay the debt, and have to determine through your credit history whether you're willing to pay, as well. They use credit scores to determine, statistically, how much of a loan you can afford, whether to approve it, and the interest rate. The scores are obtained from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The most common credit score issued is the FICO, named for Fair Isaac Co., which developed the mathematical formula.
September 22, 2012 |
If you tried to get a mortgage last year and failed, or were put through the wringer first, you are in good company. Of the 11.7 million mortgages applications received by lenders in 2011, only 7.1 million resulted in loan originations, data on transactions covered by the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act show. About 2.9 million loans were purchased for sale to investors on the secondary market. The act, approved in 1975, requires lending institutions to report public loan data.
September 8, 2012 |
As Isaac was swamping the Gulf Coast last week, we talked about hurricane preparedness and insurance coverage. Now, it's time to talk about storm cleanup. Even when flooding is limited, say, to a basement, there are still precautions to be taken and special damage remedies to be considered. Recommended cleanup procedures have changed little over the years, although the emphasis has shifted to the effects of prolonged contact with floodwater. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency currently stresses that failure to remove contaminated materials and reduce moisture and humidity can present serious long-term health risks.
September 1, 2012 |
This week's images of Hurricane Isaac's rampage along the Gulf Coast are a reminder that measures taken to prepare for big storms can reduce the damage they cause. Just a year ago, Hurricane Irene demonstrated that this region is hardly exempt from nature's wrath. (Hurricane Kirk is forming in the Atlantic now, heading northwest.) So this column is the first of two, with an emphasis on getting ready for a storm. Next week, we'll tackle cleaning up after a storm. Even so, there are too many topics to be covered.
August 18, 2012 |
It's never too early to get your house all ready for winter. You remember winter, that spell between autumn and spring we skipped on Earth's last loop around the sun. No guarantees about what lies ahead of us, though. If you jump on some cold-weather-prep projects now, it might increase your football-viewing time before the season is in full swing. But don't try to take on too much of the work yourself; limit your activities to what you can do well. Hiring professionals, in most cases, fits into the category of money well-spent.
August 11, 2012 |
Since boom turned to bust in 2006-07, the housing vacancy rate has skyrocketed to levels not seen since the Great Depression. With the rise in the number of vacant dwellings came a decline in the homeownership rate, which peaked at 69.2 percent in June 2004 and tumbled to a 15-year low of 65.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012, according to the Census Bureau. The chief cause of both, of course, has been the record rate of foreclosures - from 500,000 filings in 2005 (considered a normal year, according to the search engine RealtyTrac)
August 4, 2012 |
It is painfully clear to many experts that a large number of Americans are, for want of a better description, having trouble handling money. Record foreclosures in the last six years are an indication that something is seriously wrong. It's not just about housing, however, said Kimberly Henry, a housing counselor at Mount Airy USA, a community-development corporation in northwest Philadelphia. But that is where the lack of "financial fitness" is most evident to her. Henry's job is to get folks ready to buy a home - the pre-purchase counseling that national and local studies have shown help keep people in their houses for the long term.
July 28, 2012 |
Rising home foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies have contributed to an increase in child abuse, a Children's Hospital of Philadelphia PolicyLab study suggests. The study, the subject of a July 16 article in the journal Pediatrics, used data submitted from 38 of 45 pediatric medical centers around the country. The data, which covered 2000 through 2009, show that every 1 percent increase in 90-day mortgage delinquencies over a one-year period was associated with a 3 percent increase in children's hospital admissions for physical abuse and a 5 percent increase in children's hospital admissions for traumatic brain injuries suspected to be caused by child abuse.
July 21, 2012 |
What does today's home buyer want? That insight is more critical than ever, given six years of a real estate downturn that has flooded the market with foreclosures and cost homeowners billions of dollars in lost equity. The simple answer, according to the real estate search engine Home.com is this: a four-bedroom, three-bathroom "family oasis. " Of Home.com's database of 2,000 home seekers, 455 responded to the question. More than half opted for a detached, single-family house in the country, with three bathrooms and an ideal size of 2,001 to 3,000 square feet of living space.