Documents You Need for Mortgage Pre-Approval: A Checklist for Each Type of Loan

Vector illustration of hand holding checkmark pin

By: Kelley Walters

Published: December 13, 2018

Whether you’re self-employed or applying for an FHA or USDA loan, here’s the pre-approval paperwork you need.

If you’re serious about buying a home, getting pre-approved for a mortgage is a critical step. It’s also a tedious one. Lenders seem to want a mountain of documents and have so many {{ start_tip 124 }}requirements.{{ end_tip }}

Yet the payoff is worth it. Most agents recommend mortgage pre-approval because it strengthens your offer. Sellers like to know the buyer already has financing secured.

Plus, you’re going to need that same hefty stack of paperwork for your official mortgage application once you’ve got a contract on a home, so you’re really knocking out two tasks at once.

To help, we’ve created a documents checklist for each type of mortgage pre-approval. Warning: Some lists are longer than others:

Conventional Loan | FHA Loan | Buying an Investment Property | If You’re Self-Employed | VA Loan | USDA Loan | Job-Based Incentive Loan

Conventional Loan Documents

[Download the printable version]

If you’re employed and get regular paychecks, plus a W-2 every year, and you’re not going through FHA, USDA, or an incentive-buying program, these are the documents you need to apply for mortgage pre-approval:

  • Identification (one of these, which you will need to show in person)
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Passport
    3. Other state- or federal-issued ID
  • Income
    1. Pay stubs for the last 30 days
    2. Last two federal tax returns
    3. Last two W-2s
    4. Proof of any additional income (second jobs, social security, alimony, etc.)
  • Accounts
    1. Last two statements on all bank accounts — be sure to include all pages, even blank ones
    2. Statements for all investment and/or retirement accounts
  • Property
    1. Settlement statement from previous home sale, if applicable
  • Additional documents
    1. Contact information for your landlord(s) for the last two years, if applicable
    2. Divorce decree, separation agreement, and/or property settlement agreement, if applicable
    3. Gift letter if a family member is helping with down payment (lender will have form)
    4. A letter of explanation (LOE) for late payments, collections, judgments, or other derogatory items in your credit history, if applicable

FHA Loan Documents

[Download the printable version]

If you’re applying for mortgage pre-approval with the Federal Housing Administration, you’ll need these documents:

  • Identification (one of these, which you will need to show in person)
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Passport
    3. Other state- or federal-issued ID
  • Income
    1. Pay stubs for the last 30 days, if applicable
    2. Last two federal tax returns
    3. Last two W-2s or 1099s, if applicable
    4. Proof of any additional income (second jobs, social security, alimony, etc.)
  • Accounts
    1. Last two statements on all bank accounts — be sure to include all pages, even blank ones
      1. Statements for all investment and/or retirement accounts
  • Property
    1. Closing disclosure (or HUD-1 if the sale took place before Oct. 3, 2015) for previous purchase
  • Additional documents
    1. Contact information for your landlord(s) for the last two years, if applicable
    2. Divorce decree, separation agreement, and/or property settlement agreement, if applicable
    3. Gift letter if a family member is helping with down payment (lender will have form)
    4. A letter of explanation (LOE) for late payments, collections, judgments, or other derogatory items in your credit history, if applicable

Documents For Buying an Investment Property

[Download the printable version]

If you’re buying a property you plan to rent, these are the documents you should have in hand to apply for pre-approval:

  • Identification (one of these, which you will need to show in person)
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Passport
    3. Other state- or federal-issued ID
  • Income
    1. Pay stubs for the last 30 days, if applicable
    2. Last two federal tax returns
    3. Last two W-2s or 1099s, if applicable
    4. Proof of any additional income (second jobs, social security, alimony, etc.)
  • Accounts
    1. Last two statements on all bank accounts — be sure to include all pages, even blank ones
    2. Statements for all investment and/or retirement accounts
  • Property
    1. Settlement statement on any recent home sales
    2. Recent mortgage statements on all properties you own
    3. Proof of insurance for all properties you own
    4. Current leases for all rental properties you own
  • Additional documents
    1. Contact information for your landlord(s) for the last two years, if applicable
    2. Divorce decree, separation agreement, and/or property settlement agreement, if applicable
    3. Gift letter if a family member is helping with down payment (lender will have form)
    4. A letter of explanation (LOE) for late payments, collections, judgments, or other derogatory items in your credit history, if applicable

Self-Employed or Business-Owner Mortgage Documents

[Download the printable version]

If you’re self-employed or own a business, these are the documents you need for the mortgage pre-approval process:

  • Identification (one of these, which you will need to show in person)
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Passport
    3. Other state- or federal-issued ID
  • Income
    1. Pay stubs for the last 30 days, if applicable
    2. Last two federal tax returns
    3. Last two 1099s
    4. Proof of any additional income (second jobs, social security, alimony, etc.)
  • Accounts
    1. Last two statements on all bank accounts — be sure to include all pages, even blank ones
    2. Statements for all investment and/or retirement accounts
    3. Last two years’ Corporate, S-Corp, LLC, or partnership tax returns
    4. Last two years’ 1099s, if applicable
  • Property
    1. Settlement statement from previous home sale, if applicable
  • Additional documents
    1. Contact information for your landlord(s) for the last two years, if applicable
    2. Divorce decree, separation agreement, and/or property settlement agreement, if applicable
    3. Gift letter if a family member is helping with down payment (lender will have form)
    4. A letter of explanation (LOE) for late payments, collections, judgments, or other derogatory items in your credit history, if applicable
    5. Last two months’ profit-and-loss statements (you can put one together in about five minutes)
    6. Balance sheet, if applicable (rules vary by state)
    7. Current business license

VA Loan Documents

[Download the printable version]

If you’re seeking pre-approval for a Veteran’s Administration home loan, these are the documents you will need:

  • Identification (one of these, which you will need to show in person)
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Passport
    3. Other state- or federal-issued ID
  • Income
    1. Pay stubs for the last 30 days, if applicable
    2. Last two federal tax returns
    3. Last two W-2s or 1099s, if applicable
    4. Proof of any additional income (second jobs, social security, alimony, etc.)
  • Accounts
    1. Last two statements on all bank accounts — be sure to include all pages, even blank ones
    2. Statements for all investment and/or retirement accounts
  • Property
    1. Settlement statement from previous home sale, if applicable
  • Additional documents
    1. Contact information for your landlord(s) for the last two years, if applicable
    2. Divorce decree, separation agreement, and/or property settlement agreement, if applicable
    3. A letter of explanation (LOE) for late payments, collections, judgments, or other derogatory items in your credit history, if applicable
    4. Certificate of eligibility (COE) from the Veteran’s Administration, which may require one or more of these documents, depending on your situation:
      • Form DD-214, certificate of release or discharge
      • Statement of service from the adjutant, personnel office, commander, or higher headquarters if still on active duty
      • Form 26-1817 or form 21-534 for surviving spouses, plus form 1300, report of casualty, or death certificate

USDA Loan Documents

[Download the printable version]

If you’re applying for a U.S. Department of Agriculture Loan, you’ll need these documents to seek pre-approval:

  • Identification (one of these, which you will need to show in person)
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Passport
    3. Other state- or federal-issued ID
  • Income
    1. Pay stubs for the last 30 days, if applicable
    2. Last two federal tax returns
    3. Last two W-2s or 1099s, if applicable
    4. Proof of any additional income (second jobs, social security, alimony, etc.)
  • Accounts
    1. Last two statements on all bank accounts — be sure to include all pages, even blank ones
    2. Statements for all investment and/or retirement accounts
  • Property
    1. Settlement statement from previous home sale, if applicable
  • Additional documents
    1. Contact information for your landlord(s) for the last two years, if applicable
    2. Divorce decree, separation agreement, and/or property settlement agreement, if applicable
    3. Gift letter if a family member is helping with down payment (lender will have form)
    4. A letter of explanation (LOE) for late payments, collections, judgments, or other derogatory items in your credit history, if applicable
    5. Form 410-4: Uniform Residential Loan Application, filled out by applicant(s)
    6. Form 3550-4: Employment & Asset Certification, a separate form filled out and signed by each applicant
    7. Form 3550-1: Authorization to Release Information, a separate form filled out and signed by each applicant and each adult household member
    8. Form 4506-T: Request for Transcript of Tax Return, a separate form filled out by each applicant
    9. Documentation of child care expenses for dependents 12 or younger, if applicable
    10. Life insurance policy
    11. For any household member who is a full-time student 18 years of age or older, a current school transcript
    12. Annual medical expenses for applicants 62 years of age or older, or with a disability (to be considered for a deduction in household income)
    13. A written explanation of two years of employment history, including an explanation of gaps

Job-Based Incentive Loan Documents

[Download the printable version]

Incentive-based programs — such as Good Neighbor Next Door, which provide mortgage assistance for public servants such as teachers, firefighters, police officers — have their own criteria. If you’re seeking one of these mortgages, you will need these documents for pre-approval:

  • Identification (one of these, which you will need to show in person)
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Passport
    3. Other state- or federal-issued ID
  • Income
    1. Pay stubs for the last 30 days, if applicable
    2. Last two federal tax returns
    3. Last two W-2s or 1099s, if applicable
    4. Proof of any additional income (second jobs, social security, alimony, etc.)
  • Accounts
    1. Last two statements on all bank accounts — be sure to include all pages, even blank ones
    2. Statements for all investment and/or retirement accounts
  • Property
    1. Settlement statement from previous home sale, if applicable
  • Additional documents
    1. Contact information for your landlord(s) for the last two years, if applicable
    2. Divorce decree, separation agreement, and/or property settlement agreement, if applicable
    3. Gift letter if a family member is helping with down payment (lender will have form)
    4. A letter of explanation (LOE) for late payments, collections, judgments, or other derogatory items in your credit history, if applicable

Related: “I Need 20% Down” and Other Myths About Mortgages

A Must-Read Guide On How To Sell Your House

How to sell your house illustration of handshake

By: Leanne Potts

Published: April 19, 2019

Selling your first house is a big deal. Learn how to sell a house and navigate the process, from setting a price to closing the deal.

Selling your house can feel overwhelming in multiple ways. You’re pulling up roots and leaving all that’s familiar — and making a huge financial decision at the same time. Knowing how to sell your home takes some studying up. The more you know, the easier the big decisions will be.

Information is power, so we’ll answer your questions about how to sell your home.

Research the Market

Do some homework on what’s going on with the housing market in your area. Go to a property listing site, like realtor.com®, and see what homes are selling for in your neighborhood, and how long they’re sitting on the market before being sold.

Check mortgage rates. Note who some of the top agents are for the neighborhood or types of properties you’re interested in. Ultimately, the best way to select an agent? Get recommendations from friends and family.

Hire an Agent

Yes, you need an agent. Selling a house involves some strategy and know-how. An agent knows how to sell your house. He or she will help you set a price, market it, and make repairs, guiding you through the inspection, negotiating with buyers, and helping you navigate the closing.

They’ll also help you plan your timeline, and a really good one will help you through the emotional parts of selling a home you’ve loved.

Find the right agent by interviewing the ones — at least three — you learned about through research and recommendations. Go with one who knows the specific ins and outs of your market, the lowdown that’s not online.

The one who knows things like why that nice two-story down the block sold for $20,000 less than the asking price and why the house two neighborhoods over got $20,000 over. A knowledgeable agent will have information and experience.

Price Your Home to Sell

Go ahead and look at those sites that give home value estimates for a general idea on pricing when deciding how to sell your house. But don’t stop there. There are a lot of factors specific to your home that an algorithm won’t pick up on, but your human real estate agent will.

An agent has access to data you don’t. They can do a thing for you called a comparative market analysis, also known as running comps, that checks the price of houses similar to yours that have sold in the in past 90 days. It’s like taking the pulse of the market within a couple of miles of your house.

The agent will give you a market value for your house, and then it’s up to you, with your agent’s guidance, to set the price. And the price needs to be right.

If it’s too high, your house will sit on the market too long, which wastes your time and can raise a red flag to buyers. If your price is too low, you’ll miss out on all that value you worked hard to build in your home.

Your agent may have {{ start_tip 129 }}tips on setting the price{{ end_tip }} so that it stays within certain search parameters on listing sites. Let your agent be your guide on setting a price.

Prepare the House

Time to get your house looking its best. When selling your home, you want to make it look like someone else’s dream home.

Repair everything you know of that’s broken. Fix the little things, like the toilet that runs, the closet doors that don’t shut all the way, the hole in the fence. Fix the big things, too, like a leaky roof or a malfunctioning HVAC.

Home buyers may not notice the windows are sticking and the wiring is outdated, but an inspector will. Head off problems now. Get a pro out to check any major systems you suspect could have an issue.

Clean up as if company was coming. Hire a cleaning service to do a deep clean — the kind where they scrub the baseboards and toekicks and vacuum behind the refrigerator. Power wash the house and driveway. Make sure your landscape is spiffy, too: boxwoods trimmed, lawn mowed, flower beds weeded. Curb appeal matters.

Declutter. Tidying up is the way to sell your house. You need to bust the clutter and make your house look Insta-perfect. Clear the kitchen counters, pack up most of your books and all of your knickknacks and take them to a storage unit or donate them to charity. Cull your clothes and donate the ones you haven’t worn in more than a year. Clean out the garage, tidy up the laundry room, organize the pantry.

All this tidiness and organization signal to potential buyers that your house has been well cared for — and has plenty of room for all their clutter.

Depersonalize your space. Take you out of your home. Box up family photos, your great-grandma’s heirloom quilt, your son’s Matchbox car collection. It sounds sad, but it’s how to sell your house.

You want buyers to be able to see themselves and their things in the house. They can’t do that if it feels like your house. Look at this as the first step in packing up to leave. Consider renting a storage unit for the stuff until you move.

Stage your house. This is one step beyond the decluttering, depersonalizing, and cleaning. This is when you set up your house to show off its assets and downplay its weaknesses. It usually means moving furniture and making your house look as perfect as a photo in a shiny décor magazine.

Staged houses can sell faster and at a higher price. Staging a home is key if you’ve moved out and the house is empty. A professional stager will bring in décor and make your house look as if it’s lived in by the tidiest, most tasteful minimalists in the world.

Some agents have stager they work with, or do it themselves. You can also hire a pro yourself, someone with top-flight design and décor skills.

Paint the interior of your house, especially walls that are an unusual color. You adore the Yves Klein blue in the bonus room. Buyers might not. This isn’t a criticism of your taste. It’s just part of depersonalizing your house, all part of how to sell a house. Pick a nice, neutral tone, like gray or beige.

Paint the outside of your house, too, if there’s any flaking or worn paint, or if you painted the exterior an unconventional shade that might turn off buyers.

Market Your Home

Ready, set, market. Once your house hits the MLS listings, it’s time to drive buyers to you. Your real estate agent will handle this, but here’s what you need to know.

Photos. This seems a no-brainer in a digital world, but plenty of sellers forget to prioritize the quality of their photography. Make sure photos are well-lit, in focus, and high resolution so they don’t pixelate on tablets and smartphones.

Your agent may very well offer a professional photographer as part of his or her services to you. If not, consider hiring a professional photographer, especially if you’re in a high-end home or a market where you’re hustling for buyers.

A good album of photos includes:

  • The exterior of your house from the front. Move your cars and the kids’ toys out of the driveway so all a potential buyer sees is your house.
  • Every interior room, and with the drapes open and the lights on. Bright is beautiful. Be sure to move trash cans, litter boxes, laundry baskets full of clothes and other banal evidence of humans out of the photos.
  • The yard and local amenities like the nearby park, the neighborhood pool, and clubhouse.

Got a luxe house or a huge piece of property near water or mountains and wondering, “How to sell my house?” Get drone photography done to show off the surrounding area. Another option for luxury properties: a night photo of the front of the house lit by the landscape lighting.

Virtual tours are becoming the norm. Buyers swoon over them, because a virtual tour takes them by the hand and leads them through the house. You’ll need to hire an outside company to create one. Your agent should be able to connect you with a business who does virtual tours. Again, some agents offer this as part of their listing services.

Signage — like the classic For Sale sign — are basics for selling your home. There should be a sign in your front yard, with your agent’s contact info on it. Especially during open houses, you should expect signs on busy streets nearby with an arrow pointing the way to your house.  If you’re deep in a winding subdivision, you may need more signs directing folks to your house. If your home is part of a homeowners association, be sure to see if the HOA is OK with agent signs.

Direct mail still works. Your agent will probably set up the mass mailing of an oversized, full-color postcard to people in the area and to area agents who may have buyers looking to move to your neighborhood.

E-flyers are effective. Your agent can combine multiple photos of your house in an e-flyer and email it to neighbors, clients on his mailing list, and other agents in the area as well as out-of-town brokers.

Ads in those paper real estate magazines distributed for free, and digital ads on sites for newspapers and listing sites really do help spread the word.

Social media is how to sell your house in the 21st century. Your agent will likely post your listing to her various social channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. If not, ask for it. Instagram, for instance, draws more than 1 billion sets of eyeballs each month. Ask your agent, if she can put videos out on social media, not just photos, because videos get more engagement than photos.

And put your listing on your social channels, too.

Word of mouth is old-fashioned, but works. Tell your friends, acquaintances, and co-workers your house is for sale. Your agent should be working her network, too.

Property listing sites will pick up your house listing once your agent puts it on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service.) There’s a gaggle of them, from individual agency sites to biggies like realtor.com®.

Showcase Your House

Throwing open the doors and inviting the public to come tour your house is one of the most effective marketing tools out there. Here’s how to sell your home by pulling off a good showing.

Your agent will:

  • Schedule an open house for a weekend. ​
  • Socialize the open house by tweeting about it, posting it on Facebook, putting it on Instagram, and posting it on a neighborhood site like NextDoor. You can help by adding the news to your channels as well.
  • Send out e-flyers, run digital ads on local web sites, or go analog with print ads in local newspapers and fliers tacked up at the neighborhood pool and local businesses.
  • Put up plenty of signage all over the neighborhood on the day of the open house, and maybe even attach balloons to each sign. There should be a sign with an arrow pointing the way to your house every few blocks on routes from major streets to your house. Getting attention is how to sell a home.
  • Set out fliers and brochures with info on the home that visitors can take with them.

You should:

  • Clean again. You decluttered, depersonalized, fixed, and fussed over the place when you listed it. Take another pass, especially if you’ve been living in the house. Hire a housecleaning service to give it the once-over.
  • Make special preparations, like moving the cars out of the driveway and away from your house so the open house attendees focus on your house and have a place to park. Open the blinds and drapes to let in the light and turn on the interior lights. Your agent will likely serve refreshments.
  • Make sure your house smells fresh, but go easy on air fresheners. Some people are allergic to them, and heavy use of them may make shoppers wonder what smell you’re trying to hide.
  • Send pets away. Let them go on a playdate with a pal, or board them for a few hours. You don’t want them distracting visitors from the house. Hide their toys, bowls, and beds, too, to stave off smells.
  • Vacate the house during the open. ​Prospective buyers will be more open in terms of feedback if you’re not in attendance. Let your agent handle it.

Close the Deal

Offers. By this point, you’re probably getting offers on the house from buyers. An offer will specify a price, the down payment amount, the deposit amount, the terms, the date you’ll have to move out, and any contingencies. When you get an offer, you have three options:

  1. You can accept it as is.
  2. You can reject it.
  3. You can reject it and counter it with an offer of your own.

Counteroffers usually hinge on four things:

  1. Price
  2. Terms
  3. Occupancy (when you move out, and buyers move in)
  4. Contingencies (special conditions)

Note, it’s rare to reject an offer with no counteroffer. That kills the deal, and it’s not how to sell your home. Counteroffers are the most common outcome. Your agent will help you craft the counteroffer and then negotiate with the prospective buyers.

Negotiations can be stressful and at times, fraught. The buyers want the best deal they can get. You want the most money you can get from the biggest asset you have. Emotions can run high, so let your agent do the heavy lifting of communicating with the buyers and reaching an agreement.

Closing the sale. You’ve accepted the buyer’s offer. Woo hoo! Now your agent will help you negotiate the sale’s final phase. This means seeing you through the inspection, negotiating any repair requests that may arise from the inspection, and dealing with last-minute snags.

Inspection. This is when a buyer’s housing inspector examines the house to look for problems, like windows that stick, wiring that’s not up to code, or mold. When they find a problem, the buyer will usually ask you to make repairs or knock money off the price they’ve offered so they can make repairs themselves. Your real estate agent is an expert on how to negotiate these types of requests.

Closing day. Finally! This is it, when you sign the papers, get a check, and hand over the house keys. This is how you sell a house. It’s a thrilling moment, and one that’s a little sad, too. But you did it. You sold your house!

Tax Deductions for Homeowners: How the New Tax Law Affects Mortgage Interest

Connect-the-dots of a house with a red pen lying on top

By: Leanne Potts

Published: December 21, 2018

Tax changes for 2019 change the landscape for homeowners.

Tax season is upon us once again, and to make it even more interesting this year, the tax code has changed — along with the rules about tax deductions for homeowners. The biggest change? Many homeowners who used to write off their property taxes and the interest they pay their mortgage will no longer be able to.

Stay calm. This doesn’t automatically mean your taxes are going up. Here’s a roundup of the rules that will affect homeowners — and how big of a change to expect.

Related: Are Closing Costs Tax Deductible?

Standard Deduction: Big Change

The standard deduction, that amount everyone gets, whether they have actual deductions or not, nearly doubled under the new law. It’s now $24,000 for married, joint-filing couples (up from $13,000). It’s $18,000 for heads of household (up from $9,550). And $12,000 for singles (up from $6,500).

Many more people will now get a better deal taking the standard than they would with their itemizable write-offs.

For perspective, the number of homeowners who will be able to deduct their mortgage interest under the new rules will fall from around 32 million to about 14 million, the federal government says. That’s about a 56% drop.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll pay more taxes,” says Evan Liddiard, a CPA and director of federal tax policy for the National Association of REALTORS® in Washington, D.C. “It just means that they’ll no longer get a tax incentive for buying or owning a home.”

So will you be able to itemize, or will you be in standard deduction land? This calculator can give you an estimate.

If the answer is standard deduction, you’ll be pleased to know that tax forms are easier when you don’t itemize, says Liddiard. Find instructions for IRS Form 1040 here.

Personal Exemption Repealed

One caveat to the increase in the standard deduction for homeowners and non-homeowners is that the personal exemption was repealed. No longer can you exempt from your income $4,150 for each member of your household. And that might temper the benefit of a higher standard deduction, depending on your particular situation.

For example, a single person might still come out ahead. Her $5,500 increase in the standard deduction is more than the $4,150 lost by the personal exemption repeal.

But consider a family of four with two kids over 16 in the 22% tax bracket. They no longer have personal exemptions totaling $16,600.  Although the increase in the standard deduction is worth $2,420 (11,000 x 22%), the loss of the exemptions would cost them an extra $3,652  (16,600 x 22%).  So they lose $1,232 (3,652 – 2,420).

But say their two kids are under 16, giving them a child credit worth $2,000. That offsets the loss resulting in a $758 tax cut.

The takeaway: Your household composition will probably affect your tax status.

Mortgage Interest Deduction: Incremental Change

The new law caps the mortgage interest you can write off at loan amounts of no more than $750,000. However, if your loan was in place by Dec. 14, 2017, the loan is grandfathered, and the old $1 million maximum amount still applies. Since most people don’t have a mortgage larger than $750,000, they won’t be affected by the cap.

But if you live in a pricey place (like San Francisco, where the median housing price is well over a million bucks), or you just have a seriously expensive house, the new federal tax laws mean you’re not going to be able to write off interest paid on debt over the $750,000 cap.

State and Local Tax Deduction: Degree of Change Varies by Location

The state and local taxes you pay — like income, sales, and property taxes — are still itemizable write-offs. That’s called the SALT deduction in CPA lingo. But. The tax changes for 2019 (that’s tax year 2018) mean you can’t deduct more than $10,000 for all your state and local taxes combined, whether you’re single or married. (It’s $5,000 per person if you’re married but filing separately.)

The SALT cap is bad news for people in areas with high taxes. The majority of homeowners in around 20 states have been writing off more than $10,000 in SALT each year, so they’ll lose some of this deduction. “This is going to hurt people in high-tax areas like New York and California,” says Lisa Greene-Lewis, CPA and expert for TurboTax in California. New Yorkers, for example, were taking SALT deductions around $22,000 a household.

Rental Property Deduction: No Change

The news is happier if you’re a landlord. There continue to be no limits on the amount of mortgage debt interest or state and local taxes you can write off on rental property. And you can keep writing off operating expenses like depreciation, insurance, lawn care, and utilities on Schedule E.

Home Equity Loans: Big Change

You can continue to write off the interest on a home equity or second mortgage loan (if you itemize), but only if you used the proceeds to substantially better your home and only if the total, combined with your first mortgage, doesn’t go over the $750,000 cap ($1 million for loans in existence on Dec. 15, 2017). If you used the equity loan to pay medical expenses, take a cruise, or anything other than home improvements, that interest is no longer tax deductible.

Here’s a big FYI: The new rules don’t grandfather in old home equity loans if the proceeds were used for something other than substantial home improvement. If you took one out five years ago to, say, pay your child’s college tuition, you have to stop writing off that interest.

4 Tips for Navigating the New Tax Law

1. Single people may get more tax benefits from buying a house, Liddiard says. “They can often reach [and potentially exceed] the standard deduction more quickly.” You can check how much you’re likely to owe or get back under the new law on this tax calculator.

2. Student loan debt is deductible, up to $2,500 if you’re repaying, whether you itemize or not.

3. Charitable deductions and some medical expenses remain itemizable. If you’re generous or have had a big year for medical bills, these, added to your mortgage interest, may be enough to bump you over the standard deduction hump and into the write-off zone.

4. If your mortgage is over the $750,000 cappay it down faster so you don’t eat the interest. You can add a little to the principal each month, or make a 13th payment each year

How Much Dose It Cost To Paint Your House In 2019?

Colorful paint in a house

By: Daniel Bortz

Published: April 18, 2019

Painting your home is a wise investment in time (if you DIY) and money. Here’s how much it’ll cost you.

There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to boost curb appeal and make an entire home feel fresh. But exactly how much does it cost to paint a house?

 

Here’s everything you need to know about the costs of painting your home’s exterior and interior.

Average Cost to Paint a House

House-painting costs can vary significantly depending on your home’s square footage, where you live, and who is crunching the numbers.

But the pros at the trade organization Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA) can make a pretty good estimate. These are their ballpark figures for the average cost to paint a house, including labor and materials.

Cost to paint a house (both exterior and interior):

  • 1-story 1,000 square feet: $2,500-$6,000
  • 2-story 2,500 square feet: $6,750-$12,500
  • 3-4-story 4,000 square feet: $10,000-$19,000

In addition to being affected by a home’s square footage, painting costs can vary based on the type of paint the chosen, the paint’s finish, the type of paint primer used, local labor rates, and the type of exterior siding.

How Much Paint Costs

What type of paint materials you choose has a big impact on how much it’s going to cost to paint your home — not to mention how it looks and how long it lasts. To determine how much paint will cost, you first need to understand the different types, finishes, and quality of paint, and if you’ll need primer, too.

Paint Types

Generally, there are two types of paint: latex-based paint and oil-based paint.

Latex paint (also known as water-based paint) is the most common type of paint for home use, since it rolls on smoothly, dries quickly, is environmentally friendly, and tends to have less of an odor than oil-based paint. The main drawback of latex paint, though, is it’s less durable than oil-based paint, meaning it’s more prone to scratches.

Oil-based paint is commonly used for high-moisture areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens, and floors, trims, and moldings, since these areas take more abuse over time than walls do. Typically oil-based paints are less expensive than latex paints, take longer to dry, can create bad odor while drying, and contain more volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which essentially means they’re less environmentally friendly.

Here’s the cost breakdown for latex- and oil-based paints:

  • Latex-based paint: $20 to $70 per gallon
  • Oil-based paint: $20 to $70 per gallon

Paint Finishes

A paint’s finish can also affect its price tag. There are five main types of finishes: flat/matte, matte enamel, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. Each finish has its pros and cons, and their costs vary. Both latex-based paints and oil-based paints offer the full range of finishes.

Two aesthetic things to consider when selecting a finish are how shiny you’d like the surface to be and whether or not you want to hide any imperfections on the surface to be painted. Generally, higher-gloss paint finishes reflect light better than lower-gloss finishes, like eggshell and matte. That makes them shiny, and also causes them to highlight flaws in walls and ceilings.

High-gloss paint is the most durable and easiest to clean of all paint sheens. It’s ultra-shiny, light-reflective, and hard (think appliance-paint tough). High-glass paint has too much shine for interior walls; you’d find the reflections and drywall flaws distracting. It is a good choice for areas that sticky fingers touch, though, such as cabinets, trim, and doors.

Semi-gloss paint, which is slightly less durable than high-gloss paint, is well suited for rooms where moisture, drips, and grease are common and need to easily wipe away. This makes it appropriate for kitchen walls, bathrooms, and trim.

Satin paint has a lovely luster that, despite the name, is often described as velvety. Because it’s easy to clean, it’s suitable for high-traffic areas—including kitchens, bathrooms, trim, and chair rails—though it reveals application flaws, such as roller or brush strokes.

Eggshell paint falls between satin and flat on the sheen and durability scale. It’s essentially a flat, low-shine finish with little luster, like a chicken’s egg. Eggshell covers wall imperfections well and is a great finish for gathering spaces that don’t get a lot of bumps and scuffs.

Flat, or matte finish on the no-shine end of the finish spectrum. A friend to walls that have something to hide, flat or matte paint (the terms are interchangeable) soaks up — rather than reflects — light, has the most pigment, and provides the most coverage. It’s good for adults’ bedrooms and other interior rooms that won’t be roughed up by kids. That’s because it’s tough to clean without taking paint off.

Generally, the higher the shine, the higher the cost:

  • Flat/Matte: $20 to $50 per gallon, depending on brand
  • Eggshell: $1-$5 more per gallon than flat of same brand
  • Satin: $1-$5 more per gallon than eggshell of same brand
  • Semi-gloss: $1-$5 more per gallon than satin of same brand
  • High-gloss: $1-$5 more per gallon than semi-gloss of same brand

Paint Quality and Other Factors

Paint quality also affects paint price. Higher-grade paints tend to adhere to surfaces better and last longer. They also tend to be thicker, requiring fewer coats. As a result, they cost more than lower-grade paints.

Major brands often offer a range of paint qualities—for example, Home Depot’s Behr sells Behr Premium Plus, Behr Premium Plus Ultra, and Behr Marquee (its higher-quality paint). An example of the cost difference between a gallon of semi-gloss Behr Premium Plus and Behr Marquee in the same color is $32 versus $46.

Another factor that can affect paint cost is color. For instance, trendy paints may cost substantially more than classic hues; a gallon of Sherwin-Williams’ popular Emerald Exterior Latex Paint is a whopping $83.99, compared to the brand’s more basic A-100 Exterior Acrylic Latex, which only costs $47.99 a gallon.

In addition, paint features such as mold and mildew resistance are important cost factors. Many mold-inhibiting bathroom paints, for instance, cost substantially more than ordinary latex-acrylic paint—sometimes close to twice the cost. Also, paints that come with warranties from the manufacturer may be more expensive depending on the length of the warranty. (A two-year warranty is standard.)

Paint Primer

Most paint jobs will require a layer of paint primer before paint is applied. Primer seals in stains, creates a more even finish, and ensures better adhesion of the paint to the surface. However, not all wall surfaces call for primer.

Applying primer over new (read: bare) surfaces is a good idea, since it will seal the original material and prevent the paint from soaking into it. A layer of primer is also beneficial when painting walls with water damage, mildew stains, or greasy patches, since this will enable the paint to mask these surface stains.

Conversely, if the walls are in decent shape, or the new paint color closely matches the old one, you can probably get away without using primer.

Some paints are two-in-one paint and primer products, or so-called “self-priming paints.” These paints are designed to seal and cover surfaces in one coat. But, here’s the secret: though it’s called a paint-and-primer-in-one product, there’s actually no primer in the mix—what you’re really working with is just a thicker paint that often doesn’t perform as well as using separate primer and paint.

The moral? Though two-in-paint can help you save time, it’s wise to opt for a separate primer in advance of most paint jobs.

There are three types of primers: oil-based, latex-based, and shellac-based. Their costs are as follows:

Oil-based primers: $20 to $80 per gallon. An industry standard for decades, oil-based primers are ideal for unfinished or bare wood. They seal the porous surface of wood, enabling the coat of paint to better adhere to the surface.

Latex-based primers: $20 to $80 per gallon. Ideal for preparing unfinished drywall and softwood (like pine) for painting, latex-based primers are less brittle than oil-based primers, which makes them less susceptible to peeling and cracking.

Shellac primers: $40 to $63 per gallon. Excellent at blocking stains, shellac primer works well on walls that are susceptible to water or smoke damage.

Though all three primers can be used under latex paint, it’s best to use a latex-based primer for a latex paint, oil-based primer for an oil-based paint, and shellac primer for walls with stubborn stains.

Average Cost to Paint Interior of a House

According to PDCA, interior painting costs will depend largely on the square footage of your home. Here are their estimated averages:

  • 1,000 square feet: $1,500-$3,000
  • 2,500 square feet: $3,750-$7,500
  • 4,000 square feet: $6,000-$12,000

Average Cost to Paint the Exterior of a House

Likewise, exterior painting costs will vary depending on the size of your home:

  • 1-story 1,000 square feet: $1,000-$3,000
  • 2-story 2,500 square feet: $3,000-$5,000
  • 3-4-story 4,000 square feet: $4,000-$7,000

However, those figures don’t account for siding materials—and some sidings cost more to paint than others because of their texture and the type of paint required to properly cover them.

Here are painting estimates for the five most common types of siding, in order of least to most expensive:

  • Metal siding: $1,500 per 1,000 square feet
  • Concrete siding: $2,000 per 1,000 square feet
  • Vinyl siding: $2,000 per 1,000 square feet
  • Wood siding: $2,000 per 1,000 square feet
  • Stucco siding: $3,000 per 1,000 square feet

Labor Cost to Paint a House

While some professional painters will charge a flat fee for a painting project, most charge an hourly rate—about $25 to $100 per hour on average. Most painters will charge more for last-minute jobs (think 48 hours’ notice or less), travel costs (if you live far away, the painter may want extra money for gas), or intensive prep work (e.g., removing mold or stains before painting). Also, depending on the painter, the rate may or may not include the cost of paint materials such as paint, primer, and supplies.

Repairs and improvements can also increase your painting budget. Painters may offer some of these additional services, but you may need to call in a specialist for others:

  • Drywall repair: $115 to $380 per room
  • Repairing plaster: $60 to $90 per hour or a fixed rate of $200 to $300 for minor to medium jobs.
  • Mold remediation: $500 to $6,000 based on the size of the area and level of mold infestation.
  • Patching holes: around $10 per square foot for resurfacing and repairing holes and cracks in the wall.
  • Sanding: around $1.80 per square foot.

Two additional factors that can affect a painter’s labor costs are the number of stories and the condition of the home. Generally, the more stories a house has, the higher the labor costs will be. And, if a home is older, prep work such as scrubbing siding or sanding aging wood could be more time consuming for the painter.

How Much Paint Supplies Cost

Though you can save potentially save big bucks by not paying for someone else’s labor, there are trade-offs to doing the work yourself. For one thing, you’ll have to buy supplies such as drop cloths, tape, ladders, brushes, and rollers.

Drop Cloths

There are different types of drop cloths you can use to protect furniture and floors while painting. Here are the types and price estimates:

Canvas drop cloths: $15 to $20 for 9×12-feet. Canvas cloths are the most expensive, but they are virtually indestructible—buy them once, and they’ll last for many years.

Plastic drop cloths: $1 for 9×12-feet. Paint-proof, lightweight, and economical, plastic drop cloths are good for protecting furniture and cabinet covers. They can also be used to protect lawns and landscaping during painting.

Paper drop cloths: $3 to $5 for 9×12-feet. Paper drop cloths provide a cheap way to cover furniture or windows while painting small, indoor jobs, such as touching up window trim. They’re absorbent and textured to hold paint. When you’re finished, you can just fold them up and throw them away. However, paper cloths are not the best option for protecting floors since they can tear easily.

Paper/poly drop cloths: $2 to $6 for 9×12-feet. The best of both paper and plastic, these cloths are low-cost and disposable. They absorb paint drips while providing more protection for what’s underneath. They also provide some protection from slipping. Plus, you can cut paper/poly drop cloths to fit the space. But, like paper, paper/poly drop cloths can rip more easily than plastic or canvas drop cloths.

Upcycled drop cloths: Have old shower curtains, drapes, or other sturdy material lying around? Both your wallet and the planet will thank you for hanging on to them for painting projects.

Painter’s Tape

Painter’s tape—a must for protecting areas that should not be painted, like crown molding—costs about $7 to $10 for a roll of 60 yards. Delicate surfaces, such as wallpaper or ceiling tiles, will require a lower adhesion tape than ordinary walls and trim.

Ladders

Ladder prices vary based on size — though most homeowners can paint the interior of their home using a 16-foot extension ladder, which generally costs between $100 and $200. Folks in houses with low ceilings may even be able to get away with a step stool, the prices for which vary widely, from $30 to $100, depending on height and durability.

The right ladder to fit your exterior painting needs will vary by the size of your home, but generally, the job will require an extension ladder, which can run between $200 and $300.

Brushes and Rollers

Of course, paint brushes and rollers are also important line items on your budget sheet. A 3-inch-wide paint brush costs, on average, $10 to $20—though you’ll likely need an assortment of paint brush sizes for trim, corners, and narrow surface areas. Brushes come in a variety of bristle types and qualities, and each has a different purpose. Some are intended for specific paint types, finishes, and surfaces, so be sure to buy the right brushes for your painting job.

You’ll also need a set of paint rollers. Paint roller kits that include paint trays cost about $10 to $20. Like brushes, rollers are sold with different textures to suit different surface types, such as smooth or rough.

How to Save on Painting Your House

Having a professional paint your home from top to bottom, inside and outside has a number of advantages. For one thing, it’ll save you a ton of time by not having to do the work yourself. In addition, you won’t have to be concerned about safety issues, such as climbing a ladder to paint your house’s gutters. Best of all, you can expect a clean, attractive finished product from a professional painter.

DIY Some of the Work

However, you can lessen the load on your wallet in a variety of ways, including DIYing some or most of the job yourself. These basic tasks will help speed up the process for your painter:

Prep rooms for painting. This entails moving furniture away from walls, covering furniture and floors with drop cloths to protect them from any spilled paint, removing electric switch plates, outlet covers, and light fixtures, and cleaning dirt or grime off the walls.

Prep the exterior for painting. Outside, you’ll want to trim bushes, trees, and shrubs that are near the house (so the painter will have easy access to your home’s siding), scrape any loose or peeling paint, sand rough spots on wood siding, caulk any cracks or gaps, and clean the surface thoroughly to remove any dirt, mildew, or mold.

Test different paint swatches. The last thing you want to do is paint a whole room and then decide you despise the color (yes, it happens!). Try out different paint colors on the surface before choosing the paint that you want. Buying sample sizes will help you save money. The caveat: paint color samples are not real paint, so if you try to finish or touch up a project with samples, the paint will fade.

Do the cleanup. When the painting is done, send the painter home and do the cleanup work yourself. This will include rolling up drop cloths and collecting scrapings, removing painter’s tape (use a hair dryer on low heat to soften the adhesive), cleaning paint brushes, rollers, and other tools, replacing electric switch plates, outlet covers, and light fixtures, and sealing any leftover paint cans and storing them in a dry, temperature-controlled location.

Find a Competitive, Skilled Painter 

Of course, the painter you choose to hire will be handling the lion’s share of the workload. Take these steps to find a reliable painter — someone you can trust to do a great job for a fair price:

Get quotes from at least three painters. Just like any other contractor, you’ll want to obtain several bids before deciding who gets your business. Have the painters come to view your property in person before they write you a formal bid. This way there will be no surprises when the painters show up to perform the work.

Compare offers. The painter offering the lowest rate may not always be the best painter for the job. Indeed, the total cost isn’t the only factor to consider when choosing between multiple bids. You’ll want to look at contracts side by side to ensure you’re making an apples-to-apples comparison. Are the same materials being used? Are the same services included? Does the painter provide a warranty?

Ask the right questions. Before signing a contract, make sure to ask a painter these questions: How long has your company been in business? Do you use subcontractors? Do you have proof of business liability insurance and workmen’s compensation insurance? How much wall prep is included in the estimate? How do you communicate with your clients?

Interview past clients. Talking to former customers is always a good idea. But, to ensure you’re getting honest feedback — not just feedback from people who have been handpicked by the painter to sing their praises — ask to speak to the painter’s three most recent clients. When you speak to them, ask about specifics. Find out whether the painters showed up on time, protected furniture from paint spills, kept the house clean, and completed the project on schedule.

In addition, ask the painter if there are other things you can do to trim expenses. Oftentimes you can get a discount for doing multiple jobs all at once. So if you’re thinking about painting your entire house, inside and out, there could be a benefit to doing it at the same time.

Evaluate Your House For Deck Construction

 

Colorful Adirondack chairs on a white deck

By: Dave Toht

Published: November 25, 2009

Here’s how to plan a new deck that suits your property, meets your budget, and offers the best return on your investment.

In the summertime when the living is easy, there’s nothing quite like a deck for cooking out, entertaining, or simply relaxing. In addition to boosting outdoor living space, a deck can be an asset when you sell your home.

More good news: Decks add living space at a fraction of the cost of fully enclosed living area. You’ll pay $25 to $35 per square foot for a pro-built deck compared to $100 to $250 per square foot for an enclosed addition.

If you’re a determined DIYer, plan on spending three to four weekends building a 14-foot-by-18-foot deck yourself. If you choose this route, consider buying a ready-made deck plan. Or, put to use one of the many websites with interactive design aids, such as Lowe’s Deck Designer (registration required), and Deckorators.

Planning a successful deck requires careful consideration of your site, your budget, and the features you should — or shouldn’t — include. Here are some planning priorities to bear in mind.

Deciding on the Site and Size

Your deck will be a popular place, so give careful thought to where it should be located. Begin by working out how to access it from the house. The ever-handy back door to the kitchen probably won’t do the job; it will force traffic toward the cooking area, making a shambles of any large-group entertaining. A better solution is a French door or slider that gives primary access from a living room, dining room, or family room while being handy to the kitchen. If the doorway can also be positioned to offer an expansive view, all the better.

Next, make sure the deck neither swamps your yard, nor becomes lost in it. Your local codes may set standards for how much of your lot can be occupied by a deck, and how close a deck can be to your lot line. Check these limitations early in your planning with your city or county building department.

Decide where to locate stairways off the deck so they provide unobtrusive access to the backyard. Also consider the path of the sun and the location of shade trees; sunlight may be pleasant in the morning but unbearable later in the day — having a shade tree to the west of your deck will help block the harsh late-day sun. Work out how to preserve your privacy and how to screen your deck from prevailing winds.

Related: Smart Upgrades for Decks

Think Local

To recoup a good portion of your investment, your deck needs to be right for your market. Appraiser Dick Koestner of Davenport, Iowa, recommends the simply checking out other decks in your area. “Don’t make it too extreme [compared with] what’s typical in your market,” he counsels. “Definitely don’t make it less than what is expected in the market.”

Koestner also emphasizes the importance of obeying local codes. “A lot of potential purchasers are having a home inspection done,” he says. “If the home inspector finds the deck isn’t built to code, most of the purchasers are saying, ‘Hey, fix it.’”

He emphasizes that codes exist not just to preserve property values, but promote safety. For example, railing balusters spaced too far apart can constitute a falling hazard for small children (most codes stipulate 4-inch maximum gap). In addition, a deck inadequately attached to the house can collapse, often during a party when the structure is loaded with the extra weight of many people, creating mayhem like something out of the Poseidon Adventure. So get a permit from your building department and follow their requirements.

Of course, by dint of taking out a building permit your tax assessment will rise, but only to the extent that the value of your property is increased. The effect should be minimal: Decks are considered an outdoor improvement much like a new driveway or upgraded landscaping, not additional living space.

Related: Care and Maintenance of Your Deck

Looking Good

Although it’s hard to put a dollar value on aesthetics, looks count. Give thought to how the deck will meld with the architecture of your house. Railings offer a good opportunity to pull in color and detail that complements your home. Consider how the deck fits in with your backyard; it should make a smooth transition from the house to the landscape.

How Much Does It Cost to Paint a House in 2019?

 

Colorful paint in a house

By: Daniel Bortz

Published: April 18, 2019

Painting your home is a wise investment in time (if you DIY) and money. Here’s how much it’ll cost you.

There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to boost curb appeal and make an entire home feel fresh. But exactly how much does it cost to paint a house?

 

Here’s everything you need to know about the costs of painting your home’s exterior and interior.

Average Cost to Paint a House

House-painting costs can vary significantly depending on your home’s square footage, where you live, and who is crunching the numbers.

But the pros at the trade organization Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA) can make a pretty good estimate. These are their ballpark figures for the average cost to paint a house, including labor and materials.

Cost to paint a house (both exterior and interior):

  • 1-story 1,000 square feet: $2,500-$6,000
  • 2-story 2,500 square feet: $6,750-$12,500
  • 3-4-story 4,000 square feet: $10,000-$19,000

In addition to being affected by a home’s square footage, painting costs can vary based on the type of paint the chosen, the paint’s finish, the type of paint primer used, local labor rates, and the type of exterior siding.

How Much Paint Costs

What type of paint materials you choose has a big impact on how much it’s going to cost to paint your home — not to mention how it looks and how long it lasts. To determine how much paint will cost, you first need to understand the different types, finishes, and quality of paint, and if you’ll need primer, too.

Paint Types

Generally, there are two types of paint: latex-based paint and oil-based paint.

Latex paint (also known as water-based paint) is the most common type of paint for home use, since it rolls on smoothly, dries quickly, is environmentally friendly, and tends to have less of an odor than oil-based paint. The main drawback of latex paint, though, is it’s less durable than oil-based paint, meaning it’s more prone to scratches.

Oil-based paint is commonly used for high-moisture areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens, and floors, trims, and moldings, since these areas take more abuse over time than walls do. Typically oil-based paints are less expensive than latex paints, take longer to dry, can create bad odor while drying, and contain more volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which essentially means they’re less environmentally friendly.

Here’s the cost breakdown for latex- and oil-based paints:

  • Latex-based paint: $20 to $70 per gallon
  • Oil-based paint: $20 to $70 per gallon

Paint Finishes

A paint’s finish can also affect its price tag. There are five main types of finishes: flat/matte, matte enamel, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. Each finish has its pros and cons, and their costs vary. Both latex-based paints and oil-based paints offer the full range of finishes.

Two aesthetic things to consider when selecting a finish are how shiny you’d like the surface to be and whether or not you want to hide any imperfections on the surface to be painted. Generally, higher-gloss paint finishes reflect light better than lower-gloss finishes, like eggshell and matte. That makes them shiny, and also causes them to highlight flaws in walls and ceilings.

High-gloss paint is the most durable and easiest to clean of all paint sheens. It’s ultra-shiny, light-reflective, and hard (think appliance-paint tough). High-glass paint has too much shine for interior walls; you’d find the reflections and drywall flaws distracting. It is a good choice for areas that sticky fingers touch, though, such as cabinets, trim, and doors.

Semi-gloss paint, which is slightly less durable than high-gloss paint, is well suited for rooms where moisture, drips, and grease are common and need to easily wipe away. This makes it appropriate for kitchen walls, bathrooms, and trim.

Satin paint has a lovely luster that, despite the name, is often described as velvety. Because it’s easy to clean, it’s suitable for high-traffic areas—including kitchens, bathrooms, trim, and chair rails—though it reveals application flaws, such as roller or brush strokes.

Eggshell paint falls between satin and flat on the sheen and durability scale. It’s essentially a flat, low-shine finish with little luster, like a chicken’s egg. Eggshell covers wall imperfections well and is a great finish for gathering spaces that don’t get a lot of bumps and scuffs.

Flat, or matte finish on the no-shine end of the finish spectrum. A friend to walls that have something to hide, flat or matte paint (the terms are interchangeable) soaks up — rather than reflects — light, has the most pigment, and provides the most coverage. It’s good for adults’ bedrooms and other interior rooms that won’t be roughed up by kids. That’s because it’s tough to clean without taking paint off.

Generally, the higher the shine, the higher the cost:

  • Flat/Matte: $20 to $50 per gallon, depending on brand
  • Eggshell: $1-$5 more per gallon than flat of same brand
  • Satin: $1-$5 more per gallon than eggshell of same brand
  • Semi-gloss: $1-$5 more per gallon than satin of same brand
  • High-gloss: $1-$5 more per gallon than semi-gloss of same brand

Paint Quality and Other Factors

Paint quality also affects paint price. Higher-grade paints tend to adhere to surfaces better and last longer. They also tend to be thicker, requiring fewer coats. As a result, they cost more than lower-grade paints.

Major brands often offer a range of paint qualities—for example, Home Depot’s Behr sells Behr Premium Plus, Behr Premium Plus Ultra, and Behr Marquee (its higher-quality paint). An example of the cost difference between a gallon of semi-gloss Behr Premium Plus and Behr Marquee in the same color is $32 versus $46.

Another factor that can affect paint cost is color. For instance, trendy paints may cost substantially more than classic hues; a gallon of Sherwin-Williams’ popular Emerald Exterior Latex Paint is a whopping $83.99, compared to the brand’s more basic A-100 Exterior Acrylic Latex, which only costs $47.99 a gallon.

In addition, paint features such as mold and mildew resistance are important cost factors. Many mold-inhibiting bathroom paints, for instance, cost substantially more than ordinary latex-acrylic paint—sometimes close to twice the cost. Also, paints that come with warranties from the manufacturer may be more expensive depending on the length of the warranty. (A two-year warranty is standard.)

Paint Primer

Most paint jobs will require a layer of paint primer before paint is applied. Primer seals in stains, creates a more even finish, and ensures better adhesion of the paint to the surface. However, not all wall surfaces call for primer.

Applying primer over new (read: bare) surfaces is a good idea, since it will seal the original material and prevent the paint from soaking into it. A layer of primer is also beneficial when painting walls with water damage, mildew stains, or greasy patches, since this will enable the paint to mask these surface stains.

Conversely, if the walls are in decent shape, or the new paint color closely matches the old one, you can probably get away without using primer.

Some paints are two-in-one paint and primer products, or so-called “self-priming paints.” These paints are designed to seal and cover surfaces in one coat. But, here’s the secret: though it’s called a paint-and-primer-in-one product, there’s actually no primer in the mix—what you’re really working with is just a thicker paint that often doesn’t perform as well as using separate primer and paint.

The moral? Though two-in-paint can help you save time, it’s wise to opt for a separate primer in advance of most paint jobs.

There are three types of primers: oil-based, latex-based, and shellac-based. Their costs are as follows:

Oil-based primers: $20 to $80 per gallon. An industry standard for decades, oil-based primers are ideal for unfinished or bare wood. They seal the porous surface of wood, enabling the coat of paint to better adhere to the surface.

Latex-based primers: $20 to $80 per gallon. Ideal for preparing unfinished drywall and softwood (like pine) for painting, latex-based primers are less brittle than oil-based primers, which makes them less susceptible to peeling and cracking.

Shellac primers: $40 to $63 per gallon. Excellent at blocking stains, shellac primer works well on walls that are susceptible to water or smoke damage.

Though all three primers can be used under latex paint, it’s best to use a latex-based primer for a latex paint, oil-based primer for an oil-based paint, and shellac primer for walls with stubborn stains.

Average Cost to Paint Interior of a House

According to PDCA, interior painting costs will depend largely on the square footage of your home. Here are their estimated averages:

  • 1,000 square feet: $1,500-$3,000
  • 2,500 square feet: $3,750-$7,500
  • 4,000 square feet: $6,000-$12,000

Average Cost to Paint the Exterior of a House

Likewise, exterior painting costs will vary depending on the size of your home:

  • 1-story 1,000 square feet: $1,000-$3,000
  • 2-story 2,500 square feet: $3,000-$5,000
  • 3-4-story 4,000 square feet: $4,000-$7,000

However, those figures don’t account for siding materials—and some sidings cost more to paint than others because of their texture and the type of paint required to properly cover them.

Here are painting estimates for the five most common types of siding, in order of least to most expensive:

  • Metal siding: $1,500 per 1,000 square feet
  • Concrete siding: $2,000 per 1,000 square feet
  • Vinyl siding: $2,000 per 1,000 square feet
  • Wood siding: $2,000 per 1,000 square feet
  • Stucco siding: $3,000 per 1,000 square feet

Labor Cost to Paint a House

While some professional painters will charge a flat fee for a painting project, most charge an hourly rate—about $25 to $100 per hour on average. Most painters will charge more for last-minute jobs (think 48 hours’ notice or less), travel costs (if you live far away, the painter may want extra money for gas), or intensive prep work (e.g., removing mold or stains before painting). Also, depending on the painter, the rate may or may not include the cost of paint materials such as paint, primer, and supplies.

Repairs and improvements can also increase your painting budget. Painters may offer some of these additional services, but you may need to call in a specialist for others:

  • Drywall repair: $115 to $380 per room
  • Repairing plaster: $60 to $90 per hour or a fixed rate of $200 to $300 for minor to medium jobs.
  • Mold remediation: $500 to $6,000 based on the size of the area and level of mold infestation.
  • Patching holes: around $10 per square foot for resurfacing and repairing holes and cracks in the wall.
  • Sanding: around $1.80 per square foot.

Two additional factors that can affect a painter’s labor costs are the number of stories and the condition of the home. Generally, the more stories a house has, the higher the labor costs will be. And, if a home is older, prep work such as scrubbing siding or sanding aging wood could be more time consuming for the painter.

How Much Paint Supplies Cost

Though you can save potentially save big bucks by not paying for someone else’s labor, there are trade-offs to doing the work yourself. For one thing, you’ll have to buy supplies such as drop cloths, tape, ladders, brushes, and rollers.

Drop Cloths

There are different types of drop cloths you can use to protect furniture and floors while painting. Here are the types and price estimates:

Canvas drop cloths: $15 to $20 for 9×12-feet. Canvas cloths are the most expensive, but they are virtually indestructible—buy them once, and they’ll last for many years.

Plastic drop cloths: $1 for 9×12-feet. Paint-proof, lightweight, and economical, plastic drop cloths are good for protecting furniture and cabinet covers. They can also be used to protect lawns and landscaping during painting.

Paper drop cloths: $3 to $5 for 9×12-feet. Paper drop cloths provide a cheap way to cover furniture or windows while painting small, indoor jobs, such as touching up window trim. They’re absorbent and textured to hold paint. When you’re finished, you can just fold them up and throw them away. However, paper cloths are not the best option for protecting floors since they can tear easily.

Paper/poly drop cloths: $2 to $6 for 9×12-feet. The best of both paper and plastic, these cloths are low-cost and disposable. They absorb paint drips while providing more protection for what’s underneath. They also provide some protection from slipping. Plus, you can cut paper/poly drop cloths to fit the space. But, like paper, paper/poly drop cloths can rip more easily than plastic or canvas drop cloths.

Upcycled drop cloths: Have old shower curtains, drapes, or other sturdy material lying around? Both your wallet and the planet will thank you for hanging on to them for painting projects.

Painter’s Tape

Painter’s tape—a must for protecting areas that should not be painted, like crown molding—costs about $7 to $10 for a roll of 60 yards. Delicate surfaces, such as wallpaper or ceiling tiles, will require a lower adhesion tape than ordinary walls and trim.

Ladders

Ladder prices vary based on size — though most homeowners can paint the interior of their home using a 16-foot extension ladder, which generally costs between $100 and $200. Folks in houses with low ceilings may even be able to get away with a step stool, the prices for which vary widely, from $30 to $100, depending on height and durability.

The right ladder to fit your exterior painting needs will vary by the size of your home, but generally, the job will require an extension ladder, which can run between $200 and $300.

Brushes and Rollers

Of course, paint brushes and rollers are also important line items on your budget sheet. A 3-inch-wide paint brush costs, on average, $10 to $20—though you’ll likely need an assortment of paint brush sizes for trim, corners, and narrow surface areas. Brushes come in a variety of bristle types and qualities, and each has a different purpose. Some are intended for specific paint types, finishes, and surfaces, so be sure to buy the right brushes for your painting job.

You’ll also need a set of paint rollers. Paint roller kits that include paint trays cost about $10 to $20. Like brushes, rollers are sold with different textures to suit different surface types, such as smooth or rough.

How to Save on Painting Your House

Having a professional paint your home from top to bottom, inside and outside has a number of advantages. For one thing, it’ll save you a ton of time by not having to do the work yourself. In addition, you won’t have to be concerned about safety issues, such as climbing a ladder to paint your house’s gutters. Best of all, you can expect a clean, attractive finished product from a professional painter.

DIY Some of the Work

However, you can lessen the load on your wallet in a variety of ways, including DIYing some or most of the job yourself. These basic tasks will help speed up the process for your painter:

Prep rooms for painting. This entails moving furniture away from walls, covering furniture and floors with drop cloths to protect them from any spilled paint, removing electric switch plates, outlet covers, and light fixtures, and cleaning dirt or grime off the walls.

Prep the exterior for painting. Outside, you’ll want to trim bushes, trees, and shrubs that are near the house (so the painter will have easy access to your home’s siding), scrape any loose or peeling paint, sand rough spots on wood siding, caulk any cracks or gaps, and clean the surface thoroughly to remove any dirt, mildew, or mold.

Test different paint swatches. The last thing you want to do is paint a whole room and then decide you despise the color (yes, it happens!). Try out different paint colors on the surface before choosing the paint that you want. Buying sample sizes will help you save money. The caveat: paint color samples are not real paint, so if you try to finish or touch up a project with samples, the paint will fade.

Do the cleanup. When the painting is done, send the painter home and do the cleanup work yourself. This will include rolling up drop cloths and collecting scrapings, removing painter’s tape (use a hair dryer on low heat to soften the adhesive), cleaning paint brushes, rollers, and other tools, replacing electric switch plates, outlet covers, and light fixtures, and sealing any leftover paint cans and storing them in a dry, temperature-controlled location.

Find a Competitive, Skilled Painter 

Of course, the painter you choose to hire will be handling the lion’s share of the workload. Take these steps to find a reliable painter — someone you can trust to do a great job for a fair price:

Get quotes from at least three painters. Just like any other contractor, you’ll want to obtain several bids before deciding who gets your business. Have the painters come to view your property in person before they write you a formal bid. This way there will be no surprises when the painters show up to perform the work.

Compare offers. The painter offering the lowest rate may not always be the best painter for the job. Indeed, the total cost isn’t the only factor to consider when choosing between multiple bids. You’ll want to look at contracts side by side to ensure you’re making an apples-to-apples comparison. Are the same materials being used? Are the same services included? Does the painter provide a warranty?

Ask the right questions. Before signing a contract, make sure to ask a painter these questions: How long has your company been in business? Do you use subcontractors? Do you have proof of business liability insurance and workmen’s compensation insurance? How much wall prep is included in the estimate? How do you communicate with your clients?

Interview past clients. Talking to former customers is always a good idea. But, to ensure you’re getting honest feedback — not just feedback from people who have been handpicked by the painter to sing their praises — ask to speak to the painter’s three most recent clients. When you speak to them, ask about specifics. Find out whether the painters showed up on time, protected furniture from paint spills, kept the house clean, and completed the project on schedule.

In addition, ask the painter if there are other things you can do to trim expenses. Oftentimes you can get a discount for doing multiple jobs all at once. So if you’re thinking about painting your entire house, inside and out, there could be a benefit to doing it at the same time.

What Is the Best Time to Buy a House?

Illustration of buying house

By: Daniel Bortz

Published: April 18, 2019

Sure, you can consider market conditions. But when to buy a house is really all about you.

Timing determines so much when you’re buying a house. Although the best time to buy a house is when you’re ready both financially and emotionally, there are other factors that can help you decide when to buy a house.

By timing your purchase just right, you can nab a great home that’s just right for you.

What Is the Best Month to Buy a House?

Let’s make this clear: There’s no such thing as a guaranteed “best month” to purchase a home. (C’mon, we never said this would be easy!)

While some conventional wisdom says there is a best time of year to buy a house — during spring home buying season (April to June) — there are pluses and minuses when it comes to what month you choose to purchase a home.

(Note: Real estate is local. Determining a best time utlimately depends on conditions in your local market.)

Here we’ve outlined some of the reasons different months can turn out to be the best time to buy a house for you:

January to March. Winter isn’t such a bad time to buy a house. Though there’s less inventory — meaning there are fewer homes for sale — there are fewer home buyers too, so you have less competition. That means there’s a lower likelihood of a bidding war, which can be a stressful experience for home buyers. Another benefit of buying a house during the cold-weather months: Home prices are typically the lowest they’ll be all year.

Still, there are drawbacks to buying a house between January and March. Inclement weather can also be a challenge, since snow or ice could make it difficult to drive around and view homes or do a thorough home inspection of some elements, such as a roof.

April to June. Welcome to spring home buying season— the peak months for not only housing supply, but also the number of home buyers shopping for houses. Because most families want to move when the kids are out of school, there’s a big incentive to buy a house this time of year, since many home buyers need to allow 30 to 60 days for closing.

The warmer weather also makes open houses more enjoyable, landscaping easier to evaluate, and inspections more comprehensive.

Even though it’s generally regarded as the best time of year to buy a house, there are downsides to the spring market. For starters, you’ll face more competition from other home buyers —  meaning you have to move quickly when a great listing hits the market. Bidding wars are a lot more common, you tend to have less negotiating power, and home prices tend to tick up during spring.

July to September. If you can handle the heat (and a little competition), summer may be the one of the best times of year to buy. Now that the spring home buying craze is over, most home prices return to normal, allowing you to save some money. The sunniest time of the year also makes being outdoors and attending open houses more enjoyable.

The hot temperatures also give home buyers the opportunity to test how well a property’s air conditioning system holds up in warm weather, which is something they can’t usually test during other times of the year.

October to December. The main downside of buying a house in autumn is that there may not be as many homes for sale in the fall as there are in the spring. But it’s not like the market goes completely quiet.

Many home buyers consider fall the best time of year to buy a house because of price reductions. Because home sellers tend to list their homes in the spring, sellers whose houses haven’t sold yet may be motivated to find buyers, and prices start to reflect that.

Is 2019 a Good Year to Buy a House?

Economic forecasts vary every year, but waiting around for annual market fluctuations isn’t the best way to decide when to buy a house. The best year to buy a house is when you and anyone you intend to buy a house with are ready.

To help, complete this home buying worksheet with your home buying partner to help determine if now is the best time to buy a house you can reasonably afford in the location you want. Then take your worksheet to a REALTOR® and discuss your options.

Why doesn’t the year matter much? The housing market and your local real estate market do change, but they tend to change gradually. Even if waiting a couple of years for those factors to change can save you a bit of money, the bigger question is how much more money you could gain in equity by owning a home during those two years.

While everyone’s financial situation will be different deciding when to buy a house is mostly about the timing that is best for you, not when the market is perfect.

Are Interest Rates Good in 2019?

Many home buyers try to time the market by monitoring mortgage rate changes with the hopes of pouncing on a remarkably low rate. But interest rates are like the stock market — no one has a crystal ball that can accurately predict when rates will rise or fall.

Plus, what’s considered a good interest rate is relative. Interest rates today are low compared to what they were 20 to 30 years ago. Mortgage rates reached an all-time high of 18.45% in 1981, as the U.S. Federal Reserve drove up rates in an effort to counteract double-digital inflation. By the end of the 1980s, though, mortgage rates had finally crept below 10%.

Interest rates continued to decrease over the 1990s and 2000s. Today, mortgage rates are at historic lows.

Market interest rates are just one part of how affordable a house will be for you at any given time. Your credit score, for example, helps to determine the interest rate a mortgage lender will offer you.

Then, fluctuations in property taxes and homeowner’s insurance can affect overall home ownership costs as much as changes in interest rates can. So overall, current interest rates play a pretty small role in the best time to buy a house for you.

Does 2019’s Economy Support Home Buying?

Economic conditions are different from region to region and even from one ZIP code to another in the same city, so whether this year is the best time to buy a house can depend on where you are.

One tool you can use to assess the state of your local housing market is realtor.com®’s Market Hotness Index, which tracks home sales and home buyer activity across the country. In addition, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) measures monthly single-family home sales in the four major U.S. regions (Northeast, Midwest, South, and West).

Still, nothing beats having a savvy real estate agent in your corner to gauge the local market for the best time to buy a house. After all, the right agent knows your local housing market down to the neighborhoods — and can help you interpret the raw housing market data to help you time your home purchase well.

When Is the Best Time in Your Life to Buy a House?

There’s no magical age or life stage at which you’ll know for sure exactly when to buy a house. There are, however, a few factors you’ll want to take into account.

Finances. How’s your credit score? Can you afford to take on a monthly mortgage payment? Do you have enough cash to pay for a down payment and closing costs? Sit down with a mortgage lender who can help you evaluate your finances.

You’ll also need to budget for home maintenance expenses. One rule of thumb says homeowners should set aside 1% to 3% of their home’s purchase price a year for home maintenance and repairs. So, if your home cost $400,000, you’d set aside at least $4,000 annually. (Doing preventative maintenance, however, can go a long way toward staving off expensive repairs.)

Stability. If you’re on solid ground financially, with a stable job to support you, buying a home can be a way to lower your monthly housing costs (real talk: Owning is often cheaper than renting in some cities), gain a valuable financial asset, and, if you itemize, reap some tax benefits.

If you’re ready to commit to a home and city (and your job) for a few years, you’re probably in a stable enough situation to be a homeowner.

Lifestyle: Owning a house allows you to develop a strong relationship with a local community. Buying a home should align with your life goals. If you’re starting a family soon, planting your roots in a kid-friendly neighborhood with a great school district is usually a good reason to buy a house.

There’s also something to be said about the pride of owning a home and having a place you can call yours — one that you can customize to your heart’s desire.

Should You Buy or Rent?

To rent or to buy a home — it’s a common conundrum. Often this is the core financial decision potential home buyers wrestle with when deciding when to buy a house. To sort it out, start with your exit plan.

If you expect to be moving within the next couple of years, you probably should rent. Why? Because the general rule is it only makes sense to buy if you plan to stay in the home for at least two to three years.

Likewise, if you’re not ready to take on the maintenance responsibilities of being a homeowner, or aren’t ready to commit to a particular community right now, renting an apartment likely makes more sense than buying a home.

The local housing market is also a factor in the decision to buy or rent. In some cities, renting can be cheaper than owning, though price appreciation often brings wealth to buyers. Therefore, the financial benefits of owning a home and gaining equity over time is a better way to spend your money than forking it over to a landlord.

Investing vs. Living

The best time to buy a house for the first time is generally when you’re ready to live there long term. Long term, real estate can be a lucrative path towards financial success, particularly if you can nab a low interest rate in the right housing market.

But a lot of factors go into whether buying an investment property is the right move for you, including how much risk you can tolerate and the local economy.

Generally, it’s smart to consider your first home purchase all about you. It’s about investing in a place you can make your own and live your life day to day.

The moral? There’s nothing quite like home ownership. While not everyone is ready for it, if you’ve determined the best time to buy a house is right now, it can be the beginning of the most satisfying journey of your life.

How a Couple’s Dreams Changed Once They Began Looking for a House

By: Leanne Potts

Published: March 25, 2019

“What to look for in a house” shouldn’t be carved in stone. Sometimes changing your mind is a good thing.

Names: Katye Nash, 27, and Cody Moore, 29

City: La Grange, Ky.

Year of Home Purchase: 2018 Sale

Price: $154,000

Home Style: 25-year-old ranch

Professions: She’s a recruiter, he’s a salesman.

When Katye Nash decided to stop renting and buy her first house, she knew she and her boyfriend, Cody Moore, might have to make some tradeoffs. And, boy, did they.

With the help of their agent, Garrett Ackles, they ended up in a home (which they love, btw) that was the exact opposite of what they set out to find. Instead of a move-in-ready home in the city limits of Louisville, Ky., they ended up in a fixer-upper one county over. Here’s their story:

What did you imagine buying when you started looking? 

Katye: I was looking for a home central to everything, a convenient location. I wanted three bedrooms and two bathrooms, a master suite, and a open concept [floor plan]. I did not want to live on a major road because Remi, our puggle, can be an escape artist, and I didn’t want anything to happen to her if she got out. But most of all, I did not want to buy a fixer-upper, especially for my first home.

How many houses did you look at?

Katye: 30. We put offers in on three.

Whoa! Tell me about the offers that didn’t end in you owning a house.

Katye: I put an offer on a house [in Louisville] that was newly renovated so all the hard work was done and it was move-in ready. We offered above the asking price, but we were beat out by a cash offer above the asking price. Hard to beat that. In this market, you almost had to make an offer on the spot and still pray! Houses in $150,000 to $350,000 range sold super quickly (and above the asking price), and it felt like I was always a second too late and didn’t have enough money. Our budget was $200,000, and it wasn’t enough for that neighborhood.

When did you realize “We can’t find a house we like — and afford it?”

Katye: When we were outbid on that first house, I realized I was going to have to go farther out [from the city] than I initially planned to get something I could afford.

So what happened then?

Katye: Garrett encouraged us to look outside the city. He said Oldham County was a good place to look because the school district’s good and the market wasn’t so competitive [for buyers]. We realized the long-term investment [in Oldham County] is good because houses always sell, but Jefferson [County, where Louisville is] can be hit or miss. A neighborhood that’s hot there this year may not be down the road.

Off to Oldham, then?

Katye: Yes. After going to about 15 open houses or so [in Oldham County, but still close to Louisville], I couldn’t find what I wanted in my price range, so I branched out to La Grange, a small town that’s 10 to 15 minutes farther north but still in Oldham County. I found a cute little house in La Grange that would be perfect for my first home and made an offer that was accepted! I was so excited! But the inspection turned up a lot of problems, and we had to back out. I was beyond devastated. But I kept looking.

What did you end up buying?

Katye: A 2,000-square-foot ranch house in La Grange that has three bedrooms and two baths and needed a total renovation. It was twice as big as the other house (the one with the inspection problem) but a lot cheaper. We discussed the financial commitment and the time and patience it was going to take the fix up this house and decided to take a chance.

How did the reno go?

Katye: The day we closed on the house, Cody started ripping up the old floors and appliances. By the end of the week, he had already filled an entire dumpster. We knocked down an interior wall to make our master closet bigger, and we took the master bathroom and kitchen down to the studs. The refrigerator had a leak, so the floor was ruined and had to be completely replaced. Also, I am really allergic to cats, and the previous owners had about 10. So, when we ripped up the carpet, I had a horrible allergic reaction, and I couldn’t go to work for, like, three days.

So it was a typical home renovation. Makes you wonder how the “Restored By The Fords” couple haven’t strangled each other, doesn’t it?

Katye: Honestly, before that renovation, as cliché as it may sound, we NEVER fought. Like at all.

But all’s well now?

Katye: Yes! We are still finishing up some small projects, but overall we are very, very happy with the updates. All I can say is, thank you God for Cody! He did 99% of the renovation himself, and he did it in three months while working a full-time job. He is a rockstar. I was just there to pick out the paint color and flooring.

What about your renovated ranch in Oldham County makes you really happy?

Katye: We have an acre of land which is really nice for our dogs. Looking back, the first two houses would have not met our needs long-term, and we wouldn’t have been able to get our new puppy, Rupp. It all works out the way it’s supposed to.

This years HOT On Trends

7 Steps to Take Before You Buy a Home

By: G. M. Filisko

By doing your homework before you buy, you’ll feel more content about your new home.

Most potential homebuyers are a smidge daunted by the fact that they’re about to agree to a hefty mortgage that they’ll be paying for the next few decades. The best way to relieve that anxiety is to be confident you’re purchasing the best home at a price you can afford with the most favorable financing. These seven steps will help you make smart decisions about your biggest purchase.

1.  Decide how much home you can afford.

Generally, you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Remember to consider costs every homeowner must cover: property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable, as well as costs specific to your family, such as day care if you plan to have children.

2.  Develop your home wish list.

Be honest about which features you must have and which you’d like to have. Handicap accessibility for an aging parent or special needs child is a must. Granite countertops and stainless steel appliances are in the bonus category. Come up with your top five must-haves and top five wants to help you focus your search and make a logical, rather than emotional, choice when home shopping.

3.  Select where you want to live.

Make a list of your top five community priorities, such as commute time, schools, and recreational facilities. Ask a REALTOR® to help you identify three to four target neighborhoods based on your priorities.

4.  Start saving.

Have you saved enough money to qualify for a mortgage and cover your downpayment? Ideally, you should have 20% of the purchase price set aside for a downpayment, but some lenders allow as little as 5% down. A small downpayment preserves your savings for emergencies.

However, the lower your downpayment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for, and if you still qualify, the higher your monthly payment. Your downpayment size can also influence your interest rate and the type of loan you can get.

Finally, if your downpayment is less than 20%, you’ll be required to purchase private mortgage insurance. Depending on the size of your loan, PMI can add hundreds to your monthly payment. Check with your state and local government for mortgage and downpayment assistance programs for first-time buyers.

5.  Ask about all the costs before you sign.

A downpayment is just one homebuying cost. A REALTOR® can tell you what other costs buyers commonly pay in your area — including home inspections, attorneys’ fees, and transfer fees of 2% to 7% of the home price. Tally up the extras you’ll also want to buy after you move-in, such as window coverings and patio furniture for your new yard.

6.  Get your credit in order.

A credit report details your borrowing history, including any late payments and bad debts, and typically includes a credit score. Lenders lean heavily on your credit report and credit score in determining whether, how much, and at what interest rate to lend for a home. The minimum credit score you can have to qualify for a loan depends on many factors, including the size of your downpayment. Talk to a REALTOR® or lender about your particular circumstance.

You’re entitled to free copies of your credit reports annually from the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Order and then pore over them to ensure the information is accurate, and try to correct any errors before you buy. If your credit score isn’t up to snuff, the easiest ways to improve it are to pay every bill on time and pay down high credit card debt.

7.  Get prequalified.

Meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter that says how much house you’re qualified to buy. Start gathering the paperwork your lender says it needs. Most want to see W-2 forms verifying your employment and income, copies of pay stubs, and two to four months of banking statements.

If you’re self-employed, you’ll need your current profit and loss statement, a current balance sheet, and personal and business income tax returns for the previous two years.

Consider your financing options. The longer the loan, the smaller your monthly payment. Fixed-rate mortgages offer payment certainty; an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) offers a lower monthly payment. However, an adjustable-rate mortgage may adjust dramatically. Be sure to calculate your affordability at both the lowest and highest possible ARM rate.

More from HouseLogic

  • 4 Tips to Determine How Much Mortgage You Can Afford
  • 7 Tips for Improving Your Credit
  • How to Assess the Real Cost of a Fixer-Upper House

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has thrice survived the homebuying process. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Read more: http://members.houselogic.com/articles/7-steps-take-you-buy-home/preview/#ixzz3kAHaIRLj
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Realtor.com Profile page update

 

Cynthia Scaife , Agent Grand Prairie, TX

 

 Cynthia Scaife with Stanfield INC,. Realtors

As a fourteen-year member of the National Association of Realtors
and a member of the Arlington Board of Realtors since 2008 Service is what I am all about.

With my life experiences in accounting and Real Estate assisting buyers with preparing their families to become home owners.
Selling is a big part of my career, I have always been very good at selling. My very best comes out when I am in a sales negotiation.
I have done many HUD home sales.
And new and existing homes as well. I’m a member of the National Association of. Realtors for the past ten years and a member of the Arlington Board of Realtors since 2008. I am a volunteer, being all I can be in my field is my motto.
I have also sold some commercial property and studying for my degree in Real Estate. Looking forward to being a life Real Estate knowledge and investing guru.
member of Arlington Board since 2008

  • Years of Experience: 16
  • Specializations: I Specialize in Selling listings within ninty days
  • Areas Served: Broken Arrow, Tulsa, Alvarado, Arlington, Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, Kennedale, Mansfield
  • BrokerageDon Stanfield

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http://www.realtor.com/realestateagents/Cynthia-Scaife_Grand-Prairie_TX_952454_639279113

2019 Home Trends

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