Consumer Real Estate News

    • How to Make Stairs Safer for Seniors

      16 August 2022

      As people get older, physical decline can increase the risk of falling. For seniors with limited mobility, arthritis or poor vision, stairs can be particularly dangerous. A fall can lead to broken bones, head trauma and even death. Here are some ways to make stairs safer for an older family member.

      Reduce the Risk of Tripping and Slipping 
      Shoes, clothes and other objects that don’t belong on the stairs can increase the chance of falling for people of any age, but especially for seniors. Put things away where they belong. If you don’t want to take multiple trips to carry things upstairs, put them on a table or in a basket near the stairs, but not on them.

      Smooth stairs can be slippery. Stair treads and non-slip floor coatings can make stairs safer for your loved one. 

      Make the Stairs Easy to See
      Poor lighting and shadows can make it hard to see, which can increase the risk of falling. Check the lighting above and near the stairs. Make sure that every step is well lit and install additional lighting if necessary. 

      As people get older, their vision tends to decline. Limited vision and problems with depth perception can make it difficult to see exactly where a step is located. That can cause seniors to set a foot in the wrong place and fall. Painting the steps a different color than the area around them can make it easier for your loved ones to see where each step is and prevent an accident.  

      Check or Install Railings
      If a staircase currently has railings, check them to make sure that they’re secure. Every step should have a railing within reach on either side. There shouldn’t be any gaps. If necessary, replace damaged railings or install new railings on one or both sides of the stairs.

      Consider Installing a Stair Lift and/or Outdoor Ramp
      For seniors with limited mobility, walking up and down stairs may simply be too dangerous. In that case, a stair lift can be attached to the stairs to make upper floors accessible. Your loved one will be able to sit on a seat and ride safely along a rail to another level of the house. The seat can be folded up when it isn’t being used so others will be able to walk up and down the stairs without bumping into it.

      If your family member’s house has steps leading up to an outside door, they can pose another safety hazard. Outdoor steps have many of the same risks as indoor stairs, but rain, snow and ice can increase the risk of falling. Installing a ramp can make it easier to get in and out of the house safely. Non-slip treads, paint or tape can prevent slip-and-fall accidents for all ages.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Why You Should Pay Yourself First

      16 August 2022

      Building an emergency fund and saving for retirement are important, but a large percentage of adults have little or no savings. If you’re in that situation, you may have to cover an unexpected medical bill or car repair with a high-interest credit card. If you don’t have enough saved when you reach retirement age, you may have to keep working longer than you had planned, make painful cuts in your budget, downsize your home or move in with relatives.

      How to Pay Yourself First
      Many people think they don’t earn enough to save, or they want to save but they can’t find money to set aside. Financial planning professionals often recommend that you “pay yourself first.” That means that you should automatically transfer money to a retirement or savings account every time you get paid, before you pay bills, buy groceries or make discretionary purchases.

      If you have a retirement plan through your employer, you should be able to have money from each paycheck automatically directed to your retirement account. You can set up automatic transfers to a savings account so you can build up your emergency fund or save for another goal, such as a down payment on a house.

      Benefits of Paying Yourself First
      The problem that many people have when it comes to saving is that they pay others (their mortgage lender, auto loan servicer, credit card companies, etc.) and buy things that they need and want, then struggle to find some money left over to save. Paying yourself first switches the order of things so that you automatically put money toward your long-term goals, then address your other expenses. By making saving for your future a top priority, you’ll build a nest egg much faster. 

      Having money automatically transferred to a separate account will make it harder for you to spend it on something else. You will still have access to those funds, but withdrawing money from a retirement account or transferring it from a savings account to a checking account will take time. You’ll have to ask yourself if you should spend those funds on something else or if you should set them aside for your future, as you intended to do.

      Focus on Long-Term Priorities 
      You may have to adjust your spending in other areas to cover all your bills. For instance, if you put money toward retirement each time you get paid, you may have less to spend on takeout. Cutting back on restaurant meals may be inconvenient, but cooking at home more often and funneling more money into your retirement account will pay off later.

      Set a Realistic Goal
      Consider your income, expenses and interest rates on debt and figure out how much you can save each month. Even a modest amount can add up if you’re consistent. Being disciplined and seeing your balance grow may motivate you to save more in the future.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Can You Use a Credit Card to Make Mortgage Payments?

      16 August 2022

      Your mortgage lender won’t directly accept payments with a credit card. Doing so would allow you to simply exchange one form of debt for another. You may be able to pay your mortgage with a credit card if you go through a payment processing company, but you’ll have to pay a fee. 

      When It Might Make Sense to Pay Your Mortgage With a Credit Card
      You may decide to make one or more mortgage payments using a credit card if your card offers a bonus as a percentage of each purchase and that percentage is greater than the credit card processing fee. Paying your mortgage with credit may also work to your advantage if it will allow you to qualify for a new-customer bonus. 

      For instance, you may be eligible for a bonus of several hundred dollars or thousands of points if you make purchases that total a specific amount in the first few months after you open an account. You may not be able to reach that total with your typical purchases, but a mortgage payment may get you to the threshold you need to reach to qualify for a bonus. You may also be able to earn airline miles, free hotel stays, and other rewards by paying your home loan with a credit card.

      You may be strapped for cash when your mortgage payment is due, but you may know that you’ll have money coming in the next few weeks. If that’s the case, paying your mortgage with a credit card can help you avoid a late fee from your lender. 

      Reasons to Not Use a Credit Card to Pay Your Mortgage
      Your credit score is based in part on your credit utilization ratio, or the percentage of available credit you’re using. Making one or more large mortgage payments with a credit card may cause your utilization ratio to spike and may lower your credit score. That may be less of an issue if your utilization ratio is typically low.

      If you’re thinking about paying your mortgage with a credit card as a last-ditch effort to avoid foreclosure, don’t. It will most likely just make your situation worse. You’ll wind up with higher credit card balances, possibly at high interest rates, and the underlying problem that caused you to fall behind on your mortgage won’t be addressed. Contact your lender to discuss payment options and consult a housing counselor to learn about programs that may be able to help you.

      Use Caution
      Before you use credit to pay your mortgage, check your credit card company’s policies. It may count a payment made through a payment processing company as a cash advance and charge you a high interest rate.

      Only pay your mortgage with a credit card if you can pay the balance in full when your credit card bill is due. Otherwise, you’ll incur interest, and the interest rate on the credit card may be much higher than the rate on your mortgage.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Should You Build an In-Law Suite?

      15 August 2022

      An in-law suite is a group of rooms or a small apartment that may make up part of a larger home or may be a separate building. A suite may have a door that connects it to the rest of the house, or each residence may have a separate entrance. To create an in-law suite, the homeowner may build an addition, remodel a section of the house, or build or modify a separate structure. 

      An in-law suite can serve as a long-term residence for a homeowner’s parents or other relatives. A household worker may live in an in-law suite, or an apartment may be used for guests who come to stay for short periods of time so they and their hosts can have privacy. 

      Reasons to Construct an In-Law Suite
      If one or both of your parents need help with daily tasks, or if you’re concerned that it might not be safe for a parent to live alone, an in-law suite may be the ideal solution. You and other relatives will be close by and able to check in and help out when needed, but you and your parents will have the privacy you crave. 

      An in-law suite can promote family bonding. Your children will be able to spend time with their grandparents, and your parents may be able to help with babysitting, which can save you money. Having large family dinners will be easier with everyone in the same house.

      If you want to hire a nanny or housekeeper, providing housing can help you attract qualified applicants. If you like to entertain guests, having an in-law suite will let them avoid paying for a hotel.

      Adding an in-law suite may significantly increase your home’s square footage and its value. A future buyer who wants to have a parent move in or who likes to host out-of-town guests may find an in-law suite appealing. 

      You may decide to rent out an in-law suite, either on a short- or long-term basis. That extra stream of income may allow you to quickly recoup the cost of renovations and then help you cover your mortgage and other expenses. 

      Downsides of an In-Law Suite
      Increasing the size of your home and raising its value may increase your property taxes and homeowners insurance premiums. You will need to spend more time cleaning if you have frequent short-term guests, and you’ll need to budget more money for maintenance and repairs.

      Building an in-law suite can be expensive. A home equity loan or a home equity line of credit may give you the money you need, but make sure you’ll be able to pay it back.

      If you build a suite for houseguests, you should expect relatives and friends to want to visit more often, and possibly want to stay longer. Members of your immediate family may want to have guests over more frequently. If entertaining tends to stress you out, building a suite specifically intended for guests may not be a good idea.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Keeping Toddlers Safe at Home

      15 August 2022

      As every parent quickly learns, toddlers are notoriously curious. They reach, they climb and they fearlessly taste whatever they stumble upon. Parents and grandparents need to take extra steps to keep little thrill-seekers from harm. Health and safety professionals provide some tips for toddler-proofing your home. 

      • Cook on the Back Burners - Keep simmering pots and pans on the back burner of your stove with handles facing away so toddlers can’t reach them.  
      • Lock Away Cleansers and Bags - Store all house cleaning products and plastic grocery bags in a locked or latched cabinet your toddler cannot open.
      • Safely Stow Medications - Don’t leave medications on the counter. Instead, keep them in cupboards high enough that a toddler cannot reach them. 
      • Plug Unused Electrical Outlets - Use plastic outlet covers in unused outlets to keep curious fingers out of them and be sure not to leave dangling cords anywhere.
      • Use Bumper Guards - Bumper guards placed on the corners of sharply squared coffee tables or other furniture will protect against accidental falls.
      • Snuff the Candles - Never leave candles burning unattended where a child can climb up and reach them and keep matches locked away.
      • Anchor Tall Furniture - Dressers and other tall furniture are magnets for young climbers. They should be safely anchored to the wall.
      • Take Care With Tablecloths - Toddlers and creeping babies tend to pull on tablecloths, so take care with what is placed on top of them. Better yet, use placemats for the duration.
      • Guard Against Swallowing Small Items - Keep toys and other items small enough to swallow out of reach, including dolls or stuffed animals with small, removable parts.
      • Use Safety Gates - Place them at the top and bottom of the staircase, and even at the entrance to the kitchen to keep your toddler out of it when not in use.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.