Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Considerations When Taking out a Home Loan for the First Time

Buying your first home is exciting business, but it’s also a source of stress and uncertainty for those who have never taken out a mortgage before. But don’t let that discourage you. You’re about to pass an important milestone in life, and as long as you do your research and take the proper precautions, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Begin by running through this important list of considerations:

  • Take Your Time.

The most important thing you can do in preparation for your first mortgage is to slow down and take time to process everything. It’s easy to feel rushed – especially when you have to be in a new location by set date to start a new job, for example. However, rushing leads to missteps. Remember, you can always rent a room for a few weeks or even months if necessary. The last thing you want to do is rush into a 20- or 30-year mortgage when you’re not convinced that a particular property is the right one for you. Just remind yourself that homes go on and off the market perpetually. Even if there are no ideal properties available right now, there certainly will be in due time.

  • Don’t exhaust your savings on the down payment.

This is not an attempt to go against traditional wisdom. Make no mistake: a substantial down payment reduces the principle and cuts down on the amount of interest paid over the life of Smartline home loans. However, once you move into your first house, you’re going to need to buy furniture, appliances, tools and a host of other expensive items that home ownership requires. Better to take this extra money out of your down payment and pay a low mortgage interest rate on it than to pull out the credit card and pile on high-interest debt. You can always increase your monthly repayments down the road. 

  • Ask the Sellers to See Past Utility Bills.

One of the most essential considerations for first-time home buyers is the feasibility of repayment. You want to make absolutely certain that you can afford this house on a monthly basis, and that means taking more than your mortgage repayment into account. Ask the current owners if you can look at their utility bills so that you can cut the guesswork out of how much it takes to heat, cool, power and supply water to this house. Ask for past bills from all seasons (or better yet, from a full calendar year) so that you can accurately determine how much you’ll be paying on top of your monthly mortgage 

  • Scrutinise the Taxes.

As with the utility bills, the annual taxes on the property are going to add to the burden of repayment. Ask to see past property tax statements from several years to help you predict upcoming trends in tax as well. It is also a good idea to speak to your realtor about property taxes in specific cities and neighbourhoods.

  • Request a Record of Past Improvements.

Regardless of whether or not you plan to do any remodelling, you will want to know what the previous owners have done up to this point. Sellers are prone to making a few improvements before they list a house so that they can get a bit more for it. This is all well and good as long as they are using superior materials. If, on the other hand, a closer inspection of their handiwork reveals second-rate craftsmanship, you may have to make additional repairs to the house after you purchase it. Those are going to cost you.

About the Author: A company with offices in most major regional areas in Australia, Smartline is one of the leading providers of financial solutions such as home loans to customers all over the country.

Getting the Most Out of Your Savings

money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)
Getting the most out of your savings seems to be harder than ever these days. With interest rates incredibly low and bank fines high for any mistakes that you make, it is easy to believe that you’re not actually saving money at all. Before the financial crash, cash ISAs and savings accounts were used by everyone, providing a solid (although not astronomically high) rate of interest that rewarded savvy, money conscious savers across the globe. However, the crash changed the entirety of the world’s financial outlook and now; the way we save is entirely different, with people struggling to accrue any interest whatsoever. Due to this, people have started looking for alternative investment strategies to ensure they get the most out of their savings; here are just three ways you can do just that:

Start an eBay Business

Technology continues to play a greater and greater role in our lives and, because of this, a number of business opportunities have emerged. Recently, we’ve seen online shopping site eBay become the epicentre of the online retail world. A place where you can buy anything from golf clubs to new cars, eBay has something for everybody; all at an affordable price. With over 14 million active users, a prospective audience for your products is huge and, because it’s all online, you don’t even have to leave the house to start earning a profit. Start small with unwanted home items and then build up to business level.

Trade Forex

Another way that you could potentially make money online is by trading forex. Much like you do when you go on holiday, forex is the process of changing currency from one to another, exploiting the exchange rate to make a profit. The markets are difficult to navigate and it takes a great amount of research to ensure that you limit the risk of losing your money. However, unlike an eBay business, the set up cost is low and all you’ll need is a Metatrader account. Very high risk, the rewards for forex traders are high, but there is always the potential you could lose a great deal of money, too.

Invest in Stocks and Shares

The world of forex is very immediate, and if you’re looking for longer term investments, then stocks and shares may be your thing instead. Of course, this is also a potential investment minefield, and it will take a copious amount of research before you begin. But, when you’re all set up, you can monitor your trades without even leaving the house. Something that is ideal for many of us.

To conclude, savings accounts at banks accrue far less interest than they used to and, to get more out of their savings, people have started looking elsewhere. Starting an eBay business, trading forex and investing in stocks and shares are three ways that you can do just that. But, don’t be restricted to just these three things, the world’s your oyster, so have a good look around and invest wisely.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How To Save Money When Customizing Your Home

Customizing your home can be a challenge. If you’re on a budget the challenges can seem overwhelming. The great thing is that it doesn’t have to be. You can customize your home with a little creativity and planning. Using a few strategies you can make your overall cost low and your home project less stressful. 

Do It Yourself

Do it yourself or DIY projects can save a lot of money. Many projects are as simple as adding a flower bed to your front yard or changing out your old mailbox to add curb appeal. You can also use inexpensive items to create custom art pieces inside of your home. These little details can make a huge statement without costing a lot. Because you do the work yourself, the only cost to you is materials and time. 

Add Little Details

Updating the outside of your home can make customization seem daunting. But small changes can have a big impact. Adding something new like custom plantation shutters or a new door can make your home seem new for very little. If your budget doesn’t allow for new shutters or a new door, painting can have the same impact. 

Yard Sale Finds

The old saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure is true. Yard sales are a great way to find new furniture or art for less money than you would pay anywhere else. A brand new wooden bedroom set could cost thousands of dollars to buy in a retail store. Buying one at a yard sale may cost you less than one hundred dollars. That savings can be used in other parts of your home. 


If you have items that you don’t use they can be made into something new. An old dresser can be turned into a TV stand or a storage cabinet by removing the drawers and adding decorative baskets. An old wardrobe cabinet can be turned into a desk by adding a sliding shelf. These pieces can add a lot of character to your home without costing much. By using an old piece in a new way, it creates a uniqueness to your home’s d├ęcor. 


One of the best ways to have your personality show in your home is through color. Similar to the idea of painting your door or shutters for the outside of your home, you can make the same changes on the inside. Choosing a color that is unique to you can change a room from boring to beautiful. Many paint companies will help you to customize your paint color to better suit your vision. 

Small Changes

Little things inside your home can make customization fun. Items like drawer and cabinet handles can be changed out for newer ones. By changing them out, you can make a statement of your personality. You can use new hardware on your doors to make your home more formal or more casual, depending on your personal choices. Using paint or wallpaper on your light switch panels or outlets can have the same effect. Putting a decorative charm on the chains of ceiling fans can also add a unique touch.

Home customizing doesn't have to break your budget. By doing some planning and a little extra homework, you can help make your vision into a reality. Not being afraid of doing things differently will keep money in your pocket. That extra money can be spent on more customization. Making your home a statement of your personality can be easy, fun and very rewarding. Using your imagination, you can make your home more beautiful than you may have thought possible.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Truth About Identity Theft: 6 Tactics To Keep You Safe

The problem of identity theft is growing worse every year. Criminals with the smallest amount of personal information can now steal an identity and cause damage that could take years to repair. Criminals are also finding new and inventive ways to steal identities. Six tactics will help to protect anyone from identity theft.

Manage Passwords and PINs Carefully

All passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs) for credit cards should be managed carefully. The passwords and PINs should not correspond to numbers or words that could be guessed by a criminal. Passwords should be changed every 30 to 60 days to something completely different. You should also not keep all your passwords and pins the same across the board. This can be just be inviting a thief to access more information then they originally could have.

Shred Documents or Go Paperless

Picking bank statements and other papers out of the trash is still an effective way to steal an identity. It is important to shred all documents that contain personal information or account numbers. It could help to sign up for paperless billing with banks and utilities to eliminate printed documents from the trash completely.

If you choose the route of going paperless, the only other idea you have to worry about is keeping your passwords safe. Considering that you should have a different password for each and every account, sometimes it is good to have these passwords written down somewhere in case of an emergency. But you want to be careful with where you store these passwords and make sure they are out of sight and reach of anyone looking.

Store Wisely

For documents that cannot be shredded, think of a secure location for them. There are safety deposit boxes at every bank or you could invest in a fire safe to keep in your home. The point is, you want to make these documents unreachable to anyone outside of your family.

Check Accounts and Credit Reports Regularly

All accounts should be checked regularly for any usual activity or changes in information. This should include bank accounts, credit card statements and accounts with utilities or other companies. They should be checked to ensure the address and other data is correct. They should be checked for unauthorized activities. This is especially important when looking at a credit report.

Protect Incoming and Outgoing Mail

Identity thieves can steal mail directly from a mailbox. It is important to use a locking mailbox or to have a mail slot that leads into the home. Outgoing mail should be put in a secure mailbox and never left in an unprotected location for pickup.

Never Respond To Unsolicited Requests for Information

Unsolicited requests for information should be ignored. This includes emails and mailed letters. If the request seems legitimate and is from a known source, then it is best to find the official number of the institution and contact them directly to see if the request is valid. Be especially leery of websites that ask for personal information. The only thing you should be giving out to a site should be an email address. Never give any numbers of your social security number out over the internet. This is an easy way for criminals to get their hands on your information.

Scan For Spyware and Malware

Spyware and malware can extract personal information from a computer and record keystrokes. Computers should be scanned for spyware and malware once every week or month depending on usage. Installing active antivirus software will help as well.

Part of avoiding identity theft is quickly recognizing anomalies and staying out of uncertain situations. It is important to scrutinize everything before providing personal information over the phone or online. Personal information needs to be protected at all times as if identity thieves were waiting around every corner.
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