Most active-duty service members and veterans and some National Guard members and reservists can seek out home-related loans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
VA home loan programs may be used to finance the purchase of homes, condominiums or manufactured homes, refinance an existing home loan, or install energy-saving improvements. The three main types of guaranteed home loan benefits are:
• Purchase Loans
• Cash-Out Refinance Loans
• Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans
Qualified vets need suitable credit, sufficient income and a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to be eligible for a VA-guaranteed home loan. Private lenders underwrite and fund VA home loans according to VA standards. VA’s partial guaranty for these loans means that nearly 90 percent of all VA-guaranteed home loans are made with no down payment required.
If a VA-guaranteed loan becomes delinquent, the VA will work with the borrower to avoid foreclosure, including providing financial counseling and, in some cases, direct intervention with a mortgage loan servicer on the borrower’s behalf.
Any veteran or service member having difficulty making mortgage payments should call (877) 827-3702 to speak with a VA Loan Technician. More information about avoiding foreclosure can be found at: benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS/resources_payments.asp.
Native American veterans who want to live on Federal Trust land can seek assistance through the VA’s Native American Direct Loan (NADL) program, which provides direct loans to eligible Native American veterans for the purchase, construction or improvement of a home.
The VA also offers grants to veterans with certain service-connected disabilities to build an adapted home or make modifications to an existing home. Three types of grants exist: Specially Adapted Housing, Special Housing Adaptation, and Temporary Residence Adaptation.
Homeless veterans, or those at imminent risk of becoming homeless, are urged to contact their local VA medical center, call (877) 424-3838, or visit va.gov/homeless.
Consult your real estate professional to learn more about the VA’s home-related services, or visit explore.va.gov/home-loans-and-housing.
Published with permission from RISMedia.
(BPT)—Technology’s evolving at a rapid pace, no more so than in our homes—and in fact, there are innovations pioneering the next phase of advanced homebuilding as we speak. Three of the most exciting:
Bio Concrete – Concrete is the world’s most common building material—but that doesn’t mean it’s the most durable. Chemicals, shifting Earth, temperature fluctuations and weather-related wear and tear all contribute to cracks and deterioration.
Several years ago, scientists in the Netherlands developed bio concrete, a type of concrete that can repair itself if cracked. The material is laden with limestone-creating bacteria that work to "heal" cracks, similar to the way bones heal themselves when broken.
Cross-Laminated Timber – An alternative to concrete, cross-laminated timber (CLT) is produced from small bits of timber glued into large slabs. CLT is as strong (and fireproof!) as steel. It is cut via a robotic router, which shapes the slabs based on dimensions fed to it by a computer. The pieces are then assembled much like IKEA furniture, cutting down construction time significantly.
Sound-Dampening Drywall – In a household where several devices may be running at any given moment, finding quiet can be a challenge. A new development in drywall reduces noise between rooms, blocking the amount of sound carried through walls and ceilings.
Which innovation are you most excited about? These may become the norm sooner than you think!
On the road this Memorial Day weekend? You and millions more!
A near record-breaking 38 million travelers will trek to destinations all over the country this weekend, AAA projects—the highest travel volume since before the recession, and the second-highest ever. The top five destinations this year are:
1. Orlando, Fla.
2. Myrtle Beach, S.C.
3. Washington, D.C.
4. New York, N.Y.
5. Miami, Fla.
Low gas prices will motivate many travelers to take to the roads this weekend, AAA forecasts. A gallon of gasoline averages $2.26—45 cents lower than last year.
“Americans are eagerly awaiting the start of summer and are ready to travel in numbers not seen in more than a decade,” says Marshall Doney, president and CEO of AAA. “The great American road trip is officially back thanks to low gas prices, and millions of people from coast to coast are ready to kick off summer with a Memorial Day getaway.”
The tech field is booming—and so are tech cities.
Cities best suited for technology professionals boast high average earnings and steady employment in the sector. These factors, plus home prices, were recently analyzed in Homes.com’s New Tech City Index, ranking the top emerging tech cities in the country.
The 10 best, according to the Index, are:
1. Denver, Colo.
2. Framingham, Mass.
3. Oakland, Calif.
4. Atlanta, Ga.
5. Boston, Mass.
6. Austin, Texas
7. Santa Ana, Calif.
8. Baltimore, Md.
9. Durham, N.C.
10. Boulder, Colo.
Denver’s house prices have shot up over 40 percent in the last five years, cementing its place at No. 1, while Framingham, though less populated, is home to some of the nation’s most well-known—and well-paying—tech companies. Oakland’s proximity to tech centers like San Francisco and San Jose make it ideal for tech professionals, as well.
“Many areas exist outside of the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest where tech folks can find both their dream job and the home of their dreams,” says Grant Simmons, VP at Homes.com. “Cities like Denver not only offer tech-focused career opportunities, but also more bang for their housing buck, great schools and lifestyle options that suit both small-town and big-city appetites.”
‘Tis the season for eating out—doors, that is!
If you’re hosting a backyard soirée this summer, make food safety a priority when planning the meal. Seasonal temperatures can accelerate the growth of foodborne bacteria, compromising the safety of you and your guests, cautions the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“From picnics to cookouts, eating outside is a fun and tasty way to enjoy the warmer weather,” says Torey Armul, a registered dietitian and nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy. “Be sure to follow proper food safety practices every step of the way to keep unwanted bacteria from crashing your party.”
These practices include:
• Washing Your Hands – Wash your hands before and after handling any foods. “Bring along hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol in case water is not available,” Armul says. “Remember to regularly clean your cooler, picnic basket and tote bags, because these items can be a breeding ground for bacteria.”
• Separating Raw from Ready-to-Eat – If you plan to cook food on-site, separate raw meats, poultry and seafood from other ready-to-eat foods. “Use one cooler for raw meats and another one for ready-to-eat foods, such as fruits, vegetables, cheese and desserts,” says Armul. “Bring two sets of plates and utensils: one for handling raw meats and one for serving cooked foods.”
• Using a Thermometer – Have a food thermometer on hand when cooking—all food must be cooked to a safe internal temperature, and a food thermometer is the only way to ensure it has reached this temperature. Download the Is My Food Safe? mobile app, found at eatrightstore.org, for a complete list of cooking temperatures.
• Keeping Perishables Cold – Keep perishables in a cooler packed with frozen water bottles and juice boxes. Stow the cooler in the shade and with the lid closed. “Pack a thermometer in the cooler to ensure it remains at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below,” Armul adds.
• Tossing After Two Hours – At the end of your gathering, throw out all perishable food that has been unrefrigerated for more than two hours (or only one hour, if the outdoor temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit). The clock starts as soon as your food is served.
These tips come courtesy of the Home Food Safety program, a ConAgra Foods’ campaign in partnership with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. To learn more food safety practices, visit HomeFoodSafety.org.
Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Got the travel bug? Hop on a plane overseas to (or just daydream about!) these beautiful places, recently rounded up by Harper’s Bazaar:
Amalfi Coast – Hugging the coast through a succession of idyllic small towns like Positano, this eye-opening seaside escape in Italy offers postcard views at every turn.
Bora Bora – With its turquoise lagoons, coral reefs and overwater bungalows, this French Polynesian island is heaven on Earth.
Fiordland National Park – In early winter, fields of purple bloom across this park on the South Island of New Zealand, home to the breathtaking Milford Sound.
The Forbidden City – One of the most beautifully-preserved examples of ancient Chinese architecture, The Forbidden City in Beijing has served as the imperial palace for five centuries.
Japan (in Cherry Blossom Season) – Cherry blossoms steal the scene during blooming season, making it an ideal time to visit the Land of the Rising Sun.
Krabi – A popular beach destination on the west coast of southern Thailand, Krabi is dotted with limestone cliffs and hundreds of islands just offshore in the Andaman Sea.
Marrakesh – Located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, Marrakesh has changed little since the Middle Ages. Wander through maze-like alleyways and discover the city's souks, palaces and gardens.
Oia, Santorini – The hillside town at the far tip of Santorini in Greece boasts brilliant sunsets, accommodations built into the cliffs, and magnificent views of the Aegean sea.
Tamil Nadu – This southern India state is home to most of the country's major Hindu temples, including the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple and the Meenakshi Temple Complex.
Torres del Paine National Park – Truly off the grid, this park in the Patagonia region of Chile features jaw-dropping mountain views from every angle.
Which of these locales makes your list?
(BPT)—Research estimates more than 50 percent of households lack enough retirement funds to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living—even if they work until 65.
The good news? If you’re a homeowner, you have options:
Reverse Mortgage – A reverse mortgage is a loan that homeowners aged 62 or older can use to convert part of the equity in their home into a usable asset, without giving up title or ownership of the house.
“The reverse mortgage option should be viewed as a method for responsible retirees to create liquidity from an otherwise illiquid asset,” says Wade Pfau, professor at The American College.
Reverse mortgages require no monthly payment and do not have to be paid off until the last borrower permanently leaves the home. You have the option of taking the loan proceeds as a lump sum, a fixed monthly or tenured payment, or as a line of credit.
Reverse mortgages also feature a non-recourse provision that protects you from ever owing the lender more than the value of your home, even if the house is "underwater" when you are ready to sell.
You are still responsible for paying your property taxes, homeowner's insurance and upkeep expenses, or risk the loan being called due and payable.
Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) – A HELOC establishes a line of credit based on a percentage of the value of your home. You can access this credit during a predetermined amount of time called a "draw period," usually 10 years. During the draw period, you can borrow up to the designated amount while making monthly interest payments, and, if you choose to pay back on the principal, you can draw out again, much like a credit card.
After the draw period, you are responsible for repaying the principal and interest either immediately or over a set period of time, depending on the terms of the loan. You should be aware that if your home value depreciates, or if your financial circumstances change, the lender has the right to freeze your credit or even cancel your loan.
Cash-Out Refinancing – Cash-out refinancing allows you to refinance an existing home loan—hopefully at a lower interest rate—and also refinance the home for a dollar value higher than the remaining principal. This loan allows you to keep the money above the principal as liquid cash that can be used to pay down other expenses or fund your retirement.
Like your original forward mortgage, if you miss a monthly payment due to unanticipated expenses from a health care emergency or other life disruption, your loan could be called due and payable, and the lender could move to foreclose on your property.
While all three plans have their benefits, new consumer safeguards for reverse mortgages are fueling their popularity among seniors who want the benefit of no monthly payment, a loan that can't be canceled or reset, and the option of a line of credit that increases over time.
Did you know the average gas-powered lawn mower emits over four tons of carbon and other pollutants each year?
That’s according to MowGreen, a carbon neutral company focused on sustainable lawn care. That four tons of carbon, MowGreen founder Dan Delventhal says, is equivalent to the emissions of a car driven 10,000 miles!
Delventhal recommends nixing the gas-guzzling machine in favor of a push mower, which not only lessens the user’s carbon footprint, but has health benefits, as well. Every 1,000 acres mowed without gas-powered equipment offsets four million auto mile-equivalent emissions, Delventhal says.
Aside from the switch to a push mower, homeowners may also want to overhaul their lawn care program, particularly weed control.
Corn gluten, Delventhal explains, is effective for weed control, but must be managed with proper timing. It is reputed to be 90 percent effective for weed control when applied in spring, fall and spring again. It suppresses new weed growth in spring and fall by desiccation, shunting new seed germination, as well as through a protein-type reaction that inhibits the growth of broad-leaf weeds.
Corn gluten is also a nitrogen fertilizer, and, when combined with weed control application, can replace fertilizing entirely, says Delventhal.
Use certified non-GMO, organic corn gluten, if available. Delventhal’s own corn gluten costs $75 for a 50-pound bag, which covers about 2,500 square feet. The price comes down as the quantity increases.
Want to learn more? Visit MowGreen.us for tips.
June 1 to November 30 is high time for hurricanes in many coastal regions. Stay ahead of whatever the season may bring by preparing your household with a communication plan and emergency kit, as well as assessing your home’s power needs.
“Being prepared going into hurricane season is the best way to stay safe and comfortable should a storm of any size result in a power outage,” says Dan Roche of Briggs & Stratton. “Having backup power is one way homeowners can comfortably ride out the effects of that storm from the comforts of home until utility crews can restore electricity.”
Two backup power options— portable generators and standby generator systems—prevent power interruption to a home.
These two types of generators help in different ways. Portable generators are ideal for those needing to power select appliances during an outage, or those who anticipate needing to power tools to clear away storm debris. Some portable generators can even be attached to a transfer switch coupled with step-by-step startup, shutdown and storage instructions.
Portable generators, however, present risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. As such, they must be used appropriately at all times. For safety tips, visit www.TakeYourGeneratorOutside.com.
Standby generators, on the other hand, are permanently installed outside the home and automatically keep the power on when the primary power source goes out. Fueled by propane or natural gas, standbys run appliances like air conditioners, refrigerators, washers and dryers.
Standby generators require a professional install, so be sure to call a technician well in advance of a storm if you’re planning to use one.
Source: Briggs & Stratton Corporation
In life and in real estate, first impressions matter. Before placing your home on the market, it’s worth taking a look at the paint on the outside, which may have been impacted by elements from the past winter.
“If you’ve been huddled inside for the past few months, you may not be aware of the price your exterior paint has paid keeping winter weather at bay,” says Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert with the paint Quality Institute. “Freeze-thaw cycles, rain, sleet and snow can cause paint to fail quickly, especially if you didn't use top-quality paint to begin with.”
Zimmer suggests starting by inspecting for flaking or peeling paint on the exterior siding and trim. If the compromised paint is confined to a small area, a touch-up may be all that’s needed.
Begin any touch-up project by scraping off loose paint, then sanding the edges smooth, Zimmer explains. Next, prime any areas where bare wood is visible, and then apply a coat of leftover paint.
If the paint damage is beyond touch-up repair, Zimmer advises re-painting the home sooner rather than later.
“Assuming that you're a do-it-yourself painter, you'll find it much more comfortable to do your surface preparation and painting now, when the weather is mild,” Zimmer says. “Your paint may even last longer if you act quickly. Exterior paints tend to 'cure' better in moderate temperatures, which enables them to form an especially durable paint film.”
It’s doubly important to act fast if you plan to hire a painter, Zimmer adds. Professionals tend to book up this time of year.
No matter which route you choose, don’t skimp on the product—it will make all the difference.
“A top-quality 100-percent acrylic latex paint will provide the best-looking and longest-lasting results, no matter where it is used,” Zimmer says.
Source: Paint Quality Institute