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Take Charge of Your Mortgage

You’ve taken the leap and decided to buy a home. After signing a mountain of paperwork, you are now the proud owner of your own residence. When the first mortgage payment comes due, you are hit by the reality of what you have done. You have taken on 30 years’ worth of massive payments, in an economy that makes no promises about long-term job stability.

An aggressive plan for mortgage prepayment can help reduce this long-term commitment and save you money.

Plan Before You Buy
Look before you leap and do the math in advance, to determine how much house you can afford to buy, then buy less house than you can afford. This strategy will ensure that you have adequate cash flow to make extra mortgage payments and will provide some cushion, should you have to take a lower-paying job at some point in the future. Also, make sure that your mortgage does not impose a penalty for prepayment. This clause can put a damper on your efforts to get out of debt.

Next, you need to pay attention to the financing terms. While adjustable-rate mortgages offer lower initial payments, they are used all too often to enable buyers to get into homes they cannot actually afford. If your plan is to get out of debt as quickly as possible, a fixed-rate mortgage provides the predictability of a steady interest rate, and it can always be refinanced if rates fall.

How to Pay Off a Mortgage 
Once you have a mortgage, the key to paying it off is simple: send money to the bank. Set aside some cash and make at least one extra payment on your mortgage per year or each month add a set amount that you can comfortably afford (say $15 or $25) to your payment. Another idea, apply the next tax refund towards your mortgage principal.

If your career advances over the years, put those raises and bonuses to work by sending them to the mortgage company. You were doing just fine without that money, and you won’t miss it if you don’t get used to having it in your budget.

Keep an eye on interest rates and, if they fall, consider refinancing. If you can reduce your interest rate, shorten the term of your loan or both, refinancing can be an excellent strategy. Just don’t make the mistake of keeping your term the same and taking money out.

The Bottom Line
There’s no time like the present to begin your quest to pay off that mortgage. Start by reading your amortization schedule; once you see exactly how much of your monthly payment goes to interest, and what a tiny portion goes toward paying off the principal, you will realize that every extra dollar you send, reduces the portion of your payment that services your interest expense. That can be a powerful motivator, for financially savvy individuals.

If you focus your efforts on the task at hand, you may be surprised at how quickly you can retire a mortgage. With your mission accomplished, you will find that the comforts of home are even more pleasurable when it is you, not the bank, who owns the home.

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A Property Manager May Be What You Need

Property management is the supervision of residential or commercial real estate and involves the managing of property that is owned by someone else.


The property manager acts on behalf of the client to act as a care taker of the property while generating income. Companies who handle property management communicate with both the clients and tenants, saving time from collecting rent, handling maintenance and repairs and responding to complaints.


There are numerous reasons why an individual would need the assistance of a property manager; here are a few of those reasons.


1) If you currently own multiple properties, rental units or an apartment building, providing the same level of care towards each individually can be difficult. The more properties or apartments you own, the more you’re likely to benefit from a management company.


2) If you do not live near your property, whether you live in a different community or in another country, hiring a company to manage your property can assist with many issues that you will be unable to handle while being away.


3) If you have limited time on your hands between taking care of your family, having a social life, and having a full time job, managing a rental building added in the midst can create additional burdens that can be avoided.


4) If you have the time to manage your own property but do not have the skills required, or you are not interested in hands on management, you should consider hiring a property manager or management company.

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Simple steps to speed up your home loan process

Are you searching for real estate? Do you have the money you need?  As a potential home owner or just land or commercial building owner, you’re constantly looking for a property that matches your requirements.  You also most likely need to obtain the funds to purchase the property from a local financial institution.  Potential homebuyers often hear that mortgage lending process is tedious and difficult to qualify for.


One common hurdle homebuyers face is not knowing the size of the mortgage which they qualify for, the requirements for securing a mortgage and how long it takes to complete the borrowing process.  In this article you’ll find out 6 ways to speed up the mortgage loan process.


  1. Examine the different financial institutions to determine which is most reasonable for you. You will need to compare interest rates, criteria, fees and charges and very importantly, the deposit required.


  1. Gather all relevant documents you may need. It is almost impossible for an individual to obtain a mortgage or any other loan without providing certain documents.  Find out from the loan officer even before your first meeting what sort of documents they need from you.  Some of the usual documents requested by the financial institutions are a letter of intent to sell, employment verification document, income statement or salary slip, average monthly expenditure, proof of asset(s) for down payment or security, etc.


  1. There are some documents that you may not be able to provide at the moment and can only be obtained after you have found the home e.g a property valuation but it will be good to obtain the contact for a reputable valuer and get an idea of the fees that may be charged. Documents or information requested from the financial institution should be obtained as quickly as possible. Keeping the loan officer waiting on vital information from you means the loan application process is being held up.


  1. Get pre-approved. This will allow you to have a clear idea of what size loan the bank will grant you.  What the bank is comfortable loaning you may be a lot less than what you think you qualify for or a lot more than you are comfortable spending.  At that point you and the loan officer could discuss what your best option is.  Getting pre-approved also puts you in front of the race, meaning that a smart seller will go with the person who has been pre-approved for a mortgage.


  1. Don’t be a stranger to your loan officer or your real estate agent. Keep in contact with them so that everyone is familiar with your case.  You may be one of the first to receive information on any important changes.


  1. Hold up on large purchases and avoid overspending before securing the house loan. Also, try to clear up outstanding debts.  Clearing up smaller debts will reflect less commitment on your salary. Ensure that you are servicing all debts to the satisfaction of the creditor so you can provide a positive credit report, if required by your lender.


Mortgage financing has become an important tool in the economy and has made it possible for millions of persons to become proud owners of their property.  If you decide to take advantage of it, do not let the process be staggered, if you can help.

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Get your credit rating up, to get that mortgage!

A good credit rating/score is an essential part of getting a mortgage loan.  The only way to establish good credit is to actually start buying on credit. This is the only way to establish a credit history which reveals your ability to pay for things that you buy or use.  If you have never taken a loan before or have not taken anything on credit before, now may be the time to do so if you intend to get a mortgage loan sometime in the future.


Stay put to help your credit rating and make it easier to get a mortgage.


Changing jobs often will make you seem unstable and risky. Employment continuity is paramount. Ideally, lenders are looking for someone who has had the same job for a number of years.  Having had two employers in 3 years need not be that detrimental. If the job change is to get more pay, it will usually not cause any problems, though you really want to have been in your new job for a few months before applying for new credit.  Remember, lenders often ask to see the last couple of months pay slips when applying for a loan.


Being a consistent saver helps your credit rating and makes it easier to get a mortgage.


Lenders see bank accounts as signs of financial stability and consistent savings behavior. You shouldn’t, however, just open accounts left and right, as this makes you look bad rather than good. Just have more than one and make sure that there’s money in each of them.


Handling a credit card responsibly helps your credit rating and makes it easier to get a mortgage.


Choose a card that offers the lowest interest rate and if possible one that offers a cash back percentage on purchases you make. Paying your credit card automatically helps your credit rating and makes it easier to get a mortgage.  Set up automatic payments with your credit card company and/or bank. Most credit cards will allow you to set up automatic withdrawals from your checking account every month to pay for your credit card. This way, you won’t risk forgetting about your payments and registering as a late payer, dropping your credit score.

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Country Living

In Dominica and probably other places in the world there seems to be a large percentage of persons interested in living in the city despite it’s over crowdedness and noise pollution.  We boast about the natural beauty of our country Dominica but are we really enjoying it?  If you travel a bit around the country you will notice that this natural beauty is more apparent in the rural areas.  City life has its advantages such as easier access to educational and other facilities however the improvement in infrastructure and technology makes access to these facilities effortless.  If you are thinking of buying land or building or even if you already have a home in the town or close to it, it will be good to consider having a countryside home.  Here are some benefits to consider:


Privacy and Serenity – Live in the town area? Ever found it necessary to drive far from your home to get some peace?  It is also almost impossible to step outside without being seen by other people or even seeing people. – Living in the country side gives you the gift of privacy and absence of noise which allows you to concentrate, meditate and rest peacefully.  Imagine if you are preparing for exams or recovering from a medical procedure, this would be perfect.


Rejuvenation – The fresh air and a bit of warmth from the sun especially after a long day of work is very refreshing and revitalizing.  Our body takes in more oxygen and this transforms into a healthier body and greater energy; clean air obviously is one of the main advantages of country life.  You also get to really enjoy nature; waking up to the singing of birds and the breathtaking mountain and forest views.


Space – We know one thing that is lacking in the town is space.  Most of the spaces are used for commercial purposes and because of that we have very limited space for public functions, recreational and leisure activities.  – With the space afforded in the country side, children can play outdoor games or learn to ride a bicycle, rather than devoting so many hours to computer games.  They have a lot of personal space that allows them to play comfortably which may not be possible at public playgrounds which I see is very scarce in Dominica.


Cost – It is no secret that land in the urban area is far more expensive than in the rural area e.g. 10,000 square feet of land near the town may cost the same or even more than an acre (43,560 square feet) of land in the countryside.


Self sustenance – Complementary to saving on cost of land and the ability to own larger portions of land is the savings on the cost of food.   If you are not very interested in growing provisions and fruits you have the option to maintain a small vegetable garden in your back yard or even at the front.  Some persons may be fortunate to purchase land that is already cultivated with crops.  This food could be grown for your own consumption and you may have the option to earn extra income from the excess.


Security – In the rural area, people tend to be more caring and concerned for their neighbours, so you will find that neighbours keep an eye on each other’s property creating a strong, friendly, active community where crime is less likely to happen.


You should note that the design of your home can greatly influence your life.  A home with environmental conscientiousness in its design and décor and energy conservation practices will make this experience, ‘your life’ more fulfilling.  Ensure that your home is designed to take advantage of magnificent views of the surrounding natural environment and benefit from the natural air flow.

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Blue Prints / House Plans

Many years ago house plans were done as a set of Blueprints, pages with white lines and lettering on a dark blue background.  Today, house plans are printed on large format digital printers but are still referred to as Blueprints.  They are often provided in five or eight sets. The Government Planning Authority will often require at least three sets of plans, and the bank may require one if the person intends to secure funding from them.  The builder will also need a set of plans and it is always wise to keep a copy for reference.

With the continuous increase in technology, plans are now available in Portable Document Format (PDF) and Computer Aided Design (CAD), which allows plans to be quickly delivered by email.  One of the important advantages of using a PDF package is that it allows for the plans to be emailed to builders thus avoiding the printing of extra sets which saves time and cost in relation to distribution for bids etc.  CAD on the other hand, although it may be more expensive, allows changes to be made easily.

Plans are used to obtain building permits from the local government and are also used to show a builder exactly how that particular house should be constructed.  Plans usually focus on the architecture and the building itself and don’t include information on the building’s finishing.

A house plan should include:

  1. Exterior Elevations which illustrates the drawings of the exterior of the home and includes details of the windows, doors, wall heights, roof pitches and ridge heights etc.;
  2. Drawing of the Floor Plan which is usually regarded as most important – It shows how different spaces relate to each other;
  3. Drawing of the Foundation Plan which provides details and illustrations of the foundation of the house and includes all the structural beams and footings to support the floor(s) above;
  4. Drawing of the Building Section and Details which illustrate the relationship between the different levels and areas of a home as well as construction details; and
  5. The plan of the roof as well as general notes and details such as building codes.


Careful planning now will go a long way towards making your home special and convenient for you and your family.

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Earl Learns As He Gets His Home Valued

Several years after Earl Seraphine moved from one part of Dominica to the other, he decided to sell one of his homes since he had no plans to move back and thought that the proceeds from the sale of the house would be of greater use at the time.  In the process of listing his home with the real estate agent he was asked the value of his home.  This was a question he just couldn’t answer factually since he had never done a valuation before and the understanding of valuation theory and methodology is not commonplace.  He started doing some research and fortunately found a competent and generous valuator who explained the importance of valuations and some of the different techniques used to prepare a valuation.


He learnt that there are several methodologies used for property valuations, three of the most common ones are Comparable Sales Method, Income Approach Method and Cost Approach Method.


The Comparable Sales Method compares the subject property with other similar properties in its vicinity to estimate the value of the subject property.  In addition to the location, this analysis examines characteristics such as the size, conditions, available utility, building regulations, business climate etc.  Not very often the property being valued has few comparative elements or may be unique. In such circumstances the less comparable elements would be estimated differently to ensure accuracy.


The Income Approach is more suitable for income generating properties because it allows investors to estimate the value of the property based on the income it produces or is expected to produce.  This would be useful for a buyer to determine if a property is a profitable investment.  The estimated income is discounted using the discounted cash flow model to determine the present value of the property.


The cost approach investigates the cost component of the property and this includes the cost of the land as if vacant, plus cost of construction.  Depreciation based on the age of the property is thereafter deducted.  It is said that the value is more accurate for new buildings.


It is important to note that there is no perfect method to value real estate never-the-less whether buying a home, selling one, using it as security or making improvements, knowing its worth is fundamental.


Earl having made the decision to sell one of his houses would want to ensure that he receives the value that his property is worth.  He could use the valuation as a guideline to price the property so that he can catch some home shoppers’ interest.


As a potential buyer a valuation is crucial to ensure that the amount asked for is not considerably higher than the actual value.  It is a pre-requisite in the property transfer process as the valuation is needed by the bank if the buyer is taking a mortgage.  It also forms part of the transfer documents to be submitted to the local registry.  It may also show that the buyer has done some homework and gives both parties grounds upon which they can negotiate a final price.


A valuation provides one with valuable information such as whether the price for a property is exaggerated or not and would give a seller a realistic price to market his property.  It is generally recommended that persons do not purchase property without first doing an assessment.  Likewise, it is good practice to value a property before putting it on the market.

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Earning Extra Cash on Rental Property

The amount of spare cash left each month after all bills have been paid has reduced with the increase in prices and the cost of living.  Wouldn’t it be great if you had some extra cash? What about when you retire? Wouldn’t you like some money added to your pension?  I would imagine that almost everybody would appreciate a little extra money each month.  Nowadays, a wide range of people consider rental properties and you too can make quite some money from renting out your home or a section of it.


If you own a separate property or have an unused portion of your dwelling area, then you’re sitting on a potential investment.  In such cases, all that may be required is some renovation work or tidying up to have the place ready to draw in tenants.


Others may have additional land in their dwelling area or vacant land at another location on which they can build small apartments, say 1 and 2 bedroom apartments while others have the potential to construct a large complex.  Although the investment may be more, you will still be positioning yourself to earn additional income in the future.


So, the impressive earnings that can be made when renting out your house is the most important reason why people decide to place their properties on the rental market. However, if you plan on renting out your home or a section of it, you should know that this is linked to some additional responsibilities.

One of the toughest parts of renting a property especially for the first time is that often times the work load is underestimate and people find themselves treating property management like a second job.


Advertising can also be tough and sometimes expensive.  If you are looking to get the word out about your property you can start by talking to family members, friends or neighbours.  You may be surprised who they know and how fast they can help you find a tenant.

If you have a tight schedule and don’t have a lot of time to spare then you can still earn that extra cash with little disruption by having an experienced property management company take up that responsibility.


Renting out your house can turn out to be an important source of income and can be a great way to improve your earnings and increase your budget.

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Design with Glass

Glass can be a very useful tool in home décor and design.  Glass can come in several forms from glazing, to counter tops and decorative walls.  Whether you enjoy using glass to bring in the morning sun, or a hundred other purposes, glass can be overlooked when customizing home interiors.  Here are some ways to let glass brighten your home.

Glass furniture: Tables, chairs, mirrors… the list goes on and on of glass furnishings that are available for daily use.  Glass table tops in dining rooms and home offices give a sophisticated and executive styling to your interiors.  Glass can be paired with wood, leather and metals for interesting aesthetics. Glass cabinet doors allow for decorative wares or décor items to be displayed.  Specifically in the kitchen, cupboard doors with glass add a practical touch since finding items being stored is made much easier.

Reflectivity and light: The presence of light. Light makes a room feel larger, more comfortable, and more natural.  Glass brings in light naturally to your home and it can be used to obscure, brighten, and enhance views. Windows with expansive glass takes advantage of picturesque views since glass is a miracle worker for reflecting light and illuminating surfaces.

Use glass as your exterior material: Today, the use of glass in exterior sheathing is popular, especially in high rise commercial buildings.  In your home, if you like to be connected with your exterior, use wide expansive glass to draw the outdoors in.

Partitions: Transparent or translucent glass, even combinations of the two, can be used for internal partitions to seemingly increase the sense of interior space and introduce light into rooms. Depending on the translucency of the glass, a glazed partition can be used to create varying degrees of vision control in a room, even complete privacy if required, without resorting to blinds and curtains. Consider glass as a divider wall between a master bedroom area and a master bathroom. Glass block can let light through, and keep ample privacy at the same time. Try using different glass materials for all rooms in your home.

A design incorporating glass is both practical and of great visual appeal. Also, implementing this design at whatever scale or budget will modernize any room.

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REFRESH YOUR WALLS – Wall cleaning tips

Many times paint is not a must for sprucing up an unsightly wall. If you’re otherwise happy with the color and condition of your walls, you don’t have to paint them. Washing walls is by far the cheaper alternative, and with helpful tips, it’s really very easy.

Use a sponge or a white rag. Many rags are dyed and are not color safe which usually results in discoloration of the paint.

To prevent water from running down your arms use a terry cloth wristband or fasten rolled washcloths around your wrist with either a pin or rubber band.

To avoid having to constantly change the water because of excess dirt, use two separate containers for the cleaning solution and another for plain water.

Do not use any strong or concentrated bleach based solution which may damage the paint. Some dish soap/liquid in some warm water or baking soda applied to the sponge/cloth is sufficient. Be sure to rinse out the wall since most cleaning solutions have chemicals that may streak the paint.

Begin at the top and go down since dirty water from above runs down the wall as you clean.

Place old rags or towels along the base of the wall to avoid the floor getting too wet.