• HOA Dues: 8 Steps to Cutting the Costs

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    By Brendon DeSimone

    Whether you just bought a condo or have owned one for years, you’ve probably accepted the monthly homeowners association dues at face value. But there are reasons why you shouldn’t. HOA dues are money out of your pocket.

    They can have a huge impact on your decision to buy, or not buy, a particular home. For example, you might have fallen in love with a condo in a big complex but decided you just can’t afford the HOA dues. Also, high HOA dues can be a deterrent to future buyers, too, when you go to sell later.

    An HOA is made up of residents of the condo building or complex — volunteers who are busy with their jobs and families just like everyone else. It could be that no one on the HOA board has time to look for ways to reduce the monthly HOA dues. But like any budget, there could be lots of ways to reduce expenses. Here’s how you can have a positive impact on your HOA dues:

    1. …read more  

  • Renters Guide to Creating a Budget

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    By Niccole Schreck

    Creating your first budget can be daunting, but it’s extremely important when you’re moving out on your own for the first time. If you bite off more than you can chew, you may not have enough money to buy yourself something to chew on. Here are step-by-step instructions to help you create your first budget:

    1. Determine your net income. The first step is figuring out your net income, which is not the same as your salary. Your gross income is what you earn; your net income is what you end up with after taxes, health insurance, Social Security, 401(k) deductions and anything else that comes out of your check. This is the amount of money you’ll have to work with when you’re budgeting.

    2. Make a list of monthly payments and expenses. Now the real work starts. Make a list of all of the fixed payments you absolutely have to make each month, including gas, electricity, renters insurance, loans, credit cards, car payments and car insurance. These costs are less flexible than others, so …read more  

  • Alternative Ways to Come Up With the Down Payment on a Home

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    To successfully purchase a home today, you will need a down payment of at least 3.5 percent of the purchase price. Gone are the days of no down payment alternatives, down payment assistance and seller-offered programs to come up with the money needed to buy a home. Instead, let’s look at the five ways you can come up with a down payment to seal the deal.

    1. Gift Money: Gift money is simply that — a gift from family or documented close relationship. The giftor needs to provide a gift letter and paper trail for the monies they are gifting for the benefit of the buyer. In other words, they’ll have to provide a bank account showing that they had the ability to gift the money. In short, gift monies cannot be funds sitting at home in a safe.

    2. 401(k)/Retirement Loan: Typically, borrowed funds for a down payment are a no-go, but the exception is a 401(k) or equivalent retirement account (or current home equity line). If you can …read more