• 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  

  • How to Save $20,000 for a Down Payment in Just 2 Years

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    Getty Images, Tetra images

    Making the move from renter to homeowner is challenging for nearly everyone, and the highest hurdle for most first-time buyers is saving enough money for a down payment. If your No. 1 priority in the next few years is to become a homeowner, financial experts say you’ll likely need to make some aggressive moves to cut your spending, boost your income, or both.

    The National Association of Realtors reported that the national median home price in June 2013 was $199,900 (and prices are rising again). For the purposes of this article, we assume that your goal is to buy a house in two years with a 10 percent down payment of $20,000.

    To get started, set a timeline and break up your savings goals, suggests Anna Behnam, an Ameriprise financial advisor in Rockville, Md. To save $20,000 in two years, you’ll need to save $833 a month for the next 24 months.

    “Create an account that will hold only savings designated for your new home,” Behnam suggests. “This can help keep you organized and track your progress.”<br …read more  

  • Getting Your Home Ready for Your Vacation


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    By Donna Fuscaldo

    Vacation is a time to escape for a little rest and relaxation, but it’s also the time thieves increasingly break into empty homes. According to recent claims data from insurance company Travelers, theft increases during the summer months largely because more people are away. But it’s not only criminals you have to worry about while you are kicking back, you also have to be concerned about potential damage from a broken pipe, busted hot water heater or other unexpected mishaps.

    “Things happen while you are away,” says Jim Gustin, senior property specialist Travelers. “There are multiple perils homeowners need to worry and think about.” Nobody wants to come home from a vacation to find their home has been burgled or discover their furniture floating about because of a flood. To reduce the chances of that happening follow these four tips from insurance experts, after all doing nothing can be costly: According to a Nationwide survey, the average cost to replace stolen belongings is close to $3,600.

    Tip No. 1: Make it look like someone’s home. Burglars prey on easy targets and will go …read more