Resources for Homeowners

Home ownership is often a combination of excitement and concern.

Compared to renting an apartment or home, when something needs repairing the burden falls to you. General maintenance is but one task that must be approached on a regular basis. However, home ownership can also offer you a way to invest in your own future, not only by offering a great place to live, but to provide true equity. Your home can even be used to supplement your income by either renting out a room or engaging in one of many AirBnB programs. You can even learn to grow your own food by putting in a small edible garden in your yard or landscape.

If you are lucky, you will find a home and live in it until your golden years. Making sure you have a home that can allow you to age in place, or that can be adjusted to account for disabilities is crucial. A home can be more than just a haven, it can be a financial ally.

What is home equity?

One of the easiest ways to create a financial ally out of your home is through the very mortgage you pay each month. To figure out how much equity you have in the home, do the following:

  • Determine your home’s market value (this is on the property tax assessment you get each year).
  • Subtract outstanding loan balances from the actual market value of your home.
  • The remaining amount is the money you have in the home that you truly own.

Over time and many payments, the equity will increase, or if the property value goes up your equity can rise. Home equity is a very valuable asset and it can be used in a number of ways, from borrowing against it to do repairs or renovations to proving your creditworthiness.

Should you rent out a room in your house?

One of the ways you can use your home to supplement your income is to rent out a room in your house. However, before you determine to do that, do some research first. Some areas in the U.S. will not allow you to rent out a room, so make sure to check these. You can determine if your area allows it by checking the municipal laws for your area. Keep in mind that even if your city allows room rental your homeowners association may not. Understand when someone rents a room from you, he or she is sharing the home with you. Sharing the space means you will have to adhere to the following:

  • You cannot walk into their room anytime you want.
  • Unless there is a separate kitchen, you will share that, including appliances.
  • Parking will be shared.
  • You will have increased upkeep.

Additionally, you do not want to let just anyone rent the room. You will need to know the person you are getting ready to share a space with is someone you can trust. Do a background check, and also use one of the following to see what their rental history is like:

  • MySmartMove.com
  • MyRental.com
  • Leaserunner.com

All of these will tell you if the prospective renter has been evicted, paid their rent on time or even their credit score. There is a small fee to perform the search.

Once you have determined to move forward with renting your room to someone, place everything in writing that you both sign. Make sure you have covered instances where the rent is late, or termination procedures. Finally, ask for a first a last rental deposit up front.

Using Your Home for Airbnb

Maybe renting out your room long-term is not appeal to you, but you would still like to earn a little side money using your home. Consider offering your home as part of an Airbnb program. There are several companies that offer this home or room rental service including:

  • Airbnb.
  • HomeAway.
  • VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Once you have determined you are in compliance with any municipal or home owner association rules, place your ad on one or more of the listed sites. Keep in mind, unlike renting out a room, you will be offering your entire home for a period of time for people to stay in. During that time, you may need to make arrangements to be elsewhere.

In some areas you will be taxed for renting your home out. Here are some very basic rules concerning it. Most jurisdictions allow you to rent your home out for at least 14 days a year without having to pay taxes on the income. However, you may be asked to prove you only rented out the home for 14 days only, so keep good records and all paper trails. All of the home stay programs report the income to the IRS.

Secondhand Appliances: What You Should Know

Instead of renting out a room or your house, there are other ways you can save money and still enjoy living in your home. One of those ways is to purchase secondhand or gently used appliances. The good thing about used appliances is you can negotiate the price, though for most used appliances the warranty will long have lapsed. Another definite plus to purchasing used appliances is that some appliances may be almost like new because the owner hardly used them.

Other issues with used appliances may include:

  • They do not match existing styles or patterns in your home.
  • Most times, you have to arrange your own delivery.
  • If you do not view the item in person first, you could be scammed.

There are certain appliances you should not buy used. These include anything having to do with babies or young toddlers. There is just too much risk surrounding safety with those items. Secondhand vacuum cleaners can also be a uncertain investment. The important thing is to ask the seller why he or she is getting rid of it. In college towns, for example, you can score some very good bargains because graduating students do not want to have to move everything to their new home. They would rather offload them quickly and at a rock bottom price. Other items to avoid purchase used include:

  • Air conditioners.
  • Furnaces.
  • Hot water heaters.

The reason to avoid these listed items is they are often being sold because they are energy hogs and will cost you more money in utilities down the road.

Backyard Vegetable Gardens

As more Americans become aware of the many benefits of having access to fresh organic food, the more turn toward growing their own vegetables. It may not have occurred to you but growing vegetables and fruits in your own backyard is also another way your home can save you money. The good thing is that with all of the new varieties of plants on the market, you really do not need a lot of space or too much know-how.

You can grow a decent garden on your patio using containers. Many homeowners incorporate edible plants into the already existing landscape. For example, in the cooler months, plant curly-leafed kale as a border or in window boxes. Their foliage will remain green while other things have died back or turned brown. Many herbs can be placed in easy to reach containers in your backyard. Some of the best to try include:

  • Basil.
  • Oregano.
  • Chives.
  • Rosemary.
  • Thyme.

Larger garden vegetables you may be familiar with, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and squash can be grown to amazing proportions in containers. Opt for the containers called “grow boxes” that have a reservoir underneath the container to keep them well watered. Many of these containers also come with trellises so you can grow vertically.

Adjusting Your Home for Senior or Disabled Living

You may be in the best health of your life, and your home’s accommodations just perfect. However, your home may not always be as easy to navigate when you grow older. Having to remodel for a disability caused homeowners last year to spend between $4,354 to $20,252. A better scenario is to slowly change things over the life of the house, as you age. It is called “aging in place” and it is a way of slowly adjusting your home so as you age, so navigating your home and yard will not be as difficult. This allows you to remain in your home for a longer span of time. Some things to adjust include:

  • Entryways and Exits. Make sure they are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair.
  • Stairways. Will you need to install a lift, or can you move your master bedroom downstairs?
  • Consider lowering the threshold of a shower stall or a tub.
  • Remove tripping hazards such as raised thresholds.

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