Make Sure You Read This Before Buying New Plants
Follow these 10 helpful tips when buying plants to avoid buyer’s remorse (Noelle Johnson)
Follow these 10 helpful tips when buying plants to avoid buyer’s remorse (Noelle Johnson)
Treat your interiors to a pick-me-up with these quick and cheerful decorating tricks (Natasha Saroca)
Buying a home is a major step toward building a solid, secure financial future—so whether you’ve made the plunge into ownership or are aiming to soon, you should pat yourself on the back! (This, of course, is not as easy as it seems.) And yet, in the race to settle into a place of your own, it can be easy to overextend yourself and cut corners on yet another important financial goal: saving for retirement.
Even if retirement is decades away for you, this subject nonetheless repeatedly tops the list of Americans’ economic fears in Gallup’s annual Financial Worry metric. But just because you buy a home doesn’t mean you can’t save for retirement, too. It’s a high-stakes balancing act, one where the right home-buying decisions will keep your retirement on track, and the wrong ones may throw you seriously off-kilter.
Here are some common retirement saboteurs to avoid.
When you purchase a home, your retirement savings are on the line—even if it may not seem that way at the time.
“Housing is the biggest expense most people have,” points out Mary Erl, a certified financial planner and owner of Nest Builder Financial Advisors in Gurnee, IL. Hence, if you purchase a property that’s way outside your budget—and you’re forced to forfeit saving for retirement in order to make your mortgage payments—you’ve put yourself in a bind. A pickle, even.
And don’t just consider your current income, but your future income, too.
“People almost never take future earnings into consideration,” laments Joe Pitzl, a certified financial planner and partner at Pitzl Financial in Arden Hills, MN. “Younger couples get married, buy their first home based on their combined household income. But then when they start a family, one of the spouses leaves the workforce to raise the children and all of a sudden they’re bringing in a lot less money each month. That reduces how much money you can save for retirement.”
While it’s tempting to borrow from your IRA or 401(k) to amass a down payment on a home, many financial experts say home buyers should do so sparingly, only as a last resort. IRAs and 401(k) plans are called retirement accounts for a reason—you’re not meant to touch the money until you’ve entered your golden years. If you borrow from either plan before age 59½, you’ll get slapped with a 10% excise tax on the amount you withdraw, on top of the regular income tax you pay on withdrawals from traditional defined contribution plans. Ouch.
Making early withdrawals also obviously prevents the money from accruing interest in these accounts. Put simply: Raiding the piggy bank before the money has matured can put a serious dent in your retirement savings, and many underestimate the repercussions.
“Withdrawing $5,000 from your IRA or 401(k) to pay for home repairs may not seem like a big deal,” Pitzl says. “But if you do so at age 30, that money would have grown exponentially over time if you left it in the account.”
While it sure sounds impressive to pay off your mortgage in three years, it’s not necessarily the best for your retirement. The reason: There’s good debt and bad debt. You want to pay off your credit card bill (bad debt) in full each cycle or you’re going to pay interest. Mortgage payments, though, work differently.
From a psychological standpoint, you probably don’t like owing a hefty sum to your lender. (We don’t blame you.) However, if you’re a younger homeowner with a new mortgage (good debt), it’s beneficial from a retirement savings perspective to make only the minimum monthly payments on the loan and invest the money where you can get a higher return.
For example, on a 30-year mortgage, at today’s interest rates, it makes more sense to put the money into an IRA or 401(k) than increase your mortgage payments, Pitzl says. “Don’t throw every penny you can at your mortgage debt,” he says. Granted, if you’re approaching retirement and are close to paying off your mortgage, it may make sense to up your payments if you want to retire debt-free.
When asked about their emergency savings, an alarming 29% of Americans said they had none, according to a report last year by Bankrate.com. Nada. But without a sufficient emergency fund, you may be tempted to run up credit cards or tap your home’s equity or retirement accounts to pay for major repairs (new roofs don’t come cheap). And “if you get laid off, your mortgage payments don’t stop,” Erl says.
Therefore, make sure you have enough cash tucked away to cover six months of living expenses in the event you lose your job and budget 2% of your home’s value for annual maintenance (1% for newer homes), says Pitzl.
Your $1 million McMansion may have made sense when your family of five was living under one roof, but if you’re heading into retirement, it’s probably time to downsize.
A common mistake, says Austin Chinn, a certified financial planner at Fountain Strategies in San Jose, CA: “People destroy their retirement savings by staying in their home so that they can have their kids move back in after they graduate college.”
Unless you’ve budgeted for a boomerang child, you need to do what makes sense for you financially.
“If you can move from a larger home to a smaller home and wipe out your mortgage, that’s a huge boost to your retirement,” says Erl.
Because crunching the numbers can be complicated, it can be helpful (and a huge relief) to meet with a financial planner to determine if a reverse mortgage makes sense for you (find one at Napfa.org).
Copper Mountain Open for Extended Weekend! April 22nd – 24th
Friends of the Library Book Sale: 12p Buffalo Mountain Room, Community Commons, Frisco.
Public Skate: 1:15p Stephen C. West Ice Arena, Breckenridge.
Strange But True: 2p 100 N. Main Street, Breckenridge.
Clay Printmaking: 6p Ceramic Studio, Breckenridge.
Open Kayaking: 7p Breckenridge Recreation Center.
Earth Day Dinner & Movie: 6p Arapahoe Basin.
Imperial Challenge: 9:15a/10a Breckenridge Recreation Center & Resort.
Wilderness First Aid Course: 8a Carter Park, Breckenridge.
Historic Dredge Boat Snowshoe: 10a B&B trailhead, Breckenridge.
Moonlight Dinner Series – Polynesian Luau: 6p Reserve ahead of time Arapahoe Basin.
Copper Mountain & Breckenridge closing for the 2016 season!
Closing Day Cowboy BBQ: 11a Peak 8, Breckenridge.
History Speaks: 11a Arts Alive Gallery, Breckenridge.
Drop-in Pickleball: 1p Breckenridge Recreation Center.
Let’s get real: The first room you stumble into in the morning—bleary-eyed, dazed, and yawning—should be a soothing oasis. A bathroom that achieves those lofty heights? That’s a bathroom you can love. That’s why these most special of rooms are second only to kitchens as the areas homeowners eagerly spend time and money renovating—and that catch a buyer’s eye when you’re trying to sell.
But exactly which upgrades are the best, in terms of both usefulness and return on investment? Before you go nuts installing saunas and rain shower heads, check out this second installment in our series Renovations That Really Pay Off, for some smarter tweaks you’ll be very glad you made.
“No, no, no—do not put in a new tub,” says Rebecca Knaster, associate broker with Manhattan’s William Raveis. “It’ll cost thousands between the tub and the installation.” Instead, have the tub reglazed for “around $1,500,” which will make it look brand new.
Matt Plaskoff, founder of One Week Bath, agrees that if the shower area “is in decent shape,” it’s best to concentrate on the front part of the bathroom, which “sets the tone for the space.”
Face washing, teeth brushing, gerbil bathing—your sink sees a lot of use. It’s also the very first thing a buyer notices in a bathroom, says Knaster.
“Step 1 for getting the most bang for your buck is a new contemporary sink,” she says. “It will set you back a few hundred dollars and make all the difference.”
Just note whether the sink you already have is an undermount (where the edge is below the countertop to create an uninterrupted surface) or overmount (where the sink lip comes up over the countertop), says interior designer Randal Weeks, founder of Aidan Gray Home.
An undermount can be difficult to remove unless it’s under a formica top. If the sink is adhered to the surface, the top will also have to go, which quickly drives up the cost. One easy and dramatic sink upgrade Weeks recommends is replacing separate hot and cold faucets with a sleek single-handle faucet that starts at $70.
While natural stone is hot, Weeks prefers neutral styles that will appeal to a broader range of people and provide better return on investment. Pricey stones are taste-specific, he notes, and can give a busy look that’s a turnoff regardless of expense.
In fact, Weeks says one of the biggest issues buyers consider when making offers is the cost of redoing other people’s “bad choices.” So go for crowd-pleasing features such as bright white subway tiles, which run a mere 21 cents each. The payoff?
“You can add $10,000 of value to your home by selecting timeless elements that won’t date it.”
It’s not just Snow White’s evil stepmother and the Kardashians who spend lots of time staring into the mirror on the bathroom wall. For most of us, lighting and lighting fixtures are critical elements.
“Dated light fixtures are a turnoff,” says Knaster. “For no more than $100 you can buy a basic but nice bathroom light fixture.”
The last thing you need in the morning is a battle with your partner over who gets the sink. It’s no wonder “I’m looking for a double vanity” is one of the most common things heard by Will Johnson, a Hendersonville, TN, real estate agent and founder of the Sell and Stage Team.
A double vanity typically costs between $200 and $800, with installation falling around $220, Johnson says—and it’s a wise investment. Johnson has clients who “won’t buy a house simply because there’s only one sink in the master bathroom!”
“Old materials such as bronze can instantly date your bathroom,” says Johnson. To knock out this easy DIY update, simply purchase new door handles, drawer pulls, and towel bars. A nice chrome drawer pull can cost as little as $3, while a towel bar canaverage $30.
Old toilets use 6 gallons of water per flush, gobbling up about 30% of all residential water in U.S. homes. Go green when you swap out your throne. New WaterSense models using only 1.28 gallons per flush (e.g., TOTO’s Carlyle II 1G toilet) conserve up to 18,000 gallons of water annually. The initial cost of $974 will shave more than $110 per year off a water bill and add up to almost $2,200 over the lifetime of the toilet. Bonus: The latest water-saving thrones actually work.
Bidets may be considered the Rolls-Royce of toilet upgrades, but most bathrooms simply don’t have room for them. What’s worse: Most Americans have no idea what on Earth these things are and may even be weirded out by them.
“My personal opinion is that our society is not accustomed to this practice and doesn’t see the extra value in them,” says Tracy Kay Griffin, an expert designer at Express Homebuyers in Springfield, VA. “We haven’t renovated a home yet where we thought it would be a good investment to add a bidet.” Just say nay to the bidet.
In recent years, Denver has made numerous appearances on lists featuring the best, most exciting places to live in the nation. So it’s no surprise that creative, forward-thinking entrepreneurs and professionals choose to call our city home. Meet some of the brains behind local businesses and leaders in various fields.
It’s hard to find a more sympathetic foreclosure story than Kathleen Conrad’s.
The disabled widow of a Marine who served in Vietnam, Conrad, 66, lives in a rundown Westchester house the couple bought in 1999, realizing their modest version of the America dream.
But after her husband died in 2004, Conrad faced larger-than-expected cuts to her widow’s benefits. During the 2007 housing market boom, she took out a second mortgage from GMAC. In 2013, Conrad fell behind on payments and was contacted by her loan’s new owner, Infinite Customer Systems and the strong-arm tactics began to get Conrad out of the home.
Unlike big banks, non-bank servicers like Infinite are not bound by even the modest consumer protections built into the National Mortgage Settlement (NMS) of 2012.
Non-bank servicers are taking a page from their predecessors’ playbooks. Sources say that many of the same old problems the NMS partially sought to address are back with the nonbank servicers, including long delays in reviewing loan modifications and wrongful denials of loan modification requests.
While Federal Housing Finance Agency director Mel Watt is still dithering about whether to finally allow principal write downs to help troubled borrowers keep their homes, private investors who’ve already gotten a steep discount on distressed debt sold by government-sponsored entities are using hard-knuckle tactics with homeowners.
“The investors buying these loans are not interested in offering home-saving solutions to struggling homeowners,” said Jacob Inwald, director of foreclosure prevention at Legal Services NYC.
As government-sponsored enterprises including Fannie Mae sell delinquent mortgage loans to shore up their balance sheets and banks pull back on this market, private investors are muscling in. They range from small fry like Virginia-based Infinite Customer Systems to $60 billion Texas-based private equity titan Loan Star Funds. Loan Star is the backer of mortgage servicer and originator Caliber Home Loans, a major new player in New York.
After a flood of complaints about Caliber’s practices, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an investigation last year. Loan Star declined to comment. A spokesman for the AG said the investigation is ongoing.
ICS’ Patrick Desjardins said he tried to reach a deal with Conrad before filing foreclosure. She halted the case by filing for bankruptcy protection, aided by foreclosure defense attorney Linda Tirelli. Earlier this month, a judge voided ICS’ lien, leaving the investor with worthless paper, and Conrad in her home.
“I don’t know where I would have [gone]” Conrad said. “That’s why I was fighting so hard to keep the house.”
Experts fear the new wave of investors will steamroll other vulnerable New Yorkers.
“We’re really concerned about the outlook,” said a spokesman for the Center for NYC Neighborhoods. “This is an unprecedented transfer of property ownership, accelerated by the distressed sales to non-bank servicers.”
Non-banks serviced 25 percent of the $9.9 trillion in outstanding US residential mortgages last year, against just 7 percent in 2012.
That’s according to a new Government Accountability Office report released last week by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who called for more oversight. This shift could lead to “harm to consumers, such as problems or errors with account transfers, payment processing, and loss mitigation processing,” the report said.
These new risks come as thousands of New Yorkers are mired in foreclosure. A new report from New Yorkers for Responsible Lending notes that as of last October, the state had nearly 90,000 pending foreclosure cases, half of which were filed in the previous 12 months. The crisis has bypassed wealthy enclaves of the city while ravaging low-income minority neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens.
With ski season winding down in Colorado’s high country and the Denver-Boulder housing market so strong, real estate experts say Front Range buyers appear to be turning their attention to second-home and investment opportunities in the state’s major ski-town markets.
“We’re definitely seeing a spike among the Front Range residents and their desire to buy a second home, and in many areas there’s no shortage of inventory, so they have their choice,” said Bank of America Regional Sales Director Ann Thompson, who added that soaring Denver home prices may be driving some of that trend.
“Denver metro has seen about 16 percent gains in home prices, and now that they’ve got that equity going, they look at that and say, ‘I can improve my home, or I can also use that equity to make a down-payment on a second home,” Thompson said.
The different mountain-town markets vary in terms of Front Range second-home ownership. In Eagle County (Vail and Beaver Creek), for instance, an analysis by Land Title Guarantee Company found that 17 percent of the 2015 fourth-quarter homebuyers were from the Front Range. That compares to 57 percent in Grand County (Winter Park), 38 percent in Summit County (Breck, Copper, Keystone and A-Basin) and just 2 percent in Pitkin County (Aspen).
“There are no opportunities for them to invest down on the Front Range, so they’re coming up here and looking,” said Andrew Forstl of The Davos Group real estate and property management company in Vail. “There are no deals down there. Denver is unattainable for investments, so people are looking up here, and it’s just kind of started. Our market isn’t nearly as booming as the Front Range — things are not flying off the shelf — but it’s healthy.”
Forstl says one of his clients, a Front Range family that had been skiing and looking at properties all winter in the Vail Valley, was finally ready to pull the trigger in the closing weeks of ski season and just went under contract.
“They were waiting for the end of the season for deals to come out – places that have been on the market all season and they’re looking to get a deal on one of them,” Forstl said, adding that in general, sales to Front Range second-home buyers will drop off some after the lifts stop running and then pick up again in June.
“Things that haven’t sold over the winter are going to go down in price, so people are looking at that, but it’s hard getting them up here to look at stuff the next couple of months,” Forstl said. “What’s changed is a lot of people are coming up here for the summer. Ten years ago summer was nothing up here, but a lot of people are liking the summer as much as the winter.”
Bank of America’s Thompson agrees with that trend, urging prospective Front Range homebuyers to do their homework and consult various experts, including an experienced mortgage loan officer, a realtor and even a CPA on whether to buy as a second home or an investment rental property to be listed on VRBO or other services.
“A realtor can help with projecting realistic rents not only in the winter, but also in the summer,” Thompson said. “That’s very, very popular for Front Range people – the music festivals, the mountain biking, hiking. That’s really important when you’re looking at year-round potential for rental and also to be attractive for Front Range resale.”
Thompson also added that it’s key to look at amenities such as conference space, either in a dedicated facility such as Keystone or in the hotels in Vail, with a good mix of retail, entertainment and other options that will attract renters. Plus, access is always a concern, she says, and a good regional airport that avoids potential Interstate 70 gridlock can be a plus.
The Eagle County Regional Airport in Gypsum, 40 miles west of Vail, welcomed its 8 millionth commercial passenger on March 29 after first launching commercial air service in 1989. Still, drive-to markets will be always continue to be the most popular for Front Range buyers, especially when they’re home values have increased so much and they’re feeling priced out in their own primary metro-area market.
“Equity in your home builds a lot of confidence about financial comfort,” Thompson said. “When you have equity in your home, there is that ability to borrow on that equity, but even if you’re using stock options or a bonus or what have you, it’s just all about that confidence to make that investment [in a mountain second home or rental property].”
According to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the metro Denver area led the nation for the highest rate of home price appreciation for half of 2015. Denver was second in the nation among major cities four months out of the year, and wound up third in December, behind only Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco. Overall, home prices in Denver rose 10.2 percent in 2015, compared to 5.4 percent nationally. But that kind of increase has some investors there wary.
A recent Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Investor Pulse Poll of more than 1,000 high net-worth investors revealed they feel the Denver housing market is overpriced and unaffordable for first-time homebuyers. The poll of Denver-area investors between the ages of 25 and 75 with $100,000 or more in household liquid investable assets found that 89 percent feel the metro-area market is overpriced. Nearly as many (86 percent) said the market is pricing out first-time homebuyers, and there is concern a bubble is forming.
“I think the financial crisis of 2008 is still very fresh in a lot of people’s minds, particularly high net-worth investors, so they’re looking at what happened to real estate prices here,” Denver-based Morgan Stanley financial advisor Todd Hauer said. “We were down probably 30 to 40 percent from the 2007 highs to the 2009 lows.”
Bank of America’s Thompson says it’s tougher to flip properties in the mountain markets the way some Front Range buyers have been able to do the last few years. That’s why she says mountain-town investments may make more sense as a longer-term play that’s based on a lifestyle choice.
“With VRBO, there’s just so much more exposure to the lifestyle, and then they want to turn it into a permanent lifestyle,” Thompson said, adding a season full of powder days can certainly influence a second-home decision. “This is the time of year where they’ve had that wonderful experience, and they’re like, huh, I want my own place.”
Open house today 1pm-4pm