Did you know that numerous studies over many years show a link between owning a home and happiness and overall well-being? For example, a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shows that homeowners generally have higher financial well-being than non-homeowners.
In the CFPB’s report, homeowners have an average financial well-being score of 58. That’s higher than both renters (with average of 49) and those who neither rent nor own (average of 50). The U.S. average financial well-being score is 54. You can read the entire report at this link.
Research studies have linked owning a home to a number of positive outcomes. Researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of San Diego, for example, have linked homeownership to a reduced risk of teenage pregnancy and a lower possibility that a child will drop out of school. A study conducted by Ohio State University found that children of parents who own their own homes are more likely to score higher in reading and math and have fewer behavioral problems.
At the very least, buying the right home can a key ingredient in being happy, according to a report by HomeAdvisor. The company’s research in the area has found that homeowner happiness boils down to an affordable and comfortable home in a safe and connected neighborhood and with a reasonable commute. Good things to keep in mind during your next home search.
Do you think student-loan debt is preventing you from buying a house? A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors supports that opinion.
The survey found that 71 percent of non-homeowners who are current in their student loans believe their debt is holding them back from purchasing a home. The results also revealed that student debt caused four in 10 borrowers to postpone moving out of a family member’s household after graduating college.
However, your loan application doesn’t get approved or rejected by survey results. It’s approved by a lender who considers your individual financial situation.
The lender wants to know that you can handle the mortgage payment. Because the ratio of your debt to your income is so important to your loan application, the higher your income and the lower your debts, the better your chances of getting your loan application approved.
Keep in mind that more than your student loans go into your debt-to-income ratio; car loans and credit card payments all count, too.
Here are four ways to be a better loan applicant:
If you are selling your home, it’s important to keep safety in mind. Although problems are unlikely, it’s always a good idea to do whatever you can to protect your family and personal belongings. Here are several ways to make your selling experience as worry-free as possible.
Work with a real estate agent. People will notice when the for-sale sign goes up in your front yard. You may even get a few prospective buyers stopping by unannounced, asking if they can take a peek inside. Protect yourself by asking all buyers to schedule a showing through your agent.
Remove jewelry and valuables. If you have a habit of tossing your watch on a bedside table, it’s probably best to find a new spot while your house is on the market. Likewise, consider moving cash, savings bonds, jewelry, and other valuables to an off-site location, such as a safe deposit box.
Lock up paperwork. Keep mail, bills and financial statements in a secure location and not laying on countertops or on top of desks.
Clean out your medicine cabinets. Remove all prescription medications.
It won’t be long before we will feel the chill of winter approaching. Is your home ready? The good news is that winterizing your home doesn’t have to be costly or time consuming. With a free afternoon (or two!) and a little elbow grease, here are some simple steps you can take to prepare your home for winter:
Get a furnace checkup. It’s always a good idea to have a furnace checkup and change your filter before you flip the switch each fall. Filters generally need to be changed every 1-3 months, depending on the type of furnace you have. Once you know the proper filter size, don’t hesitate to buy extra, so you’ll have them on hand the next time.
Check your safety devices. Change the batteries in your smoke detector and test your carbon monoxide detectors.
Clean out your gutters. Before the first snowfall, clean the autumn leaves and debris from gutters to prevent ice dams and water leaking into the wrong places.
Disconnect and roll up those hoses. Before night temperatures regularly fall below freezing, empty and roll up your garden hoses.
Check for drafts. When things cool off, it’s usually pretty easy to pinpoint any window and door seals that may not be effective. If you find a window that is letting in too much cool air, consider re-caulking the seal. If you find a door that’s still allowing a breeze, buy a simple weather strip to install in the gap. These adjustments can also lower your heating bill throughout the season.
Prepare your yard. Keep up with the leaves; they can damage your lawn over the winter if they aren’t removed. Fall also is a great time to have a professional trim your trees before winter storms hit. Don’t forget to move temperature-sensitive potted plants indoors. You can also get an early jump on next year’s landscaping by planting some winter-hearty bulbs (like tulips or dahlias) for a brighter spring.
Don’t think you’ll be able to afford to buy your first home anytime soon? The good news is that when it comes to finances, little efforts can lead to big results. These four strategies are designed to help you and your family spend less, save more and get ready for the financial responsibilities of becoming a homeowner.
Re-examine major spending categories. Make a commitment to examine your major spending categories, including cell phone, cable service and utilities. Are you paying for any features or time you aren’t using? Could you go with a cheaper plan? What about your land line — do you really need it? Call your service providers and see if they have any less expensive plans, promotions or ideas to help you save money. Shop around or ask for a better rate from the companies you regularly pay money to.
Look at where the pennies are going. Bi-weekly trips to Starbucks or the office vending machine, lunches out, takeout twice a week and recreational shopping sprees all add up. Quitting cold turkey may not work, though. Scale back gradually. And remember it’s still important to enjoy a splurge now and then.
Put savings on autopilot. Consider making a commitment this year to enroll in or expand your participation in automatic savings plans. Think about enrolling in your employer’s 401(k) plan, making sure to take advantage of any match that’s offered. Also consider having an amount from your paycheck automatically diverted into a savings account or other savings vehicle. If your employer doesn’t offer this option, have an amount automatically transferred each month from checking to savings. Many families start saving for the holidays in January and by fall, have enough money set aside to buy presents come Christmastime. Others use automatic savings plans to accumulate three to six month’s worth of living expenses in an emergency savings account. With automatic savings plans, you won’t forget to write that check. And you’ll be surprised just how quickly automatic savings add up.
Go easy on your credit cards. Carrying a credit card balance with a double-digit interest rate is a big wealth-zapper. Plus, study after study has shown that consumers who pay with plastic spend more than those who use cash. Make a plan to pay down credit card debt. One way to do this is by taking only cash to the store. Many financial advisers believe ditching credit cards should be the first financial priority for families.
Even seemingly small resolutions, such as taking your own lunch to work instead of going out each day, can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year. Adopt a few financial resolutions this year and you’ll be surprised at how much progress you can make by this time next year!