Rent vs. Own – Where is The Break-Even?

First time home buyers inevitably compare the monthly cost of owning a home against the cost of renting. This is natural, but the greatest mistake that most make in doing so, is thinking in terms of the monthly cost only, and not the lifetime costs. Well-meaning real estate agents usually encourage this thinking, and that’s...

Rent Versus Own – What Is the ROI? (Leverage Is Everything)

Why aren’t people buying homes these days? Ask all the experts and, well, you’ll get a different opinion from each of them. Are homes unaffordable? Do Millenials need so much flexibility in where they live that owning makes no sense? Are we building the next real estate bubble? Are there better investments than real estate?...

Home Prices Will Rise in Coming Year

I’ve just returned from a conference with a bunch of really smart people, all of whom write personal finance blogs, have published books about personal finance, or report on finance issues for national news outlets. Like I said, smart people. While I was at the conference a number of folks asked me if I thought...

Home Improvement Projects That Pay You Back

If you have been with me for many years you know that in my early life I was an appraiser.  One of my favorite “side gigs” was to help homeowners determine what home improvement projects would pay them back, in terms of value added to the home versus the cost of the improvement. Moreover, my...

Mortgage Advisors Should be Finance Experts

One of my biggest gripes for a long time has been that mortgage originators are not properly educated in finance.  Those who have taken the initiative to educate themselves, either through a degree in finance or college-level finance courses are an exception.  Very few companies – if any – actually provide their originators with any...

How Accurate are Online Value Estimates?

Zillow is the big fish in the online value estimate sites, so naturally it would be the first target of criticism. Many real estate agents are frustrated with Zillow across the country, claiming that “Zestimates,” Zillow’s estimate of value, is too low and that buyers are sometimes insisting they will not pay more than what...

Finance Home Improvements and Be Debt Free Before You Retire

I just came back from a home show this weekend and was taken aback by how much homeowners fear financing nowadays. I understand why this is – after all, a lot of homeowners experienced a lot of pain in the last eight years. There is no question that acting irrationally can be a bad move,...

The Shocking Question Almost Every Borrower Asks

“Where are interest rates going?” Actually, that isn’t really that shocking of a question, but all the blog tutorials say I should use “Shocking” or “Secrets” in the headline. Oh well. But there is something really interesting happening with interest rates these days – nothing. And that’s more interesting than you would think. At the...

Did you refinance your mortgage? Here’s a tax break

From Bill Bischoff, “The Tax Guy”, via Marketwatch.com, comes the clearest explanation I’ve seen on the deductibility of the costs of refinancing your mortgage.  Clear is a relative term here, though. Caution: You might want some coffee first. If you are among the many who refinanced their home mortgages last year, you are probably in...

Getting a Mortgage 1 Year After BK or Foreclosure

An old client contacted me yesterday worried that she would not be able to get a mortgage to buy a home.  Her loan had gone into default a couple of years ago and a Notice of Default – the first step in the mortgage process – had been filed.  To your credit report, this is...