If you've been pondering a home purchase, there are some good reasons why now might be a great time to proceed.
1. Home prices have turned the corner. Home price trends vary by market; however, nationally, on average, home prices are rebounding. Although no one can predict the future, homes prices appear to be heading up.
2. Homes are very affordable. Homes are still very affordable relative to household incomes. This means you can buy more house for the money now, than you could in less affordable times.
3. Mortgage rates are near historical lows. Mortgage rates inched up recently, but they're still near historical lows.
4. Buying remains cheaper than renting. A 2012 study found buying a home is 44% cheaper than renting in the 100 largest metros. Even with this year's mortgage rates and home prices, there is still a significant cost advantage to buying versus renting.
5. Fewer house flippers to compete with. As home prices recover, house flippers leave the market. These are investors looking to buy a house at a rock bottom price and then quickly sell, or flip, it. They're tough to compete with because they often offer sellers cash deals.
6. More inventory to choose from. Fewer house flippers can mean there's more inventory to choose from and less pressure to close a deal because of other pending offers. Again, the situation varies from market to market, but you may find there are more homes to see and less pressure to buy in the neighborhoods where you're looking.
8 TIPS TO PROTECT TEENS ONLINE
The Internet is a great place for information and communication, but it's also a source of worry for parents with teens. Dangers from predators lurk online. Plus, teens often don't realize that the comments, photos, and videos they post can later create problems. Here are some steps to take:
1. Have a family "tech talk."
Tell your kids about online dangers, including cyberbullying, overexposure on social networks, and inappropriate content. Voice your concerns and establish some rules. The basic one, "If you wouldn't say it, do it, or watch it with me in the room, it's not okay."
2. Activate parental controls. Most computers and mobile devices come with parental control settings, plus there are apps you can download and parental control settings on sites like Netflix, YouTube, and iTunes.
3. Friend your kids on Facebook, follow them on Twitter. Let them know you're seeing their posts. Make sure only their friends can see what they've put on Facebook. Remind them that tweets live in cyberspace forever. Relate some of the horror stories that have happened to kids on social media.
4. No sleeping with phones, tablets, or laptops. At night all portable devices belong plugged into a power strip or charging station in a public place, such as the kitchen.
5. Keep desktop computers out in public. Never install a desktop in a child's bedroom. Keep the monitor in plain sight in the family room, living room, den or other well-trafficked part of the house.
6. Know all their passwords. Get your kid's passwords for email, social media accounts, and all other sites they visit. If they balk, explain that when you let them use this technology, they waive any expectation of privacy. This is no different from companies who can monitor all employee activities on the technology they provide.
7. Monitor activities. Check your teen's devices regularly. Monitor social posts, browsing history, emails, and texting. This seems obvious, but many parents don't keep up with what their kids do online, with disastrous results.
8. Be a role model. If you want your kids to use technology wisely, do so yourself. Curtail your own smartphone use. No cell phones or tablets at the dinner table. Institute a weekend family day when all electronic devices are left off. Show kids they can survive just fine without technology.
Senior Mortgage Loan Officer, Home Loan Division | NMLS 92342
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