The Advantages of Getting a Mortgage Preapproval

The homebuying process can be exciting, but also stressful. When there are a large number of buyers in the market for real estate, the odds of being able to purchase your desired home can be low. However, getting a mortgage preapproval prior to home shopping can dramatically increase the odds of success.

Make Mortgage Preapproval Your First Step

A mortgage preapproval should be a homebuyer's first step when purchasing a home. A borrower can choose to meet with a lender or get an initial preapproval via the Internet. The preapproval process is similar to the actual mortgage process and will, in fact, eliminate a lot of time after a home has been chosen.

When obtaining a mortgage preapproval, the borrower will complete a mortgage application and submit the necessary documentation to the lender. The lender will pull a credit report and examine the borrower's credit.

Based on all of this information, the lender will determine the amount of funds that the borrower qualifies for. The borrower will receive a Conditional Commitment, which states the amount of funds that the lender agrees to lend provided that the conditions are met. While a preapproval is an important first step, it is not the final mortgage approval.

Impress Homesellers With Your Mortgage Preapproval

One of the advantages of having a preapproval is that this letter can be shown to real estate agents and sellers when looking for a home. By doing so, both the agent and the seller know that the borrower can qualify for a certain amount of funds. It is proof of the borrower's financial standing and ability to proceed with the home purchase.

Another advantage is that some of the work that is involved in obtaining a mortgage is already done. The lender has already examined the borrower's financial situation, including credit, income and assets. During the preapproval process, the lender will also discuss the most appropriate type of mortgage program that fits the borrower's needs, whether it is a conventional loan or a government loan.

This is significant because not all sellers will accept a buyer who is using a government loan. Knowing the details of what type of loan is appropriate for the borrower, the agent can then show them homes that will fit their preapproval both for cost and type of funding.

How Mortgage Preapproval is Determined

The preapproval is determined by putting the information given to the lender through automated underwriting. In most cases, the preliminary loan file goes through a preprocessing before the preapproval is given to the borrower. Since there is an actual examination of the borrower's documentation, the borrower will also receive a list of additional information that may be needed. The borrower can then submit this information while shopping for a home.

Once a home is found and the sales contract is signed, processing the loan is faster since most of the work for the credit file has been done. The final process involves verifications, ordering and receiving the appraisal, ordering title documents, obtaining insurance, etc. The final underwriting is the last step before the loan file is sent for closing.

The preapproval process is an important part of a home purchase. Since there is a lot of information involved in obtaining a mortgage, it eliminates many last minute problems that can arise. Obtaining a mortgage preapproval helps the home purchase process go smoothly.

 

DIY Flooring Installation

Installing a new floor is a great way to liven up your house. Before you change your floor, however, you need to decide what type of flooring is best suited to your budget and lifestyle. Hardwood floors are a classic choice, while many homeowners prefer the ease of tile or the affordability of laminate flooring. While some floors can be installed by an inexperienced homeowner, other floor types require the services of a professional or an experienced handyman.

Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood floors have always been a popular choice. Beautiful, traditional wood floors can last a lifetime if properly maintained and, because hardwood floors are more hygienic than carpet, they are a good choice for people with allergies. The National Wood Flooring Association, points out that wood is:

Low-maintenance

Renewable

Recyclable

Varied

Enduring

Hardwood floor types can be new or salvaged and might be smooth, distressed, or hand-scraped for an antique look. Stains give you a variety of color choices, even allowing oak to masquerade as rare exotic lumber. Research all your options before investing in a hardwood floor, as each of the many choices offers advantages of its own.

Maintaining Hardwood Floors

Prefinished hardwood flooring can be expensive, but it is easy to maintain. To keep your hardwood floor looking its best, you should put down area rugs in places that get a lot of foot traffic. You should also damp mop your floor frequently to remove dust and dirt. If your hardwood floors get a few minor scratches, you can repair them with a touch-up stick. Solid hardwood floors can be refinished if they have a lot of scuffmarks, which is one advantage over other products like laminate flooring.

Installing Hardwood Flooring

If you have never installed any type of flooring, you might want to hire a professional to lay your hardwood floors. Get an estimate, ask for references and never pay for the entire job upfront. If you do decide to do it yourself, do your homework because installing flooring can be tricky. The following tools are needed for installing hardwood floors:

Circular saw

Measuring tape

Nail gun or hammer

Table saw

T-square

Floor sealant

Nails

Safety glasses

According to Steve Seabaugh, director of technical education for the NWFA, installers of wood floors must take care to:

Check the subfloor for flatness.

Avoid laying over particleboard, which does not hold nails well.

Acclimatize wood to the space in which it will be installed.

Laying hardwood floors takes time, and this last step adds several days to your project calendar. The flooring should sit in your home for at least 48 hours before installation in order to expose it to the room's environment. This allows it to expand or contract according to the temperature and humidity of the room. If this takes place after the floor is laid, you'll wind up with shifting boards and uneven flooring. In addition to this brief period of acclimatization, plan to spend at least a few full days installing hardwood floors, depending on the size of your home.

Quick-Growing Alternatives to Hardwoods

Some homeowners choose cork or bamboo floors as an alternative to hardwood. These faster-growing products can be "green" in more ways than one - gentle on the planet and on your wallet. Prefinished bamboo is made from a grass and performs much like hardwood when it's used as flooring. Cork is a wood-bark product that can also make an attractive floor. According to BuildGreen's independently published Environmental Building News, the most eco-friendly bamboo floors are those with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.

Tile Flooring

Tile is another beautiful choice and a great option for DIY flooring. The price of tile varies greatly because there are so many choices, from ceramics and terra-cotta to marble and slate. Regardless of the price, tile is extremely durable and will last for decades with proper care.

Before installing new floors, you should first learn as much as you can about how to tile. Many hardware stores and home centers offer classes in tiling. You can also hire a professional to install your tile floor, but this will greatly increase the price of your total flooring expenses.

When you do undertake a tiling job, be sure you already understand the process. You'll need to be sure your subfloor is suitable and then create a level bed of mortar. Tiles will be set according to a careful plan, with room left between for grout. After the mortar has set, you'll fill the gaps with grout, carefully wiping the surface of the tiles as you go. Finally, a week or more later, you'll seal the grout to protect it from stains.

Tile-Laying Supplies

The basic supplies for laying tile include:

Grout floats

Mortar trowels

Sponges

Tile cutters

Tile grout, mortar, and sealant

Tile saw

Tape measure

Pencil

Level

Rags and a sponge

Installing tile flooring will take time, as grout and mortar take several days to dry. You should expect to get your hands dirty during this process, but the end result will be one of the most easily maintained flooring options out there.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is made from a synthetic material that looks like hardwood or tile. Laminate flooring is a great choice for anyone who wants the look of hardwood or tile but doesn't have a big budget to work with. Laminate flooring is usually less than half the cost of hardwood floors.

Another advantage of laminate flooring is that almost anyone can install it. For most types of laminate flooring, the manufacturer's instructions are easy to follow and the pieces snap into place for "lock and click" installation. According to the North American Laminate Flooring Association, glue and fasteners are usually not required. Durability and affordability are listed by NALFA alongside ease of installation as reasons to consider a laminate floor.

Eco-friendly Laminates

Environmental concerns can sway consumers towards laminates, too. A product with NALFA's green seal will have the following features, according to the association's website:

Natural ingredients such as wood chips

Recyclability

Low emissions

Recycled content

No VOC-producing installation adhesives

Easy to Buy, Install and Maintain

Caring for and maintaining laminate floors is very easy - simply sweep or wet-mop regularly. With excellent care, laminate floors can last up to 20 years. The time and skill required to install a laminate floor are relatively low, making this a popular choice for first-time DIY floor installations.

A Floor for Every Lifestyle

Whether you choose easy laminates, classic hardwoods, or beautiful tile, your floor will help define your home's personality. By matching your budget, taste, and skill to the best product for you, you can find a DIY flooring solution that will make your home more comfortable, beautiful, and valuable.

 

Bird Feeders: Basic Considerations

Placing bird feeders in your garden won't make up for lost habitat, but a well-placed bird feeder can allow you to see wild birds up close and create an awareness of nature. Before purchasing or building a bird feeder, there are a few basic things to consider, including which birds to feed, how much seed you want to buy, and how much mess you can tolerate.

Which Birds do You Want to Attract?

Perhaps you were hoping for a "building it and they will come" bird feeder, but it's important to make decisions about which birds to attract before purchasing or building a bird feeder and buying your first bag of birdseed.

Different birds have different preferences when it comes to food and what types of feeders they will use. For example, thistle seed is used in a thistle feeder and is especially attractive to American goldfinches and pine siskins. In terms of feeder types, some birds, such as chickadees and nuthatches, will use a feeder that is placed well above the ground, while other birds, such as sparrows and juncos, prefer to eat close to the ground.

Native vs. Non-Native Birds

When choosing which birds to feed, many people prefer native birds to non-native birds such as house sparrows and starlings. Non-native birds compete with native birds for food and nesting sites, so adding a bird feeder that will attract native birds will supplement their food sources.

Discouraging Aggressive Birds

Aggressive birds such as crows and pigeons can keep other birds from using a bird feeder. If you want to discourage aggressive birds from using the bird feeder, choose seeds to which they are less attracted. For example, grains such as barley, rye, oats, wheat and corn are particularly attractive to ground-feeding birds such as pigeons. Limit these grains if you want to discourage pigeons.

How Much Seed do You Want to Buy?

Some birds eat more than others and will really make a dent in your birdseed budget. Large birds, such as pigeons, can obviously put away more food than small birds. Other birds - such as starlings, finches, and house sparrows - travel in large numbers and will also eat much more birdseed than small birds like chickadees and nuthatches that don't travel in large flocks.

How Much Mess Can You Tolerate?

Another important consideration when deciding which birds to attract is mess. Large flocks of birds, like those mentioned above, tend to make a mess because they come in large numbers and stay at a bird feeder for a long length of time. Other species, such as chickadees, jays and nuthatches, tend to visit a bird feeder, get what they want, and leave. If having a mess under the bird feeder is going to be a source of irritation, it's best to attract birds that are less messy.

Watching birds come and go from a bird feeder in your garden can bring a lot of enjoyment. You may even start to notice birds feeding on the seeds of some of your garden plants. Maybe it will inspire you to add more bird feeders or a nesting box or two. In the end, know that whatever supplemental food you can provide will be appreciated by these small, feathered friends.