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Abode defined:

The place where one lives. Home, domicile, dwelling, house, lodging, pad, place, residence.

Condos make great investments for first timers:

Photo courtesey of Pixaby

When I was ready to purchase my first investment property I was focused on single family homes with a yard.  Many of the homes I looked at would soon need new windows and siding, or other major repairs.  As I stretched my budget for a house, I worried I would not have enough money to handle an emergency once a tenant moved in.  When I shifted my search to condos it seemed to take away that concern.  The home owner's association dues would cover the exterior maintenance and  landscaping, leaving only minor interior maintenance for me to handle.  Most condos had a lower purchase price than  homes, and the rent I could charge at the condos would cover the mortgage while the rent for homes would not.   


Besides the normal investment considerations of return on investment, condo investors also need to know about Home Owner's Associations (HOAs).  HOAs enforce the community rules (CC&Rs), maintain the building exteriors, and community areas.  As an investor you need to research if the HOA has a limit on the number and type of rental units (this is known as a rental cap).  Beyond that you need to find out if long term leases required.  Most HOAs do not permit rentals for less than 30 days . . . so Air BnB is not an option for many condo investors.   Next you should request budget documents from the board to see if the HOA is properly funding the reserve account.  Be advised that a significant budget shortage could mean that litigation or special assessments are on the way; and that would jeopardize your ability to get financing.  It is also important to walk around the community and make a visual inspection for signs of neglect which may include overgrown landscaping, faded paint on the siding, loose shingles on the roof, etc.    
 

I found a condo in a well managed community, the reserve accounts were well funded, the exterior of the buildings and landscaping appeared to be in good order.  It has been a great investment for me, and I think  first time investors should consider purchasing condos.
 

4 Tips for a Smoother Move with Kids

More great tips from Daniel at Dadsolo

Photo via Pixabay


Be prepared to feel the adrenaline, nerves and stress hit you from time to time as you go through a major move, with kids and pets in tow. In the days running up to the big day, you’ll be downing martinis before 8 a.m. to avoid a nervous breakdown. The Internet is littered with horror stories of parents dealing with unruly, heartbroken kids that were impossible to work with before, during and after the move. 


Fortunately, there are things you can do to create a smoother move for adults and kids alike. The following tips should help you know what to do to ease the pain of the move:


1. Give Your Kids the Power of Choice

Children often feel powerless when faced with the prospect of moving. This overwhelms them and creates all kinds of fearful future scenarios in their minds. During the process of moving, then, grant your children a degree of power and control concerning the move, within reason. Maybe tell your kids you’ll let them decide how to decorate their room, what kind of yard they’d like best, what kind of neighborhood they’d like to live in, etc.


Even something as simple as allowing your kids to pick the color of their room, or the kind of wallpaper to use, can do a lot to give the move a positive spin in their eyes.


Another nifty idea is to give each kid a box to decorate that will hold their favorite toys and possessions. That way when the move is complete, and your children feel a little lost among the sea of boxes, they can easily locate their special box and be reacquainted with their favorite items.


2. Hire Professional Packers Who Do It All

If within budget, hire professionals to pack you up and handle the heavy lifting, truck loading/unloading, and transport so that you and your partner can focus on the kids. Money-wise, this isn’t always an option. However, if you can just afford it, go for it. It will spare you all the stress and hassle – the kind that gives you silver hairs before your time. Remember, no medal was ever awarded for Most Harried Mom and Dad During a Move. Just take the time to compare prices. 


If hiring do-it-all movers is out of budget, tap into your network of babysitters, friends and family members to help as much as possible. Everyone knows how gargantuan a task it is to move with kids – undoubtedly some members of your network would be happy to help with the move, so don’t be afraid to ask. That’s what community is for.


3. Squeeze in a Fun Trip

If you are moving long distance, you have a few days between packing up the old house and when the movers arrive in the new location. Why not escape and take a mini-vacation with the kids? Whether you go seaside or go camping or simply Airbnb a place that is fully equipped for family fun, taking a fun, welcome break is the idea. It’ll restore sanity for the whole family.


4. Unpack the House in a Certain Order

Unpacking the rooms that are most important to your children first will help you get them out of your way. Unpacking their bedrooms first, the playroom second, and the kitchen third, in this order will do a lot to keep them busy and start making them feel more at home. The idea is that they’ll have fun rearranging their rooms or playing with long-forgotten toys, leaving you to focus on unpacking the rest of your belongings.


In Conclusion

There is always an undercurrent of melancholy as you pack up the old house, calm children through their complaints about the move, and deal with the stress of the thousand tasks you have to do related to the change of house. But a brighter future awaits you – a new and better job, a better home maybe, new scenery, a new town, a new community. Focus on the positives, follow the above tips for an easier transition, and you’ll be perfectly settled in your new home before you know it. (Your daily morning martinis a thing of the past.) 


Good luck with your move!

Settling into Portland as a Single Parent

Hello Everyone, Please enjoy this wonderful guest post from Daniel.

Photo Credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay  


Moving to a new city is a major shift in your balance and routine. As such, it can be stressful and scary. If you’re a single parent, it can be even more daunting.    


“It takes bravery to decide that you are going to uproot everything, pack your life into tiny boxes, and then move into the unknown,” says Thought Catalog. Remember: you’re brave and strong, and it’s going to be just fine. Learn as much as you can about Portland before moving there to minimize surprises, and once you get to Portland, follow some steps to help you and your child settle into your new city (and keep your mantra going too).   


Cut Yourself Some Slack   


Remember that it’s perfectly normal to feel afraid or sad when you move, especially when you relocate to a new city as a single parent or as a child. Don’t be too hard on yourself or your child if one of you isn’t 100 percent happy-go-lucky every morning in Portland. While some people can move to a new city and instantaneously feel at home, others require an adjustment period; each person has his or her own natural pace.   


Grief isn’t limited to the death of a person; you can grieve over a job loss, the end of a relationship, or any other major change, including a move. You’ll be saying goodbye to friends, favorite restaurants, your old home, your child’s school, and more. To help combat this grief, embrace the new parts of your home and city instead of focusing on what it lacks when compared to your previous home. Also, make an effort to maintain old relationships while forming new ones.   


Make Your New Home Your Own   


Your home is a reflection of yourself and is seen as a safe place to recover and escape the outside world. While you may have felt that at your old home, you’re going to have to recreate those feelings in the new home. A welcoming space affects mood and memory. Sleek, minimalist designs may not be as beneficial as a more homey design. CNN states, “…when you look around your own place and see the evidence of who you are (the books you've read, the projects you're working on), you feel grounded.” So go ahead and hang your child’s paintings and line your shelves with your favorite books.   


Similarly, sticking to a routine significantly helps in adjusting to a new place, and routines are especially beneficial for children. If you loved doing yoga every morning, make time for that in Portland. If your child went to his or her favorite pizza place every Wednesday, find a new favorite pizza place in the city. It’s important to do things that make you and your child happy, so find ways to integrate old activities into your new life.   


Explore   


Whether you have a few friends in Portland or don’t know anyone, explore the city on your own. You don’t want to rely on a friend to constantly show you around, nor do you want to let the fear of loneliness prevent you from experiencing Portland. Being adventurous can pay off. Don’t focus on your fear or feelings of being uncomfortable. Go get coffee alone and say hi to a stranger (you can’t miss out on Portland’s coffee, after all!). Volunteer at a charity. Work out at the gym solo. You never know whom you’ll meet.   


Spending time in beautiful places is beneficial when you’re feeling any negative emotions, and it can help you appreciate all that Portland has to offer. Lucky for you, Portland is full of options, from Multnomah Falls to the Japanese Garden to Mount Hood National Forest. If your idea of beauty is enjoying a warm cup of coffee or admiring architecture, Portland has that too. Visit one of these places, and let it inspire you. Don’t miss out on experiencing the city.   


While moving can be taxing, there are ways to help ensure you and your child acclimate to the new home and new city. Getting to work on decorating your new place to feel homier and exploring Portland are great ways to start. As you get to know your city and appreciate your new home, remember that you’ll have good days and bad days at first, but in the end, you and your child will adjust and enjoy this new chapter in your life.  



You can follow Daniel at http://dadsolo.com/


July 25, 2017

Wedding bliss...the secret to real happiness is buying a home together.

You've found your true love, and you've decided to get married.  At first you hear wedding bells, then you meet with a wedding planner and before you know it: “Ca-ching, ca-ching”... you are spending your entire savings on an extravagant wedding to dazzle your guests.  (According to Fortune Magazine  the average cost of a wedding hit over $35,000.00.)  After the honey moon you return home to your apartment and start the saving process all over again hoping someday you can afford a home. 


An Emory University study suggests that spending big on engagement rings and weddings increases the chance of divorce.  To ready more about the study search for it by name: ‘A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: the Relationship Between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration.”   


Spending a lot of money only to get divorced sounds like a bad idea to me.  As luck would have it, my now husband is a savvy guy when it comes to money.  Shortly after he proposed we mutually decided on a modest family-centered wedding, and invested our savings as a down payment on a townhouse.  The townhouse was was much better than the apartment we were renting, and we spent our first year as newlyweds living in the townhouse.  Fast forward to a year later and we have rented out the townhouse and are saving for our next investment.


What if instead of spending that small fortune on a wedding, you and your  spouse purchase a house like we did.  The median home price in the Portland Metro Area is about $400,000.00, and $35,000.00 would make a nice down payment.   


Start your time as a married couple by setting yourselves up for financial freedom.  Now that sounds like a great way to start out your lives together. 

May 26, 2017

Finding your perfect home is a lot like renting your first apartment.

When you decide to buy your perfect home it may seem overwhelming. Overcome the anxiety by using the process you took to find your first apartment… you will find that most of the steps are the same. 

First, it is about location, location, location. Is it close to your job? Or maybe it is near your favorite restaurants or the gym? Are the schools in the district great for your children? Drive around and get to know the scene where you plan to buy. 

Second, it is about how much you want to spend. Start by knowing your budget. Look at your income, and your expenses. If you are not sure how much you can afford, a good rule of thumb is to keep your housing costs to less than one third of your gross monthly income. Still don’t know…find a great lender, preferably a mortgage broker, and talk about your options. Be prepared to show your pay stubs and tax returns to get a realistic idea of what you qualify for. 

 Third, it is about the amenities. Does your ideal place have a chef’s kitchen? How about a walk-in closet with space for a shoe collection rivaling that of Imelda Marcos? Does your new home have a country feel, or clean lines and a modern twist? Think about your style, and your needs. If you don’t know your style, look at magazines for ideas. 

Fourth, it is about compromise. You may not get all of the features or amenities you want within your price range. Decide for yourself which is most important. Can you live with a longer commute to have better schools for your children? Or perhaps a small kitchen is okay because you eat out?  If you still have trouble narrowing it down, make a good old fashioned pros and cons list.
 

The final step: It’s time to start looking at homes.   

May 3, 2017

“The latte close”. How to save for your down payment

Many of my friends and acquaintances wonder how I was able to afford a down payment for my home. These people in my peer group are intelligent, hardworking people that make good money. Some even make better money than I do, but say they are not able to save for a down payment.  

This is where “The Latte Close” comes into play, and it’s a trick I learned selling cars. When a client was not sure they could afford the car they wanted, “the latte close” was introduced into the conversation. Here’s how it works…I say “Mr. or Mrs. Customer do you drink lattes?”  (Usually said customer showed up to the car dealership with a Starbucks cup in hand making my pitch super easy.) He or she would respond, “Uh, yeah!” and point at their cup. I would respond with “Perfect, how many times a week do you treat yourself to a latte?” Usually the response was “four or five times a week”. Next I would say: “Does each beverage cost about $5.00? SPOILER ALERT…We all know the answer, it is inevitably yes.  Let’s cut to the punchline “…so Mr. or Mrs. Customer is it fair to say you spend $80-$100 a month on lattes? You could cut your latte habit in half and drive home in your new car today.”  

The point with “The Latte Close” back in the day was to sell that customer a car. Don’t lose the lesson; applying “The Latte Close” is a metaphor for a savings strategy.  I like to call it a savings strategy because some people feel like “BUDGET” has a negative connotation. Maybe you don’t buy lattes every day. I sure didn’t. What I did was look for opportunities to cut back on my own spending while still enjoying my life. I love good food, but only eat out at restaurants a few times a month because doing it more often would “eat up” my potential savings. I learned to be a pretty good cook and always try new things thanks to following food blogs.  

If you are having trouble finding a place to start saving, apply “The Latte Close” to your life. Do you have a $600.00 cell phone with a plan that costs $100.00 plus a month? You can migrate your phone to a prepaid carrier…they all buy minutes from the big players so you get the same service cheaper. (It’s not a scam; I’ve been using a pre-paid plan for years). Maybe you have a bloated cable TV package and pay upwards of $150.00 a month. Renegotiate that now, or drop most of the channels asap! Maybe you are the guy or gal that always treats your friends to a drink at the bar. Drink at home and invite your friends over instead… you can buy the whole bottle for less than you spend on a few drinks downtown. The money your friends save covers their Uber to get home safely afterwards.  

Saving for the down payment is not about how much you make, it is about how much of your income you can save. Get creative, use a budget app or tool to help you keep track. Try Mint, Unsplurge, PocketGuard, or Wally. These little apps not only help you create budgets, they also keep a watchful eye and can point out areas you can save.  

April 30, 2017

The right time to buy

Back in the summer of 2014 I was in the market to purchase a condo, and the market was hot. I remember a co-worker telling me that I should wait to buy until the market cooled off…she said “You are going to overpay, wait until it’s a buyer’s market.”    

I made offers on places in a multiple bid situations, and they did not get accepted. In June 2014 I put in an offer on a Beaverton condo in the Murray Hill neighborhood. I did my research and made an offer based on what I thought was reasonable for the condo, neighborhood, and amenities. It appeared that I was going to miss out again, as the listing broker told me that there were two buyers in front of me with better offers and implied they were “sure things”.  I briefly considered increasing my offer, and later decided that my original offer was what I was comfortable with. My offer was accepted as the third position back up offer. However, in less than two days the first two offers fell through and my offer was the only one on the table.     In July 2014 my loan closed and I paid $127,000.00, and that was more than anyone had paid for a condo at that location that year. Did I over pay?  Some people might say that, I did. I would disagree with those people. I could afford the payments; and the condo had the amenities and features I wanted. If I purchased the same condo today it would cost at least $180.000.00, my down payment and the monthly cost would also be significantly more. Today I am in an equity position; and my tenant’s rent payment covers the mortgage and HOA dues.    

In the summer of 2015 I was ready to buy again. This time, it took me more than eight months to land the right place. Finally in January of 2016 with 10 competing offers, I got the townhouse that I wanted. I lived in my new home for about a year and loved it before deciding to rent it out. The current market price for townhouses in my Hillsboro neighborhood is $60,000.00 more than what I paid. The rent my tenants pay covers the monthly cost.   

Remember the right time to buy is when you find a home that you are happy with, at a price you are willing to pay.   

April 24, 2017

The one thing I wish I knew before my first purchase.

Whether  you get a conventional loan, or a FHA loan, if you put less than 20%  down you are required to pay “private mortgage insurance” (PMI). Note  that the FHA calls theirs “mortgage insurance premium” (MIP); it is the  same thing.  The insurance is there to protect the lender in the event  that a buyer defaults on the loan.  The annual premium for PMI/MIP  varies from 1%-2.5% of the loan amount and is based on the borrowers  credit and loan amount, and is usually charged in addition to the  monthly principal and interest payments.  Some lenders charge an upfront  fee and a monthly insurance premium.   

The  one thing that I wish I knew before my first purchase was that I could  pre-pay the PMI premium, have a lower monthly payment, and save  thousands of dollars.   Here’s one  of my actual loans: $205,000.00 purchase with a 5% down payment  ($10,250.00) on a 30 year fixed loan, and the PMI payment was $144.00  per month.  If I paid according to the regular amortization schedule and  got the loan down to the 20% it would be after making 96 payments of  the $144.00 and that would cost $13,824.00.  Paying the PMI premium up  front cost me about $2,500.00, and I saved about $11,000.00.