Foreclosure Fix-Ups

[This article originally appeared on AOL Shopping in June 2008.]

ForeclosureAs everyone is well aware, the housing market has been in a steep decline this year. This is bad news for current home owners, but good news for potential home buyers. There are many great deals to be had in the housing market today – and none more so than foreclosed homes.

While many folks are scared away from buying a foreclosed home – due to the damage they might find within them – in most cases, the previous owners of the property simply lacked the funds to maintain ownership and make necessary repairs or upgrades to the home. Some damage can be severe, but most damage is very easy to fix.

You should always hire a professional home inspector to examine any home you plan to buy. They will let you know how extensive the damage is (if any), and how much it would cost to fix.

Typical minor damage includes overgrown weeds in the yard, missing appliances, missing light fixtures and switches, and missing plumbing components. Some of the more major damage includes mold (due to moisture intrusion) and Dry Wood Termites. Other potential wear n’ tear includes drywall damage, flooring material defects, bad electrical wiring, leaking plumbing lines and swamp-like swimming pools (due to abandonment), which are a haven for mosquitoes.

Here’s how you would tackle some typical home damage…

  • Missing appliances, light fixtures, switches, and plumbing components are easy to replace. Shop for the best prices on these at AOL Shopping and have them delivered directly to your new home!
  • Yards that are overgrown and full of weeds are easily remedied with a good lawnmower, weed-eater, or chemical spray.
  • Minor damage to drywall can be fixed with a self-adhesive drywall patch.
  • You’ll need to call in a professional to deal with termites, mosquitoes in the pool and other bug problems – but if an abandoned pool just needs a little cleaning, get yourself a Verro from iRobot, which will clean the pool, while you work on other things.
  • For plumbing issues, you’ll want to stock up on all the essential tools, like a sink and toilet plunger, augers, caulk remover, Teflon tape, and a pipe wrench.

When it comes to buying a foreclosed home, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. The amount you save on the cost of the home is well worth making a few minor repairs and aesthetic fixes before moving in.

Be sure to compare prices before making your purchases on AOL Shopping!

For more information on foreclosures, visit AOL Real Estate.

Smart Shopping this Christmas

[This article originally appeared on AOL Shopping in December 2007.]

Christmas ShoppingThink back to last January, when you opened up your latest credit card bill and felt overwhelmed by the massive amount you spent on Christmas gifts and other holiday expenses. It was pretty shocking, right? Well, take that feeling and feel it again prior to doing your Christmas shopping this year.

It’s easy to walk into a store with one product in mind and end up walking out with multiple bags of spontaneous purchases. Whether it’s the effective marketing of the stores you visit, or your own personal craving – you are up against strong forces when you go shopping.

Take control of your finances this Christmas by planning ahead of time.

Prior to visiting any stores, grab a pen and paper and write out a simple budget. Figure out how much total money you have available for gifts this year. Write down the names of everyone you want to buy gifts for (the most important ones first, like family and close friends). Do a quick calculation on how much, according to your overall spending limit, you can spend on each person. If you’re satisfied with that amount, that’s great. If the number is too small, then either drop people from the bottom of the list, or stagger the amounts so that you’re spending more on some people and less on others.

Once you have a final list of all the people you’re buying gifts for and the amount you can spend on each gift, you’re ready to go shopping.

On your way to the mall, stop by an ATM and withdraw the total amount of cash allotted for gift shopping. Using cash is key, as you are more careful with each purchase. Using cards – be they credit cards or check cards – makes purchases psychologically less painful, and thus easier to spend more than you planned. (Don’t buy into those Visa commercials discouraging you from using cash. THEY JUST WANT YOUR MONEY! Visa is not looking out for your best financial interests.)

As you shop, know your limit. Shop carefully for each person on your list. Go from the top of your list down. And when the cash runs out, STOP! Appreciate the gifts you were able to buy and feel good about the fact that you didn’t jump into a financial holiday hole.

Shop smart this Christmas with cash and a budget!

The New Tithe

“Give to everyone who asks you …” – Luke 6:30

“The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.” – Psalm 37:21

“… the righteous gives and does not hold back.” – Proverbs 21:26

I spent the morning helping Harley pack up her apartment in Arlington. I know how hard it is to get people to help you move (especially during normal work hours), so I felt her pain. I felt compelled to lend a hand, when she posted a bulletin on MySpace pleading for help. I don’t really know her, but I couldn’t help but remember the verse where Christ says to “give to everyone who asks you.”

No matter how inconvenient.

I had to take the morning off of work and will lose the pay for those hours. But that’s okay.

Giving a tithe (or tenth) to God doesn’t just mean money. He wants us to honor him with a tenth of everything. One hundred percent is his, and he only asks for a tenth back. And it’s not just giving to the church. It’s helping those in need. Lending a hand. Lending your time to help.

Serving others is the new tithe.