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Posts tagged ‘Bonita Springs Homes’

Termite Damage And Real Estate

Termite damage, no matter how small it may be, is never good for a home.  During a real estate inspection, if any termite damage is found, it will affect the outcome of the home.  In most cases, the buyer is told that the seller will fix the problem.  Although this may sound good to some buyers that the seller will treat for termites, other buyers often wonder.

Of course it’s nice that the seller will pay to have the termite problem treated, which will normally cost around $1,000 or so.  Even though the termites will be gone, you have to wonder about the damage to the structure.  In the more severe cases, damage to the structure can cost up to 50 times the cost of the treatment.  The last thing you want is to move into a home that you know has been treated for termites, only to find the structure to be in very bad shape.

If any type of damage was done to the wooden structure of the home, you may need to get immediate repairs.  While some damage may be visible, there are other types of damage that may seem invisible to the naked eye.  To find out just how bad the damage is, carpets and rugs will need to be lifted, furniture and appliances moved, walls and ceilings will need to be opened, and even some types of excavation may be needed.  This is the only way to tell the extent of the damages, especially in cases of termites.  If you don’t inspect every area of the home, you could be moving into a home that has severe structural damage – which can cost you thousands to repair.

There could also be latent damage present as well.  To determine this, you’ll need to have invasive and destructive testing performed on your home, which will performed by qualified contractors and specialists.  This will help to determine the extent of the damage and the cost of any needed repairs.  This can be very costly however, although it’s the only way to find and repair any latent damage.

Destructive and invasive testing can cost you an arm and a leg, although you’ll need to have it done if you suspect termites or know for a fact that the home was treated for them.  To protect yourself, you should always get a treatment and repair history before you purchase the home.  If you are renting the home, you’ll need get written documentation from the specialist that details the damage to the home and cost of repairs.

Before you buy a home, you should always have it checked for termites.  There are a lot of termite inspection companies out there, many of which go above and beyond to check the home for any type of termite damage.  You don’t want to buy a home only to find out that it has been infested with termites.  If you have the proper inspections performed before you make the purchase, you’ll know for a fact that you don’t have to worry about termites or termite damage.

If the inspector or contractor doesn’t find any termite damage, you should always have it documented.  This way, if termite damage does exist, you’ll have the documentation to back you up.  Termites can be very destructive to your home, especially if you are looking towards a log home.  Termites can destroy wood in little to no time at all, which is why you should always do what you can to have your home treated as soon as you suspect any type of damage.  If you know a home has been infested with termites before – you should really make sure that the structure isn’t damaged and the termites are gone before you commit to buying.

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Is It Time to Re-Finance?

Whether or not to re-finance is a question homeowner may ask themselves many times while they are living in their home. Re-financing is essentially taking out one home loan to repay an existing home loan. This may sound odd at first but it is important to realize when this is done properly it can result in a significant cost savings for the homeowner over the course of the loan. When there is the potential for an overall savings it might be time to consider re-financing. There are certain situations which make re-financing worthwhile. These situations may include when the credit scores of the homeowners improve, when the financial situation of the homeowners improves and when national interest rates drop. This article will examine each of these scenarios and discuss why they may warrant a re-finance.

When Credit Scores Improve

There are currently so many home loan options available, that even those with poor credit are likely to find a lender who can assist them in realizing their dream of purchasing a home. However, those with poor credit are likely to be offered unfavorable loan terms such as high interest rates or variable interest rates instead of fixed rates. This is because the lender considers these homeowners to be higher risk than others because of their poor credit.

Fortunately for those with poor credit, many credit mistakes can be repaired over time. Some financial blemishes such as bankruptcies simply disappear after a number of years while other blemishes such as frequent late payments can be minimized by maintaining a more favorable record of repaying debts and demonstrating an ability to repay existing debts.

When a homeowner’s credit score improves considerable, the homeowner should inquire about the possibility of re-financing their current mortgage. All citizens are entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. Homeowners should take advantage of these three reports to check their credit each year and determine whether or not their credit has increased significantly. When they notice a significant increase, they should consider contacting lenders to determine the rates and terms they may be willing to offer.

When Financial Situations Change

A change in the homeowner’s financial situation can also warrant investigation into the process of re-financing. A homeowner may find himself making considerably more money due to a change in jobs or considerably less money due to a lay off or a change in careers. In either case the homeowner should investigate the possibility of re-financing. The homeowner may find an increase in pay may allow them to obtain a lower interest rate.

Alternately a homeowner who loses their job or takes a pay cut as a result of a change in careers may hope to refinance and consolidate their debt. This may result in the homeowner paying more because some debts are drawn out over a longer period of time but it can result in a lower monthly payment for the homeowner which may be advantageous at this juncture of his life.

When Interest Rates Drop

Interest rates dropping is the one signal that sends many homeowners rushing to their lenders to discuss the possibility of re-financing their home. Lower interest rates are certainly appealing because they can result in an overall savings over the course of the loan but homeowners should also realize that every time the interest rates drop, a re-finance of the home is not warranted. The caveat to re-financing to take advantage of lower interest rates is that the homeowner should carefully evaluate the situation to ensure the closing costs associated with re-financing do not exceed the overall savings benefit gained from obtaining a lower interest rate. This is significant because if the cost of re-financing is higher than the savings in interest, the homeowner does not benefit from re-financing and may actually lose money in the process.

The mathematics associated with determining whether or not there is an actual savings is not overly complicated but there is the possibility that the homeowner will make mistakes in these types of calculations. Fortunately there are a number of calculators available on the Internet which can help homeowners to determine whether or not re-financing is worthwhile.

Good Home Buying Tips

Welcome to the home buying market! This is an exciting time to be purchasing a home, with an array of new homes coming onto the market these is some excellent value to be found. All it takes is a little time and effort in looking and you can find your dream home for a dream price. But you should always be a smart buyer. There are those out there that will take advantage of someone who is eager to buy so, if you do your homework; the deals will follow.

The first thing you should do is get your finances in order. This involves finding out your credit score, fixing any outstanding issues affecting your credit, ensuring that these are properly released from your report, and finally securing your mortgage before you start looking. When I say secure your finances I do mean being pre-approved fully, this is different from a pre-qualification in that a pre-qualification does not “secure” you any amount of money, it is simply a judgment of whether or not you qualify to receive a mortgage.

Next, start working with a realtor that knows the area you are looking to buy in. This is a huge step so be prepared to move from merely wanting a home, to actively looking for one. Sit down with your realtor and make a list of things you require in a home. This is a list of those things that you can absolutely not be without. Once this is compiled, then list the things that you would like. With these lists ready, its time to start looking at homes. Your realtor should be able to provide you with a complete list of homes that fit your criteria, and some that come close. Also, they will be able to guide you to properties that fit your pre-approved mortgage amount.

After finding a home or homes that suit you make sure to have a certified inspector take a thorough look through the home. Have them check all questionable areas of the home. Don’t forget to have the inspector check for mold as this is something that is often overlooked. If the home passes the inspection than carry on with the offer if you are so inclined. If it doesn’t then either continue shopping, or utilize the necessary repairs as a bargaining point. Usually you should be able to have the cost of these repairs deducted from the cost of the home. It’s a good idea to bring in your own contractor or expert to get these estimates. By doing this you know that everything is above-board.

Buying a home is a huge process and one that you must be careful to handle with all due care and attention. Such an important investment can benefit you financially for years to come as well as providing safety and financial security. Don’t sell yourself short on what you buy as your home. After all, your family deserves the best don’t they?

FSBO Tip – Don’t Do It

My Number one FSBO Tip? Don’t sell it yourself! A “FSBO,” or house “for sale by owner” can sell fast, and for as much as it would have if listed with a real estate agent. Sometimes – but not normally. Consider the following ten points.

 1. Buyers work with agents. Most look at MLS listings. Sell it yourself, and they won’t see or hear about your home. How do you find that “right” buyer or get top dollar when you’re invisible to most of the market?

 2. Your FSBO will get lower offers. Naturally, the buyer thinks you’ll take less because you’re saving the commission! Save a $10,000 commission, get $10,000 less – where’s the advantage in that?

 3. Advertising is expensive. The costs the real estate office normally pays are yours if you sell it yourself. How much could you spend on ads if it takes a year to sell?    4. They have the resources. And you don’t. Agents have books of sold properties to look at, for example, to determine the best price for your home. You can dig through county records, but you do have to value your time too, right?

 5. They know the market. What’s the target market for your house? Young couples, retirees? What features do they want? You should know these things before you write your ads. An experienced real estate salesperson will know.

 6. They know the laws. What about written disclosures, and who pays for the real estate transfer tax? When you sell it yourself you don’t get to ignore the laws.

 7. Are you a good salesperson? Can you develop rapport and properly answer objections? Could your defensiveness scare off a buyer who criticizes your home? Think back on your own purchases, and you’ll realize that a good salesperson makes a difference.

 8. Paperwork. Will you help the buyer properly fill out an offer to purchase? An agent would. Do you have the other closing documents ready?

 9. Agents negotiate for you. When did you last learn a new negotiating technique? Can you counter-offer without scaring off a buyer? A good salesperson is trained in these skills.

 10. You may not save anything. The documents, newspaper advertising, signs for the yard – it’s all your expense when you sell it yourself. After your hard work, you may get low offers and negotiate poorly. Honestly, sellers often net less money from the sale when they try to save the commission.

Most “FSBO” sellers eventually turn to a real estate agent for help. You could learn the things an agent does, but is it worth it to spend all that time and maybe not even save any money? Don’t sell it yourself unless you really know what you’re doing. That’s my number one FSBO tip.

Picture Perfect: the Profit is in the Plan

As far as home improvements go, landscaping is a solid investment – in fact, a well designed outdoor project can offer a better return than most of those inside the house. Good landscaping can add between seven and 15 per cent value to your home and has a recovery value of 100 to 200 percent, so shell out now and get it back when you sell.

Many realtors will tell you that a well designed landscape will help you sell your house faster. With today’s explosion of subdivisions, where many of the homes look similar from the outside, landscaping can set your home apart from a neighborhood of clones.

But the key to a profitable landscape is the design, so start with a plan. A poorly designed layout could end up costing you more time and money: without proper planning, that lovely deck you’ve laid may crack in next winter’s frost. So before you go running into the yard with your pick and shovel, get out your paper and pencil.

First consider what you want to use the area for. If you want to have an outdoor kitchen area or pool then your design will look quite different from someone looking for a vegetable garden or a private refuge. There are plenty of garden magazines on the market; study them to get a good idea of what you like and don’t like. Even if you aren’t planning on doing the whole yard now, plan what you’d like to see eventually. Otherwise you may find yourself ripping up this year’s hard work because it interferes with next year’s project.

Plan for your level of maintenance. Think about whether you want a garden that requires a lot of work or something a little easier to deal with. After you put all this work into the design you don’t want to watch it go to waste. If you don’t have time to maintain it yourself you might want to hire someone to take care of it for you, but look into those costs before you start planting.

Which brings us to the ever popular topic of budgets – it’s important to start out with an idea of how much you have to spend, because it’s easy to get carried away out there and there’s no shortage of lovely plants, features and furniture to sink your hard-earned cash into. Be realistic: you might not be able to put in both the pool and the outdoor kitchen this year, but you’ve got your plan. You know it’s coming.

The next step is to sketch out your yard. Divide it into sections and map out what you would like where. Call your utility company and map areas with underground wires and pipes. Identify areas that have special needs (drainage issues, acidic soil, shade and full sun). Next, add the feature that need to “landscaped”, like patios, fences, fountains, pools and walkways. Depending on the complexity of your design you may want to consider involving a professional, at least to look at your design. If you are undertaking any structural projects it might be wise to have the plans vetted by an engineer. In any case, consult local building codes and do your research. You want to ensure that your landscaping is appropriate for your particular location and climate concerns.

When deciding on plants, refer back to your sketch to match your greenery with its preferred light and soil conditions. Use marking paint or chalk to mark out planned features and bedding areas in your yard. This will give you a basic idea of whether your design works spatially. You may need to play with the width of the beds or paths to make the plan more visually appealing.

Before you plant, lay your plants out in their place and take a good look. Does the layout look crowded? Try to visualize the final size of the plant. Make sure you leave them enough room, even if your garden feels a little sparse to begin with. It’s better to have a little room between them now rather than ending up with some plants being overpowered by others when they are full-grown.

And now you’re ready to go! It may seem like a lot of work to get started, but a well planned design will ensure that you maximize your investment and create a beautiful space that you (or the next owners) will enjoy for years to come.

Pre-Approval Letter – How To Use It To Get Your Dream Home

When house hunting, many buyers make the mistake of waiting to contact a lender until after they have located their dream home. As a buyer, you will be in a much stronger position with a seller if you are pre-approved.

Pre-Approval Letter

To effectively house hunt, you must know the amount you can borrow from a lender. There is nothing worse than find your dream home, but failing to qualify for the amount you need for a loan. Avoid this by asking your lender to pull your credit information and to let you know what needs to be done to get a pre-approval letter. If you are going to have problems with getting a loan, it is better to know about it as early as possible.

Sometimes buyers resist contacting lenders because it’s not the enjoyable part of home buying and they’re afraid an extra credit check will reduce their credit score. This resistance is penny wise and pound foolish. Buyers who get their loan arrangements lined up at the beginning of the house buying process are really doing themselves a favor.

Much of the country is experiencing a hot, sellers’ market. It is not unusual for a seller to get more than one offer on the same day. If that happens to you, your pre-approved status can give you an edge over the competition. In fact, it can make a seller choose you over another bidder.

Presenting Your Letter to a Seller

When you tell the seller you want to buy their property, give them a copy of your pre-approval letter. They will probably recognize the value of the letter, but don’t depend on this assumption. Make sure the seller realizes the loan is already approved.

As you give the seller the letter, explain to them that you are serious about making the transaction go smoothly and, for that reason, you have already been through most of the loan application process. Point out that the lender has pulled your credit info and you’ve provided copies of W-2s, pay stubs, and all the other things the lender needed to decide that you do qualify for a loan. Tell the seller that the only remaining thing to do is to give the lender a copy of the contract that you and the seller sign, and the property needs to appraise for an appropriate amount.

Taking this approach puts you in a very strong position. The seller knows you are not just wishing; you are capable of buying his property. One of a seller’s worst nightmares is signing a contract with someone, taking his property off the market, wasting time and then finding out that the would-be buyer cannot get a loan. On the other hand, you and your pre-approval letter are dreams come true.

Put on your shining armor and get pre-approved by a lender. Once you have the letter in hand, get out there and find your dream home.

Wireless Alarms For Your Driveway

Those of you who want to protect your home from possible annoyances and intrusions, never miss out on a home delivery, or always be aware of someone coming up your driveway – should invest in a wireless driveway alarm.  There are a variety of different styles, with each one offering you a truly unique and innovative way to keep up with what’s going on around your property.

You can get either wireless or handheld models, which vary in detection ranges, from the average 1,000 feet for small driveways to the larger driveways which span 2 miles or more.  Some models will warn you of visitors with tones, while others use prerecorded messages.  The more advanced models on the other hand, well you communicate with visitors through the use of an intercom system, which you install at the end of your driveway.

All types of wireless driveway alarms feature a receiver and a transmitter.  Any presence in your driveway is detected by the transmitter, normally through infrared equipment, which notifies you through the receiver.  Most models will allow you to speak through the receiver, transmitting your voice through the transmitter.  If a solicitor or burglary is trying to visit your home, your voice is normally all it takes to turn them around in the other direction.

Even though the technical name is “wireless driveway alarm”, there are several uses for this technology.  You can install the equipment in your yard, out of plain view, or even use the system as an intercom for anyone who pulls up to your gate.  You can also install the system on your roof, or just use it strategically around your property.  There are several uses for wireless systems, although the intention is to alert you when there is any type of human presence or movement on your property.

When you set up your wireless driveway system, you should always place it somewhere where it isn’t easy to see.  You don’t want someone who visits your property to have plain view of your equipment, as it can easily give you away.  Instead, you want to make sure that you are alert of any visitors, yet they aren’t aware that you are using any type of alarms.

Depending on how much money you have to spend, the systems that you can choose from will vary.  There are simple wireless driveway alarms out there, yet there are also systems that can do just about anything you want.  If you live in a suburban area, you may want to go with a standard wireless alarm.  Standard alarms are best for this type of neighborhood, as they are easy to install and will immediately alert you whenever there is presence on your property.  Another great thing about these types of systems is the fact that you can act immediately without having to physically be in touch with the receiver.

All in all, wireless driveway alarms are a great security measure for anyone who owns a home and wants to protect themselves from unwanted visitors.  You can get a slew of features as well, depending on the type of alarm that you select.  You can install most alarms yourself, although the more advanced models will require professional installation.  The self installation types will come with instructions as well, so you won’t encounter any problems.  Even if you’ve never used them before – wireless driveway alarms are a great investment that will alert you anytime someone decides to visit your property.

Tips For Stopping Spraying

Anytime your cat backs himself up to a door or other object in your house, lifts his tail, and releases urine – you have a problem.  This problem is known as spraying, and is very common with cats kept indoors.  Even though it is a very annoying problem, it’s a problem that can be solved. 

Contrary to what many think, spraying isn’t a litter box problem, but rather a problem with marking.  Cat urine that is sprayed contains pheromones, which is a substance that cats and other animals use for communicating.  Pheromones are much like fingerprints with humans, as they are used to identify the cat to other animals.

When a cat sprays something, he is simply marking his territory through his urine.  The spraying is simply the cat’s way of letting others know that the territory is his.  Even though it may make you mad and annoy you, getting angry with your cat will solve nothing.  If you raise your voice or show angry towards your cat, it can very well result in more spraying.

Cats that are in heat are easily attracted to the odor of urine.  For cats in heat, spraying is more or less an invitation for love.  Often times cats that spray while in heat results in a litter of kittens that are born in just a few short months.  Keep in mind that cats not only spray during heat, as some will also spray during encounters with other cats, or when they are feeling stressed.

Although spraying is a way of communicating for cats, the smell for people is horrible.  The good thing here is that most cats will do a majority of their spraying outdoors.  If you have an indoor cat that never goes outside, spraying can indeed be a problem.  If you’ve noticed spraying in your home, you should take action and do something about it immediately.

The most effective and also the easiest way to stop spraying is to have your cat either neutered or spade, which of course depends on the sex.  Most male cats that have been neutered will stop spraying the same day they have the surgery. If you don’t want to get your cat neutered or spayed, you should look into other options.  If you hope to one day breed your cat, you certainly don’t want to have him neutered or spayed.

The best thing to do in this situation is to talk to your veterinarian.  He will be able to give you advice, and possibly even solve the problem without having surgery.  There may be a medical problem present that is causing the problem, which your vet can identify.  You should always do something about spraying the moment it starts – simply because cat urine stinks and it can leave stains all over your home.

 

Following A Builder for Profits – An Example

As the real estate market begins to calm down, many worry about making a profit on their homes. Here’s an example of the “follow the builder” profit strategy.

Follow That Builder

In many areas of the country, there are builders who build hundreds of houses each year within a fifty mile radius of each other. They build entire communities, or are one of three to five builders who build entire communities around big employment centers. This is important. Hang with me and you’ll find out why.

Serendipity

The first couple I met who worked the pattern I’m talking about did it the first time almost by accident. They bought one of the first houses built-in a neighborhood that took about two years to build out. Toward the end of the two-year period, they were out for a walk and, on impulse, went into a house under construction that represented a bit of a “move up” from their home. The same builder who had built their home was building it.

The couple went to the sales office of the builder and found out that the house they’d walked through was already under contract. They were shocked to find out the price was $150,000 more than they’d paid for their home! The house was a little larger, but not enough to account for the difference. In fact, they found out their home had increased $100,000 in value.

A Repeatable Pattern

Builders usually have bright, attractive, cheerful, enthusiastic people on their sales forces. These people often have a wealth of knowledge. They know (or can usually find out) which communities the builder has built-in, is building in, and maybe even where they’re going from there. They know a lot about the pattern of price increases for various models. They have some idea of the speed of build out.

It’s also possible to take walks in a builder’s neighborhoods and ask people how that builder is to work with, if construction and “punch list” completion are done reasonably and well, and if they’d choose that same builder again under similar circumstances.

If all the information you develop is favorable, you can start to “follow that builder.” Builders usually sell the first few houses in a neighborhood for less money than any of the homes subsequently built. They’re contracted for before the streets and amenities are complete, and it takes a lot more imagination to see a charming, pleasant neighborhood where now there’s only mud and bulldozers.

Follow the builder is a strategy that has been used. If you like a particular builder, you can use the strategy to put serious money in your pocket.

Home Equity Scams For You?

A home is the most expensive investment most people will ever own. For cash-strapped homeowners a home equity loan is a temptingly easy way to get cash. However, some home equity lenders are dishonest, and gullible consumers are at risk of losing their biggest asset. Borrowers should be wary of unscrupulous lenders and their scams to avoid losing their homes.

Financially unsophisticated homeowners, such as the elderly, members of minority groups and people with poor credit ratings, are often targeted by unscrupulous lenders using unethical lending practices.

One tactic used is called “equity stripping”. In this instance, cash-strapped prospective borrowers who the lender knows cannot met the monthly payments are encouraged to exaggerate their income on the application form to help get the loan approved. As soon as the borrower fails to meet the monthly payment, the lender forecloses, stripping the borrower of all the equity in the home. Low-income homeowners should beware of lenders who encourage them to accept loans which they cannot afford to repay.

Another tactic is the balloon payment. A borrower who is falling behind in mortgage payments is offered mortgage refinancing at a lower monthly payment. However, the payments are lower because they cover only the loan interest. At the end of the loan term, the principal that is, the entire amount of the loan is due in one lump sum called a balloon payment. If the borrowers cannot make the balloon payment or refinance, the home is foreclosed.

Loan flipping is another deceptive practice. The company holding a homeowner’s mortgage offers to refinance in order to give the homeowner extra cash, but charges high points and fees for doing so. The extra cash received may be less than the additional costs and fees charged for the refinancing; moreover, interest must be paid on the extra charges.

Home improvement scams are very common. A contractor offers to install a new roof or remodel a kitchen at a price that sounds reasonable, and offers financing through a lender he knows. Sometimes the contractor even attempts to get the homeowner to sign blank contract forms with the promise they will be filled in later when the contractor is “less busy”. Often, the rates offered are not competitive, and as soon as the contractor has been paid by the lender, he has no interest in completing the job to the homeowner’s satisfaction. The homeowner is left with unfinished or shoddy work and a large loan to pay off.

Credit Insurance Packing is the charging of extra fees at the closing of a mortgage. A homeowner and a lender come to an agreement on a mortgage, but at closing, the lender tacks on charges for credit insurance or other “benefits” that the borrower did not ask for and did not discuss. The lender hopes the borrower won’t notice this, and just sign the loan papers with the extra charges included. If the borrower questions the last-minute charges, the lender may state that the charges are standard policy for all loans, and if objections continue, the lender will claim that it will take several days to draw up a new contract, or that the bank manager may reconsider the loan altogether. Due to these last-minute pressure tactics, the loan may wind up costing considerably more than initially stated. Borrowers who agree to buy the insurance are paying extra for a product they may not want or need.

Mortgage Servicing Abuses occur after the mortgage has been closed. Borrowers get bills from mortgage companies for payments such as escrow for taxes and insurance even though the homeowner agreed beforehand with the lender to pay those items themselves. Bills arrive for late fees, even though payments were made on time. Or a message may arrive saying that the homeowner failed to maintain required property insurance and the lender is buying more costly insurance at the homeowner’s expense. Other unexplained charges such as legal fees are added to the amount owing, increasing the monthly payments or the amount owing at the end of the loan term. The lender does not provide an accurate or complete account of these charges. When homeowners get tired of these tactics and ask for a payoff statement in order to refinance with another lender, they receive inaccurate or incomplete statements. The lender makes it almost impossible to determine how much has been paid and how much is still owing on the loan.

Homeowners should avoid signing over the deed to their properties to lenders under any circumstances. If a borrower is in danger of foreclosure, a second “lender” may offer to help prevent the loss of the home, if only the homeowner will sign over the property as a “temporary” measure. The promised refinancing never arrives, and the lender now owns the property. Once the lender has the deed to your property, he can treat it as his own. He may borrow against it or even sell it to someone else. The borrower no longer owns the home, and will receive no money when it is sold. The lender can treat the borrower as a tenant and the mortgage payments as rent. If the “rent” payments are late, the borrower can be evicted.

To protect against unethical lending practices, homeowners should never agree to loans beyond the means of their monthly income; sign any documents before reading the fine print; or let any lender pressure them into signing immediately. Never allow the promise of extra cash or lower monthly payments get in the way of good financial judgment. If a loan sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Always ask specifically if credit insurance is required as a condition of the loan. If the added security of credit insurance is desired, shop around for the best rates. Keep careful records of all payments, including billing statements and canceled checks. Challenge any inaccurate charges; many companies hope that borrowers will simply not be bothered.

Hire contractors only after checking their references, and get more than one estimate for any job. Borrowers who are financially inexperienced should consider consulting with an accountant or an attorney before signing a loan.