REAL ESTATE: 10 steps to buying a home

June 10, 2015: 2:27 PM ET

A credit score is a number calculated from a formula created by Fair Isaac based on the information in your credit report. You have three different credit scores, one for each of your credit reports.


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A low credit score may hurt your chances for getting the best interest rate, or getting financing at all. So get a copy of your reports and know your credit scores. Try Fair Isaac’s

Errors are common. If you find any, contact the agencies directly to correct them, which can take two or three months to resolve. If the report is accurate but shows past problems, be prepared to explain them to a loan officer.

2. Set your budget. Next, you need to determine how much house you can afford. You can start with an online calculator. For a more accurate figure, ask to be pre-approved by a lender, who will look at your income, debt and credit to determine the kind of loan that’s in your league.

The rule of thumb is to aim for a home that costs about two-and-a-half times your gross annual salary. If you have significant credit card debt or other financial obligations like alimony or even an expensive hobby, then you may need to set your sights lower.

Another rule of thumb: All your monthly home payments should not exceed 36% of your gross monthly income.

The size of your down payment will also determine how much you can afford.

3. Line up cash. You’ll need to come up with cash for your down payment and closing costs. Lenders like to see 20% of the home’s price as a down payment. If you can put down more than that, the lender may be willing to approve a larger loan. If you have less, you’ll need to find loans that can accommodate you.

Various private and public agencies — including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration, and the Department of Veterans Affairs — provide low down payment mortgages through banks and mortgage companies. If you qualify, it’s possible to pay as little as 3% up front.

A warning: With a down payment under 20%, you will probably wind up having to pay for private mortgage insurance, a safety net protecting the bank in case you fail to make payments. PMI adds about 0.5% of the total loan amount to your mortgage payments for the year.

Once you’ve considered the down payment, make sure you’ve got enough to cover fees and closing costs. These may include the appraisal fee, loan fees, attorney’s fees, inspection fees, and the cost of a title search. They can easily add up to more than $10,000 — and often run to 5% of the mortgage amount.

If your available cash doesn’t cover your needs, you have several options. First-time homebuyers can withdraw up to $10,000 without penalty from an Individual Retirement Account, if you have one, though you must pay taxes on the amount. You can also receive a cash gift of up to $14,000 a year from each of your parents without triggering a gift tax.

Check on whether your employer can help; some big companies will chip in on the down payment or help you get a low-interest loan from selected lenders. You can also tap a 401(k) or similar retirement plan for a loan from yourself.

4. Find an agent: Most sellers list their homes through an agent — but those agents work for the seller, not you. They’re paid based on a percentage, usually 5 to 7% of the purchase price, so their interest will be in getting you to pay more.

You need “exclusive buyer agent.” Sometimes buyer agents are paid directly by you, on an hourly or contracted fee. Other times they split the commission that the seller’s agent gets upon sale. A buyer’s representative has the same access to homes for sale that a seller’s agent does, but his or her allegiance is supposed to be only to you.

5. Search for a home. Your first step here is to figure out what city or neighborhood you want to live in. Look for signs of economic vitality: a mixture of young families and older couples, low unemployment and good incomes.

Pay special attention to districts with good schools, even if you don’t have school-age children. When it comes time to sell, you’ll find that a strong school system is a major advantage in helping your home retain or gain value.

Try also to get an idea about the real estate market in the area. For example, if homes are selling close to or even above the asking price, that shows the area is desirable. If you have the flexibility, consider doing your house hunt in the off-season — meaning, generally, the colder months of the year. You’ll have less competition and sellers may be more willing to negotiate.

Be wary of choosing search criteria that are too restrictive. For example, select a price range 10% above and 10% below your true range. Add a 10-mile cushion to the location you specify.

6. Make an offer. Once you find the house you want, move quickly to make your bid. If you’re working with a buyer’s broker, then get advice from him or her on an initial offer. If you’re working with a seller’s agent, devise the strategy yourself.

Try to line up data on at least three houses that have sold recently in the neighborhood. If you really want the house, don’t lowball. The seller may give up in disgust. Remember, that your leverage depends on the pace of the market. In a slow market, you’ve got muscle; in a hot market, you may have none at all.

There’s no foolproof system for negotiating a fair price. Occasionally it’s best to deal directly with the seller yourself. More often it’s better to work exclusively through intermediaries.

Be creative about finding ways to satisfy the seller’s needs. For instance, ask if the seller would throw in kitchen and laundry appliances if you meet his price — or take them away in exchange for a lower price.

Once you reach a mutually acceptable price, the seller’s agent will draw up an offer to purchase that includes an estimated closing date (usually 45 to 60 days from acceptance of the offer).

7. Enter contract. Have your lawyer or buyers agent review this document to make sure the deal is contingent upon:

1. your obtaining a mortgage

2. a home inspection that shows no significant defects

3. a guarantee that you may conduct a walk-through inspection 24 hours before closing.

You also need to make a good-faith deposit — usually 1% to 10% of the purchase price — that should be deposited into an escrow account. The seller will receive this money after the deal has closed. If the deal falls through, you will get the money back only if you or the home failed any of the contingency clauses.

8. Secure a loan. Now call your mortgage broker or lender and move quickly to agree on terms, if you have not already done so. This is when you decide whether to go with the fixed rate or adjustable rate mortgage and whether to pay points. Expect to pay $50 to $75 for a credit check at this point, and another $150, on average to $300 for an appraisal of the home. Most other fees will be due at the closing.

If you don’t already have one, look into taking out a homeowner’s insurance policy, too. Most lenders require that you have homeowner’s insurance in place before they’ll approve your loan.

9. Get an inspection: In energy suppliers addition to the appraisal that the mortgage lender will make of your home, you should hire your own home inspector. An inspection costs about $300, on average, and up to $1,000 for a big job and takes two hours or more.

Ask to be present during the inspection, because you will learn a lot about your house, including its overall condition, construction materials, wiring, and heating. If the inspector turns up major problems, like a roof that needs to be replaced, then ask your lawyer or agent to discuss it with the seller. You will either want the seller to fix the problem before you move in, or deduct the cost of the repair from the final price. If the seller won’t agree to either remedy you may decide to walk away from the deal, which you can do without penalty if you have that contingency written into the contract.

10. Close the deal. About two days before the actual closing, you will receive a final HUD Settlement Statement from your lender that lists all the charges you can expect to pay at closing.

Review it carefully. It will include things like the cost of title insurance that protects you and the lender from any claims someone may make regarding ownership of your property. The cost of title insurance varies greatly from state to state but usually comes in at less than 1% of the home’s price.

The lender might also require you to establish an escrow account, which it can tap if you fall behind on your mortgage or property tax payments. Lenders can require deposits of up to two months’ worth of payments.

The actual closing is often somewhat anticlimactic. It’s a ritual affair, with customs that differ by region. Your lawyer or real estate agent can brief you on the particulars.

CNNMoney (New York) First published May 29, 2015: 12:16 PM ET


Gardening…………? | Yahoo Answers

Know what sort of soil you are working with. If you aren’t familiar with soil types, take a sample to your extension agent or garden center. They can help identify your soil type and help you choose how to amend it or whether or not it needs amendments.

Know the requirements of your chosen plantings. You don’t want DIY to put a rose bush in the shade, for home improvement example, if you want blooms. Roses want sunshine.

Know your good garden pests and bad garden pests. There is no point in battling a beneficial insect. There is also no point in allowing a marauder to remain in your garden.

Learn to recognize weeds vs. your plantings. There is nothing more heartbeaking than tearing our your seedlings thinking they are weeds. Or leaving a weed to flourish thinking you planted it :p Been there. Done that.

What’s the difference between “wood” and “wooden” as an adjective?

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Wood, Clemens welcome Max Scherzer into 20-strikeout club

Washington creative outdoor designs Nationals righty Max Scherzer struck out DIY Safety 20 Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, which tied the major league record for a nine-inning game and put him in an exclusive club with Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens¬†(who recorded 20 K’s twice).

Wood chimed in on Twitter shortly after the game, while Clemens DIY offered his comments to St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Jose de Jesus Ortiz.

Scherzer later replied to Wood’s tweet.

Scherzer’s achievement brought out plenty of other reaction on Twitter:

HOME – YouTube

We are living in exceptional times. Scientists tell us beautiful gardens that we have 10 years energy directory to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth’s climate.

The stakes are high for us and our children. Everyone should take part in the effort, and HOME has been conceived to take a message of mobilization out to every human being.

For this purpose, HOME needs to be free. A patron, the PPR Group, made this possible. EuropaCorp, the distributor, also pledged not to make any profit because Home is a non-profit film.

HOME energy suppliers has been made for you : share it! And act for the planet.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand

HOME official website

PPR is proud to support HOME

HOME is a carbon offset movie

More information about the Planet

Curing wood? | Yahoo Answers

Timber – rotting problems

wet rot

Every house uses timber in its construction or decoration, and while it can last a long time, it is a died material and nature has various methods of making it decay unless it is looked after. Providing it is well maintained, timber will last many life times. Below two areas of timber rot found in the UK are addressed – dry rot and wet rot.

Dry Rot (contributed by

Dry-rot fungus is often thought of as a building cancer, rampaging through buildings and rapidly destroying any timber in its path. The fungus, which thrives in moist unventilated conditions, will penetrate brickwork to get to more timber and can cause widespread destruction of structural timbers, skirting boards and door frames, and wood flooring.

In short, the fungus can be thought of as ‘living in masonry and eating wood’, and because the fungus thrives in damp, unventilated conditions, it can occur in the areas of a property that are not often seen, such as floor voids, or behind timber panelling, so damage may be extensive before the attack is discovered.

What to look for:

Initially the fungus appears as off-white felt-like or cotton-wool like sheets on brickwork and timber, and, in later stages, can develop fungal strands as thick as your finger. Where the fungus is exposed to light, it often has a lemon-yellowish tinge.

Damage is often confined to timber but large flat mushroom-like fruiting bodies can easily grow through finishes such as plaster or paint. These fruiting bodies may be the first visible sign of a problem, and they produce numerous spores which are normally brick-red in colour.

Entirely dry-rot decayed timber can be crumbled between your fingers. The fungus leaves deep cracks running across the grain, and there is often evidence of off-white sheets of the fungus on the wood.


The term dry-rot came from the belief that the fungus is able to transport moisture from a source many metres away, to attack dry wood. In fact, although the fungus can transport moisture over several metres, it cannot transport anywhere near enough moisture to attack wood that is otherwise dry.

Treating dry-rot can involve removal of the affected timber (including all timber for a metre beyond the visible signs of the fungus), and extensive chemical fungicide treatments for all adjacent timber and the brickwork of any contaminated walls and plaster. However, this approach is expensive and unnecessary.

The modern approach is to use environmental controls, such as isolation and ventilation, which ensure that the damp, unventilated conditions required by dry-rot do not occur. The techniques are simple ways to ensure that the timber in a property does not become damp enough for dry-rot to attack, for instance replacing dry-rot decayed joists with new timber using joist hangers, instead of building them back into the brickwork, or by using ventilated skirting board details to encourage ventilation of a floor void.

Replacement door frames should have a strip of damp-proof membrane around the outside, to fully isolate them from damp or potentially damp brickwork, so the timber would never become damp enough for dry-rot to ‘eat’.

If you have dry rot, it is probably best to have the problem looked at, and corrective action taken by a reputable specialist firm, so that you have a guarantee if the problems were to return.

If you would like further information regarding dry-rot, wet-rot, woodworm or damp problems in your property, please contact: Nicholas Clifford, Managing Director, Checkwood Environmental Solutions Ltd. Tel: 0208 393 7997, Email: or web-site

Wet Rot top

Compared with dry rot, wet rot is hardly a problem ! It is basically the timber decaying naturally in the presence of high levels of moisture. There is almost always a structural defect causing the problem, it may be that the wall adjacent to the timber is suffering from damp, or water collecting on the timber. Any structural problem must be tackled at the same time as the timber is treated otherwise the problem is likely to reoccur. The problem may just be damaged paint finish on the timber allowing the actual wood to absorb excessive moisture. Damage is normally limited to the timber although the original structural problem may also cause other areas to be affected by damp (such as plaster or just decorations).

What to look for:

Check vulnerable areas of timber, such as window and door frames, for signs of rot. The bottom of frames is more susceptible to rot where water can collect or the wall/floor is suffering from damp. If the paint finish is damaged, this can increase the risk of wet rot. However, although the paint may look sound, the timber underneath may be rotting from the back. You will often see a professional builder push a thin bladed knife into painted timber frames, the blade should stop after a very short distance; if it goes in up to the handle, it is a almost certainly a sign of rot behind the paint. Timber suffering from wet rot will feel spongy (even through a coat of paint) and look darker than the surrounding timber. When dry, the timber will easily crack and crumble into fine particles. Timber in the roof can also be at risk especially where there is roof damage allowing rainwater to run onto the roof timbers.


Ensure that all external timber frames are adequately painted to protect the timber from frontal ingress of water.

Be aware of any damp walls and address the problem, it could be a missing/damaged damp proof course (dpc), a bridged dpc or a bridged cavity. If necessary seek expert advice as the symptom may be just a sign of a bigger problem.

Make sure that any soil and other debris is cleared away from around the bottom of timber frames.

Check the roof space for the ingress of water, you may not see daylight through a hole in the roof, the water could be running down the underfelt behind the tiles onto timber energy directory some distance away from the hole. When it is raining, go into the roof with a torch, the shining of water on a timber or felt normally stand out very easily.

Other favoured places for wet rot are under the kitchen sink, bath, shower, washing basins, toilet and behind the washing machine etc.; all areas where a small leak from either a water supply or drain could go unnoticed for a long time but where timber could become saturated with water.


First of all treat any structural problem, there is no point in repairing the damage to the timber if it is going to reappear.

If wet rot occurs in structural timbers (such as roof trusses, floor joists), expert advice should be sought as the implication for structural integrity must be established.

In other areas, the rotten timbers should be removed and replaced; if the damaged area is fairly small, it can be cut away and a new piece of timber joined to that remaining. If the damage is confined to a very small outdoor ideas area, an epoxy based repair kit can be used to fill the damaged area once it has been cut back to sound timber and the new surface of the wood treated with a suitable primer. Preservative tablets are available which are inserted into the timber adjacent to the repaired area to protect the timber ‘from within’. If there is any doubt that the structural problem has been eliminated, the new and adjoining timber should be treated with a proprietary wet rot treatment before redecorating.

After repair, external timbers should be protected with adequate coats of paint or some plants other suitable timber treatment/preservative.

dry rot – wet rot

The Conversation: Guerrilla Gardening – ABC News

Richard Reynolds is a criminal, yes, but a criminal armed only with gardening tools and a passion for turning abandoned or uncared-for public spaces into areas of natural growth.

“Strictly speaking what we do is criminal damage, but I’m glad to say that most guerrilla gardening is about transforming public heating places that are neglected,” said Reynolds. “Common sense usually prevails and we don’t get prosecuted. … The disarming effects of having something beautiful at your hands normally means the policeman let’s you go.”

Reynolds, who had loved gardening from a young age, wanted to pick it up again, but realized he had no space to plant. The advertising executive did not give up, but rather looked at his city with a new found perspective.

“Six and a half years ago I realized I was itching to do something more than just a little bit of a window box or something more than house plants and the opportunity was on my doorstep, neglected public flower beds. … I decided I would be the one who started doing something about it,” said Reynolds.

The Conversation: Guerrilla Gardening

After several years of reinventing disregarded spaces, Reynolds’ hobby turned into more of a movement when he launched his blog Because of the blog other guerrilla gardeners in his own community and around the world have reached out to him, bonding over their pirate-style beautification, and documenting their exploits.

Reynolds has received stories from Berlin to Brazil and along the way discovered a history of guerrilla gardening that dates back to the 17th century. He says the modern day practice can be traced to New York City during the 1970s. For now his focus is on getting more people involved, nurturing a movement that began out of a purely botanical desire.

“My emphasis is on trying to encourage other people to do it,” said Reynolds. “Once you start looking at the landscape as a guerrilla gardener you do see potential in the way a regular gardener doesn’t.”

We hope you’ll watch today’s Conversation for more.

Click here to watch more Conversation videos.

This Couple Has 50 Christmas Trees Inside Their House

A Tennessee couple didn’t know what they were getting into when they decorated their first Christmas tree shortly after their marriage 53 years ago.

Now George “Buddy” Witherow and his wife Gloria spend months preparing for Christmas and what started with one small tree with pink metallic bulbs has grown into a forest of about 50 trees that spreads throughout their home in Smyrna.

“It’s been a lifetime thing for my wife,” George Witherow told ABC News of her passion for decorating.

Each year, the couple incorporates some new themes into the mix of trees and spends about two months setting up their winter wonderland before inviting guests to tour the trees starting in the beginning of November.

Their daughter’s old Grinch stuffed animal now serves as a topper for one of the trees.

Candy canes take over this particular tree at the Witherow’s house.

This is the Blue Delft tree which is topped with white tulips.

Copper cookie cutters and kitchen utensils decorate the copper tree, hanging cut glass adorns the chandelier tree, while a mix of crochet and doilie ornaments bring viewers back to a different era on the Victorian tree.

On the animal front, there’s the critter tree, a Noah’s Ark tree, a tree dedicated to the family’s love of moose, and a red bird tree.

The sports tree has a singing Bob Hope ornament and the Mardi Gras tree is made up of decorative masks collected from San Antonio and New Orleans.

Gloria Witherow said that she was inspired to make a ‘critter’ tree after the popularity of the children’s song “What Does Fox Say”

They have a singing Bob Hope ornament on their Sports tree.

The Mardi Gras tree is one of the new ones, with masks from Texas and Louisiana.

One of the most creative, newer trees that has been attracting a lot of attention on the guided tours that they give friends and relatives is the “blue DIY Safety delft” tree that highlights the style of Netherlandish pottery with ornaments and a delft village placed beneath the tree. Rather than using a star or figurine to top that tree, Gloria Witherow decided to use white tulips to finish off the international look.

Travel has been a big part of the couple’s lives and that is reflected in their trees, from the shells that George turned into ornaments after a trip to Florida, or the masks collected in Louisiana and Texas that adorn the Mardi Gras tree. They even have a dedicated travel tree that has ornaments from every place they’ve visited during their more than half century together.

“They’re all special,” George Witherow said. “When you look at them, they kind of conjure up a story about when you visited there.”

This Elvis ornament is part of the couple?s Travel tree.

Colors, themes and eras all served as inspiration for different trees.

Trees aren’t the only decorations that the Witherows use to get their house ready for creative outdoor designs the holidays.

They used to use real trees when their now-grown children were living in the house but now, largely due to their age, the septuagenarians have opted to use only fake trees. It’s also easier in terms of storage, and Gloria keeps all of her decorations in a 12 by 16 foot shed in the back of their property.

Last year, 50 to 60 people viewed the trees and the Witherows plan to wait until after New Year’s Day to start the process of dismantling the displays.

“And I take my time doing it!” Gloria Witherow said.

There is one tree devoted entirely to moose.

They also have a collection of nutcrackers on display.

Gardening :: History Of The Pawpaw Tree (Page 1 of 2)

Pawpaw trees were discovered in 1541 by the Spanish explorer, Hernando Desoto, on an excursion into the Mississippi Valley, and he sent samples of this plant back to Europe.

William Bartram in 1776 stated in his botanical book, Travels, that he found pawpaw trees growing on the Alatamaha River in Georgia and in east Florida, which he described as, ‘Annona incarna,’ the name later was updated by modern taxonomists. “The fruit the size of a small cucumber …containing a yellow pulp of the consistence of a hard custard, and a very delicious, wholesome food.”

This fruit is agreeably flavored and considered to be home improvement the largest native fruit of North America. The pawpaw trees are said to be endangered or threatened in the states DIY of New York and New Jersey, in the forests where it grows naturally.

The pawpaw tree grows across most of the eastern United States as a native tree. Mature pawpaw trees produce fruits 2″ wide by 10″ long, looking and tasting very much like a banana. The fruit is liked immensely by most people and may be purchased at many outdoor markets in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, etc. The pawpaw pulp has the consistency of creamy custard and may be eaten raw, baked, or used as a pie filling. The trees grow about 15′ tall and have been known to produce as much as 60 pounds of pawpaws per tree. Some individual pawpaws weigh up to home improvement a pound each. Zones 5-10

Much interest has been recently directed towards research and development of improved varieties of the pawpaw at Universities in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio. The large fruit is not well known in much of the United States, but its flavor and exotic shape make it a candidate for the expansive, potential of specialty fruit markets in the future. Taste it once fresh and you will feel compelled to have some of these pawpaw trees growing in your personal fruit orchard.

One of the great horticultural mysteries of the world is: why have most paw paw trees, that were plentiful throughout early U.S. forests, virtually disappeared from their natural habitat today? That answer may lie within the research results (Peterson 1991), that showed that the paw paw is sensitive to ultraviolet light, thus, paw paw seedlings may not grow back after the forests have been harvested, and there are very few virgin forests left in the United States. Paw paws can be found growing there abundantly, but once the forests are clean-cut, the paw paw will not usually become re-established.

These experiments must be clearly remembered, when you order your paw paw trees. They must be planted under partial shade of other trees, however, you may plant your pawpaw trees in the open, if the trees are grown under shade cloth for a couple of seasons. The tree will lose its sensitivity to full sunlight once it has become established and the shade cloth can be discarded.

Some gardeners wish to plant their pawpaw trees in pots for a couple of years under shady conditions, but this is not necessary if the above guidelines are followed. Since paw paw DIY trees are tap rooted, growth will be slow during the first year, but after that, very rapid growth occurs afterwards.

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