Home Improvements and Resale Value

When it comes to home improvements,it is important to consider which would be the most profitable in terms of resale value. Sometimes, it’s possible to get back all, or even more, of your investment. While some improvements, such as a remodeled kitchen or added bathroom, may add value to your home, others can actually make your home more difficult to sell. For example, not all prospective homebuyers will appreciate a full spa with a whirlpool, hot tub, steam bath, and built-in stereo system. In the same way, a swimming pool could be seen as a detraction due to the maintenance required.

So, how do you know which home improvements might increase your home’s resale value? Start by researching the recent selling prices for comparable homes in your neighborhood. If most homes range from $175,000 to $250,000, your top resale price will most likely be equal to or less than $250,000, no matter how many rooms, baths, hot tubs, or skylights you add. As you consider remodeling, keep in mind that it is usually difficult to recover any costs that raise the value of your property over comparable homes in your neighborhood. You may also choose to spend less on home improvements if you are thinking about moving in a few years.

The following interior home improvements may increase resale value:

1.  An interior facelift: Repainting ceilings, walls, and interior trim can create a clean, bright, and inviting appearance.

2.  A remodeled kitchen: The kitchen is viewed by many as the center of the home, and it often serves as a combination family room/workplace.

3.  Addition of a second bathroom: Many prospective homebuyers want more than one bathroom.

4.  Fireplace installation: Even though fireplaces may lose more heat than they provide, they do add considerable charm to a home.

5. Installation of central air conditioning: Central air conditioning could help sell your house if it is located in a warmer climate. In colder regions, buyers may be reluctant to pay extra for it because of the operating expense.

6.  Improvements in energy efficiency: Additional insulation, thermopane windows, and energy-efficient appliances could begin to pay for themselves immediately, even before selling your home.

7.  Refinished or newly installed hardwood floors: Hardwood floors can add character, durability, and elegance to your home and may add to the sale price.

When it comes to recovering your investment, home improvements can be a mixed bag. Depending on how long you plan to stay in your home, some improvements can enhance your lifestyle and be well worth the investment. Still, before you begin a remodeling project, consider what improvements may be most advantageous in terms of resale value. MM


Laid Off? Don’t Forget the Future, Even When the Pressure Is On the Present

Taken from Symetra Financial

This article is directed towards teachers at risk of losing their job, but the information is practical for people of all occupations.

Its’ a tough pill to swallow, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced there could be as many as 300,000 teachers laid off before the next school year begins in the fall of 2010 because the states and cities do not have the money to pay for public education. The unfortunate reality is, you may be one of them.

If that time comes, in addition to making decisions about your health and insurance benefits, you’ll also need to make decisions about what to do with your 403(b) retirement plan.

Don’t cash out your 403(b) if you can possibly avoid it. It’s one of the worst long-term financial decisions you could ever make. Keep the money you worked hard to save for retirement. What is a good solution for your retirment plan?

Rolling it Over

Typically, an IRA rollover gives you more control of your retirement money than leaving your money with your former employer. Your money is directly transferred from your 403(b) or 401K. This will help you avoid any tax penalties.

Rolling your money to a rollover IRA is a good way to make sure you keep your money saved for retirement. You get more control and you stick to your long-term goals.

So, take some time to review your expenses and see where you can cut back. If possible, tap into another savings. Do what you can to avoid the temptation to cash out of your retirement plan early and incur penalties. Your future self-will thank you.

At Maraletos Insurance we can help you make the right decisions for your Health, Life, 403(b), and 401K retirement plan.

Our office is available for a free consultation.

Dont hesitate to call us at (714) 593-6414. Or click here to visit our website

We wish you the best

When Does It Make Sense to Refinance Your Mortgage?

Over time, mortgage rates often fluctuate. Depending on where rates currently stand, now may or may not be a good time for homeowners to consider refinancing their mortgage. How can you determine whether it makes sense at any given point to refinance your mortgage? In the past, one rule of thumb was if the current interest rate was 2% lower than the rate you were paying on your existing mortgage, it made sense to refinance. Today, that general rule may still hold true in some cases. However, even if the current rate is less than 2% lower than your existing rate, refinancing may still be appropriate. Of course, a lower interest rate is not the only reason to refinance. Here is a review of several reasons why refinancing might make sense for you:

To Move from an Adjustable Rate to a Fixed Rate Mortgage: Many first-time homebuyers must go with an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) because they do not qualify for a fixed rate loan. If that was the case for you, perhaps your ARM is about to go up. If so, you may be able to “lock in” a lower rate by refinancing with a fixed rate mortgage.

To Build Equity at a Faster Rate: Perhaps you would like to pay off your mortgage in less than the traditional 30 years. A drop in interest rates may allow you to refinance your 30-year mortgage and replace it with a 20- or 15-year mortgage at a monthly payment that may be close to what you have been paying. This option may be attractive to homeowners who are nearing retirement and would like to pay off their mortgages before that time.

To Replace a Jumbo Mortgage with a Conventional One:

The threshold for a jumbo mortgage has steadily increased in the last few years to its current level of $417,000 (and 50% higher in Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). The difference between a jumbo and a conventional mortgage can be significant- usually 3/8 of a point or more. If you have a jumbo mortgage, you may be able to refinance and pay down enough to qualify for a conventional mortgage to get the lowest possible rate.

To Eliminate Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): PMI, which is required by most lenders if your original down payment was less than 20%, is tacked on to your monthly payment. If the value of your home has increased since you bought it, you may be able to eliminate the PMI just by having your house appraised. Or, you can eliminate the PMI when you refinanceif you have more than 20% equity in your home.

To Tap into Your Home’s Equity: If you have other debt or are anticipating new expenses, such as college tuition bills, you may want to refinance for a larger mortgage at a lower interest rate and use the extra cash to pay off the debt or forthcoming tuition bills.

To Take Advantage of a Lower Interest Rate: The most common reason for refinancing is that the current interest rate is significantly lower than the rate you are paying on your existing fixed rate mortgage. You will also need to consider variables such as refinancing costs, points, and how long you plan to stay in your home. It is wise to shop around to ensure you are getting the lowest rate possible and paying the lowest cost.

Deciding when to refinance depends on your personal financial situation and your plans for the future. You may want to do some number- crunching in advance to determine how low rates would need to drop for refinancing to make sense for you. Then, if rates decline, you will be ready to make your move. MM

Ten Ways to Stretch Your Money

1. Create a spending plan: Many people resist the idea of a budget and associate it with hardship. Instead, look at it in a positive way. Create a monthly “spending plan” for your fixed and discretionary expenses. When you plan your spending, you may find you spend more wisely because you’re taking control.

2.  Pay yourself first: Put savings at the top of your spending plan. If you wait until the end of the month to save any leftover cash, you may find yourself without a nest egg when you need it most. A good rule of thumb is to save at least 10% of your income before spending the rest.

3.  Track your spending: Record your expenditures for a month, especially for small optional items. You may be surprised to discover how easily purchases costing only a few dollars can add up. At the end of the month, review your expenditures and adjust your spending plan accordingly. Once you see where your money is going, you may want to make different choices about your spending.

4.  Live within your means: Many people feel they never have quite enough to live on, yet they probably know people who manage successfully on less. Spending is relative. If you live within your means, you will never overspend.

5.  Shop for value: Look for opportunities to get more value from each dollar. Join a warehouse or shopping club and buy in bulk. Purchase clothing, furniture, and household goods when they are on sale. Consider buying used cars and appliances. Big-ticket items like these often depreciate substantially in the first one or two years.

6.  Minimize debt: Keep your debt level low. By reducing debt, you also minimize interest and finance charges. When you are tempted to charge a purchase, remember that you are committing to pay for it from income you have not yet earned.

7.  Eat in: Restaurant dining can be expensive, since you are paying for service as well as food. Tips and meal taxes add 20% or more to the bill. Liquor and desserts (which you might not eat at home) can boost the tab even higher.

8.  Reduce housing costs: Housing is a major fixed expense. Consider reducing this cost by buying or renting a smaller place, or one with fewer amenities. If you rent and plan on staying in an area for more than a few years, consider buying. Owning a home is often more expensive than renting at first, but the costs are usually lower in the long run. Remember, a house is an investment that generally appreciates over time.

9.  Trim transportation costs: Transportation is another large expense for most families. Many households now own more than one vehicle. The more cars you own, the higher the costs for insurance, repairs, fuel, and parking. Use public transportation or carpool, if possible. The savings in vehicle-related expenses may offset any inconvenience.

10.  Create a cash reserve: A cash reserve can help you stick to your spending plan and help keep you out of debt when emergencies, such as a major car repair or short-term disability, arise.

Cutting back on excess spending does not have to be difficult, nor does it mean that you must continually deny yourself life’s simple pleasures. You will find that when you live with- in your means, and pay yourself first, your debts will decrease as your savings grow. A  personalized spending plan can help provide that “extra”income and stretch your hard-earned cash. MM

Can A Living Trust Replace Your Will?

When planning your estate, you may choose to set up a revocable living trust. A properly managed revocable living trust can provide unique benefits; however, it does not completely replace a will. In determining whether this type of trust is right for you, it helps to understand the major purpose, benefits, and tradeoffs of this estate planning tool.

A revocable living trust is created during your lifetime, and you can alter it in any way and at any time. One of its key features is that it allows you to retain control of the management and distribution of your assets.

The Probate Issue
Many people establish a revocable living trust to avoid probate, which is the legal process of settling your estate. Assets distributed from a trust upon your death do avoid probate. However, the probate process itself is not as burdensome for many estates as in the past. Many states have adopted the Uniform Probate Code, which greatly simplifies the process for many small- to medium-sized estates. But, even with improvements in the probate process, the probated assets in your estate still become a matter of public record, which raises important privacy concerns. Avoiding probate may also make sense if you own properties outside your state of domicile, which means your estate would be subject to multiple
probate proceedings. Once you set up a trust, you must transfer assets into it. Failing to do so will subject your assets to probate. Simply signing a trust document without retitling assets renders your living trust useless.

At Maraletos Insurance, our commitment is to provide individuals, families and businesses with the products and services they need to build and protect a secure future since 1989.

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What You Don’t Know About the Health Care Reform Bill

1. An Affordability Mirage:

Estimates say that a family of four with a household income of $54,000 would be expected to pay 17 percent of their income, $9,000, on government provided healthcare.

2. New Mandate on Individuals:

Government plans mandate that every American buy health insurance or pay a heavy tax. This would force more Americans into a government run system that will make health care more expensive in the long run.

3.Cost Passed on to You:

Government reform will hit the middle class particularly hard with higher taxes and new health costs. This will force struggling families into a plan that does not fit their needs.

This new bill will affect everyone, but it does not necessarily provide the best coverage for everyone.

Why should you care? What can you do?

Visit our site for news updates and a free, no-obligation consultation. Our health insurance experts will find a custom fit insurance plan for you, your family, or your business.

At Maraletos Insurance, our commitment is to provide individuals, families and businesses with the products and services they need to build and protect a secure future since 1989.