Angela Bergin's Blog
If you live in an older home or neighborhood there’s a good chance your house holds a rich history within. Aside from talking with the previous owners, most people don’t look much further into the stories their house might have.
If you’re curious about your family history there are resources available so you can find long lost relatives and discover where your family lived over the years. Most people don’t think to do the same research for their home, even though they might spend years in it.
Why should I research the history of my home?
There are many reasons why someone might want to learn more about the history of their home. The main reason is because it’s fun and interesting. Your search will bring you to places you’ve likely never been before, whether it’s federal records on the internet, or to dusty microfilm archives in your basement.
Aside from the fun of researching, your work could also bring to light useful information. You might be able to add to resale value by discovering additional details about the home. Similarly, if you come across old photos of the home you could attempt to restore some architectural and design details to their original form. Whether you do this to stay true to the roots of your home or to attempt to add value is up to you.
Where should I begin?
Like most research projects, the internet is probably your best place to start. To learn more about the property your home sits on you could search the National Archives land records. These records detail when a piece of land was transferred from the U.S. government to private ownership. In other words, you might be able to find information about the first person to ever own your home.
A good place to head from there is to run a title search on your property. You will most likely need to visit the town clerk or your local courthouse to access titles. This will paint a fuller picture of who the people who owned your home were.
Now that you know who, learning about the home itself will be much easier. There are several genealogy sites online (some free, others paid) which will help you learn about the previous inhabitants of your home. Feel free to Google their names, especially if they were a public figure. You might even find photos of your home.
What to do if you can’t find any information
Just because you can’t find any photos or details online doesn’t mean they don’t exist. You might need to reach out to relatives of previous owners to find out more information.
Another option is your local library. Not only do libraries have a local history section complete with town records, but the librarians are also trained researchers who will be able to help you navigate the stacks. You could discover books containing details like population, town meeting notes, and new ordinances, including building codes.
Once you’ve learned a bit about the history of your home, see if you can spot the changes that have been made to it over the years.
Carefully document your incomeWhen you sit down with a lender and hand them your proof if income, you want to make it as obvious as possible that you're earning money in a reliable and predictable way. Lenders will want to see multiple documents that can help paint a better picture of your income and finances, including:
- Bank statements
- Schedule C tax forms
- Profit and loss tax forms
- Completed tax returns
- Credit score (they will run a credit check)
Separate your business and personal financesIf you own your own business, you likely have business banking accounts you use for expenses and invoices. But freelancers and contract workers often simplify things by just using their personal checking and savings accounts for income. To make things clear for lenders, you should put your income and business expenses into a separate business account. Not only will this make it easier for lenders to quantify your income, but they can also use this information to see that your expenses are for helping your business rather than personal spending.
Timing is everythingThere are a number of factors that go into choosing the right time to apply for a mortgage. Being self-employed only complicates the matter since your income might not be as steady as your average wage worker. You'll want to commit to a mortgage at a time when you've had at least two consecutive years of good, reliable income. You'll need to prove this with the aforementioned documents (bank statements, tax forms, etc.). Part of this planning could be to avoid large business expenses in the two years leading up to your mortgage application. This isn't always possible, of course, but it could be enough to boost your apparent income to get you approved for a better loan.
Seek specialized lendersSome lenders are aware that there is a large portion of the country made up of self-employed workers and small business owners. They go out of their way to work with people who are self-employed so they can give them fair deals on their mortgages. To find specialized lenders, you'll have to do some research online, but it could make all the difference when it comes to getting approved for the loan you're looking for.
You've won!Congratulations! By reading this article you've won an all-expenses paid trip to the destination of your dreams. One of the most common scams affecting homeowners come in the form of phone calls, mail, or even door-knockers informing you that you've won some kind of prize. Unless you've specifically entered to win a certain prize, you can almost be certain that this is a scam.
Identity crisisWe've often heard of the dangers of identity theft, but homeowners in particular are an at-risk demographic. Identity thieves attempt to steal your personal information in order to commit fraud or crimes. To avoid identity theft, be responsible with your mail. Always shred mail with personal data and be sure to have someone take care of your mail for you when away from home for extended periods.
I noticed your roof needs to be repairedMany scams come in the form of people knocking on your door to offer a great deal on a service. People who solicit you and ask to be let into your home or onto your property to "inspect" part of your home should never be allowed in. They may actually be a roofer attempting to convince you to repair your roof (regardless of whether it needs to be repaired). Or, they could be a would-be burglar scoping out your residence. These scammers will attempt to sell you anything from "subsidized" and "energy efficient" home energy products all the way down to fixing imagined water/moisture issues in your basement.
Make $60k a year working from home!Work-from-home jobs do exist, and they're growing in number as technology makes it easier and more efficient than traveling. However, some job offers are too good to be true. Be wary of job offers that require you to enter personal information like your social security number before ever having met the employer. Many of these "too good to be true" jobs can be spotted when they ask you for money to get started. They may say to need to pay for your own training but then can make thousands, or will ask for a company buy-in that will pay off later. Regardless, never give money to a potential employer.
I came to read the metersSomeone in a safety vest with a name tag and clipboard knocks on your door and says they're from the energy company, water company, etc. They seem legitimate and tell you how important it is to have your meter read. The might even say you're eligible for a refund or subsidy. It's important to always ask representatives to show you their ID or ask them to call and make an appointment before letting them enter your home.
Two thirds of American homeowners are somewhere in the process of paying off a mortgage. It may seem like common sense that everyone should try to pay off their mortgage sooner rather than later. However, there are circumstances when it benefits a homeowner more to hold onto their mortgage longer.
In this article, we’ll offer some tips on paying off your mortgage, when you should refinance, and offer some tools that will help you along the long road to debt-free homeownership. If you’re a homeowner and find yourself asking these questions, read on.
I can afford to pay more each month on my mortgage, but should I?
In many cases, paying off your home as quickly as possible saves you money in the long run. A shorter loan term means less interest applied to your loan which could save you thousands of dollars in accrued interest.
What many people don’t think about is whether that money could be better spent elsewhere. If your mortgage interest rate isn’t too high, you might be better off allocating that extra income toward investments or retirement funds where they could earn you more in the long run.
This technique is typically most beneficial for younger homeowners. In your 20s and 30s you stand the most to gain from long-term investments, especially tax-benefitted retirement funds. Ultimately you’ll have to do the math, which is tricky because circumstances change; markets vary, our income goes up and down, etc. However, a good starting place is to determine whether you could earn more in retirement and investments than you could by paying off your mortgage sooner and therefore saving on interest.
I’ve owned my home for a few years now, should I refinance?
One way this can be accomplished is by refinancing to a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage which often darry slightly lower interest rates. This option is designed for people who have improved their credit and increased their income since signing their first mortgage.
Math isn’t my strong suit. How can I figure out my finances?
Use this mortgage calculator for determining how much you would save by making extra payments.
This refinance calculator will help you understand the potential benefits of refinancing your mortgage.
To determine how much you could earn through investments (rather than paying more toward your mortgage) use this helpful tool.
You might be able to increase your savings by creating a better budget for yourself. This website will help you make a detailed budget and hold yourself accountable each month.