Subscribe to the AHCOPA Newsletter

Our newsletter serves as the main channel of outreach to our clients. It includes resources, tools and reminders related to the services we offer. Whether you are a first time home buyer, facing foreclosure, behind on property taxes or need other assistance and tips on maintaining your homeownership, these emails will provide a wealth of useful information. If you would like to subscribe, contact Jamila Blake at jblake@ahcopa.org Affordable Housing Center of Pennsylvania

Protect Your Home During Summer Vacation

The relaxing and fun filled days of summer are finally here. Many people will enjoy a short day trip on a hiking trail; an extended cruise; or heading to a beach house for the season. Before embarking on your travel plans, be sure to protect your most valuable asset – your home. Consider how long you will be away for the most practical safety and security tips.

  • Be mindful of your conversations and social media posts.
  • Save your report on what a great trip you had until AFTER you return home. Do not mention your plans to strangers, acquaintances, etc. Do not post pictures or comments prior to (and especially during) your travel.
  • Ask a trusted neighbor, relative or friend to make sure your home appears to be occupied. Ask them to pick up the mail; address landscaping issues; care for a pet; take out trash and collect the receptacles, etc.
  • Safeguard your valuables. Never leave anything of value out in plain sight. Lock up jewelry, electronics, sensitive documents or cash in a safe deposit box or a hidden safe within the house.
  • Place your electronics on a varied timer schedule. In particular, interior and exterior lights, televisions and a sound system.
  • Remove spare keys hidden outside of the home. A patient burglar will take their time to search for the obvious fake rock or under a doormat in order to gain access to your home.
  • Prevent damage. Unplug computers, TV’s, and small appliances for protection from an electrical fire or power surge. Turn off the main water supply.
  • Adjust your thermostat to allow lower usage of heating/cooling in your absence.
  • GPS devices and cell phone applications. Never set your “home” location as your exact address. Instead, choose a nearby park, school or other landmark. Anyone who may dishonestly gain access to your device or app will not know where you live.
  • Call your home security company to let them know you’ll be away.

 

Open House Etiquette

Attending an open house can be one of the most exciting opportunities to view a house during your quest to find the perfect home. Some people may enjoy the subtle fan fare that comes along with carefully staged rooms, information sheets on the property and the chance to trade research on the neighborhood with other prospective buyers who would otherwise be viewed as “the competition” if you also decide to make an offer there. There are many more people with whom you may interact. Those conversations and your actions could have a great impact on your pursuit of the property. Explore the links below for some helpful guidelines and strategies on open house etiquette.

The Essential Open-House Checklist
A Buyer’s Guide to Open House Etiquette
Open House Etiquette for Home Buyers

 

Understanding the Value of a Home Warranty

First time homeowners Glenn and Maggie had considered the typical costs for closing on their new Chicago home. The Atlanta natives had rented for several years and were mindful of the learning curve ahead. The first of many lessons occurred when the heat stopped working three months after they moved in.

The newlyweds were initially unaware of how to complete repairs on an outdated heating system. Luckily, Maggie remembered the home warranty that her father had recommended they purchase. They submitted a service claim and soon had an appointment with a repair technician.

A home warranty covers the costs of repairing or replacing the main systems of a home and certain appliances. This includes plumbing, electrical and heating systems; washers/dryers; refrigerators; etc. With a home warranty, repairs can be addressed through one resource at a much more reasonable cost than without the warranty in place. Whether your house is approaching 90 years old or is brand new construction, a home warranty offers invaluable protection and relief for the owner.

When choosing which company to pursue a policy with, there are several details to consider, such as premiums, service call fees and coverage limits or exclusions. Visit the links below to find out more.

What Is a Home Warranty, and Do You Need One?
What Is a Home Warranty? Peace of Mind for Home Buyers and Sellers
Maintenance Adds Surprise Costs to Homeownership
Consumers Advocate: Warranty Reviews

 

Budgeting for the Unexpected Costs of Your New Home

After settling in to your new home, you may think that you have the major expenses far behind you. However, your budget is still a work in progress! Many experts advise saving anywhere from 2%– 4% of the purchase price as an annual rainy day fund for your house. Review the topics below for a summary of the major ongoing (and unexpected) costs of your new home.

Maintenance and Repair
To your untrained eye, the porch, the chimney — it all looks good. But bring in a professional and they’ll inevitably find two or more things that need to be fixed. Review this list of potential repairs to see if you can take a proactive approach.

  • maintain cooling/ heating system and units
  • purchase a backup power generator
  • stabilize a purely aesthetic chimney
  • reseal the driveway
  • reinforce the deck
  • clean the gutters
  • repair any cracks in the siding
  • repair/replace kitchen appliances
  • fix any plumbing leaks
  • replace filters
  • seal your doors and windows
  • restain the floors or replace the carpet
  • regrout the bathroom
  • purchase rock salt, batteries and light bulbs

Landscaping for Décor and Practicality

For those with the skills range of a master gardener to someone who can barely keep their grass alive, landscaping presents a cost. Weed killer, fertilizer, flowers, fencing. A lawnmower, hose, rake, gloves, buckets and more. Even a layer of stones in drought-prone areas can require a cost higher than you may have estimated.

Cleaning
Whereas you might have had one vacuum and set of cleaning supplies in an apartment, now you may want to have multiple vacuums and sets of cleaning supplies so you don’t have to carry them between flights of stairs. If you opt to hire a cleaning person, it could potentially cost you $100 or more for every visit.

Time
A forgotten sacrifice that every homeowner makes. Whether you can DIY on repairs, décor, etc. or prefer to hire someone to complete these tasks, you will still invest your time, energy and attention.

Safety and Security
From fixing the front porch to installing an alarm system, adding motion-detector lights or lighting a footpath – those extra features are going to cost you extra money.

Pest Control
Dealing with termites, roaches, mice, etc. can cost a lot of money. Find a reliable, effective mode of control with a professional or DIY options to keep your home comfortable and pest free.

 

Preparing for Home Loan Pre-Qualification:
Understanding and improving your credit score

Many potential home buyers know that their credit score plays a fundamental part in their ability to secure the best loan terms for a mortgage. Presenting yourself as a low risk candidate for a loan is an excellent way to be offered a lower interest rate and affordable monthly payment amount, especially in your pursuit of pre-qualification with a lender.
Despite all of the other ways in which our credit scores can impact our lives (insurance, employment, renting, etc.), many people do not take a complete inventory of their credit history until they are interested in buying their first home. One’s ability to pay back their debt and manage their overall finances is reflected in their credit score. Explore the links below to understand the components of your score and implement strategies to build or improve your credit.

What is credit scoring?

Disputing Errors on Credit Reports

How Can You Change Your Credit Score in 30 Days?

4 Ways to Buy a House With Bad Credit