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Consumer News and Advice Archive


Can you negotiate the price of a new home?

In real estate, almost everything is negotiable, so it is certainly worth a try. Now, this does not mean the builder will fall down and roll over. It is very common for builders to claim that their prices are based on fixed construction costs. Perhaps, but timing is everything. ...


Are special tax breaks available for historic rehabilitation?

Certified historic structures now enjoy a 20 percent investment tax credit for qualified rehabilitation expenses, if they are income producing properties. A historic structure is one listed in the National Register of Historic Places or so designated by an appropriate state or local historic district that is certified by the ...


What about state and local governments?

Just about every state now offers loans for renovation and rehabilitation at below-market interest rates through its Housing Finance Agency or a similar agency. Call your governor's office to get the name and phone number of the agency in your area. ...


Does the federal government offer home improvement programs?

Yes. Among the most popular:Title 1 Home Improvement Loan. HUD insures the loan up to $25,000 for a single-family home and lenders make loans for basic livability improvements - such as additions and new roofs - to eligible borrowers. ...


How can I finance work needed on a fixer-upper?

According to the Millennial Housing Commission created by Congress, few lenders are willing to administer home improvement loans. Most prefer to make home equity loans or unsecured consumer loans because they are easier to manage. Home improvement loans usually require inspections and irregular draws on the loan amount as ...


What kind of return can I expect from home improvements?

This will vary depending on the type of work that is done. Remodeling magazine publishes an annual "Cost vs. Value Report'' that can answer this question in more detail, based on the top 15 home improvements. A recent study it conducted says the highest remodeling paybacks have come from ...


What guidelines should I use to find a contractor?

Chances are you will need plenty of help making those major repairs and additions. But the last thing you will need is someone who fails to complete the job or botches it up. Finding good, responsible help is imperative. ...


How do I determine the value of a distressed property?

One of the best ways is to get your hands on a comparable market analyses. See what price similar properties have sold for in the past and find out the listing price of others currently on the market. ...


Is buying a fixer-upper in a “bad” area a good idea?

It depends. So-called "bad" areas---often described as those that are residentially unstable or poor - have offered an affordable means of homeownership for many---particularly young, first-time buyers and low- to moderate-income families interested in a home they can call their own. Whether it is right for you to buy a ...


Where can you find fixer-uppers?

They are literally everywhere, even in wealthy enclaves. What sets them apart is price. They have lower market value than other houses in the immediate area because they have either been poorly maintained or abandoned. ...


What are the benefits of having a co-op?

In addition to being able to take advantage of tax deductions, the National Association of Housing Cooperatives (NAHC) says shareholders will find that co-ops have low turnover rates, lower real estate tax assessments, reduced maintenance costs, resident participation and control, and the ability to prevent absentee and investor ownership. ...


What are co-ops?

Cooperative apartments - known as co-ops - are not really owned by people as real property. Instead, people own shares of stock in the company that owns the building in which they live. But for all practical purposes, the experts say owning a co-op is almost like owning real ...


What are the pros and cons of owning a townhouse?

On the plus side, exterior maintenance and repairs are minimal; there are no neighbors above or below the home like in an apartment; and because the homes are attached, they may offer a greater sense of security. ...


How do townhouses differ from condominiums?

While most condominiums are apartments, a townhouse is attached to one or more houses and can run the gamut from duplexes and triplexes to communities with hundreds of homes. Buyers separately own their homes and the land on which the houses sit. With a condominium, the unit owners jointly own ...


Are condos good investments?

They are a good way to enter into homeownership. The high price of single-family homes and the influx into the housing market of more single homebuyers have made condos relatively hot national investments. They have held their value as an investment despite economic downturns and problems with some associations. ...