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Jumpstart Your Renovation with a Fed Insured Loan

Most hardworking homeowners know all too well the struggle with costly home repairs and improvements. Whether it is a steady flow of little problems, a large unexpected repair or a real-life version of the Money Pit - keeping up can, for many, become insurmountable. What many folks don't realize, however, is that there are legitimate government programs which enable homeowners to receive relatively simple, low-interest loans for property rehabilitation - and they're not quite what most people think.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have developed a way to make it easier for homeowners to make necessary repairs and/or upgrades to both newly-acquired properties and homes that have been owned long-term. For those who are loathe to involve themselves with the federal government either because they are true bootstrappers - or because they foresee endless red tape - the first thing to know is that these are loans administered through private lenders. The FHA and HUD simply insure the loans and this helps to both make them easier to obtain and expedite the process. The second thing to remember is that this is not free money. These are loans to qualifying homeowners and repayment is required. What these programs offer is a higher probability of qualification, lower interest rates, and less red tape than mainstream loans through private lenders.

The two main federal programs are HUD's Title I Home & Property Improvement Loan and FHA's 203(k) Rehab Mortgage Insurance. HUD's Title I was developed to be used for alterations, repairs and improvements for a single family house that has an existing mortgage. It is not to be used when buying a property but can be used in conjunction with the 203(k) if refinancing is involved. The maximum loan amounts range from $7500 to $25,000 and these amounts depend largely on how the property is classified. Maximum loan terms are anywhere between 12-20 years and there is no penalty for pre-payment. While the interest rate is fixed and based on common market rate in the area, it is often negotiable. One very appealing aspect of the Title I loan is that any amount under $7500.00 does not require a mortgage or deed-backed security. For do-it-yourselfers, this can be a wonderful way to get things done, because the loan amount can be used entirely for materials.

FHA's 203(k) Rehab Mortgage Insurance can also be used for alterations to an existing home, but is most commonly utilized by buyers looking to finance both the purchase of a home and the cost of its rehab together in one single mortgage. This is an excellent program for folks looking to buy a "fixer-upper", because it helps to avoid the costly and complicated process of many interim-acquisition improvement loans. These often come with high interest rates, short repayment terms and hefty balloon payments because the value of the property prior to renovations can be difficult to determine. The FHA also offers a 203(b) Streamlined loan for homes requiring less than $5000.00 of work. Because the 203(k) loans involve mortgages, the terms are more involved than the Title I loans, but this information - and and anything else you need to know about HUD and FHA loans can be easily found at portal.hud.gov.

It is understandable that many self-sufficient property owners will scoff at the notion of any type of public programs. But again, it is important to understand that these are really nothing more than insurance incentives intended to protect lenders - quite like the way the FDIC protects your bank accounts. Also, by keeping a home safe, attractive and functional, you work to benefit entire communities and society as a whole. Both of these programs can be used to make alterations needed for persons with disabilities and upgrades to keep a home as energy efficient as possible. And, perhaps most importantly, a well-maintained home keeps neighborhood property values up, excessive development down and can provide future generations with affordable homes that have character and historical significance.

Top 10 Home Improvement Fixes for Return on Investment

Are you looking for the most bang for your home improvement buck? Then you'll be interested in this recent infographic by Nationwide Insurance, which details the top 10 home improvement for getting a return on your investment.

The infographic breaks down the ROI of your classic home improvement jobs, like a kitchen or bath renovation, as well as some not-so-classic investments, such as landscaping or flooring.

So where can you get the most bang for your buck? Click the link above to find out.

Stop beating up the broken TV and fix it already!

Parts Shopping Made Easy

One of the bigger obstacles facing those who would look to extend the life of their home appliances is the challenge of finding replacement parts. DIY repair on older models of refrigerators, dishwashers, dryers and the like in particular can prove frustrating when the manufacturer no longer makes parts readily accessible.

So news of the new ecommerce site PartSimple.com should be met with raucous cheers from the hordes of frustrated DIYers out there. With a catalogue of over two million replacement parts from hundreds of brands, the site has certainly set itself up for imminent bookmarking.

Brands represented include many in consumer electronics and appliances, including Sony, Panasonic, LG, Frigidaire, Maytag, Whirlpool and many more. Even George Foreman Grills is represented.

So if you're a true DIYer with some failing gadgets or appliances, check out the site. You may just find what you need.

Give to Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild Japan.

Help Japan Rebuild

The devastation wreaked upon the nation of Japan by the 9.0 earthquake on March 11 and the tsunami that followed have left wide swaths of the coast in ruins. Thousands upon thousands have been displaced as homes were rocked to the ground and/or swept away by the massive waves that surged across the land.

Clean up efforts are already underway, but the nation looks -- and will continue to look -- for as much help as the world can give.

Front and center on the relief effort side of things is Habitat for Humanity, which has mobilized volunteers to help with the clean-up process. While a long-term plan is being plotted, Habit for Humanity foresees its response to last for as long as two years.

To get involved in the volunteer clean-up and rebuild effort, email info@habitatjp.org. Donations can be made through the Habitat website at www.habitat.org or the Habitat for Humanity Japan site at www.habitatjp.org.

We're all wishing for the speediest of recoveries for the nation of Japan. Our hearts and minds continue to be with them in this most trying of times.

Are you in one of the top 25 counties for remodeling in 2011?

Top 25 Counties for Remodeling

Want to find out if your county is in the Top 25 for Remodeling in 2011? Hanley Wood has put together their top 25 U.S. counties with the most potential to see a big jump in remodeling and replacement work in 2011.

According to data collected by the outlet, these 25 were picked based on what they consider factors that cultivate a strong remodeling environment, including:

  • Healthy economic conditions

  • Healthy economic forecast

  • An ample housing stock amenable to remodeling (old--but not too old--houses)

  • Large number of remodeling-inclined households

  • Strong forecast on Residential Remodeling Index (RRI)

  • That last item can be found in the January 2011 issue of REMODELING.

    It's interesting to note that three Texas counties were placed in the top 25. The top county for remodeling in 2011? Howard, Maryland.

    For more info on the particulars of the counties selected, check out the full Hanley Wood article.

    Make sure your contractor is playing by the rules.

    Is Your Contractor Building By the Rules?

    The good people at this handy little online resource shared a list of 20 Ways To Spot if Your Contractor Isn't Complying with Code.

    A few of the ways that stood out for me included:

    1) Your contractor doesn't give you a detailed quote. This is often because he's not pulling permits, so the quote wouldn't include a line for the building permit costs, which would be (or should be) an instant red flag for the homeowner.

    2) No plans or drawings are submitted. Permits require drawings or plans. If the contractor doesn't have any, guess what? He also most likely does not have the permits.

    3) He does not offer you a copy of the lien waiver once the job is completed. This is an important one, as it ensures that you are not held responsible for the material costs from the companies the contractor has not yet paid.

    Check out the full list at the Construction Management Degree website.

    Work on homes built before 1978 must comply with the EPA's new lead paint regulations.

    EPA's Renovation, Repair and Painting Regulation Now Enforced

    As of Friday, the EPA's new Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule--which took effect this past April--will now be enforced. The new regulation covers work done on homes built before 1978 and is in place to protect against lead paint.

    For those of you who missed the announcement on the rule, you can find a quick primer here or take a look at the EPA site for the new regulation.

    Failure to comply with the new regulations can earn a contractor a whopping $37,500 fine. Work performed on homes, schools and day-care center built before 1978 must comply with the new regulations.

    Homeowners would do well to know the new regulations and to ensure that a hired contractor is in compliance.

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