Real Estate Corner    ^top
Q. Is there a minimum yearly income I have to earn to buy a home?

A. There is no minimum income required to finance the purchase of a home. Lenders look primarily at your credit rating, the amount of debt you have and whether you pay off your debt in a timely fashion.

However, it goes without saying that you have to have enough income to pay your monthly living expenses and outstanding debt requirements before even considering buying a home.

In order to buy a house these days, in most cases you will have to have enough cash to satisfy a down payment of 20% or more of the purchase price.

In addition there are the necessary closing costs associated with the purchase. These can be as much as 2% of the purchase price.

Then, of course, there are the monthly payments necessary to pay off the home loan and the monthly cost of maintenance and repairs.

Lenders take all this into consideration when determining whether or not you have enough income to comfortably buy a home.

Don't try to make these decisions yourself even though you may think you are qualified to buy. These are tough times and lenders now have very strict financial requirements for a loan. They will not give you a loan if they think you won't be able to make your payments now or in the future. So its best to meet with a lender before you start looking to determine how much you can afford to pay.

I'd be more than happy to discuss this further or answer any questions you may have about real estate. Just give me a call.

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." ~ Mahatma Ghandi

Can You Answer The Trivia Question?    ^top
In every issue you get the opportunity to challenge your mind and amaze your friends with the depth of your trivia knowledge by answering our trivia question.

Most people know that humans are made up of mostly water. But some parts of us contain more water than others.

What body part contains the most water?
  • A) Kidney
  • B) Lung
  • C) Brain
  • D) Heart
  • E) Liver
(Find the answer at the bottom right side of the letter)

What Happens To Your Pet If Something Happens To You?    ^top
Have you thought about what would happen to your pet if something happened to you? As far as the courts are concerned, pets are property, not loving companions and, in the absence of any preparations you've made ahead of time, they would be "disposed" of.

Even asking an estate-planning attorney to include a pet in an estate plan sometimes is not enough to protect that pet. Putting pets in wills in the form of a trust for their care can pose problems for these reasons:
  • They are not enforced until the probate process is complete, which can take months or years. Pets might be euthanized long before then.
  • They often are legally unenforceable. Example: You could leave your pet and the money to pay for its care to an heir in your will, but nothing in the law prevents that heir from pocketing the money and sending your pet to the pound.
  • They do nothing to ensure the care of pets when their owners are alive but in a coma or otherwise unable to look after their animals.
  • They are not honored in every state. Even if you live in a state where they are honored, the trust could be thrown out if you happen to die while in a state where they are not.
  • They can be overruled. Courts sometimes step in and overrule pet-care provisions in wills.
There are some better options that leave less to chance:

Free standing pet trust. This is a pet trust not included in your will. It avoids all of the problems described above if properly constructed. They are not cheap. An attorney will charge $1,500 or more to draft the trust, and assets must be set aside to fund it. When considering this, make sure you find an attorney who specializes in animal law.

Pet Protection Agreement. This is a legally enforceable document signed by both the pet owner and a pet guardian (someone you've appointed to care for the pet if you cannot) that ensures continuing care for your pet. PPAs can be completed without an attorney, using a form available from LegalZoom.

You should also take the following steps to help ensure your pet's safety:

Clarify who owns the pet. For the purposes of estate planning, one family member should be the pet's legal owner. All adults living in the pet's household not named in the pet trust or PPA should sign the document, too. Their signatures help confirm that they are aware of the document and that they agree that another family member is the pet's legal owner.

If you adopted your pet, confirm with the organization from which you adopted it that you are the animal's legal owner. Some breed-rescue organizations officially continue to own the animals that they place with families.

Include as many successor pet guardians as possible. By the time you are no longer able to care for your pet, the person who agreed to care for it in your place may not be available. Secure agreements from additional friends and relatives stating that they will take in the pet if your primary pet guardian cannot. List these successor pet guardians in the PPA or trust. Successor pet guardians should sign the agreement.

Include multiple ways of contacting each potential pet guardian landline and cell-phone numbers, e-mail and mailing addresses - in case some contact information changes.

Make sure that the pet trust or PPA includes all of your pets. List and describe each of your animals in the document but also include the phrases "all my pets" and "this includes any other animals I have at the time this trust/pet protection arrangement is enacted."

Have the trust/PPA take effect when you "are unable or unwilling to provide for the pet's care." These documents often are written to take effect when the pet owner is "incapacitated," but that term is best avoided-it sometimes opens the door for a court to step in and arrange a pet guardian. The wording "unable or unwilling" keeps this decision in your hands.

Get copies of your pet trust or PPA into many hands. Give copies to all trustees, pet guardians and pet successor guardians listed in the document. Also give copies to your pet's veterinarian, your neighbors, your family members, and anyone else who might be present and willing to act on your pet's behalf when you cannot.

By taking these steps, you can rest assured that your pet will have a community of care that follows it as it ages.

"Animals don't hate, and we're supposed to be better than them." ~ Elvis Presley

Don't Get Skimmed By Your ATM    ^top
Over $1 billion is lost annually to thieves who "skim" ATMs. Skimming occurs when a thief has installed a small, almost unnoticeable "skimmer" to the machine that can read the magnetic stripe on a card.

To obtain your PIN, thieves use a number of ingenious techniques: cameras to record you punching it in, devices installed in the pad that record your keystrokes, and the tried-and-true "shoulder surfer" method (someone literally looks over your shoulder as you enter your PIN).

Skimming isn't restricted to ATMs: Thieves can rig any device that is meant to read a card with a magnetic stripe, targeting gas stations, checkout lines grocery stores, restaurants, etc.

Here are some things you can do to prevent this from happening to you:
  • Examine ATMs carefully. If the card reader extends outward from the face of the ATM, give the external portion a quick yank or twist. Do the same with the panel containing the keypad. Don't use the ATM if either feels loose. Be wary if the color of the plastic around the card reader or the keypad doesn't match the plastic elsewhere.
  • Don't assume that an ATM is safe because it is in a busy location. ATMs at busy supermarkets regularly get skimmed.
  • Look for tiny hidden cameras aimed at the keypad. Crooks sometimes use these to capture victims' PINs. A camera could be hidden inside a bank brochure holder near the ATM keypad or in a fake speaker mounted on the ATM. To be safe, use your free hand to cover your typing hand.
  • Confirm that your card slides in and out of the card reader smoothly. Jamming suggests a skimmer.
  • Be wary of gas pumps. Use a credit card (or select "credit" when using a debit card). Laws protect credit card users from substantial losses.
  • Check your bank account regularly. Contact the bank immediately if you notice any unexplained declines.

Super Gluing Your Fingers Is A Bummer    ^top
Super glue is great stuff, until it ends up where you don't want it - like on your fingers. Taking some precautions before using it can save you a lot of hassle later on.

First, clear a space on which to work, and cover the surface with newspaper or other disposable protective covering.

Tape off any portions of the item you are working on to avoid getting glue on them.

Wear rubber or vinyl gloves to protect your hands. You can buy thin, disposable gloves at drugstores, hardware stores or medical-supply stores. They work well for applications that require tactile sensitivity or dexterity.

Choose an open, well ventilated area for working. Open the container only after you have prepared the work area.

When you open the container, hold it a safe distance from your face, with the opening pointed away from you. If you still get some glue on your skin, acetone will remove it.

Nail-polish remover usually works just fine as long as it contains acetone.

"If you don't own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life." ~ Roger Caras

I'm Here to Help    ^top
If you'd like to know more about a home you've seen, want more information about the general real estate market in your area or have any other questions about real estate, don't hesitate to call me. I'll be glad to help and, of course, there's no obligation. Give me a call and I'll help in any way I can!

In This Issue

This May Be A Great Time To Buy  ^top
The media is full of distressing information about homes for sale, loan problems, housing starts, etc. But this may be the best time to consider buying because sellers are offering very attractive deals to get their homes sold. Just call me and I'll clue you in to some of these great bargains.

Beware Of Health-Care Credit Cards  ^top
Some medical practioners offer credit cards as an easy way to pay for such services as vision correction, dental work, cosmetic procedures, and chiropractic services. They offer low percentage rates for the first 12 months, but bills not paid on time can carry hefty interest charges that can date back to the time of purchase. People have also been charged for services before they receive them- or if they never received them at all. You are better of trying to negotiate a payment plan directly with your doctor.

Nutty Facts & Trivia  ^top
The Mona Lisa has no eyebrows or eyelashes.

"Dreamt" is the only English word that ends in the letters "mt".

Grover Cleveland was both our 22nd and 24th president, because his two terms were not consecutive.

Toothpaste has been around since 500 BC, but it wasn't until 1892 that it first became available in a collapsible tube.

It was at a concert in Minneapolis in 1954 that Al Dvorin first closed Elvis's concerts with: "Ladies and Gentleman, Elvis has left the building. Thank you and good night."

Forty-six percent of the world's water is in the Pacific Ocean; that's around 6 sextillion gallons of water. The Atlantic has 23.9 percent; the Indian, 20.3; the Arctic, 3.7 percent.

The United States has never lost a war in which mules were used.

Your body is creating and killing 15 million red blood cells per second.

The paper used to make U.S. dollar bills is composed of linen and several types of cotton, including denim - which gives it its unique fabric-like feel and durability.

The largest bell in the world is the Tsar Kolokol in the Kremlin in Moscow. It's 20' 2" high and 21' 8" in diameter. Cast in 1735, it weighs 222.56 tons and has never been cracked before it was installed.

Every queen named Jane has either been murdered, imprisoned, gone mad, died young, or been dethroned.

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, two out of five women in America dye their hair.

Did You Know That...?  ^top can speed the recovery of stroke victims. Stroke victims who listen to their favorite music daily during the first few months after a stroke show faster and more significant improvements in memory and attention than stroke victims who do not listen to music. A study showed that three months after a stroke, verbal memory improved by 60% among music listeners, compared to 29% for non-listeners. Similar differences were found six months after a stroke.

...just one drink can impair your driving. In a wacky test to show that people can suffer impairment after one drink, subjects were asked to count the number of times a ball was passed during a 25-second basketball video. When a person in a gorilla suit walked past the players in the video, beat its chest and then walked off, only 20% of the subjects who had one alcoholic drink noticed. should not return a telephone call if it comes from an unfamiliar area code. Some overseas scammers are using equipment that calls US cell phones automatically and hangs up after one or two rings. The missed call seems to have an ordinary area code, but often it is from 649 - the area code for the Turks and Caicos Islands - or another area where US regulators have no jurisdiction. The number connects to an adult entertainment chat line or similar business and leads to expensive international and chat line charges. If you do not make overseas calls from your cell phone, ask your carrier to block outgoing international calls.

...doing full sit-ups can be harmful to your back. The abdominal muscles are designed to keep the spine straight and secure. Sit-ups put an unhealthy strain on your back at its weakest point and can damage spinal discs. The best exercises for a firmer stomach and back health are ones that work your abdominals while holding your spine straight. Crunches are best. Simply lie on your back and then raise your head and shoulders without bending your back. Try to hold each one for ten seconds or more. Push ups are also good.

Tips To Save On Dry Cleaning  ^top
Having a garment dry-cleaned can cost anywhere from a few dollars to $20 or more. Here's how to greatly reduce dry-cleaning costs:

Dry cleaning is only required if...

The garment is "structured," meaning that it's designed to hold its shape. This includes most suits, jackets and some heavily tailored blouses.

The garment is made from acetate, rayon, leather or suede.

Dry cleaning also is prudent with silk and wool garments that have "dry clean only" tags. But wool garments with "dry clean only" tags usually can be gently hand-washed using a delicate detergent designed for wool.

The garment isn't colorfast. Place a few drops of water on an interior seam, and rub it with a cotton swab. If color comes off on the swab, the garment should be dry-cleaned.

If a garment does not fall into any of the above categories, it probably can be safely washed using a gentle, natural soap that contains no enzymes. Hand-washing is preferable if you have the time. If not, set your washer to cold water and gentle cycle. Hang to dry, or lay the garment flat on a towel or a mesh rack.

Use stain removal wipes. These prevent many types of stains from setting. They're safe for most "dry clean only" fabrics, but not silk or wool.

Buy a laundry steamer. These can remove light wrinkles and freshen up "dry clean only" clothes.

Let "dry clean only" garments air out for at least several hours after wearing. Wrinkles sometimes fall away when fabrics are allowed to hang freely Search for coupons on cleaners' Web sites and in local papers. Also some cleaners offer discounts when garments are brought in midweek.

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Trivia Answer: C) Brain
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