Posted by Mary-Lou McDonough on 11/13/2017

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.




Tags: home history   home   history   research  
Categories: Uncategorized  


Posted by Mary-Lou McDonough on 2/20/2017

Being self-employed comes with a lot of perks. Self-employed workers often have the freedom to set their own schedule, work from home, and take breaks whenever they feel like it. They also have the ability to write things off as business expenses on their taxes. When it comes to buying a home, this last perk can become a huge problem. If you own your own business or work as a freelancer, odds are you'll be deducting things from your taxes that the average employee doesn't: travel expenses, advertising, licensing, equipment, repairs, or even rent for your office. When tax season rolls around, all of these deductions feel like a godsend. But if you plan on buying a home, all of these costs will appear as negative income. For people who spend a lot of money on their business or freelancing, it could do a lot of damage to your apparent income when lenders take a look at your finances. However, you do have options when it comes to getting approved for a mortgage that is to your liking. In this article, we'll cover some tips on how to apply for a mortgage when you're self employed to give yourself the best chance of approval.

Carefully document your income

When 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 finances

If 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 everything

There 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 lenders

Some 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.




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Posted by Mary-Lou McDonough on 12/5/2016

People often describe themselves as either a "city person" or "country folk" depending on their taste when it comes to where they like to spend their time. Usually, what they really mean is that they prefer either the busy or the quiet life. However, there's a lot more to choosing the best place to live besides just the number of neighbors you'll have. If you're trying to decide whether you want to buy a home in the city, live out in the country, or move to the suburbs where you get a little bit of each, this article will tell you everything you need to know to make the right choice.

Life in the city

If you grew up in a small town, odds are you always dreamed of someday living in the city. The busy streets, the tall buildings, and public transportation that you can take anywhere all make city life feel like one giant amusement park if you grew up in the country. However, there's a lot more to city life than just the bustling atmosphere.
  • Amenities. One of the main benefits of living in the city is easy access to most of the necessities of life. Depending on your location in the city you might be surrounded by hospitals, schools and grocery stores.
  • Entertainment. You'll never run out of things to do or new places to explore living in a big city.
  • Community and culture. In most large cities you'll find great diversity of cultures and values. If you're looking for a place you can identify with, odds are you'll find a community you can fit into within the city.
  • Cost of living. This varies between cities and states, but generally the cost of living goes up in the big cities with higher rent prices, more expensive groceries and dining options.
  • Traffic. You have to love being around other people if you live in a big city. Whether you're on the train or at the crosswalk, you'll always be within arms length of a group of strangers.

Country living

  • Privacy and sovereignty. If you like your alone time and the freedom to do what you want with the space you have, country life might be for you.
  • Peace and quiet. If you hate traffic jams and don't mind driving long distances to reach amenities, small town living could be a good fit.
  • Nature and space. Out in the country there's plenty of room to roam and to experience the local flora and fauna.

Suburban life

Life in the suburbs is meant to have the best features of the city and the country. Hopefully your town has a couple grocery stores and easy access to the highway to reach the nearest city. It will also have access to recreation parks. One downfall of suburban life is that you need to make the extra effort if you want to build the sense of community provided in the city or the connection to nature that comes with living out in the country. However, if you are the type to actively seek these out, suburban life could be the happy medium your life needs.




Tags: home   city   living   life   home living   country   suburbs  
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Posted by Mary-Lou McDonough on 9/19/2016

Cooking with fresh herbs is infinitely better than using the dried out flakes you'll find at the grocery store. Not only are they packed with much more flavor, but they'll also save you money in the process. Sure, there are some herbs you probably won't use very often and should just keep a small jar of them in your pantry. However, certain herbs are so useful that it's worth having on your window sill to pick from when you need them. If you're thinking about starting an indoor or outdoor herb garden, here are the best herbs to put in it that will spice up your recipes and save you money at the checkout line.

Basil

Number one on our list is sweet basil. Basil can be chopped up into sauces and salads, or it can be used whole on pizzas and sandwiches. For a great snack, toss some olive oil with chunks of tomato, mozzarella, and chopped basil. It's the perfect combination of tangy, sweet, and refreshing. Basil is also great for making tea and has a strong and pleasant aroma. If you start running low, you can start a new plant with clippings from an old one. As you pick from the plant, be sure to remove the leaf node (the stem part of the leaf) fully so your plant keeps producing more leaves.

Parsley

A good herb to pair with basil is parsley. It goes great with pasta dishes, sauce, pizza, or eggs. Like basil, parsley can be harvested as needed. Simply cut the outermost leaves for use and leave the inner leaves to mature. However, parsley is also easy to dry and store. To dry parsley, hang it up in a warm place that has plenty of shade and ventilation. Test it by seeing if it crumbles in your hand. Once it does, crumble the rest up and store it in an air tight jar.

Thyme

Arguably one of the the prettiest herbs on the list, thyme fills its long stems with small flowers and fills the air with a pleasant scent. Thyme goes well with many vegetables and types of seafood and is also common in many teas. If you live in a temperate climate, you could also try growing some thyme as an ornamental and aromatic shrub in your yard.

Mint

As you would suspect, mint smells and tastes...minty. To impress everyone at your summer cookout, place some mint leaves from your garden into their ice cold drinks. Like many other items on the list, mint is also great in tea and can be paired up with basil, lavender, and many other herbs to make a great herbal tea concoction.

Lavender

Lavender is another pretty flowering herb. However, due to its size, it's best grown outdoors. You can make several homemade items from lavender including soaps, fragrance sprays, tea, and more. However, be sure to read up on caring for lavender plants as they require a lot of sunlight and well-drained soil. To make use of its size and aesthetics outside, you can plant lavender along walkways in your yard or garden.




Tags: gardening   home   garden   mint   herbs   herb   herb garden   basil   parsley   thyme   lavender  
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Posted by Mary-Lou McDonough on 8/29/2016

Shopping at yard sales is an art. First you have to find the good yard sales, then hunt down the best deals while avoiding distracting impulse buys, then you have to smartly negotiate your offer. Sure, there will be a lot of competition out there, but with the right planning you can give yourself enough of an advantage to find the hidden gems amongst all of the junk that people get rid of at their yard sales. In this article, we'll give you a crash course in yard sale shopping. Come Sunday afternoon, you'll be heading home with a smile on your face and that perfect addition to your home in your trunk.

Finding the right sales

The first step to finding the best yard sale deals is to find the right yard sales. Sure, it can be fun to aimlessly drive around your area Saturday and Sunday morning looking out for yard sale signs, but there are smarter ways to use your time.
  • Craigslist. Many people post announcements on Craigslist when they're going to have a yard sale. They'll often specify a date, time, and the type of things that will be for sale. If someone says "MASSIVE multi-family moving sale" you can be pretty sure there will be lots of good stuff there.
  • Facebook. Search Facebook for local community pages for your town or city. Oftentimes people make pages for buying and selling in their area, or just to have heated debates about local happenings. Sometimes, however, people post about their upcoming yard sales.
  • Local news. If your local newspaper has a classifieds section they might advertise yard sales as well.

Making your shopping list

When you go to a yard sale you should be prepared in terms of what you're looking for. You want to avoid making impulsive buys on things you don't need, but you also can't expect to find the exact color and model of vacuum cleaner that's on your Amazon wish list. Think of some things you'd like to look for and determine whether getting them at a yard sale makes sense. Plan your transportation accordingly. If you're looking for big items, make sure you bring a truck or SUV that can fit what you're looking for. Bring bungee cords, rope, a tarp, and whatever else you think you might need. Then head out to the sales.

When you find that must-have item

So you've found the exact vacuum cleaner you were looking for AND it's in great shape. It has a tag on it for $30 and the proprietor of the yard sale is going on about what a great vacuum cleaner it is. Before you start throwing money at them, consider these tips:
  • Research. With a smartphone in your pocket, you basically have instant access to valuing any object. While you browse other items, pop open your phone to read reviews, check used prices, and see if it's a deal that makes sense.
  • Be friendly. Sure, yard sales are all about making a quick buck, but neighborhoods are about community. Don't be afraid to share some small talk with the proprietors of the yard sale. It might pay off in the end.
  • Negotiate. There are general rules of negotiation that have been proven to get you better deals. Your first offer should be lower than what you're willing to pay. For example, if the vacuum is $30 and you're ready to pay $25, offer the salesperson $20.




Tags: sale   home   shopping   yard sale   garage sale  
Categories: Uncategorized