Preparing To Buy A Home


Preparing To Buy A Home
by Phoebe Chongchua

Preparing to buy a home is a bit like preparing to go on a very long journey. You have to have your finances in order, know where you’re going, what you’re hoping to accomplish and how much time and how much money you can afford to spend.

Financial matters. When it comes to owning real estate nothing is more important, for obvious reasons. As we’ve seen, if you get locked into a mortgage you can’t afford, the result can be devastating. But even if you can afford the mortgage, you might not want to be “house rich and cash poor”. You have to consider other things that are important to you such as travel and your spending habits. If for instance, you like to travel for months at a time, it might be wise to consider a smaller house with a less expensive mortgage instead of a large home with a big mortgage, which could cause you more work and less financial ability to spend on other things you like.

Another consideration is the length of time you want to have the mortgage. Many young people choose a 30-year fixed mortgage but if you’re a senior citizen you might want to opt for a 15-year loan. The best thing you can do is make a list of your financial matters and the questions you have about buying a home and then consult with a highly experienced loan officer. A knowledgeable loan officer can be like having a tour guide with you all the time in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. The jargon used in the mortgage industry documents can be confusing. Having someone who can clearly explain the documents, what to expect, the time frame, and the process is priceless.

Debt-to-income. The ratio of your debt-to-income is vital when purchasing a home. These guidelines have become more strict since the housing crisis so it’s critical to consult with experts about your personal financial situation. Generally speaking, you should have a debt-to-income ratio of no more that 36 percent–meaning all you owe (including your mortgage, taxes, and insurance) should not equal more than 36 percent of your income. Remember there are still monthly expenses of your home on top of your debt. And, of course, the less you owe and the more you make, the better position you’re in for buying a home and creating your own financial freedom.

These days, along with keeping your expenses and debt manageable, a key factor to buying a home is having a healthy downpayment. Most lenders would consider 20 percent a good downpayment. The more you bring in, the less you have to borrow. Remember the collapse of the housing market was brought on by small or no downpayment loans and many buyers who simply didn’t understand the risks.

Know how long you’ll stay. This is really important because the cost of buying and selling a home is expensive and very time-consuming. If you’re not planning on staying in your home more than seven to ten years, think about renting. You may still decide to buy, but you need to understand the cost of purchasing and maintaining a home. Investigate the economic difference between buying and renting. Be realistic about how frequently you’ve moved in the past and whether you’re now ready to settle in for several years. You can always rent your home out but this assumes that you’ll be a landlord (willing to take on all those duties) and then also have to find another place to live and either rent or buy.

After considering all of these factors and making certain that you’re ready to buy, then take the next step and find the best agent in your real estate market. Your agent will help you further prepare to buy the home of your dreams.


Copyright © 2013 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.  



8 Ways to Start a Money-Saving Routine

8 Ways to Start a Money-Saving Routine

R [ Saving more money is among the top 10 New Year’s resolutions for 2013, but sometimes we make it harder than it has to be.

Taking small steps now to reduce spending can pay off big by next New Year’s Eve. Here are eight not-so-obvious ways to help you start: Continue reading

Holiday Safety For Homeowners

A Christmas tree inside a home.

A Christmas tree inside a home. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Holiday Safety for Homeowners

For many homeowners, decorating is one of the most exciting and tradition-driven parts of the holiday season. Lights, candles and other bright decorations can all be greatways to make your home look festive for the holidays, but faulty wires and open flames can quickly lead to disaster if precautions aren’t taken. There are several steps you can take to holiday-proof your house in order to prevent accidents and ensure that your family and home remain safe—and festive—all season long.

Lights and Electricity

Purchase lights and equipment from a reputable vendor and check labels for safety certification. If you’re taking old décor out of storage, inspect all lights and cords for damage before plugging them in. If a string of lights has broken bulbs or exposed wires, throw it out. Invest in a light timer or set a schedule to ensure you never leave lights on too long, and make sure to unplug everything before leaving the house or going to bed. Avoid overloading outlets or extension cords with too many plugs. Not only is this a potential fire hazard, it can cause electrical damage that could leave you with a hefty repair bill.


If you buy a real tree, be sure to keep it watered at all times. A dry tree will catch fire much faster than a well-hydrated one, and in heated rooms, trees lose water rapidly. For those who prefer artificial trees, make sure to choose one labeled “fire-resistant.” In addition, use non-flammable ornaments and tree trimmings for maximum protection.


Never leave candles unattended. Keep open flames out of the way, where small children and pets can’t knock them over. Be sure to extinguish candles before leaving the house or going to bed, and take care to ensure that wax drippings don’t damage flooring or furniture.


Test your home’s ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to make sure they are working properly—they are the first line of defense against electrocution. Ensure that all decorations and extension cords are designed for outdoor use and keep electric objects away from snow and water. Inspect all equipment for damage before use, and take proper safety precautions when using ladders and power tools.

Everything Else

Test all fire and carbon monoxide alarms to make sure they work correctly. If a rogue candle or faulty wiring leads to a fire, you want to be alerted as soon as possible. On a similar note, prepare an emergency plan for fires or other disasters, and make sure your family and house-guests know what to do in the event that something does happen. Keep fabrics and other flammable materials a safe distance (three feet is a good rule of thumb) away from heaters and vents, and consider childproofing electrical outlets.

By following these tips and sharing them, you can ensure a happy, healthy and safe holiday for all.

Healthy Living

Healthier Living-Room Checklist

living_room_family_gathering [Going green at home doesn’t mean spending a whole lot of money on home improvements or investing in expensive pieces of furniture or the latest and greatest in green technology. Instead, there are ways to find all sorts of ways to use less, waste less, and save more without blowing your budget. Today I’m focusing on how to Do Your Part in the living room for a healthier home.

Save Energy and Money

Start with the small stuff such as sealing up leaks around doors and windows. Caulk and weather stripping are inexpensive and a quick fix for rising energy costs. Since the fireplace is an easy target for hot air to escape, a fireplace plug for around $60 can put a stop to that waste. Also, pick better light bulbs. There are many energy efficient ones available including CFLs, LEDs, and halogens. Check out to see which ones work best in your particular fixtures. Another thing that adds to your electric costs are electronics that sip electricity even when not being used. Using a power strip with an on/off button will put an end to that expensive phantom power.

Shop for Safer Furniture and Flooring

Furniture made from medium density fiberboard (MDF) and some furniture adhesives can contain a formaldehyde-based resin that can actually pollute the air inside your home. Seek out furniture that is specifically labeled formaldehyde-free. Buying used, wood furniture pieces are another way to have cleaner indoor air because many of those dangerous chemicals have already evaporated.

And, many popular choices of flooring also emit formaldehyde. Whether it is certain imitation wood floors or new carpet — know what’s in the flooring and the adhesives you use and choose safer options.

Decorate Responsibly

From paint to plants, a lot of what we put in our living rooms can make big impact. Choose paints that are labeled no or low VOC. The costs of ones that don’t emit volatile organic compounds are comparable to conventional ones and they last just as long. You’ll also want to avoid pieces of upholstery and fabrics that are treated with synthetic chemicals that can get into the air and on our bodies. When choosing candles, opt for ones made of soy or beeswax rather than polluting petroleum products. And even a few plants placed around the living room can improve the air quality immediately.

Whether you’re looking for ways to cut costs or clean up the air in your home, the living room is the perfect place to Do Your Part for healthier living.

Article printed from RISMedia:


History of Ellicott City, Maryland

Old Ellicott City

Main Street, Ellicott City

Historic Ellicott City – 1771

In 1850 Ellicott Mills was a growing, bustling community.  Baltimore County had early mills and homes.  Anne Arundel County (Howard County Today) had its courthouse, schools, churches dwellings, and businesses. During this time there was discussion of renaming Ellicott Mills “Patapsco.”

Settlement at Ellicott Mills – 1771

Joseph, Andrew and John Ellicott were Quakers who had grown up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania , the sons of Andrew Ellicott, an Englishman who came to the Pennsylvania colony in 1730. Andrew married, had five sons, and died young, leaving his widow to raise the young family. As the boys grew they were apprenticed to learn the trades that led to their later success in Maryland.

Lush vegetation and the swiftly flowing Patapsco River must have captivated the three Ellicott brothers when they searched for land in the late 1760’s. The brothers had searched throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania for a site where they could grow wheat and harness water power for a mill. In 1771 the Ellicott brothers purchased many acres east of the river in the valley known as the “Hollow.” Although the valley was uninhabitable, they were not alone; other settlers lived along the bluffs overlooking the river.

Some of the tracts of land the Ellicotts bought later spanned both sides of the Patapsco; the west bank was part of Anne Arundel County (now Howard County), and the east bank was in Baltimore County.

Early Farming

The Quakers cleared and plowed fields and cut timber for the first buildings. Slowly the beginnings of a village rose from the landscape – a sawmill, a flour mill, a large log dwelling, a store, and John’s home.

Although the Ellicotts grew wheat, earlier settlers in that area had planted tobacco for export to England. However, tobacco exhausted the soil, and after several successive plantings, the land became unproductive. As a result of this, many Marylanders moved west into Ohio and Kentucky to find new farmland. However, the Ellicotts learned that through the use of ground plaster of Paris to fertilize the depleted soils, the land could be made suitable for growing grain. Thus, the idea for a mill to produce plaster of Paris was born.

Early Mills

By 1774 the Ellicotts were milling wheat and other grains at their new mill on the east side of the river in Baltimore County. Other farmers in the area also began growing grain and sent their harvests to the Ellicotts for milling.

As farmers prospered, the wheat supply increased; and with the end of the Revolutionary War, the Ellicotts were ready to export their flour. They purchased a waterfront lot in Baltimore and built their first wharf at the comer of Pratt and Light streets.

Locally, the brothers spread their milling operations along the banks of the Patapsco. Joseph, the eldest, lived up the river about two miles and operated the Upper Mills. Andrew and John settled at the Lower Mills, now Ellicott City. Andrew and his sons were responsible for the milling operation. Brother John managed a large store that offered fine goods and furnishings.

By the early 1800s the mills had developed a respected reputation. “Here is one of the largest and most elegant merchant mills in the United States,” wrote Joseph Scott in 1807. “It is 100 feet long and 40 feet wide, with four water wheels, which turn three pair of seven feet stones and one of five feet. She is capable of manufacturing 150 barrels of flour in a day.

The Ellicotts

The Ellicotts were industrious, inventive, and practical. They developed new methods for milling flour, constructed machine shops, and experimented in farming and technology. This large Quaker family also stressed the importance of education. They brought the best teachers to the community to operate a school for all local children. The Ellicotts attended Meeting (the Quaker religious service) and eventually were instrumental in building a new Quaker meeting house near the mills. After construction of the first mills and workmen’s houses in the 1780s, two sons of founder Andrew Ellicott built large stone houses. Jonathan and George chose the east bank of the river, which was near the flour mill, for their large and imposing houses. The homes overlooked the mill race, a man-made canal that provided the water power to operate the mill.

Extensive granite quarries lining the Patapsco River provided the building material for many of the buildings, and in later years, the curbings and walls walls throughout the old town, and the blocks for the laying of the original railroad tracks. Some of these quarries are still discernible today; one can be seen along Frederick Road where a gas station is located today.

Jonathan Ellicott (1756-1826)

As a young man, Jonathan was caught up in the Revolutionary War. Although Quakers are known for their stand against war, Jonathan became a captain in a militia company but saw no action. He also had manufactured the long swords used by officers of the Maryland Line and the dragoons under the command of Colonel Washington. At the same time, Jonathan was active in the mill operations and was responsible for planning and directing the construction of the road that eventually became the Baltimore-Frederick Turnpike (Route 144).

Standing on a grassy knoll by Frederick Road, Johnathan Ellicott’s 1780’s home is seen here as it was before Hurricane Agnes destroyed it in 1972. Ripped open by debris carried by the raging Patapsco River, the house was subsequently torn down.
George Ellicott (1760-1832)

George Ellicott, according to his daughter, was one of the best mathematicians and finest amateur astronomers of the time. In the publication Settlement of Ellicott’s Mills, Martha Ellicott Tyson wrote that her father was fond of “imparting instruction to every youthful enquirer after knowledge who came to his house. As early as the year 1782,” she wrote, “he was in the habit of giving gratuitous lessons on astronomy to any of the inhabitants of the village who wished to hear him. To many of these his celestial globe was an object of great interest and curiosity. He was perfectly at home on a map of the heavens as far as the telescopes and writers of his time had given revelations.” It may be that Benjamin Banneker’s interest in astronomy was stimulated by these early sessions. George Ellicott was also interested in bettering the lives of the American Indian. In 1799 he and other Quakers visited the principal village of the Wyandots in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Later George and his friend, Gerard Hopkins, made a second trip to instruct the Indians in farming. George was also concerned about the evil affects of alcohol on the American Indian. In 1801 George wrote a letter to Congress asking that the sale of “spiritous liquors” to the Indians be outlawed; such a law was eventually passed.

Jonathan and George Ellicott, sons of founder Andrew, built large granite housesin the 1780s. Cousin John’s home is to the left. These landmarks remained in place until recently. Jonathan’s house was so badly damaged by the 1972 flood that it was razed to the ground. Although George’sh ouses urvived that flood, it was damaged in the 1975 flood and stood abandoned until 1987, when it was relocated across Frederick Road.

Housing Recovery on Solid Ground

Sustained home price gains show strength of recovery

Case-Shiller indices post 6th consecutive month-to-month gain


Inman News®

Consistent home price gains demonstrate that the housing recovery is on solid ground, the publishers of a leading home price index and other industry experts say.

The S&P/Case-Shiller national home price index — which tracks single-family home prices in all nine U.S. Census divisions on a quarterly basis — was up 3.6 percent from a year ago during the third quarter, and 2.2 percent from the second quarter.

The 10- and 20-city S&P/Case-Shiller home price indices posted month-to-month gains for the sixth month in a row, both rising 0.3 percent in September. The composites also posted annual gains for the fourth month in a row, rising 2.1 percent and 3.0 percent in September, respectively.

“We are entering the seasonally weak part of the year,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at the S&P Dow Jones Indices, in a statement. “Despite the seasons, housing continues to improve.”

“With six months of consistently rising home prices, it is safe to say that we are now in the midst of a recovery in the housing market,” Biltzer said.

Don’t Forget The Homestead Tax Credit Deadline!!

Homeowners who have not filed a Homestead Eligibility Application have until have until December 31, 2012 to submit an application to continue being eligible for this credit. You can find out if you have already filed the Homestead application by looking up your property on the SDAT Real Property databaseinformation on filing status is located at the bottom of the page.


What is the Homestead Credit?
To help homeowners deal with large assessment increases on their principal residence, state law has established the Homestead Property Tax Credit. The Homestead Credit limits the increase in taxable assessments each year to a fixed percentage. Every county and municipality in Maryland is required to limit taxable assessment increases to 10% or less each year. View a listing of homestead caps for each local government.
Technically, the Homestead Credit does not limit the market value of the property as determined by the Department of Assessments and Taxation. Instead, it is actually a credit calculated on any assessment increase exceeding 10% (or the lower cap enacted by the local governments) from one year to the next. The credit is calculated based on the 10% limit for purposes of the State property tax, and 10% or less (as determined by local governments) for purposes of local taxation. In other words, the homeowner pays no property tax on the market value increase which is above the limit.

Assume that your old assessment was $100,000 and that your new phased-in assessment for the 1st year is $120,000.  An increase of 10% would result in an assessment of $110,000.  The difference between $120,000 and $110,000 is $10,000.  The tax credit would apply to the taxes due on the $10,000.  If the tax rate was $1.04 per $100 of assessed value, the tax credit would be $104 ($10,000 ÷ 100 x $1.04).

Application Requirement
To prevent improper granting of this credit on rented or multiple properties of a single owner, a law was enacted in 2007 that requires all homeowners tosubmit a one-time application to establish eligibility for the credit. View a list of commonly asked questions on the Homestead Application. 

If you would like a Homestead application with an access number to file electronically mailed to you, send an e-mail request This request must be received by November 30th. Mailed applications must be postmarked no later than December 31, 2012.

You can find out if you have already filed an application by looking up your property in our Real Property database

The tax credit will be granted if the following conditions are met during the previous tax year:

  • The property was not transferred to new ownership.
  • There was no change in the zoning classification requested by the homeowner resulting in an increase value of the property.
  • A substantial change did not occur in the use of the property.
  • The previous assessment was not clearly erroneous.

A further condition is that the dwelling must be the owner’s principal residence and the owner must have lived in it for at least six months of the year, including July 1 of the year for which the credit is applicable, unless the owner was temporarily unable to do so by reason of illness or need of special care.  An owner can receive a credit only on one property—the principal residence.

Razed Dwelling and Vacated Dwelling for Making Substantial Improvements
Property owners who choose to vacate their principal residence to raze the dwelling in order to replace it with a new home on the subject property or to make substantial improvements to the property can continue to receive Homestead Tax Credit eligibility provided two conditions are met.  First, the homeowner(s) must have owned and occupied the property as a principal residence for at least 3 full tax years immediately preceding the razing or the commencement of the substantial improvements.  Second, the building of the replacement home or making the substantial improvements must be completed within the next succeeding tax year after the tax year in which the razing or the substantial improvements were commenced.

Appeal Rights
If you have been denied a Homestead Tax Credit and you believe that you are eligible, contact the Central Office for the Homestead Tax Credit Program at the telephone numbers listed below.  A final denial of a Homestead Tax Credit by the Central Office may be appealed within 30 days to the Property Tax Assessment Appeal Board in the jurisdiction where the property is located.

Further Information
For questions about the Homestead Tax Credit, you may telephone 410-767-2165 in the Baltimore metropolitan area or at 1-866-650-8783 toll free elsewhere in Maryland or email the Homestead unit at