Choosing A Reward Credit Card

When you’re shopping for a new credit card, the immediate features you see that attract your attention are the interest rate and the credit card reward programs offered. If you have good credit, you most likely would be approved for a card offering a 0% APR introductory period. This introductory low interest rate extends with an average of the first twelve months you have your new credit card.

With that in mind, the next thing to consider is the type of reward credit card …
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When you’re shopping for a new credit card, the immediate features you see that attract your attention are the interest rate and the credit card reward programs offered. If you have good credit, you most likely would be approved for a card offering a 0% APR introductory period. This introductory low interest rate extends with an average of the first twelve months you have your new credit card.

With that in mind, the next thing to consider is the type of reward credit card that will fit your life style. It’s a large competitive field for your credit card dollar and the financial institutions are very creative in continually bringing out new credit card reward programs. With the ease of the internet, it is now possible to compare a larger number of credit card offers side by side.

If you travel frequently, there are a number of travel reward credit cards that offer an accumulation of points to be used for air travel, hotel reservations, cruises, and car rentals. Many of these same offers include a discount on these services too. On the other hand, some reward credit cards allow you to accumulate points for the purchases of a variety of products, to be applied toward airline miles.

If you are one who pays your entire balance each month, a reward credit card that includes cashback as an incentive could be one that would be most enticing for you. Some of the cashback cards offer as much as 5% return on your money. This can add up to a tidy sum at the end of the year.

Additional reward credit card offers include discount on gasoline purchases, contribution to an FDIC-insured high-yield savings account in your name, and an accumulation of points for gift cards from top retailers and restaurants. There is a reward credit card that fits every life style.

So, the next time you’re looking for a new credit card, after you’ve compared the interest rate, review the credit card reward incentives too. Credit card rewards can save you money!

Small Business Loan Trade-offs – Choosing The Best Rate

Most small business borrowers are understandably confused by all of the different interest rates for commercial loans. How does a small business borrower decide what is the “best” rate? Is it the lowest rate or is it more complicated than that?

Commercial loan rates are indeed a source of confusion for most business owners. There are MANY variables in determining these rates, including the type of business, loan-to-value, length of loan, credit scores, how long rates will …
business loan,commercial mortgage,commercial loan,commercial financing,commercial real estate loan
Most small business borrowers are understandably confused by all of the different interest rates for commercial loans. How does a small business borrower decide what is the “best” rate? Is it the lowest rate or is it more complicated than that?

Commercial loan rates are indeed a source of confusion for most business owners. There are MANY variables in determining these rates, including the type of business, loan-to-value, length of loan, credit scores, how long rates will be fixed, stated income or tax returns used to qualify, assumable loan or not assumable, and whether recall or balloon features are included/excluded.

If a small business borrower wants the lowest rate, this will usually be found in a short-term commercial loan that has recall/balloon terms and other generally undesirable features. Although this type of loan might have the lowest rate, it will not necessarily have the “best” rate. The lowest-rate loan typically involves the worst terms, not the best terms, even though the interest rate might look appealing. Here is a suggested definition of what constitutes the best rate for a business loan: the “best” rate is one which is associated with business loan terms that are not detrimental to the long-term financial health of the commercial borrower’s business.

The concept of “trade-offs” will help small business borrowers when they are confronted by the “lowest” rate versus “best” rate decision. There are two primary definitions of “trade-off” that are relevant to the points made below:

(1) Giving up one thing in return for another.
(2) Balancing of factors that cannot be maximized at the same time.

It is easy to see the concept of “trade-offs” in commercial real estate loan decisions every single day. The most common application is when a lower interest rate is given up in return for more favorable terms such as a longer business loan (25-30 years instead of 3-5 years). Because these trade-offs are by no means obvious to the typical small business borrower, perhaps the most important function that a business loan advisor performs for their clients is a thorough analysis and explanation of the various trade-offs involved in each commercial real estate loan that they provide.

It is critical that this analysis involve more than just the underlying interest rate for each commercial loan program. In fact, one of the most important lessons to be learned from a thorough analysis of “trade-offs” is that the lowest rate is ALMOST NEVER associated with the best deal for the commercial mortgage borrower. As you might imagine, this is extremely hard for most commercial borrowers to understand and accept. Most commercial lenders take the easy way out and sell the lowest-rate loan to their commercial borrowers because it is an easier transaction, but this approach rarely results in the commercial borrower getting the business loan that they SHOULD have. An experienced business loan advisor will take the more difficult path which involves a more hands-on approach with small business borrowers to ensure that they understand all of the “trade-offs” associated with their business loan choices.

Most borrowers think that they NEED the lowest possible interest rate without realizing what they are truly giving up in order to get that rate. As stated above, the loan terms given up in exchange for the lowest rate are usually much more valuable to the commercial borrower than the lowest rate. However, as critical as this particular issue is for the commercial mortgage loan process, it is only one of several key commercial financing problems discussed at http://steve.bush.googlepages.com/home (which identifies 12 commercial real estate loan problems to avoid).

Copyright 2005-2006 AEX Commercial Financing Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Personal Loans: Choosing the Best Source

As with any financial transaction you should look at all the fees and interest rates associated with taking out the loan.
best personal loan, cash loan
Is there really a best personal loan? It depends on which criteria you prefer. Some people would say that the best loan is the one with the lowest interest rate, others will emphasise the length of the down payment period or the flexibility of changing loan terms. For a variety of reasons we may find ourselves needing a personal loan to take care of medical bills, car repairs or to just take that vacation we have been putting off for years. There are a number of ways to obtain such a loan such as through your bank, through local cash advance services or even through jewelers who will offer you a cash loan in exchange for your jewelry. So how do you go about finding the best source that fits your needs?

As with any financial transaction you should look at all the fees and interest rates associated with taking out the loan. Many people prefer to deal with their bank or credit union for such matters, but they may not always have the best rates and often will require that you back up the loan by putting your house or car up for collateral. Another option that is gaining popularity is jewelers that will give you a cash payout for your jewelry. They will hold the jewelry in their vault and you will make small payments against it until paid off, at which time they will return the jewelry. The reason these are gaining popularity is that unlike pawn shops you will get close to the full value of the jewelry and it will not be put up for sale (unless you don’t pay back the loan). It’s considered by many a more professional way of doing business versus a pawn shop.

Finally, as a last resort, there are always payday advance establishments that give you money until your next check. However, they often have the highest interest rates in the business – some exceeding 100%!

7 Steps To Choosing The Best Real Estate Loan For You

A home loan will be your financial responsibility for years to come, so it can be one of the most important decisions you make. Even tiny changes in an interest rate – changes as small as half a percent – can cost or save you thousands of dollars over the term of your loan. To enjoy an affordable home, follow these seven simple steps:

1) You’d Better Shop Around!
Any market has thousands of mortgage brokers, and each broker has access to hundreds of home loan programs. Wh…
Austin Texas Real Estate, Austin Real estate, austin texas real estate agent, real estate agent
A home loan will be your financial responsibility for years to come, so it can be one of the most important decisions you make. Even tiny changes in an interest rate – changes as small as half a percent – can cost or save you thousands of dollars over the term of your loan. To enjoy an affordable home, follow these seven simple steps:

1) You’d Better Shop Around!
Any market has thousands of mortgage brokers, and each broker has access to hundreds of home loan programs. Whatever your circumstances, there is a home loan out there to suit you. The more mortgage brokers and financing professionals you speak to, the more likely it is that you will encounter someone who really knows the home loan program right for you.

2) Pick out the TERMS of your loan — BEFORE comparing rates.
Home loan terms range from 30, 40 to 50 years and some are interest only, meaning that you will only make interest payments each month and will never pay off your mortgage. Another factor to consider when debating terms is rate. Some loans have guaranteed fixed rates for the entire term of your mortgage. Other loans are Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs), meaning that your interest rate will adjust after a guaranteed rate period is over. When considering terms, also think about what pre-payment penalty you are willing to accept. This penalty applies if you decide to refinance your home loan or sell the house within a certain period of time — usually one to two years or longer.

3) Shop the rate and closing costs — carefully
Have a mortgage broker pull a tri-merge credit report and then get a copy of the report. Take the report and a copy of your tax returns with you when visiting financing professionals. Be prepared to answer all questions honestly and be prepared to tell the mortgage broker the price range and the home loan terms you will need. Ask for two Good Faith Estimates (GFE) – one with minimal closing costs and one with standard closing costs.

4) Compare Total Monthly Payments.
Your GFEs will estimate TOTAL monthly payments on a home loan. These estimates only guess what your taxes, hazard insurance, homeowner’s association dues and other costs will be. Since mortgage brokers have no control over these costs, some will underestimate them to make their GFEs attractive. For this reason, always compare only the line item costs associated with each loan. Line items costs include principal, interest, and mortgage insurance.

5) Compare Closing Costs.
Closing costs can contribute significantly to the cost of buying a home. Some mortgage brokers will underestimate these costs to make an estimate seem competitive. Worse, closing costs and associated fees have confusing labels, making them harder to compare. In general, compare the “Items Payable in Connection With Loan” or the “Items Payable in Connection With Loan” on your GFE – these are the costs that your broker may have control over.

6) Compare Closing Costs AND Rate.
Does it make sense to choose the home loan with lower interest but higher closing fees? Or would a home loan with much smaller closing costs but higher rates cost you less? To decide, tally up how long it would take to “make up” the difference. For example, if one home loan saves you $100 a month through lower payments but costs $1000 more in closing costs, it would take 10 months to “make up” for the closing costs.

7) Lock Your Rate!
Just because you are quoted a great rate, that does not mean that interest will stay in place until you are ready to buy, so lock in your rate 30-45 days before closing.

Deciding to buy a home is exciting, but choosing a mortgage can be nerve-wracking. To make a smart choice that really will support you financially, be sure to compare smart by following these tips. Then, you can enjoy your new home – with the right financing.

Choosing A Day Trading Firm

Your typical day trading firm will have many day traders. Each one will be more than comfortable in performing their trading activities at the home and at the office. On the other hand, traders are out there who aspire to make a few extra dollars from the comfort of their own homes. In general, it is more desireable to have a day trading firm do your trading for you – although they take a cut of the profits, their advice and expertice should, as the theory goes, yield you hig…
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Your typical day trading firm will have many day traders. Each one will be more than comfortable in performing their trading activities at the home and at the office. On the other hand, traders are out there who aspire to make a few extra dollars from the comfort of their own homes. In general, it is more desireable to have a day trading firm do your trading for you – although they take a cut of the profits, their advice and expertice should, as the theory goes, yield you higher profits overall and so, in essence, they pay for themselves.

1. Get With The Program

Trading in-house is a decision that you should not take lightly. Luckily, there are lots of very useful peices of computer software out there that can make the entire process easier. Data is fed in real time to your computer from the actual brick and mortar trading locations as trades happen and are recorded.

2. It’s Easy

Beginners will especially love the ability to contact a professional trader at any time during the day for advice or to help familiarize them with the program.

3. The Firm Advantage

A trading firm, on the other hand, might be a good idea if you don’t want to have to sit in front of a computer screen all day watching charts and graphs. It is a major advantage to execute some due diligence that is prior in choosing a day trading firm to make trades with.

4. Ask Questions

As a beginner you will want to ask lots of questions to help you become familiar with day trading. You can ask if it is possible to spend a day or two in the day trading firm in order to evaluate the facilities and the environment of the office of the available firm, that is prior in making an obligation.

5. Your Obligations

As a day trader as part of a firm, you may be asked to put up some of your own money. An account size of anywhere from twenty five to fifty thousand dollars is often the bare minimum and therefore, you need to think long and hard before you put your money on the line. It is necessary to ask how long the day trading firm program will last. You should take note that a training program normally lasts for at least a month and the whole training program should offer you the capability to practice the best techniques in a training mode.

6. Will They Educate You?

You will want to inquire as to whether or not the day trading firm includes tips or techniques as far as risk management goes. After all, the more you know the better a trader you will be. For example, some firms require a minimum number of trades monthly from their members, and take a percentage of your profits. Make sure you know the details before you commit.

Tips For Choosing The Best Car Insurance

Almost every state in America requires you to have car insurance if you wish to drive. Choosing car insurance can be very difficult. You need to consider many different factors that will influence the decision you make. You need to find insurance that will keep you financially secure in the event of an accident or a problem, but you don’t want to spend ridiculous amounts of money. So consider some of the following pointers when looking for health insurance, and you can find o…

Almost every state in America requires you to have car insurance if you wish to drive. Choosing car insurance can be very difficult. You need to consider many different factors that will influence the decision you make. You need to find insurance that will keep you financially secure in the event of an accident or a problem, but you don’t want to spend ridiculous amounts of money. So consider some of the following pointers when looking for health insurance, and you can find one that will give you everything you need without taking too much money out of your pocket.

If you want to find the cheapest insurance possible, you should look up the laws for your state. You should be able to find a legal minimum that tells the most basic plan you are allowed to have. It’s up to you whether you want to get an insurance plan that is more extensive. If you only drive your car once or twice a week, and you’ve never gotten in an accident, then it is probably a good idea to get the cheapest insurance possible. But if you drive often, or if you have a less-than-perfect record, then you should consider getting advanced coverage.

Auto insurance can cover a number of things. Liability is important. This covers the cost if you are responsible for paying someone else for personal or property damage. Collision coverage pays out if your car suffers damage from a wreck. Comprehensive coverage pays for damage not sustained in an accident – such as natural disasters, theft, or vandalism. Medical coverage pays for your bills if you are injured in an accident. There are other types of coverage that are frequently combined with one, or several, of the ones I have mentioned.

The best way to buy auto insurance is to determine what types of coverage you need and what types of coverage you want. Once you know this, you can inquire at insurance providers to find out what they will charge for a similar plan.

The internet is a powerful tool that you can use while searching for auto insurance. There are many online search tools that compile results from every auto insurance company in their database, to give you a rough idea of what sort of rates you can expect. There may be quite a few different providers in your surrounding area that you aren’t familiar with, and you wouldn’t think to check otherwise. But if you use a web tool, you can find out all of the possibilities in order to get the best rate. You’ll have to enter a few basic pieces of information that companies use when analyzing your risk factors.

Car insurance isn’t easy to buy, and many people end up with plans that are financially gutting, and end up not covering important things. So when you go to buy car insurance, spend the time and money necessary to find the right plan for you, so that you feel safe and happy when driving.

Ten Top Tips For Choosing Personal Loans

Choosing the right personal loan for your needs can be tricky, and if don’t know what you are getting yourself into then you could end up in financial difficulties. Here are some top tips to use when choosing a personal loan
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Choosing the right personal loan for your needs can be tricky, and if don’t know what you are getting yourself into then you could end up in financial difficulties. Here are some top tips to use when choosing a personal loan:

Secured vs. unsecured

A secured loan is a loan that is secured against collateral, such as your home. Secured loans have better rates than unsecured loans, but they are more risky because you could lose your home if the repayments are not met. If you are borrowing a small amount of money and have good credit, then go for unsecured loans.

Borrow as little as you can over a short period

The more money you borrow over a longer period of time, the more interest you are going to pay. Borrow as little as you can afford to, and pay it back as quickly as you can so that you minimise the interest payments.

Fixed vs. variable

Most personal loans have fixed interest rates. This means that the monthly repayments will remain the same throughout the loan period. However, some lenders offer variable or flexible loans. These loans are good if the rate goes down, but remember budget for the rate going up as well.

APR

APR or Annual Percentage Rates determine the amount of interest you pay yearly on the loan. Although a low APR might seem appealing, be careful because this is not the only charge that you are liable for when paying back your loan.

Typical APR

If you are comparing APR, then it is good to understand the concept of ‘typical’ APR. Although you may qualify for this rate, it pays to remember that unless your credit history is good, you will end up paying a higher APR than the typical advertised rate.

TAR

A better way to look at how much a loan will cost is the TAR or Total Amount Repayable. This will show you exactly how much you will repay to the lender. The lower the TAR then the better the overall package is.

Shop around

The most important thing to do before getting a loan is to shop around. Before you sign anything, make sure that you have looked at all possibilities for your needs. If you can separate all the various features of a loan and concentrate on the features you require, you can find the best rates for your needs.

Look online

Although your bank may have a good deal, most of the best loan deals are to be found online because of the low overhead costs associated with online companies. You can find many web sites that will allow you to compare the best personal loan prices, helping you to get the best deal for your needs.

Beware of PPI

When securing a loan, it is likely that you will be offered PPI or Payment Protection Insurance. This insurance covers your payments in case of illness, accident or unemployment. Although this insurance may help you, very few people are eligible to claim under its terms, and it is very expensive. Look to see if your current employer covers some of these items, or find a cheaper stand-alone policy that will cover you.

Early settlement

Nearly three quarters of all loans are paid off early, so it pays to know the charges for doing so. Although charges can still be high, more and more lenders are scrapping the charges altogether. Finding a lender that does not charge for early repayment might save you a lot of money.

Choosing The Right Homeowner’s Insurance

As a homeowner, you are required by law to carry homeowner’s insurance. Unfortunately, many people do not carry the right homeowner’s insurance or the correct coverage amount. When buying a new home, most people are anxious to get the buying process over with to quickly, get settled in. Because of this, sometimes only minimum insurance is purchased, just enough to cover the minimum requirement. However, this coverage amount is never modified so when disaster strikes, the home…
insurance,finance,money,cash,bank,home,house,car
As a homeowner, you are required by law to carry homeowner’s insurance. Unfortunately, many people do not carry the right homeowner’s insurance or the correct coverage amount. When buying a new home, most people are anxious to get the buying process over with to quickly, get settled in. Because of this, sometimes only minimum insurance is purchased, just enough to cover the minimum requirement. However, this coverage amount is never modified so when disaster strikes, the homeowner quickly discovers the coverage was not enough.

The most important thing you can do for you, your family, and your property when buying a home is to conduct in-depth research, and then work with a qualified insurance representative to ensure you never find yourself in this type of disastrous situation. Start by working with a reputable company. Remember, the size of the company is not what matters. Instead, you want a company that understands homeowner’s insurance and one that can guide you to the right type and amount of coverage.

If you know someone that is happy with their homeowner’s insurance, you might set up a meeting with that company to see if they can help with your needs. Otherwise, check the local Better Business Bureau, asking for and checking referrals. In addition, make sure the company is financially stable, one that guarantees its services, and a company that offers outstanding customer service to efficiently handle any questions or claims.

The right representative will help you locate and maintain appropriate insurance. However, for the company or agent to understand the insurance industry as well as your specific needs, proper training, knowledge, responsiveness, patience, and service are mandatory. As mentioned, availability is another important factor when choosing an insurance representative. When a crisis strikes, being able to get in touch with the representative in a timely manner helps resolve the issue while building a relationship of trust and confidence in the representative’s abilities.

Then, your homeowner’s insurance should be affordable. Obviously, you want to purchase the requirement but also the amount of insurance that would ensure coverage of your home and personal belongings in case of disaster. A good insurance representative would work with you to ensure that you are not paying for something you do not need while also making sure you have coverage where you do need it. The process of choosing the right insurance coverage is an important one so look for a company or agent with whom you can freely discuss your needs.

Just keep in mind that you will find a number of different insurance packages sold each providing different focus. When you shop around for the ideal policy, you want to make sure your policy covers fire, windstorm, tornados, hail, smoke damage, vandalism, and any other damage to your belongings or home. Additionally, if you live in a flood or earthquake zone, while coverage may not be a part of the standard policy, it might be something you can add on, providing additional protection for your home.

Choosing Between Term And Universal Life Insurance

Surely anyone who has been in the market to purchase a life insurance policy has run into the confusing array of plans available. The following will give you a brief summary on two of the most popular life insurance coverage choices: Choosing between term or universal life.

Term Life Insurance

The first thing to understand is that term life insurance is known as “pure” insurance. That means that term life is straight life insurance and does not build any cash value. You…
term life insurance, term life insurance rates, term life insurance prices
Surely anyone who has been in the market to purchase a life insurance policy has run into the confusing array of plans available. The following will give you a brief summary on two of the most popular life insurance coverage choices: Choosing between term or universal life.

Term Life Insurance

The first thing to understand is that term life insurance is known as “pure” insurance. That means that term life is straight life insurance and does not build any cash value. You can buy this coverage for a certain amount of years, known as the “term,” and once the term is over you may either renew the policy for another set amount of time or simply walk away. The advantages of term life insurance is that it is the least expensive life insurance policy because it serves no other purpose other than to give your beneficiaries peace of mind knowing they are financially protected in the event of your untimely death. It is basic and to the point. To get more information on term life insurance visit http://www.equote.com/li/termlifeinsurance.html.

Universal Life Insurance

Universal life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance. Permanent life insurance policies offer death benefits and a “savings account.” Unlike term life policies, permanent policies build cash value. The advantage of buying a permanent type of life insurance is that if the insured outlives the initially established term, they will be reimbursed some of–often more than–the amount set on the original premium. To learn more about universal life insurance visit http://www.equote.com/li/universallifeinsurance.html.

In addition, universal life insurance policies are known as the flexible policy because you are allowed to vary your life insurance premium payments as well as adjust the face value of your coverage. Keep in mind that you must maintain enough premium payments so that the cash value on your account does not drop below the charges against your account. The more you put into this account the higher your cash value will be for future use. Universal life policies will have higher life insurance rates because it also serves as an investment vehicle.

Choosing Between Term and Universal Life Insurance?

There are a few things to consider when deciding to choose between term life insurance and a universal or permanent life insurance policy. For example, term life insurance is really a good choice for those who may have limited funds and not many responsibilities. Usually younger people choose term life insurance because they have a lower risk of dying in the immediate future. Younger investors feel that they can have the best of both worlds: coverage for themselves and their young families while also being able to use the money they save on cheaper insurance for other investments or assets.

While term life insurance seems to be a relatively short period solution, permanent or universal life insurance coverage is more advantageous for those who have built more assets and accumulated more money. A universal life insurance policy can be tapped into as a retirement account to allow for “golden years” enjoyment.

The best thing to do is contact your financial advisor for current life insurance rates on both term and universal life. Your financial advisor can also assist you in deciding which life insurance policy would best suit your current needs as well as forecast what might be needed in the future. To read more about term life insurance and universal life insurance go to http://www.equote.com/li/universalvsterminsurance.html.

Choosing the Right Home – A Home Inspector’s Perspective

In my 16 years as a full time home inspector I have seen many people make expensive, but preventable mistakes. Follwing the directions in this article will reduce the chances of making an expensive mistake.
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By Bruce Lunsford, RPI, ASHI, FABI
Bruce is a Home Inspector Naples, Fort Myers Florida

As a veteran home inspector of over 16 years I’m still surprised by how often people make preventable and costly mistakes when choosing a potential home to buy. Here we’ll attempt to give potential homebuyers some ideas and guidelines to evaluate potential homes from a layman’s perspective. Hopefully we can prevent some unpleasant surprises after you’ve signed a purchase agreement.

This in no way will replace a professional home inspection, but choosing the correct home from the start can save a lot of time, money and aggravation. Too many times I’ve inspected homes with major defects that could have been visible to even the untrained eye. What we’ll do here is cover some of the basics of evaluating the home from a structural and mechanical perspective. I want to stress again – this will NOT replace a professional home inspection, but may prevent you from entering into a purchase agreement on the wrong home.

Now I am not saying that a home that is less than perfect (aren’t they all?) cannot remain a candidate. It can, but having all the information you can gather up front can help you in your home buying decision. For example, let’s say you’ve narrowed it down to 2 homes. They are the same price, size, quality, age and neighborhood. Both homes are 18 years old. One has a new air conditioner, roof and water heater. The other has original everything. Which one is the best buy? I know the answer is obvious here on paper, but you’d be surprised how often home buyers never look at it from that perspective. We’ll attempt to change that here.

After you’ve chosen the potential school districts and neighborhoods, it’s time to start narrowing down the homes. This is a layman’s version of the process a good home inspector uses. It should help you narrow your decision down.

First we want to walk around the exterior twice. Once up close, then the second time farther away. The first walk around we will be looking for things like wood rot, unusual cracks in the exterior or anything out of the ordinary. Look closely at the windows and doors, roof overhang, gutters, etc. Look for water stains and damage on the soffit overhang. This often indicates roof leakage, especially with tile roofs.

On the second trip around the exterior we want to be far enough away to get a good look at the big picture. Does the home sit up high, or down low? Homes that sit high are ALWAYS preferable and the ground should slope away from the home. (I once did a home that was literally in the bottom of a deep bowl that extended ј mile in every direction. All water drained towards it which caused major water issues that were not practically correctable. The buyer had no choice but to walk away from the deal.) Look at the home’s roof line. Look for framing sags, look for shingles that curl or look worn. Look at the walls and make sure they are plumb and square. Take in the entire home scanning left to right, top to bottom. Look at the condition of the wall cladding and the entire exterior.

Next we’ll look at the mechanicals.

We’re not going to get too technical here, we just want to look at the general age and condition. The HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system is one of the biggest concerns here. We’ll start with the air conditioner. They can usually be dated by looking at the serial number. This can usually be found on a metal plate fastened somewhere on the AC unit. They are usually easy to find, but on some Bryant/Carrier and other models you may have to get down on your hands and knees. Generally speaking the 3rd and 4th (sometimes the 2nd and 3rd) digits of the serial number are the year manufactured. With American Standard and Trane they have a place in the upper right corner of the rating plate that says “manufacture date”. It would be nice if all manufactures were like this. The information plates some manufacturers use are a typed label and they only last a year or two. If that’s the case, you won’t get any information off of it.

Air conditioners generally have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years. I know opinions vary widely on this, but I feel that’s a pretty accurate consensus. I’ve personally seen them last well over 25 years, but this is not the norm. You will want to turn on the AC and hear it run. Listen for any unusual noises. On the inside, just check for cool air coming from all registers. Your Home Inspector should do a more thorough check later. For now just note its age and condition. You should be aware that new efficiency standards came into effect January 2006 so the cost of replacement AC units will be going up significantly.

Now let’s look at the furnace/air handler. I recommend you observe it without opening anything on it. Leave that up to your home inspector. Look at its general condition and try to judge the age. Electric furnaces are commonly called air handlers, especially in warmer climates like Florida. Again, don’t open it, just look it over and judge its general appearance. Does it appear neglected, or well maintained?

Water heaters You can generally date water heaters the same way you date AC units. Look at the serial number on the rating plate and determine its age. With most brands it’s pretty easy to figure out, the major exception being the Bradford-White brand. Depending on a number of factors such as water hardness, water heaters will generally last from 8 to 12 years. Sometimes longer, but that’s a pretty accurate range. Fortunately a water heater will not break the bank when you need to replace it.

Kitchen The kitchen is fairly easy. Give a good look at the appliances and cabinets. Operate all doors and drawers, just be careful in case a door comes off in your hand. (Hey, it happens.) Operate the disposal and run water in the sink. Note the age and condition of the appliances. Your home inspector should to a more thorough inspection later.

Plumbing Run water in all the drains, flush the toilets with the seat lid open so you can observe the water flow. If there is a septic system you may want to run water for several minutes then check over the septic field for backup or a foul smell. Either could indicate a serious problem with the septic system. A serious note of caution here! Always watch drains closely when running water! I’ve never personally had a drain overflow, but I know of plenty of home inspectors that have.

Interiors Nothing complicated here. Operate doors and windows, look over walls and floors. If tile floors are present, look for cracked tiles and grout. Minor cracking is usually acceptable, major cracking or offset cracks will need further evaluation. Look over the ceilings for water stains. An important hint: Bring a flashlight and look at closet ceilings. Homeowners often forget to cover up water stains in closets.

Electrical Don’t get in over your head here. We simply want to operate all lights, and look at the main panel – NEVER remove the cover, simply open the door on its front. (Some still call the main panel a “fuse box”.) What size is the main breaker/disconnect? (It is often not inside the main panel, but near the electrical meter.) The most common sizes are 100, 150 and 200 amps. This will be printed on the main disconnect itself and tells you the size of your electrical service. I still see some older homes with 60 amp “fuse boxes”. If that is the case we need to budget about $2,000 for an upgrade.

Following these instructions will increase your odds of writing an offer on a home without major disappointments. After the offer is accepted by both sides, now you have to find a good home inspector.

A word to the wise on choosing a home inspector. As most any expert will tell you, check out a home inspector’s credentials closely. In many states (including Florida, my home state) home inspectors are not licensed or regulated in any meaningful way. MOST home inspector “certifications” out there are questionable, if not outright scams. They line the pockets of the certification mills and mislead consumers into a false sense of a home inspector’s competency. It’s truly very sad and one of these organizations is rather large.

Most attorneys and real estate experts will advise you to only hire an inspector that is a member of ASHI (ashi.org). There are also some state organizations that are very reputable. In Florida there’s FABI (fabi.org) in California there’s CREIA (creia.org) and Texas there’s TAREI (tarei.org). One other national organization worth noting is NAHI (nahi.org). Although their membership requirements are somewhat looser than ASHI’s it still is a quality organization worthy of consideration. Although there are more, those are the major organizations that are legitimate.

When shopping for a home inspector, I strongly advise you accept nothing less than one of the best. Never take an inspector’s word on their membership claims. False claims of ASHI membership are extremely common. Always check it out on the organization’s web site listed above. Always hire a home inspector based on qualifications, not cost. The cheapest home inspectors often end up costing you far more than you saved.

Bruce Lunsford is a Home Inspector based in the Naples, Fort Myers area of Florida. He has an engineering degree and has been a full time home inspector for over 16 years.
He is a past statewide ASHI Chapter president and a member of both ASHI and FABI.
Able Home Inspection of Naples, Fort Myers

Copyright 2006, Bruce Lunsford. This article must be used in its entirety without modifications. Author must receive proper credit for authorship and at least one link back.