How To Ensure That You Get Your Security Deposit Back

Getting your security deposit back at the end of a lease in a timely manner at the end of a lease can sometimes feel like an impossible feat. However, if there were no significant damages to the place you were renting, it doesn’t have to be. As a tenant, you have rights. If you follow these steps, you can put all the chances on your side to get your security deposit back quickly. 


1. Study your contract before moving in

How to get your security deposit back starts before moving in. Your lease should indicate everything you need in order to get your security deposit refunded, including the steps you will have to follow before moving out (do you need to fill in any nail holes or clean the carpets for example). It should also mention how long your landlord can keep your security deposit after you move out. 

Keep a copy of your contract in a safe place and don’t hesitate to refer to it any time you want to make an improvement. 


2. Document every step 

If any dispute arises between you and your landlord, documentation will be key. Taking the extra step to record everything might be a hassle, but it can save you a headache and a lot of money in the long run. 

Start by doing a video recording or taking pictures of any damage during your moving-in inspection. If you notice anything amiss after moving in, email your landlord immediately and snap a picture. 

Keep a record of any damages and repairs during the life of your lease and make sure that you have a written proof as “normal wear and tear” can sometimes be a subjective notion. 

If you want to make any changes, even one that you might consider would improve the value of the rental like repainting the walls or changing an appliance, check with your landlord first. 


3. Be aware of the tenant-landlord laws in your state

Laws vary from state to state, but your landlord is not allowed to keep your security deposit without a valid reason. Check your state’s attorney general website and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to see which ones apply to you. 

Keeping any communication with your landlord by email or following a conversation by an email is a good way to avoid any misunderstanding and keep a written record should the need arise. 


4. Plan your move-out carefully

Before moving out, check your lease to see how much  notice you must give your landlord: most states require a 30 days’ notice and to send it by certified mail with return receipt requested. 

Deep clean your apartment as best as you can and proceed to small repairs. It is always a good idea to be proactive by protecting the bottom of your furniture with felt pads and avoid hanging things with nails whenever you can for example. If you are on good terms with your landlord, it might be a good idea to have a preliminary meeting with him or her to inspect the unit and set up a check-list of repairs that might be necessary. 

Before leaving the apartment, take detailed pictures to document the move-out condition of the place. 


5. Follow up with your landlord

In most states, your landlord should return your security deposit within two to three weeks and provide an itemized list of what your deposit will be used for if applicable (cleaning, repairs, back rent…) if applicable by mail. Always make sure to provide your landlord with a forwarding address so he or she can get in touch with you and you can get your security deposit back in a timely manner. 

It is easier and cheaper to negotiate directly with your landlord if there are any disputes. However, if reaching out fails, you might need to take it a step further and sue your landlord in Small Claims court.


6. If all else fail, sue in Small Claims court

Small Claim Court (sometimes also known as Justice of the Peace, Conciliation, Justice, City, or County court) concerns claims with a limit usually between $3,000 and $10,000 depending on the state. It requires a small fee of $10 to $50 to fill a claim and is an expedited process, not requiring a lawyer. 


However, all the documentation you will have gathered will be instrumental in getting your security deposit back. 

Can You Buy A House with a VA Loan?

Very different from a regular home loan, Veteran Affairs mortgages (commonly known as VA loans) have allowed over 22 million service members to buy a home since 1944. This advantageous program allows qualified veterans, active duty members and their spouses to purchase a property with no down payment, low interest rates, no mortgage insurance and usually allows for a higher debt-to-income ratio than conventional mortgages. So, what’s the catch?


If you are considering buying a house with a VA loan, you must make sure that the property you have in mind can be financed through this type of mortgage. 


1. The house must be used as your primary residence

VA loans can only be used for houses that the borrower will live in within 60 days and will use it as his or her primary residence. 

An exception is made for active duty members on a case-by-case basis: if the military member cannot move in within 60 days, in the case of deployment, for example, his or her spouse or minor child can satisfy the occupancy requirement in certain cases. 

Another exception can be made if the borrower will be retiring within 12 months: he or she might be able to negotiate a later move-in date. 


2. The house must be in move-in condition

Properties purchased with VA loans must be “safe, sanitary, structurally sound and appropriately valued.” These Minimum Property Requirements (also known as MPRs) include mechanical systems in good working condition, dry basements and crawl spaces, no reported presence of termites or fungus, and so on. 

If you have your eye on a property that might not meet these requirements, it will have to be remediated before the loan closes at your expenses or that of the seller. Although foreclosures are not excluded from VA loans, the fact that these properties are often sold as-is often disqualifies them. 


3. The house must not be an income property

Properties that are eligible for VA loans can be single-family homes, townhouses, condominium units in projects that have been approved for VA loans. Manufactured homes are theoretically authorized but can prove difficult to get approved by the lender. If you are planning to live in one of the units, multi-family homes with four units or less are also eligible. 

However, any building whose highest and best use would not be residential cannot be purchased with a VA loan. This includes apartment buildings with more than four units as well as properties that could be used for business purposes, such as working farms or a property with a store attached. Outbuildings, like a horse barn on the property, or a large acreage, can also create some difficulties to get a property approved. 

You can not buy a secondary or seasonal home with a VA loan and, although building a home with a VA home is allowed, buying raw land even to build in the future is not.  

There is no cap to VA loans. However, if you are planning on buying a house with a VA loan above a certain limit, which is based on different levels depending on the location of the house you are interested in purchasing, you might need to put down a down payment, usually equivalent  to 25 percent of the difference between the VA loan limit and the purchase price of the home.

How To Know If You Are Paying Too Much For Property Taxes

Home ownership is expensive. It is something that often causes sticker shock for first-time homeowners. Between regular maintenance and property taxes, the living costs can get a lot higher than they were expecting. However, do you know for sure if you are paying the right amount in property taxes? This article will help you figure out if you can cut down how much you owe the town or city you live in real estate taxes.



1.Check your property’s assessing card.

There is very little you can do about the city’s tax rate, but your property’s assessment is something you should check. Property assessment cards are public, so you should easily be able to access the description that the town or city has of your property, either by looking it up online or by visiting the town assessor’s office directly.

You would be surprised by own many mistakes are commonly made on these reports: some common errors include the square footage of the house, how many bedrooms and bathrooms are included, the condition of the house, etc.


Properties assessment are rarely reviewed if they are in adverse condition: for example, you might have purchased your property as a foreclosure or as an estate sale, and the shape of the house is not as good as it was when it was assessed for the last time.



2. Research the market

The assessed value property taxes are based on is often calculated based on market value. If you recently purchased your property for significantly less money than what it is assessed for, you might be paying too much in property taxes.

If you suspect that your property is overvalued, don’t hesitate to research neighboring properties similar to your own in terms of age, condition, size, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc. and see what they are assessed for or recently sold for. Find at least 4 or 5 comparable properties to make your argument.


If you are confident and if the savings you would make on your property taxes justify the cost, don’t hesitate to hire an independent appraiser whose report would make a strong argument in your favor.



3. Investigate which tax exemption you might be qualifying for

You might be pleasantly surprised and find out that you qualify for some property tax breaks, whether it is a tax exemption or a tax credit that you may have to pay back eventually.


Common property taxes exemptions and credits include:

  • Seniors, especially those on a fixed or limited income
  • Service members and veteran
  • People with a disability

However, you might also qualify for a property tax exemption or credit if you are a first-time homeowner or if your property is located on a large piece of land under the homesteading exemptions.


Like all tax related subjects, these exemptions vary by state, localities, and your situation so contact a tax professional, a tax advisor or your local tax authority to find out what you might qualify for.



4. Appeal for a tax abatement

You can appeal for a tax abatement within specific dates depending on the town your property is located.

Before appealing for an abatement, you must be very confident that you will qualify for one. If the tax assessor finds that your property is under-assessed, if you recently made improvements such as additional square footage or a new deck, for example, you would be at risk to see your property taxes increase instead of going down.


Don’t hesitate to walk with the tax assessor to indicate any adverse conditions, like a noisy highway or a nearby factory.


How Much Does It Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors?

Hardwood floors are a classic addition to any home. They add warmth and depth to your space, plus they’re easy to maintain compared to other flooring options. Even better, because hardwood floors are popular, they’re almost guaranteed to increase the value and style appeal of your home.

What does it mean to refinish your hardwood? Even the best quality floors need maintenance. While hardwood floors will look great for years, they need to be cared for and refinished. If you take good care of your floors, you’ll only need to refinish them every 10+ years.


When do you need to refinish your floors? Here are some signs that it’s time:

  • Your floors have uneven coloring
  • The wood appears dull even after polishing
  • There are visible scratches
  • It’s been 20+ years since your last refinishing


As far as home improvements go, refinishing your hardwood floors is one of the more affordable options. Most homeowners can expect to pay anywhere from $1,072 to $2,374 according to Home Advisor. In this guide, we’ll break down the various costs associated with refinishing your floors so you’ll know if you’re getting the best price for your home improvement.


The Average Costs

Like all home projects, the price will depend on a number of factors such as the size of your home and whether you use a professional. There might also be some costly variations that might increase the overall expense. For a basic restoration, the price ranges from $970 to $1,250 per 300 square feet.

When can you expect to pay more? If your floors are in particularly bad condition, you might need to replace them altogether. This would be the most expensive scenario. Otherwise, it will depend on the quality of finish you plan to use, how many coats are required, and how accessible your floors are.


Hardwood Floor Refinishing Process

Now that you know the average costs, let’s break down the hardwood refinishing process so you know what to expect. As always, do your research when hiring a professional to work in your home. You want to make sure they know what they’re doing to ensure your floors last as long as possible and look their best.

  1. Clear your space. Your first step will be to completely clear each room you plan to refinish. You’ll also want to tape plastic bags over any vents in these rooms since dust can easily clog your filters.
  2. Sand the floors. First, use a professional sander with a dust bag to sand down the floors. This is usually the most time-consuming process, and you’ll have a lot of dust and shavings to clean up.
  3. Apply any stains. If you plan to use a wood stain, now is the time. The stain will need at least 20 hours to dry, and heat can help speed up this process.
  4. Coat the floor – Several coats of polyurethane will need to be applied in order to lock in the stain and give your floors that long-lasting shine. There will be 2-3 coats, and each coat needs a day to dry.
  5. Wait 48 hours – Finally, avoid walking on the floors for up to 48 hours to ensure everything is dry. Then, it’s time to move your furniture back.


That’s a comprehensive, step-by-step breakdown for what you can expect during the refinishing process. Your hardwood floors should come away looking shiny, healthy, and gorgeous. This process will keep your floors looking their best for the next 10 years or more as long as you maintain them with proper care. Refinishing your hardwood floors is an inexpensive way to bring them back to life and increase the value of your home.

What Kind of Homes To Buy in 2019

If you’re planning to buy a home in 2019, there’s a lot you need to know. This past year has seen growing competition in the housing market as there are fewer homes on the market compared to the growing number of buyers. Mortgage rates are also on the rise at their highest levels since 2011, and this is intimidating to many potential home buyers. 

Luckily, home prices are expected to slow down their rate of growth in the next year. This gives many new buyers some room to breathe while they look for a fit for their budget. The next generation of homebuyers, Millennials, account for 45% of homebuyers and that percentage is only expected to grow. With a new generation comes new trends in the real estate market. 

With all of these stats and predictions about 2019, what kinds of homes should you be looking for this year? Here are the best types of homes to buy if you’re looking to make a purchase in 2019.


Booming Markets

First, the easiest way to identify a good investment in a home is to look at the market. Some real estate markets are experiencing major booms right now, and these are only expected to grow in 2019. Where do we see the biggest growth? Here are the top cities to look out for:


Phoenix, Arizona – Increasingly affordable with 1.6% annual population growth each year

Atlanta, Georgia – Another affordable location with 3% population growth

Mundelein, Illinois – A Moderately affordable city with over 3% population growth


Of course, it’s not always possible to move long distances, but it might be worth considering one of these locations if you’re looking for an investment property or a great home deal. Within these cities above, you can find everything you need to secure a home you love that will gain value over time. Now is the time to make a purchase while the market is still hot but not too competitive. 


New Constructions

Since March 2018, the average price for new construction homes has been on a steady decline. In fact, it’s decreased by over 7 percent in the past year. That means the time is now to make a purchase on a new construction home. 

One reason for the lowering cost of new constructions might be that builders are trying to create a wider range of price points. While there’s certainly a focus on building more luxury rental properties and high-end homes, we’re also seeing a shift in price points that appeal to all buyers today. 

There are also a lot of advantages to a new construction like lowered energy costs, less risk of damage and repair, and more customization options. The verdict is that if you’ve been thinking about owning a new construction, now is the time to make a purchase. 


Second-City Suburban Homes

In the past year, we’ve seen the rise of a new term in the real estate industry known as “second-cities.” These are smaller U.S. cities that have experienced booms in their downtown that attract young adults, especially Millennials. Millennial adults are building their own communities both in and around second-cities, and these are the perfect homes to buy right now. 

More Americans are moving to suburban homes around these second-cities, and this population growth is fueling a growing housing market. Single-family homes in these newly popular cities are popping up everywhere, many of which are lower-cost DIY properties. If you’re up for the challenge, 2019 is the time to act. 

As you can see, a lot is shifting in the housing market in 2019. Trends of the past are slowly fading away as a new generation of home buyers enters the market. Thankfully, housing prices aren’t expected to rise as quickly as they have been in the past, and this means more room for growth across the industry. Are you ready to buy a house?