Monday, February 25, 2013

Guest Post--5 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers


Buying a home for the first time can be an intimidating process. There are appraisals to get, money to put in escrow, talk of "points," and so many "what if"s that could derail the whole process.  It can be overwhelming.

Learning what you can about the process before you begin can make it a little easier to navigate. Here are 5 tips to keep in mind if you are looking to become a first-time homebuyer:

Start Saving

No matter what kind of financing you're able to secure, you're going to need a lot of money to buy a home. Of course, there's the down payment, which can range from 3 percent to the traditional 20 percent. However, a lot more buyers are qualifying for 100 percent financing. Even if you don't have to pay a down payment, there's still the matter of closing costs, any repairs your new home might need, and all the other extras that come along with moving into a new place. Save as much as you can before you start shopping for your new home.

Use a Real Estate Agent

The process of buying a home can be complex and confusing for first-time buyers. Working with a real-estate agent can make the process a breeze. The agent can advise you on how to make the offer (including how much to offer), what the next steps in the process are, what professionals to use to close the deal, and so on. A good real-estate agent can be like your personal assistant in the buying process.

Compare Lenders

When you're ready to start shopping, you need to secure financing. However, you shouldn't settle for the first bank that offers you a mortgage. Be sure to compare lenders to make sure you get the best rate and the best terms. You could save yourself thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Shop Around

Once you have the financing, it's time to shop around for homes. Make sure you look at several homes and don't just fall in love with the first one you see. Even if you end up buying the first one you see, make sure you look at several other homes to get a real feel for what's available and to make sure you're getting the best price.


When you find your dream home, get ready to negotiate. You should never offer what the seller is asking. In addition to negotiating the sales price of the home, you can also negotiate any repairs or improvements that you want done, as well as payment of some of the closing costs. A real-estate agent can give you advice on handling these negotiations for the best outcome.

Don't let the process of buying your first home overwhelm or intimidate you. Use these simple tips to make the process easier and more accessible, and you'll be a pro in no time!

Carmen Guzlas is a writer and manager for, where she has recently been researching Boston Homes. In her spare time, Carmen enjoys gardening and making homemade soap.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Guest Post-- Too Many Choices

Why is it that we feel trapped even when we are not? The problem I have been dealing with lately is having too many choices. My whole life I have been under constraint. I have had a limited amount of time or limited funds or even a limited area to work in. By adding in all those constraints I was able to make the best decision I could out of a very small pool. But what happens when you take away limitations?

This is an idea that many people do not think about. Having virtually unlimited options is a terrifying experience. Unlike those school projects that ask you where you would want to live if you had all the money and time in the world, this is reality. And while my options are not that unlimited, they are a huge step up from my last experience.

Let me give you an illustration. When I bought my first house I was under a time crunch. I had to stay within the city I worked, had to get a house with a very small budget, and also had to do it all within a month. Whew! I did the best I could and it worked out okay, but this time around things are different.
I have a job that is more portable. I can stay in town if I want to, but I also can choose to move elsewhere. I also have a long time to look. Plus my budget is much bigger. All these changes mean I get to think of things I have never considered before.

What style of house do I like?  Do I want to live in the city or in the country? Do I want an old home or a new one? Do I want a fixer upper or something that is ready to go?

It is not just about houses that these kinds of questions come up. Maybe you are looking for a new job. Maybe you are planning on moving. Maybe you are considering dating or marriage. Too many choices can be just as bad, if not worse, than too few. Making the best you can out of what you have is one thing, but what happens when you are actually in control?

Well, here are a few ways to help you make the right choice:

1.      Narrow the field – The first thing you should do is to narrow your choices. Throw out the obvious nos. If you have a large selection, toss out the maybes too. Then just look at your ‘yes’ possibilities. If you can, rank them from best to worst in categories like time, price, color, etc. You may find it easier to see which choice is really for you.

2.      Write it down – Sometimes we get overwhelmed because we do not know what we really want. Write down your ‘must haves’ and your ‘would likes’. By having something down on paper you can make more informed choices and not end up just choosing at random something that you do not really want.

3.      Set a time limit –Even if you feel like your time is unlimited it is a good idea to set a deadline. Deadlines, even self-enforced ones, help you to stay on task and move forward. Without a deadline you could be looking at your choices forever.

When you have a lot of deadlines it can be overwhelming. Cut it into manageable pieces and set a time limit so that you can make a wise choice.

Author Bio:

Ken holds a master’s in business leadership from Upper Iowa University and multiple bachelor degrees from Grand View College.  As president of, Ken’s focus is helping Houston-based parents find the right childcare provider for their family. When he isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his three children and his wife.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Your Academic Advisor is Not Your Parent

The academic advisor provided to you once you begin college is not your parent. "Duh," you may be saying to yourself.  It is surprising how many students know this in theory, but when faced with tons of college questions they behave otherwise.

Having friends who are academic advisors, I am amazed at the types of questions students ask them. Questions like:

  • Is a teacher nice or mean?
  • Why can't I just skip this math class? I'm 40-years-old, I shouldn't have to take it.
  • I emailed you ten minutes ago, why haven't you responded yet?
This prompted me to write my latest article for Fastweb.

Making the Most of Your Academic Advisor, explains the do's and don'ts of working with your academic advisor. An advisor is a great resource to have. You want to be sure to use him or her wisely.

Check out this article if you want to make the most of your academic advisor.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Scholarships...You Must Play to Win

It has been a while since I have put up any scholarship opportunities. Scholarships are always available and usually the money goes unclaimed because students don't apply.

Why take out a student loan, when you can earn a scholarship?

Apply today for one of the following scholarships:

  • From Failure to Promise: I have featured this scholarship on this blog before. The deadline this year is July 31, 2013.
  • This site offers a prize of 1,000 for anyone who is currently in graduate school, or has graduted from graduate school in the past five years. To be entered into the drawing, all you have to do is complete an application form and rate your school. It's that simple.
  • AP Google Scholarship: You have to move fast on this one. The deadline for this award is February 8, 2013. This  program will give 6, $20,000 scholarships to outstanding students who are persuing journalism degrees.
  • Collegiate Inventors Competition: This award is all about inventions. You must be enrolled in college full-time in order to apply. Winners will receive an all-expense paid trip to present their work to a panel of experts in Washington, D.C. If math, science, or engineering is your thing, this may be the opportunity for you.
  • Viral Video Scholarship Contest: High school and college students are eligible to apply for this scholarship. You must create a video public service announcement about driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The deadline is March 31, 2013.
It may take some time and effort, but it will be worth it. Apply for a scholarship today.