7 Questions to Ask as You Choose a Real Estate Agent to Help You Sell Your House

I’m at a very exciting crossroads. We might be moving in the next few months. My husband is interviewing for a job in another state, and so far, we feel good about the whole situation.

For us, this means that we might have to sell our home. Yes, we could sell it ourselves without the help of a real estate professional to take a cut, but we also know that we don’t want to deal with the hassles associated with the whole process. Unfortunately real estate agent commissions are one of the hidden costs of owning a home.

And if we have to move before the home sells, I’d rather have a knowledgeable and trustworthy real estate agent available to take care of everything while we’re trying to learn the ropes in a new city.

questions to ask your real estate agent

An alternative would be to rent out the house, but there are a lot of things to consider before becoming a landlord.

In order to make this work (if it really does come to it), I’ll need to “interview” potential agents. Here are 7 questions I plan to ask the real estate agents I consider during the vetting process:

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Raising Kids These Days Ain’t Cheap

helping your children financiallyKids these days! They can be so expensive!

Raising a child gets more expensive every year.

Not only does inflation take its toll, but there always seems to be another activity to do.

The older your children get, the more they are likely to cost (well, once you get them out of the initial “baby” stage where diapers can be a killer cost).

The USDA says that children are getting more expensive as well. I recently plugged my information into the Cost of Raising a Child Calculator offered by the USDA, and found that my 10-year-old son is expected to cost me $28,350 just this year.

We’re not on track to actually hit that mark so far this year, but the results have me thinking. I’m sure there are those in other places who spend that much on their kids — or spend even more — each year.
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Getting Out of Jury Service

One of the most important civic duties we have as Americans is serving on a jury.

A huge piece of our judicial system includes being able to have a trial of your peers rather than letting the government being judge, jury, and executioner. Yet many people try to get out of jury service simply for convenience and that is a true shame.

Some people want to know how to get out of jury duty because they fear being fired from their job for missing work, but that is illegal. Your employer cannot fire you for missing work due to jury duty.

However, there are those who have legitimate reasons to get out of jury service.

how to get out of jury duty
If you are wondering how to avoid serving on a jury, here are some of the ways to get out of jury duty: [Read more...]

Do You Display Proper Tipping Etiquette?

tipping etiquetteMany of us engage in activities that result in receiving some sort of service from others.

However, it can be difficult to know how much to tip — and when it’s considered a social requirement to tip.

Tipping etiquette is different from industry to industry and country to country.

Tipping too much is usually not a problem; where most people struggle is not tipping enough or at all in a situation that requires it.

What is Proper Tipping Etiquette?

If you are concerned about tipping etiquette, here are some guidelines from the Emily Post Etipedia:
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How to Become an Independent Contractor

For years, I have been an independent contractor. I’ve grown my home business into something that earns a steady income for my family. In fact, I’m the primary breadwinner. Becoming an independent contractor is one of the most profitable small businesses to start this year.

how to become an independent contractor

As an independent contractor, I have a degree of freedom in choosing my own schedule, and even determining who my clients are. I’m also part of a segment of the workforce that is growing in demand. Many companies are turning to independent contractors because it can be less expensive. My hourly rate might be higher than the rates commanded by “regular” workers, but I save a company in other ways:

  • No benefits to pay
  • No overhead costs
  • No payroll taxes to pay

A few years ago, CNN Money pointed out that an employee working for $14 an hour actually costs an employer $20 an hour. While most of my clients pay more than $20 for a project, the reality is that they just have to pay me for the project, rather than continue to pay me day in and day out, and pay the other costs associated with maintaining a full-time employee.

How Do You Become Self-Employed?

The independent contractor arrangement can be a win-win in many ways. If you are looking to become an independent contractor, either to replace your “day job,” or just to make a little extra money on the side, here are some steps you need to take:
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How to Stop Wage Garnishment

how to stop irs wage garnishmentIf you owe money to the IRS due to back taxes or unfiled tax returns, one of the ways that Uncle Sam can get his due is by garnishing your wages.

However, it doesn’t have to end in this step.

In fact, wage garnishment is something of a “last resort” before you find yourself faced with the possibility of going to jail. If you want to stop IRS wage garnishment, you can plan ahead.

The IRS will send you letters months prior to garnishing your wages, so you can’t say you weren’t warned. And you can even put a stop to IRS wage garnishment before you get to the letter stage if you take the time to address the problem now.
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Planning a Short Sale? Why You Need to Consider Completing the Transaction Before the End of the Year

short saleAn increasing number of homeowners are turning to short sales in order to unload their homes without going through a foreclosure.

If you decide that a short sale is right for your situation, it’s important to understand that you will need to complete the transaction before the end of the year if you want to avoid running into tax problems that can weigh on your finances.

What is a Short Sale?

A short sale is a real estate transaction in which the mortgage lender agrees to accept less than you owe on the home in the name of selling the house. If you owe $200,000 on your mortgage, but home values have dropped in your neighborhood so that you can only get $180,000 for the home, a lender might be willing to allow you to sell the home “short” of what you owe. Short sales also come into play when you are having problems staying current with your mortgage payments.

A short sale can help you avoid a foreclosure. This means less hassle for the lender in many cases, and the lender might get more with your short sale than with an attempt to sell a real estate owned property.

You are forgiven the difference between what you owe and what the home sells for. In this instance, you are forgiven $20,000.

“Wait… this sounds too good to be true!”

There are a few other things you need to know about the short sale process, especially for this year: [Read more...]

Are You Cut Out for an Online Course?

A college degree is almost a requirement to get any job these days. Employers want to see an Associate’s degree at minimum, but a Bachelors degree is preferred. At the same time college costs continue to skyrocket making getting a great education an expensive proposition for many.

getting online degree

One of the ways that you can improve your education is to go online. Many schools now offer online courses that can help you work toward your degree. My husband teaches online courses for Utah State University, allowing students a degree of flexibility in their educational pursuits. Additionally, schools like Harvard and the University of North Carolina also offer online courses.

While you want to make sure that you are taking a trustworthy online course, an even more important issue might be that you need to focus on whether or not you are well-suited to online learning.

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Top 10 Best (and Free) Online Budgeting Tools

In these tough economic times, many recognize the importance of financial planning.

You want to ensure that your resources are directed to best effect, and that means creating a spending plan that works well for your situation, and helps you prepare for the future.

online budgeting tools

Good budgeting software can help you take charge of your finances.

Happily, a large number of free online budget tools exists. You can get help for nearly any budgetary need you have.

Here are some of the best free online budget tools that can help you chart a course to financial freedom:
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What is Considered a Middle Class Income?

what is middle class income Many of us identify as middle class. It provides us with an identity that is respectable, and implies that we are “normal.”

After all, if you are middle class, you aren’t stuck with some of the stigmas that can come with being poor, and you are painted with the elitist brush for being rich. Middle class is a comfortable place to be for many of us.

It also helps, too, that middle class identity is probably deeply ingrained in your psyche. Many of the children of Baby Boomers (I’m one) grew up in the middle class, espousing “middle class values.” My experience was one of being poor until I was about 12, since my parents got married relatively young and started having kids.

Then, once my dad finished school and began making more money, we moved into a middle class neighborhood, able to afford the necessities of life, and some of the luxuries. The middle class mentality, for many in my generation, is based on similar experiences: Remembering the poor life as our parents initially struggled, but enjoying greater comfort as they began earning more.

But middle class is more than just your own mindset. It also includes numbers. Many of those who have a middle class mentality might not actually be considered middle class when it gets right down to income. [Read more...]

5 Reasons to Plant a Garden this Year

grow a garden

I love my garden. My husband and I aren’t serious gardeners, but we grow tomatoes, cucumbers, a variety of bell peppers, herbs, and berries. We also have four fruit trees in the back yard, although only the gala apple tree has provided us with something substantial so far.

We’re not alone, either. The National Gardening Association reports that about 43 million Americans grow some of their own food. Gardening can be a great way to grow your own food, improve your health, and save money. If you are wondering if you should start gardening, here are 5 good reasons to start a garden this year: [Read more...]

Avoid these 3 Pitfalls of Debt Consolidation

debt consolidationOne of the best things you can do for your finances is to pay down debt. There are a number of different strategies designed to help you get rid of your debt.

Among the more popular strategies is debt consolidation. With debt consolidation, you gather all your debts in one place.

You can get a debt consolidation loan that pays off all the smaller loans and leaves you with the larger loan, or you can manage your debt consolidation through a third party, which collects payment from you and then disburses it to your creditors.

Debt consolidation can be a great way for some consumers to put a solid dent in their debt. This is because it gets all of the debt in one place, where it can be easily managed. You only have one payment to worry about, and one interest rate. Being able to concentrate your efforts can go a long way toward getting rid of debt.

However, debt consolidation isn’t for everyone, and it’s no guarantee that you will be able to get rid of your debt effectively — especially if you fall prey to the following 3 pitfalls:
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