As a homeowner, no doubt you’re familiar with Scottsdale home improvement issues. Every home has those nagging problems that arise from time to time. Many times they are too minor to call in a professional, but they still require attention – and repair. The good news is you can easily tackle these and other issues all by yourself. Let’s take a look at how you can solve three well-known problems that can occur around the house.

Jammed or stuck garbage disposal

The first of the Scottsdale home improvement issues we should address is the jammed garbage disposal. You know the drill. You flip the switch and it makes a humming noise, but doesn’t turn on and do its job. That usually means it’s stuck, clogged or jammed with food (or something that’s not supposed to be in there, like a spoon for example.) Don’t force the situation and don’t reach down into the disposal with your hand! Follow these easy suggestions to remedy the problem:

  • Turn off the disposal or flip the electrical circuit that serves the appliance.
  • Using a flashlight, look into the disposal and “fish around” with a pair of pliers to pull out the item(s) that may be clogging it. Again, even with the power turned off or disconnected, never put your hand in the disposal. Hopefully, you’ll locate whatever’s jamming the disposal and can remove it easily. If that’s not the case, continue as follows.
  • If your disposal is equipped with a reversal feature, run cold tap water into it and put it in reverse. Usually, that dislodges whatever is causing the clog and it can be removed. If you don’t have a reversal feature, do the following instead:

Turn off the electrical power at the circuit breaker 

Scottsdale home improvement issues often include repairs, and this may mean a stuck or jammed garbage disposal.

Look beneath the sink and find the hole in the bottom of the disposal. Using an Allen wrench, insert it in the hole and twist it back and forth a few times in an effort to free the impeller blade, which could be stuck. If you can turn the wrench in a complete circle, the object will probably be freed… see step two above.

  • Try the reset button and run cold tap water into the disposal for a minute or so.
  • Turn the power back on to the disposal ad turn it back on.

Loose toilet seat Probably because it gets a fair amount of wear and tear, it’s not unusual for the toilet seat in your main bathroom or kid’s bathroom to become loose. It’s common among Scottsdale home improvement issues. Do this for a tighter toilet seat:

  • Take off the hinge bolt covers on the seat
  • Remove the nut holding the hinge bolt in place. Be sure to leave the hinge bolts in.
  • You’ll need a toilet seat tightening kit, available in Lowe’s or Home Depot. Using the tool in the kit, slide the washer from the kit onto the hinge bolt on the underside of the toilet. Then, slide the bolt up so that it’s secured tightly into the underside of the hinge bolt opening.
  • Replace the hinge bolt nut, then tighten.
  • Do the same thing on the other side of the toilet seat.

Misaligned or sticking door Another one of the Scottsdale home improvement issues facing homeowners is the nagging, recurring problem of an interior door that won’t close as it should. Remedies can range from inserting a piece of cardboard used as a shim to aid in realigning the door, to using a long screw in the door jamb to pull it in, to removing the door and planing the edge so it swings properly. Before you try any of those options, make sure to check the hinge screws to see if they’re loose. If they are, try this:

  • Take out the screws from the hinge and remove the hinge from the door or door jamb (depending on which side is loose.)
  • Place a drop or two of wood glue into each of the hinge screw holes.
  • Using wooden toothpicks or wooden matches, put one or more in each of the screw holes. Allow them to set for ten minutes, then break off the excess wood.
  • Re-install the door hinge with the screws. If everything goes well, the fit should be tight again.

These Scottsdale home improvement issues are just three of a number of common problems that every homeowner faces at one time or another. With a little patience and a few simple tools, these and other issues can be repaired with minimal expense. If you hit a snag or need additional information, Google it! In today’s information-rich age, many do-it-yourself solutions to Scottsdale home improvement issues are available on the internet – some complete with YouTube videos that show the step by step instructions.

Fixing these and other problems yourself will give you a greater degree of satisfaction and will save you time and money!

You can find more articles pertaining to Scottsdale home improvement issues and projects in the Scottsdale Home Improvements section of our site below Scottsdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

We also post tips daily on Twitter and Facebook and would love for you to follow us there as well.  

As spring rapidly approaches, the Scottsdale economic update is for housing to cost more for many new prospective home buyers. Higher mortgage rates, rising home prices and slow-to-moderate job and income growth threaten to combine for a less than stellar spring home buying season.

The end of 2016 saw home affordability reach its lowest point since 2009, and the home ownership rate dropped to historical lows across the U.S. Some economists feel a cure for the home affordability problem isn’t in the cards for 2017.

 As for the Scottsdale economic update, some economists feel a cure for the home affordability problem isn't in the cards for 2017.

According to a new report issued by Black Knight Financial Services, American homeowners have to pay 22.2% of their median income to meet their mortgage payments on a median priced single family residence. The data is based on a survey of borrowers who have a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. By comparison, the housing bubble of 2005-2006 saw roughly 36% of median incomes to afford a home. Keep in mind that home prices and mortgage interest rates were even higher during that time.

The differences between the housing bubble of slightly more than a decade ago and today’s market are fuel for the most recent Scottsdale economic update. Back in 2005, most borrowers didn’t take out 30-year fixed rate mortgages, preferring to utilize alternate lending programs featuring low- or no-down payments and very low introductory interest rates. In addition, many borrowers took advantage of negative amortization loans allowing the homeowner to postpone payments and add them to the overall loan balance. Many of these “creative” financing options contributed to the housing crash and, as a result, some of these type loans are no longer legally available.

The current 22.2% of median income that the average borrower has to pay today to meet his mortgage payment represents a 10% increase during the fourth quarter of 2016 – the result of a quick rise in post-election mortgage interest rates. The above-mentioned Black Knight report bases their comparisons on 30-year fixed rate mortgages today, making it a more appropriate “apples to apples” comparison if some factor in the mortgage market is responsible for a change in affordability. In 2005-2006 when the home affordability equation was grossly out of line, the mortgage programs available at that time artificially increased the homeowner's buying power and drove up home prices. In actuality, without the creative lending programs and products the housing affordability would be far from sustainable.

In a nutshell, here’s where the Scottsdale economic update has created a cause for concern: With home prices having risen steadily during 2016, they were 7.2% higher across the nation compared from December 2015. The national index at the end of 2016, according to a report from CoreLogic, was 3.9% below the peak housing price pace in April 2006. This year, CoreLogic’s projections are that the national index will rise 4.7% – putting housing prices at a new high level before the end of the year. In addition, other indices that are tracked show that in some regions of the country, prices are already higher than their previous peaks – higher than the last housing boom.

Economists say the central cause of higher prices these days is not solely restricted to low mortgage interest rates, but also to tighter home inventory and record demand from home buyers. The spring buying season is expected by many to be extremely tight. Home builders have increased the number of units under construction, but not by much. In addition, there is expected to be a huge increase in demand on the part of first-time home buyers, especially millennials who have been on the sidelines for the past few years.

As always, time will soon tell. The lower than expected housing inventory levels continue to plague a full-blown housing recovery. That is seen as one of the major culprits in creating and inflating home prices of the homes that are on the market – creating a short supply and a high demand – the very definition of a seller’s market. Ironically, while interest rates do play a factor in the challenges of the spring selling season and beyond, mortgage rates are not expect to rise much higher than the 4.5% level during 2017, a very affordable interest rate – if home prices weren’t expected to rise higher than in 2016. Remember, while interest rates were at all-time market lows for much of the past 12-18 months, even a slight increase to the 4.5%  – or even the 5% threshold is a very good bargain compared to where interest rates have been for much of the last decade.

Nationally, most homes in most real estate markets remain more affordable than those in the housing bubble days. However, the Scottsdale economic truth is that the housing market is currently feeling more pressure in terms of affordability since the recovery began in recent years.

You can find more articles pertaining to the Scottsdale economic update and outlook in the "Economy" section of articles just below Scottsdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Remember to also check us out by finding us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.

The Scottsdale mortgage forecast – at least for the near future – is that home loans will continue to be easier to obtain than anytime in the last ten years. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) recently published a report showing data that seems to suggest mortgage lenders have relaxed many of their lending regulations and standards for every type of loan – including FHA and USDA home loans – both backed by the U.S. government.

Between 2008 and 2016, it was estimated credit availability to take out mortgages tightened by close to 90%, according to an MBA report. However, today’s Scottsdale mortgage forecast is brighter than before, and more people are qualifying for loans than in the last decade. Officials say even those borrowers who may have been turned down for a mortgage loan a year or more ago are likely to be granted financing in today’s lending environment.

 The Scottsdale mortgage forecast is for mortgages to become easier to obtain than in the last 10 years.

Let’s Look at the Numbers The MBA publishes its Mortgage Availability Index (MCAI) every month in an effort to show the current mortgage lending market as a single number. The MBA obtains data from over 95 lenders nationwide, looking at loan-to-value ratios, FICO credit scores and lending limits as a measure of how much or little flexibility there are in loan guidelines.

The most recent report shows the MCAI at a fairly high 177.1 – a huge increase from what many term its benchmark index of March 2012 of 100. What this means is that mortgages are almost twice as easy to obtain as they were just five short years ago.

The Scottsdale mortgage forecast is for relaxed lending standards to not only continue to be a part of a mortgage lender’s loan guidelines, but they’re making an impact in other areas as well. Mortgage software company Ellie Mae just released a report showing mortgage lenders approve 77% of applicants – an increase of 6% in roughly 18 months. In addition, the MCAI rose 1.1% in only one month. The report also showed that lenders have relaxed lending requirements for loans above the national conforming loan maximum of $424,100.

Availability, as a result, has increased for nearly every type of loan offered:

  • Government mortgage availability rose 0.2% from the prior month
  • Conventional mortgage loan availability was up 2.3% from the previous month
  • Jumbo mortgage availability increased 4.7% from the prior month

Government mortgages referenced above include the three major lending programs – the FHA loan, the VA loan and the USDA mortgage.

USDA Loans Increase Government Mortgage Availability

First-time home buyers really like the little-known USDA home loan program. USDA loans require no down payment, one of only two loan products with that feature – the other being the VA loan – which is available to current or previous members of the Armed Forces. USDA loans are also known as Rural Housing Loans and eligibility requirements are based on the home’s location. Primarily, neighborhoods throughout the U.S. that are in less densely populated areas are the easiest in which to qualify. Before you assume these programs are available only to homes located “in the boonies,” consider this – the eligibility maps are 17 years old. In many areas, was characterized as “rural” in 2000 could be part of suburbia today. The Scottsdale mortgage forecast will continue to be impacted by USDA loans.

The Housing Market Remains Safe

Mention the increased availability of mortgage credit and some people immediately equate that with concern for another housing market crash. In their minds, the logic is easy mortgage availability was responsible for the housing crisis back in 2008 and 2009 – so, if credit becomes easy to obtain we are likely to repeat history. However, here’s something that may calm your fears. Remember the Mortgage Banker’s Association (MBA) MCAI index report discussed earlier? The MBA estimates it reached close to 900 during the bubble in late 2006. Again, the index today is just 177.1. Industry experts say the Scottsdale mortgage forecast is for credit availability to remain strong – and safe – because the housing market is a different animal than it was over a decade ago. Lenders are less likely to be as lax as they were in the years leading up to the housing crisis.

Lastly, mortgage lenders today are more cognizant that making good, sound mortgage loans is the foundation of the housing industry. There are more safeguards in place to prevent history from repeating itself than ever before – primarily as a result of the housing crash. Borrowers today need to have good credit – not excellent, blemish-free credit reports – but a history of paying their monthly obligations on time, over time. In addition, they need sufficient income to qualify for the monthly payments. Of course, they need to have a sufficient down payment to qualify for most mortgage loans, though not all.

Simply put, we remain optimistic with the Scottsdale mortgage forecast for 2017 and beyond. Here’s hoping the housing market will continue to recover to its full capacity.

You can find more articles pertaining to the Scottsdale mortgage forecast in the "Scottsdale Mortgage Info" section of articles just below Scottsdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right. Remember to also check us out by finding us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.

We’ve assembled a Scottsdale home buying checklist for people thinking of entering the real estate market, looking to buy a house. Let’s take a look at these seven important tips.

1 – Home buying should be for the long haul. Not too long ago, buying houses and turning around and selling them (or “flipping” them) was a popular way to make money. Today, we recommend considering planning to live in the home you buy for at least 7-10 years. Of course, there’s no hard and fast rule. People move where their jobs take them – whether it’s across town or across the country – but give consideration to whether you’ll likely move within the next few years before you decide to buy. For some people, it may be better to rent for a few years.

2 – Do some soul-searching before you decide to buy. Your Scottsdale home buying checklist should include asking yourself a series of tough questions to make sure your heart is in what you’re about to undertake. Buying a home is the single largest purchase most people will make in their lifetime – make sure you recognize that, and treat it importantly.

Scottsdale home buying checklist for prospective purchasers thinking about buying a house.

3 – Ask yourself these questions: Will you choose to start a family soon? Do your needs require a home with a large yard for a growing family or your pet(s)? How do you feel about yard work? Do you like the city better than the suburbs?

4 – Take your time before you buy. Most people tend to jump right into to the home buying pool without testing the water first. Take your time. There’s no hurry. While interest rates are fairly low, the temptation may be to act quickly, but experts say the rates are expected to remain fairly affordable throughout 2017. Use the extra time you allot to make sure your credit score is in the best shape possible and that the other items you’ll need for loan qualification are in order (tax returns if you’re self-employed, source and verification of your down payment, etc.)

5 – Buy within your budget. One of the most important items on your Scottsdale home buying checklist should be to focus on what you can comfortably afford. Remember, mortgage lenders will use your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) to determine whether you qualify for home loan financing. Before you start the home shopping journey, take a look at your DTI. Take the total of all your recurring debt including your proposed monthly mortgage payment (PITI) along with other monthly debt like credit cards and car payments. Divide that total by your gross monthly income. Most mortgage lending experts say your DTI should be 36% or lower. The most important thing to remember is this: Take out the loan and the monthly payment you can comfortably afford, not necessarily the one you qualify for. Making a higher monthly mortgage payment is no fun if you can’t afford to buy steaks for the new backyard grill occasionally. Some experts recommend buying a home you can afford based on one income. That way, should you or your spouse lose their job or get laid off – or elects to become a full-time parent – you can still comfortably pay for your home.

6 – Consider the tax advantages. The tax benefits are a big part of any Scottsdale home buying checklist. Currently, the mortgage interest you pay on a primary residence is tax deductible. So, the tax savings are of huge consequence since you can deduct your home loan interest and your real estate taxes from your gross income. For example, if you earned $75,000 in gross income in 2016 and you paid $10,000 in mortgage interest and your property taxes were $2,000, you could lower your taxable income to $63,000 – saving you a bundle on income tax.

7 – Create a moving account. Another important item on your Scottsdale home buying checklist is to start a move-in fund. Of course, you’ll have to have a down payment, but don’t forget other things like closing costs, moving expenses and other necessities for your new home. If you’ve been renting, for example, you may need to purchase a lawnmower and other lawn care equipment – along with that backyard grill!

8 – You may choose to rent, if you’re not ready to buy. Let’s face it…sometimes it’s not a good idea to buy. Maybe after you review your Scottsdale home buying checklist you’ll realize it’s not the right time. If you’re not ready, don't force it. Rent instead. You’ll be happier, healthier and financially wiser to put it off a year or two until you feel more comfortable. Save your money. Find a better job. Get your finances in order. Do your homework. Then when you’re ready to buy you’ll be that much more prepared.

Read more about home buying advice in the section of articles on Scottsdale Home Buying Tips just below our Scottsdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Remember, we also post tips daily on Facebook and Twitter. Check us out there, too.

This Scottsdale tax update involves a number of changes to take into consideration before filing your 2016 income tax returns. And despite the changes, overall there aren't too many variations in the preparation of your 2016 income tax returns compared to 2015. However, there are a few important considerations for you to take note of to make sure you're filing as accurately and efficiently as possible this year – especially if you're planning to get a tax refund.

One important Scottsdale tax update of which to be aware is that taxpayers will have three extra days to file their returns this year. April 15th falls on a Saturday, and when that occurs the tax deadline is extended to the next business day, ordinarily Monday, April 17th. However, April 17th is the day the District of Columbia recognizes Emancipation Day. So the tax deadline will be Tuesday, April 18th.

The various tax deductions and filing rules are essentially the same as last year. The difference will be in the tax brackets, which were adjusted for inflation. So, as one CPA put it, don't necessarily assume that what you did last year can be relied on this year. Consult the tax tables carefully.

This Scottsdale tax update addresses several changes to be aware of.

This Scottsdale tax update addresses several changes to be aware of.

The mileage rate is lower. Tax regulations allow for tax advantages for using your personal vehicle for business, charitable, moving or medical purposes. You are able to deduct the actual costs involved, or use the mileage rate as prescribed by the IRS, whichever is greater. For 2016, the rate for business mileage is 54 cents per mile, 3.5 cents lower than it was in 2015. For medical or moving expenses, the rate is 19 cents per mile, down from 23 cents in 2015. The mileage rate for charitable purposes remains the same at 14 cents per mile.

There could be a delay in receiving your refund. If you are claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit, expect your refund to be delayed in order to give the IRS more time to investigate errors and fraud in claiming these credits. Blame the delay on a new law, Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes, passed in 2015.

If you need help from the IRS, you will need an appointment. The IRS taxpayer assistance centers no longer accept walk-ins. Simply call in advance to make an appointment and help will be available.

Your income tax bracket may have changed. Income levels for all tax rates have been adjusted slightly to reflect the results of inflation. Consult the new tax tables.

Your personal exemption has been raised. In 2016, the personal exemption has been increased from $4,000 to $4,050. For taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $259,400 for single filers and $311,300 for a married couple filing jointly, the exemption is less. The exemption is not available for taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $381,900 filing as a single taxpayer and $433,800 for couples filing jointly.

You may get a larger Earned Income Tax Credit. Another Scottsdale tax update is for taxpayers who have three or more children. The maximum credit for their 2016 income tax returns is $6,269, compared to $6,242 in 2015. The formula for the tax credit includes several factors, including income and the number of dependents.

You'll pay a larger penalty if you weren't covered by health insurance. If you don’t have health insurance, you’re going to be penalized – again – to the tune of $695 per adult and $347.50 for each minor child. Good news, though… the maximum household penalty is $2,085. Still, according to IRS officials, most families won’t actually owe the IRS any money, thanks to over 30 existing exemptions already in place.

If you won money in the Olympics or Paralympics, you may not have to pay taxes on the winnings. Normally, if you win money or prizes in a contest or a lottery, you have to pay taxes on those winnings. If your adjusted gross income is less than $1 million ($500,000 if married filing separately) you won’t have to pay taxes on your winnings from the Olympics or Paralympics. Thank Congress for a new law that was passed last year.

If you owe enough back taxes, you may lose your passport. The U.S. State Department now has the right to revoke your passport if you owe more than $50,000 in unpaid taxes. This is due to a 2015 transportation regulation called the FAST Act. Insiders say the IRS so far hasn’t provided back taxes information to the State Department, but expects to do so later this year. So, if you plan to travel abroad in the future, you better make sure you’ve paid your taxes.

You can find more articles pertaining to Scottsdale taxes in the Taxes section of our site below Scottsdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

We also post tips daily on Twitter and Facebook and would love for you to follow us there as well.