Janice Walker's Blog
Online courses are gaining popularity as a way to learn new skills and subjects without enrolling in expensive certificate or degree programs. They’re also great for working adults and parents who don’t have time to leave the house every night to go to a class after work. Better yet, many online courses are free (or come with a free trial), so you don’t have to worry about losing money if you don’t like the course.
You might be wondering, “What can I really learn from an online course that will benefit me as a homeowner?” There are a number of courses relevant to homeowners when it comes to things like the home buying process, budgeting, interior design, and more.
In this article, we’re going to introduce you to some of those courses in case you have some free hours in the evenings and want to learn something new. Read on for our list of the best free online courses for homeowners (or soon-to be homeowners).
Buying a home
Unfortunately, many of us go into the home-buying process knowing little about what to expect. This can be cause for stress and anxiety as you navigate the complicated steps of building credit, getting preapproved, and making an offer.
Udemy offers a one-hour course on home buying that can help you with this process. First, A Beginner’s Guide to Buying Your First Home will help you prepare for a down payment, understand the housing market, and teach you about things like home inspections and appraisals.
I often wish that kids were taught more practical finance and budgeting skills in high school so they have an idea of what to expect once they graduate and enter the workforce or apply to college.
Making financial decisions is stressful at any time of your life, whether it’s taking out student loans, buying your first home, or deciding when is the right time to retire. Fortunately, edX has you covered with this free personal finance course from Purdue University.
You’ll learn about retirement savings, the different types of investments, how insurance works, and the role credit plays in your ability to make healthy financial decisions.
Decorating and designing the layout of your furniture is often something that we just guess at. Maybe you saw layouts and colors that you liked on Pinterest and tried to emulate them, or perhaps you just buy decorations and furniture just because you like them and not because they fit the style of your home.
If you want to gain a better understanding of basic interior design and decorating, this series of video lectures from Howcast is a great place to start. With 53 short videos you can watch whenever and wherever you want, you can browse and learn at your leisure, then try some of these methods in your own home.
Are you a minimalist? If you’ve heard this question recently, you may be wondering just what it means and how does it affect you. It is NOT a set of rules.It is NOT about how much you own.
It is NOT about how much money you earn.
It is NOT about buying specific items or giving up certain things.
It is NOT about being frugal.
It is NOT throwing out all your belongings and sleeping in a yurt (unless that makes you happy).
It is NOT about living in a tiny house (although it can be for you).
It IS about quality over quantity; peace over disorder; satisfaction over extravagance.
Minimalism is a mindset about what we require to be happy and what only clutters up our homes and our lives. It is about getting rid of the unnecessary things that take up space, consume time, and contribute to frustration and exhaustion. You can be a true minimalist in a mansion, a townhome, an apartment, or a houseboat as long as what fills your space contributes to contentment and order rather than stress and chaos.
When it comes to buying a home, minimalists look for spaces that reflect their personality rather than the latest trend. A minimalist is a different type of homebuyer. Becoming minimalist might be right up your alley if you hate the over-stuffed closet or messy junk drawer, find yourself irritated by clutter and uncomfortable with a hodgepodge of decorative items you subconsciously think of as “dust collectors.”
While a form of minimalism is an architectural style commonly seen in Japanese design with an aesthetic toward simplicity and clean lines, most homes do not fit into this category. Does that mean you can’t have a minimalist lifestyle? Of course not. Just adopt minimalist concepts to fit into any living space.
One way to accomplish this is to reduce the amount of furniture you have in each room. Opt for the pieces that everyone uses and give away ones that only fill up space. Reduce window coverings to a minimum rather than the multi-layered blind-sheer-drape-valance style. Organize the items that you keep so that each has a home. Reduce clutter by highlighting one or two items of a collection and rotating special pieces instead of displaying them all at once.
Simplify in other ways by installing native grasses and plants, thereby reducing the need for lawn care and gardening. Add interest to your yard with hardscaping: rock gardens or paver stones in decorative patterns.
When seeking a new home visualize what makes you most happy as you walk through model homes and open houses letting your imagination discard what doesn’t fit. Help your real estate professional know about your aesthetic to have the best chance of finding your minimalist home.
Buying your first home is a big decision; one that involves a lengthy process of saving money, building credit, and planning the next phase of your life. However, owning a home comes with one major payoff: home equity.
Simply put, home equity is the amount of your home that you’ve paid off. However, it does get more complicated when we bring in factors like the market value of your home and how it shifts over the years.
In this article, we’ll discuss home equity and what it means for you as a homeowner. This way, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect when you finally make that last payment on your home or when you decide to sell.
Home equity and market value
As I mentioned earlier, home equity is more than just the amount you’ve paid toward your mortgage. Like most markets, the housing market shifts over time.
Most homes slowly increase in value over time. In the real estate world, this increase in value is called appreciation.
However, that doesn’t mean that your home is simply going to increase in value indefinitely until you decide to sell. As you will find out (if you haven’t yet already), owning a home can be expensive. Houses age and require upgrades. If you fail to keep up with the maintenance of your home, its value can diminish.
How to build equity
The most important thing you can do to build equity is to make on-time payments to your mortgage. Making extra mortgage payments will help you build equity even faster.
One method of paying extra on your mortgage that many people are adopting is to make bi-weekly payments. Twenty-six bi-weekly payments comes out to 13 full payments per year, the equivalent of making one full extra monthly payment.
The second method of building equity is something that you have less control over: appreciation. However, if you stick to a maintenance schedule for your home and keep it in good repair, you’ll most likely benefit from appreciation over the lifespan of your mortgage.
What can I use home equity for?
The most common way to use home equity is as a down payment or full payment on your next home. First-time buyers who don’t have a 20% down payment saved often buy a starter home and then later upgrade as their family grows and their needs change. In the years that they own their first home, they build enough equity to make a full down payment on their second home, avoiding fees like mortgage insurance.
Many homeowners planning on retiring in the near future use their equity toward their retirement home, often turning a profit in the process. If you plan on downgrading for retirement and have fully paid off your mortgage, you can often use your equity to pay for your next home in cash.
For most college students and recent grads, the prospect of buying a home seems slim and distant. With the cost of a college education growing each year and the price of houses inflating, it can seem daunting to begin to save for a down payment or build credit.
However, there are ways to start planning now for buying a home, even if you are burdened with student debt and rising rent.
In this article, we’re going to do just that. If you’re a recent grad or a current college student, read on for a guide to buying a home.
What do you need to buy a home
Once you graduate college you might be wishing you could have taken an elective called “How to Be an Adult 101.” There are many personal finance problems in life that just aren’t taught in school, from saving for retirement, to borrowing for a house or car, to investing in stocks and bonds.
So, what are the main things you’ll need to buy a home? Before you start applying for mortgages, you should know that just because you can get approved doesn’t mean you should buy a home.
Purchasing a home is a huge investment and one that most homeowners take decades to pay off. With high interest rates and private mortgage insurance (PMI), the cost of owning a home can be immense.
To avoid PMI and get a good interest rate, you’ll need a few things.
Your credit score is one thing that lenders take into consideration when determining how risky it is to lend to you. They want to know that they’ll receive a return on their investment and that you won’t stop paying your mortgage. A good way to gauge this is by looking at your financial history.
Your credit score mainly takes into account the following five things:
Payment history - 35%: Do you pay your bills (utilities, loans, etc.) on time each month?
Credit usage - 30%: How much of your maximum credit have you used? If you max out your cards this can reflect poorly on your ability to manage money. However, if you don’t use any accounts you might have a hard time building a payment history.
Length of credit history - 15%: The longer you’ve been paying bills the more trustworthy you are to lenders
New credit - 10%: If you recently opened or attempted to open cards this will temporarily lower your credit score as it could be a sign of financial duress
Types of credit - 10%: store accounts, credit cards, loans, etc. Having a variety of credit types will boost your score.
Having student loans as a college graduate can often give your credit score a leg up on others who don’t have a credit history. However, to boost your score you’ll want to keep making on-time payments and consider using a credit card if you can afford it.
Most recent college grads cringe when they hear that their employment history is important to lenders. However, you might be pleased to know that being a full-time student is something lenders take into consideration.
They will, however, need to see employment history from your current employer, and the more you can prove that you have a stable job the better.
One of the most important things you can do right now is to save for a down payment. Designate a portion of your paycheck each week to a separate savings account if you need to in order to hold yourself accountable. The bigger down payment you can make, the better your interest rate and the more money you’ll save over the length of your mortgage.
Finally, don’t let increases in your salary change your lifestyle. Staying frugal will help you avoid “lifestyle inflation” or spending more simply because you make more. Decide what you value, and choose purchases wisely.