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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An Evening in the Garden



 An Evening in the Garden
by Beonca, AmeriCorps VISTA Member

On September 27th, NHS' new AmeriCorps VISTA Members hosted an "Evening in the Garden" at the Stevens Street Community Garden. Our VISTA Members planned the event to gain familiarity with community residents and to raise awareness of the garden among Stevens Street residents.

With funding from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, the event was anchored by a barbeque cook-out and an arts and crafts section for the kids. To get everyone excited for fall, the children were able to decorate tiny pumpkins, which were a hit!

The event encouraged residents to stop by, and several expressed interest in starting their own plots in the garden. The evening was a great way for our VISTAs to learn more about the neighborhood and to build relationships with neighbors. We're excited to see what new projects will come!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Landlording 101



 Landlording 101
By Michael Haynes,
Supervisor, HomeOwnership Center


You don’t need to limit yourself in your house hunt by only looking at single-family homes. Don’t feel intimidated at the prospect of being a homeowner and landlord. With landlord training classes, you’ll learn the ins and outs of owning a multi-family home.

Purchasing a multi-family home where you occupy one of the units as your primary residence while renting out the other unit(s) is an excellent way to offset your home purchase costs while building your assets. There are a few concepts to understand before embarking upon this journey. Generating profit from the rental income is paramount, and having a home maintenance strategy is necessary. Most importantly, understanding your role as a landlord will help minimize unwarranted liability. 

A major incentive to becoming a landlord is the likelihood that you will generate additional revenue for your household. Start by getting a good mortgage product consisting of monthly mortgage payments that are at or below your financial means. You should put yourself in a financial position where you can sustain mortgage payments whether you receive rental income or not. This will serve as a financial cushion, allowing room to save funds at a more aggressive pace and prepare financially for emergencies.  Covering monthly mortgage payments from your own funds and not with the assistance of rental income will put you in a position to build wealth.

A home maintenance strategy is mandatory and should be created before you purchase the property. Remember, you’re responsible for more than just your unit. Get familiar with the average cost to repair and replace the house’s roof, windows, and internal mechanical structures. You will want to be aware of when the items in each unit need to be serviced, repaired, or replaced. 

Understanding your responsibilities as a landlord will help you manage tenant-landlord relations more effectively and enhance your reputation as a stellar landlord. A landlord’s reputation goes a long way – and a good one can help increase the likelihood of getting a larger pool of qualified tenants.  

The life of a landlord can be fun and rewarding. We offer landlord training classes and landlord consultation services. Give us call so that we can help you become the next savvy landlord in town…

Friday, September 19, 2014

Team Players



Team Players
by Michael Haynes,
Supervisor, HomeOwnership Center


Buying a home for the first time? If so, you’re going to need the right team… Pick your team wisely and win the game!!! 


You have made the decision to become a homeowner and want to make sure that the process moves at a controllable pace. Picking the right players to be a part of your home buying team will help you maintain control of the home buying process and ensure that you are informed at each step. There are (5) key players that you should have on your home buying team.


The first key player is your lender. The lender provides the funds to purchase the home and has a significant role in the closing process. Pick a lender that offers the best mortgage product applicable to your credit rating, financial reserves and desired town of residence.


The second key player is your realtor. The realtor helps you with finding homes based on the home you want and need. Find a realtor who is very familiar with the housing market in the areas in which you want to buy, understands first time home buyer programs, and is accessible.


The third key player is your home inspector. The home inspector will give you a good idea as to the livability and functionality of the home. Pay attention to your home inspection report and be sure to ask questions.


The fourth player is your attorney. Choose an attorney that specializes in residential closings and has experience with the closing process for first-time home buyers. Your attorney will play a major role in coordinating the closing process. The attorney helps to make sure that you, the seller, and the lender are on the same page and have all necessary items needed to close.


The fifth key player is your homeowners’ insurance agent.  Make sure you understand the type and amount of insurance you need to cover your home. Homeowners’ insurance can help to protect you from liability against property damage and injury that takes place on your property.   


The right home buyer team can help to make your home buying process smooth and steady. Think of yourself as the team manager…  Every team manager needs an experienced coach to help motivate the players. Let us be your coach and help to make sure your home buying process moves according to plan. Give us a call so that we can create your home buying team together.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Loving Your House: Love Note #3

Loving Your House: Love Note #3
(Helpful hints for homeowners and homeowners-to-be from the Director of Design & Construction, H. Dynia)
September 2014

In Loving your House Love Note #2 last October, we again talked about carefully planning work with regard to season, and, now, it is time to have that talk again. Although we may have deceptively warm days, the chilly nights are again warming us that the tiger (winter) is poised to strike, and we are running out of time to do things that require dryness and temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. What might those things be? 

If you need to re-seed your any lawn areas, this is the perfect time to plant grass. The soil is warm – we are past the season of the most intense burning sunlight – so it is easier to keep the seeded area wet. Get the appropriate seed for the light conditions you have, use a little starter fertilizer, and mulch with chopped straw to help hold the moisture and distract the birds from eating the seed. It is important to keep the area wet or damp until the seed sprouts up a few inches. Don’t mow until this area is 4” – 5” high and then commence regular mowing regimes. 

This is also the time to plant evergreen woody plants, such as spruce, pine, azaleas, mountain laurel, etc. Because they hold their needles or leaves all winter, they need to be able to take up water from the root system, so they need to be established to some degree to enable that. 

Keeping the memory of recent snow storms in mind, it is also important to trim off limb and branches from trees and shrubs that will likely break under snow and ice loads. Try to remember, or plan, where you are going to pile your snow, so you are not mounding it on weak, horizontal branches of your shrubbery. Check your inventory of pruning tools and be sure that they are sharp and in good repair. Minimally, you should have hand pruners, lopping shears, a hand-held pruning saw, and a pole saw for high places you cannot reach. Serious tree work should only be undertaken by professional arborists who are licensed and insured. 

On the house itself, check the roof for anything that looks amiss, or have an experienced friend or professional help you. Gutters should be securely fastened with proper supporting hardware and be clean and free flowing. There are newer, tougher gutter products that are stronger, longer-lasting, and have greater hydraulic capacity that do a better job than the average products in the home centers. Visit the NHS Home Improvement and Energy Conservation Lab to see these products. 

Recent scientific investigations have indicated that rising global temperatures may be the cause of the “Polar Vortex” we experienced last winter. Therefore, like the squirrels who prepare to survive, we should prepare our houses for extremes of weather. Give the heating system a trial run now, and be familiar with the routine maintenance and service requirements of you system. Get problems taken care of now, before heating contractors are swamped with “no heat” calls.

For further advice, check prior “Loving Your House” Love Notes # 1 and #2, and register for homeowner technical training classes at Neighborhood Housing Services Home Improvement and Energy Conservation Laboratory.

Friday, September 12, 2014

After the Mortgage



After the Mortgage
By Michael Haynes,
Supervisor, HomeOwnership Center


I’m ready to get a mortgage… now what?

Financing the purchase of your home can be a daunting task if you let it. You will need funds to acquire the property, cover a down-payment and pay closing costs. Start out with asking yourself, “What do I need from the lender?” Do you need a mortgage to acquire the property but already have money saved for the required down-payment and estimated closing costs?  Do you need funds to cover all three areas?  Answering these questions will help you determine the product that may be best suited for you.

The “mortgage” is the legal document that allows you to acquire and own your home while using the home as collateral. Simply stated… you own the home as long as you make monthly mortgage payments as agreed in the note. Defaulting on mortgage payments gives the lender the right to take possession of your property through a process called foreclosure.

The mortgage payment that you will make each month covers several areas. The payment covers the principal, interest, real estate property taxes, and mortgage insurance. Covering the principal is crucial because that is how you pay off the mortgage loan. A wise borrower will try to make higher payments towards the principal as much as possible so that the loan can be paid off at a faster pace. Lenders love interest payments!!! The lender’s incentive to loan you money is based on the amount of interest that they can charge as a return on their investment of offering you a loan. The interest is the lender’s profit. Most lenders and mortgage programs will request that you make one payment per month that consists of principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. Upon receipt of your mortgage payment each month, the lender will apply a portion of the payment to your loan principal, a portion toward mortgage interest, and then place the rest in an escrow account. As your insurance and real estate taxes become due, the lender will automatically pay them from the escrow account. 

Mortgage insurance protects the lender in case you default in your mortgage. There are several mortgage products that do not require mortgage insurance premiums. The benefit of this is that the borrower will have a lower mortgage payment.

The lender is able to offer you a principal and interest payment that remains the same until the loan is paid off based on amortization. The term amortization refers to the gradual repayment of a mortgage by installments that will pay off the loan at the end of a fixed period of time. Whenever you hear about a 30-year mortgage, remember the term AMORTIZATION!

The goal of a prospective borrower should always be to end up with the most affordable mortgage. Give us a call and let us demystify the mortgage process for you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lyric Hall Freshman Day of Service



Freshman Day of Service:
Lyric Hall

As fresh faces arrive in New Haven to begin their undergraduate academic careers at Yale University, Dwight Hall helps to facilitate the meeting of students through a volunteer day, known as Freshman Day of Service. Besides meeting other students, the additional benefit of participating in this service day is the opportunity to learn about a cool place in New Haven, beyond the downtown area. 


Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven was one of six organizations to host a group of students. From 10:00am-2:00pm, this past Saturday, September 6, a group of 18 Yale students joined CB&O staff and John Cavaliere at his business in Westville. Lyric Hall, a duo-business with its theater and antique restoration shop, is a historic gem in the community. John has devoted many years, along with a lot of strength and determination, to renovate this building into a beautiful space. 

To help keep it that way, John has been contributing a heavy amount of manual labor to build up and re-grade the ground surrounding the building so that it can be better resilient to heavy rainwater. Having 36 extra hands available this past Saturday was a huge help in building a rubble, gravel, and earth berm; leveling the surroundings; and preparing the basement floor for painting. 





John is looking forward to worrying less about water entering the basement. With a fresh coat of paint, the water-insulated basement space will now be re-utilized as a workshop, which will free up prime space upstairs that will be better served as a show floor and gathering place. Great work, everyone!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Are You Mortgage Ready?



 Are You Mortgage Ready?


Get “Mortgage Ready” first… and then proceed with your homeownership plans…

The decision to become a homeowner is never easy when considering the pros and cons of homeownership. After deciding thathomeownership is what you truly want, the next step is to assess whether you are ready to obtain a mortgage or not. Lenders are attracted to prospective borrowers that have certain characteristics. You will want to make sure you possess these characteristics when you go to a lender and request a residential mortgage loan. Unless you are in a financial position that will allow you to purchase a home using your own cash and without borrowing funds from a financial institution, the gateway to homeownership at this junction is attracting a lender. 

Let us explore the characteristics that lenders look for in a prospective borrower.

To attract a lender, you will want to prove that you manage your debt obligations well, have the ability to save funds, and are able to financially sustain additional payments to your current monthly expenses. The ability to manage your monthly debt well is extremely important to a lender. Remember, the lender is trying to decide the level of risk in lending money to you so that you can purchase a home. Indicating on a credit report that you have paid your bills on time, have credit card balances that are at or below 30% of their respective credit limits, have no past due accounts or active collection accounts, and have no derogatory credit items being reported publically such as tax liens, previous foreclosures or open judgments, will mark you as a prospective borrower.

Your job as a prospective mortgage borrower is to make lenders feel that you are trustworthy, responsible, and capable of making timely loan payments. The best way to start doing this is to make sure that you pay your bills on time, manage current debt well, and do not take on more debt than you can afford. Excellent credit history and a sustainable spending plan will drastically enhance your attractiveness to a lender because at that point you will be classified as…Mortgage Ready!!!  

Give us a call to see how far away you are from being mortgage ready…  You might be closer than you think.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Yale FOCUS Volunteers - 2014



Yale FOCUS Group
The Community Building & Organizing team was very fortunate to partner with a Yale FOCUS group for the week of Monday August 18th – Thursday August 22nd. The Yale FOCUS program immerses sophomore and transfer students in a week of service to the local New Haven community, and our group of eight volunteers, led by junior architecture student Lauren Blonde, was dedicated to this cause. For four days, the students joined NHS in helping an elderly couple, Joe and Sue, refurbish their home in West Haven. Projects included painting the front porch, back deck, garage, and outdoor fencing, as well as staining wooden fences and floorboards.

 

One of NHS' new AmeriCorps VISTA Members, Kelsey, worked with Lauren and other volunteers on painting and staining the back deck area, and although the late August sun was broiling by noontime each day, the students never complained. In fact, several hours would fly by unnoticed as we engaged in animated discussion about local politics, urban planning, current events, and general silliness. Kelsey and Daniella were honored to join the students at the FOCUS culmination dinner in Dwight Hall, impressively organized by Lauren and the other FOCUS leaders



While Kelsey worked hard with most of the Yale students in the back of the home, Chandel and Beonca had the pleasure to work dutifully in the front of the house. Their projects included repainting an old white fence that framed the home, as well as repainting the sun porch located in the front of the house. Refurbishing the front of the house was top priority for this elderly couple because they enjoyed spending most of their time on the front porch. With the help of Pandora’s Fergie station and the delightful conversation between the Yale students, Irene and David, we were able to work together effectively to finish our jobs.  Although not all of the volunteers had experience in painting, with the support and guidance of one another and under the watchful eye of retired engineer Joe, we successfully finished all of our painting and even revived an old mailbox with paint for good measure.



The VISTA members and Yale Focus group hard work did not go unnoticed as Sue continued to bring us refreshments and snacks to keep our energy up while working in the hot August sun. During the middle of our work week Sue provided everyone with a “feast” of various Lebanese cuisines that left all of us full and ready for a nap. This community service project created an opportunity for everyone to learn new and exciting things. We were all delighted to work with such an inspiring and hardworking group, and hope to see some of the volunteers return for future NHS projects!