Are you saving for a down payment? Check out these tips…

For most Americans, a down payment is the only thing standing between renting and owning a home. Although it may seem like a daunting task to save enough to get out of the renting cycle, there are some tricks to saving money quickly. Here are a few:

Develop a budget & timeline.
Start by determining how much you’ll need for a down payment. Create a budget and calculate how much you can realistically save each month – that will help you gauge when you’ll be ready to transition from renter to homeowner.

Establish a separate savings account.
Set up a separate savings account exclusively for your down payment and make your monthly contributions automatic. By keeping this money separate, you’ll be less likely to tap into it when you’re tight on cash.

Shop around to reduce major monthly expenses.
It’s a good idea to check rates for your car insurance, renter’s insurance, health insurance, cable, Internet or cell phone plan. There may be deals or promotions available that allow you to save hundreds of dollars by adjusting your contracts.

Monitor your spending.
With online banking, keeping an eye on your spending is easier than ever. Track where most of your discretionary income is going. Identify areas where you could cut back (e.g. nice meals out, vacations, etc.) and instead put that money into savings.

Look into state and local home-buying programs.
Many states, counties and local governments operate programs for first-time home buyers. Some programs offer housing discounts, while others provide down payment loans or grants.

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Moving? These tips will help you save money!

May marked the start of the prime moving season, in which 45 percent of all moves in the United States occur. Jane Dollinger and Real Estate Today radio shared a few moving tricks that can make the process easier for people who can’t afford movers.

1. No boxes? No problem.
Don’t waste your money buying new boxes. Most grocery stores will give you produce boxes for free. When using produce boxes, however, make sure to use a lot of packing material to keep your stuff safe and secure.

2. Purge your stuff. The more items you take to your new place, the more expensive and stressful it will be to move. Moving is a great opportunity to get rid of items by selling or donating them to a local charity.

3. Enlist friends.
While no one enjoys moving, it can be surprisingly easy and cheap to get friends and family to help in a move. Make sure to entice them with free food or drinks as a thanks for their time.

Ready to Sell…? The buyers are here

Pending home sales soared last week to highest level in a decade. That means if you’re ready to sell, chances are there’s a buyer who wants to purchase your property.

In other words, get set for a vigorous real estate season. Mortgage rates may have inched up slightly, but they still remain at historical lows, and this increased affordability has brought home buyers out in droves.

Contract signings for home purchases rose for the third consecutive month, with the index climbing 5.1 percent month-over-month in April to a 116.3 reading. The index is now 4.6 percent higher than a year ago.

If you’re interested in selling a home or purchasing a new home or investment property call me today. I am happy to help guide you through the home buying or selling process.

It’s a great time to buy or sell your home. Contact Larry Cirnigliaro, Coastland Realty -your area specialist. (714) 394-6649 / email

JUNE – a time to play like a child again

Take a day this month to turn off the cell phone, the pager and all thoughts of your working life. Wake up with the enthusiasm of a child and play hard until the sun goes down.

When given the opportunity to service your real estate needs, our goal is to eliminate as many of the inconveniences of buying and selling a home as possible. We perform our duties so efficiently and effectively that your moving experience will be an enjoyable one. While we work, you can play!

If you would like to know the value of a home you own, or would like to own, please call (714-394-6649) or email us for a no-obligation, no-cost, professional evaluation.

Larry Cirnigliaro, Real Estate Broker CRIA

Summer Gardening Tips Everyone Should Know

1. To remove salt deposits from clay pots, combine equal parts white vinegar, rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle. Apply to the pot and scrub with a plastic brush.

2. To prevent accumulating dirt under your fingernails, draw them across a bar of soap. That will seal the undersides of your nails.

3. To prevent the line on your string trimmer from jamming or breaking, treat it with a spray vegetable oil before installing it in the trimmer.

4. Turn a long-handled tool into a measuring stick. Write inch and foot marks on the handle. When you need to space plants a certain distance apart you’ll have a measuring device in your hand.

5. Remove aphids by wrapping a wide strip of tape around your hand, sticky side out, then patting the leaves of infested plants.

6. Save water after boiling vegetables to water potted plants. You’ll be amazed at how the plants respond to the “vegetable soup.”

7. Use leftover tea and coffee grounds to acidify the soil of acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, gardenias and even blueberries.

8. Use chamomile tea to control damping-off fungus, which often attacks young seedlings quite suddenly.

9. A great way to dry herbs: Arrange the herbs on a sheet of newspaper on the seat of your car, then roll up the windows and close the doors. Your herbs will dry quickly and your car will smell great.

Swapping Houses for Vacation – would you do it?

Millions of people swap homes every year all over the world. And for the frugal or budget-minded, swapping homes is one of the best ways to experience a new place and save money on your vacation at the same time.

Home swaps usually occur simultaneously. For instance, imagine you live in Chicago and want to visit Rome. First, you’d find someone in Rome who wishes to visit Chicago. Then, both of you would vacation at the same time and stay in each other’s home during the same time.

Home swapping makes for a unique vacation experience that enables you to truly “feel” what it’s like to live in another country. There are many advantages:

It’s a lot cheaper. When you swap homes, you don’t pay for lodging. The only cost associated with house swapping is the membership fee for an online listing service (which is essential to finding the right people to swap with). These fees are usually $100 or more per year, but since the average price for one night in a hotel often exceeds $100, this is a bargain.

Another travel expense that can get costly is eating out. But since you’ll have a full kitchen to cook in, you won’t need to eat every meal out. Plus, you’ll get to experience local grocery shopping, which is always a fun experience.

Live Like a Local. Staying in someone’s home rather than a hotel is much more comfortable. Remember, when you swap, you’re in an actual home and not an impersonal hotel room. You’ll enjoy whatever amenities are there and you’ll also get a better sense of the area’s culture because you’re in a neighborhood rather than a hotel. Living amidst “the locals” can add a depth of perspective to your trip that you would otherwise miss out on in a hotel.

Live on a yacht. Home exchanges don’t always involve homes. People swap homes to stay in someone’s yacht, or even their RV so they can tour an area. You can often find unique lodging options that are unavailable, via other means.

As with virtually everything else, there are some things to be mindful of before swapping houses. Here are a few to consider:

You’re giving your home to a stranger. This is why it’s so important to use a reputable listing service. They will give you a detailed look at a potential exchanger’s home online (and they get a detailed look at yours). You’ll also talk to them several times over the phone and through email.

Because you live in different locales, your interaction is obviously limited. You may not feel able to gather enough information to assess whether or not a potential exchanger is worthy of your home. Only once you’re comfortable do you agree to swap homes.

Potential Damage to Your Property. You might be concerned that your property could be damaged by strangers or your valuables stolen. This is why using a reputable listing service is essential. The biggest sites report that they’ve never had a complaint from any user because of theft or vandalism. On the whole, house swappers are considerate and educated people. They’ll likely treat your home, and your possessions, with as much respect as they treat their own.

Remember, you’ll be occupying their house as well and they’re probably concerned about the same things you are! Also, it doesn’t hurt to make sure your insurance covers your valuables.

It Takes Time. Home exchanges take time to set up. You need to get to know the people you’ll be exchanging with, and vice versa. In fact, most sites recommend starting your search at least four to six months before you plan to go on vacation. You’ll also want to be flexible on the exact location and dates.

Is Life Insurance Worth It?

The idea behind life insurance is simple. You pay small amounts at monthly intervals, and should you die, a beneficiary of your choice gets a sum of money.

The idea is that, should your family suffer a crisis that transcends finances, at least their finances won’t be impacted too negatively. If you die, your beneficiaries won’t be broke.

It’s important to remember that life insurance isn’t really “insurance” in the dictionary sense. When you buy life insurance, you’re not “insuring” anything. No matter how much money you give them, an insurance company can’t keep you from dying.

They call it life insurance, but it’s really death insurance. After all, you’ll never live to collect. Life insurance is more about hedging your bets than anything else. You spend money now to help your family avoid multiple catastrophes later through the loss of your income.

But as a result of it being called insurance, there are people who believe that if “coverage” is good, then more coverage must be better. Buying life insurance thus becomes a test of one’s capacity as a responsible adult and breadwinner. What kind of person doesn’t want to protect their loved ones?

To that end, some people will insure anything that moves – even their children and older relatives. One could argue the wisdom of insuring children since they are most often not earning income and insuring the elderly is very costly relative to the return.

Insurers often persuade parents to take out whole-life insurance on their children, selling the policies as savings vehicles to help pay for college or get them launched into adulthood. But setting up a tax-deferred savings account or an investment fund will probably yield a better return as a savings vehicle for the child.

Insurance should not be considered an “investment” in any sense of the word. Term life insurance is strictly a time-limited policy designed to pay out a face value if something should happen to the policy holder during the term of the policy.

There is no return on the money spent. Throughout the policy’s term you’re getting whatever peace of mind comes with knowing that, should you die, your family will continue to enjoy some semblance of the lifestyle they are accustomed to.

To satisfy those who want some sort of return, the industry devised whole life insurance and universal life insurance. They differ from term insurance in that each offers a cash value beyond the standard life insurance death benefit.

You pay more each month than you would with a term policy. The difference builds and can be redeemed at any time. However, the rate of return on this “investment” is most often much lower than you could earn through other investments.

Remember that investing is spending in hopes of a financial gain. Insuring is spending in hopes of avoiding financial loss. In that respect, the two activities are almost opposites.

An insurance policy that masquerades as an investment (and insurance salesmen will try to convince you that it is) is rarely going to be your best option for accomplishing the conflicting goals of maximizing return while minimizing risk.

But, if you do want life insurance, what’s the right amount of insurance to have? There’s no simple answer to that question. Financial advisers say it’s generally a good idea for family breadwinners to at least have a policy big enough to pay off their mortgage.