There’s getting away. And then there’s surrounding yourself with water on all sides.
This island escape for sale on Henry Island, WA, is located just off the shore of San Juan Island and surrounded by the blue waters of the bay. The price for a slice of paradise in the Pacific Northwest: $2,895,000.
The home is on an island that’s accessible only by boat and has only a handful of year-round residents. There is no Internet service. “When I first bought it in 2003, it was so remote, it felt like the end of the world,” homeowner Adam Kasper says.
Kasper, a Grammy-winning music producer who’s worked with Foo Fighters and Nirvana, envisioned a modern place where he, his wife, and their daughter could take in the sounds of silence. He hired Bohlin Cywinski Jackson to build the waterfront retreat on 24 acres of land. (The firm designed a Lake Tahoe development we featured earlier this year.)
Kasper was beyond pleased with the results. “It’s a work of art,” he says. The sleek lines, exposed kitchen, and walls of glass open the home to its natural surroundings.
The three-bedroom, 2,700-square-foot space features concrete floors, radiant heat, and water views from every room.The home was featured in Dwell magazine, which called it “the house that Nirvana built.”
The living and dining spaces are connected by a 10-foot-long breezeway to the bedrooms in a separate wing. The setup is ideal for night owls. “It really turned out to be a great idea,” Kasper says. “I’m a late-night guy.”
Kasper says he’s not spending as much time at his island getaway as he used to and has decided to part with it—and the privacy it entailed.
That privacy came at a price. Completed in 2008, the home’s construction offered a unique challenge. Namely, all building materials had to be brought in by barge.
In fact, that’s how it works for everything on this tiny island. “It’s not served by a ferry or a bridge,” listing agentRichard Sandmeyer says. The agent is one of a handful of year-round residents on the island.
For groceries, a haircut, or a trip the mail, you’ll need a four-minute boat ride to Roche Harbor, according to the agent. The harbor is served by Kenmore Air, which offers direct flights from Seattle. You can arrive at your dock by boat or floatplane. The drive to Roche Harbor from Seattle takes about three hours.
Bonus: Once you make the journey, don’t expect crowds. It’s a preservation trust property. “There won’t be any development out there,” the agent says. “Which really makes it a private setting.”
But how can there be so many spots that are the No. 1 Best Place to Live in America? And how do the list-makers figure that out?
For the most part such places share attributes such as good schools, parks, recreational opportunities, high employment, decent median wages, and lower crime rates.
But the term “best” is not only in the eye of the beholder, it’s also in the eye of the zeitgeist. “In the 1980s, people were looking for the safest place to live,” says Bert Sperling, founder of Sperling’s Best Places, who’s been pinpointing paradises since 1985.
As the birth rate increased, they cared most about schools. And today? “People are most interested in affordable housing,” he says.
To complicate matters, they also want to live in cities again, making some of the most desirable places unaffordable. The other desirable ingredient: diversity of the ethnic, racial, and economic variety.
That’s pretty hard to come by. The harsh reality is that many of these places marked “best” are also wealthy and conspicuously lack diversity. We peered closely at the cities and towns ranked No. 1 to figure out why each one made the list(s).
By Emailgb (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons/Wikipedia
Where’s the best place to live in all of America? Time says it’s this town of 42,150, which has “a charming downtown” and “top-notch schools.” It has tech jobs and affordability, a rare and welcome combination (though we’ve seen plenty of cheaper towns), plus “a close-knit vibe.”
Outside magazine’s readers chose this city of 173,000 along the Tennessee River Gorge as its No. 1 best place to live. Granted, the criteria may be skewed considering the nature-loving constituency, but Chattanooga also offers the prospect of tech jobs, cold-brew coffee, and record stores. Affordability? They’ve got it here, though schools need some work. It scores decently on diversity.
Good schools? Yes. Crime? Low. Affordable? Not even close. This New York City suburb of nearly 63,000 is one of the wealthiest and most exclusive areas in America. But it also has “a dynamic culture comprising of a symphony orchestra, a natural history museum, a choral society,” and it tops a “best city in which to raise a family” list. A rich family.
WalletHub rates cities on family friendliness, health and safety, education and child care, and affordability. Overland Park, a Kansas City suburb, gets an 80 on the family stuff, but a lowly 8 on affordability.
Also, many of its cultural attributes (Royals games, a major art museum, the zoo) are located in Kansas City proper, which is ranked as the 90th best city (out of 150) for families, based largely on poor health and safety rankings.
Livability names this left-leaning college town of 245,000 the best place to live in America, period. “Madison provides residents with affordable housing, great schools, excellent health care and a wide range of recreational activities and entertainment options.” We hear the nature is plentiful and the food is good, too.
This suburb of Dallas was the wealthiest city in the United States a few years back. It has also received numerous “Safest City in America”–type citations, though it gets a B- for “crime and safety.” Access to libraries: C-. But it scores an A+ in education—how Plano does that without libraries is anyone’s guess.
This wealthy suburb of Seattle didn’t make it to the overall best places list, but NerdWallet named it the “Best Small City for Families.” It was also ranked a few years ago as “The Friendliest Town in the United States” by CNN Money. Good schools? Sammamish has ’em. Affordability? Um…
Ventura, a city of nearly 110,000 set between Malibu and Santa Barbara, may seem like a bargain for a California coastal city (well, compared to San Francisco and Silicon Valley). But while Men’s Journal, putting it top on the list of “Best Places to Live Now,” calls it “refreshingly unpolished,” it’s still pricey. There’s year-round sunshine, good public schools, and plentiful outdoor activities—beach, anyone?
How you pay back your mortgage is arguably the most important aspect of the home-buying process. When you’re loan shopping, you’ll come across a number of different kinds of loans and payment options. Before you pick one, you should know how some of the most common options work and consider which one best suits your needs.
This is the most common type of payment. You make a monthly payment covering both the principal and interest due. By the end of the loan’s term, your loan and interest will be paid in full.
This monthly payment can either stay the same, as with fixed-rate mortgages, or fluctuate, as with adjustable-rate mortgages.
2. Biweekly payments
One way to chip away at your principal balance faster is to make biweekly payments. With this method, you pay once every two weeks, which comes to 26 payments a year. This payment schedule can shave a few years off a 30-year FRM and save you thousands of dollars in interest.
3. Extra payments
If you want to pay more toward your principal, it’s your right to do so, and it’s a good idea for those who want to stay put. Sending your lender a check with “for principal only” written on it is one way to do this.
Some repayment options are offered only with certain loans. The following loans are the most common:
FRM payments are made once a month and are fully amortized. The interest rate is fixed and the monthly payment amount never changes. The typical length of an FRM is 30 years, but it can be as short as five years and as long as 50.
ARM payments can change each month or each year, depending on the loan’s terms. Some ARM loans have a fixed-rate payment period for several years before changing to an ARM with fluctuating payments. ARMs usually come with a cap on how much your interest rate or monthly payment can rise.
The fluctuating payments of ARMs can be difficult for some home buyers to keep up with. However, ARM interest rates are usually lower than FRM rates. They can be advantageous if you move often or don’t plan to see out the life of the mortgage.
3. Payment-option ARMs
Option or payment-option ARMs give you a choice of how you want to pay on any given month. They include:
Fully amortized payments (you pay both the principal and interest due that month)
A limited payment, which might not cover the interest or principal amount
This flexibility can be beneficial or troublesome for borrowers. You should know how each payment change affects the overall amount you owe on your loan.
4. Interest-only loans
Interest-only loans offer an initial payment period in which you pay back only the interest. Also, most interest-only loans are adjustable-rate, so your monthly payment can change.
When the interest-only payment is up, you usually have three options to pay off the principal:
This payment plan is considered risky. The amount due each month decreases with each interest payment, but when the interest-only period ends, the monthly payments on the principal are larger. This can stress your financial situation if you aren’t ready.
5. Balloon mortgages
Some loans, called balloon mortgages, require you to pay off the remaining loan in full after a period (typically five to seven years) of low monthly payments. This type of loan can get you into a lot of trouble if you don’t have a rock-solid financial plan, or can’t refinance, and want to stay in your home.
Balloon mortgages often come with lower interest rates and low down payment requirements. This payment plan may be useful for those who don’t want to stay in the home long term and instead plan to sell.
If Only You Could Improve Your Credit Just by Paying Rent & Utilities!
On Monday, the three largest providers of credit-reporting information announced an agreement to change the way they handle data on your credit report. Going forward, consumers may see fewer negative entries added to their credit reports from secondary sources such as medical bills and collections for noncontractual payment agreements (e.g., traffic fines).
The credit bureaus also plan to reinforce higher-reporting standards across the board.
But that isn’t the only modernized way to beef up a credit history. Two studies recently conducted by Experian found a way to capitalize on a previously untapped source of positive payment history: those rent and utility payment checks we write each month.
The utility of paying your utilities (and rent!)
In the past, paying your rent and utility bills on time did nothing for your credit report or credit score, leaving many consumers out in the cold.
“For many Americans, financial exclusion is a reality,” said Emily Christiansen, director of Experian RentBureau. She pointed out that even though many of these Americans consistently meet their financial obligations, they have little to no credit history because they operate primarily on a cash basis, which shuts them out of mainstream financial services products.
To see what impact including this information would have on consumers, Experian added payment history for a select group with thin or no-credit profiles.
According to Experian’s Let There Be Light study, adding positive utility payments yielded the following results:
A nearly 50% drop in subprime consumers with credit scores between 300 and 600
A 54% increase in consumers considered nonprime with credit scores between 601 and 660
A 15% increase in those with credit scores over 661, generally considered prime
When positive rent payment information was added, the number of consumers designated as subprime dropped nearly 20%, according to Experian’s Credit For Renting study.
The study also found adding rental payments helped consumers with limited credit history. Before the study was conducted, 11% of the renters had no credit file or score. After the information was added, those renters were considered scorable and able to start building on their positive credit histories.
So, that means you have to actually pay on time
There is a caveat to adding new information: Once landlords and utility companies are reporting monthly, consumers’ credit scores could also take a hit if they pay late or miss payments.
But the good may still outweigh the potential downside, said Chris Magnotti, strategic analytic consultant for Experian. Namely, people with no credit history will still be able to build their tradelines and develop a credit score.
Now, go get your report updated
Not all landlords and utility companies have plans to report payment histories. There are currently 750 property management companies reporting data to Experian RentBureau, according to Christiansen.
But even if yours isn’t, you may still be able to get the information to appear on your credit report.
Christiansen suggests directing your landlord to Experian RentBureau’s website, where both property management companies and private landlords can sign up to start reporting data.
If that doesn’t work, the renter can also sign up through a rent payment service working with Experian RentBureau. These services allow for the payment and collection of rent electronically, and renters have the ability to opt in to reporting their rental payment history to Experian RentBureau.
Getting your utilities to report may take some follow-through. Typically, a utility company will report your payment history if requested, but the company may report only once. If you want your information reported more often, you may have to make the request again.
But when you’re trying to get out of the credit doghouse, a short phone call might just be worth the extra effort.
Stay in Mom’s Basement? Nope! Millennials Were 2014’s Top Home Buyers, Says NAR
If you’ve ever read anything about millennials, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re shiftless, underemployed ne’er-do-wells with no intention of ever moving out of their parents’ basements. But the truth is millennials are home buyers. In fact, they made up the largest percentage of home buyers in 2014.
What’s driving all the home buying? Life. Many young people are employed and having babies. Therefore, they need space. Also, with rising rent, buying a home and locking in a fixed payment for the next 30 years makes good financial sense, to those who can afford to buy. According to the report, millennials, like the majority of buyers, purchased a single-family home in the suburbs. They are nesting.
Even after witnessing the recession, seeing their parents lose their homes, and suffering the indignity of low unemployment rates, millennials are coming out on top. Those who were employed saved their money and were able to use Federal Housing Administration low-down-payment loans to gain a foothold. Still, a full quarter of young buyers depended on their parents for down payment assistance, according to the report, compared to 15% for Generation X, those aged 35 to 49.
Millennials entering the housing market is a good thing for both the economy and neighborhood stability, but the share of first-time buyers is still at its lowest level since 1987, according to NAR.
“The return of first-time buyers to normal levels will eventually take place in upcoming years as those living with their parents are likely to form households of their own, first as renters and then eventually as homeowners,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.
For those who can’t qualify on their own, a new trend has emerged—multigenerational housing. According to the report, 13% of all home purchases were by multigenerational buyers: siblings purchasing together, parents purchasing with children. The impetus here is saving money. Many younger baby boomers saw their adult children move back home (23% of those surveyed). To make the situation bearable, purchasing a home that could accommodate this living situation formed a new post-housing-crisis demographic.
To conduct the survey, NAR mailed a 127-question survey to randomly chosen home buyers across the country. A total of 6,572 responses were received. The home buyers had to have purchased a home between July 2013 and June 2014.
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