Janet Laughead'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.
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The sky's the limit for cloud-based documents and files. Remote working is on the rise. The ranks of independent entrepreneurs are growing. For many, home is a place to live and work.
Here are three elements to consider for your work-from-home space.
1. Choose Your Workspace
Pick a bright spot. Daylight inspires!
Will you be having clients drop in? Aim to choose a spot near an entrance way, apart from your intimate living spaces.
For tax purposes, this spot can be a dedicated room, or a section of a room—as long as there's a clear division between your working and living space. Other storage areas in the home, or partitioned-off space that's fully dedicated to keeping business items, is also square footage to count in the deduction.
Take pictures each year that clearly show the partitions and the business use of the space. Keep your photos with your tax documents.
2. Furnish the Space
Decorate mainly as you would if your work space were in a corporate building. Keep your desk, professional items, and office-appropriate décor in the space. Don't have a playpen (unless your business is daycare) or a dining table in your designated office space.
Bookcases, wall hangings, mirrors, and framed art all look good, and dampen noise from outside your work space. Succulents or crocus bulbs can make excellent office plants and uplift the mood of your work area.
Protect your health while working at home by using an adjustable (sit-stand) desk. Does that sound too industrial for the look you demand at home? Never fear. Gorgeous, adjustable desks that complement your existing furniture do exist on the market. With a little searching, you'll find yours.
3. Declare Your Tax Deduction
Calculate your home office percentage. If your home amounts to 2,000 square feet and your office space covers 500, declare 25% as the percentage. The deduction may not exceed your year's net business profit.
For smaller home office spaces, the IRS has a simplified standard deduction. Take $5 per square foot, up to 300 square feet.
Speak with your tax pro about deducting a home business percentage from your homeowner's insurance, mortgage interest, utilities, and property taxes. Read the instructions, so you know how to plan your tax return.
Putting It All Together
For a tax deduction, your home office must serve as the core of your business affairs, or the place you do the bulk of your work. Whether you already have a home office, or are thinking of creating one, design your space so it fits the IRS tax deduction requirements—even while it uplifts your home, delights your senses, and inspires your best work.
Selling your home can be an exciting time because it usually represents a positive change in your life. Chances are, putting your house on the market means you're moving up in your career, expanding your family, or even retiring.
Regardless of the reason you're selling your home, one thing's for certain: You'll want the process to go as smoothly as possible!
The first step to making that happen involves choosing a real estate agent who's experienced, easy to work with, familiar with your neighborhood, and ready to help you navigate the many twists and turns of selling your home. If this is the first time you've sold a home -- or if you haven't done it in a decade or more -- you'll need lots of advice on everything from pricing your home correctly to enhancing its appearance and making the best possible impression on potential buyers.
Since you usually don't get a second opportunity to make a great first impression, there are two crucial concepts to remember that can make or break your chances of selling your house at the best price and in a relatively short period of time.
Curb Appeal: One of your top objectives in listing your house is to attract as many qualified buyers as you can. The first hurdle you'll need to clear is making your property look inviting from the outside.
Whether you're selling real estate or consumer products, attractive packaging is what catches people's attention and draws them in. The outside appearance of your home and yard is the first thing that triggers either interest or disinterest among prospective buyers. House hunters often make a snap decision in a matter of seconds about whether to pursue a real estate listing, and that decision is typically based on factors like the condition of your lawn, the neatness of your shrubbery, and the appearance of the exterior off your house.
Basic ways to enhance your home's curb appeal would include applying a fresh coat of paint, maintaining a manicured lawn, and -- if the season allows -- placing colorful potted or hanging flowers on your porch or near your front door. Good curb appeal advice would vary, depending on the style, size, layout, and condition of your property, so the best place to turn for customized curb appeal ideas would be your real estate agent.
Home Staging: Most people are familiar with the concept of home staging, but don't necessarily know how to go about it in the most effective way. Part of the problem stems from the fact that homeowners can't objectively look at their own home and see what needs to be improved or changed. Outside opinions, such as those from a professional home stager, Realtor, or home decorator, can be extremely helpful. If you happen to have a friend or relative with a flair for home organizing or decorating, they may be willing to provide you with some productive suggestions, too!
As a homebuyer, entering the real estate market with insights into what it takes to find the perfect house is essential.
Becoming an expert homebuyer, however, may seem impossible at times. Lucky for you, we're here to help you gain the knowledge and skills you need to make your homeownership dreams come true.
What does it take to become an expert homebuyer? Here are three tips to help you do just that.
1. Look at Real Estate Market Trends
The housing market ebbs and flows. Therefore, a seller's market today may transform into a buyer's market tomorrow.
Ultimately, the real estate market fluctuates constantly, and you'll want to learn as much as possible about the housing sector to ensure you can map out your homebuying journey accordingly.
In a buyer's market, there are usually more home sellers than buyers. This means homebuyers may be better equipped than ever before to secure a top-notch house at a budget-friendly price.
On the other hand, a seller's market features an abundance of homebuyers and a shortage of sellers. For homebuyers who operate in a seller's market, they may be forced to submit competitive offers on homes quickly, or risk missing out on a dream residence to a rival.
When you study the housing market, don't forget to check out the prices of residences that recently sold. By doing so, you can gain a better understanding of how much you'll likely need to pay to acquire a first-rate house based on the current state of the housing market.
2. Learn How a Mortgage Works
What differentiates a fixed-rate mortgage from an adjustable-rate option? An expert homebuyer will know the ins and outs of assorted mortgage options and select one that corresponds to his or her finances.
To learn about mortgages and how they work, you'll want to meet with credit unions and banks. These lenders can describe the different types of mortgages and the pros and cons associated with them.
Also, an expert homebuyer will get pre-approved for a mortgage. With a mortgage in hand, this homebuyer will be able to stick to a price range as he or she searches for the ideal home.
3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent
Let's face it – no homebuyer can afford to make mistakes. Fortunately, you can work with a real estate agent to receive expert guidance as you navigate the homebuying journey.
A real estate agent boasts the skills and know-how needed to streamline the homebuying process. He or she may have many years of housing market experience and is happy to teach you about the opportunities and challenges associated with buying a house.
Furthermore, a real estate agent will help you accelerate the homebuying cycle. He or she can set up home showings, negotiate with home sellers on your behalf and much more. That way, you can focus on what's important – finding a terrific house at an affordable price.
Take advantage of the aforementioned tips, and you can become an expert homebuyer.