Budget, Borrow and Buy: Top Tips for Acquiring Your First Home in Scotland

There is little doubt that the current generation of would-be house buyers are finding it much harder to even get on the first rung of the housing ladder let alone work their way up it.

Some places are more affordable than others when it comes to housing and there are definitely some ways that can help you to plan ahead and achieve that goal of owning your own home.

Here is a look at how you can work out the best way to become a property owner and what incentives and ideas you might want to look at in order to set you on your way.

Saving the deposit

Mortgage lending criteria has tightened and this has often meant that saving the deposit you need has become harder or takes a bit longer than before.

You can actually get a mortgage with just a 5% deposit but the more you can put down in cash towards your new home, the more affordable it will become in terms of mortgage payments and having a bigger deposit will often unlock a better finance deal in the first place.

Your aim should be to save the deposit you need within a one to five year timeframe, depending on your available salary and existing financial commitments.

Budgeting is important

There is no question that many first-time buyers do find the first few years of ownership quite a financial challenge, which is why working out a budget beforehand is so important.

Most mortgage lenders do now conduct affordability tests as part of the tighter lending rules, so make sure you know exactly how much you currently spend each month and do your own stress-test to see what effect a rise in interest rates would have when working out how much you can afford to pay each month.

Calculating how much of your salary you can commit to a mortgage will help to ensure you do not borrow more than you can afford even if the lender does offer you a higher sum than you expected.

Getting the right finance deal

It is very advisable to research all of your mortgage options so that you can find out which particular deals are available to you and so that you know how much you can borrow before you start searching for a property to buy.

You can deal directly with a lender or through a mortgage broker to discuss your options and ask to get a mortgage in principle. This means that your acceptability for a mortgage has been pre-qualified and having a mortgage agreed in principle will give you a much stronger position when you are making an offer on a property.

Finding a property and making an offer

You may already have an idea of the type of house and location that you want and once you have a mortgage agreed, you have a clear idea of what your budget is, which will help to narrow down the search options to a manageable level.

Almost every property that is for sale now, has to have had a home report completed by the seller. You can learn more at hdg.co.uk about what information is contained in a report, but you should ask for a copy of this information once you have confirmed that you may be interested in buying that particular property.

A bit of negotiation on the sale price is often expected by the seller and this is often factored into the initial asking price. When considering making an offer, make sure you put forward your suggested purchase price based on the information and valuation contained in the home report as well as basing it on local market conditions.

A well-researched and reasoned offer based on certain facts and figures that you can justify, is more likely to be considered than a figure that is seemingly designed to try and get the property at a lower than acceptable asking price.

Completing the purchase

Ensure that you take professional guidance from a solicitor or qualified conveyancer and be sure to understand all of the legal implications of making an offer and also be ready to advise your lender that you have found a house to buy, so that they are in a position to send the funds within the timeframe agreed.

Buying your first home is an exciting time but it can also be challenging at times, but by following some of these tips and being prepared financially for what lies ahead, you could soon be taking your first step on the property ladder.

Josh Henderson is always on the lookout for real estate news. A property investor of several years, he likes to share his experiences online. You can read his articles on various property investment blogs.

Five Fundamental Tools for Trading Forex

Trading forex is a widely desired mode of investment for many with knowledge of the trade. And the word from such investors is that the trade needs one who is keen and level headed. However, regardless of one being a pro at the trade, there are tricks that need to be learnt. Tools for trading forex are the fundamentals that a forex trader needs when handling the forex market. They make you more aware of what to expect and make it easy for you to formulate viable predictions. Presented in this article are some of the tools that will enable you take your trading in the forex markets to another level.

Forex News and Articles

This tool is essential for both a pro and newbie in forex trading. The forex market is a volatile market depending on the changes that occur in other different markets. Due to this, relevant information and trading advisory are essential to give an investor all kinds of market information. There are many sources of forex information and articles that can give you this kind of in-depth understanding. This blog gives information on various market analyses and other related news. You should be keen on approaching viable and legit sources of forex market information.

Economic Calendar

Forex trading is suitable at given times and periods. It is not a trade one can get in randomly, but the markets have to be analyzed to make proper predictions. The economic calendar enables an investor plan his/her trading day. The specifics spun from reports about the economy, release dates, economic forecasts, and any foreseen volatility in the markets.

Trading Calculators

Trading calculators enable an investor calculate indicator values among other value outcomes using different variables. There are different calculators that can be applied to forex trading. They include the currency calculator, Fibonacci calculator, pivot calculator, profit calculator, and the carry trade calculator. All of these calculators have different values they calculate. You can find detailed info when you visit here.

Forex Brokers Insights

Forex brokers are a trading platform that investors can use to buy and sell foreign currency. Having sufficient insight on the available forex brokers is crucial. There are countless forex brokers available out there. However, not all of them offer what they promise. It is important to get sufficient reviews on the professionalism of the broker you intend to work with. This is crucial especially to a newcomer in the forex trading market.

Currency Charts

Forex trading involves many types of currencies. Therefore, as an investor, you need to be aware of the behavior of the currencies you are trading in at any given time. Information you should equip yourself with includes the market history and the trends different currency pairs have demonstrated over a period of time. Currency charts are meant to make this process easy for you. They employ the use of mid-markets and are available for a long period of time, say ten years.

With these tools, you will be on your way to an effective and efficient trading in forex. Alongside these tools, you can also implement techniques to strengthen your forex trading position. Click here to know more about these practices.

Save Hundreds by Going Virtual Over Material

Resources cost money. It’s a stipulation as old as civilization itself. If you want the benefits of a product or service you have to pay for it. If it’s an object like a mobile phone or an automobile, you’re paying for everything from the raw metal mining to the final factory polish. There’s only so much to go around and value revolves around supply and demand.

This is why it’s so important for families to do everything they can to forgo material purchases in favor of virtual replacements. Not everything can be replaced virtually, of course, but in today’s digital age less material goods are necessary for work and fun than ever before. The benefit of this is of course less dependence on costly products to get through the day.

Here’s some general ideas with examples to help get you started:

Home and Office

When the personal computer age first began, many industry analysts and insiders hailed it as the end of paper printing. What they didn’t factor was how easy it became to print off the computer, resulting in more printed material than ever before. Through ink, paper, files, paper clips, and all the labor going into getting these products to your home or office, it’s easy to spend hundreds in the course of a year.

At home we can easily cut the costs of materials by making better habits of using cloud storage to save and organize important documents, images, and other kinds of files. Most of these services are free via your favorite search engine service. Using your smartphone to extend this into your on-the-go lifestyle is another way to reduce a dependence on materials.

At the office or through your small business the potential savings of a virtual switch can be massive. Electronic invoicing services through sites like ADP.com are designed to eliminate the outdated need for physical supplies when it comes to managing payables.

Hobbies and Entertainment

Humans love to create and have fun. Historically these pastimes require an investment in supplies and toys. Many still do, but much do not. Adapting to digital means of artistic expression and forms of entertainment can cut household costs down tremendously in the long-run. In today’s computer age it’s never been easier.

When it comes to hobbies like gaming or art, skip the costly CD-ROMs and canvas. Opt instead for downloadable software. Services such as Steam offer virtually every computer game ever made for cheap download. They also offer software such as Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and FL Studio for the creatives among us who wish to express themselves without having to spend a lot of money over the years.

Streaming movies, sports, and other forms of watchable entertainment are getting easier to view and cheaper with every passing year. Abandon the cable box or satellite dish in favor of online streaming services. Skip buying the marked-up cardboard-and-plastic medium for entertainment we know as DVDs and blu-ray. These are archaic means to access the movies and shows you love.

Not everything can be easily replicated digitally. But when it comes to keeping track of your household, running a small business, staying active or having fun, going virtual is the easiest way to save big in the long-run. Otherwise you’ll be investing in the supplies and material goods which don’t offer anything more than the ability to take up precious space and use your limited money.

Pros and Cons of Auto Insurance Deductibles

A car insurance deductible is how much money you will need to pay prior to your insurance company issuing payments for repairs. The amount of your deductible will be determined by you when you obtain a policy. Deductibles usually vary in range between $100 and $500. A higher deductible will make your monthly premiums more affordable, but it could be more difficult to come up with this lump sum in the event of an accident. When looking into insurance in Dallas, you’ll want to learn a bit about deductibles so that you can make the best choice of amount for your particular needs.
Pros
Having a deductible allows you to lower the cost of your monthly insurance payments. Choosing a higher deductible will net you lower payments each month. In a way, going with the higher deductible is like betting on the fact that you won’t have an accident. Of course, accidents do happen. However, for most people, they are a rare occurrence. Keep your financial situation in mind when selecting a deductible amount. If producing a large sum of money all at once would be difficult for you, it may make more sense to pay a bit more each month. However, if you can sock away an emergency stash or easily come up with $500 or more, go with a higher deductible to save costs over the span of a year.
Cons
A disadvantage of having a deductible is that it is possible for your costs related to an accident to be less than the cost of the deductible. In this type of incident, you actually receive no financial benefit in having the policy, as your insurance has paid nothing toward your repair costs. Another negative issue related to insurance deductibles is the lump sum cost of paying them prior to having remaining expenses covered by your insurance company. It can be a financial hardship to come up with such a large sum all at once.
The fact is that most states require some form of auto insurance, so auto deductibles are usually unavoidable. A professional insurance agent can help you to determine the right deductible amount for your lifestyle and needs.

How to Make Your Home a Nightmare for Burglars… On A Budget

Regardless of what people might tell you, burglaries are still prevalent. The statistics may suggest they aren’t quite as common, but this certainly doesn’t mean you and your property are safe.

Burglars are still roaming our streets and according to some statistics, the majority of break-ins occur between 10am and 3pm. It goes without saying that this is the period of the day where most of us are at work – allowing the burglar to get to his work without any interruptions.

The above means that you need to make your home appear as undesirable as possible, at least from a burglary perspective. A costly alarm system is quite possibly one of the most effective ways to do this, but you can also pull it off on a budget. Making some simple alterations to the exterior of your property can work wonders, and doesn’t have to cost you a small fortune.

If most burglaries happen between 10am and 3pm – make your house at least appear occupied

When we talk about these exterior tips, most of them revolve around the appearance of your windows. Unsurprisingly, this is going to be one of the first things that catches the eye of the potential criminal – so you should be using them completely to your advantage.

Fortunately, the blinds industry allows us to do exactly this. Motorized blinds hit the market with the reputation of only being suited to the rich and famous, but from a security point of view they can be an absolute godsend. The fact that they can be programmed to be manipulated at different periods of the day means that your home can look occupied and if a burglar sees that the shades have moved in the space of an hour, it’s a sure-fire reason for him or her to move onto their next target.

On the subject of blinds, we’ll move onto something similar – keeping your valuables out of sight. We’ve all seen the signs in car parks, where they tell you not to leave things on display because of the risk of theft. The same applies with our homes and if you can at least block out people from peering into your home, it’s another deterrent. Not only does it mean that valuables are kept out of sight, but it again makes the burglar wonder if someone really is occupying the property.

The blinds industry has released products such as top-down bottom-up shades over the years, which can still bring natural light into a property whilst blocking the bottom portion of a window. Its products like this which can boost your home’s security – again on a budget.

It doesn’t always revolve around the windows

The windows are unquestionably the priority when it comes to safeguarding your home from a security standpoint, but there are other external elements which can make a difference. Just keeping your shrubbery in check is one of the simplest ones, and making it as hard as possible for a potential intruder to disguise themselves in your garden.

The list really could go on but the main takeaway from this article is that you should do everything in your power to make your house appear occupied, and block out the line of sight into your home in the process. This mainly revolves around window treatments – which arrive at a much smaller cost than that premium alarm system.

Your Spouse Is Dumping You — Here’s What to Do for the Next 48 Hours

You’ve just received the news: Your spouse wants a divorce, and you didn’t see it coming. No matter how much pain you’re feeling, you have to act fast to protect your interests. Your first job isn’t trying to understand what’s happened; emotional processing can come later. During the first 48 hours after you get dumped, start setting yourself up for the rest of your life.

Open Separate Bank Accounts

If you don’t already have them, open up checking and savings accounts in your name only. Stop using your joint account, which includes both writing checks and using your ATM card.

Apply for a Low-Interest Credit Card

Even if you’ve been working to pay down your debts, you need a safe financial lifeline that belongs only to you. If you have a joint credit card, apply for your own low-interest credit card in only your name.

Change Important PINs and Passwords

It might seem tempting to change all of the passwords and PINs on your joint accounts to shut your spouse out, but that action won’t reflect well on you in the divorce hearings. Select the accounts that affect only you, like your 401k or your life insurance policy, and change all applicable PINs and passwords.

Make a Budget

If you don’t already have a strong sense of where your money goes every month — or if you weren’t the one who handled the finances — you need to figure your income and expenses out as quickly as possible.

Decide where you’re going to live. If you’re staying in the home, get copies of your mortgage statement and your recent utility bills, and get information about any home equity loans or lines of credit.

Understand where your money goes. Get information about payments for auto loans, student loans, kids’ activities, life insurance, and other items for which you don’t want to miss payments.

Anticipate big upcoming expenses. If you’ve been dumped right before the holidays, anticipate how much money you’ll need to give your children some decent Christmas gifts. Also anticipate other major cash commitments, like big home improvements and car repairs.

Decide how you’re going to support yourself. Even if your spouse has offered to continue financially supporting you, you should make sure that, if the money disappeared tomorrow, you could still support yourself. If you’re unemployed, start looking for a job or taking in freelance work immediately. Also, talk to family members who might be able to give you a place to live or loan some money to you.

If you want to go back to school for your MBA or another graduate degree, fill out a FAFSA so that you can get some student loans. While it might seem like you have too much going on right now, now is a good time for you to further your education in order to increase your earning potential and support yourself and any children.

Withdraw Money From Your Joint Accounts

No matter how badly you’ve been treated by your spouse, you can’t take all the money, say nothing to your spouse, and run. However, you are entitled to at least half of what’s in your bank accounts.

If your soon-to-be-ex is reasonable, inform him or her that you’re withdrawing some money. If you’re in an abusive situation or you think your spouse is unreasonable, withdraw your share first and then inform your spouse that you’ve done it. Make sure to keep some cash on-hand because you’ll have to wait for new checks and a new debit card for your new account.

Get Copies of All Important Papers

You should have copies of your property deeds, your bank statements, your credit card bills, your will and trust papers, your life insurance policy, your brokerage account statements, and any other papers that could affect your future.

Protect Your Heirlooms

Even the most amicable divorces are full of tension, and people strike out at one another in ways that they normally wouldn’t. If you have heirlooms that you are concerned about preserving, such as jewelry, dishes, antiques, or other valuables, make sure that you put them in storage or in a safety deposit box.

Get an Attorney

Unless you’re very confident about your ability to negotiate with your spouse, find an attorney to assist you during the divorce. If you need to save money, consider an option like collaborative divorce, which allows you, your spouse, and your attorneys to work with a mediator and avoid court litigation. You can also find a legal aid attorney if you can’t afford representation.

Getting It Right: Conveyancing Is Integral To Buying A House

While you may instantly fall in love with a house and decide to buy it, there are numerous small details involved with what is in reality a legal transaction, before you are handed the keys and move in.

Some buyers might even ask the question is conveyancing necessary? The answer is a definite yes.

Conveyancing is actually a vital part of the house buying process and involves the transference of ownership to another person, but only once all the relevant checks have been made and questions answered satisfactorily.

Who does the conveyancing?

In theory, you could actually do the conveyancing yourself but with so many legal technicalities and potential pitfalls to navigate before you are ready to proceed with the purchase, it is not something you should really consider doing just to try and save some money.

Most buyers will use either a licenced conveyancer or a solicitor who specialises in conveyancing. You will probably find that if you are buying through an estate agent, they may well recommend a firm to you. They will probably be perfectly acceptable but may not be the cheapest option as there will probably be a commission involved, so shop around for the best price and service that you can find.

Getting started

The first task for the conveyancer that you appoint is to produce a draft contract and terms of engagement with you, which will provide details of their proposed charges in writing and how much deposit you will be required to pay.

The conveyancer will also write to the appointed solicitor acting for the seller to confirm their instruction and ask for a copy of the draft contract together with basic information such as the property’s title to help get the process underway.

Enquiries and searches

There are a number of searches and enquiries to raise that will probably take a few weeks to resolve and gather all the information together that is needed.

Your conveyancer will primarily examine the draft contract they receive from the seller’s solicitor and raise any enquiries that they have from the details provided. This may include checking details relating to the tenure of your proposed purchase, to clarify if it is freehold or leasehold.

If the property you want to buy is leasehold, this will normally involve some extra enquiries to confirm how long is left on the lease, especially as a short lease remaining is not an attractive proposition.

There are also local authority searches to carry out, which you have to pay for. These searches will reveal any proposed developments near your purchase property that could affect its value such as an application for a large development or even a new road that is being proposed.

Other searches

In addition to the local authority searches, your conveyancer will also carry out some essential legal property searches in order to confirm that there are no detrimental issues that you need to be aware of.

They will check the title register of the property to confirm if the person selling is the legal owner, and they will also carry out water authority searches to reveal how water is supplied to your property, where the public drains are located.

Checking for flood risks is another search that is often required and in certain parts of the UK, there are specific additional enquiries required, such as Radon gas searches in Somerset and Tin Mine searches in Cornwall.

Mortgage details

Another key role of your conveyancer is to liaise with your mortgage lender and confirm to them that their proposed security against the loan will actioned after they have answered all the relevant queries.

Your conveyancer will receive a copy of the mortgage offer from your lender and they will confirm to them when the anticipated exchange and completion date is, so that they can arrange to send the mortgage monies to them in time for the completion date, once it has been set.

Exchanging contracts

Once all the enquiries have been answered and all the searches are satisfactorily returned and checked, your conveyancer will propose a date to exchange contracts and a completion date when the property will become yours.

The exchange of contracts is a legal commitment to buy the property and will involve you paying an agreed deposit which is normally 10%, and you will not get this back if you subsequently do not go ahead with the purchase after exchanging.

Buying your home is in theory a relatively simple process that involves a number of checks and searches to ensure everything is in order. In reality, it can become quite complicated and any vital details missed could spell disaster somewhere down the line.

This is why a conveyancer is an integral part of buying a house.

Edward Cross is a property investor and consultant. He has been building up his investment portfolio over the last decade and a half which now consists of 24 residential properties and 2 commercial properties. He enjoys sharing his property investment insights online.

4 Keys to Opening Your Own Brick-and-Mortar Business

While corporately-owned big box and chain businesses continue to dominate America, a slow but steady return of mom and pop restaurants, pharmacies, coffee shops, hardware stores, and more is underway as customers seek more personalized and individual experiences from stores. For many people who dream of opening, owning, and running a small business, this renewed emphasis on local, independent consumer choices is encouraging.

However wading into territory where companies with much deeper pockets and extensive know-how have already established themselves can still feel intimidating. If you’re looking into embarking on a path of entrepreneurship, here are four keys to keep in mind before you open your own brick-and-mortar business.

1. Do Your Research

The kind of research you need to do is determined largely by the kind of store you want to open. Talk to family members and friends who have started businesses. Check out books from your local library that offer assistance in starting businesses within your desired field or industry. Turn to business organizations for advice, help, loan information, and more.

The U.S. Small Business Association and the National Federation of Independent Businesses are two organizations at the national level with scores of great articles and insight that can help with everything from understanding your demographic to marketing more effectively. Your local chamber of commerce is also an invaluable resource tailored specifically to the community in which your store will operate.

2. Understand Your Expenses

Once you’re armed with a reasonable amount of initial research, it’s time to dig deep into the upfront expenses that opening and operating will require. You’ll have real estate costs, inventory to purchase, salaries to pay, in-store product displays to buy or replace (whether you need pharmacy shelving or jewelry cases), insurance of various types, licenses and permits to purchase and renew, taxes to save for, utilities, and more. Truly understanding the amount of money you’ll need to operate is an essential initial step in ensuring you have everything at your disposal to be successful.

3. Offer What Your Competition Can’t

Once you feel settled with what opening and operating your business will cost you, it’s time to think about what your store will offer customers that your competitors can’t or don’t. The chances are good that there are other shops within your niche in your community, and they may have established customer bases, access to larger inventory, larger advertising budget, and more.

Put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers, and consider what it is that they need. From no-questions-asked-money-back guarantees to a store design that provides its own unforgettable experience, separate yourself from your competitors by offering a slew of customer-friendly features your competitors don’t.

4. Develop a Solid Business Plan

Once you understand the small business you wish to start and the money you’ll need to operate, it’s time to develop a solid business plan that will keep you on track toward reaching your goals and help you secure a business loan. Considered a “living document,” because it will change and shift as your real business landscape does, a business plan projects roughly three to five years into the future and outlines the ways in which you plan to make money and grow revenue. Here are some other standard features on a solid business plan:

  • Executive Summary. This portion summarizes your business’s overall profile and goals.
  • Company Description. In this section, you can expound on what you do and what makes your business unique.
  • Market Analysis. Here is where you record your findings about your industry, the current market, and your competitors.
  • Structure. Outline your management and organizational structure here.
  • Services or Products. Detail what you plan to sell and how it will help your customers.
  • Marketing and Sales. In this section, outline your marketing plans and sales strategies from Internet ads to traditional methods.
  • Funding Request. If you need a business loan, include your request for funds in this portion, as well as any financial projections you can make about the future.
  • Appendix. Resumes, permits, and leases — whatever you need to look and be legitimate, include it here.

Opening your own small business takes a fair amount of courage, know-how, preparation, and money, but with enough effort and wisdom, it’s a dream almost anyone can bring to fruition.

Is A 401k In Gold A Good Option?

When thinking about your retirement, the investment decisions you must make are going to be some of the toughest. In today’s market, things seem to be going incredibly well, but you can’t always judge a book by its cover. Looking into economic, geopolitical, and market conditions around the world, we’re seeing quite a few red flags. This leads many to ask “Is a 401k in gold a good option?” Today, we’ll discuss how gold could help protect your retirement investments and why you might want to consider moving into that direction soon.

How Gold Helps Protect Retirement Investments

The reason gold helps to protect investments in down market times really boils down to supply and demand. When market conditions seem grim, investors start to sell their traditional investments and look for safe haven investments. One of the most common safe havens…you guessed it…gold! Because thousands of investors now have an interest in purchasing gold, demand for the precious metal goes up. As more and more investors buy gold, the gold supply on the open market goes down. As the basic laws of supply and demand tell us, when demand rises and supply falls, the price must go up to keep an even balance.

In down market times, you may lose money in the stock market through your traditional retirement investments. However, if you hedge against losses with gold, the earnings you make from the increase in gold’s price offsets the losses you experience in the market. In some cases, gold earnings can far surpass market losses, leading to overall gains; even in the most trying market conditions.

Why You Might Want To Consider Gold?

Looking at the market from the outside in, things look great. Unfortunately, when you take a more detailed look, it becomes apparent that things aren’t always as they seem. There are quite a few red flags that people have been watching, which could be warnings of an unavoidable market correction.

One of those signs is the recent decision by OPEC to keep oil production where it’s at; ultimately increasing supply and reducing the price further. As a result, the price of oil is so low that in many countries, it’s cheaper to buy oil than drill for it. In the United States, Canada, and Brazil, this move puts major pain on Shale production companies; many of which could have to close. If this was to happen, unemployment data would increase and it could spark a sell off.

Aside from the oil issue, people have also been watching the poor economic conditions all over the Eurozone, as well as geopolitical concerns.  The bottom line is, there are several factors that could be a real danger to the market.

Final Thoughts

While the market may be a bull market for now, smart investors know that it can’t last. By taking advantage of gold as a hedge to protect your retirement, you could minimalize your losses if and when a market correction does happen. In some cases, you could even realize gains!