March 2011 Vol. 6 No.3

• Make the Most of your Mortgage's Grace Period • March's Home Value Improver • About Us

Make the Most of your Mortgage's Grace Period

If you are like most people, your mortgage is, by far, your biggest expense of the month. There are a few different ways to lessen the pain of paying a big nut all at once, from paying every two weeks, to automatic withdrawal, to separating your bank accounts so that one is used only for the mortgage payment. What a lot of people don't think about, however, is the "grace period" time that most mortgage lenders allow.

What is a "Grace Period?"
Being late on your mortgage payment means your misstep will be reported to the credit bureau and that you will accrue a late fee. Because you want to avoid both of these things, the mortgage companies give you a period of time, usually about 2 weeks, in which you can make your mortgage payment and not be considered late. So, let's say your mortgage is due the first of each month. Many mortgages (though not all) allow you until the 14th before a penalty - financial or otherwise - is assessed.

Does "Grace" Really Mean Free?
Most mortgages are structured so that you do not accrue further interest during this grace period. However, there is a certain type of mortgage called a "simple interest" in which your interest continues to accrue during those days. So, let's say you pay your mortgage on the 10th day of the grace period. You will actually owe 10 days of interest. If you have a traditional mortgage, then your grace period really is "free."

How Close Should I Cut it?
Everyone approaches his or her grace period differently. Why pay late if you don't have to? It's just additional sweat and worry. Why comb the calendar each month to see if the last day of the grace period is a weekday or weekend and have to figure out the best way to pay because of that? Once you've made that mortgage payment, you can plan the rest of your month knowing the biggest payment is out of the way.

Others, however, want to hold on to their money to the very last second. Why give your mortgage company money before it absolutely, positively requires it? If this is your approach, be sure to give yourself a few days before the end of the grace period. Holding on to your money is fine, but unless you like living on the edge, there's no reason to risk a late payment.

Paying online, which is the quickest possible transaction, allows you the luxury of holding on to your money for a while reducing the risk of being late.

March's Home Value Improver

Gauging the Value of Five Popular Kitchen Counter Options

If you are like many of my customers, you have kitchen envy. Your friend or neighbor remodels their kitchen and now has fancy appliances, gleaming new countertops, state-of-the-art cabinets, and a beautiful and functional floor. These things do not come cheap. One way, however, to breathe new life into a tired kitchen, without a six-figure price tag, is with new countertops.

This surface has become synonymous with a fancy kitchen. Nothing gleams like granite, and it holds up to anything. Take a boiling pot from the flame and place it on the counter. No problem. Its aesthetic value cannot be overstated. However, it is very pricey and can stain if not properly sealed.

Marble gives a kitchen a softer, country feel. When I think of marble counters, I think of Martha Stewart. It is, however, falling out of favor in the kitchen countertop world. Because of its softness and porosity, it's not a very practical surface to take the wear and tear of typical kitchen activity. Of course, if your kitchen activity mainly consists of getting the take-out menu from the drawer, marble may be a gorgeous option.

Granite Composites
You may have heard of Silestone, Zodiac, and some other brands. These surfaces are made of 93% granite with some other substances mixed in. They are completely impervious to stains, heat, and cuts, and require virtually no maintenance. However, the price tag is similar to granite, and some of my clients swear it doesn't have the same shine or natural look.

Solid Surfaces (Corian)
People love these because they are seamless and you can sand out scratches. It's one of the more expensive counter options, however, and can stain and sustain damage from hot pots.

This is not your mother's Formica! Today's laminate countertops are impressive-looking imitations of granite, marble, or whatever else you want to imitate in your kitchen. It's significantly less expensive than other options, so if you want to change frequently, it may be a great option for you. However, laminate can get stained, melted, and torn, and it's not easy to repair.

Westchester Mortgage

It's the first week of spring, the beginning of what may be a great home buying and selling season. If you are considering buying or selling a home this season, it helps to know what you're getting into and, most importantly, how to set realistic expectations and goals.

If you're shopping for your first home, for example, make a list of the things that you are not willing to compromise on - maybe it's a master bath, maybe it's a garage - and then agree to be flexible on the rest. There are no perfect homes out there, but with the right attitude and plan, you can find the perfect home for you.

Financially speaking, it's critical to know what you are willing to spend on a monthly basis for your home and related expenses, and stick to that amount or lower. Your home should comfort you, not stress you out every month.

I am always happy to hear from my readers with any of their questions, so feel free to call or email anytime!

Happy Spring!

Best regards,
Debbie Siegel
Westchester Mortgage

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