If your builder says he can construct your new home in three months, don't believe it.
According to 2014 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average completion time for a single-family house is twice that. And that doesn't count the 23 days it takes to obtain the necessary government approvals.
If you are building the house yourself, it takes even longer: 11.5 months, according to Uncle Sam's count. But if the house is being built by a contractor on your lot, it takes about eight months to be completed.
As noted, these are 2014 figures. It's very likely that it takes even longer to build a house today, because builders continue to have trouble finding the craftsmen needed to do the work. Indeed, the shortage of subcontractors has become acute in many parts of the country, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
On average, 22 different subcontractors are used to build a typical house, NAHB says. When asked about 23 different jobs, builders reported "always" subcontracting a sizable chunk of them. Concrete flatwork, masonry, drywall, fireplaces, plumbing, electrical and carpeting, among others, all received "always subcontract" responses in the 90-percent range.
About two-thirds of builders reported that they subcontract 75 percent of the construction cost of an average single-family house. Any way you slice it, that's a lot of work -- and it likely won't be done in three months.
Not long after revered reverse-mortgage spokesman Fred Thompson passed away, Danny Glover has signed on as the latest celebrity to push the products.
The 69-year-old actor can be seen on various marketing materials, as well as the Facebook and LinkedIn pages for USA Reverse, an online lead generator. The company aims to help people understand Home Equity Conversion Mortgages, and also allows would-be borrowers to compare various reverse-mortgage lenders.
Glover, best known for the "Lethal Weapon" films and "The Color Purple," joins a long list of entertainers who have promoted reverse mortgages: Henry Winkler (aka Fonzie of "Happy Days"), James Garner, Pat Boone, Barbara Eden (Jeannie of "I Dream of Jeannie") and Robert Wagner. Glover is the first African-American to represent a reverse-mortgage company.
You've heard of "zombie homes" -- those distressed properties abandoned by financially strapped owners, but not yet foreclosed on by lenders.
But how about "zombie debt"?
That's the term coined by the Federal Trade Commission to cover bills you think are dead, gone and forgotten, but that somehow spring back to life. Zombie debt can wreak havoc with your finances, and especially with your ability to buy a house.
We're talking about debt you settled with a company or debt collector; debts that were discharged in bankruptcy; time-barred debts that are past the statute of limitations; debts that no longer show up on your credit report. Zombie debt can also include debts you never actually owed, such as those resulting from identity theft.
Before paying any of these bills, take a deep breath and look at them carefully. They could be fake, and the bill collector could be a con artist, so make sure you recognize them as your own. If they don't look familiar, obtain a free copy of your credit report -- annualcreditreport.com -- to see if the debt is listed there.
If the "walking dead" debt is a result of identity theft, you'll find tips and sample letters to help you dispute it at identitytheft.gov. But if it is yours, and it's come back to haunt you, federal law still gives you certain rights to protect yourself.
For example, if someone contacts you about a debt you thought was dead, you can ask the collector to send you a written validation notice detailing the amount owed and the creditor's name. By law, the debt collector has to send you this notice within five days of contacting you.
But don't ignore lawsuits. If a debt collector files a suit against you to collect a zombie debt, respond to the lawsuit -- either personally or through your lawyer -- by the date specified in the court papers to preserve your rights.
Don't accidentally reset the debt clock, either. If you make, or promise to make, a debt payment on a time-barred debt -- a debt too old for a collector to make you pay -- the statute of limitations clock may reset. Then, a debt collector can sue you for the full debt amount -- plus interest and fees.
Most real estate agents enter their listings on the multiple listing service on Fridays. But according to a survey by Atlanta realty firm Terrace 24, Thursday seems to be the best day to list a house.
Homes listed on Thursday sell faster and for more money, reports managing broker Mike Minihan. Those listed on Sunday, on the other hand, were on the market the longest.
Of the houses in the Atlanta-area sample that sold without a price reduction, those listed on Thursday were on the market a median of 19 days less than those listed on other days of the week. Also, homes listed on Thursday were more likely to draw offers above the asking price. And eventually, sellers of Thursday-listed houses reaped nearly 98 percent of what they asked.