The first thing you should do after you move into a new place is change the locks.
OK, maybe you could pop a bottle of champagne first and toast your new home. And possibly unpack the kitchen. But after that, change the locks.
Not just the front door lock, either, but also the side door, back door and garage door. If you have electric garage door openers, change the combination on the remotes.
It's not that the folks who owned the house before you were thieves or killers, although you never know. But there's no telling how many keys are out there, given to friends, family and neighbors of the previous residents. You have no idea who these people are, and they have access to what's now your place.
Changing the locks is so important that some agents have taken to giving their clients new lock sets -- or even hiring a locksmith -- as a housewarming gift.
When she orders a home warranty for her buyers, Wanda Kubat-Nerdin of PK Real Estate in St. George, Utah, also includes a complimentary re-keying. And she advises them to "get it done right away."
A visit from a locksmith is also Gwen Fowler's way of saying "thanks for your business." The South Carolina broker says her go-to locksmith "gives me a good price, and goes before the buyers move in. ... (It provides) peace of mind for me and everyone else in the process."
Just when mortgage cops think they've seen it all, a new kind of fraud pops up. The latest scam: reverse occupancy.
Whereas some people say they intend to occupy what's really an investment property in order to obtain a lower finance rate, in a reverse occupancy scheme, the buyer says he intends to rent the house and uses the potential income stream to help qualify for the mortgage.
The maneuver is being used by would-be owner-occupants who don't otherwise have enough income to pass muster, according to Kevin Ludden, fraud industry relations manager at mortgage giant Fannie Mae.
The reverse occupancy liar gets a somewhat higher rate because he supposedly is buying an investment property. Plus, he has to put more money down than an owner-occupant would. So why should anybody care?
Because if there is no income from rent, there is a far greater chance that he won't have enough money coming in to make the monthly payment.
Besides labeling the house an investment property and making a large down payment, two other red flags include the purchaser being a first-time buyer with minimal or no established credit, and having a low income but significant liquid assets as authenticated by bank statements.
In 2014, for the first time in more than 130 years, young adults ages 18 to 34 were more likely to be living with their parents than to be cohabitating with a spouse or partner in their own homes or apartments, according to the Pew Research Center.
The main reason: Fewer people are choosing to settle down romantically before age 35, the tipping point into middle age.
Dating back to 1880, the most common living arrangement among young adults has been living with a romantic partner. But sometime around 1960, that type of household peaked, Pew says. Back then, 62 percent of all 18- to 34-year-olds were living with someone else under one roof, while just one in five were still residing at home.
But in 2014, nearly 32 percent of people in this age group were living at home -- whether "still" or "again" -- vs. 31 percent who lived with another person in a separate household. That's not a record, though. Around 1940, 35 percent lived with Mom and/or Dad.
"What has changed, instead, is the relative share adopting different ways of living in early adulthood, with the decline of romantic coupling pushing living at home to the top of a much less uniform list of living arrangements," Pew Research reported.
If you think lot sizes seem to be shrinking, you're very astute: The median lot size of a new single-family detached house sold last year dropped under 8,600 square feet -- about a fifth of an acre -- for the first time since the Census Bureau started keeping track.
Having trouble visualizing 8,600 square feet? Paul Emrath, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders, says 5.6 median-size lots would fit onto a football field.