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7 Tips to Get on the Property Ladder

7 Tips to Get on the Property Ladder
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    Despite the much publicised problems in the US Housing Market, there are still many long term advantages to buying a house in preference to renting.

    Buying a house has historically been a good investment; since 1945, house prices have increased faster than inflation and have also outperformed the stock market. Also, buying a house gives you the opportunity to live rent free when you have paid off the mortgage. Mortgages do fluctuate with interest rates. However, generally, mortgages become easier to pay over time. If your mortgage payments are currently $800 a month, this may seem alot, but if you income rises, then as a % of income, your mortgage will eventually fall.

    Despite the financial benefits, buying your first house can prove difficult because of the high prices we currently face.

    These are some tips for buying your first house.

    1. Save a deposit.

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    As soon as possible try to put money aside for a deposit. If you have a good sized deposit, mortgage lenders have more confidence in lending bigger amounts of money. This is because you are less likely to suffer from negative equity. The problem is that to save a decent % of a house can take many years of careful saving. However, with house prices currently stagnant, it has become a little easier.

    2. Borrow From Parents.

    Depending on your circumstances, this may be an option. There are several drawbacks to this approach. But, for many it provides the only realistic hope of getting on the property ladder. Parents may be able to release equity from the value of their house and lend you money (hopefully for a very low interest) this can provide the necessary deposit to buy your house. Many parents are willing to do this because they realise that their generation has benefited significantly from rising house prices. In extreme circumstances parents may be willing to act as a guarantor for your mortgage.

    3. Joint Mortgage.

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    It is becoming increasingly popular for young single people to combine their incomes with others so that they can afford a mortgage. Their own salary is insufficient. But, by buying with other people you effectively double your income, and this can enable you to buy a house. However, there are drawbacks. Firstly, you only will only own a 50% share in the house. Secondly, if you fall out with the other person, it can create an awkward situation, both financially and domestically.

    4. Interest Only Mortgage.

    This means you only pay interest on your mortgage loan. This means it is a cheaper repayment. However, there is a big disadvantage. At the end of the 30 year period, you still owe the entire mortgage loan. Interest only mortgages will only work if you can find an alternative way to invest in paying off the debt.

    5. 50 Year Mortgage.

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    A 50 year mortgage means that you spread repayments over 50 years rather than the standard 25 years. It means that monthly payments will be lower than a 25 year mortgage. The drawback is that you end up paying more interest payments over the course of the mortgage. However, it is likely to still be a better option than renting. Also, if you income increases in the future, you can always reduce the mortgage term at a later date.

    6. Move to a Cheaper Area.

    House prices in some areas are much cheaper. If you are willing to move to these areas then you can make buying a house a real possibility. Maybe in the future you can move back to more desirable areas. It is worth bearing in mind that cheaper areas do not always mean lower quality. For example, some areas have a premium because they are close to good schools. It is worth researching carefully average house prices in different areas.

    7. Self Certification Mortgage.

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    If you feel frustrated that banks won’t lend more than 3-4 times your income you might like to consider a self certification mortgage. Basically, a self certification mortgage enables you to state your likely income. In practise this can be a way to borrow more than under standard circumstances. Given the recent problems with sub prime mortgages it is advisable to be cautious when proceeding with this option. I mention it mainly because it is what I used to buy my first house, 3 years ago. Buying a house was a little more expensive than renting. But, self certificating was the only option to borrow enough capital. Do bear in mind, if you borrow a high income multiple (5 or 6 times income) you will struggle if interest rates rise significantly.

    Getting on the property ladder is not easy for our generation. It is likely you will have to make some sort of sacrifices. However, the alternative of renting is often even more unattractive. Which ever option you choose make sure you don’t go beyond your financial limitations.

    Tejvan Pettinger works as an Economics teacher in Oxford. He writes a blog about Mortgages and Finance. This Includes articles about the Housing Market, getting out of debt and paying off your mortgage early

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    Last Updated on March 25, 2020

    How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes effectively.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    1. Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    2. Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    3. Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    4. Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    5. Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    6. Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    7. Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    8. Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More Note-Taking Tips

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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