Your house is the biggest investment you can have in life, and it just makes sense for you to take good care of it. Maintaining its upkeep is sure to make your life more comfortable, and will also lessen the risk of quick deterioration. And since good, common sense might not be too common these days, let’s go back to the basics.

Blue Skies Ahead: How to Increase the Value on your Home

  • The most effective way to update your house is to give it a fresh coat of paint. Its aesthetic appeal increases dramatically, as long as simple colors and combinations are chosen. Neutral tones are best, as they make the house warm and inviting.
  • Declutter and remove junk. This is important especially outside (near the garage, in the backyard, or by the entryway), which will decide a visitor’s first impression.
  • Make clean furniture and design arrangements. Plants and flowers add an inexpensive visual punch to any room. Do just enough to show off the house’s strengths (spacious rooms, for instance) so that its character shines through.
  • Make sure that lights and faucets are working, doors open smoothly, and the interior smells fresh.
  • Fix the things that you can. For bigger problems like a leaking roof, get the services of a professional. This will prevent the problem from getting out of control, and from getting more expensive in the long run.

Green Means Go: Get Organized

Keep a separate house file that will include loan documents and copies of outgoing letters and communication with the bank or loan servicer. Record any communication and take notes of times and dates of calls. Because banks have different departments, it is important to have these handy when referring to details.

Know Your Mortgage

There are certain laws that protect homeowners, but they can only protect you as much as you’re aware of disclosures and notices. Ask for an advance copy before closing so that you can read through the whole agreement and be ready to ask questions.

If you’ve already signed the papers and are in a bind, contact your loan servicer immediately.

Grey Skies Looming: What to do in Financial Difficulty

What if you are in a financial crisis? Don’t let anxiety and fear paralyze you into non-action. Open your mail and don’t ignore letters and notices especially from the bank. At the first sign of trouble, contact your loan servicer. It is in the bank’s interest to help you make your mortgage payments.

Here’s some advice from Rory O’Sullivan of the Northwest Justice Project, a not-for-profit statewide law firm providing free civil legal assistance and representation to low-income people and communities in Washington.

If you lose your job, or have overwhelming medical expenses (the number one cause of bankruptcies) find housing counselors certified by HUD (Housing and Urban Development). 1-877-894-HOME or 1-877-894-4663.

If you have legal problems, for instance, were a victim of a scam or have issues with documents call Northwest Justice Project. If you want information in person, there are free seminars with translators present. You can ask questions or interact with people in similar situations.

Urban League – for homeowners, every 3rd Saturday of the month.

Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC) – Seminar on Foreclosure on September 25, 2010. Contact Alan Lai: [email protected].

Vietnamese Community of Seattle and Vicinity. Contact Yang Tran, (206) 973-6874.

If you get behind in your payments

Get in touch with a loan modification representative at HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program).

If people try to contact you to offer help in loan modifications, be cautious about them asking for money up front. There are many free programs and resources you can use.

The Silver Lining

Loan modifications and other transactions can be overwhelming for most of us. It can be very frustrating to work with the bank, and it is common to play phone or fax tag with them. No matter what happens, believe that there is a solution to your problem. There have been many stories of successful resolutions.

Just be consistent and persistent in documenting everything. Don’t give up hope.

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