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August, 2012

  1. Renegotiate your mortgage! It works!

    August 29, 2012 by Karl

    house berry berry berryberryberry

    In this post you will find out how to save thousands of dollars by refinancing your home – even if you have tried in the past with no success!  Even if your home is worth less now than what you owe.  If you do nothing else this year to save money, please read this post. Your family budget is worth it, and depending on your finances, this may even save some from going into foreclosure.

    First let me tackle the big one.  If your home is UNDER WATER (your mortgage is higher than your current home value), you are at the right place!  There is a new government program that is simple to implement and can cut your monthly payments SIGNIFICANTLY.  I will explain this further down in this post.  Look for the HARP heading below.  Please also be aware that there are a LOT of scammers out there who are trying to use HARP to collect your personal data.  Be careful doing web searches on this program, but more significantly DO NOT enter any of your personal information into any of the websites that want to check your eligibility for the program.  Most, if not all of them, are simply trying to collect your information for their own personal gain.  They may or may not give you any reliable information about your eligibility for the program.

    With interest rates going down every month, and these rates currently near rock bottom, it makes sense to call your mortgage company every 6 months or so to see if they have any new refinance programs of which you could take advantage.  Most of the big mortgage companies offer new programs on a regular basis.  Often you can do a simple refinance over the phone which can save you THOUSANDS of dollars a year.  If you haven’t done this in the past 12 months, I highly recommend the phone call.  It may take 5 minutes out of your day, and your mortgage company will tell you if you may qualify for a new program or not, or if you can save some money doing so.  It is foolish not to take advantage of the ever lowering interest rates.


    HARP, or Home Affordability Refinance Program was recently introduced by the US Treasury and HUD to help home owners reduce their monthly payments.

    As stated above, be very cautions about scam websites.  The only one who can verify your eligibility for the HARP program is your own mortgage company.  Here are the basic guidelines for eligibility:

    • Your mortgage must have been initiated prior to May 31, 2009.
    • Your current LTV (loan to value ratio) must be greater than 80%.  This means that you must owe MORE than 80% of the current market value of your home.
    • Your mortgage payments must be current for the past 12 months drawn from your own funds.
    • Your mortgage must be guaranteed by  Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.  (Don’t worry.  Most of them are.)
    • You cannot have already participated in HARP before.  (If you are still reading this you probably have not.)

    If all of these items apply to you, then contact your mortgage company, ask them about HARP, and get ready to save lots of money!  Please keep in mind that different loan providers may have additional requirements, or tighter restrictions than what I have placed in this list.  These are only guidelines to check your eligibility.

    Someone I know has recently refinanced using this program, and she was thrilled with the results and the simplicity of the process.  “We refinanced over the phone with just a few questions and no closing costs-plus you get to skip one month of your mortgage payments. We went from 6.25% to a 3.625% 20yr fixed and saved $96K over the life of our loan! Plus we shaved 6 years off the mortgage! Can’t begin to tell you how excited I am!”

    Refinancing using HARP should not harm your credit score according to  Keep in mind that this does not apply to the HAMP program as noted below.

    Here is the only website that provides reliable information about HARP:


    HAMP, or Home Affordability Modification Program was introduced by the US Treasury and HUD to help home owners who are in trouble.  They have recently expanded the population of home owners who can take advantage of this program, so if you have applied in the past, you should definitely try again.

    Here are some of the elegibility guidelines for this program:

    • You must be currently employed.
    • Your mortgage must have been initiated prior to May 31, 2009.
    • You must owe less than $729,750 on your primary home or single unit rental property.
    • You owe less than $934,200 on a 2-unit rental property; $1,129,250 on a 3-unit rental property; or $1,403,400 on a 4-unit rental property.
    • You have enough income to support a modified loan.
    • You have not been convicted within the past 10 years.

    Here are a few ways the program has been expanded as of June 1, 2012:

    • Rental properties now may be eligible (see above).
    • Home owners who previously did not qualify for various reasons may now qualify.  If you have tried for this program in the past, I highly recommend that you try again.


    Again, the way to put this into action starts with a call to your mortgage company, however it should be noted that modifying your mortgage in this way MAY have an impact on your credit score.  However, if you are in financial trouble your credit score may be suffering anyway, so this may be your best option.

    Here is a link to learn more about HAMP:

    If you have read this entire post, you will see that the action is the same for any of these program for which you may be eligible.  Contact your mortgage provider.  They will be able to tell you if you qualify for these or any other program.  The call could literally save you THOUSANDS of dollars!

    Happy savings!

  2. No more mice in the house!

    August 16, 2012 by Karl

    mouse berry berry berry

    This article will show you how to kill those pesky mice every time and keep them out of your home, without calling the exterminator. Let’s face it. The tightest house will still collect mice from time to time, especially if you live near a field.    In the fall and winter they come in search of warmth.  The rest of the year they are just looking for a comfortable home.

    First of all, forget the idea the mice like cheese.  This simply is not the case. A study conducted in 2006 by David Holmes of Manchester Metropolitan University shows that mice do NOT like cheese, and will only eat it as a last resort.  What they DO like is high carb sugary grains, such as cereal and pasta.  Many people have had luck luring mice to the trap with peanut butter, but I think it is actually the sugar in the peanut butter that they crave.

    There are two things you need to do to get rid of the mice in your house.  The first is to thoroughly inspect the perimeter of your home and fill or block any areas where they could be entering.  Mice only need a hole the size of a dime to find their way in.  Use a small mirror and place it on the ground around the entire foundation to see what you find from the mouse’s perspective.  You might be surprised!  Once you find a hole, you need to fill it with some form of metal.  Mice can chew their way through anything else.

    mouse hole

    Here is a hole that I found recently.  It’s not a big hole, but it’s big enough for a mouse to crawl through.  I’ll fill this one with some balled up wire mesh, and may even put some cement over it.

    Next, you need to find a good mousetrap to kill the mice that have found their way inside.  The old mouse traps still work well enough, but the mouse trap HAS improved over the years.  With the old traps, you may need to re-bait the traps several times before killing a mouse.  The trip lever is not all that sensitive.  This is the old style trap:


    If you DO buy one of these, make sure it has the over-sized yellow trigger pad like this one.  This style of trap is still effective, but it is sometimes frustrating to set, and doesn’t always get the mouse before the bait is gone.

    Here is the latest version of the mousetrap:

    ortho mouse trap

    You can buy this on Amazon here, or you can buy it at your local home center.  If you’re like me, you probably like shopping on-line more than running to the store.

    This new “better mousetrap” by Ortho which I call the Jaws of Death has been improved in many ways.  First of all, it’s easy to set.  You simply squeeze the trigger and it is set!  Second, the trigger plate is SUPER sensitive.  If any part of the mouse touches the trigger plate, the trap will spring shut.  Third, disposal of the dead mouse is very easy.  You simply take the entire trap to the trash can, press the trigger, and watch the dead mouse land in the trash.  The packaging says that you throw away the whole trap, but that is not necessary.  I have used the same trap for as many as 10 mice.  It works FANTASTIC!  It is simple to use, and effective EVERY time.  I don’t think the mouse has ever had a chance to do more than sniff the bait.  I have NEVER had to re-bait this trap.

    As far as bait goes, I have used peanut butter for many years, but have just switched to using a small flake of sugary cereal along with the peanut butter.  What I find with the peanut butter is that it needs to be a sugary peanut butter such as Jiff or Skippy.  Both of them add lots of sugar.  It also doesn’t go rancid as easily as raw or natural peanut butter.

    Between policing the outside of your home, closing places for them to enter, and setting these new traps with the proper bait, you should no longer have a problem with mice in your home.  Please post a comment below to let me know your results!  I LOVE feedback.  Also, don’t hesitate to check over my other articles in The Frugal Berry.