RESOURCES

Where can I read more about renting or owning?

The National Association of Realtors (www.realtor.org) and its real estate site (www.realtor.com) are both valuable sources of consumer information about buying. The National Association of Home Builders (www.nahb.org) offers guidance about buying new construction. The National Multi Housing Council (www.nmhc.org), a trade organization for rental-property owners and operators, provides consumer advice on renting.

Who’s writing memoirs and cultural pieces about contemporary homeownership?

  • Meghan Daum’s Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010) traces her relationship to her many addresses over several decades.
  • Mary Elizabeth Williams’ Gimme Shelter (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009) follows a three-year house hunt at the height of a boom.
  • Edmund L. Andrews’ Busted: Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown (New York: W. W. Norton, 2009) investigates a couple’s transition from ordinary homeowners to overleveraged consumers.
  • Daniel McGinn’s House Lust: America’s Obsession with Our Homes (New York: Crown Business, 2008) examines Americans’ obsession with housing.
  • Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life (New York: Doubleday, 2010) navigates the meaning assigned to home, using the example of a British property.

Where can I learn about the history and future of housing, the economy, and consumerism?

From an economic standpoint, The Economist and Barron’s both offer interesting coverage of housing, focused less on housing as a consumer purchase and more on how housing markets function within or impact the economy. On the blog front, NPR’s Planet Money, the New York Times’ Economix, the Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics, and the independently run Calculated Risk Blog all do a good job of unpacking the latest economic news nuggets.

Several books debate cities versus suburbs, here are a few:

  • Richard Florida argues on behalf of cities in The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity (New York: HarperCollins, 2010) and Who’s Your City? How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life (New York: Basic Books, 2008).
  • Joel Kotkin sees the future in the suburbs in The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050 (New York: Penguin Press, 2010).
  • For an excellent history of the suburbs in America, read Kenneth T. Jackson’s Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).
  • John F. Wasik’s The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome: Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream (New York: Bloomberg Press, 2009) critiques the suburbs and their role and situation in the American housing market.
  • Douglas Rushkoff’s Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back (New York: Random House, 2009) takes aim at the dysfunctional undertones of American consumerism.
  • Dambisa Moyo takes a look at where and how American culture may lose in stature within the global economy in How The West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly—and the Stark Choices Ahead (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011).

The following books explore the subprime crisis—its origins and after-math:

  • All The Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis (New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2010), by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera, deftly explains how a mix of public-policy concerns, Wall Street banks, regulations, greed, mortgage products, and consumer confusion melded together to form the sub-prime crisis.
  • Alyssa Katz’s Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us (New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2009) traces how buying real estate became a joke for many consumers.
  • Shari B. Olefson’s Foreclosure Nation: Mortgaging the American Dream (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2009)
  • Robert J. Shiller’s The Subprime Solution: How the Global Financial Crisis Happened, and What to Do About It (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008).

Where can I learn more about personal finance?

If you want to stay on top of personal-finance news, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times offer excellent personal-finance coverage, as do magazines including Money, Smart Money, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Online, you can turn to WalletPop and bankrate to keep abreast of personal-finance news, tips, and strategies.

Here are a few books with helpful information:

  • Suze Orman’s The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2011)
  • Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties by Beth Kobliner (New York: Fireside Press, 2009)
  • Generation Earn: The Young Professionals Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back by Kimberly Palmer (New York: Ten Speed Press, 2010)
  • The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy (New York: Hudson Street Press, 2011) by Liz Weston.
  • Jeff D. Opdyke’s Financially Ever After: The Couple’s Guide to Managing Money (New York: HarperCollins, 2009)
  • Money Without Matrimony: The Unmarried Couple’s Guide to Financial Security (New York: Kaplan Business, 2005) by Sheryll Garrett and Debra Neiman
  • Legal Affairs: Essential Advice for Same-Sex Couples (New York: Henry Holt & Co./Owl Books, 1998) by Frederick Hertz
  • A Legal Guide for Lesbian & Gay Couples (Berkeley, CA: Nolo Press, 2010) by Denis Clifford, Frederick Hertz, and Emily Doskow
  • Carmen Wong Ulrich’s The Real Cost of Living: Making the Best Choices for You, Your Life, and Your Money (New York: Penguin/Perigee, 2010)
  • Charles Farrell’s Your Money Ratios: 8 Simple Tools for Financial Security (New York: Avery, 2009)
  • Gary N. Smith and Margaret H. Smith’s Houseonomics: Why Owning a Home Is Still a Great Investment (Saddle River, NJ: FT Press, 2008)

Where can I learn about credit scores and repair?

Transunion, equifax, and experian provide scores. Get all three for free once annually at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also visit fair Isaac Corporation, the scoring methodology company, at myFICO. The US Department of Justice provides links to approved credit counseling agencies. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (800-388-2227), which is also called the Consumer Credit Counseling service, has offices around the country. The still-evolving Consumer Financial Protection bureau may offer guidance on credit products and consumer rights and protections from credit card issuers.

Where can I get educated about the home buying process?

See Freddie Mac’s guide to buying and owning a home. The US Department of Housing and urban Development offers a guide to buying a home. Fannie Mae provides guidance on the home-buying process here. Check for state resources for home-buyer education and down-payment assistance programs here.

Real estate columnist Ilyce R. Glink offer exhaustive information for first-time buyers in books such as Buy, Close, Move In! (New York: HarperCollins, 2010) and 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2005). Other smart reads include Robert Irwin’s Tips & Traps for Negotiating Real Estate (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010), Ilona Bray, Alayna Schroeder, and Marcia Stewart’s Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home (Berkeley, Calif.: NOLO, 2011), and Eric Tyson and Ray Brown’s Home Buying for Dummies (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009).

Where can I fiddle around with Rent Versus Buy calculators?

Most real estate brokerages, banks, and mortgage lenders, as well as many agents, offer rent vs. buy calculators. Trulia offers an interesting Rent Vs. Buy Index that’s updated quarterly. There are dozens available. Just keep in mind that many calculators will differ in their analysis of your situation, and the results may depend on assumptions you’re making about your future financials or the market’s future behavior. The New York Times offers one of the more respected but also complex rent vs. buy tools.

Other calculators are found at the following sites:

Where can I find a rental home?

Check your local newspapers and alternative weeklies, Craigslist, and listings sites such as these: Apartments.com, forrent.com, rentals.com, and Home.com. Need a rental home that allows Fido? In addition to searching within regular rental sites for pet-friendly landlords, try Doghouse Properties or PetsWelcome.com.

Where can I learn about tenant’s rights?

The us Department of Housing and urban Development (HUD) offers links to state tenant laws and organizations that help provide assistance to tenants with landlord disputes. You can also read up on tenants’ rights in Janet Portman and Marcia Stewart’s Every Tenant’s Legal Guide (Berkeley, California: Nolo, 2009).

Where can I find homes for sale?

Many people use their city or region’s local multiple listing service (Mls), a sort of massive search engine of all agented homes available in a given area. At MLS.com you can find links to local MLS organizations around the country. The National Association of Realtors listing portal is called Realtor.com. Rent vs. buy–based searches are possible on HotPads, Zillow.com, and Trulia. Want new construction? Try Move.com. Wondering about distressed property in a particular city or community? Try realtytrac.

Where can I find a temporary or permanent roommate?

Word of mouth helps you find a six-degrees roommate. Try friends, family, social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, your school alumni network, your employer intranet, your church, even Listservs of like-minded hobbyists or professionals. Also check Craigslist, rentals.com, roomster, roommates.com, roomie match.com, roommateClick.com, and roommatesUSA. Renting a room to travelers for occasional income? Try Airbnb or roomarama.

Where can I research mortgages and mortgage interest rates? 

For mortgage basics, visit some of these resources: the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Home Loan Learning Center, the Federal Reserve’s consumer help page, or the Federal Trade Commission’s Mortgage/Real Estate section.
The Mortgage Professor offers a wealth of news and tools.
 If you’re interested in a specific loan type, you can learn more about FHA loans via the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and about VA loans via the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
To find interest rates, check your local media, bankrate, or HSH. 
To learn how your credit scores may impact your loan interest rate or how to improve scores and, thus, financing options, visit fair Isaac Corporation’s myFICO Website.

Where can I research neighborhoods?

Try Zillow.com, Trulia, Housing Maps, streetAdvisor, HotPads, and if school districts are a concern, SchoolMatters.

Where can I research home repair and home systems?

Whether you’re concerned about home maintenance and preservation or are interested in learning about remodeling, there are dozens of resources out there.
 Your home inspection report may provide a valuable starting point for understanding your home’s strengths and weaknesses, life spans of appliances and systems, and costs to replace them. Inspection companies such as Pillar to Post and Win Home Inspection offer insights about various home systems on their Websites. The National 
Resources 
Association of Realtors’ Houselogic site has valuable tips, as does This Old House.

If replacing appliances, consider reading Consumer Reports for information on appliance durability and warrantees. 
The Federal Citizen Information Center offers several downloadable guides to home maintenance and repair. 
Do-it-yourselfers may want to check out DIY network or shelterPop, as well as crafting publications. Home Depot offers classes on basic home tasks via the Home Improver Club, and lowe’s offers an online magazine with photo/video demos and articles on various home improvement and DIY tasks, as well as woodworking shop classes via e-mail.

Remodelers may want to research the process via the National Association of Home Builders site, which offers consumer resources for remodeling as well as a quarterly online newsletter called HouseKeys for current and future owners interested in home maintenance. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry has consumer tips on what to expect and request when hiring remodeling contractors. To look at what typical remodeling projects recoup, Remodeling magazine’s annual “Cost Versus Value” report may help. Debating whether to remodel or move? Visit Remodel or Move.

If energy efficiency or energy consumption is a concern, visit Green Building Advisor and energy star for guidance on materials, energy-efficiency enhancement and audits, and more. Building green, targeted toward professionals, also offers insight into the latest materials and issues with green construction and remodeling.

Where can I find a contractor?

For light handyman projects, smaller hardware stores or independently operated building materials stores often have phone numbers of nearby contractors avail- able on relatively short notice. Your Realtor will likely know many contractors, but many people find contractors via word of mouth. Otherwise, consider consulting Angie’s list, where customers review local service providers. HGTV offers a contractor listing service.

Where can I get inspired about the types of places I might live one day or get décor ideas?

HGTV will inspire cable subscribers, but online you can turn to Apartment Therapy, Curbed, shelterPop, and Zillow blog. Consider magazines including Architectural Digest, Atomic Ranch, Better Homes & Gardens, Coastal Living, Dwell, Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple, Southern Living and Sunset.