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Hills Bank and Trust Company
HBT Connect eNewsletter from Hills Bank and Trust Company

  HBT Connect  
Volume 3, Issue 3: May - June 2013  

  Benefits of Home Equity Loans

Using your home’s equity can be a great resource for making home improvements, purchasing a vehicle, college tuition, vacation, paying unexpected bills, or other expenses. With a home equity loan, you agree to use your home as collateral. There are several benefits to this type of loan including:

Low Interest Rates
Home equity loans and home equity lines of credit generally have lower interest rates than a credit card.

Easier Financial Planning Through Debt Consolidation
Often it’s more convenient for homeowners to consolidate debts into a single debt with a home equity loan because it’s one payment with one deadline a month, saving time in the process.

Tax Benefits
In many instances, a home equity loan can be tax deductible. For more information on tax deductibility, please seek advice from your tax professional.

Keep in mind, if you default on the loan, your home is at risk, so it’s important to borrow wisely. View a comparison chart explaining the differences between a Home Equity Line of Credit and a Home Equity Loan that will help you decide which is right for you.

Applications for Home Equity Loans are quick and simple, typically taking between 10-15 minutes to complete. Generally, the information needed when applying is income information, employment information, and the purpose of the requested loan. For more information on Home Equity Loans or Lines of Credit, please visit any Hills Bank location or call us at 319-679-5500 for the Iowa City area, 319-654-8100 for the Cedar Rapids area, or toll free at 1-800-445-5725 and ask for a Personal Banker.


Inexpensive Ways to Stage Your Home

If you are in the process of selling your home, here are a few inexpensive tips to help sell your home faster and increase its perceived value. Keep in mind your home is no longer about you and your tastes, so it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of a buyer and remember you’re staging, not redecorating.

Curb Appeal
The outside of your home is the first impression potential buyers will have. If your home looks shabby and unkempt on the outside, potential buyers may not even consider looking into your home any further. Make sure sidewalks and siding are power-washed, mow the lawn and seed areas as needed, stain and seal your deck, and plant blooming flowers or plants. You can even place solar lights strategically up the walkway or around flower beds, and leave your porch lights on while you’re selling in case potential customers drive by.

Clean, Clean, Clean—Even Closets and Cupboards
You want your home to sparkle. Scrub baseboards, window frames, under furniture, appliances, and grout. Shampoo carpets and clean window treatments. Leave no area uncleaned. Potential home buyers are going to look in your closets and cupboards, so be sure to remove excess items and store them elsewhere. By reducing the number of items you keep in the cupboards and closets, you create a look of spaciousness.

As you are cleaning, reduce the clutter in your home. Now is the time to sort, donate, and throw away items you no longer need or want. You will want to pack up a large majority of your home and have just a few quality items left for the staging. Ask a friend or family member to come to your house and give a second opinion on what should stay and what should go.

Neutralize Your Space
You want potential buyers to picture themselves in your home. Even if you love your lime green walls, your potential buyers may not. Neutral paints are more versatile for buyers, but that doesn’t mean it has to be white. Paint your walls cream, beige, soft brown, or grey, which are neutral colors that will go with almost any décor preferences of potential buyers. De-personalize your space by removing family photos, religious/cultural items, and club associations from plain view so as not to distract potential buyers.

Home Repairs
Do you have a list of unfinished projects that you meant to get to but never did? Now is the time to get those repairs done. Sidewalk cracks, dents in the drywall, cracked tiles, or broken door handles are red flags for home buyers. Plus, if these items are not fixed, buyers may ask you to deduct it from the asking price.

The purpose of staging your home is to make it inviting to a large number of potential buyers. By adding curb appeal, cleaning and removing clutter, neutralizing your space, and making repairs, your home will appeal to more buyers and hopefully reduce listing time on the market.


Achieve Financial Security

Income alone doesn’t ensure financial security for you and your family. Financial security also depends on your ability to handle your financial obligations and to save — even during a rough financial period. The following suggestions can help.

Set a Ceiling
If your bank account and wallet are often nearly empty before paydays, you may be overspending (and possibly adding some debt). Setting a spending limit is a practical way to keep your ordinary living costs comfortably below your income. For example, you might allow yourself to spend 90% of your take-home pay (after deducting an amount for retirement savings) and reserve 10% for occasional expenses, such as a vacation, or for recurring obligations like auto insurance.

Build a Reserve
Tapping a credit card when you have to repair the car or cover another unplanned large expense can make such spending costly and add to your monthly cash flow needs. Instead, gradually build an emergency fund, ideally equal to several months of income, that will let you avoid most forced borrowing. Consider keeping this short-term reserve readily accessible in a money market fund or savings account that you use only for putting out life’s financial fires.

Borrow Wisely
Borrowing is easy, but the subsequent payments can become a prolonged drain on your income. Limit your use of credit cards to an amount you can comfortably pay off each month. Take loans only for major, long-term items like a house, education, or a car. Ideally, strive to have any debt you incur generate tax-deductible interest.

Obtain Adequate Coverage
The liability limits that are built into your homeowners and auto policies might not be large enough to protect your assets in the event that you are sued. The cost of increasing your policy limits may be very low relative to the security you’d gain. Also, consider an excess liability (or “umbrella”) policy to supplement the covered limits on your homeowners and auto insurance policies. It’s a cost-effective way to protect yourself.

Disability coverage also deserves a careful examination. You may have some short- or long-term disability insurance through your job. But would it replace enough of your pay? And would the qualifying requirements make it hard to collect? For example, find out if your claim could be denied if you’re able to engage in “any occupation,” not necessarily your “own occupation.”

Increase Long-term Assets
Last, make sure that you regularly invest some part of your income for the long term. Whether you use your employer’s retirement savings plan or another tax-deferred account, the best rule is to start early and keep going for as long as you work.

Investment products are not a deposit, not FDIC insured, not insured by any federal government agency, carry no bank guarantee, and may go down in value.


Iowa City Home Builders Association Parade of Homes

Iowa City Homebuilders Parade of Homes The Greater Iowa City Area Home Builders Association is hosting its annual Parade of Homes June 1 - 9. Homes are open on Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday from noon to 5 pm, and on Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 9 pm.


Iowa City Home Builders Association Remodelers Parade

Iowa City Homebuilders Remodelers Parade The Greater Iowa City Area Home Builders Association is hosting its Remodelers Parade on Saturday, June 1 from 10 am to 5 pm and on Sunday, June 2 from noon to 5 pm. Visit the Iowa City Home Builders website for more information.


Holiday Schedule

The bank will be closed on the following holidays:

Memorial Day
Monday, May 27th

Independence Day
Thursday, July 4th

Even though we will be closed, you can still do your banking at over 90 Hills Bank ATMs in the Cedar Rapids - Iowa City Corridor, Hills Bank Online, via mobile banking, or through Push Button Banker.

View the complete Hills Bank holiday schedule.


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