DEAR MR. MYERS: What are the best things to buy for our home in May?
ANSWER: For several decades, May has been designated “National Home Improvement Month” by the federal government because this is the time of year when the weather gets better in nearly every part of the nation, and millions of homeowners begin sprucing up their properties.
Most retailers mark this annual event by offering deep discounts on a variety of home-related products, from paint and bed mattresses to exterior siding and even roofing materials. The biggest discounts, sometimes more than 50 percent, tend to come over Memorial Day weekend (May 27-29).
Vacuums and pressure-washers also are near their lowest prices of the year.
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Other good home-related stuff to buy now: Outdoor gas grills, before the peak barbecue season of the summer starts, and room air conditioners before the heat arrives.
You might save a little more money if you buy either of those items in the fall when the weather cools again, but your selections likely will be limited and you’ll need to have a place to store them until you can put them to use next year.
REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, which guarantees no-money-down mortgages to eligible vets, was created in 1930 by President Herbert Hoover. But its roots trace back to 1636, when the Pilgrims in Massachusetts passed a law to help disabled soldiers who were wounded in the bloody battles against the fierce Pequot Indians.
DEAR MR. MYERS: I read a story in our local newspaper that said Puerto Rico wants to become our 51st state. Can the people there do that?
ANSWER: Yes, the island nation of about 3.5 million can petition for U.S. statehood. That’s because it’s a United States territory, ceded to America in 1898 after the Spanish-American War.
An answer to Puerto Rico’s request for statehood would likely take several years. The country must prove that the majority of its citizens actually want to become our 51st state – a vote is scheduled for June 11 – and then file a long series of documents with the U.S. Congress and Senate to gain approval.
Even if Congress and the Senate OKs Puerto Rico’s statehood request, President Donald Trump would then have to sign it. That’s unlikely, mostly because the island nation filed for bankruptcy in early May – the largest in history – and now wants U.S. taxpayers to help bail it out of its fiscal crisis.
DEAR MR. MYERS: I am refinancing my mortgage with an out-of-state bank. The loan officer called me to ask for a verbal authorization that would allow her to order a copy of my credit report. This sounds a little fishy to me. Don’t I have to provide my approval in writing?
ANSWER: No. A lender can order a copy of your credit report based only on your verbal approval. It’s common for most mortgage lenders to make such a request “in writing,” but there’s no legal obligation for them to do so.
Under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, the only time that an individual’s written permission is required is when the person is applying for a job. A growing number of businesses are asking job-applicants for such an approval, especially if the prospective employee would be handling a lot of cash or dealing with expensive merchandise.
That said, I’m a bit concerned that you think that the bank’s telephone request for authorization to get a copy of your credit report is “a little fishy.” Make sure that the bank is backed by the government’s Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (877-275-3342). Also contact the Better Business Bureau (703-276-0100) to ensure that both your lender and loan officer are legitimate.
David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.