Tag: Buying

Mortgage Escrow Fraud: What Homebuyers Need to Know

by Phillip Warren

When you’re buying a home, there are tons of steps you have to complete. One of the more important ones is making your down payment and closing on your home, which occurs when you’re in the final stretch of the homebuying process. This step in the homebuying process is one of the most — if […]

The post Mortgage Escrow Fraud: What Homebuyers Need to Know appeared first on The Simple Dollar.


Source: thesimpledollar.com

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

by Phillip Warren

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

One of the lessons I’ve learned as I continue to work my way out of debt is that you need to treat yourself and celebrate your little successes along the way so you can avoid debt fatigue down the road. Celebrating small milestones, like getting another $1,000 knocked off your debt total, starting to put money aside for retirement or paying off a credit card balance, is important for both your sanity and your family’s sanity.

Find out now: How much money do I need to save for retirement?

I don’t have kids, but several of my personal finance blogger friends do, and they have talked about how kids don’t always understand how they can contribute to the family financial goals since they don’t earn any money. Plus, sometimes kids don’t understand why there is a sudden need to cut back on expenses they have come to know as normal- things like going out to eat or having a night out at the movies with friends. Allowing yourself and your family to celebrate your financial wins as you work your way out of debt will help them understand that while your family is now living on a different budget, it’s still okay to enjoy the present.

With that in mind, here are five frugal ways you can celebrate your financial successes, so you don’t erase all your progress!

1. Go out for Dessert

As a kid, whenever we’d go out for dessert after a home-cooked meal, it felt like a real fancy treat. Now I know that this was mom and dad’s way of having a celebration without spending a lot of money on paying for a whole meal.

2. Rent a Movie

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

This may not seem like a treat if you rent movies all the time, but if you are living on a very strict budget and don’t often rent movies, this could be a treat for you and your family. Make it the full experience – popcorn, candy, etc. Renting a movie and making popcorn at home is a fun way to celebrate, and it’s still a lot cheaper than going to the theater.

12 Affordable Ways to Have Fun on a Tight Budget

3. Hit a Matinee

Wait, didn’t I just say to avoid the theater to save money? Yes, but sometimes movie theaters offer cheaper matinee movies earlier in the day. Often showings before noon can be as little as half price. This is a more budget-friendly way to enjoy a new movie.

4. Buy a Book or Magazine

One of the first things that got cut from my budget when I started focusing on financial goals was my magazine subscription. Most of the time I don’t miss it as I have plenty of things to keep me busy, but sometimes it’s nice to somewhat mindlessly flip through a magazine in the evenings. Buying yourself a new book – maybe one of these investing books – or magazine is a fairly cheap way to entertain yourself and if it’s a rare occasion, it can serve as a reward too.

Frugal Summer Fun for Adults

5. Go on a Day Trip

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

If you aren’t traveling too far, the most expensive part of the trip is usually the overnight accommodations. By taking a day trip instead to the beach or somewhere else, you can get out of town and away from the norm without having to shell out for an expensive hotel room.

What other frugal ways can you think of to celebrate your debt successes?

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/andresr, Â©iStock.com/sdominick, Â©iStock.com/AleksandarNakic

The post 5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.


Source: smartasset.com

Truth About Reward and Store Credit Cards

by Phillip Warren

On the surface, reward cards are a great way to make a few extra dollars or grab some air miles without increasing your spending or your debt. If you spend a lot of money at a particular shop, store cards will seem like an equally beneficial prospect. But these cards exist for a reason—they’re there to make more money for the providers and the retailers, not you.

Sure, reward/store cards have other benefits if you use them properly, but there are a host of disadvantages and hidden terms that you need to be aware of before signing on the dotted line. 

What are Store Cards?

Store cards are tied to specific stores and offered by chains of retailers. These cards work just like traditional cards and are often branded by networks like Visa and MasterCard. The difference is that they can only be used in the issuing stores and their rewards are tied to those stores.

In essence, they are store loyalty cards that come with a lien of credit attached. 

What are Reward Cards?

Reward cards are also tied to credit card networks, including American Express and Discover, as well as Visa and MasterCard. They award points every time they’re used for qualifying purchases and these points can then be swapped for air travel and other benefits. 

Some reward schemes award a specific amount of cash back, often fixed to 1% or 2% of purchases made on specific items, such as groceries or utility bills.

How Can Providers Offer These Rewards?

If a provider offers you cash back every time you spend money on your credit card, someone has to foot the bill. Many consumers assume that the credit card network covers the cost, and to an extent, they do. But it’s not quite as simple as that.

Every time you use your credit card to make a purchase, the retailer is charged a fee, often between 1% and 3% of the purchase. This is the network’s charge. With reward cards, this fee increases, and the extra money is used to fund the rewards program.

As a result, retailers are not exactly happy with these programs as they drive their costs up and reduce their profits. The only way around this, is to increase the cost of the product or, more likely, to reward customers who pay with cash/debit. Retailers are not allowed to add a surcharge for credit card use, but there’s nothing stopping them from choosing which cards they do and don’t accept.

Your local Mom & Pop enterprise isn’t being antiquated and old-fashioned by refusing credit cards. They just can’t cover the costs. 5% may not sound like a big deal, but for retailers with minimal buying power and the massive overheads of running a brick-and-mortar store, 5% can be a deal breaker.

Smaller retailers are fighting back against reward cards while bigger ones are embracing them by adopting their own store cards. With a store card, they have more say, more control, and they know that those small losses will be offset by the increased purchases.

Issues with Store Credit Cards

Store cards carry a big risk and have far few benefits than reward cards. The advantages of these cards are obvious: If you shop a lot in a particular place, you can save money via the cash back schemes. 

They can also help with emergency purchases, providing you clear the balance in full. But, while the benefits are obvious, the same can’t be said about the disadvantages.

Con 1: They Have High Interest Rates

The average credit card interest rate in the United States is around 16%. The average rate for store cards is over 20%. That 4% may not seem like much, but if you don’t repay your balance every month that interest will compound, grow, and cost you a small fortune. 

At 16% with a $10,000 balance and a 60-month repayment term, you’ll pay $243 a month and over $4,000 in total interest.

Increase that rate to 20% and your monthly payment grows by $20 while your total interest increases by nearly $1,500. The longer you leave it and the smaller your monthly payments are, the greater that difference will be.

For example, if you repay just $200 a month on that balance, the difference between 16% and 20% is 26 extra months and close to $5,000. Of course, store cards rarely offer such high limits, but this is just as example to show you how much of a difference even the slightest percentage increase can cause.

It’s worth keeping this in mind if you ever apply for a traditional rewards card. Getting rewards in return for a higher APR is great if you repay your balance in full every month and terrible if you don’t.

Con 2: They Have High Penalty Rates

If you miss a payment on your store credit card you could be hit with a penalty APR as high as 29.99%, as well as a late payment fee of $39. The rates are high to begin with, but these penalty rates are astronomical and will make a bad situation worse.

That’s not all, as some providers are known to be very unforgiven when it comes to missed and late payments. In some cases, your account will default even if you underpay just once and just by a few dollars. 

Con 3: They Have Low Credit Limits

Retailers are not lenders. They don’t have the time, funds or patience to chase debts and deal with collection agencies. As a result, they don’t offer high credit limits and generally you’ll get a fraction of what an unsecured credit card might provide you with.

This might not seem like much of an issue. After all, a smaller credit limit means you’re less likely to accumulate large amounts of debts. However, this has a massively negative impact on your credit score that few borrowers consider.

30% of your credit score is based on something known as a credit utilization ratio. This looks at the total available credit and compares it to the debt that you have accumulated. If you have several cards with a combined credit limit of $10,000 and a balance of $5,000, then your ratio is 50%, which is considered to be quite high.

If a store card is your only account and you spend $450 on a $500 limit, then you have a credit utilization ratio of 90%, which will reduce your score. Your credit report is also negatively affected by maxed-out credit cards, a feat that’s much easier to achieve when you have a low credit limit.

Con 4: There Are Better Options

It’s better to have one good reward card than multiple store cards. The former will provide you with far better interest rates and terms, while the latter will hit your credit report with several hard inquiries and new accounts. 

A rewards card will still benefit you when shopping at those stores and will also provide you with a wealth of other benefits.

Con 5: You May Spend More

Store cards are not designed to make your life easier and give you a few freebies. Regardless of what the store tells you, they’re not made to reward loyalty, they’re made to encourage spending. 

This doesn’t always work, and research suggests that many individuals use reward cards just like they would normal cards. But for a small minority, the idea of acquiring points is enough to convince them to spend more than they usually would.

Some good can be good debt, such as when it’s used to acquire an asset or something that won’t depreciate. But very rarely do we use credit cards for this purpose and generally, if you’re spending more on a store card it means you’re wasting more money on things you don’t need.

Con 6: You Can’t Use Them Anywhere Else

A store card can only be used in that particular store. This renders it redundant as an emergency card and also means you’re encouraged to shop in that one place. You don’t have a chance to shop around and find the cheapest price; you may spend more just to use your card and get the benefits, with those benefits rarely covering the additional money you spend.

What About Reward Cards?

Some reward cards have very high rates as these rates are used to offset the rewards program. However, this isn’t always the case, because, as discussed above, networks often charge retailers more to offset these purchases and therefore don’t always need to cover the costs themselves.

Some credit cards, such as the Discover It, offer solid reward schemes and would also be included on any list of the best non-reward credit cards. It’s a solid all-rounder and it’s not alone. However, many reward cards charge high annual fees and penalty rates, just like you’ll find with a store card.

It’s important to study the small print and make sure the card is viable. If you’re going to clear the balance every month, a slightly higher interest rate won’t hurt, especially if it comes with some generous rewards. But if there is any doubt and even the slightest chance that you won’t clear the balance, it’s always best to focus on a low-interest rate first.

Even the most generous 5% cash back reward card will not offset the losses occurred by paying a few more percentage points of interest.

Will Reward/Store Cards Affect my Credit Score?

Credit cards trigger hard inquiries, which can reduce your credit score by up to 5 points. This is true for every credit card that you apply for. Rate shopping can combine multiple inquiries into one if they are for the same type of credit, but this doesn’t apply to credit cards.

A new account will also impact your score. This impact is often minimal and if you keep up with your repayments then it will vanish in time. However, if you miss a payment, max-out your card or increase your credit utilization score, it could have a detrimental effect on your score and your finances.

Keep store cards to a minimum and only sign up if you’re 100% sure you’re getting a good deal that will benefit you in the short-term and the long-term.

Truth About Reward and Store Credit Cards is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.


Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Using Credit Cards During COVID-19

by Phillip Warren

Since we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we’re all trying to figure out the new normal. Whether you’re working from home, have a houseful of kids to keep busy or find yourself facing financial uncertainty, everyone has at least a little adjusting to do. While you’re taking stock of your life and what you need to adjust, it’s probably a good idea to take a look at your finances and credit card use, too.

Wondering how you should use your credit card? We’ve got some ideas for you on how you can use your credit card in the middle of a global emergency. 

How to Use Your Credit Card During a Pandemic

But before we get started, remember to take a hard look at your personal finances before following any financial information. Everyone’s situation is different—so what might work for you might not work for someone else, and vice versa.

1. Keep Online Shopping to a Minimum

If you’re working from home, the temptation to online shop can be all too real. But when you’re in the middle of a pandemic, you might need to put your money towards unexpected expenses. 

David Lord, General Manager of Credit.com, has some advice on preventing frivolous spending. “Try browsing, putting things in your cart and leaving them for the day,” Lord suggests. “If you take a look at your cart the next day, you’ll most likely find that 90% of the time you won’t remember the things you placed in your cart in the first place.”

If the temptation to online shop is too strong, Lord suggests buying something that’ll keep you occupied for a while, like a puzzle, a paint set or a yoga mat. That way, you’ll be too distracted to buy something else.

2. Try to Keep Your Credit in Good Shape

During a global emergency, it feels like everything’s up in the air. Because of that, it’s important to stay as on top of things as you can and prepare for the worst-case scenario. Having good credit is important in the best of times, but it can be even more so in the worst. 

Let’s say you find yourself with a bill that you can’t pay on your hands. If you need to take out a loan, you’d probably want a loan with the best interest rates possible. In order to qualify for those types of loans, you’ll need a good credit score. 

If you’re in a position to do so, try to keep your credit score healthy. Here’s some quick things you can do today:

  • Keep an eye on your credit score and credit report
  • Pay your bills on time—at least the minimum payment
  • Keep your credit utilization ratio at 30%

But if you find yourself in a financial situation where you can’t keep up with everything, you can prioritize. For example, going above 30% of your credit utilization ratio won’t impact your score as much as missing a payment. That’s because credit utilization makes up 30% of your credit score, while your payment history makes up 35% of your score. 

3. Utilize Cashback Rewards

Do you have a great rewards credit card on your hands? Now’s a great time to use them. While some credit cards might not be handy right now, like travel rewards cards, there are others that could be useful. If your card offers cashback on categories such as groceries, gas and everyday purchases, take advantage. You could use those rewards to help you cover essential purchases. 

4. Use Your Balance Transfer Credit Cards

If you already have significant debt or if you’ve recently taken on new debt, you might want to consider using a balance transfer credit card. A balance transfer credit card allows you to move your debt from one card to your balance transfer card, which typically has a lower promotional interest rate. These promotional interest rates can last from six to 18 months, and sometimes longer.

These are great options if you’re faced with new debt. If you’re struggling to pay the rent, groceries or medical bills, and your stimulus check can’t cover it all, you can use your balance transfer credit card. Just make sure to be careful. You still have to pay off your debt, so make sure to do so before the promotional balance transfer offer ends. If you can, try to make regular payments on your card, so you’re not faced with an overwhelming amount of debt when the promotional offer ends.

Be Mindful of Your Situation

Above all else, be mindful of your situation. What urgent bills do you have to pay? Do you have a loved one in the hospital? Have you or your significant other lost their job? Make goals based off of your situation, and use your credit card accordingly.

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If you’re looking for more information on coronavirus and your finances, check out our COVID-19 Financial Resource Guide. We update it frequently, to make the most up-to-date and useful information available to you. 

The post Using Credit Cards During COVID-19 appeared first on Credit.com.


Source: credit.com

Best credit cards for Airbnb

by Phillip Warren

Many of us are avoiding travel during the pandemic.

But if you have to shelter in place under quarantine once you get to your destination, wouldn’t you rather do it in an environment that at least seems more within your control?

If the choice is between a hotel where you must trust your experience to a faceless corporation or a local host you can talk to through homestay sites like Airbnb and Vrbo, the latter may be the better option for these times (provided you don’t violate their party guidelines).

Whatever option you choose, credit card issuers now reward homestays with points and cash back in the same way they’ve long doled out rewards for hotels and other travel expenses.

These are the best cards on the market for homestays like Airbnb.

See related: Strategies for planning 2021 travel

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card: Best no-annual-fee, high rewards option
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best introductory bonus
  • Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: Best for bonus rewards
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best flat-rate miles card
  • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card: Best for online shopping
  • Discover it® Miles: Best no-fee option
  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card: Best no-annual-fee, high rewards option

    The Wells Fargo Propel American Express card includes arguably one of the highest rates of return on points for some of the most popular redemption categories out there, including homestays like Airbnb and Vrbo.

    The greatest advantages of this card – besides earning 3 points per dollar spent on some popular spending categories – are that there’s no point limit or expiration, no annual fee and no rotating categories that you constantly have to remind yourself to activate. You get three times the points in the relevant categories all the time without restriction, with travel – including all homestays – and transit being one of those prominent categories.

    The card also charges no foreign currency conversion fee, so buying things abroad is less expensive. If that weren’t enough, here’s what you also get:

    • 3 points per dollar spent on travel and transit purchases
    • 3 points per dollar spent on eating out and ordering in
    • 3 points per dollar spent on gas and rideshares
    • 3 points per dollar spent on select streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix, Sirius XM and Spotify Premium
    • 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else
    • No annual fee
    • No points limit or expiration
    • Premium access to presale tickets, offers and protections from American Express
    • 20,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
    ProudMoney.

    Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best introductory bonus

    Before the Wells Fargo Propel card debuted, Chase Sapphire Reserve was the go-to credit card option for Airbnb fans. It offers a 50,000-point introductory bonus when you spend $4,000 in your first three months of membership. Those points are worth up to $750 when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

    Though equipped with fewer spending categories offering 3X points and carrying a large annual fee of $550, the benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card are more specifically geared toward frequent travelers.

    At the same time, that large annual fee is offset by a $300 annual credit that will reimburse any travel expense – including Airbnb. And from June 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, gas station and grocery store purchases count toward the travel credit.

    Add to that a $100 credit covering the application to Global Entry/TSA Precheck every four years and the annual fee is almost completely offset in the first year.

    Meanwhile, there are even more travel benefits:

    • 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months (worth up to $750 in travel)
    • 3 points per dollar spent on travel (excluding purchases covered by the $300 travel credit)
    • 3 points per dollar spent on dining (including delivery and takeout) and travel; $1,000 in grocery purchases, including eligible pick-up and delivery services, from Nov. 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021
    • Complimentary airport lounge access through Priority Pass Select Membership
    • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
    • Primary car rental insurance
    • Lost luggage reimbursement

    Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: Best for bonus rewards

    While the points per dollar offered by Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card on travel and Airbnb are fewer than the credit cards above, the sign-up bonus and up to $200 in annual statement credits make it a decent option, even with less flexibility on what qualifies as a credit than the credit cards above.

    This card should absolutely move to the top of your list if you are already a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client. That designation automatically increases your return even higher than what the other credit cards above offer on travel and dining – you can get a rewards bonus of up to 75%.

    Combine that with a generous sign-up bonus and the Bank of America Premium Rewards is one of the most potent rewards cards for Preferred Rewards clients.

    The card includes:

    • Introductory bonus: 50,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days (worth up to $500 in free travel)
    • 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel purchases, including Airbnb and Vrbo
    • 1.5 points per dollar spent on everything else
    • Get up to $200 in travel statement credit rewards, including $100 for incidental spending per year and $100 toward a TSA Precheck/Global Entry application every four years
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients earn up to 3.5 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases and up to 2.62 points per dollar on all other purchases
    • $95 annual fee
    Travel loyalty programs offer extended perks in pandemic

    Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best flat-rate miles option

    The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is remarkably similar to Bank of America’s Premium Rewards card, right down to the $95 annual fee, but without the additional benefits afforded to Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients.

    However, Capital One Venture Rewards offers 2 points per dollar spent on every purchase, not just travel and dining.

    • Earn 60,000 travel miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months – equaling $600 in travel credit
    • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on every purchase, every day
    • Points can be redeemed for statement credit on travel purchases, including Airbnb
    • $95 annual fee
    • No foreign transaction fees

    Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card: Best for online shopping

    You may be wondering why the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card is on a list highlighting the best credit cards for AirBnb, Vrbo and other homestays.

    Shouldn’t this card be limited to the “best credit cards for online shopping” list? Not when Amazon offers Airbnb gift cards and the Amazon Prime Rewards card gives you 5% cash back on Amazon.com purchases as long as you have a Prime membership, which essentially acts as the annual fee ($119).

    Just purchase an AirBnb gift card from Amazon with the card, and it’s as if you are getting 5% cash back for your AirBnb stay when you apply the gift card towards it. It’s the highest rate on this list, Amazon or not.

    You’ll receive the following additional benefits:

    • 5% cash back on Whole Foods and Amazon purchases (with Prime membership)
    • 2% cash back on purchases at drugstores, gas stations and restaurants
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    • A $100 Amazon gift card upon credit card application approval
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • $500,000 travel accident insurance
    • $3,000 per passenger lost luggage reimbursement
    • Baggage delay insurance of up to $100 a day for three days
    • Extended warranty coverage for an additional year

    See related: How to pay off Amazon purchases over time

    Discover it® Miles: Best no-fee option

    Though the points per dollar on this card are lower than any other credit card on the list, Discover it Miles gives you much more freedom in how you can manage your points and account.

    You can redeem miles in any amount, your miles don’t expire even if you close your account and 1% of your miles can be converted directly into cash for your bank account.

    Discover it Miles offers:

    • 1.5 miles for every dollar spent on every purchase (matched at the end of the first year)
    • Points can be redeemed for statement credit on travel expenses, including Airbnb, gas stations and restaurants.
    • Miles can be converted into cash at rate of 1 cent per mile and transferred directly into your bank account
    • Redeem miles in any amount
    • Miles never expire and you don’t lose them even when you close your account
    • No late payment fee or penalty APR on your first late payment, up to $40 thereafter
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • No annual fee
    • 0% APR on purchases for 14 months (11.99% to 22.99% variable APR after that)
    creditcards.com

    My House Failed Its First Real Estate Inspection—Here’s What I Did To Get Through Escrow

    by Phillip Warren
    Mikolette/Getty Images

    When I was buying my first house, everything seemed too good to be true—at least at the start of the process. I found a home within a couple of weeks, the price was fabulously low, it was in a cute lake community with a style I loved, and funding came through quickly and easily. I even received a first-time home buyer’s bonus for tax time. Plus, I didn’t need much of a down payment.

    But it turned out too good to be true. My smooth path to homeownership suddenly became rocky when the inspection report came back with a big fat failure on it. I immediately panicked. What did it mean? Was I still able to buy the house? And if I did, was it going to fall apart?

    After a few calls with my real estate agent (who, at that point, had become more of a home-buying therapist), I learned that a bad inspection isn’t that rare. In fact, my new home wasn’t in as bad of shape as I initially feared. We were able to make some repairs and, after a second inspection, the house was appraised and the sale was able to go through.

    During the process, though, I learned a lot more than I ever expected about home inspections. Whether you’re a first-time or repeat home buyer, here’s my advice for getting the house you want after a shaky home inspection.

    Houses don’t really pass or fail

    Though my home inspection appeared to be a failure, homes aren’t actually graded on a pass/fail system.

    “There is no such thing as a failed inspection,” said Karen Kostiw, an agent with Warburg Realty in New York. “The inspection just points out small and potentially larger issues that you may not be aware of.”

    Sure, some houses can sail through the process and others may fare poorly, but it’s not a “You can never buy this” situation if there are problems with the property.

    For me, my mortgage hinged on a solid inspection—so the initial results meant I wouldn’t get the loan unless things were fixed. That being said, if I had enough cash on hand or wanted to try a different mortgage lender, I could have continued with the purchase even with a negative inspection report.

    So if the house you’re set on buying ends up having issues, don’t panic. You still have options.

    Most inspection issues are small

    It’s important to remember every home inspection report will come back with something, according to Kate Ziegler, a real estate agent with Arborview Realty in Boston. My inspection report had noted about 40 fixes. But a lot of times, the problems aren’t as bad as you think.

    Keep in mind that the inspector’s job is to call out any trouble spot. Also, all issues noted in the report aren’t equal: Some problems flagged by an inspector can wait.

    “The inspector will find defects—sometimes many defects—but that does not mean buyers are not purchasing a good home,” Kostiw says. “The small leak might mean a bolt needs to be tightened, or the dishwasher is not working because the waterline was switched off by accident. These are easy fixes. However, when buyers see a laundry list of items, it can seem as if the home is falling down. This is most often not the case.”

    Red flags do exist

    Ziegler and Kostiw agree that though most repairs are easy fixes, some items should give you pause if you see them on your report.

    Structural problems, antique electrical systems, old windows, unexplained water damage, evidence of termites or wood rot, a bad roof, asbestos, mold, radon, and lead paint are all red flags that can show up during a home inspection. If fixing these problems is impossible or way beyond the means your budget, you may want to reconsider your purchase.

    “Whether or not inspection items warrant backing out entirely depends quite a bit on any individual buyer’s experience and bandwidth, as well as personal risk tolerances and financial situation,” Ziegler says. “It’s true that houses don’t stay in good repair on their own. They require maintenance and care, just like your houseplants and your sourdough starter!”

    Don’t try to fix things yourself

    Unless a repair is something truly minor like caulking a bathroom tub or putting a cabinet door back on its hinges, don’t try to fix anything on your own. You could make things worse or even injure yourself. Hire licensed contractors that you’ve vetted to handle any problems. And try not to leave it all up to the seller—they’re not going to be living in the home. You will be.

    “Motivations in this case are not aligned,” Ziegler says. “The seller wants to spend as little as possible to meet their contractual obligations, but [a] buyer should be more concerned with the quality of the repair.”

    Work the costs into the sale

    At first I worried I would have to pay to fix everything that was wrong with my house. But it’s important to know you can work the cost of repairs—and how long it should take to make them—into the sale.

    Say you can’t afford to fix the busted water heater but the seller can. You can raise the offer price by that cost, or you can trade off: The seller fixes one thing, and you fix another. In my case, I only had to add a banister to one stairwell. The sellers were particularly motivated to unload the home so they handled everything else.

    Hopefully by the end of this process, every issue will be fixed and you’ll be ready to purchase your home. And you’ll be able to move in with a clear head, knowing everything is really as good as it seems.

    The post My House Failed Its First Real Estate Inspection—Here’s What I Did To Get Through Escrow appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.


    Source: realtor.com

    5 Speedy Ways to Come Up With a Down Payment

    by Phillip Warren
    Sally Elford/Getty Images

    The best way for first-time home buyers to come up with a down payment for a home: save for one, of course! But sometimes you’re in a hurry. Maybe your dream house just popped up on the market, or you’ve simply had it with being a renter. Whatever the reason, you’re ready to buy a house, now. But while your credit is good and your career is stable, you still need to come up with that big chunk of change for a down payment.

    Watch: 4 Things You Can Give Up to Make a Down Payment

     

    Never fear: There are plenty of ways to amass a sizable down payment fast. Check out these tactics, along with their pros and cons.

    1. Dip into your 401(k)

    If you’ve been socking away money in your 401(k), it is possible to borrow from that for a home loan—and get that cash in hand fast.

    “Most 401(k) plans allow you to borrow up to 50% of the vested balance, or up to $50,000, and it takes about a week,” says Todd Huettner, owner of Huettner Capital, a residential and commercial real estate lender in Denver.

    But it will cost you: If you take funds out of your 401(k) early—that is, before you’re 59½ years old—you’re going to take a 10% penalty on that withdrawn money. And it counts as gross income, which can bump you into a higher tax bracket.

    Check out this Wells Fargo calculator to see what your penalties would be. In addition to penalties, most companies require you to repay that vested money over five years—or sooner if you quit or get axed. So be sure your career is stable.

    2. Crack your IRA

    Digging into your IRA usually carries the same 10% penalty of breaking open your 401(k) piggy bank, with one major difference: The penalty doesn’t apply to first-time home buyers. And unlike a 401(k), you don’t have to repay what you take out of an IRA. However, the withdrawal is still taxable. Plus there’s the matter of not repaying yourself, which can hurt your long-term retirement. So if you take out a sizable chunk, restoring this nest egg to its former level will take you many years.

    3. Hit up your boss

    Let’s get real: You don’t want to stroll into your boss’ office and demand help buying your house. But you can ask if your company has an employer-assisted housing program. Think about it: Companies hate employee turnover, so what better way to keep you around than pitching in to help you buy a home? It’s a win-win: Home loans are often low- or zero-interest and are usually structured to be forgivable over a period of time, often five years, which further encourages employees to stay put. The downside? Not all employers offer it. Hospitals and universities most often do, so be sure to ask to avoid overlooking this ready source of financial assistance.

    4. Explore state and city programs

    Local assistance programs abound to help you scratch up cash for a down payment. Offered by either your state, your city, or nonprofits, these programs often partner with banks, who hope to gain clientele they might pass over otherwise: Bank of America, for instance, recently launched a searchable database of local programs. Wells Fargo’s partnership with NeighborhoodLIFT offers down payment assistance up to $15,000.

    The catch? You’ll need to qualify. For NeighborhoodLIFT, for instance, your household income has to be no more than 120% of the median in your area.

    5. Get a gift from family or friends

    Understandably, many home buyers turn to their family for help buying a home, and for good reason: There are no limits on how much a family member can “gift” another family member, although only a specific portion can be excluded from taxes ($14,000 per parent).

    But it’s not just as easy as that. Gifters, even family, will need to provide paperwork in the form of a gift letter. And if the gifter is a friend, it gets even more complicated. For example, you’ll have to wait about 90 to 120 days before you can use any of those funds.

    The post 5 Speedy Ways to Come Up With a Down Payment appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.


    Source: realtor.com

    Why is the Homeownership Rate Soaring?

    by Phillip Warren

    Homeownership makes many positive social contributions, but the most important may be that it is the predominant way families build wealth. And now, numbers are soaring.

    The post Why is the Homeownership Rate Soaring? appeared first on Homes.com.


    Source: homes.com

    A Guide To Everything You Need To Know About Home Ownership Costs [Free Download]

    by Phillip Warren

    Along with the excitement of purchasing a new home, comes the additional costs that you will be expected to pay as a homeowner. Apart from covering the mortgage of your home, you’ll have additional expenses – such as home insurance – that you will be expected to cover. If you’re looking to budget for a home purchase, it’s important that you consider these costs as they can add up to thousands of dollars each year.

    To help you make educated decisions when budgeting, we’ve compiled a list of the major home ownership costs in one free, downloadable guide. Get the Home Ownership Costs to Consider guide here.

    Home Insurance

    Home insurance policies help protect against serious damage and destruction, like fires, leaks, floods, or break-ins. It also protects a homeowner from personal liability. Some banks may offer home insurance products, although you can typically purchase a home insurance policy through a home insurance agent or broker. 

    Tip: You may get better rates if you use a broker or agent. It’s also important to keep in mind that policies typically renew on an annual basis.

    Condo Fees

    The cost of maintenance fees should be taken into account when you’re buying a condo. This recurring cost is in addition to your mortgage and impacts how much home you can afford. 

    Your mandatory monthly fee will vary by your building and square footage. It typically covers:

    • Utilities (such as water and garbage collection)
    • Building insurance
    • Maintenance of common areas (such as the gym, pool, front desk, hallways, landscaping)
    • Building reserve fund (covers emergencies and long-term maintenance projects such as a new roof or elevators repairs)

    What Are Status Certificates?

    If you’re looking to purchase a condo, you’ll want to look into obtaining a status certificate so that you have as much information about the building and your unit as possible before buying. A status certificate provides valuable information about the condo corporation and its financial

    situation. It includes details on the budget, legal issues, the reserve fund, maintenance fees, and any fee increases expected in the future. 

    Tip: You’ll want to carefully review your status certificate with your lawyer before making a purchase.

    Property Tax

    Property taxes are paid annually by homeowners to their municipality. These taxes are ongoing and are separate from your mortgage. Your annual property tax can often be paid in installments.

    Tip: It’s important to remember that this cost is not due at closing, but is a recurring cost.

    How Are Property Taxes Calculated?

    Your property tax rate will vary depending on the value of your property as assessed by your provincial assessment authority. This is then multiplied by a rate that falls between 0.5% to 2.5%.

    How Do You Pay Property Taxes?

    You can pay your property taxes either through your mortgage provider or directly to your municipality. 

    Your Utility Bills

    When you purchase a home, you’ll have to set up or transfer your utility bills to your new home. If you live in a condo, these costs may be included in your monthly maintenance fee. Your utility bill will include:

    • Hydro (electricity)
    • Heat
    • Water and Garbage
    • Internet, Phone, Cable

    For the full details on the home buyer’s journey including examples, advice, pictures and sample calculations, download a copy of our free Home Ownership Costs to Consider Guide here.

    The post A Guide To Everything You Need To Know About Home Ownership Costs [Free Download] appeared first on Zoocasa Blog.


    Source: zoocasa.com

    What is Panic Selling & How Does it Work?

    by Phillip Warren
    woman covering eyes

    Panic selling is when enough investors want to sell their holdings at the same time that it creates a profound drop in prices. That drop scares other investors into selling, which causes prices to fall still further, which frightens more investors, and so on.

    The resulting panic can erase vast amounts of wealth. It can take weeks or even years for the markets to recover from a serious panic.

    markets can crash.

    Throughout the history of every kind of market, panic occasionally sets in. Sometimes it’s a major global event that sets it off, like what happened with the stock markets in March of 2020 as the global COVID-19 pandemic picked up speed and countries entered lockdown.

    Other times, it’s simply a matter of a given asset—like housing in 2008—being bid up to unrealistic levels, followed by the mass consensus of what it’s worth changing seemingly overnight.

    What Causes Panic Selling?

    While panic is a very human response to the prospect of major financial loss, there are also other factors that can trigger investors to start panic-selling stocks.

    Panic Selling and Margin Calls

    In the Great Crash of 1929, there were many investors who had borrowed heavily to invest in the stock market. When the markets dropped, they received something called a margin call, requiring that they pay back the loans they took out to invest. Those margin calls required that they sell potentially even more stock to pay back the loans, which caused the markets to fall even further.

    Panic Selling and Stop-loss Orders

    Similarly, there are trading programs that can throw fuel on the fire of a bout of panic selling. These can be as simple as a stop-loss order, a standing order to buy or sell a particular security if it ever reaches a predetermined price, which investors commonly use in their brokerage accounts.

    A stop-loss order can be a way to take advantage of price dips to buy a stock at a discount. But during a sudden drop in the markets, stop-loss orders often lead to automatic sales of stocks, as investors try to lock in their gains.
    These automatic sales—in large enough numbers, can accelerate the decline in a market, and contribute to the panic.

    Panic Selling and Algorithms

    There are algorithms employed by major financial institutions and professional investors that will automatically sell if the price of a given stock falls to a certain level. The crash of 1987 was caused in part by some of the first computerized trading programs. And in 2010, one trader who lost control of his highly sophisticated trading software was responsible for the “flash crash,” which caused roughly a trillion dollars of market capitalization to disappear in under an hour.

    The system-wide risk presented by these tools is one reason that most major stock exchanges have installed a series trading curbs and “circuit breakers” in place to slow down panic selling and give the traders who use these programs to recalibrate them before a full-fledged selling spree can run out of control.

    The Risks of Panic Selling

    When markets drop suddenly, it can be scary for investors. And one of the biggest risks may be to give into that fear, and join in the selling.

    But one thing to remember is that markets go up and down, but an investor only loses money when they sell their holdings. By pulling their money out of the stock market, an investor not only accepts a lower price, but also removes the chance of participating in any rebound.

    Loss is a big risk of panic selling. People who invest for goals that are years or decades away can likely weather a panic. But if a person is investing for retirement, a sudden panic just before they retire can create a major problem, especially if they were planning to live off those investments.

    The danger of sudden, panic-driven drops in the market is one reason it makes sense for investors to review their holdings on a regular basis, and adjust their holdings away from riskier assets like stocks, toward steadier assets like bonds, as they get nearer to retirement.

    That risk is also why most professionals recommend people keep 6-12 months of expenses in cash, in case of an emergency. That way, even if a financial crisis causes a person to lose their job, they can stay in the market. It’s a way to protect their long-term plans from being jeopardized by everyday expenses.

    Finding Opportunities in Panic Selling

    During a panic, there are typically enough scared people making irrational decisions to create valuable buying opportunities. The stock-market crashes in 1987 and in 2008, for instance, were each followed by a decade in which the S&P 500 rewarded investors with double-digit annual returns. (As always, however, past performance is no guarantee of future success.)

    The problem is that there’s no way to know when a panic has reached its end, and when the market has fallen to its bottom. Professional traders with complex mathematical models have had mixed results figuring out when a market will rebound. But for most investors—even savvy ones—it’s a guessing game at best.

    There are two ways an investor can try to take advantage of a bout of panic selling:

    1. The first is not to panic.
    2. The other is to keep investing when the market is down, while stocks are selling for much lower prices.

    Dollar Cost Averaging

    One way to take advantage of panic selling is with dollar cost averaging. With this long-term plan, an investor buys a fixed dollar amount of an investment on a regular basis—say, every month. It allows an investor to take advantage of lower purchase prices and limits the amount they invest at when valuations are higher. As such, it’s a strategy for all seasons—not just during a panic. Most investors already employ some form of dollar cost averaging in their 401(k) plan.

    The Takeaway

    SoFi Invest® offers an active investing solution that allows members to choose their own stocks, or take advantage of an automated investing solution that invests their money based on personal goals and risk tolerance.

    Find out how you can get started investing today with SoFi.


    SoFi Invest®
    The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
    1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
    2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
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    For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

    Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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    The post What is Panic Selling & How Does it Work? appeared first on SoFi.


    Source: sofi.com