Today’s Mortgage Rates in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has some of the highest housing prices in the nation, especially in the popular Boston area. This state has an average overall home value of $464,000, which is much higher than the nationwide average of about $263,000. These high home prices are due, in part, to the central location of the state, the easy access to major metro areas and the many other perks that this state offers.

Despite the high home prices in Massachusetts, this could be the perfect time to buy a home in the state. Not only are the nationwide mortgage loan interest rates low across the board, but the Massachusetts mortgage rates are also at some of the lowest points ever.

Those rates, along with the state’s housing prices, are expected to rise in the next year. If you’re looking to move to Massachusetts, or if you’re a resident of this state and are ready to buy or refinance a home, here’s what you need to know.

Mortgage Rates in Massachusets

The mortgage interest rate table below is updated daily to reflect the most current mortgage rates available in the market. According to Bankrate’s latest survey of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders, these are the current average rates for a 30-year fixed, 15-year fixed, FHA and VA mortgage rates.

Product Rate Rate Last Week
30-Year Fixed Rate 3.170% 3.180%
20-Year Fixed Rate 2.960% 3.040%
15-Year Fixed Rate 2.500% 2.570%
10-Year Fixed Rate 2.390% 2.440%
30-Year FHA Rate 3.100% 3.100%
30-Year VA Rate 3.240% 3.240%

Rates data based on Boston, Massachusetts as of 3/5/2021

Mortgage Rates Trends

In this graph: On , the APR was for the 30-year fixed rate, for the 15-year fixed rate, and for the 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage rate. These rates are updated almost every day based on Bankrate’s national survey of mortgage lenders.Toggle between the three rates on the graph and compare today’s rates to what they looked like in the past days.

Mortgage rates around the nation have reached their lowest levels ever over the last year due in major part to the COVID-19 pandemic and the actions the Fed took to lower rates during the coronavirus pandemic. Rates began falling in March at the start of the pandemic and have consistently dropped since that time, remaining low into the new year.

Massachusetts buyers may have access to mortgage rates that are even lower than the national average. Though these rates won’t exactly offset the high housing prices, they can help make homeownership a bit more affordable. In the second week of January 2021, the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage in Massachusetts was 2.89%. During that time, the average 15-year fixed-rate mortgage loan in Massachusetts had a rate of 2.42%. The average rate for a 5/1 ARM was 2.80%, and the average rate on a 30-year fixed refinance in Massachusetts was just 2.95%.

There’s no way to know how rates will trend in the future, so it’s unclear whether the rates in this state will stay as low as they currently are. That said, many experts expect that rates will increase in early 2021.

[ Read: How to Calculate Your Mortgage ]

Massachusetts mortgage rates overview

The state of Massachusetts has the fourth-highest housing prices in the nation, especially in the Boston area. Prices in this state have increased dramatically over the past decade. The state’s average home price has increased more than $100,000 in just the past five years along.

The bad news for homebuyers is that prices are only expected to increase. Luckily, the state also has some of the most competitive mortgage rates.

Massachusetts homebuyers have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to financing a home. Common mortgage types include:

  • Conventional mortgage: Conventional mortgages are available with either fixed or adjustable rates with terms ranging from 15 to 30 years.
  • FHA loan: These loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration to help low and moderate-income buyers get a mortgage.
  • VA loan: Backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, these loans are meant to help current and former military members buy a no-down-payment home at a low interest rate.
  • USDA loan: Backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these loans are used to help rural residents buy a home.

First time home buyer programs in the state of Massachusetts

The state of Massachusetts doesn’t directly offer any first-home homebuyer programs, but other organizations within the state do. MassHousing is an independent agency in the state that helps homebuyers find affordable housing solutions. MassHousing’s offerings include:

  • The MassHousing Mortgage — This program helps low and moderate-income borrowers buy a home as long as they meet certain income and credit requirements. The mortgage is available through more than 100 lenders in Massachusetts.
  • MassHousing Down Payment Assistance — This program provides buyers with down payment assistance for up to 5% of a home’s value. The maximum benefits vary depending on where in the state you are located.

[ Read: First-Time Home Buyer Programs and Grants ]

Most and least expensive places to live in Massachusetts

The average housing price in Massachusetts is well above the national average, but prices vary quite a bit depending on where you go. There’s a difference of more than $800,000 between the most affordable and most expensive cities in the state — showcasing just how wide of a price gap there is between areas in this state.

Least expensive places to buy real estate in Massachusetts

The areas below are based on Zillow’s Home Value Index, which was used to find the most affordable cities to buy real estate in Massachusetts. The numbers below reflect the typical home value for homes in the 35th to 65th percentile range.

Massachusetts has some of the highest housing prices in the nation, but there are a handful of cities that offer housing prices below (in some cases far below) the national average.

  • Springfield, MA: Average home price of $142,100
  • Worcester, MA: Average home price of $214,100
  • New Bedford, MA: Average home price of $223,400
  • Fall River, MA: Average home price of $234,300
  • Lawrence, MA: Average home price of $236,800

Most expensive places to buy real estate in Massachusetts

The average home prices below reflect the typical home value for homes in the 35th to 65th percentile range. A quick glance at a map will show you that each of the most expensive cities in Massachusetts are neighbors.

The top five most expensive places to buy real estate in Massachusetts includes the city of Boston, as well as its four neighbors to the west.

  • Newton, MA: Average home price of $982,600
  • Brookline, MA: Average home price of $822,900
  • Cambridge, MA: Average home price of $726,000
  • Somerville, MA: Average home price of $605,100
  • Boston, MA: Average home price $554,600

Massachusetts mortgage rates compared to the national average 

As noted, Massachusetts has the fourth-highest home prices in the nation, following only California, Washington, D.C. and Hawaii. One reason for the high home values is that the household income in Massachusetts is $20,000 above the national average. Housing prices in the state have also increased since the pandemic began, which is a trend spotted in many states.

Luckily, Massachusetts home buyers currently have access to lower mortgage rates than much of the nation. The nationwide average interest rate in the second week of January was 2.94% on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, while the average for the same loan in Massachusetts was 2.89%.

Already own a home and want to refinance?

Historically low interest rates make 2021 an excellent time to buy a home, and current homeowners can take advantage of the low rates as well. The refinance rates in this state were 0.06% below the national average as of the second week of January.

If you’re considering refinancing your mortgage, be sure to shop around for the best rate. Your raate will depend on factors, such as your credit score, overall financial picture and current home equity, but rates can also vary quite a bit from one lender to the next.

[ Read: How to Refinance Your Mortgage ]

Source: thesimpledollar.com

Why Is It Required to Have Car Insurance?

In 49 states in the United States, there is some form of compulsory insurance for motor vehicles. Many people ask, “Is car insurance required?” since it may not be immediately apparent if you see yourself as a good driver willing to pay for any potential damages to your car. The answer to “Why is car insurance mandatory?” lies in the type of car insurance. Perhaps you’re looking to why you need car insurance. There are both mandatory and optional coverages to consider.

In this article

Is car insurance mandatory in the U.S.? 

Car insurance isn’t mandatory at the federal level in the United States, though all but one of the 50 states do make some kind of coverage required.

This means that what counts as “state minimum compulsory insurance” in each state will be slightly different. These minimums are what the state considers the minimum you should purchase to cover your liability adequately.

States like Iowa, Ohio, and Wyoming have meager costs. Other states may have high premiums due to the high cost of living in the state, but the minimum coverage is lower, like New Jersey, Michigan and Florida. As a result, the minimum coverage could pay less in a costly accident.

Costs for minimum car insurance are reliant on the amount of compulsory coverage in the state and how common expensive accidents are, and the typical costs of those accidents. States like Michigan have specific laws requiring unlimited personal injury protection coverage that change how much it costs to insure a motorist.

Why do states make car insurance mandatory? 

Mandatory minimum car insurance is liability insurance, making it different from many other kinds of insurance you probably have considered purchasing. If you own a homeowner’s policy, a healthcare insurance policy, or a renter’s insurance policy, those all focus on recouping losses that you experience. You’re buying them to protect yourself or your property.

[ Read: What’s the Average Cost of Car Insurance in the U.S.? ]

However, you don’t drive your house around, potentially harming other people. Car accidents have adverse effects on other people, and liability coverage is mostly focused on the two kinds of harm you can cause if you are at fault in an accident: medical expenses and damage to the other vehicle.

It can be tempting to feel like car insurance should be optional until you consider the results if someone else runs into your car. Suppose you had a big pile of medical bills and a totaled car, all because someone without liability coverage made a careless driving choice. In that case, you probably see why mandatory minimum car insurance gives everyone a base level of protection from other drivers.

New Hampshire, the only state that doesn’t require car insurance, still has it’s own version of liability. You’re allowed to either have the insurance or be willing to pay those costs yourself if you don’t have insurance. It’s not a mandatory insurance policy, but the liability is still there, so most people opt to get coverage.

What happens if I don’t have car insurance? 

Getting pulled over when you do not have car insurance in a state with mandatory minimum car insurance is very costly. Even a first offense of driving without insurance can result in a suspended license, large fines or even having your car impounded in some states. Second offenses are more likely to lead to jail time. All instances of driving without insurance can lead to increases in your insurance premiums in the future when you apply for a policy.

[Read: Caught Driving With No Car Insurance? Here’s What It’ll Cost You ]

If you are caught driving without car insurance because you are involved in an accident, your consequences can become more severe. Rather than a small chance of a warning or a smaller fine, you are much more likely to have your car impounded, and you are likely to have your license suspended. What’s more is that at-fault drivers with no insurance become financially liable for a large variety of costs, especially if the other person in the accident carries none or very little uninsured motorist coverage. You could be forced to pay a large sum or declare bankruptcy.

You may get some reprieve because other motorists carry coverage for underinsured or uninsured motorists. Still, given the high costs of medical bills and car repair, it’s unlikely to cover everything.

How much car insurance is required?

There are a few different aspects of the minimum coverage in each state. Nearly every state will require you to carry some bodily injury liability and property damage liability coverage since those two costs tend to be present in an accident. Most mandated state minimum insurance coverage is abbreviated to a set of three numbers like 25/50/25. The first number is the maximum payout for a single person’s bodily injury in an accident. The second number is the maximum for all individuals harmed per accident. And the third number is the maximum payout for property damage.

Some states structure their minimum coverage to require personal injury protection, where each motorist files with their insurance for damages and medical expenses rather than assigning one motorist as at fault – these states are known as “no-fault states.” Other states have mandatory underinsured or uninsured motorist coverages.

State Minimum Car Insurance Requirement
Alabama 25/50/25
Alaska 50/100/25
Arizona 15/30/10
Arkansas 25/50/25
California 15/30/5
Colorado 25/50/15
Connecticut 25/50/20
Delaware 25/50/10
Florida 10/20/10
Georgia 25/50/25
Hawaii 20/40/10
Idaho  25/50/15
Illinois 25/50/20
Indiana 25/50/25
Iowa 20/40/15
Kansas 25/50/25
Kentucky 25/50/25
Louisiana 15/30/25
Maine 50/100/25
Massachusetts 20/40/5
Michigan 20/40/10
Minnesota 30/60/10
Mississippi 25/50/25
Missouri 25/50/25
Montana 25/50/20
Nebraska 25/50/25
Nevada 25/50/20
New Hampshire 25/50/25, financial responsibility only
New Jersey 15/30/5
New Mexico 25/50/10
New York 25/50/10
North Carolina 30/60/25
North Dakota 25/50/25
Ohio 25/50/25
Oklahoma 25/50/25
Oregon 25/50/20
Pennsylvania 15/30/5
Rhode Island 25/50/25
South Carolina 25/50/25
South Dakota 25/50/25
Tennessee 25/50/15
Texas 30/60/25
Utah 25/65/15
Vermont 25/50/20
Virginia 25/50/20
Washington 25/50/10
Washington D.C.  25/50/10
West Virginia 25/50/25
Wisconsin 25/50/10
Wyoming 25/50/20

Source: Insurance Information Institute

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

4 Reasons Furnished Apartments Are Better For Short-Term Leases

Person in sweatpants walking around cozy , stylish furnished apartmentIt’s a dilemma many people entering short-term housing situations face: How to make a space feel like home without investing too much time or money. Thankfully, you don’t need to worry about being stuck with a sparse or impersonal apartment. Furnished apartments could be the solution to your short-term lease AND decorating needs! Why do we think so?

1. There are only so many hours in a day.

Articles that try to convince you furnishing an apartment can be done on the cheap tend to gloss over a crucial point. You’ll need to run around to many different retailers to get everything you need and likely make multiple trips. But you’re preparing to relocate! THAT’S where you need to focus your energy! You likely don’t have time for full-scale bargain hunting. With the time you save, you can select a few inexpensive yet personal pieces to help your new place feel like home. (See #3.)

2. You only have so much money.

Realtor Magazine asked several designers about the expense associated with decorating spaces. The good news is that the rooms the designers worked on look great. The bad news is that you’ll need about $15,000 for the living room alone! That’s way more than you’ll spend furnishing a short-term apartment during your entire stay!

3. No one wants to make sacrifices … and you won’t have to.

Here’s where you can spend some of the time you saved with reason #1! You’ll probably need a security deposit for your short-term lease, but what you won’t need to sacrifice is your sense of style. There are many ways to personalize your short-term living space by:

  • Decorating with plants
  • Adding curtains to cover window treatments you don’t like
  • Putting up removable wallpaper
  • Using candles or scent sprays

4. It could not be easier.

Thanks to ApartmentSearch, finding a furnished apartment for your own short-term housing needs is amazingly simple. Here’s just how simple:

  1. Select “Short-Term” in the search box at the top of ApartmentSearch.com’s home page.
  2. Enter your search term (a zip code will do).
  3. Once you look at each property, scroll to the bottom of the page and look under the heading “Need It Furnished.”

Setting up a short-term housing situation should be easy, regardless of where and why you’re moving. ApartmentSearch.com makes it easy to search for short-term lease options AND furnished apartments at the same time. Give it a try today!

More Short-Term Housing Help

  • How to Be a Short-Term Housing Pro
  • Tips for Finding Temporary Housing in a Pinch
  • Hotel vs Furnished Apartment: How to Choose

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

What Is an Investment Property Mortgage?

If you’re looking for another source of income or want to start a side hustle as a home flipper, you may be considering the purchase of an investment property. Getting a mortgage loan for an investment property can be trickier than getting one for your primary residence, and obtaining a mortgage for investment property will require you to have a stronger financial picture than your typical mortgage loan would, too.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though. Knowing your options when it comes to lending types, credit and financial criteria, and funding guidelines can help you navigate the process and ensure that you’re doing as much as you can to set yourself up for success.

In this article

What is an investment property mortgage?

An investment property mortgage is a loan that is used to purchase a property for either rental income or to flip and sell for a profit. Underwriting guidelines are more strict on investment property loans when compared to purchasing a home to live in or a vacation or secondary home.

Not all lenders offer investment property loans, as the risk of default is higher compared to lending money for a primary residence you plan to call home. That’s because you’re likely to continue paying your home mortgage payments in times of financial crisis. However, if rental income isn’t coming in for some reason, and you have to choose between paying your personal mortgage and your investment mortgage, you’re likely to pay to keep the roof over your head than pay on an investment property. This is also why mortgage interest rates are higher for investment properties vs. primary or secondary homes.

To get approved for a mortgage on an investment property, you must:

  • Have a good or better credit score
  • A down payment of 10% to 25%
  • Cash reserves available
  • Stable employment

What is an investment property?

An investment property is a unit that is purchased to provide a stream of income or to flip and sell for profit. This could be a single-family home or a multi-unit building with four or fewer units. Apartment and condo buildings with five or more units are considered commercial real estate and fall under separate guidelines.

Examples of an investment property can include:

  • Single-family home
  • Duplex
  • Triplex
  • Townhome
  • Condo

While many investors seek to gain a stream of income from renting their units out to tenants, others prefer to purchase a home to update or improve and then resell to make a profit. Either way, investment properties can be a lucrative source of income if you’re smart about your investment and are able to nail down an investment property loan for your purchase.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t risks, though. As with anything, there are pros and cons to owning rental properties as well as tax benefits that make purchasing investment properties an attractive way to make money. But with mortgages at historically low interest rates, buyers with the funds, credit and the desire to invest could consider an investment property a viable source of income.

Difference between investment property loan vs. regular mortgage

While you’ll choose from the same loan types — conventional, fixed, adjustable rate, government-backed — for both regular mortgages and investment property loans, the interest rates and lending requirements vary vastly from one to the other. From a lender’s standpoint, a mortgage loan for an investment property is riskier than for someone’s home, which is reflected in higher interest rates. The average interest rate can be as much as 0.75% more for investment property loans when compared to conventional mortgage loans.

On top of higher interest rates, lenders also have stricter guidelines to follow for investment property mortgages. For example, the real estate lending standards set by the FDIC limit the loan-to-value of an investment property at 85%, whereas the LTV of an owner-occupied residence can be as high as 100% depending on the loan type and lender.

While buyers who purchase a home with a regular mortgage can get away with a much lower down payment — in some cases as low as 3.5% with an FHA loan or 0% with a USDA loan — investment property lenders want more down on the property. Depending on the property, the lender and your credit, expect to pay between 10% and 30% down on the property.

Lenders also expect borrowers to prove they have at least six months worth of cash reserves available to pay for the mortgage, whether or not they have tenants lined up yet.

Requirements for an investment property mortgage

While lender requirements vary, some general requirements you can expect when applying for an investment property mortgage include:

  • Low debt-to-income ratio. Freddie Mac’s investment property guidelines for DTI for is 45%. The lower your DTI, the better chance you have of getting a low interest rate on your loan and more lenders vying for your business.
  • Significant amount of borrower funds. You’ll need a significant amount of cash that you can prove came from your savings or investments to get an investment property mortgage. Your down payment and closing costs may not include the use of gifted funds, so plan accordingly when sourcing cash if you don’t have the money saved and ready for use.
  • Higher than average credit profile. You’ll need a relatively high credit score to qualify for an investment property loan. Most lenders will require a minimum credit score of 620 to qualify for an investment property mortgage, though some like Guaranteed Rate will go as low as 580 and others will require a much higher score to qualify. But even if you can find a lender who will work with a lower score, you may want a higher score before applying. Higher credit scores command better interest rates and lower down payments.
  • Financial documents. As with a regular mortgage, you must provide pay stubs or other ways to show employment income, as well as your prior year’s tax returns and any other information or documentation that the lender requests.

Where to get an investment property mortgage

Though it’s riskier to lend money to investors, this likely won’t limit the lender options you have to choose from. While not all lenders offer investment property loans, there are a number of mortgage lender types to consider, including:

  • Conventional banks
  • Online lenders
  • Credit unions
  • Peer-to-peer lenders

Online lenders and credit unions may offer better interest rates or have more lenient guidelines than conventional banks, so these lenders are worth checking out. Credit unions are member-owned nonprofit financial institutions that require you to join as a member, but the application process is generally simple and can greatly benefit you in the form of lower rates, flexible lending parameters and other perks.

Private investors, known as peer-to-peer lenders, are also an option, though interest rates tend to be even higher with shorter repayment terms. These types of lenders also often charge more fees, including pre-payment penalties, to borrowers.

Another option is to do a cash-out refinance on your primary residence to pay for the investment property. Depending on the amount of equity you have available, you can pay for some or all of the cost without having to find an investment property lender. This isn’t always ideal though, since you’re essentially wiping out the equity in your home for a more risky investment.

Ultimately, the best way to find the right investment property mortgage is to shop around and see what different lenders offer. Each borrower has different needs and goals, so you may have to shop around to find a lender that’s a good fit for you. It’s smart to do that no matter what, though — as you should shop lenders in order to save money on rates and fees, too.

Compare top mortgage lenders

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

How Does Your Credit Score Compare to Your State’s?

Record unemployment rates, a wild swing in America’s GDP and homeownership rates increasing month over month. Despite these examples of economic volatility of 2020, another surprising number emerged — America has now reached an all-time average high credit score.

Experian’s latest Consumer Credit Review highlights new trends regarding credit. Not only does the credit score landscape change among generational groups and consumer’s location, but it’s clear Americans are focused on paying down specific types of debt, all leading to an overall score improvement.

69% of Americans had a credit score of 670 or higher

This credit score average stands out because only in the year prior was the percentage at 66% and then jumped up three percentage points in one year. The average American credit score from 2020 sits at 710, which also significantly increased from the prior year.

In 2019, the average score for Americans was 703. This level of growth is unusually high compared to observations from the last 10 years, where FICO scores tend to only grow about one percentage point per year. 

[ Read: How to Raise Your Credit Score ]

The increase in credit scores now puts more Americans in FICO’s “good” credit score range. If a credit score lands between 670 to 739, it opens up more borrowing opportunities from lenders, and consumers in this range should qualify for most credit cards and loans. According to Rod Griffin, Senior Director of Consumer Education and Advocacy for Experian, there are promising signs for how consumers are managing their credit histories, despite challenging financial situations due to the pandemic.

“Credit scores have continued to improve, which is a trend we’ve seen over the last ten years or so, reaching an average score of 688.  Lower credit card balances, fewer missed payments and lower credit utilization, or balance-to-limit ratios, have supported this increase in average scores,” adds Griffin.

2019 2020 Change
Average U.S. FICO Credit Score 703 710 + 7 points (1%)
Average U.S. Credit Card Debt $6,194 $5,313 -$879 (14%)
Average U.S. Credit Utilization 28.8% 25.3% -3.5 (12%)

Source: Experian 2020 Consumer Credit Review

Average credit score in each state 

Not only did average credit scores increase overall, but there appear to be trends emerging within specific states. For example, the top states in the country that saw the highest increase in overall credit score were Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, North Carolina and Washington D.C. These states averaged about a 9 or 10 point increase in average score from 2019. 

[ Read: What Is a Good Credit Score Range? ]

On the other hand, North Dakota, South Dakota, Hawaii, Nebraska and Vermont recorded the lowest growth in average credit scores from 2019 to 2020. But what is noteworthy about these states is they already had higher-than-average credit scores to begin with, which means there was less room for an increase to occur. But overall, no matter the location, there is an upward trend in credit scores across America.

In this article

Average credit card debt down 14%   

Credit scores are not the only numbers showing interesting trends. Overall, the U.S. average consumer debt decreased by 14%, even amid an economic downturn. This has a trickle-down effect with credit utilization, which also experienced a decrease of 3.5%. This means not only are Americans paying more towards credit card balances, but the available credit for each individual is loosening up. 

As Americans pay down their credit card balances and decrease their credit utilization, the result is typically an increase in credit scores. Balances and utilization are two major factors used to calculate the FICO credit score.

It might seem odd that in the middle of high unemployment numbers and jobless claims that credit card debt would decrease. But with federal student loan payments and interest accrual on pause from the CARES act of 2020, it appears the debt payoff shifted to credit cards and not student loans.

When you look specifically at federal student loans only, borrowing either stayed the same or increased from 2019 to 2020, depending on the type of loan. Student loans, both federal and private, do show on consumer’s credit reports, but it’s the credit card balances showing the decrease in 2020, not student loans.  

Credit scores improved the most among Millenials  

Similar to how location influences the numbers of increased credit scores, age appears to be a factor as well. When examining the averages, it becomes clear how different the increases in credit scores are among the different generations.

  • Millennials (ages 24-39) increased their average FICO score by +11 points from 2019 to 2020.
  • Gen X (ages 40-55) increased their average FICO score by +10 points.
  • Gen Z (ages 18-23) increasing scores by +7 points.

Even though Baby Boomers (ages 56-74) and The Silent Generation (age 75+) had less of an increase, +5 and +1 respectively, these numbers indicate America as a whole is increasing credit scores overall, no matter the age. 

“Millennials have continued to improve their credit scores. In 2019 they had an average credit score of 647. This rose to 658 in 2020. While still below the average of 688, responsible borrowing habits, including fewer missed payments and lower card balances, are helping Millennials move their credit scores in a positive direction. This trend should encourage Millennials and all consumers to be proactive in protecting and maintaining their credit histories during this time,” explains Griffin.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Image credit: GaudiLab

Source: thesimpledollar.com

What Is FR-44 Insurance?

Actions have consequences — particularly when you’re behind the wheel.

Causing a little fender-bender will probably leave you with nothing more than an insurance headache, but more serious offenses come with heftier repercussions. Specifically, if you’re caught driving with a suspended license or you get cited with a DUI, you might be court-ordered to have a specific document filed on your behalf.

In most states, this is called an SR-22. It’s a document your insurance provider files with the state proving that you have enough liability coverage to mitigate the high risk you present out on the road. But if you commit a serious driving offense in Florida or Virginia, you might be required to show a different certificate of financial responsibility (CFR) called an FR-44.

What is FR-44 insurance? And how do you get it if you’re required by your state to do so? Floridians and Virginians need to know.

In this article

What is FR-44 insurance? 

FR-44 insurance isn’t a separate insurance policy or a type of coverage. Instead, it’s a document that gets filed with your state proving you have enough liability coverage. Your insurance provider files it on your behalf, showing your state’s driving authority that you have sufficient amounts of the required liability insurance.

As a quick auto insurance refresher, liability coverage steps in if you cause damage on the road. Most states require two types of liability insurance: coverage to pay for any injuries you cause and coverage to pay for property damage.

When you need an FR-44, you’re required to have more of both types of liability coverage than other drivers in your state. It’s your state’s way of making sure you’re not a huge risk when they let you back behind the wheel. With a filed FR-44, you prove that you have enough insurance to protect others.

[ See: How Much Car Insurance Do You Need? ]

All this isn’t to say that Virginia and Florida don’t have SR-22s. They do — but they use FR-44s for their highest-risk drivers. FR-44s have higher liability coverage requirements than SR-22s.

Who needs FR-44 insurance and why?

When you live in Florida or Virginia, you could be required to get an FR-44 if you commit a major driving violation like:

  • A DWI/DUI
  • Driving without insurance
  • Driving with a suspended license

You might find out you need an FR-44 while in court for a hearing about your driving violation. Alternatively, you could get a letter mailed to your house indicating that you now need FR-44 insurance.

Long story short, if you majorly messed up behind the wheel, keep an eye out. Odds are, you’ll be required to carry more liability insurance. And if you do need an FR-44, don’t wait. Talk to your insurance provider right away.

Most insurance providers offer FR-44s. But if yours doesn’t, you’ll need to switch to one that does. Make sure you get enough liability coverage to meet the now-required limits (more on that later) and that your new insurer will file the FR-44 for you ASAP.

What if I don’t own a car? 

If you committed your violation while driving someone else’s car or you sold your car after the fact, you might be stumped by an FR-44 insurance requirement.

[ More: How Are Car Insurance Costs Determined? ]

In this case, your best bet is to get non-owner car insurance. This is liability coverage designed to cover your risk if you drive someone else’s vehicle and while doing so, cause property damage or injure someone.

Getting an FR-44 with non-owner car insurance can be tricky. Not all insurers offer non-owner car insurance, and not all insurers file FR-44s. You can use our list of the best non-owner car insurance to start exploring your options.

On a positive note, FR-44 insurance for non-owners is generally a lot more affordable than standard car insurance policies for FR-44 drivers.

How much does FR-44 insurance cost? 

There’s good news and bad news here.

The good news is that the actual FR-44 is very affordable. Generally, you’ll pay a flat fee of $15 to $25 for your insurer to file the FR-44 for you.

The bad news is that once you require an FR-44, you’ll be seen by all insurers as a high-risk driver. And that means more expensive car insurance.

The exact amount you’ll pay will depend on your overall driving history, the vehicle you drive, your annual mileage and more. But generally, if you need an FR-44, you can expect to pay twice as much (or more, even) than the average driver because of your history of serious driving violations. For example, we’ve found that drivers with a DUI will see a 79% rate increase, on average, once their insurer learns of the violation.

Ultimately, if you need an FR-44, expect to pay significantly more for your auto insurance than your neighbors.

[ For You: Auto Insurance Quotes, Explained ]

Does FR-44 insurance require more coverage? 

Yes. In fact, that’s the whole point of an FR-44.

Here are the minimum coverages needed for an FR-44:

  • FR-44 insurance Florida requirements: $100,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per person, $300,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per accident and $50,000 of property damage liability coverage
  • FR-44 insurance Virginia requirements: $50,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per person, $100,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per accident and $40,000 of property damage liability coverage

These limits are steep. Compare them against what all Florida drivers need: just $10,000 of bodily injury coverage (called personal injury protection [PIP] in this case) and $10,000 of property damage liability coverage.

Even more staggeringly, you can compare these limits against SR-22 requirements in Virginia. Virginians who need an FR-44 are required to carry twice as much liability coverage as Virginians who need an SR-22.

FR-44 insurance vs. SR-22 insurance

FR-44s and SR-22s are the same in many key ways: they’re both certificates of financial responsibility. They’re both state-required after a serious driving offense. They both get filed by your insurer to prove that you’ve purchased enough liability coverage to meet the extra liability limits to which you’re now subject.

But there are some major differences, too. For starters, every state uses SR-22s, while you’ll only find FR-44 insurance in Florida and Virginia. More importantly, FR-44s come with much higher liability coverage requirements than SR-22s.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

How To Estimate Your Home Insurance Costs

Whether you’re shopping for your first home insurance policy or you just moved to your forever home and want to make sure it’s fully insured for the long haul, you want to know how much coverage to buy.

You might use a homeowners insurance calculator or ask your insurance agent for a home insurance estimate, but you don’t want to leave all of the legwork up to others. If you do, you could be left without enough coverage — only to find out just when you need it most, after disaster strikes.

To help yourself out, you want to know how to create an accurate homeowners insurance estimate. And that comes down to knowing what a typical policy covers, which additional coverages you might need and how your policy will pay out after a covered loss. With these things, which you’ll learn here, you’ll be a walking homeowners insurance calculator.

[ Read: The Best Homeowners Insurance Companies ]

In this article

Why it’s great to know how to estimate when shopping for homes 

Coming up with a home insurance estimate isn’t just a fun number-crunching exercise. It’s a critical component of knowing how much home you can afford — and where to buy it.

Your homeowners insurance payment won’t be as hefty as your mortgage, certainly, but it is an additional cost of homeownership that you need to factor in. And certain homes cost more to insure than others. Some things that could leave you with pricey premiums include:

  • A home in an area with a lot of crime
  • A home in an area prone to natural disasters
  • An old roof
  • Lackluster fire suppression systems
  • A pool (because of the increased liability that someone could drown)

Generally, if you want to keep your home insurance costs low, you should look for a home with limited risk. That means one located in a safe area that’s protected from natural disasters. It means choosing a home without aging systems — or planning to replace them right away. And it probably means skipping the pool.

Typical home insurance 

Aside from avoiding high-risk homes while you’re house shopping, the next biggest thing you can do to get an accurate home insurance estimate is understand the different types of available coverages — and roughly how much you’ll pay for each.

As a quick primer, home insurance policies generally cover:

  • Your house itself
  • The personal property you store in it (up to your policy limits)
  • Unattached structures like fences and garages
  • Your liability in certain instances, like if a neighbor slips at your home and sues you
  • Extra expenses you incur if you get displaced by a covered cause and have to stay in a hotel (i.e., loss of use coverage)

But the times when a home insurance policy will kick in to cover the above varies from policy to policy. Different types of home insurance policies cover different things.

An HO-1 policy, for example, only insures you against the perils specifically named in your policy (e.g., fire, theft), while an HO-5 policy will insure you against everything unless it’s specifically named as an exclusion in your policy.

As is true will all insurance products, the more protection you buy, the more you’ll pay for it. To get a solid homeowners insurance estimate, it can be helpful to decide which type of policy is right for you before house hunting. That way, you can compare the cost of that policy type across any homes you’re considering.

Additionally, you need to consider any additional coverages you might need for your home. Almost all home insurance policies specifically exclude earthquake and flood coverage. If you live in an area prone to either and want insurance for that risk, you’ll need to buy a separate policy. Factor that into your overall home insurance estimate.

[ Read: The Complete Guide to Homeowners Insurance ]

How home insurance varies by state

You can use a homeowners insurance calculator to get a rough idea of your home insurance costs, certainly. But there’s one key issue there.

Many calculators don’t take location into account. And insurance needs vary depending on where you live. We’ve already mentioned that you might need flood or earthquake insurance, depending on your location. But even standard homeowners insurance coverages can cost more or less, depending on your location.

Standard home policies include tornado coverage, for example. While homes are generally cheaper in Kansas than in, say, California, the cost of home insurance might not be too different from a coastal home if you’re house hunting in Tornado Alley.

All told, if you’re trying to come up with a homeowners insurance estimate, it’s important to understand how much coverage costs locally. Don’t worry: we’ve got you covered. Here’s a quick list of the average home insurance cost by state.

Replacement cost coverage: How does it work? 

Now you have a handle on some of the key components of an accurate home insurance estimate: high-risk factors that can raise costs, the type of policy you need and how your location affects your coverage and premium.

But there’s one final piece to consider. When you buy a homeowners insurance policy, you get either actual cost value (ACV) or replacement cost coverage. ACV factors in depreciation. So if your five-year-old couch gets destroyed in a fire, you’ll only get paid enough to buy what it was worth today. If you want enough money to replace the item with one of a similar quality, you’ll need replacement cost coverage.

When it comes to home policies, you’ll usually get replacement cost coverage automatically for your dwelling itself and the other structures on your property. That said, you can opt for extended or guaranteed replacement cost coverage, which offers money above your dwelling limits in case the rebuild costs more.

When it comes to your personal property coverage, you’ll generally need to elect to get replacement cost coverage. You’ll pay more for it, but it can help you rebuild your life the way it is now after a disaster.

[ Read: How to Find Cheap Homeowners Insurance ]

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

The Best Renters Insurance Companies in Washington, D.C.

If you’re lucky enough to rent an apartment or house in the Washington, D.C. area, you already know that it’s not exactly a bargain hunter’s paradise. But it is possible to find renters insurance in D.C. that is cost-effective and comes with a side dish of responsive customer service and extensive coverage.

Do you need renter’s insurance in Washington, D.C? We’d say so, unless you want to be stuck shelling out cash if you are faced with a fire, theft of your belongings, or other mishaps.

We’ve done some of the legwork for you to find the best renters insurance in D.C., using our SimpleScore Methodology. We looked at a number of qualities — accessibility, coverage options, support, customer satisfaction and discounts — to find the best options for D.C. renters, no matter where in the District they live.

America’s top-rated renters insurance

  • Policies starting at just $5/month
  • Sign up in seconds, claims paid in minutes
  • Zero hassle, zero paperwork
In this article

The best renters insurance companies in Washington, D.C. 

Best renters insurance overall – Lemonade

They may be the new kid on the block, but Lemonade knocks it out of the park when it comes to pricing and support.

J.D. Power Rating

5/5

AM Best Rating

N/A

Standard & Poor’s

N/A

SimpleScore

3.6 / 5.0

SimpleScore Lemonade 3.6

Discounts 1

Coverage Options 3

Customer Satisfaction 5

Accessibility 5

When Lemonade Insurance started writing policies in 2015, it unsettled the big insurers by doing business totally online, with excellent resources and near-instant claim satisfaction. Since then, it’s only continued to improve, and currently holds the top spot in J.D. Power’s Overall Customer Satisfaction Ranking for renters insurance. You can get a comprehensive policy for as little as $5 a month. Customizable options include higher coverage rates for jewelry, bikes, and more; water back-up; and pet or water damage. As an added perk, Lemonade donates a portion of its earnings every year to a charity you choose when you sign up.

Best renters insurance for customer service – Erie

Erie’s 12,000+ independent agents are on the job 24/7 to help you file and manage your claims and handle all your insurance needs cheerfully and professionally.

J.D. Power Rating

3/5

AM Best Rating

A+

Standard & Poor’s

N/A

SimpleScore

2.4 / 5.0

SimpleScore Erie 2.4

Discounts 1

Coverage Options 2

Customer Satisfaction 3

Accessibility 3

With nearly 100 years of policy-writing experience, Erie insurance is worth a look when you are purchasing renters insurance. This is especially true if you like working with a live agent, rather than an online chatbot (as you’d get with Lemonade). Erie has agents on the ground in the D.C. region who understand the needs of renters living in the metropolitan area. They can write you a policy that will cover your stuff, as well as provide liability coverage and living expenses if you should have to leave your apartment following a disaster. Bundle your renters policy with auto insurance from Erie and you stand to save money on your premium costs, which is never a bad thing.

Best renters insurance for military members – USAA

USAA’s policyholders sing their praises for the company — and they should, because it excels at pricing, customer service and more.

J.D. Power Rating

5/5

AM Best Rating

A++

Standard & Poor’s

N/A

SimpleScore

3.8 / 5.0

SimpleScore USAA 3.8

Discounts 2

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 5

Accessibility 4

USAA may just be the best company you’ve never heard of — unless you’re in the military or are a veteran, in which case you’ve probably heard good things about it from your peers. And that’s the catch: USAA only sells policies to those in the military, veterans, and their family members. That demographic is well-represented in Washington, D.C., so if it fits you, USAA should be your first choice for a quote. In addition to competitive pricing, the company is known for its exemplary support of its customers. That support shows itself in everything from quick claims satisfaction to an excellent blog that is filled with information, financial and otherwise, with a military bent.

Most Customizable Policies – Capitol Benefits

A regional independent insurance agency, Capitol Benefit’s agents can write a policy for you that is geared exactly to your needs — at a price that works for your wallet.

J.D. Power Rating

N/A

AM Best Rating

A+

Standard & Poor’s

N/A

SimpleScore

3.5 / 5.0

SimpleScore Capitol Benefits 3.5

Disconts 4

Coverage Options 3

Customer Satisfaction N/A

Accessibility 4

Capitol Benefits is a regional supplier of renters insurance policies for residents of D.C. and its suburbs. The company works with a number of national and regional insurance underwriters to provide policies that can be tailored to your specific circumstances. Do you have expensive electronics, jewelry or art? Your policy’s pay-out for these items can be increased. Is your building particularly old or in a flood zone? The Capitol Benefits agents will be able to account for these factors when writing your policy. Since they don’t rely on a single insurer, you get the best from a range of suppliers, managed by an agent who knows the D.C. region intimately.

Most financially stable renters insurance – American Strategic Insurance

ASI offers the best of two worlds: the customer service that you find with smaller regional companies as well as the rock-solid financial stability that it earns through its partnership with Progressive.

J.D. Power Rating

3/5

AM Best Rating

A+

Standard & Poor’s

AA

SimpleScore

4.2 / 5.0

SimpleScore American Strategic Insurance 4.2

Disconts 5

Coverage Options 3

Customer Satisfaction 3

Accessibility 5

ASI offers standard renters insurance that covers theft, fire and smoke damage, wind and hail, and more, along with a handful of customizable options. It has feet-on-the-ground knowledge that comes with its agents’ presence in the D.C. metropolitan area. But it has an edge over other regional insurers: it is partly owned by national provider Progressive, and can tap into the benefits that come with having a mega-corporation standing behind you. One of these benefits is financial stability, as is seen with ASI’s A+ rating from AM Best. What does that mean to you? It means you don’t have to worry about your insurer’s ability to pay out on multiple claims following a large-scale disaster. With Washington squarely in the path of many summer hurricanes, that’s a nice reassurance to have.

America’s top-rated renters insurance

  • Policies starting at just $5/month
  • Sign up in seconds, claims paid in minutes
  • Zero hassle, zero paperwork

Choosing your provider 

We’ve included both regional insurers and large national corporations in our listing of the top renters insurance companies in D.C. No one company is right for everyone, and depending on your needs and wishes, the company that works for your neighbor might not be a good fit for you. Here are some pros and cons to help you determine where to start your search.

Local carrier 

Pros 

  • Agents knowledgeable about local area
  • Emphasis on friendly customer service and good agent relationships
  • May be less expensive

[ Read: What You Need to Know About Bundling Car and Renters Insurance ]

Cons 

  • Websites tend to be limited
  • Coverage options often not as extensive
  • Fewer discounts than national agencies

National carrier 

Pros

  • Often excellent websites, with online quote tools and more
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Broad range of coverage options and multiple discounts

Cons 

  • You’re one of thousands of clients: a number, not a person
  • Less coverage that is specific to your region

Additional renters insurance coverage in Washington, D.C.

Your renters insurance premium in Washington, D.C. will be determined by a number of factors. A few of these factors are common no matter where you live in the metropolitan D.C. area.

Weather

Washington’s weather is generally mild, with some snow in the winter and hot and balmy summers. But living this close to the Eastern seaboard leaves you vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms that sweep up the coast. In fact, depending on how close you live to the Potomac River, you may be in a flood zone — which means that it would be advisable to consider flood insurance coverage added to your policy.

[ Read: How much is Renters Insurance? ]

Crime

Unfortunately, some areas of Washington have fairly high crime rates. Your insurer knows what those rates are, and will adjust your premium accordingly. Since most renter’s insurance policies cover theft both from your apartment as well as items that are in storage or your car, you may find yourself paying more depending on your neighborhood.

High cost of living

Nobody lives in Washington to save money. In fact, the District lands on many listings of cities with the highest cost of living in the U.S. You’ll pay a premium rate for your apartment and you might pay a bit more for your renters insurance than you might if you lived in, say, Tulsa, Oklahoma. But that fact shouldn’t deter you from purchasing a policy. You can still get good renters insurance in Washington for $20 or $30 a month, and it will be more than worth it if disaster strikes and you need to replace damaged or stolen personal belongings.

How much does renters insurance cost in Washington, D.C.? 

The average cost of a renters insurance policy in the U.S. is $180, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Despite the high cost of living in D.C., the average renters insurance policy in the District is only $158. Your own rate, of course, will differ. Factors that play into that include the price you’re paying for rent, the amount of property coverage you purchase, and the neighborhood you live in. Each insurance company uses their own algorithms for determining premiums, which is why it pays to shop around and get several quotes when you’re looking for the cheapest renters insurance in D.C.

Washington, D.C. renters insurance FAQs

There is no law in Washington, D.C. that requires you to have renters insurance. However your landlord can require it as a condition of signing your lease. Your landlord should have their own policy to cover the building — but their policy will not cover your personal belongings. Even if it’s not a requirement, it’s a good idea to have a renters policy no matter where you live.

There is no one provider who always has the cheapest renters insurance in D.C. Each quote is unique, to reflect your own circumstances and location, and the insurer who gives your neighbor a great price may not do so for you. Your best bet is to get several quotes to find the cheapest policy for you.

Renters insurance averages $158 a year in Washington, which works out to about $13 a month. Your own premium may be more, but in general, renters insurance in Washington D.C. is fairly inexpensive.

We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the insurers we recommend. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

10 $10 Ways to Bring Beauty Into Your Apartment

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Infused Water Recipes To Help You Hydrate & Detox In The New Year

Our favorite way to make an apartment feel like home is by decorating. There is no better feeling than coming home to a place that looks and feels exactly how you’d like it to. That being said, we know that apartment décor can get pricey. That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your personal style, though! There are plenty of ways to bring beauty into your apartment without breaking the bank. Below, find 10 ways for $10 (or less) to bring beauty into your apartment. From tidying tips to DIY projects, you’ll find something on this list that will make coming home feel even more special.

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Source: blog.apartminty.com