Amerifirst Financial Review: They Take Home Purchase Lending Seriously

Posted on February 24th, 2021

It’s not every day you come across a large-scale independent mortgage lender that has been around since the 1980s, but Amerifirst Financial Inc. fits that description.

The Arizona-based company understands that there’s more to the mortgage business than just refinances, which is why their goal is to be the lender of choice for real estate professionals in all the markets they serve.

This could be a pretty smart strategy if and when interest rates rise and the pool of eligible refinance candidates begins to run dry.

If you’re thinking about buying a home, Amerifirst could be good choice for your financing needs since they’re heavily focused on purchase loans. Let’s discover more about them.

Amerifirst Financial Fast Facts

  • Direct-to-consumer retail mortgage lender
  • Founded in 1989, headquartered Mesa, Arizona
  • Offers home purchase financing and mortgage refinances
  • Funded more than $2 billion in home loans last year
  • Most active in Arizona, Colorado, and California
  • Licensed to do business in 43 states and the District of Columbia
  • Also operate several DBAs including AFI Mortgage, Spire Financial, and Truly Mortgage

Amerifirst Financial Inc. is a direct-to-consumer retail mortgage lender, meaning they operate a call center along with branches throughout the country.

The company was founded all the way back in 1989 and is headquartered in Mesa, Arizona, which is just east of Phoenix.

They also have branches in nine states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Utah.

Amerifirst appears to specialize in home purchase financing, with roughly two-thirds of total volume dedicated to home buyers.

The rest can be attributed to mortgage refinances, including rate and term refinances and cash out refinances.

Last year, the company funded more than $2 billion in home loans, with nearly a billion in their home state of Arizona.

They’re also very active in Colorado and California, and have a decent presence in Nevada and Texas as well.

While they’re licensed in most states nationally, they don’t seem to be available in Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, or West Virginia.

How to Apply with Amerifirst Financial

  • You can get started instantly by visiting their website and clicking “Apply Now”
  • They offer a digital mortgage application powered by ICE that lets you complete most tasks on your own
  • It’s also possible to browse their online loan officer (or branch) directory first to find someone to work with nearby
  • Once your loan is submitted you can manage it 24/7 via the online borrower portal

Amerifirst Financial makes it super easy to get started on your home loan application.

Simply head to their website and click on the big “Apply Now” button and you’ll be off to the races.

That will take you to their digital mortgage application powered by ICE that lets you input all your personal and financial details electronically.

Then you can link financial accounts using your credentials to avoid having to scan/upload or track down your documents.

Additionally, you can order your own credit report and eSign disclosures to speed through the more painstaking part of the process in a matter of minutes.

Once your loan is submitted and approved, you’ll receive a to-do list with any conditions that must be met to get to the finish line.

You’ll also be able to track and manage your loan via the online borrower portal, and get in touch with your lending team if and when you have questions.

Those who prefer a more human touch can also visit a local branch and/or browse the online loan officer directory to learn more about the individuals who work there.

It may also be advisable to speak with a loan officer first to discuss loan pricing and available loan programs, then proceed to the online mortgage application.

In any case, they make it really simple to apply for a mortgage and manage your loan from start to finish thanks to the latest technology.

Protect Your Transaction Pre-Approval for Home Buyers

Protect Your Transaction

One perk to using Amerifirst Financial, especially if you’re buying a home in a competitive market, is their “Protect Your Transaction” loan commitment.

It goes beyond both a pre-qualification and pre-approval in that it’s underwritten upfront by a real human loan underwriter.

In fact, the PYT even comes with monetary assurance (up to $15,000, with an additional $5,000 for first responders and teachers), which represents their belief in the strength of your application.

So if the loan falls through and it turns out to be the lender’s fault, you could be entitled to that cash, which can also be shared with the seller. This may strengthen your offer.

Next to a cash offer, they believe it provides the greatest assurance that they can provide financing for your home purchase.

And that could just be enough to give you edge versus other home buyers on a hot home.

It may also give you peace of mind in the process, knowing you can actually get financing when all is said and done.

Loan Programs Offered by Amerifirst Financial

  • Home purchase loans
  • Refinance loans: rate and term, cash out, streamline
  • Conforming home loans
  • High-balance and jumbo home loans
  • FHA/USDA/VA loans
  • Down payment assistance
  • Green Value Mortgage
  • Fixed-rate and adjustable-rate options available

Amerifirst Financial offers both home purchase loans and refinance loans, including rate and term, cash out, and streamline refinances.

You can get financing on a primary residence, including townhomes/condos, along with a vacation home or 1-4 unit investment property.

They offer all the popular loan types, including conforming loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, high-balance and jumbo loans, and government-backed options like FHA, USDA, and VA loans.

They also offer an exclusive loan program known as the “Green Value Mortgage” that offers a reduced interest rate, fees, and discounted mortgage insurance if your property has a green score of 75 or lower.

You may also be eligible to receive up to 3.5% of the purchase price as a non-repayable gift. All the more reason to go green!

In terms of loan programs, you can get either a fixed-rate mortgage such as a 30-year or 15-year fixed, or an adjustable-rate mortgage like a 7/1 or 5/1 ARM.

Amerifirst Financial Mortgage Rates

One slight negative to Amerifirst Financial is the fact that they don’t mention their mortgage rates anywhere on their website.

As such, we don’t have any clues about their loan pricing relative to other banks and lenders out there.

The same goes for lender fees, which aren’t clearly listed on their website to my knowledge.

This means you’ll need to get in touch with a loan officer to discuss rates and fees to ensure they are competitively priced.

Be sure to compare their rates/fees with other lenders before you proceed to the application if you want peace of mind on pricing front.

Customer service and competence is always important, especially when it comes to a home loan, but so is cost.

Amerifirst Financial Reviews

On Zillow, Amerifirst has a very impressive 4.98-star rating out of 5 from roughly 900 customer reviews, which is quite impressive given the volume of feedback.

On LendingTree, they have a perfect 5-star rating, though it’s based on just about 30 reviews. They also have a 100% recommended score there.

If you’re looking for more reviews, you can also check out local ones on Google for their brick-and-mortar branches nearest you.

Lastly, the company is Better Business Bureau accredited, and has been since 2014. They currently enjoy an ‘A+’ rating based on complaint history.

To sum it up, Amerifirst Financial could be a solid choice for someone purchasing a home (especially a first-time buyer) thanks to their robust Protect Your Transaction loan approval and variety of down payment assistance programs.

Amerifirst Financial Pros and Cons

The Good

  • You can apply for a home loan from any device in minutes
  • Offer a digital mortgage application powered by ICE
  • Lots of loan programs to choose from
  • Discounts for those who purchase a green home
  • Protect Your Transaction loan approval for home buyers
  • Excellent customer reviews from former customers
  • A+ BBB rating, accredited business since 2014
  • Free mortgage calculators and mortgage dictionary on site

The Not

  • Not available in all states currently
  • Do not list mortgage rates or lender fees on their website

(photo: nathanmac87)

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

COVID accelerated migration trends, but is it sustainable?

Even Norman Rockwell couldn’t put a rosier cast to New Hartford, Connecticut, in mid-autumn. On the far western outskirts of the Hartford metropolitan area, the town’s converted brick mill buildings are now occupied by restaurants that sell and serve locally grown produce and locally made artisanal cheese. A river – the Farmington – really does run through the town, shallow and sparkling, punctuated by occasional fly-fisherman. Bridges arch over the river from stands of yellow-leafed birches to groves of flaming maples.

It’s exactly the kind of place that’s attracting pandemic-panicked New Yorkers who, drawing a circle of two hours’ train travel from Manhattan, figure they can set up parallel lives in the country and city. 

The COVID-19 crowds that are now seeking fresh air and socially distanced living are looking beyond what is considered more traditional second-home destinations to small towns that have struggled to catch the updraft of the broadband revolution. As city dwellers scatter, enough of them are landing in the semi-rural spots to potentially realign the very definition of economic development, land use and the consequent cascade of broad band investment, municipal services, taxation and local spending priorities. 

“The economy is moving faster than the population,” said Mark Lautman, an economic development consultant who has helped local organizations in New Mexico and elsewhere forge partnerships that serve residents and employers.

In the past, economic development was defined by incentives for buildings and infrastructure with the aim of winning and keeping employers with substantial numbers of workers. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a longer-term trend of separating talent from location. Economic development leaders are just starting to realize the profound implications of a distributed workforce on their local economies, workforce development, housing and real estate markets, he said. 

“If you don’t have qualified workers, you can’t grow your economy,” Lautman said. “And all of a sudden, the cost of place of operation is zero. States throw massive resources at site-based economic development but remote economic development needs a fraction of that.”  

Investors are already moving money into place to catch the coattails of COVID-catalyzed change. 

Collin Gutman, managing partner of SaaS Ventures, a Washington, DC-based venture capital firm that works specifically with young companies in smaller metropolitan areas far from Silicon Valley, said that the pandemic has propelled high tech companies to redefine where and how they look for talent.

“Previously there had been a perception that these types of businesses could only get critical mass of talent in San Francisco or Boston,” he said. “That perception has changed very quickly in the past 12 months. We’ve seen an outflow to places like Louisville, Lexington, Nashville and people buying second homes in rural counties.”

Daniel Jeram is New Hartford’s First Selectman, the top official of the 7,000- resident town. He said he hasn’t seen anything quite like this year’s real estate sales burst.  

“The game is on and it has been for months,” Jeram said. “You can tell from the license plates driving around town.” 

He isn’t kidding. Regional market reports from the Greater Hartford Association of Realtors released at the end of 2020 show that year-over-year, pending single-family home sales rose 49.9%, days on market dropped by 32.1% and the median home sale price rose 13.3% to $280,500. 

Maintaining the growth

With young families pouring in, New Hartford’s challenge is how to keep them, especially as support for enhanced broadband has been under discussion for years, with little progress, Jeram said. New Hartford is on the eastern edge of a subregion of northwestern Connecticut and southwestern Massachusetts that suffers from weak cell coverage and tepid broadband. 

“We’re okay,” said Jeram, of New Hartford’s cable service, “but that is an ongoing debate that state and local leaders are struggling with, because cost to get broadband in is extremely high. Everyone knows it’s the wave of the future, but how will we pay for it?”

Rista Malanca is trying to figure that out. She is director of economic development for neighboring Torrington, where broadband somewhat peters out. 

“We’re attractive and affordable for a lot of people, but how do we keep them engaged, so they center their lives here, and spend their money here?” Malanca said. 

Powerful broadband paves the digital way for not just telecommuting and remote collaboration, but also for telehealth, remote education for children and adults and a host of other services that frame the new hybrid of a sophisticated information economy invisibly driving growth.  

Consultants with McKinsey project that 22% of companies expect to hire more remote freelance workers in the foreseeable future. Before the COVID-19 pandemic reordered the American workforce in March 2020, only 4.9% of full-time U.S. workers telecommuted from their homes. By the end of June, 42% of the workforce was home-based, and workforce researchers expect that the dramatic shift is largely permanent. FlexJobs, a Boulder, Colorado-based employment site that serves both individuals and employers, projects that capturing work-life balance and reducing commuting stress are top priorities for people who want to move and either bring their jobs with them or find remote work.

Changing lifestyle

Professionals who bring high-paying jobs with them also transplant demand for higher-end dining, grocery, local entertainment and home renovation and maintenance services, said Shaun Greer, vice president of sales and marketing at Vacasa, a Portland, Oregon, company that provides property management services to more than 21,000 vacation homes in North America. 

Unlike short-term renters, professionals relocating for a full-fledged second hub where they can work and attend school remotely, need functional and municipal services largely different from tourist demands. 

“If this trend continues, it will affect municipal budgets,” Greer said. “Most of these communities are restricted in some way, such as [their level of] power or utilities. If this growth continues they’ll have to put in a lot more infrastructure to keep up.”

New Hartford could take a cue from The Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative in McKee, Kentucky, population 800. 

In 2007, the cooperative, formed in 1950 and serving two rural Kentucky counties, decided to go all in on broadband, related Keith Gabbard, who has been the cooperative’s CEO for the past 25 years. Patching together about $50 million from federal, state and local sources, the service committed to bringing broadband to every home in its service area. 

“Since 2014, we’ve had gigabit service to every home and business,” Gabbard said. “Once we got it built, we realized, ‘what do we do with it?’ We had to become more economic-development minded.”

Gabbard took on the role of one-man employment liaison, workforce training advocate, lobbyist to state legislators and public relations cheerleader, relentlessly promoting the cooperative’s ready, willing and connected workforce at conferences. Working relationships with national workforce development agencies and platforms – including FlexJobs – produced a stream of inquiries from American companies seeking to bring operations back to the U.S. from overseas, and looking to expand domestically. 

“It’s been amazing,” Gabbard said. “In the last five years we’ve had 1,100 teleworks jobs created. People move here because of the internet and we’re seeing even more of that because of the pandemic.” 

McKee still lacks a Starbucks, but it is making inroads with establishing a healthcare clinic that will pivot on telemedicine. And, Gabbard has even drawn local Amish into the high-speed loop as the cooperative hires their construction crews to expand into neighboring counties. 

Communities that were a step ahead are both riding the first crest of post-COVID change while demonstrating the importance of close collaboration among regional economic, workforce and housing development authorities, investors and the private sector.

Broadband brought jobs to northwest New Mexico in 2017 and has anchored the local economy even as the COVID-19 pandemic has rolled from crisis to chronic. Shelly Fausett runs the SoloWorks program in the area, which advocates for workforce development and related supports, and which helps employers find and hire connected workers. SoloWorks had just moved to a new a co-working space to build capacity for distributed teams but the health care crisis kept workers home…and working. 

“Right now in customer service, there are more jobs than people,” Fausett said. 

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic simply accelerated long-term trends toward remote work, annihilating embedded cultural resistance and rapidly realigning work processes to support sustained collaboration and productivity from any location, said Brie Weiler Reynolds, the in-house career development coach for FlexJobs. 

Remote work surged for both staffers who have always had the capability to work from home and among the current and aspiring self-employed who immediately seized the opportunity to redesign their careers around the location and lifestyle they had always craved. In March, the FlexJobs platform received a 50% increase of inquiries and applications from workers, she said. 

Companies and employment agencies – private and government-run – that already collaborated with local economic development and workforce training programs had a big head start on those that had in place only traditional programs, Weiler Reynolds said. Cross-functional workforce development programs that “combine broadband outreach with remote work training and company partnerships and that partner with FlexJobs to find the actual jobs, are serving people who already live in their areas and are hiring specifically from economic groups hard-hit by the tourism and hospitality industries.”

Workforce housing that is designed around and for home-based work will ensure lower paying, broadband-dependent jobs, such as customer service, highly skilled software developers and managers cut a very different profile, SaaS Ventures’ Gutman said. They are “six-figure Millennials” who expect, if not big-city culture and amenities, at the very least, transportation services that can quickly deliver the big city to the rural doorsteps of spacious houses with dedicated home offices. 

And, the ability to quickly get to major cities will be a key plank of rural economic development, especially as patterns of post-pandemic life emerge, he said. High-tech transplants want lots of fresh-air recreational amenities but also want to take just one connector flight to a major air hub. 

“It could be that saving the regional airport is your key to economic prosperity,” Gutman said. 

COVID redefines tourism economies

The return on remote work-equipped workforce housing is short and sweet for communities long tied to cyclical tourism economies. A solid base of long-term second-home owners is already redefining tourism economies, Greer said, extending the 2020 season well into autumn, and thus continuing demand for cleaning, maintenance, renovation and some municipal services and activities. 

“What we’re excited about is that this change means we keep more of our seasonal employees, hopefully longer,” he said, adding that a greater number of staycation homeowners could permanently stabilize tourist-town employment, municipal and local business cash flow and demand for broadband and other services.

The pandemic has proven the possibilities and powerful potential of a distributed workforce and, by extension, distributed economic development, said one longtime broadband researcher and advocate. 

“The pandemic could yield a lasting legacy if municipalities, counties and states forge regional alliances for economic development, and use their combined power to rapidly build universal broadband, align tax policies and regulatory incentives to encourage private and public expansion of broadband to connect all American citizens,” said Rouzbeh Yassini, executive director of the Broadband Center of Excellence at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire. “States need to relinquish counterproductive strategies focusing on stealing businesses from each other and combine forces. That’s the only way that many small towns and rural areas will gain critical mass to justify private investment in 5G, both through wired (cable and phone) and wireless services. 

“If you get five or six state governments together, and get regional connectivity vision established, they’ll improve the economic value of that entire region for web-based daily services and for mapping, driverless cars and gain scale for recruiting residents, farmers and business,” Yassini said, citing the cascade of connected services that could support remote working, aging in place and other life-enhancing functions. 

Lautman, the economic development consultant, detects a rapid realignment of the definition of economic development with state and local resources to support distributed workforces. Hybrid strategies that blend satellite nodes for regional managers and occasional team meetings are a natural evolution of the urban model of co-working spaces, he said. The pandemic has also elevated the importance of health care, childcare and related services as essential to workforce stability and productivity. 

As professionals and corporate leaders become acclimated to working from their second homes, they might become influential advocates for their industries to pivot to distributed workforce development, potentially bringing economic development authorities and broadband providers with them.  

“To create an environment that incentivizes and supports remote work, if I were a local economic development executive, I’d be at my state legislature asking for the same incentives to build houses with home offices that they give to industrial developers,” Lautman said. “Now we have a residential real estate platform for economic development.” 

Source: housingwire.com

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Power Outages?

Workers repairing an electrical line during a power outage
Photo by ND700 / Shutterstock.com

Losing electrical power in your home is more than inconvenient and potentially hazardous; it can also lead to serious expenses. Fortunately, some of those are probably covered by your homeowners insurance.

That could be good news to more than 3.5 million Americans who are currently without power due to storms in Texas, Oregon, Kentucky and elsewhere. But whether all of your out-of-pocket costs will be covered depends on the insurer and your policy.

Already, there are reports of homeowners in affected states contacting their insurance company, only to find they aren’t covered in ways they expected or hoped.

Here’s what to expect in coverage for two common financial impacts of a power outage, and some options to make up the difference if you aren’t actually covered. Consider this a rough guide to prepare you; if you’re directly affected, check with your insurance company for the details of your own coverage.

Frozen pipes

Prolonged winter power outages — like the current ones, which have already lasted for days — come with the added risk that water will freeze inside the home’s pipes. That can cause the pipes to crack, and lead to flooding damage and plumbing bills once the heat returns and the water begins to flow again.

It doesn’t take long for such freezing to occur. According to Hope Plumbing in Indianapolis, pipes may freeze if the outside temperature is below 20 degrees for at least six consecutive hours, as it has been during recent days in many of the states with outages.

The process is faster still if you live in a geographical location that usually does not suffer from cold winters, Hope Plumbing writes, since your water pipes are less likely to have much insulation to protect them from extreme temperatures.

Here, homeowners in Texas and elsewhere are probably covered, according to property insurance lawyers VossLaw.

“If your pipes froze because of an unusual cold snap,” causing water damage, your claim will likely be approved,” the company writes. They do, however, add a few caveats. Your claim may be denied, the lawyers warn, if your pipes were in poor condition due to age. “If a pipe burst simply because it was worn out, you may be out of luck.”

Negligence on your part could also be a reason to deny a claim, VossLaw warns, mentioning as an example shutting off the power when leaving your home, causing its interior temperatures to drop.

Less clear is whether a failure to leave water running at a trickle through the pipe in a cold house — a step that reduces the chance of frozen pipes — might be deemed negligent. At any rate, this step is recommended by home experts as a way to mitigate the disruption and inconvenience of pipes freezing.

Ruined food

While food spoiling (or at least thawing) in a warm refrigerator is most associated with power outages in warmer months, it’s possible in any season, especially when outages are prolonged.

Homeowners policies usually cover reimbursement for food losses due to an outage in their standard coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute — although some companies instead make it an extra-cost add-on to the policy.

However, it’s unlikely that claiming the value of ruined food is worthwhile, especially if it’s the only financial loss you incurred from the power going out.

For starters, many insurers cap the covered loss at $250 or $500, according to Allstate. That figure is likely at or below the deductible for your policy, which means you could collect little or nothing on the claim.

If you suffered other financial setbacks from the outage, such as the cost to replace cracked pipes, a potential claim might exceed your deductible. And if you already made a claim on the policy within the last year, your deductible has likely already been paid regardless.

In any case, talk with your insurers before submitting a claim, especially one that is fairly modest. Insurers keep track of claims, and you’ll need to consider the possible effect of one for a power outage on your future premiums.

You might also want to check with your electricity provider. While most electric companies do not offer their customers reimbursement for food spoilage caused by long-term power outages, according to the Insurance Information Institute, programs are sometimes offered. (For example, Con Edison allowed reimbursements of up to $500 per homeowner for spoiled food after Hurricane Isaias last year.)

It’s unclear if any such programs have yet been launched due to the current outages in the South. For what it’s worth, none were implemented in areas of Louisiana and Texas affected by Hurricane Laura last year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

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Source: moneytalksnews.com

Popular 2021 Home Upgrades — and How to Pay for Them

Staying at home during the pandemic has changed the way homeowners renovate, but not always in ways you might expect.

You could assume, for example, that homeowners are desperate for privacy and therefore adding more walls.

But interior designer Max Humphrey says rumors of the open floor plan’s death, which bubble up every year, are exaggerated.

“I think middle America still loves their open floor plans,” says Humphrey, who is based in Portland, Oregon. “Designers are talking about how open floor plans are over, but believe me, they’re not.”

Instead, homeowners are creating spaces they’d want to visit if they didn’t live there. Home kitchens have replaced restaurants, and your favorite outdoor bar is now your patio.

Many homeowners paid for their upgrades with savings last year, according to NerdWallet’s 2020 Home Improvement Report. Indeed, if the economic impact of the pandemic hasn’t hit your own finances, cash is the cheapest way to cover home renovations.

But there are also affordable financing options, including cash-out refinancing and personal loans, for those who don’t have or want to use savings.

Here are projects interior designers expect to see more of as the pandemic stretches into 2021, plus financing options to make them a reality.

Whole house renovations

Stephanie Sullivan is busier now than at any time since she became a full-time interior designer in 2014.

Her clients are seeing again the things in their homes they wanted to change when they bought the house but stayed busy enough over the years to ignore.

“It’s amazing how we don’t notice stuff until we’re stuck at home going, ‘hmm, really,’” she says. “So they’ve been walking past it for years, and now everybody’s home and they’re going, ‘Wait, I can’t do this.’”

A homeowner asking her to redesign the entire house is common these days, says Sullivan, who is based in Austin, Texas.

She says multiple clients in the last year have said, “I just need you to start at the front door.”

Fully remodeling most or all of the rooms in your house is likely an expensive endeavor.

If your project is $50,000 or more, certified financial planner Sarah Ponder recommends a cash-out refinance, which involves replacing your existing mortgage with a larger one and using the extra money to renovate.

Cash-out refinance is a good option only if you have enough home equity to match the project cost and if you get a low interest rate — a real possibility given today’s low mortgage rates, says Ponder, whose company, Real Estate Wealth Planning, is based near Austin.

It’ll take patience, too. The refinance process used to take about a month, Ponder says, but lately, it can take two or three months.

Room conversions

Another common request Sullivan says she receives from homeowners: Turn a master bathroom into an at-home spa.

“Since they can’t go to the spa, they’re creating spa retreats in their bathrooms,” she says.

They’re redoing their kitchens as places to connect with family, she says, but they also want their own getaway, even if it’s just upstairs.

Homeowners are also transforming basements and spare rooms into home offices and study rooms, or gyms and playrooms, Humphrey says.

He says his clients are looking for ways to sprawl out.

For midsized projects like one- or two-room renovations, refinancing your mortgage may not be worth the time and effort.

San Antonio-based CFP Tess Downing says a personal loan could work for projects around $20,000. These loans don’t use your home as collateral, and qualifying is based on your creditworthiness and finances. Good credit and little existing debt are must-haves to get a low rate.

Consumers who qualified for a personal loan in 2020 with excellent credit (720 or higher FICO) typically were approved for rates between 10.7% and 12.5%, according to NerdWallet marketplace data.

DIY projects

There are also affordable ways to get a fresh look in your home on a budget.

Replacing light fixtures can make a big difference, says Humphrey, and first-timers can get help from YouTube.

“It’s things that you notice every day, you know, that’s the light in your house,” he says. “Even as a renter, I would swap light fixtures.”

Homeowners can also add a roll of stick-on wallpaper, he says, or a fresh coat of paint. Even new towels, lightbulbs and bedsheets can change the look of a room.

If the cost of your project is below $10,000, a zero-interest credit could be a good pick, Ponder says. If you can pay the balance during the card’s promotional period (often 12 to 18 months) you’ll finish your project interest-free.

More traditional credit cards and store rewards cards can also help you cover purchases on these projects, especially if you have a card with a hardware or furniture store. Be sure you can pay the balance in full each month to avoid interest.

Resale considerations

It’s probably not worth your time and money to go all-out renovating a home you’re going to sell in a couple of years because you won’t make that money back, Humphrey says.

He cautions his clients against overpersonalizing a home they don’t plan to stay in long-term.

“I don’t love to think about resale when I’m designing for somebody, but the pandemic isn’t going to be forever,” he says. “So I do encourage people to think a little bit about resale.”

But for as long as home remains a restaurant, spa, gym, school and office, go ahead and make some changes you can afford just because they make you happy.

Source: nerdwallet.com

The Best Bike Rides in Portland

An affinity for biking is part of what makes Portland unique.

People in Portland love bike rides almost as much as perusing record stores and hiking. There are plenty of bike lanes and cycling shops spread across the city, so you’ll see people of all ages behind the handlebars. It’s ingrained into the very fiber of the city.

Seriously. Portlanders even celebrate the cycling culture with popular annual events like the World Naked Bike Ride, Pedalpalooza and the Bridge Pedal.

Seeing Rip City up close and personal on two wheels offers a unique perspective whether you’re commuting or just out for a workout. Scenic, safe and even some shortcuts, here are the best Portland bike rides.

Waterfront Loop

Waterfront bike bath portland bike rides

Photo by Jake Borower

Downtown’s waterfront loop incorporates the Eastbank Esplanade and Waterfront Park into one 6-mile paved, flat, car-free stretch that is one of the city’s signature rides. Highlighted by sights of skyscrapers, boats drifting by on the Willamette River, and even a floating bike path, there are plenty of beautiful places to pull over for a break.

Start on either side of the river and then cross to the other using any of the bridges along the way. The city’s newest bridge, Tillamook Crossing, is closed to cars and a fun ride suspended over the water. This route is a great choice for enjoying some exercise on a sunny day or getting across town while laughing at cars stuck in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic. Treat yourself to a pint from one of the many bars and breweries in the area afterward, you’ve earned it!

Tryon Creek Bike Path

Forest covered bike path

Photo source: Splinster.com

Tryon Creek State Natural Area is Oregon’s only urban state park. Tryon Creek is in Portland’s heavily forested southwestern quadrant about 15 minutes outside of downtown.

The area’s winding, narrow streets aren’t the most hospitable towards cyclists, but the park provides a 2.5-mile paved bike path that makes biking through this stretch downright pleasant. As a result, this bike path offers all the draws of mountain biking with the smooth ride and accessibility of road cycling.

Cyclists commuting in the neighborhood or just looking for a pretty place to pedal will enjoy this route.

Marine Drive Trail

Bike path next to water and grass portland bike rides

Photo source: alltrails.com

On the northeast border of the city and state, along the Columbia River lies the 10-mile, paved Marine Drive Trail. This area of North Portland isn’t heavily trafficked and the trail is not frequented by commuters, but that is a positive thing for those looking to take their bike out for a long, easy ride.

The river makes a beautiful backdrop and on a clear day, you can get a great view of the mountains in the distance. When it’s warm, this is also a great place to go for a swim with easy access to popular nearby sandy river beaches.

Springwater Corridor

Bike path with a mountain in the background

Photo source: Portland.gov

The Springwater Corridor is the longest part of a massive, 40-mile loop that connects a system of parks and greenways around Portland. This stretch begins at SE 4th Avenue and SE Ivon Street in Portland’s central east side and continues east all the way to the town of Boring, Oregon.

Along the way, riders will experience an array of different landscapes. You’ll see fields, pastures, forested areas and wetlands and again, those mountains in the distance. Thus, it’s a great leisurely scenic route.

However, if you’re commuting from just about anywhere on the east side of Portland, it’s a very quick and convenient route to downtown, and everywhere else along the way.

Council Crest Climb

Hiking overlook of a mountain portland bike rides

Photo source: portland.gov

Council Crest Park sits atop the southwest hills as the highest point in Portland. At 1,073 feet above sea level, it’s quite the climb. It’s a serious workout, but the reward at the end is worth it. You’ll feel on top of the world looking out over the city with the sense of achievement that comes from burning thighs and an incredible view.

The park is accessible from anywhere on the west side and the tree-lined streets that wind their way up to the peak are beautiful, even as you whiz past them on your way back down.

Go by bike

Portlanders love traveling by bike. There are routes that will get you to your destination quickly and conveniently. There are also scenic routes that call you to explore and enjoy on your own schedule. Get out there to experience the city and the region’s natural beauty in a new light via Portland bike rides.

Source: rent.com

11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic

Unhappy gamer
Krakenimages.com / Shutterstock.com

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic made its unwelcome presence felt, products have been disappearing from store shelves. From toilet paper to hand sanitizer, many goods we take for granted have been tough to find for long periods.

Thankfully, many of these products are now available again in abundance. But others that once seemed plentiful are suddenly scarce.

Following are some products in short supply right now due to the pandemic.

1. COVID-19 vaccine

Patient getting a vaccine
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

In a perfect world, there would be enough COVID-19 vaccine that we all could rush out and get vaccinated today. But if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we do not live in a perfect world.

The effort to create, test and distribute a vaccine for the disease caused by the coronavirus has been nothing short of heroic. But there still is only so much vaccine to go around, which has led to rationing. For now, high-risk groups are getting the medicine first.

President Joe Biden recently said he hopes the vaccine will be available to the bulk of Americans by spring.

2. Grape-Nuts

Man shopping for groceries
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

OK, this just seems plain weird. Yes, you would expect things like disinfectant wipes, face masks and household bleach to be red-hot commodities during a pandemic. But Grape-Nuts?

This shortage comes down to a simple supply-and-demand issue we have seen a lot during the COVID-19 crisis. People want their Grape-Nuts, but providing them is tougher than you might imagine.

Kristin DeRock, Grape-Nuts brand manager, told USA Today in late January that making the wheat-and-barley breakfast staple involves “a proprietary technology and a production process that isn’t easily replicated, which has made it more difficult to shift production to meet demand during this time.”

Sorry, Grape-Nuts fans — DeRock says the shortage may continue for a while.

3. Blood

Giving blood
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

We don’t often think of blood as a “product,” but it is when people need it. And when lives are on the line, blood suddenly becomes more precious than gold.

Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic has created a crisis for blood banks in many places. Blood banks said as recently as mid-January that the pandemic “continues to cause disruptions in blood collections and unprecedented fluctuations in the supply and demand for blood products.”

Now, harsh weather is worsening matters. In fact, the American Red Cross now is offering free $5 Amazon gift cards in an attempt to coax potential donors to venture outdoors this month. The nonprofit said in a Feb. 3 announcement:

“Over the past seven days, blood drives from coast-to-coast have been canceled due to severe winter weather, especially in the Northeast—impacting at least 4,600 donations that patients need to help them combat injury and illness, including COVID-19.”

So, if you can give, please do. As an added bonus, your donation may net you a free coronavirus antibody test. For more, check out “How to Know If You Have COVID-19 Antibodies.”

4. Boats

Boating
freevideophotoagency / Shutterstock.com

The high seas are one place the virus will have a hard time finding you, assuming you don’t end up on a cruise ship. But sailing out to your watery paradise has gotten tougher during the pandemic.

Boat sellers throughout Florida report waiting lists for new watercraft. Scott Ritter, who sells new boats at Ingman Marine in Port Charlotte, Florida, told the local newspaper this month that new orders could take four to six months to be delivered.

Lack of key supplies coupled with a surging demand once again are the sources of the problem.

5. New cars

Honda dealership
Azami Adiputera / Shutterstock.com

Being trapped inside for nearly a year probably has you itching to hit the open road. But if such plans rely on finding a new car, you may have to keep those dreams in neutral.

Japanese automakers Honda Motor and Nissan Motor, for example, expect to sell less product this year due to a global shortage of semiconductor chips. The chip-making slowdown — yes, due in part to the pandemic — means inventory will not meet demand.

Honda and Nissan expect to sell a combined 250,000 fewer cars in their current financial year. In an online press briefing, Seiji Kuraishi, Honda’s chief operating officer, said:

“Popular models that sell well were hit hard by semiconductor shortage. We needed to swap around and adjust production plans. But that wasn’t enough.”

Things are expected to improve in the second half of 2021.

6. Xbox consoles

Xbox Series X
Natanael Ginting / Shutterstock.com

Dedicated gamers might be forgiven for wondering aloud, “Pandemic? What pandemic?”

After all, millions of folks spend countless hours in their living room or basement playing video games, blissfully unconcerned about the world outside.

But a little cloud is floating into that gaming utopia: A Microsoft representative told The New York Times in late January that supply constraints could keep new Xbox consoles in short supply through at least June.

7. PlayStation 5 consoles

PlayStation 5
charnsitr / Shutterstock.com

So, you’re brokenhearted over the Xbox shortage when you have a lightbulb moment: “I’ll just get a PlayStation 5 to tide me over!”

Unfortunately, the same supply constraints bedeviling Microsoft are also making life difficult for PlayStation manufacturer Sony.

Don’t panic, gamers. The world outside is less frightening than you think. Honest.

8. Rural homes

Oregon rural home in the country
Rigucci / Shutterstock.com

Has the risk of living in a crowded city during a pandemic left you considering fleeing to the boonies? You are not alone.

Millions of Americans have suddenly warmed to the charms of country living. The number of homes for sale in rural areas nationwide plunged a record 44.4% year over year for the four weeks ending Jan. 21, according to real estate brokerage Redfin. The number of homes for sale in suburban areas fell 38.4% over the same period.

Those numbers compare with a far more modest 16.9% dip in urban neighborhoods. In a Jan. 29 announcement, Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather says:

“Homes in rural and suburban areas remain popular as the pandemic and remote work continue to motivate buyers to prioritize indoor and outdoor space over commute times and urban amenities.”

9. Lumber

Moving lumber
tvist / Shutterstock.com

So, new homes and rural homes are vanishing fast: Perhaps it makes sense to simply stay home and renovate your current abode.

Ah, if only it were so easy to escape the long arm of the pandemic. COVID-snarled supply chains — and heavy demand from consumers — have caused lumber supplies to fall. An October 2020 National Association of Home Builders survey found that 77% of remodelers reported a framing lumber shortage.

Last year’s West Coast wildfires didn’t help matters. As supply has fallen, prices have risen. Where have we heard that tale before?

10. Dogs

Woman working from home
Indypendenz / Shutterstock.com

The world went to the dogs in 2020 — literally. Families and individuals cooped up in their homes suddenly decided they wanted canine companionship.

We applaud their excellent taste, but all that love for puppies has created shortages of adoptable hounds.

The dearth of dogs has been a long time in coming. Yahoo reports that the last two decades have seen a surge in demand for pets, especially dogs.

11. Bicycles

Woman with bicycle
Zoom Team / Shutterstock.com

Finally, one of the oldest forms of transportation — the beloved bicycle — has suddenly become one of the scarcest.

Sales of adult ­leisure bikes soared 121% early in the pandemic, and the wheels came off the supply of new bikes as a result.

In mid-September, Jimmy Revard, co-owner of The Bike Line in Indianapolis, told Bicycling magazine:

“If a customer were to order a new bike today, the earliest we would likely receive it is December and maybe even as late as May.”

Things haven’t improved much since then. The bike and parts shortage is expected to last — brace yourself — until possibly 2022.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Credit report vs credit score: what’s the difference? – Lexington Law

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

When learning about your credit history, you’ll find it’s usually based on two factors: your credit score, which is a number between 300 and 850 used to grade your creditworthiness, and your credit report, which is a documentation of all the factors that make up your credit score. Learning to check and manage both your credit score and your credit report are important parts of maintaining your overall financial health.

chart comparing credit scores vs credit reports

What is a credit score?

Your credit score is a number between 300 and 850 that is used by lenders to grade your creditworthiness, or how good of a candidate you are for an extension of credit (i.e. a loan or credit card).

There are many different scoring models, but the one used most commonly to make credit decisions is the FICO® score. It offers a variety of specialized scores for credit cards, home loans and more. Another relatively common score issuer is VantageScore.

Credit scores are updated monthly and determined based on a variety of factors to predict how likely you are to be a responsible borrower, such as:

  • Your history of late and on-time payments
  • How long you’ve had your credit accounts
  • How much debt you have overall
  • The diversity of your credit accounts (across credit cards, mortgages, student loans, etc.)
  • How much money you owe compared to your credit limits
  • What percentage of your credit limit you’re currently using
  • How many new credit cards or loans you’ve applied for recently

All of these things weigh into one personal three-digit number. While scoring models vary, overall, anything above 800 is considered exceptional, the 740–799 range is considered very good and 670–739 is considered good. Any score below 670 could stand to be improved, and scores below 580 are considered very poor and will severely limit a person’s creditworthiness.

What is a credit report?

Your credit report is a documentation of all the historical factors that are used to calculate your credit score, but it doesn’t include the actual three-digit “grade” assigned to you each month. Credit reports list:

  • Every account you currently hold
  • All of your closed accounts
  • All hard inquiries into your credit
  • A list of both your late and on-time payments
  • A record of any accounts that needed to be sent to a collection agency

There are three credit bureaus that generate credit reports: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Annually, you can order one copy of your credit report for free from each bureau. It’s recommended to request these copies one at a time throughout the year and check regularly for any potential errors that could damage your credit and hurt your chances at getting a loan.

 Credit Score vs. Credit Report: What’s the Difference? A credit report shows your borrowing history; this information is then used to generate your credit score. Credit Score: Your credit score is a numerical grade of your creditworthiness at any given time. Credit Report: Your credit report may list every piece of your financial history that affects your creditworthiness.

Who uses credit scores and who uses credit reports?

When applying for a new line of credit, it’s important to know what your lender will be looking at: your credit score or credit report. Generally, here’s who will be looking at what:

  • Both credit report and credit score: Auto lenders, collection agencies, mortgage lenders
  • Only credit score: Credit card companies, landlords (occasionally)
  • Only credit report: Employers, insurers, landlords

No matter whether your lender will be looking at just your credit report or your credit score, it’s recommended to check both your score and report before applying for new credit. This way, you can examine your overall credit health and see if there are any potential issues in the way of you getting approved, or if applying for a new line of credit is a good idea at all.

Do people know the difference between a credit score and a credit report?

It’s important to be informed on what a credit score and credit report are, as well as how to monitor both and report any discrepancies. But how many people are actually getting this essential financial education?

We surveyed over 3,000 people to learn how many people know the key differences between a credit score and a credit report. Here are some key takeaways we found:

  • One in four people don’t know that there is a difference between a credit score and a credit report.
  • Less than 20 percent know how to read their credit report.
  • Seventy percent of people don’t know how long credit history remains on a credit report.

The first survey question asked whether or not there’s a difference between a credit score and a credit report.

  • In a group of over 1,000 respondents, just under 75 percent correctly answered that there is a difference between a credit score and credit report.
  • 83 percent of respondents aged 55 and older answered correctly.
  • 50 percent of respondents ages 18–24 knew the differences between a credit score and credit report.
Is there a difference between a credit score and a credit report? 1 in 4 people incorrectly believe there’s no difference between a credit score and credit report. 75% answered yes, there is a difference, while 25% answered no, there is no difference.

The second of the two survey questions quizzed participants on what is and isn’t true of a credit score or a credit report.

  • Across both surveys, just over 50 percent of respondents answered a majority of the six total choices incorrectly.
  • About 12 percent completed the quiz with one or no mistakes.
Most common credit report/score misconceptions based on survey results. Almost 70% of respondents don’t know how long late payments remain on their credit report; over a quarter believe a credit report also includes a credit score; less than 20% know how to determine if credit is good or bad using their credit report.

How do I access my credit score and credit report?

It’s recommended that you check both your credit report and credit score before applying for new credit, such as a home loan, a new credit card or a student loan. This gives you a chance to see what shape your credit is in and take steps to improve it if necessary.

You can access a free credit report from each of the three national credit bureaus (Experian, Transunion and Equifax) once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com. Once you have your credit reports, carefully check them for accuracy and any factors or accounts that could be hurting your credit score.

Contrary to popular belief, checking your credit scores does not make your score go down. You can access your score each month on a number of different banking websites, including your personal credit card site. Become familiar with your score and look out for any sudden dips that might signal possible negative items.

Whether you need to brush up on the basics of credit or are curious about what differentiates credit scores and reports, taking these steps to secure your financial future is important. Knowing these key differences can help you prepare for a financially healthy future and ensure you have the knowledge and the means to buy a house, take out a student loan or any other situation where your credit is involved.


Reviewed by Kenton Arbon, an Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Kenton Arbon is an Associate Attorney in the Arizona office. Mr. Arbon was born in Bakersfield, California, and grew up in the Northwest. He earned his B.A. in Business Administration, Human Resources Management, while working as an Oregon State Trooper. His interest in the law lead him to relocate to Arizona, attend law school, and graduate from Arizona State College of Law in 2017. Since graduating from law school, Mr. Arbon has worked in multiple compliance domains including anti-money laundering, Medicare Part D, contracts, and debt negotiation. Mr. Arbon is licensed to practice law in Arizona. He is located in the Phoenix office.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com