5 Myths (and 5 Truths) About Selling Your Home

True or false: All real estate advice is good advice. (Hint: It depends.)

Everyone has advice about the real estate market, but not all of that unsolicited information is true. So when it comes time to list your home, you’ll need to separate fact from fiction.

Below we’ve identified the top five real estate myths — and debunked them so you can hop on the fast track to selling your property.

1. I need to redo my kitchen and bathroom before selling

Truth: While kitchens and bathrooms can increase the value of a home, you won’t get a large return on investment if you do a major renovation just before selling.

Minor renovations, on the other hand, may help you sell your home for a higher price. New countertops or new appliances may be just the kind of bait you need to reel in a buyer. Check out comparable listings in your neighborhood, and see what work you need to do to compete in the market.

2. My home’s exterior isn’t as important as the interior

Truth: Home buyers often make snap judgments based simply on a home’s exterior, so curb appeal is very important.

“A lot of buyers search online or drive by properties before they even enlist my services,” says Bic DeCaro, a real estate agent at Westgate Realty Group in Falls Church, Virginia. “If the yard is cluttered or the driveway is all broken up, there’s a chance they won’t ever enter the house — they’ll just keep driving.”

The good news is that it doesn’t cost a bundle to improve your home’s exterior. Start by cutting the grass, trimming the hedges and clearing away any clutter. Then, for less than $50, you could put up new house numbers, paint the front door, plant some flowers or install a new, more stylish porch light.

3. If my house is clean, I don’t need to stage it

Truth: Tidy is a good first step, but professional home stagers have raised the bar. Tossing dirty laundry in the closet and sweeping the front steps just aren’t enough anymore.

Stagers make homes appeal to a broad range of tastes. They can skillfully identify ways to highlight your home’s best features and compensate for its shortcomings. For example, they might recommend removing blinds from a window with a great view or replacing a double bed with a twin to make a bedroom look bigger.

Of course, you don’t have to hire a professional stager. But if you don’t, be ready to use some of their tactics to get your home ready for sale — especially if staging is a trend where you live. An unstaged house will pale when compared to others on the market.

4. Granite and stainless steel appliances are old news

Truth: The majority of home shoppers still want granite counters and stainless steel appliances. Quartz, marble and concrete counters also have wide appeal.

“Most shoppers just want to steer away from anything that looks dated,” says Dru Bloomfield, a real estate agent with Platinum Living Realty in Scottsdale, Arizona. “When you a design a space, you need to decide if you’re doing it for yourself or for resale potential.”

She suggests that if you’re not planning to move anytime soon, decorate how you’d like. But if you’re planning to put your home on the market within the next couple of years, stick to elements with mass appeal.

“I recently sold a house where the kitchen had been remodeled 12 years ago, and everybody thought it had just been done because the owners had chosen timeless elements: dark maple cabinets, granite counters and stainless steel appliances.”

5. Home shoppers can ignore paint colors they don’t like

Truth: Moving is a lot of work, and while many home buyers realize they could take on the task of painting walls, they simply don’t want to.

That’s why one of the most important things you can do to update your home is apply a fresh coat of neutral paint. Neutral colors also help a property stand out in online photographs, which is where most potential buyers will get their first impression of your property.

Hiring a professional to paint the interior of a 2,000-square-foot house will cost about $3,000 to $6,000, depending on labor costs in your region. You could buy the paint and do the job yourself for $300 to $500. Either way, if a fresh coat of paint helps your home stand out in a crowded market, it’s probably a worthwhile investment.

Related:

Originally published April 1, 2014.

Source: zillow.com

Engagement Ring Cost – How Much of Your Salary Should You Spend?

So, you’ve decided to take the big step and propose to your sweetheart. Congratulations! It’s an exciting moment, but it’s also a nerve-wracking one.

Right now, your mind is probably teeming with questions: What’s the most romantic way to propose? Should you present a ring when you pop the question or hide it for your honey to find? And crucially, how much should you spend on it?

It isn’t just a problem for guys. In 2018, Brides magazine reported that record numbers of women are searching for ways to propose to their significant others — both male and female — and some of those proposals include a ring. But even for women expecting to receive a ring rather than give one, cost is an issue.

Getting married doesn’t just mean joining your lives. For most couples, it also usually means combining your finances. That means whatever sum your partner spends on your engagement ring is coming out of the money you’ll both have to live on in the future. It’s a decision that affects both of you.

The 2 Months’ Salary “Rule”

If you consult bridal magazines and other wedding-related resources, you’ll probably see many references to the “rule” that an engagement ring should cost one, two, or even three months’ worth of the bridegroom’s salary.

But did you ever wonder where this “tradition” came from? It was actually made up by De Beers, a cartel that controls most of the world’s diamond market.

According to the BBC, at the beginning of the 20th century, most engagement rings didn’t even contain diamonds. Beginning in the 1930s, De Beers ran an incredibly successful ad campaign to promote diamond engagement rings, which popularized the idea a ring should cost one month’s salary.

The campaign did so well De Beers pushed the concept even further in the 1980s, raising the suggested ring price for American consumers to two months’ salary. In Japan, it upped the ante still more, proposing three months’ salary as the benchmark price.

Clearly, this “tradition” doesn’t have a lot of history behind it. And yet, in less than 100 years, it’s become overwhelmingly pervasive. Not only do most engagement rings today contain diamonds, but according to The Knot, the amount the average American spent on one was $5,900 in 2019.

The average income for a single American that year was around $49,000, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, so the average ring price was between one and two months’ salary.

There’s one big problem with this formula: Most Americans don’t have this much cash to spare. According to a 2018 Bankrate survey, fewer than 30% of Americans even have the six months’ worth of living expenses experts recommend keeping in an emergency fund, let alone an extra one to two months’ salary to spend on a ring. And for single Americans, savings figures are even lower.

That means that to spend two or even one month’s salary on an engagement ring, most Americans must either drain their emergency savings or, worse still, start their married lives with debt. For many couples, that gets piled onto additional wedding debt and other debts they accumulated before their marriage, such as student loans.

This shared debt burden weighs on your finances throughout your married life. It hampers your credit scores, making it harder to buy your first home together. It could even affect your decisions about parenthood by putting the cost of having a baby out of their financial reach. Finally, based on a 2020 Fidelity study, it dramatically increases the chances you will fight about money.

In short, the De Beers ad’s message — that buying an expensive ring is the best way to get your marriage off to a happy start — has no basis in fact. In fact, according to a 2014 study at Emory University, the opposite is true. It found that men who spent $2,000 to $4,000 on their partners’ engagement rings were 1.3 times more likely to end up divorced than those who chose more modest rings priced between $500 and $2,000 — that’s an increased risk of 30%.


Setting Your Own Guidelines

As you can see, the two months’ salary rule is neither truly traditional nor particularly helpful. There’s no one-size-fits-all rule for how much to spend on an engagement ring. You have to figure it out based on your situation, factoring in both your finances and your partner’s expectations.

Learn What Your Partner Expects

Before you can even think about shopping for a ring, you need to know what kind of ring your partner wants. If you know them well — and you certainly should if you’re preparing to spend your lives together — you most likely have some idea what kind of jewelry they like.

But an engagement ring isn’t just any piece of jewelry. It’s a symbol of your love and commitment to each other. It’s something your partner is going to wear every day. You want it to be something they feel thrilled about and comfortable with.

Based on the DeBeers ads, it might seem like you can’t go wrong simply choosing the biggest diamond you can afford. However, that’s a vast oversimplification.

There are many differences among diamond rings, including the size and shape of the stone, the design, and the band metal. If your partner wants a gold ring with an emerald-cut solitaire diamond, presenting a platinum ring with a round diamond flanked by sapphires won’t be a pleasant surprise.

In fact, your partner might not want a diamond ring at all. Before the 1930s, most engagement rings didn’t contain diamonds. Maybe they’d prefer an old-fashioned ring with a different type of stone. Also, if they’re the socially conscious type, they may prefer to avoid diamonds because of all the environmental and human rights abuses associated with diamond mining.

It’s also not safe to assume your partner would prefer to have the largest ring possible. For one thing, it’s not the size or price of the ring that makes it meaningful. You could make a much better impression with a ring you had custom-designed to fit your partner’s taste than with a much bigger ring you simply picked out of a display case.

In a 2015 Brilliant Earth survey, nearly half of women and 30% of men said what mattered to them most about an engagement ring was its design, while only 6% of women and 8% of men said the size of the diamond mattered most.

Additionally, a frugal partner might actively hate the idea of spending thousands on a ring when you could put that money to more practical use. In a 2014 ERA Real Estate survey, 50% of women said they would rather skip the large engagement ring and put that money toward the down payment on a house — and 17% said they had already done so.

There are even some people who would prefer not to wear an engagement ring at all. When I got engaged to my husband, I told him I didn’t want a ring because I disliked the idea of wearing a ring when he wasn’t — as if I were spoken for, but he was still a free man until the wedding day.

Instead, we opted for the Elizabethan custom of wearing our wedding bands on our right hands until the ceremony, then switching them over — which also happened to be cheaper.

The easiest way to find out what your partner wants in an engagement ring is simply to ask. If you don’t want to spoil the surprise of the proposal, try strolling past a jewelry store while out on a walk and casually asking which rings in the window they like best. You can also try asking their friends or family if they’ve ever talked about what they want in an engagement ring.

Finally, pay attention to anything they mention on the subject in conversation. Even if you’re trying to keep your proposal plans a secret, there’s a good chance they have an inkling about your intentions. If so, they may be dropping a few hints to help guide your shopping.

Evaluate Your Finances

What kind of ring your partner wants is only half the equation. You also have to figure out how much you can afford to pay for it. That depends on both your financial situation and that of your partner. You’re going to be sharing a home and expenses once you’re married, so the money you spend on this ring is really coming from both of you.

That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to ask outright how much they think you should spend — unless you know your partner would appreciate that kind of upfront approach. But it’s essential the two of you discuss your finances before getting married, and that discussion can give you a better idea of how much you can reasonably afford to spend.

Talking about money may seem unromantic, but it’s something you need to be able to do as a married couple. If you’re ready to make a lifelong commitment to each other, you should be prepared to talk openly about your financial situation. Topics to discuss include:

  • Your Income. The more you make as a couple, both now and in the future, the more you can reasonably afford to spend on a ring. If you have to draw down your savings to buy it, you’ll be able to replenish it quickly. Talk with your partner about how much you each make now and about expectations for future earnings.
  • Your Expenses. You can’t use your earnings to pay for the ring if they’re already committed to other expenses. Talk about how much each of you currently spends on living expenses and how much you’ll spend as a married couple. Then consider how much of your income that will leave to contribute to savings.
  • Your Current Savings. It’s obviously important to know how much you both have right now. If you don’t have enough saved to pay for the ring with cash, you have to go into debt for it, which isn’t the best way to kick your marriage off on sound financial footing.
  • Your Debts. Going into debt for a ring is an even bigger problem if you or your partner already have other debts, such as student loans or credit card debt. Be candid with each other about your current debts and how much they cost each month. This information matters when you’re deciding what type of ring you can afford.
  • Your Financial Goals. Finally, consider what other financial goals you and your partner want to save for. Possibilities include your wedding, paying off debts, buying a home, starting a family, and putting your kids through college. When you list all your goals and consider how much they matter to you, suddenly, a big ring might not seem like such a high priority.

Final Word

If your partner’s preferences are pretty much in line with what you can afford, you have no problem. However, if the ring of your partner’s dreams is simply beyond your means right now, you’ll need to find some way to compromise.

That could mean settling for a smaller ring, waiting longer while you save up for a big one, or looking for ways to make that fancy ring more affordable.

However, don’t lose sight of the fact that the ring isn’t the most crucial part of the proposal. What matters most is the person doing the proposing.

If your partner really wants to be with you, it will be the proposal that makes them happiest — not the ring that accompanies it. Presenting a smaller or simpler ring isn’t going to be a deal breaker. And by choosing a ring that fits your budget, you can leave yourself and your partner more money to live happily ever after on.

While you’re at it, you can protect your future finances by looking for ways to save on your other wedding expenses. Check out our marriage archives for tons of ideas.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Confirmed: Amex to start charging $50 for most Centurion Lounge guests – The Points Guy


Confirmed: Amex to start charging $50 for most Centurion Lounge guests


Advertiser Disclosure


Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: thepointsguy.com

Could a $700 Amex Platinum card be worth it? – The Points Guy


Would a $700 Amex Platinum card be worth it? – The Points Guy


Advertiser Disclosure


Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: thepointsguy.com

[Rumor – Update] American Express To Increase Personal Platinum Annual Fee

Update 4/7/21: Given the recent confirmation regarding the Centurion lounge changes I feel more comfortable sharing the rest of this rumor from work4amex:

  • $695 annual fee
  • $300 equinox credit
  • $240 entertainment credit, $20 monthly (magazine/news subscriptions, video streaming services and audio/music streaming services)
  • $200 credit for prepaid hotel bookings
  • Annual CLEAR membership will replace TSA Precheck, but Global Entry seems like it’ll stay
  • $100 temp Resy credit

Original post: According to FT user ThroughTheGrapevine, American Express plans to increase the annual fee on the personal Platinum card in Q3 2021 for new accounts and existing accounts will have the current fee apply until January 2022. The fee is rumored to be increasing to $695, but it’s possible a $745 or $795 price point could apply as well. The aim is for benefits to shift from travel to lifestyle.

Earlier this year American Express sent out a survey regarding possible changes to the business card and a new annual fee of $695 so I wouldn’t be surprised if this annual fee increase does happen but I have no idea how reliable this poster is. An increased annual fee would also make it easier to introduce a new mid level card (AmEx Optio).

Source: doctorofcredit.com

IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card Review

Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.

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The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card from Chase is a hotel rewards credit card with a $89 annual fee. It’s ideal for frequent travelers who regularly stay with InterContinental Hotel Group brands, which includes thousands of Holiday Inn, Staybridge Inn, and Candlewood Suites properties in the U.S. and around the world.

Every purchase with this card earns points that can be redeemed for hotel stays at thousands of IHG properties worldwide, usually at rates ranging from $0.005 to $0.01 per point. Cardholders in good standing also get a host of useful perks at IHG hotels, including 1 reward night per year and automatic upgrade to Platinum Elite status, which accelerates point earnings and entitles members to complimentary room upgrades.

If you’re interested in alternatives to IHG Rewards Club Premier, look to hotel-specific rewards cards such as Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card from Chase. It may also be worth considering airline-specific credit cards such as United MileagePlus Explorer and general-purpose travel cards such as Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Key Features

Sign-up Bonus

Earn 140,000 bonus points when you spend at least $3,000 in eligible purchases during your first 3 months of cardmembership. That’s worth more than 10 free nights at participating IHG properties.

Earning IHG Rewards Club Points

This card earns rewards at these rates:

  • Every $1 spent at IHG properties earns an unlimited 10 points, for up to 25 points total on every $1 spent at IHG properties.
  • Purchases made at restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores earn an unlimited 2 points per $1.
  • All other purchases, including hotel stays at non-IHG hotels, earn an unlimited 1 point per $1.

Redeeming IHG Rewards Club Points

Points can be redeemed for free hotel stays at IHG properties, starting at a minimum of 10,000 points for lower-tier properties and 70,000 points for the highest-tier properties. If you don’t have enough points to pay for a full night’s stay, you can purchase up to 10,000 additional points at $0.007 apiece ($70 maximum) through IHG’s Points & Cash option. Redemption thresholds are subject to change at any time.

At redemption, point values usually range from $0.005 to $0.01, sometimes more or less. Points don’t expire as long as you redeem any or earn more – through card purchases or hotel stays – within any 12-month period.

Fourth Reward Night Free

When you book a reward stay of four nights or longer (paid entirely with points), you automatically get the fourth night free.

Annual Spend Bonus

When you spend at least $20,000 in purchases and make one additional purchase within the same calendar year, you get an additional 10,000 bonus points.

Point Purchase Subsidy

Enjoy a 20% discount on the purchase of IHG points with your IHG Rewards Club Premier card.

Anniversary Reward Night

Every year, you get 1 reward night good for use at thousands of properties worldwide. Redeeming your reward night doesn’t cost any points, but you don’t earn any additional points for the stay.

Platinum Elite Status Upgrade

As long as you remain a cardmember in good standing, you enjoy IHG Platinum Elite status. You do have to formally apply for this status after you receive your card, but it doesn’t cost anything to do so.

Platinum Elite status confers numerous benefits:

  • Priority check-in
  • Complimentary room upgrades whenever available
  • Guaranteed room availability with at least 72 hours’ advance notification
  • 50% point-earning bonus for all IHG hotel stays – for instance, a stay that would have earned 2,000 points earns 3,000 with Platinum Elite status

Important Fees

The annual fee is $89. There are no foreign transaction fees. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 5% and cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%.

Credit Required

This card requires good or excellent credit.

Advantages

  1. Generous Sign-up Bonus. This card has one of the most generous sign-up bonuses in the hotel rewards category – particularly at this relatively modest price point.
  2. Automatic Platinum Elite Status Upgrade. The IHG Rewards Club Premier Card comes with an automatic upgrade to Platinum Elite status, IHG’s second-highest frequent traveler status. Platinum Elite entitles you to 50% faster point earnings when you stay at IHG hotels, complimentary room upgrades whenever available, 72-hour guaranteed availability, and other perks. This benefit doesn’t cost anything extra, and its value is potentially huge for frequent travelers. By contrast, Marriott Bonvoy Boundless cardholders only earn Silver Elite status, a lower frequent traveler level that doesn’t include complimentary room upgrades, guaranteed room availability, or 50% faster point earnings.
  3. Save 20% on Purchases When You Buy Points With Your Card. If you need to buy additional IHG points with your card, you’ll save 20% on face value – not a bad subsidy for your award travel.
  4. 2x Points Categories Are Broad. The IHG Rewards Club Premier Card’s categories that reward 2 points per $1 spent cover broad, everyday expenses: gas, groceries, and restaurants. This is a big advantage for frequent travelers seeking a boost on everyday spending.
  5. No Foreign Transaction Fee. IHG Rewards Club Premier cardholders don’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees. That’s great news for cardholders who regularly travel abroad. By contrast, Citi Hilton Honors Visa Signature has a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Disadvantages

  1. Has an $89 Annual Fee. This card’s $89 annual fee applies as soon as you open your account.
  2. Inflexible Redemption Options. While you can redeem your IHG Rewards Club points at more than 5,000 properties worldwide, there’s not much else you can do with them. You can’t redeem them for merchandise, statement credits, gift cards, or even incidental purchases at participating hotels. Citi Hilton Honors Reserve allows you to redeem for hotel incidentals, while U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards allows you to redeem for general merchandise and cash equivalents, such as gift cards and statement credits, in addition to travel purchases.
  3. Limited Travel and Experience Benefits. Although it does come with an automatic upgrade to Platinum Elite status, the IHG Rewards Club Premier Card offers few travel and experience benefits not directly related to IHG hotels or the rewards system. For instance, it doesn’t have a concierge service, travel protection insurance, or exclusive/VIP event access (these things aren’t included in Platinum Elite status). By contrast, Citi Hilton Honors Reserve comes with 24/7 travel booking assistance and exclusive access to a raft of special events, such as concerts and sports contests.
  4. Potentially Low Point Values at Redemption. Although the value of IHG Rewards Club points varies based on the monetary cost of the hotel stay for which they’re redeemed, the range generally works out to $0.005 to $0.01, and IHG charges $0.007 per point when purchased through Points & Cash. U.S. Bank FlexPerks points are reliably worth $0.02 apiece, and points accumulated with Chase Sapphire Preferred are worth up to $0.0125 when redeemed for travel at Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal.

Final Word

InterContinental Hotel Group isn’t a well-known name, but some of its hotel brands certainly are. If you’ve ever stayed at a Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, or any other related property, you’ve stayed at an IHG hotel. Depending on how often you travel and how frequently you encounter IHG-branded properties along the way, this could be a powerful rewards card to keep in your wallet – even if you use another product, such as an airline rewards or cash back rewards card, as your primary card.

On the other hand, the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card isn’t great for infrequent travelers, cardholders who prefer not to deal with annual fees, cardholders who prefer more flexible rewards programs with a wider variety of redemption options, and travelers looking for value-added perks such as concierge service and VIP access. Of course, if you prefer another hospitality family – say, Hilton or Marriott – there’s sure to be a suitable card for you as well, as many other hotel rewards credit cards are available.

Source: moneycrashers.com

American Express Will No Longer Offer Free Guest Access To Centurion Lounges (Starting Feb 2023)

American Express has updated the terms for Centurion lounges and beginning February 1, 2023 you’ll no longer get to guests access for free (terms have now been updated again and don’t show these terms, but you can view a screenshot below). Instead a fee of $50 will be charged per guest. If cardholders spend $75,000 within the prior calendar year (or current calendar year) the $50 fee will be waived.

This is an interesting change as for some people it’ll actually be a positive as it should help to reduce overcrowding. For others this will be a huge negative as Centurion Lounge access with guest access is the main perk of the card. This seems to favor business travelers rather than leisure travelers. This was also one of the rumors surrounding the annual fee increase on the personal Platinum card.

Source: doctorofcredit.com

Chase & United To Launch New Co-branded Card ‘Chase United Quest Card’ [Can Now PC To This Card]

Update 4/5/21: Existing cardholders can now PC to this card. Hat tip to Hippo387

Recently Chase has sent out a notice to Chase United Platinum Class Visa cardholders (no longer accepts new applicants) that they will be product changed into a new card called Chase United Quest Card on March 21, 2021. It looks like this new Quest card will also accept new applicants and know the following details:

  • Annual fee of $250
  • $125 credit on card anniversary, good for United purchases.
  • Up to 10,000 miles back. Get 5,000 miles back for each award flight per year (up to two). Based on cardmember year, not calendar.
  • Card earns at the following rates:
    • 3x points per $1 spent on United purchases
    • 2x points per $1 spent on all other travel purchases
    • 2x points per $1 spent on select streaming and restaurant purchases
    • 1x point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Free first and second checked bag
  • Priority boarding and premier upgrades on award tickets

The Platinum Class card had a $140 annual fee and a companion travel certificate, but no miles refund or $125 credit. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of sign up bonus is offered on this card.

Hat tip to TPG

Source: doctorofcredit.com