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LoanDepot Mortgage Review 2021

Sage Mortgage is an online mortgage broker that works with multiple wholesale lenders. The broker was founded in 2020.

The post LoanDepot Mortgage Review 2021 appeared first on The Simple Dollar.


11 Side Hustles That Can Make You Money

We could all use a little extra money, and a good side hustle is one way to get it. A side hustle could help you save enough for a down payment on a car or house, fund that vacation you’ve always wanted, boost your investment portfolio, help you pay down debt or whatever you need some spare cash for.

In an ideal world, you could put your money to work and enjoy a truly passive income, or your side hustle would be so lucrative that it could finally become your main gig. But even if you have to keep your day job, a side hustle can make you money in an area you’re passionate about.

A side hustle is something you do in addition to your main job, so the best ones don’t require a lot of time, give you flexibility in when you work and can help you earn a decent amount of cash. The ideas below include a mix of low or flexible time commitment and good value for the amount of effort likely needed.

Top side hustles ideas to help you earn more

1. Walking dogs

Walking dogs sounds so old school, but it can offer a better payout than you might think. Plus, you can scale the business at least a little. Pet owners are likely to be wealthier than average (according to at least one study), and a busy pet owner in a city might not have time to walk their pooch. So they may be willing to pay you to do the job regularly — and if you coordinate things right, you may be able to walk a few dogs at a time, doubling or tripling the money you make in the same period.

If pets aren’t your thing, you could take a turn as a house sitter. While some homeowners may pay in cash, others may be away for months and offer you a place to stay, helping you save on what is probably your biggest expense.

2. Selling in an online marketplace

People are familiar with third-party selling sites such as eBay, Etsy or Amazon, but you can take it upscale by selling on a site such as Poshmark, which offers new and used fashion items. An advantage of going higher end is that you may be able to earn more for the same amount of work.

You could sell items from others who don’t have the time or ability to do it themselves. But when you develop a deeper knowledge of the market, you could take it a step further by buying the top items directly from clients and then earning that profit margin yourself.

3. Speaking engagements

Are you a master of motivation, a doyen of design or a ninja of cybersecurity? Take your expert skills and knowledge to an audience that’s willing to pay for your time. You’ll need to establish authority (through social media, blogs, books, videos or something else) and likely grow your audience first, but then you may be able to monetize that. Find a conference that’s willing to pay you to talk about what you love and then repeat the gig at new venues and for new audiences.

4. Tutoring

Everyone wants to ace the SAT or ACT or even just their next exam. Take your knowledge of the subject area and teach someone how to achieve success there. Nowadays you may even be able to do it from the safety and comfort of your own home through Zoom or other video conferencing software. If you have skills for standardized entrance exam tests for professional schools such as the GMAT or LSAT, you might be able to take things upmarket and turn an even greater profit on your time and skills.

5. Freelance writing

Freelance writing can be an attractive side hustle if you’re looking to fit in some work when you have time. It’s an even better setup if it’s in a specialized field with few competitors so that wages remain higher. Find a niche to write about, establish a reputation for turning in clean copy that needs few changes and then scale up as much as you want. You could turn that side hustle into writing about something you love or even a full-time position when you’re a known authority.

Is writing not your thing? Do the equivalent in media as a freelance video editor. Establish your credentials and then specialize in a subject area or two that you love.

6. Open a mobile business

Consider opening a mobile business for services that a user might not be able to travel to get. For example, consider a mobile service for replacing broken glass for windows in houses or cars. Schedule an appointment ahead of time and show up to fix the issue. You could focus on business outside of normal hours to establish a competitive edge and still keep your main gig.

Another option on the mobile theme could be a car detailing service. Bring your gear and get someone’s ride ready to roll in style.

7. Ride-sharing

Ride-sharing has become popular in recent years, though COVID-19 has helped put a damper on it, at least for the moment. But one benefit is the flexible hours. You may be able to work around your schedule, limiting your availability to nights or weekends, for example. Many people opt for a major ride-sharing player such as Uber or Lyft, or you may also be able to set up with a regional player.

8. Moving stuff

In a growing economy people are moving all the time, even if it’s only across town. Set yourself up as someone who can show up at any time and move that heavy item around the block or to the other side of town in your unused truck. You could expand into storing things for people while they’re in the process of moving from one residence to another.

9. Set up an online store

It’s never been easier to set up an online store through a service such as Shopify, and when you get things rolling, you really can make money while you sleep. It’s tough to beat that flexibility. Of course, the hard part is finding the products that consumers can’t live without and getting that community of people to your site. But building an online store is the kind of thing you could work on in your spare time and build out incrementally as you learn the ropes.

Bottom line

The best side hustles let you earn good money on your own terms, but it can take time to build up your side gig into something worthwhile. You’ll need to inform people of what you offer and show that you reliably deliver whatever you promise. From there you can see how big you can build your side hustle and whether it can become something even more lucrative.

Learn more:


Hippo Home Insurance Review

Hippo is a relatively new insurance carrier that sells home and condo insurance. The company uses a modern, technology-driven approach to offer innovative coverages and a host of available discounts. The company even offers a free smart home kit to eligible customers, with a discount built in as soon as it is activated.

With Hippo, you can get a home insurance quote in about a minute. But is Hippo’s insurance right for you? Bankrate’s insurance editorial team has reviewed the company’s coverage options, discounts and third-party rankings to help you make an educated decision about your insurance coverage.

Hippo home insurance

Hippo understands how reliant modern customers are on technology. The company offers modern coverage options, like increased limits on electronics and appliances, that might help you feel more secure in your insurance coverage.

Types of coverage

Home insurance policies are packages of numerous converges. Hippo offers several types of home insurance policies, so you have options to choose the policy that fits your needs.

In addition to the standard home insurance coverages like dwelling coverage, personal property coverage, liability coverage and loss of use coverage, Hippo offers several unique options that you may be able to add to your policy for extra protection:

  • Computer and home office coverage: Hippo offers four times the limit of other companies for your computer and home office equipment. This may be especially appealing if you work from home.
  • Water backup coverage: If water backs up in a sewer or drain line and damages your home or belongings, this coverage is designed to pay for the damages up to your policy limit.
  • Appliances and electronics coverage: Hippo knows that homes are more technologically advanced than they used to be. You may be able to get coverage for your appliance systems and electronics.
  • Enhanced rebuilding cost: If your home is destroyed, you may have the option to receive up to 25% more than your dwelling coverage amount to rebuild it.
  • Personal property replacement cost: This option is designed to pay for the full replacement cost of your belongings rather than factoring in depreciation.
  • Service line coverage: If the water, gas or sewer lines between your house and the street are damaged or worn, this coverage may help pay for the repairs.
  • Hippo Home Care: Although it is not insurance coverage, Hippo offers an exclusive Home Care program that can help you fix problems around the house, hire contractors and get recommendations for professionals in your area.

Because Hippo writes coverage in many states, options could vary depending on where you live. The best way to determine what coverages are available to you is to get a quote online or talk to a Hippo agent.

Hippo home insurance discounts

Hippo offers numerous ways for you to reduce your premium. And to help you achieve the best rate possible, Hippo calculates the discounts you qualify for during the online quote process.

Discounts include:

  • Early signing discount: If you purchase a Hippo home insurance policy at least eight days before it goes into effect, you might earn a discount.
  • HOA discount: If your home falls under the governance of an HOA, you may qualify for a discount on your home insurance policy. This is because HOA quality standards may make homes less susceptible to damage or theft.
  • New home discount: If your home is newly built or you have purchased your home within the last 12 months, you might save on your premium.
  • No mortgage discount:If you are mortgage-free, you may qualify for this discount on your home insurance.
  • Smart home discount: Hippo provides discounts for homes with smart devices such as smart alarm systems and smoke detectors. Hippo has partnered with Xfinity to offer even greater savings for its customers. Xfinity customers qualify for a special homeowners rate with Hippo and can earn discounts up to 25%, depending on the number of Xfinity smart home devices they install in their homes. If you qualify, Hippo may even send you a free smart home kit and give you a discount once it is activated.

Just like with the coverage options, available discounts may vary depending on where in the country you live.

Where does Hippo offer home insurance?

Although Hippo is expanding its reach, the company does not currently offer home and condo insurance in every state. Currently, coverage is not available in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, West Virginia, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The availability of products, coverages and discounts may vary by state.

In June 2020, Hippo acquired Spinnaker Insurance Company, a nationwide property insurance company licensed in all 50 states. Although Spinnaker will continue to operate independently, the insurer will underwrite some of Hippo’s policies, enabling Hippo to expand its market.

Hippo and Metromile partnership

In May 2021, Hippo and Metromile announced a partnership to provide consumers with a bundling discount. Hippo exclusively sells home and condo insurance, while Metromile sells pay-per-mile auto insurance. By purchasing your home or condo coverage from Hippo and your auto coverage from Metromile, you may qualify for a discount of up to 15% on both policies.

Hippo ratings, reviews, customer satisfaction and complaints

Hippo’s insurance policies are underwritten by Canopius U.S. Insurance, Spinnaker Insurance Company and Topa Insurance Company. All three companies have earned an A- (Excellent) financial rating with AM Best.

Of over 2,000 reviews on its website, Hippo is rated 4.9 out of 5.0. Customers say the coverage is affordable, easy to obtain and that the customer service agents are responsive and helpful.

Who is Hippo Insurance a good option for

Hippo home insurance is a great choice for people who own a smart home and folks who operate a home office. Hippo allows you to obtain increased coverage for computers, home office equipment, technology and appliances, which could be helpful for customers living in upgraded homes. Hippo’s Xfinity partnership offers significant savings by providing reduced rates for Xfinity customers and discounts for expanded smart home systems.

Frequently asked questions

Why do I get a discount for smart home devices?

Insurance premiums are based on risk. Smart home devices may serve as an early warning system for dangerous situations, like smoke, fires, water damage and home invasions. The early warning could help you to mitigate the damage, meaning that the insurance company will have less damage to pay for during a claim. Because of the reduced risk, you may qualify for a discount.

How does Hippo handle insurance claims?

To file a claim with Hippo, you can call 855-999-9746 or email [email protected] Your case will be assigned to a Claims Concierge. This person will be your sole point of contact during the claim process, so you know exactly who to go to with questions and concerns. Your Claims Concierge will explain the claim process and let you know how to proceed at each step.

Does Hippo sell auto insurance?

No, Hippo only sells home and condo insurance. However, Hippo and Metromile recently paired up to offer their customers a bundling discount. If you purchase your home or condo insurance with Hippo and your auto insurance with Metromile, you may save money on both policies.


Reasons Not To Refinance Your Home

Refinancing has become a popular decision for homeowners in 2020, as interest rates are at historic lows. You might hear about friends or family refinancing and wonder if you should be doing the same. 

While refinancing can be an effective way to reduce your mortgage interest rate or monthly payment, there are some situations in which refinancing might be a bad idea. If you’ve been considering it, you may want to keep these situations in mind and consider whether refinancing is really the right financial move for you.

In this article

Is refinancing worth it?

Refinancing your mortgage is the process of replacing your existing home loan with a new one. This new mortgage comes with a new interest rate and new payment terms, and often a new lender. You’re probably wondering why people do it.

When is it worth it to refinance your mortgage?

One of the most popular reasons to refinance is to reduce your mortgage interest rate. Rates in 2020 are historically low, and many people are taking advantage of this to lock in lower interest rates on their mortgages.

Someone might also refinance a mortgage to lower their monthly payments. If your financial situation has changed and your current mortgage payment has become unaffordable, refinancing and extending your loan term can reduce your monthly payment.

Other reasons to refinance might include removing PMI if you’ve increased your equity in your home, changing your loan type (switching from a variable to a fixed rate, or vice versa) or accessing some cash with a cash-out refinance.

[ Read: Best Refinance Rates ]

Reasons not to refinance 

Refinancing can be an effective way to save money over the life of your mortgage. But refinancing isn’t for everyone — there are some situations where it just doesn’t make sense.

Costs behind refinancing

Refinancing your mortgage comes with a lot of additional costs, both in the short-term and long-term. Refinancing won’t save you money right away. Because of the closing costs, it’ll likely take you years to break even. Plus, if you extend the life of your mortgage or refinance when you have little equity in the house, interest and private mortgage insurance can also be costly.

Closing costs

Just like with any other mortgage closing, you’ll have to pay closing costs to finalize your refinance. Closing costs can amount to between 2% and 5% of your loan amount on average — or from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.

Typical closing costs include:

  • Loan application fee
  • Appraisal fee
  • Inspection fee
  • Origination fee
  • Attorney fees

Most of the time, closing costs are due at the time you sign the final loan documents. If you’re thinking of refinancing to put more money in your pocket, be aware that it could be years before you break even.

Long-term costs

In addition to the closing costs you’ll pay, there are other costs to refinance your mortgage as well. First, you may actually end up paying more in interest in the long-run. Let’s say you have a 30-year mortgage that you’re currently 15 years into repayments on. You’ve already paid a considerable amount in interest.

Now let’s say that you decide to refinance into a new 30-year mortgage. The lower refinance rate may not help you in that case because you’ve doubled the amount of time it’ll take you to finish paying off your mortgage.

Refinancing can also be costly when you have less than 20% equity in your home. In that case, you’ll likely have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), for many years, so it may be worth waiting until you have more equity in your home.

Your credit score needs improvement

Your credit score is going to be one of the most important factors in determining whether you can get a refinance loan. Even if you can qualify for a loan with a bad score, you probably won’t be eligible for the best interest rates. At that point, the refinance might not be worth it.

If your credit score needs some improvement, you’d probably be better served spending some time boosting your score. A few ways you can increase your credit score are to:

  • Make all of your monthly payments on time
  • Reduce your credit utilization, either by paying off debt or increasing your available credit
  • Find any dispute any errors on your credit report

You aren’t in it for the long run

Because of the additional costs, it can take years to break even on your refinance. If you aren’t planning to stay in the home long enough to enjoy the perks of the lower interest rate, then a refinance might not be the best option for you. 

Run some numbers and figure out how long you would have to stay in the house to save money — and then decide whether you can commit to staying for that long.

To figure out how long it’ll take you to break even on your refinance, divide your closing costs by your total monthly savings. You can also use a mortgage refinance break-even calculator to help you do the math.

Tips for refinancing

Are you considering refinancing your mortgage? Here are a few tips you’ll want to follow as you get started.

[ Read: How to Refinance Your Mortgage ]

Decide why you want to refinance.

Are you refinancing in the hopes of getting a lower interest rate? Or is your goal to lower your monthly payment? Go into the process knowing why you really want to refinance. That way, you’ll know exactly what type of loan offer you’ll need to make a refinance worth it.

Shop around for the best rates.

Between traditional banks, credit unions and online lenders, there are plenty of options available for mortgage lenders. Spend some time shopping around to make sure you get the best rate.

Pull your credit report beforehand.

The last thing you want is to apply for a refinance loan and find there’s an unwelcome surprise on your credit report that may prevent you from getting a good deal. Pull your credit report ahead of time so you know what to expect.

Do the math and decide if it’s worth it.

Depending on the type of deal you can get on your refinance, it’s not always worth it. While you may be able to get a lower interest rate, the other associated expenses may mean you’ll still pay more over time. Do the math to ensure that you’re accomplishing your ultimate goal with the refinance.

Compare top mortgage lenders

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We are an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. Our goal is to help you make smarter financial decisions by providing you with interactive tools and financial calculators, publishing original and objective content, by enabling you to conduct research and compare information for free – so that you can make financial decisions with confidence. The offers that appear on this site are from companies from which receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site including, for example, the order in which they appear. The Simple Dollar does not include all card/financial services companies or all card/financial services offers available in the marketplace. The Simple Dollar has partnerships with issuers including, but not limited to, Capital One, Chase & Discover. View our full advertiser disclosure to learn more.


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We are an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. Our goal is to help you make smarter financial decisions by providing you with interactive tools and financial calculators, publishing original and objective content, by enabling you to conduct research and compare information for free – so that you can make financial decisions with confidence. The offers that appear on this site are from companies from which receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site including, for example, the order in which they appear. The Simple Dollar does not include all card/financial services companies or all card/financial services offers available in the marketplace. The Simple Dollar has partnerships with issuers including, but not limited to, Capital One, Chase & Discover. View our full advertiser disclosure to learn more.


USAA Home Insurance Review

USAA, a home insurance company that caters to military members, veterans and their families, consistently ranks well for customer satisfaction, whether you look at J.D. Power’s scores or our own SimpleScore. On the downside, it does not offer in-person agents.

In this USAA home insurance review, we look at what we love about the insurance provider, what could be better and a few of its competitors. We also lay out where USAA insurance stands on our proprietary SimpleScore.

Our methodology

To compare how USAA insurance for veterans and military members compares to other carriers, we awarded the insurer with a SimpleScore after examining the factors that matter most to customers like discounts, coverage options, customer satisfaction, support and website accessibility.

We also looked at how its competitors did with SimpleScore, as well as how they did with third-party reviewers, such as J.D. Power and Consumer Reports.

Great for Customer Satisfaction – USAA

While USAA offers its products and services to a niche customer base of military members, veterans and their families, this insurance carrier’s fame for superior customer satisfaction is practically unmatched.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


Standard & Poor’s



4.6 / 5.0

SimpleScore USAA 4.6

Discounts 3

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 5

Accessibility 5

  • Highest ranking in customer satisfaction
  • Understands the needs of military policyholders
  • Affordable coverage
  • Only available to military personnel and their family members

Owning a home is a big investment. Therefore, getting financial protection that’ll help you repair or replace your major investment is a wise choice. Home insurance is the best and most affordable way to ensure that your home (and its contents) are covered in case of loss or damage. This USAA home insurance review will provide you with a comprehensive look at the insurance company, which ranks on top consistently for customer satisfaction. To compare how USAA insurance for veterans and military members compares to other carriers, we awarded the insurer with a SimpleScore after examining the factors that matter most to customers like discounts, coverage options, customer satisfaction, support and website accessibility.

America’s top-rated home insurance

  • Policies starting at just $25/month
  • Sign up in seconds, claims paid in minutes
  • Zero hassle, zero paperwork
In this article

What we like about USAA

There’s a lot to like about USAA. If we had to keep it simple and stick to a couple of points, we’d have to say customer service and coverage are what set the insurer apart from the competition.

Stellar customer satisfaction 

J.D. Power conducts in-depth customer satisfaction surveys every year, asking policyholders what they like most about their insurance company. When members of the J.D. Power evaluate USAA reviews from customers, USAA beats out all other insurance companies every year. Even though USAA is limited to military personnel and relatives, it’s the third-largest insurance company in the country.

Vast coverage options 

USAA’s coverage is excellent. Insuring your home through USAA means you’ll be covered for nearly every peril and can also add flood insurance. Unlike many homeowners insurance companies, your home is covered in full at replacement cost, with no depreciation factored in. This means you’ll be able to purchase or rebuild with new items and materials.

Who should get this policy

Anyone who is privileged enough to qualify for coverage through military ties should put USAA on the shortlist of home insurance companies.

[ Read: How to Find Cheap Home Insurance ]

Things to consider

As with any insurance product, there are always some drawbacks you should be aware of before you buy.

Failure to maintain risk management 

USAA may shine when it comes to customer satisfaction, but it’s under a Consent Order with the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The insurer must comply by addressing concerns about a failure to implement and maintain appropriate risk management for its size, as well as not properly securing its IT systems.

Lack of live agents 

If you prefer to work with a local agent to help you with your homeowners insurance needs, USAA may disappoint. The insurer doesn’t have offices or a network of agents available. You’ll need to manage your coverage through the website, mobile app or by calling customer service.

Who shouldn’t get this policy

Traditional policyholders who prefer to let an agent file claims on their behalf, as well as handle other details of their home insurance should skip USAA insurance for veterans.

America’s top-rated home insurance

  • Policies starting at just $25/month
  • Sign up in seconds, claims paid in minutes
  • Zero hassle, zero paperwork

How we analyzed USAA home insurance

Here’s a closer look at the five most important elements behind this USAA home insurance review and SimpleScore.


  • Claims-free: Save as much as 10% off your home insurance premium when you don’t have any claims for five years or more. 
  • Firewise: Member communities of the Firewise program that have minimized their wildfire risk qualify.
  • Good payment history: Pay your bills on time and you’ll get rewarded with lower home insurance rates.
  • Home-age: Newer homes will save on home insurance coverage.
  • Impact-resistant roof: A higher-resistance roof reduces your premiums.
  • Loyalty: The longer you’ve been a member of USAA, the more you’ll save.
  • Multipolicy: USAA provides other types of insurance. When you bundle home and auto insurance, you may save up to 10% on your insurance bill.
  • Protective device: Homes equipped with theft and fire alarm systems will qualify for the discount.

[ See: What Home Insurance Discounts Are Available? ]


  • Standard coverage: Includes replacement-cost coverage for your property and home’s structure, as well as limited liability insurance for lawsuits. In addition, your property is covered wherever in the world you’re deployed.
  • Flood insurance: Available as an add-on for areas at risk of flooding.
  • Earthquake coverage: Earthquake insurance is not included in a standard policy because not all areas are prone to earthquakes. It’s available as an add-on for at-risk areas.
  • Landlord coverage: If you rent your home, your home is covered and lost income included without the need for a separate policy.
  • Personal property riders: If you own higher-value jewelry, electronics or special items such as art, collectibles or firearms, this rider will cover you above the limits of standard home insurance.

Customer Satisfaction

USAA has been highly ranked by most rating companies. Take a look at it’s ratings below.

  • AM Best: A++
  • BBB: A-
  • J.D. Power: 889/1,000
  • Moody’s: Aaa
  • S&P: AA+


USAA offers plenty of ways to get support if an issue were to arise with your policy or if you need to file a claim. You can contact them by phone, email and through the USAA Mobile App.


USAA doesn’t have offices available or local agents but you can file claims online or through the claims phone number. The best way to contact USAA is using the phone numbers available on its site. The insurer doesn’t provide live chat, but you can manage many basics through the mobile app. In addition, the USAA blog and resource pages provide advice on insurance.

USAA home insurance vs. the competition

Great for accessibility – Geico

Geico is not a major provider of home insurance, although we found that it ranks well in support and accessibility, according to our SimpleScore.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


Standard & Poor’s



3.4 / 5.0

SimpleScore Geico 3.4

Discounts 2

Coverage Options 2

Customer Satisfaction 3

Accessibility 5

Geico got its start providing insurance coverage to government employees and provides affordable home insurance to a broader customer base than USAA. You don’t have to be a government contractor or military personnel to get coverage. The issue is, Geico doesn’t underwrite all its policies — you may have coverage from a different insurer than you expected when you choose Geico.

Great for in-person service – State Farm

One of the largest home insurance providers in the country, State Farm offers independent agents across the U.S., something you might value if you prefer to be face-to-face.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


Standard & Poor’s



4 / 5.0

SimpleScore State Farm 4

Discounts 2

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 3

Accessibility 5

State Farm ranks high in customer service, but not as high as USAA. Nevertheless, if you can’t qualify for USAA membership, State Farm is a great option. The insurance carrier is the largest in the country for good reason — State Farm is known for its top-notch service, variety of coverages and user-friendly website and mobile app.

Great for customer support – Progressive

While not at the top in customer satisfaction, according to J.D. Power, Progressive scores 5 out of 5 in support and accessibility in our SimpleScore.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


Standard & Poor’s



4.2 / 5.0

SimpleScore Progressive 4.2

Discounts 3

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 3

Accessibility 5

When comparing Progressive to USAA, the main thing to consider is who you’ll be dealing with. USAA writes its own policies. Progressive and Geico both partner with a variety of insurance companies, meaning you’ll ultimately need to deal with a different insurance provider. Still, Progressive is worth considering if you’re on a strict budget and the cheapest home insurance is a priority — Progressive has more homeowners insurance discounts than USAA.

Getting a USAA insurance quote

USAA homeowners insurance is lauded for being affordable. Too many factors come into play that could affect your homeowners insurance rate to ballpark one. The main factors that will determine the cost of your USAA home insurance include the declared value of your home and its contents, your claims history and the ZIP code.

Location can make a huge difference in your premiums. If you live in an area at risk for wildfires or with higher-than-average crime or theft, your home insurance premiums may be considerably higher.

[ Read: The Average Cost of Home Insurance ]

USAA online and mobile app

USAA provides policyholders with a mobile app and online access, but the insurance carrier isn’t doing anything revolutionary when it comes to the digital sphere. Still, the website and app make up for the lack of USAA local agents and offices.

A unique feature other insurance carriers don’t offer is the USAA community. The section of the USAA website includes a blog about insurance, related news and financial planning. You’ll also have access to the USAA community where you can ask other service members questions about finance, insurance services, claims and more.

USAA auto and life insurance

Besides USAA homeowners insurance, this company provides a variety of other insurance coverages and financial services so you can handle coverage and banking all in one place.

Auto insurance

USAA provides the same high level of service when it comes to car insurance. Bundle more than one policy or vehicle to maximize the savings on your insurance needs. USAA auto insurance is designed for military personnel. It’s the only insurer that provides you with coverage if you drive your car overseas. Or you can leave your car behind and receive a price reduction for storing your car while you’re away.

Life insurance

If you have loved ones who depend on you, a life insurance policy from USAA can provide them with a cash payout to cover bills and funeral expenses, pay off a home mortgage or fund college for the children you leave behind. USAA provides low-cost term life insurance or permanent coverage through its whole life insurance policy as an option.

[ Next: How to Compare Home Insurance Policies ]

Bundling discounts

When you bundle auto insurance, you may receive up to 10% on the overall cost of your home and auto insurance. Best of all, you can take advantage of multiple discounts, such as safe driver and new home discounts, in addition to the premium reduction you’ll receive when you bundle your insurance.

USAA in the news

  • USAA pays dividends to auto insurance policyholders. The insurer announced $800 million would go back to members, equivalent to 20% off premiums for three months. It recently announced another round of dividends amounting to $270 million.
  • USAA has signed a deal with Charles Schwab to provide USAA members with wealth management and financial services through the brokerage firm.
  • In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, USAA’s claim process is now nearly 100% virtual from start to finish.

We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the home insurance providers we recommend. Contact us at [email protected] with comments or questions.


Why You Should Buy Less House Than You Can Afford

When it comes to real estate, the more you spend, the more money everyone makes. And it happens on every level of your home purchase.

The costs start adding up once you find the perfect place. According to the National Association of Realtors, real estate agents get paid by taking a percentage of the purchase price of your home. In other words, the more you spend, the bigger the payday. And the bigger the loan, the higher the closing costs and borrowing fees tend to be – a benefit that goes directly from your pocket to your lender’s.

In case you were wondering, this is why your real estate professional may pay little attention when you tell them you only want to spend X number of dollars on a new home. It’s not that they aren’t professional, or that they don’t care about your financial situation; it’s just that they only stand to benefit if your budget creeps up a few dollars here or there.

And what’s a few thousand dollars between friends?

In this article

How much to spend on a house

I know – I’ve been there. When my husband and I moved to a new town last year, our income qualified us to spend 300% more than we planned. And even though we told our Realtor what our intentions were, it didn’t stop her from suggesting houses outside our comfort zone. In fact, I remember having plenty of conversations about it, and getting advice like this:

“You know, for every $1,000 you spend, your payment will only go up $16.”

“Your kids are getting older – you need a house you can grow into.”

“Interest rates are so low. You can get a lot more house for your money in today’s market.”

In the end, we bought exactly what we wanted, and actually spent less than we planned. And it didn’t end up that way just because we’re cheap; we based our decision on our shared beliefs and goals.

Still, the principles that steered us toward a less expensive home don’t just apply to us; they could apply to your situation, too. There are some really good arguments against borrowing as much as you possibly can. Here are some of them:

What goes up might come down

Decades ago, most people believed housing prices would keep climbing for eternity. I remember my mom telling me years ago that, when she and my dad bought their first home, their Realtor pushed them to borrow as much as possible.

“The more you buy, the more appreciation you will see over time,” they were told.

And that notion made sense at the time. After all, land is a limited commodity, and a growing population will always need somewhere to live. Housing prices should go up forever, in theory. The problem? Just because they should doesn’t mean they will stay that way.

In fact, the housing crisis of 2007-08 proved that market corrections are somewhat inevitable. Although some regions remained relatively unscathed, housing prices dropped an average of 30% nationwide. According to Forbes, some of the most overvalued housing markets, such as Las Vegas, saw housing values drop as much as 60% from 2006 to 2011. And other big markets followed suit. For example, the Chicago area witnessed a 40% drop in real estate prices, Detroit endured a 50% correction, and Phoenix saw housing prices plummet as much as 56%.

If you plan on living in your home forever, you may not care how much your new house will be worth. But what if you need to move?

Need an example? Picture this: Two families are shopping for a house in the same neighborhood. Family A drops $400,000 on their dream home, while Family B spends only $200,000. If housing prices drop 20% over the next two years, which family will be better off? (Hint: Family A would lose twice as much equity as Family B — a difference of $80,000!)

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How do people afford houses? A bigger house means everything costs more

But even if housing prices go up, some costs are inevitable. No matter how much house you buy, the sticker price is only one piece of the puzzle. And when you buy a bigger or more expensive home, almost everything costs more.

For example, more space generally means more square footage to heat and cool — in other words, higher utility bills. And nicer, more expensive properties almost always mean higher property taxes and pricier homeowners insurance premiums.

But that’s not all. A bigger house means everything is bigger and more expensive to repair. A bigger roof will cost more than a small one, and the more windows you have, the more expensive it will be to upgrade or replace them. Flooring is typically priced by the square foot, so more carpet and tile will always lead to higher costs. A bigger yard means more landscaping and a longer driveway means more concrete to pour. The list goes on, and all of those additional costs can add up quick.

Kids need more than room: They need money

It’s true that kids may benefit from some extra space in the house. They’ll need a place to bring friends when they come over to visit, and it’s always nice when teenagers are able to have their own room.

But you know what’s better? Having money to help your kids through college. Being able to afford a really nice family vacation each year. Having the extra money to pay for the important things your kids will inevitably start asking for as they grow older – fees for school trips, sports, and activities, spending money for weekends, and even their first car.

Buying a house you can easily afford can mean the difference between having extra money for your kid’s changing needs and being house-poor and unable to afford much of anything. That bonus room above the garage might be nice, but not so much when you consider what you had to give up.

Don’t forget to save for everything else

Speaking of giving things up, the extra money for a bigger house payment has to come from somewhere. By and large, Americans have large houses but tiny bank accounts. According to a recent survey, the average middle-class worker has a median savings of around $20,000 for retirement. Further, a full third of working middle-class adults aren’t contributing anything to retirement at all – not in a 401(k), Roth IRA, or any other retirement savings vehicle.

The poll in question, which was conducted by Harris Poll and included 1,001 middle-class adults ages 25 to 75, also proved we aren’t great at planning ahead. According to results shared in USA Today, around 55% of participants planned to save more for retirement when they’re older to make up for any shortfalls.

If a bad idea ever existed, that would surely be it. Why? Because compound interest needs time to work its magic – and the later you start saving, the less power it will have.

Simply put, if you want to retire one day, you need to start saving today — or maybe yesterday. Not doing so will only cause you grief down the line or delay your retirement altogether. Simply put, when you buy a house that is unaffordable, you will have fewer dollars to sock away for your future self.

Your mortgage doesn’t have to be forever

Most people get a 30-year mortgage and pay that monthly payment until the cows come home. Unfortunately, that usually means they never really own a home until the bitter end.

But wait – do people really stay in their homes for 30 years anymore? According to the National Association of Home Builders, the answer is no. In fact, recent data show the average family only stays in their home for around 12 years.

So if you opt for a 30-year-mortgage each time you move, it could easily mean you’ll be making that monthly payment your entire life. Frugal friends, is there anything more depressing than that?

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way, which leads me to the next reason it makes sense to borrow less than you can afford. Obviously, the less you borrow, the faster you may be able to pay it off. And if you buy a house that is on the lower end of your budget, you may even be able to afford the monthly payment on a home loan with a shorter term.

Imagine paying your house off within 15 years and all of the financial freedom that would afford you. Big, expensive houses may have their own set of benefits, but being debt-free will be priceless.

When life happens, you’ll be prepared

Good health, youth, and job security are often fleeting. In other words, the amazing standard of living you’re experiencing now isn’t guaranteed to last. Further, a study from 2014 showed that as many as 25 million middle-class families are living paycheck to paycheck, meaning they might only be one illness – or one job loss – away from losing it all.

Look at the monthly financial obligations you have and ask yourself how you would meet them if you or your spouse lost your job, got in a debilitating accident, or experienced any other hardship that resulted in a loss of pay. Would you be OK? Could you easily afford your bills? If the answer is no, then you should try to buy even less house than you have now, and certainly not more!

The bottom line: Tragedies happen every day, but if you leave some breathing room in your monthly budget, you will be much more equipped to take them in stride. And if something unfortunate happens to one of you, having a small, manageable payment might mean the difference between keeping your home – and losing everything.

Should I buy a house?

Most mortgage companies believe your total debts should make up no more than 36% of your total gross income in any given year. So when they decide how much you qualify to borrow, they use that figure as a guideline. While other liabilities such as car payments, child support, taxes, and insurance can eat into that amount, 36% is still a pretty generous place to start.

The thing is, even the best mortgage lenders don’t know what kind of lifestyle you live. It doesn’t know if you want to help your kids with college, or if you prefer to take two family vacations every year. They’ve never listened to you talk about your dream to retire early and spend your golden years as you wish. To them, you’re just a number on a page. And they’ll be long gone by the time you realize you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

That’s why it’s up to each of us to decide what we can truly afford to borrow. It’s up to each of us to set a price range we can live with, and not just one we can live with today, but tomorrow, too.

It all boils down to choices; when you spend less than you can afford, you have them, and when you overspend, you don’t. Just remember to look beyond this year, and even this decade, when you make that choice. You might be giving up more than you think.

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