Best Debt Consolidation Loans of 2021

Life can feel overwhelming when you’re saddled with loads of debt from different creditors. Maybe you carry multiple credit card balances on top of having a high-interest personal loan.

Or maybe you have a loan with an adjustable-rate and your payments are starting to rise each month, making your budget more and more uncomfortable.

In these situations, it may be wise to look at a debt consolidation loan. For some people, it’s a smart choice that gets your debts organized while potentially lowering your monthly payments. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.

Best Debt Consolidation Loan Lenders of 2021

We’ve compiled a list of the best debt consolidation loans online, along with their basic eligibility requirements. Research each one carefully to see which one can help you with your debt consolidation.

Different lenders are ideal for different borrowers. Review these options and take a look at which ones best suit your needs as well as your credit profile. Once you have your own shortlist, you can get prequalified to compare loan options and find the best offer.

DebtConsolidation.com

Since 2012, DebtConsolidation.com has worked with borrowers to find the best debt consolidation service for their unique situation. If you are not really sure where to get started with your debt repayment process, then this is a good place to start.

The company offers many resources, tools, and relief programs on how to get out of debt quickly. Wherever you are at on your debt repayment journey, they may be able to help.

After you provide some information about your debts, the website will present the best way forward. You may be matched to debt consolidation loans, debt settlement companies, or credit counseling depending on your individual situation.

You can easily compare several different options through this service which is a great way to start your debt repayment journey off right!

It is completely free to use their services. However, when you are matched to a partner, the partner may charge fees for their services. Always make sure to understand the exact terms of your debt consolidation loan before moving forward with any company.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs

If you’re looking for an online-only lender, then Marcus by Goldman Sachs may be the right choice for you. Marcus offers personal loans that can be used for debt consolidation.

If you have a credit score of 660 or higher, you may qualify for a personal loan between $3,500 and $40,000. The APR range is between 6.99% and 28.99%.

One of the best things about taking out a loan through Marcus is how transparent the bank is. There are no hidden fees and that includes late fees, which is pretty rare among other lenders.

Plus, the bank gives you the option to choose your own payment due date. After making 12 months of consecutive payments, you can defer one monthly payment if you want.

The only real downside is that you’ll need good to excellent credit to qualify. And Marcus won’t let you apply with a co-signer.

Read our full review of Marcus

Avant

Avant is designed for borrowers with average credit or better and offers a number of perks for debt consolidation loans.

You can get help with your debt management by getting free access to resources, plus you receive regular updates on your VantageScore to track your credit repair process.

In fact, the average borrower using the funds for debt consolidation sees a 12-point increase within the first six months. So who can get a loan through Avant?

Most borrowers have a credit score between 600 and 700. While you don’t need to meet a minimum income threshold, most customers earn between $40,000 and $100,000 each year.

One of the great things about borrowing with them is that once you are approved and agree to your loan terms, you can get funding in as little as a day. This is a great benefit if you have a number of due dates coming up and want to get started paying off your current creditors as soon as possible.

Their loan terms range anywhere between two and five years, so you can choose to either pay off your debt aggressively or take the slow and steady route.

Read our full review of Avant

Payoff

If you have fair to good credit, you may be eligible for a debt consolidation loan from Payoff. The company offers debt consolidation loans with competitive rates and flexible repayment terms. Payoff focuses on helping borrowers pay down their high-interest credit card debt.

Payoff does this by providing debt consolidation loans between $5,000 and $35,000. The APR range is between 5.99% and 24.99%, depending on your credit score. The repayment terms will be between two and five years.

One of the advantages of taking out a debt consolidation loan through Payoff is the additional support they provide. Payoff doesn’t just want to help you repay your debt; they want to help you build a solid financial future.

The lender will provide financial recommendations, tools, and resources to help you stay on track. This will help you meet your short-term goals and build positive long-term financial habits.

Read our full review of PayOff

Upstart

Upstart’s target borrower is a younger person with less established credit. So maybe you don’t have a problem with bad credit, but you have a problem with no credit. When you apply for an Upstart loan, more emphasis is placed on your academic history than your credit history.

Upstart will review your college, your major, your job, and even your grades to help make you a loan offer. The minimum credit score is 620. Most borrowers are between 22 and 35 years old, but there are no technical age restrictions.

However, one requirement is that you must be a college graduate, which obviously limits the applicant pool. And while loan amounts range up to $25,000, you only have one term option: three years.

Upstart doesn’t offer the most flexibility with its debt consolidation loans. However, they have competitive rates and a unique approval model that may help some borrowers who want a loan.

Read our full review of Upstart

PersonalLoans.com

PersonalLoans.com directly helps individuals with low credit scores so this is a great place to come if you’re still in the credit repair process.

However, there are a few restrictions: you cannot have had a late payment of more than 60 days on your credit report, a recent bankruptcy, or a recent charge-off. But if you meet these basic guidelines, PersonalLoans.com may be a good option for you.

PersonalLoans.com is unique in that it’s a loan broker, not an actual lender. Through the application, you’ll get offers from traditional installment lenders, bank lenders, and even peer-to-peer lenders.

Your actual loan agreement that you choose is signed between you and the lender, not PersonalLoans.com. This provides a convenient way to compare rates and terms through just a single application process.

Read our full review of PersonalLoans.com

LendingClub

LendingClub is a peer-to-peer lender. That means rather than having your debt consolidation loan funded directly by the lender, your loan application is posted for individual investors to fund.

Additionally, your interest rate and terms are determined by your credit profile. The minimum credit score is just a 600, but the average borrowers is higher.

LendingClub boasts competitive rates; in fact, its website claims that the average debt consolidation borrower lowers their interest rate by 30%. You can use the website’s personal loan calculator to determine how much you could actually save by consolidating your debt.

There’s also a large-cap on loans, all the way up to $40,000. That’s on the higher end for many online lenders, especially those open to individuals with lower credit.

Read our full review of LendingClub

Upgrade

Upgrade appeals to all different types of borrowers. When assessing a new borrower, the lender considers various factors, including their credit score, free cash flow, and debt-to-income ratio.

The company offers personal loans that can be used for many different purposes, including debt consolidation. Upgrade will even make payments directly to your lender for added convenience.

If you have a minimum credit score of 600, you may qualify for a personal loan between $1,000 and $50,000. When you apply, the lender will do a soft pull on your credit so it won’t affect your credit score.

Upgrade is one of the best options for borrowers with poor credit and borrowers with a high debt-to-income ratio. And the lender offers a hardship program, so if you fall on difficult times financially, you may receive a temporary deduction on your monthly payments.

Read our full review of Upgrade

Discover

Discover offers personal loans for borrowers with good to excellent credit. You can use a personal loan from Discover to consolidate your existing high-interest credit card debt.

If you qualify, you’ll receive a personal loan between $2,500 and $35,000. The APR range is 6.99% to 24.99%. And the bank never charges any origination fees.

You must have a minimum credit score of 660 to qualify, so Discover isn’t a good option for borrowers with bad credit. And unfortunately, Discover doesn’t give borrowers the option to apply with a co-signer.

Read our full review of Discover

OneMain

With an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, OneMain is a lender committed to customer satisfaction. While they offer debt consolidation loans up to $25,000, you can also get a loan for as little as $1,500.

This is one of the lowest loan minimums we’ve seen, which is perfect if you have just a small amount of debt you’d like to consolidate because of exorbitant or adjustable interest rates.

In addition to applying online, you can also elect to meet with a financial adviser at a OneMain branch location.

In fact, part of the application process entails meeting with someone either at a branch or remote location to ensure you understand all of your loan options. This is a great step that most online lenders lack, allowing you to really take the time to weigh your options and decide which is best for you.

Read our full review of OneMain

Best Debt Settlement Companies of 2021

Taking out a debt consolidation loan is just one option when you want to lower your monthly payments. Another way to go is enrolling in a debt settlement program. Rather than paying off your lender in full, a debt settlement company can help negotiate an amount to repay so that the debt is considered settled.

In the meantime, you agree to freeze your credit cards and deposit cash each month into an account that will eventually be used to pay off the settlement.

However, the downside is that to make this strategy work, you must stop making payments on your owed amounts, which will cause them to go into default. That means your credit score will take a nosedive. But, the goal is to pay less than what you owe.

If you have enough debt that it seems impossible for you to ever repay, debt settlement might be a better option than filing for bankruptcy. Below are Crediful’s top two picks for debt settlement companies. You can find the full list here.

Accredited Debt Relief

Accredited regularly works with major banks and lenders to help clients negotiate settlements. These include Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, Capital One, Discover, and other financial institutions of all sizes, both large and small.

They’ll even work with retailers if you have store cards with major balances. While results vary from person to person, they offer examples of clients saving anywhere between 50% and 80% on their amounts owed.

Read our full review of Accredited Debt Relief

National Debt Relief

National Debt Relief has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and prides itself on trying to help those who truly have financial hardships in their lives.

One benefit of working with this company is that your funds are held in an FDIC-insured account that is opened in your name.

That means you have full control over the account and don’t run the risk of being scammed out of your money — you can rest assured that National is a reputable company.

Plus, the team is fully versed in consumer and financial law so you can trust that your interests are being served to the fullest legal extent possible.

Read our full review of National Debt Relief

What is debt consolidation?

Debt consolidation allows you to pull all of your smaller existing debts into one new debt that you pay each month. When you take out a debt consolidation loan, you receive funds to pay off all of your existing debt, like your credit card balances and high-interest loans.

You then make a single monthly payment to your lender, rather than making multiple payments each month. Keep in mind that this is different from debt settlement in that you’re not negotiating a new amount owed. Instead, you keep the same amount of debt but pay it off in a different way.

Depending on your personal situation, debt consolidation loans come with both pros and cons. It’s important to weigh both sides carefully before deciding if a debt consolidation loan is right for you.

Let’s delve into the details so that you can get closer to making a decision.

credit cards

Advantages of Debt Consolidation Loans

There are a number of advantages and disadvantages associated with debt consolidation loans. We’ll go over all of them so you can weigh your options.

Lower Your Monthly Payments

The biggest benefit of a debt consolidation loan is the ability to lower your combined monthly payments. Because interest rates on credit cards are so high, it’s possible that you can find a lower interest rate on a debt consolidation loan instead, which means lower payments.

However, your actual interest rate depends on several factors, especially your credit score. It’s important to compare interest rates and the total cost of the debt consolidation loan to your current payments to make sure you don’t end up paying more over time. The goal is to save you money.

Improve Your Credit Score

Another advantage of taking out a debt consolidation loan is that it can actually help increase your credit score. While your amount of debt stays the same, installment loans are viewed more favorably than credit card debt.

So if the majority of your debt comes from maxed-out credit cards, you could potentially see a rise in your credit score because your credit utilization on each card has gone down.

A debt consolidation loan streamlines your monthly payments. Rather than being inundated with multiple due dates each month, you simply have one to remember. This also contributes to building a healthy credit score because it lowers your chance of having a late payment.

Disadvantages of Debt Consolidation Loans

In some cases, debt consolidation loans might not be a great idea. We talked about the total cost of the loan, which needs to be reviewed holistically, not just as a monthly payment. This is true for several reasons.

Origination Fees

First, most lenders charge some sort of fee when you take out a new loan. The most common is an origination fee, typically charged as a percentage of the total loan amount.

So if you have a loan amount of $10,000 and there is a 4% origination fee, you’ll only actually receive $9,600. Next, compare interest rates and loan terms.

Even if the monthly payments look good on paper, you may be paying a lot more over an extended payment period. You can use the APR to compare interest rates and fees, but you also need to consider how much you’ll spend on interest over the entire loan term.

Changing Your Spending Habits

Finally, it doesn’t necessarily fix the root problem of your debt.

This isn’t something you need to worry about if your debt results from a one-time incident, such as an expensive medical procedure or temporary job loss. But if you habitually spend more than you earn and are still incurring new debt, then debt consolidation loans will not help you in the long run.

If this sounds like you, try to figure out how you can curb your spending to stop accruing more debt. You can even talk to a debt counselor to help create a sound management plan for your finances.

See also: Debt Consolidation Loans for Bad Credit

Source: crediful.com

10 Ways to Stay Motivated When Paying Off Debt

It is easy to lose your focus any time you are working towards a goal.  It takes dedication, but even then you may lose your desire to keep going.   This is especially true when trying to reach your financial goals, such as getting out of debt.

get out of debt and stay motivated

get out of debt and stay motivated

Paying off debt is not easy. You start out with great determination and willpower to make it happen. But, as time goes on, you may find yourself loving motivation to pay off your debt.

If your debt balances are high, the balances may not drop as quickly as you would like.  It can make you lowe your desire to keep going. In fact, you might just feel like quitting.

I’m here to say don’t.  Don’t give up.  The key to is to find the motivation to pay to get out of debt, even when it isn’t easy.  These tips will help.

STAYING MOTIVATED TO PAY OFF DEBT

MY EXPERIENCE

When my husband and I were trying to get out of debt, there were times when we wanted to quit.  However, we were both determined to stick with it and not give up.

Sadly, that is not true for many.  People get excited at the idea of getting out of debt, but they never follow through.  For one reason or another, they lose the motivation to continue.

This means that they go back to their old habits and often times, end up even further in debt.  It is sad, but it is true.  They lost the will to stay the course.

WHERE DO YOU START?

First of all, you have to be willing and fully committed to wanting to be debt free.  If you aren’t willing to make sacrifices, that means you are not quite ready to start.  If you try, you will probably fail.

However, if you are ready and willing to put in the hard work involved you might be ready.  You need to fully understand that this process is going to take some time.  It took my husband and I more than 2 years to get out of our debt.  It may take a while – but it will happen.

FINDING THE MOTIVATION TO PAY OFF DEBT

1. Cheat once in a while

When you are trying to pay off your debt with laser focus, you might start to feel a bit of resentment towards it.  After all, that is your money and you see none of it.  Instead, it moves right over to your debtor.  You never get to enjoy it.

You need to spend money.

When you allow yourself a chance to go out to dinner or buy that new pair of shoes, you will continue to stay motivated.  It allows you to take the focus off of your debt for a short time and put it on yourself.

For example, when my husband and I were in paying off our debt, we did not eat out at restaurants.  We gave that up completely.  However, each time that we paid off a creditor we were able to go out to dinner. It allowed us to celebrate.  We had one cheat night, and then we were ready to get back on track again.

Just don’t do this very often, or you’ll end up quitting and up spending more than you should.

2. Be accountable

Whether you are a relationship or not, you need to find someone to whom you can be accountable.  Call them an accountability partner. The journey to being debt free can be a long and lonely adventure. Finding the right person to support you along the way can be vital to reaching your goals.

This person could be a friend or family member. While you might want to use a spouse or partner, they may not be the best person.  You really should find someone who has been on this path themselves and reached the end.  Someone who is debt free and battled to make it happen can provide much more support than someone drowning in debt.

3. Dream

Sit down and look at your finances.  Imagine all of the things you could do if you were not living with looming debt.  Perhaps you could afford that car you want. It might even mean being able to quit your job and stay home with the kids.

Read More:  Setting Your Financial Goals

4. Change your habits

Look at your debt.  What caused you to end up there. If was due to spending too much at Target, it means you need to stop.

You have to change your habits by creating a budget and a debt plan.  Take it further and change the way you spend your free time.  It won’t be easy, but no one said getting out of debt was going to be simple.

It is not an easy thing to do, but find a way to focus your energy on the things that created the debt to other things you enjoy.  Try to find the joy in the simple things, which cost no money at all.

Looking beyond the debt and definitely help you stay motivated when getting out of debt.

Read More: Why Your Debt Plan Will Fail

5. Get angry

One of the simplest ways to stay motivated is to hate your debt.  Review your bills and add up the money you are wasting on interest payments every month.  Just seeing the money you waste will make you angry. Heck, it might even make you nauseated.  Good.

Hate the debt and you’ll want to make it go away.

6. Daily reminder 

Put the total of your debt on your mirror. As you pay them down, update it with the new amount. Every day you will see that you are making progress. You will see where you were and where you have to go.

7. Continue to learn

Just because you read one article about how to get out of debt, doesn’t mean you are an expert. If you were, you would probably have never gotten into debt in the first place.

Keep reading and learning. Follow your favorite bloggers and read their tips for getting out of debt.

Read More: How to Get out of Debt on a Lower Income

8. Be patient

“Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Your debt didn’t accumulate in just a month. It took time. That means it will take time to pay it off.

If you are doing all you can to do get out of debt, then there no more you can do. Just look forward to the day you get to scream that you are debt free!

9. Connect with others

I mentioned an accountability partner above and that is great, but what do you do if you can’t find one? Easy. Look to others who understand.

With social media, it is easy to find people who are in your situation. They may be on Facebook or Twitter. You might find them in the comments of personal finance blogs. Look around for those who are making progress and network with them.

We all need help with this journey. There is no rule that says you have to be best friends with them to get the motivation and support you need.

10.  Read success stories

There is nothing more motivating than reading about others who have accomplished their goals. Reading about ordinary people who have paid down thousands of dollars of debt can be inspiring.

Read More: My Debt Free Journey to Paying Off $35,000+ in Debt

how to get help paying off debt

how to get help paying off debt

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

How Much Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring?

How Much Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring? – SmartAsset

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There’s nothing like falling in love and finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. But when it’s time to shop for rings, it’s easy to get discouraged by the price tags. Just how much should you spend on an engagement ring? We’ll dive into the topic and discuss ways to save on the big purchase.

Find out not: How much do I need to save for retirement?

What the Average Engagement Ring Costs

Maybe you can’t buy love. But if you’re in the market for an engagement ring, you’ll quickly realize that it won’t be cheap. According to the Knot’s 2016 Real Weddings Study, Americans spent an average of $6,163 on engagement rings, up from $5,871 in 2015. Wedding bands for the bride and engagement rings combined cost between $5,968 and $6,258.

If you want your wedding to happen sooner rather than later, keep in mind that on average, couples spend more than $30,000 to tie the knot. That’s roughly how much you can expect to pay for everything from your wedding reception and DJ to your cake and your photographer. Location matters when it comes to weddings, however, so you might be able to save some money by choosing a more affordable place to host your ceremony.

How Much Should I Spend?

Conventional wisdom says that anyone planning to propose to their partner should prepare to spend at least two or three months of their salary on an engagement ring. But spending too much isn’t a good idea for various reasons.

A recent study conducted by Emory University connected pricey rings to divorce rates. Men who spent more money on rings for their fiancees were more likely to end their marriages. That’s a possible long-term consequence of overspending on an engagement ring. In the short term, using a large percentage of your money to buy a ring might prevent you from using those funds to pay bills or stay on top of your debt, which can hurt your credit score.

If the marriage doesn’t work out and your ex-spouse decides to sell their diamond engagement ring, its value won’t be nearly as high as it was when it was first purchased. That’s why diamond rings can be such bad investments.

So exactly how much should you spend on an engagement ring? It’s a good idea to make sure that the price you pay doesn’t prevent you or your partner from accomplishing whatever you’re planning to achieve in the future, whether that’s buying a house or having a child. Rather than following an old-school societal notion that says you should spend x amount of money on a ring, it’s best to spend an amount that won’t compromise your financial goals or jeopardize the status of your relationship.

How to Save on the Ring

If you don’t want the engagement ring you’re buying to break the bank, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about the rings and what makes some more expensive than others. Diamonds are the gems most commonly used in engagement rings, and if you’re buying one for your significant other, it’s important to familiarize yourself with what jewelers refer to as the four C’s: clarity, cut, color and carat weight.

In terms of clarity, the best diamonds are flawless, meaning that they don’t have any blemishes when viewed under a microscope with 10 power magnification. Since no one’s eyesight is that powerful, you can get away with choosing a diamond with a lower clarity grade that costs less. Getting a diamond that has fewer carats (meaning that it weighs less) or getting one that isn’t completely colorless can also lower its overall price.

Or don’t get a diamond at all. Your partner might be just as happy with a simple band, a white sapphire or an emerald ring and it probably won’t cost as much as a diamond engagement ring. Shopping for your ring at a vintage store, looking for one online rather than in-person and getting a ring with a series of smaller stones surrounding the center stone (also known as a halo ring) are a few additional ways to save when buying a ring.

Final Word

There’s no need to spend a fortune on an engagement ring. And you don’t have to feel guilty about cutting corners in order to find one that you can afford to buy.

Like any other major purchase, it’s a good idea to take time to save up for a ring. If you have to take on more credit card debt or a personal loan in order to buy an engagement ring, it’s a good idea to find out how long it’ll take to pay off your debt. It isn’t wise to begin a marriage by digging yourself (and your partner) into a deep financial hole.

Tips for Getting Financially Ready for Marriage

  • If you haven’t already, start talking about money. It’s important to establish an open dialogue and make sure you understand and respect each other’s money values.
  • You might also consider sit down with a financial advisor before the big day. A financial advisor can help you identify your financial goals and come up with a financial plan for your life as a married couple. A matching tool (like ours) can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/sergey_b_a, ©iStock.com/svetikd, ©iStock.com/adamkaz

Amanda Dixon Amanda Dixon is a personal finance writer and editor with an expertise in taxes and banking. She studied journalism and sociology at the University of Georgia. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, AOL, Bankrate, The Huffington Post, Fox Business News, Mashable and CBS News. Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Amanda currently lives in Brooklyn.
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Truth About Reward and Store Credit Cards

  • Credit Card Debt

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

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

What are Store Cards?

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

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

What are Reward Cards?

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

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

How Can Providers Offer These Rewards?

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

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

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

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

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

Issues with Store Credit Cards

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

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

Con 1: They Have High Interest Rates

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

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

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

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

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

Con 2: They Have High Penalty Rates

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

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

Con 3: They Have Low Credit Limits

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

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

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

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

Con 4: There Are Better Options

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

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

Con 5: You May Spend More

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

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

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

Con 6: You Can’t Use Them Anywhere Else

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

What About Reward Cards?

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

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

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

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

Will Reward/Store Cards Affect my Credit Score?

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

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

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

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Giving Gift Cards This Holiday Season? Go Electronic

One of the best things about technology is how easy it makes it to give gifts. This includes gift cards.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been able to send my brother-in-law Amazon gift cards via Facebook for his birthday. Being able to give gift cards instantly has been helpful, since it allows you to send money quickly, and the recipient can spend on whatever he or she wants.

Electronic gift cards seem like the natural evolution from plastic cards (which emulate the convenience of credit cards), since now we are seeing a generation that is used to paying electronically. In fact, a recent Bankrate report indicates that electronic gift cards are probably a better choice when you are giving to members of the younger generation.

giving-electronic-gift-card-christmas

giving-electronic-gift-card-christmas

Giving Where The Recipient Is

When giving gifts, it makes sense to give depending on where the recipient is at.

If you are giving to someone who prefers to have the card in his or her hands, it makes sense to get something plastic and substantial. And, for some recipients, it makes more sense to get a general purpose gift card. According to Bankrate, general purpose cards are the most popular, since they can be used anywhere — including online.

However, many of these general purpose cards charge purchase fees. But, the giver might not care, if the gift is one that he or she is happy to give, and that will work well for the recipient.

On the other hand, though, it can make sense to go the electronic gift card route when you give to millennials. The Bankrate report found that 40 percent of those aged 18 to 29 have actually lost a plastic gift card at some point. Plus, the younger generation is tech-savvy, and used to do more on the Internet, particularly with their smart phones. If you can provide an electronic gift card that can be used for online shopping, a millennial might get better use out of it, especially when you consider that mobile gift card use among millennials doubles that of their older counterparts.

Giving a gift is all about the recipient. As a result, it makes sense to know how the recipient is likely to want to receive the gift. Even though gift cards are sometimes derided as being thoughtless, the reality is that you can show that you have thought through the gift if you provide it in a medium that the recipient prefers, and if it offers something that the recipient will truly enjoy.

Double-Check Your Purchase

Make sure that your double-check your purchase before you go through with an electronic gift card, though. You want to make sure you are completing the transaction through a reputable provider. Additionally, you need to make sure that you are sending the gift card to the right place. I always triple-check the email address of the recipient before I send an electronic gift card. It’s also a good idea to make sure that you understand fees and other conditions before you click the purchase button.

Finally, if you’re going to buy a plastic gift card, consider purchasing them through a reputable website like GiftCardGranny.com, where you can find discounts on the cards you were going to buy anyway!

What do you think about gift cards? Are they a good idea? What about electronic gift cards?

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

Suburban vs. Urban Life: Where Should You Rent? | ApartmentSearch

city skyline of Melbourne, AustraliaWould you rather spend a night on the town, or a night on the backyard patio? Walk to brunch on the weekends, or wake up to fields of green and chirping birds? Be close to the action, or have some space to breathe?

There are no wrong answers! Still, between suburban vs. urban living, it’s a tough call. We’ll help you weigh the pros and cons so you can find an apartment in the part of town that works best for you and your lifestyle.

Should You Rent a Downtown Apartment?

City living certainly has its perks, but be sure to weigh the good and the not-so-good before you sign a lease on that urban loft.

Pros of Renting a Downtown Apartment

  • Close to the Action: When you rent a downtown apartment, you’re close to what you need: restaurants, stores, nightlife, and events. Depending on your specific location, you may not even need a car—you could live close enough to walk or bike everywhere.
  • Easy Commuting: Work downtown, too? Your commute will be almost nonexistent, and you’ll be able to drive to other parts of town quickly.
  • The “Cool” Factor: City centers tend to be full of creative souls and entrepreneurs, which can give your neighborhood a “cool factor.”

Cons of Renting a Downtown Apartment

  • Noisy Neighbors: City life isn’t for everyone. Most downtown apartment buildings are close together, and many are located right next to busy streets, highways, or railroads. Do you really want to hear everything that’s going on outside?
  • Higher Rent for Less Space: Since space is at a premium in densely populated metropolitan areas, you’ll likely pay more for rent than you would in the suburbs, and for less space—which is a bummer if you want to live with a pet or entertain friends in your apartment.

Renting an Apartment in the Suburbs

Not into the idea of city life? Renting a suburban apartment might be your best bet.

Pros of Renting a Suburban Apartment

  • Easy on the Budget: Your budget may get you a small apartment in the city, but how much apartment can you afford in the suburbs? As it turns out, much more! In the suburbs, you’ll usually get more square footage for less money.
  • Great Amenities: Apartment communities in the suburbs tend to have more amenities (think pools, a gym, or a dog park!) because the suburbs are less densely packed than the city centers and real estate doesn’t cost as much.
  • A Calming Escape: If you need the opportunity to recharge and retreat from the world every so often, a suburban apartment can offer just that: a calming escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Living in a suburb provides a small-town feel and a slower pace, but still allows you access to the city when you want to change up your routine.

Cons of Renting a Suburban Apartment

  • Distance from the Action: Unfortunately, living in the suburbs can mean a longer commute to work, and make it difficult to get around the city quickly to visit with friends or run errands.
  • Slower Pace: The suburbs likely won’t have as many entertainment or nightlife options, and you may not find as many locally owned, Instagram-worthy spots like coffee shops or boutiques.

Rent Where It’s Right for You

Whether you’re looking for a chic downtown loft or a laidback suburban apartment, find your perfect apartment with ApartmentSearch. We’ll help you discover the best city spot that’s close to the action, or a quiet location in the suburbs to call your own. Wherever you sign a lease, mention ApartmentSearch and we’ll hook you up with a $200 reward!

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

10 Things to Know About Working in New York

10 Things to Know About Working in New York – Smart Asset

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Thinking about working in New York? There are some features of work life in the Big Apple that set it apart from the work culture in other cities. Is it true that if you can make it there you can make it anywhere? We’re not making any promises, but we can give you some tips about what working in New York is really like. 

Check out our 401(k) calculator. 

1. Salaries are high – but so is the cost of living.

For many fields, particularly those that require highly skilled workers, salaries in New York are higher than those in other cities. But before you get too excited about the fact that salaries in New York tend to be higher, keep in mind that the cost of living in New York is higher, too.

Luckily, there are plenty of financial experts around to help you figure out how to keep your finances in check. These are the top 10 New York financial advisor firms.

2. New Yorkers put in long hours.

New Yorkers tend to work longer hours than folks in other cities. In part, that’s because the workday itself is longer, but it’s also because New Yorkers tend to have long commutes. If you want to have plenty of free time to pursue side hustles or hobbies, working in New York might not be the best fit for you.

3. Commuting by public transit is the norm.

According to recent Census Bureau figures, 55.6% of New Yorkers take public transportation to work, 0.8% bike to work, 10.3% walk and 3.9% work at home. Hate crowds? Commuting by public transit could take some getting used to.

4. Office happy hour options are plentiful.

Working in New York means having a multitude of options for weekday lunches and office happy hours at your fingertips. Socializing with your coworkers after the end of a workday is easy with so many places to go and easy public transportation options to take you home at the end of the evening.

5. Being a working parent is expensive in New York.

New York has some of the highest childcare costs of any city in the nation. Being a working parent in New York is expensive – and it’s not easy, given the long hours New Yorkers put in. New York has a lower rate of working mothers than many other major U.S. cities, in part because the high price of childcare makes it hard for many New Yorkers to earn more than they would have to pay for childcare.

6. New York work culture takes some of its cues from Silicon Valley.

Some New York workplaces are taking their cues from the start-ups of Silicon Valley, implementing casual attire, flexible workdays and other features. In an effort to compete with companies in other cities, some New York companies are expanding the perks they offer their workers, so if you’re lucky enough to get a job in one of those companies, you’ll find that working in New York has its compensations.

7. Lots of New Yorkers have more than one job.

Whether they’re care workers who work double shifts or actors who tend bar on the side, many New Yorkers have more than one job. For some, having a second (or third) job is a matter of necessity, while for others it’s a way of advancing their career or expressing their artistic side. Plus, getting a second job (or a roommate) makes it easier to live the New York dream without going into debt.

8. There are professional support opportunities here.

Because it’s a huge, densely populated city, New York has professional support opportunities for those up and down the career ladder. You can get help finding a job or finishing your GED. You can also attend high-powered networking events and conferences. The important thing is to know what resources are out there and how to take advantage of them.

9. You can outsource a lot of tasks – if you have the money.

If it’s in your budget, you can outsource a lot of tasks that you don’t want to have to tackle during your non-working hours. That includes mailing packages, getting food, dropping off dry cleaning, completing home repairs and more. Of course, these services aren’t within reach of all New Yorkers, and many people like to do these basic “life admin” tasks themselves. But if you’re planning on diving into the workaholic lifestyle in New York and you think you’ll have some money to spare, there are lots of companies looking to make outsourcing chores easier for you.

10. It helps to know someone.

It helps to know someone when you’re looking for work in New York, if only to stand out from the pile of applications that so many New York jobs attract. That’s why it’s a good idea to build and maintain your network and put it to work for you when you’re looking for a new (or just better) job.

Bottom Line

Working in New York isn’t for everyone, but many find it to be an exciting challenge unlike what they would face elsewhere. For others, working in New York is more of a means to an end – living in New York. Wherever you stand, working in New York is made easier when you have a strong network and plenty of determination.

Tips for Maximizing Your Money

  • Come up with a budget – and stick to it. Instead of spending $5 a day on a latte, put that money in one of the best savings accounts where you can earn interest.
  • Work with a financial advisor. In addition to helping you craft a financial plan and identify your financial goals, a financial advisor can help you determine the right investments for your financial situation, time horizon and level of risk tolerance. A matching tool like SmartAsset’s SmartAdvisor can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Tempura, ©iStock.com/NYCstocker, ©iStock.com/Pavlina2510

Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia’s work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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Source: smartasset.com

Is Refinancing Worth It?

With mortgage rates at or near record lows, a lot of existing homeowners are probably asking themselves, “Is refinancing worth it?”

The problem is there’s no absolute right or wrong answer to this question, though with interest rates a lot lower than they were a year or two ago, the answer to this question will often be YES.

Simply put, if there’s a larger spread between your existing mortgage rate and current refinance rates, it’s that much easier to save money.

Conversely, if rates haven’t budged much since you last obtained a home loan, you’re going to have to get knee-deep in the math to ensure it makes sense financially.

This Is the #1 Reason Homeowners Don’t Refinance

why not refinance

  • If you’re questioning whether a refinance is worth it you’re not alone
  • It’s actually the top reason why homeowners don’t bother refinancing
  • 34% said so in a new survey from YouGov for Forbes Advisor
  • But instead of wondering, take action and determine if a refinance can save you money

As noted, lots of homeowners are probably mulling over a mortgage refinance, even those who just refinanced last year, or perhaps even earlier this year.

The top reason they haven’t yet is because they’re not sure it’s worth it, followed by a good chunk saying they just recently refinanced (how soon can I refinance?). Others are concerned about fees, rightfully so.

A mortgage requires work – it isn’t a set it and forget it situation. Since mortgage rates can change tremendously over time, you’ve got to be an active participant.

Or, you can simply say forget it and miss out on substantial savings. But why would you continue to pay a 30-year fixed set at 5% if you could snag a rate in the 2% range or lower?

Just for quick illustration, the monthly mortgage payment on a 30-year fixed set at 5% is $1,610.46 for a $300,000 loan amount.

If you were to refinance that same loan amount down to a 2.75% rate, all of a sudden your monthly payment is $1,224.72.

That’s a savings of roughly $385 per month, which could afford you a pretty nice car every month. Or go toward your retirement savings, or simply boost your emergency fund.

There’s plenty you could do with an extra ~$400 per month, but there aren’t a lot of ways to easily generate those types of savings nearly overnight.

Refinance Savings Can Be Incredible, But Don’t Forget the Closing Costs

is refinancing worth it

  • Once you take into account the difference in monthly payment on the old and new loan
  • You need to consider the closing costs required to fund your refinance loan
  • Along with your expected tenure in the property (and how long you plan to keep the mortgage)
  • Also pay attention to loan term to ensure you don’t regretfully reset the clock

Before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s not simple enough to merely compare before and after mortgage payments. I wish it were, but it’s not.

You’ve got a few more things to consider before submitting your refinance application.

One of the biggies is closing costs, which can amount to thousands of dollars. Going back to our example, imagine it costs $8,000 to complete that refinance.

Yes, lots of different parties need to get paid for refinancing your loan, including loan officers, processors, underwriters, appraisers, title and escrow companies, and so on.

All of a sudden, you’re in the hole. The good news is each lower mortgage payment will extinguish that debt, and each payment will pay down more principal since you’ve got a lower interest rate.

So while it may not take long to get back in the black, it could still take a year or two to get there depending on the savings.

And if we’re talking about narrower margins, unlike our example above, it could take 3-5 years to break even on those refinance costs.

That’s why you also have to consider your expected tenure in the property. What happens if you refinance your mortgage, then decide to move a year later?

Well, if you paid a bunch out-of-pocket, you may have lost money, and the refinance actually wasn’t worth it.

The same could be said about a situation where mortgage rates drift even lower, and you find yourself refinancing just six months or a year after your prior refinance.

The good news is there are options to avoid losing money if your plans take an unexpected turn.

I’m referring to a lender credit, where the bank pays all or most of your closing costs in exchange for a slightly higher mortgage rate.

This is how a no cost refinance works, and could be a good compromise for someone who isn’t sure how long they’ll stick with the mortgage/house, but wants to take advantage of the savings on offer.

While your rate may not be the lowest out there, if there’s a sizable margin, you could still make out pretty well.

One last thing to consider is resetting the clock – that is, restarting your loan amortization if you refinance from a 30-year fixed to another 30-year fixed, or to any home loan that extends your aggregate term.

This essentially sets you back in terms of when your mortgage will be paid off, which if it’s a goal of yours, can get in the way of your plans.

The good news, once again, is you always have the option of paying more each month on the refinanced loan.

So if you don’t want to commit to a shorter-term mortgage, such as a 15-year fixed, you can still make 15-year fixed sized payments each month and stay on track.

Of course, some folks are happy to extend their loan term and put their hard-earned money to work elsewhere where it can generate a better return, such as the stock market.

With mortgage interest rates in the 1-2%, it doesn’t take much to beat the market, and a mortgage can be good debt.

As for refinance rules, I don’t buy into them because everyone is so different and your unique situation needs a little more thought than a blanket rule.

Read more: The Refinance Rule of Thumb

(photo: Quinn Dombrowski)

Lock in a lower rate.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

Inspection vs. Appraisal for Home Buyers

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Inspections and appraisals are both important parts of the home buying process, and buyers should do both to protect their financial interest in a home — and give themselves peace of mind that they’re making a smart purchase. Inspections and appraisals serve different functions, but both give you the insights you need to avoid large financial missteps.

What is the difference between an appraisal and an inspection?

The main difference between an appraisal and an inspection is that an appraisal deals with the value of a home, while an inspection deals with the condition of the home.

Appraisal: An appraisal is a walk-through and a general assessment of a home, analyzed with the help of nearby comparable sales. The goal of an appraisal is to determine the fair market value of a property. It is conducted by a licensed professional appraiser. While an appraiser will visit a home in person, the majority of the work will be done in their office, as they compare the home’s features, location, and finishes with other comparable recent sales in the area. An appraisal usually costs around $400, depending on where you live and the size of your home.

Inspection: An inspection is a deeper dive into the condition of the specific home. A licensed home inspector will spend multiple hours doing a comprehensive review of the home’s condition, both visually and by testing functionality of major systems. After completing the inspection, they will provide recommendations to the buyer on items in the home that should be repaired or replaced before closing. A home inspection costs between $250 and $700, depending on where you live and the size of your home.

Do lenders require appraisals?

Yes, most lenders do require appraisals in order to approve financing. Lenders want to protect their investment by ensuring they’re not financing a loan for more than the property is worth.

Do lenders require home inspections?

Lenders providing conventional financing do not usually require home inspections, but they are still strongly recommended. FHA or VA loans usually do require inspections.

Do I need an appraisal and inspection when buying a home with cash?

Cash buyers often opt to do an appraisal and inspection, even though they’re not required. Some cash buyers, particularly home investors, may waive the inspection or appraisal if the home is being sold “as is” or if they are competing with other offers and want to close quickly.

Regardless of how you’re paying, an appraisal can give peace of mind that you’re not overpaying for a property, and an inspection can uncover potentially costly issues and necessary repairs.

What happens during an appraisal?

During an appraisal, a licensed appraiser evaluates the home you want to buy in person and gives you an estimate on how much it’s worth. Typically, the appraiser is chosen by the lender but paid for by the buyer as part of the closing costs.

Appraisals cost around $400, but can cost a bit more or a bit less depending on your home size and location. The appointment usually takes about an hour, and then the appraiser will complete the report back at their office.

1. Assessment of property

The appraiser will walk through the home, taking note of its condition, finishes and location — consider it somewhat like a light inspection.

2. Review of comparable sales

The appraiser will use the findings of their walk-through to identify similar homes that have sold recently in the neighborhood. This will help them decide upon a fair market value.

3. Final report

The appraiser will deliver a physical report on the fair market value of the home, including photos and descriptions of comparable sales. In most cases it’s just the lender and the buyer who will receive copies of the report. The seller may request a copy of the appraisal report, but in most cases you are not required to share it.

Ideally, the appraisal will come back higher than the agreed-upon sales price. That indicates that you’re paying less than the fair market value and your lender will approve the loan.

What if the appraisal comes in low?

Appraisals that come in below the agreed-upon sale price are commonly referred to as low appraisals. When an appraisal comes in low it can jeopardize your ability to acquire the loan you were pre-approved to get, causing a headache for buyers.

Low appraisals can happen for a couple reasons:

  • Bidding wars with multiple buyers drive the price up beyond market value.
  • There’s a lack of relevant comparables to use as a basis for the home value.
  • You’re buying in a high season (like late spring) and the only available comparables are from other points in the year.
  • The appraiser is inexperienced.

Buyers who are using financing have a few options to work around a low appraisal:

  1. Contest the appraisal: You can contact your lender and point out any glaring issues or errors in the appraisal report, then request a new appraisal.
  2. Pay the difference: To make up the difference between the amount your lender is willing to finance and the offer price, you can pay cash or ask the lender if you can restructure your financing.
  3. Ask the seller for a price reduction: If the appraisal was accurate and the home is indeed worth less than what you’re offering, you may not want to overpay. To avoid having to back out completely, consider asking the seller for a price reduction, using the appraisal report as proof the home is overpriced.

What to expect from a home inspection

Scheduling a home inspection is one of the first tasks you’ll want to do after the contract is signed between you and the seller. Although, in some low-inventory markets, buyers sometimes hire an inspector prior to making an offer. It’s up to you to pick a home inspector you trust, and most people ask their agent for a recommendation, get a referral from friends or family members or search online reviews.

Since the goal of a home inspection is to get a comprehensive report of the condition of the home you’re buying, a home inspection takes between three and four hours, sometimes more. Unlike an appraiser who does a visual check of the home, your inspector will both examine and test functionality of your home’s key systems, including:

  • Plumbing
  • Roof condition
  • HVAC
  • Foundation
  • Appliances
  • Drainage
  • Water damage and mold

However, a home inspection may not find every potential issue in the home, especially if they are hidden or seasonal, so buyers should discuss any exclusions with the licensed home inspector both before and after the inspection itself.

Who attends the inspection: Usually, the buyer and their agent will both attend the inspection. This allows you to have the inspector walk you through any red flags in real time, while also giving you the chance to familiarize yourself with how the home’s systems work ahead of moving.

What happens after the inspection: After completing the on-site inspection, your inspector will provide a written report that highlights their findings, including photos.

Specialized inspections for buyers to consider

While inspecting the home’s major systems and features is standard practice, your inspector may recommend a second, more specialized inspection if they notice issues including:

  • Radon
  • Pests
  • Septic
  • Lead paint

Why home inspections are important

The few hundred dollars you’ll spend for a home inspection is a small price to pay for the opportunity to confirm that the home you’re about to buy is free of major — and costly — issues. It’s no wonder 83% of buyers reported having an inspection done, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019.

Risk of not having an inspection: While some buyers opt to waive their inspection contingency to make their offer appear stronger, this means they’re essentially buying the home “as-is,” and any issues discovered after closing will fall 100% to the buyer to repair, even if they were present before closing.

Why disclosures aren’t enough: In most states, sellers are required to disclose underlying issues in the home that they know exist (specific disclosure requirements vary by state). While disclosures are an important protection, they only cover un-repaired issues that the seller knows about — there’s no guarantee that the home is free of other underlying issues or that the repairs were made correctly. A home inspection is simply the best way to find out about any potential problems in the home.

If you buy a Zillow-owned home, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing the home went through a pre-listing home evaluation process and was renovated by local professionals to make it move-in ready. Of course, you’re always welcome to do your own inspection, too.

How are home inspections and appraisals similar?

Despite having two different processes and requiring the services of two different professionals, appraisals and inspections do share some similarities:

1. Appraisers and inspectors are licensed

Both roles require licenses and extensive training. Both appraisers and inspectors act as impartial third parties, paid to provide their professional opinion.

2. Buyers pay for both inspections and appraisals

Usually, the buyer selects the home inspector they want to work with and the lender selects the appraiser. The buyer pays for both the inspector and the appraiser, unless otherwise negotiated.

3. Appraisal and inspection both occur during escrow

The home inspection usually happens within the first week after your offer is accepted — the sooner the better, so there’s time to fix any issues flagged in the inspection report or renegotiate with the seller. The appraisal also happens during the escrow period, usually a week or two before closing.

4. Appraisal and inspection results allow for negotiations

Assuming you’ve structured your offer to include contingencies for both the appraisal and inspection, you’ll be allowed to renegotiate your offer based on the findings. If the appraisal comes back low, you’re allowed to renegotiate with the seller to figure out how to cover the difference between the appraised price and the offer price. Similarly, if the inspection report uncovers significant repairs, you’ll have a period of time where you can request repairs or credits, or back out of the deal without losing your earnest money.

Source: zillow.com