How to Get a Free Credit Score Report

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A credit report is a detailed overview of your credit history, including your payment history, lines of credit, and how consistent you’ve been with paying off your credit balances. Three national credit bureaus issue credit reports: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. While your credit report doesn’t contain your credit score, they help lenders understand your risk tolerance and eligibility for things like loans, insurance policies, jobs, and credit cards.

Your credit score, on the other hand, is a three-digit number that shows lenders how risky a borrower you are and is a crucial component of your financial health. Your credit score plays a key role in determining what loans you qualify for and the interest rate you will pay on all types of things, from mortgages to renter’s insurance to car loans. Your credit score comes from the information contained in your credit report, such as your payment history, credit utilization ratio, and age of credit, and is calculated using an algorithm. As critical as this little number is, many Americans are in the dark when it comes to their credit scores.

Fortunately, federal law entitles citizens to get a free credit report every year from the three major credit bureaus. Below, we’ll cover how to get a credit report, so you can understand where your financial health lies. Read end-to-end to learn how to get a free credit report and FICO score, or use the provided links to jump to a section of your choosing.

The Importance of Your Credit Report

Your credit report houses all sorts of pertinent information about your financial background, including your credit payment history, credit utilization ratio, and age of credit. Credit scores have become such a huge influence in the lives of consumers that millions are greatly disadvantaged by their lack of knowledge about their scores. In fact, roughly 26 million Americans are “credit invisible,” meaning they don’t have a credit report with one of the three national credit bureaus. On top of that, an additional 19 million Americans have credit scores that are unscorable by a credit-scoring model. Not having a credit score can make it difficult to get approved for a loan for a mortgage, car, or home improvement project because lenders will have no way to assess your risk level as a borrower. 

Knowing how to get a credit report can help you gain a better understanding of your financial health. As important as the information on your credit report is, you need to make it a priority to get your hands on it to help you not only find out what your current score actually is, but what is affecting it, and if there are any errors on it that are unfairly dropping your score.

Why is Your Credit Score Report So Helpful?

Considering the importance of credit scores on your financial portfolio, it makes sense to have a clear understanding of your credit’s health, which can only be identified on your credit score report. The information in your credit report is used to generate your credit score, which is what your potential lenders will see before they decide to approve you for a loan.

Your credit report includes important financial information, such as:

  • The types of credit that you use
  • How long your accounts have been open
  • How much money you owed
  • Whether you’ve paid your bills in full and on time
  • How efficiently you paid your bills
  • Late payments

It gives lenders information about how much credit you have used, and if you are looking for new sources of credit. There are a variety of lenders you might come across that look at your credit report to conduct business, such as:

  • Banks and financial institutions
  • Landlords
  • Car dealers
  • Credit card companies
  • Insurance companies
  • Department stores
  • Cell phone and cable providers
  • Utility providers
  • Employers

Your credit score has a huge influence on lenders’ decisions to approve or deny your loan applications. Many facets of your borrowing habits will be outlined on your credit report. Lenders use the information on your credit report to gauge their credit decisions on their applicants and customers from credit reporting agencies, including Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Lenders and other companies use the information in your credit score report to assess your applications for credit, loans, insurance, and even renting a residence.

How to Get a Free Credit Report

Many consumers wonder how to get a free credit score report. According to FTC.gov, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the three national credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—to provide free copies of credit reports once every 12 months to consumers who request one. They must also set reasonable prices for scores for consumers who need to retrieve their credit report more than once per year.  Here are some guidelines on how to get a credit report:

  • One way to access your credit report for free is by visiting the official government website AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling their toll-free number at 1.877.322.8228. Through this website, you can request your free credit report from one of the three bureaus, or have one of each credit report sent at the same time, depending on your intended use. For example, if you want to verify that all of your information, such as name, address, credit accounts, and amount owed, is accurate, you might want to request all three at once to compare. Or, you can spread out each credit report by requesting one every four months, for example.
  • Aside from obtaining a free credit score from one of the three national credit bureaus, you can also gain access to your credit report for free through other means, such as through Mint. At Mint, we team up with TransUnion to provide free credit scores. Mint’s free credit report and score simply requires you to verify your identity and once verified, you’ll have your free credit report summary within minutes. Through Mint, you can also enjoy credit monitoring, which provides credit alerts whenever TransUnion receives new credit information from any of your creditors.

For those wondering how to get a free credit score report, you can use the government’s free website AnnualCreditReport.com, or get your free credit report from websites like Mint.

taking out a home mortgage, you might want to view your credit report right away. There are three ways you can request a credit report: online, through the phone, and by mail. Here’s how long each method takes:

  • Requesting a free credit report online: When you request a free credit report online, such as through AnnualCreditReport.com or through Mint, you can get your credit report immediately. 
  • Requesting a free credit report through phone: If you order your free credit report by calling 1.877.322.8228, your credit report will be processed and mailed to your address within 15 days.
  • Requesting a free credit report through mail: You can write a letter requesting your annual credit report or fill out and mail the Annual Credit Report Request Form to the following address:

Annual Credit Report Request Service

P.O. Box 105218

Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

Requesting a free credit report through mail will be processed and mailed to your address within 15 days of receipt, which can bring your total wait time up to two to three weeks for delivery.

What to Do While You’re Waiting for Your Credit Report

Whether you called to request a free credit report or mailed in an annual credit report request form, you can take a few actions to pass the time.

Check your credit score

Checking your credit score is important for a variety of reasons. It gives you an overview of your financial health, can help you spot any errors, and can show you areas of improvement. As you review your credit score, you may come across two different types: FICO and Vantage.

  • FICO Credit Score: Fair Isaac Corporation created the FICO scoring model to provide an industry-standard for determining credit-worthiness that was fair for both consumers and lenders. FICO is the most widely used credit score and uses credit scoring models that are bureau specific, meaning there is a separate scoring model for Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Because each credit bureau has different information on file, your credit score might not be the same. However, in most cases, your score only differs by a few points—anything more might be due to a mistake. 

Most FICO scores range between 300-850— the higher the score, the less risky you may seem to lenders. A “good” credit score, according to FICO, is anywhere between 670-739. In order to get a FICO credit score, you need to have at least one account open for at least six months or longer, along with at least one account that has been reported to a credit bureau within the last six months.

  • Vantage Credit Score: The VantageScore Model was created by the three credit reporting companies— Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Together, industry-leading experts created a credit scoring model using credit report information from each credit bureau. Earlier versions of the VantageScore have a credit range between 501 and 990. The new VantageScore 3.0 uses the same credit score range as the FICO credit score, which is 300-850. Similar to the FICO credit score, a “good” credit score is anywhere between 670-739.

Unlike the FICO credit score, Vantage’s credit score accepts consumers who are new to the credit market, who would otherwise be invisible to lenders. Because lenders from all three credit bureaus can use the VantageScore, credit scores should remain fairly consistent. The only time a change would occur is if a lender provides a new piece of data to a credit bureau.

With Mint, you can check your credit score for free as many times as you’d like without hurting your credit score. Mint works by using the VantageScore model, which is determined by six different factors: age and types of credit, credit utilization, payment history, total balances and debt, recent credit inquiries, and available credit. Check your free credit score with Mint today to see where your credit score stands.

Understand your credit score

Before you work on increasing your credit score, it’s important to know what your credit score looks at. There are a variety of credit score myths out there that you might believe, which is why understanding what can impact your credit score can help you make thoughtful actions to improve your score.

Here’s a list of what most credit scores measure:

  • Payment history: Your payment history is just one piece of your credit history. Your payment history looks at your past credit payments and whether they’ve been paid on time. Missed or late payments can tell lenders that it might be risky to lend to you because you may miss a future payment. Paying off your credit balance on time in full, every time can help keep your credit score in check.
  • Age of credit: The longer the credit history, the higher your credit score might be. This is because the age of your oldest account provides more data and shows lenders you have more experience managing credit. 
  • Types of credit: Your credit mix, such as credit cards, loans, mortgages, and retail accounts, can show lenders you have experience managing and paying off multiple types of credit.
  • Credit utilization: Credit utilization is the amount of money you owe compared to your available line of credit. Often expressed as a ratio, high credit utilization may make lenders view you as risky because you’re borrowing close to your limit. For example, if your credit line is $10,000, and you bought a used car for $7,000 with a credit card, your credit utilization ratio will be 70%. Experts believe you should have a credit utilization ratio of no more than 30 percent of your credit limit.
  • New credit accounts: Opening a new credit account can result in a hard inquiry, which can hurt your credit score because it shows that a lender is looking at your credit report.

Understanding what credit scores measure can help you make smart financial decisions, such as making credit card payments on time, maintaining a low credit utilization ratio, and effectively managing different types of credit.

What to Do If There’s an Error on Your Credit Report

An error on your credit report can deal a significant blow on your credit score and report. An error on your credit report can happen for a variety of reasons, such as a careless mistake, inputting wrong information, or even identity theft. Regularly checking your credit score can help you look for any discrepancies that can damage your credit score. Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can issue a credit dispute for any information you think is incorrect without negatively impacting your score. If you notice an error on your credit report, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Submit a letter in writing or online to the credit reporting company that details the information you think is inaccurate. With your letter, provide any copies (not original files) that support your claim, and information such as your name, address, and the information you want to be removed or corrected on your credit report.
  • Step 2: Wait for the credit reporting company to respond. A response typically takes around 30 days from the day they receive your letter. During this time, they will investigate your claim and send the information you sent to the lenders that provided the information. If the lender finds there was a mistake, they must inform all three credit bureaus.
  • Step 3: Write a letter to the lender or information provider that may have made a mistake detailing the item you think is wrong in your credit report. Provide any copies of important information that supports your dispute and have them review your claim.
  • Step 4: Review your results. Each credit reporting company is required to provide you with the results of your investigation. If the dispute wasn’t resolved, you can have the credit bureau make a note on your future credit reports that there was a dispute.

As stated, disputing a credit report doesn’t hurt your credit score. If you believe there is an error on your credit report, take the time to resolve the error. Not doing so can lower your credit score, which can make it challenging to get approved for a loan or urge lenders to tack on higher interest rates for loans.

Mint.com is the Best Place to Go for Your Credit Score Report

Credit scores are an essential component of your financial portfolio. Now Mint offers a new feature that allows you to access your free credit report summary to help you understand what is influencing your credit score so you can learn how to improve it. You’ll be able to find out your credit score for free without ever having to use a credit card.

This new feature is just an extension of Mint’s commitment to giving consumers like you access to critical information that influences your financial health. All you have to do to get your free credit score from Mint is log into your Mint account and get started. With Mint, you can also work toward improving your credit and financing standing overall, create a budget, and stay on top of bills. If you’re not yet a member of Mint, learn more at Mint.com about becoming a member to gain access to all their helpful financial tools today!

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Swimming Pool Financing: What to Know and Best Pool Loans

Who doesn’t love a relaxing dip in the swimming pool on a sweltering, hot day? And when that swimming pool is in your backyard, it’s even better.

You could bring your friends together over the summer by hosting pool parties. You could teach your kids to swim right at home. If you rent out your place on Airbnb or Vrbo, you could fetch top dollar for the additional amenity.

Sounds like a dream.

If your house didn’t already come with a pool when you moved in, there’s still a possibility of turning your pool fantasies into reality if you have enough space.

And if you don’t have tens of thousands of dollars upfront to spend on a pool construction project, there’s always pool financing.

What Is Pool Financing?

Pool financing is when you borrow money from a financial institution or lender to cover the costs of building a pool. Pool construction typically costs anywhere from $17,971 to $46,481 with the average cost being around $32,059, according to HomeAdvisor.

Of course, the cost will vary based on the size, the type of pool, your location and where you plan to build the pool on your property. Adding a small plunge pool to a cleared, flat space in your backyard will cost considerably less than adding a resort-style pool with waterfalls and a jacuzzi to your property that requires you to cut down multiple trees and level the land.

Besides the personal enjoyment that comes along with having a pool, this addition to your home could boost your property value and make your home more desirable to future buyers, renters or short-term guests.

The high cost to install a pool means that many people rely on pool financing. There are several ways to go about getting a loan for a pool.

Options for Pool Financing

If you want to add a pool to your property, but don’t have the cash upfront, you have several options.

You could get a personal loan (sometimes referred to as a pool loan), a home equity loan, a home equity line of credit or a cash-out refinance. Some pool builders or retailers offer in-house loan programs through their partner lenders. You might also consider using a credit card as your method of financing.

Personal Loans (AKA Pool Loans)

Pool loans are unsecured personal loans offered by banks, credit unions and online lenders. You may be able to get a pool loan through the financial institution where you already have existing accounts, or you might choose to get financed from an online lender or financing consultant company that deals exclusively with pool loans and home improvement loans.

One of the benefits of personal loans is that you don’t have to offer up any collateral. If you stop making payments and default on your loan, you don’t have to worry about your house being foreclosed — though the lender still could sue you. If approved for an unsecured personal loan, you can usually receive funds within a couple of days, much quicker than some other financing options.

Because you don’t have any collateral backing the loan, however, these financing options can come with higher interest rates. Interest rates can start around 3% and go up to about 36%.

A borrower’s credit score, credit history, income and existing debt load all affect the interest rate.

Personal loan terms generally range from about two to 12 years — though some pool loans can have terms up to 20 years or more. You can get loans from $1,000 to over $200,000 to fund simple above-ground pools or elaborate in-ground pool projects.

Home Equity Loans

Home equity loans are essentially when you tap into the equity you have in your home and take out a second mortgage. If you have a significant amount of equity, you could finance your pool project this way.

Home equity loans generally have lower interest rates than personal loans because your home is used as collateral. If you default on your loan, the lender could foreclose on your home.

Also, with home equity loans you’ll face additional fees, like a home appraisal cost and closing costs, so be sure to factor that into your decision making.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

A home equity line of credit or HELOC also taps into the equity you have in your home, but it’s a revolving line of credit that you can use for several years instead of a loan that provides you with one lump sum of cash.

With a HELOC, you can pull out funds as needed to finance your pool construction and other home improvement projects. While you’ll only pay back what you borrow, the interest on HELOCs are usually adjustable rates rather than fixed rates. That means your monthly payments can increase during your repayment period.

Cash-Out Refinance

A cash-out refinance is essentially when you replace your existing mortgage with a new mortgage that exceeds what you owe on the house and you take out the difference in cash.

You can then use that lump sum to pay for your pool, and you’ll pay it back throughout the course of your new mortgage — over the next 10 to 30 years depending on your loan terms.

A cash-out refinance might make sense if you’re able to get a lower interest rate than your current mortgage. However, just like with a home equity loan or HELOC, your home is being used as collateral, and you’ll face additional fees involved in the refinancing process.

In-House Financing from the Pool Builder

Some pool companies may directly provide you with pool financing offers, so you don’t have to search for financing on your own. The pool companies typically aren’t offering the loan to you themselves, but they’ve partnered with a lender or network of lenders to provide you with financing options.

This type of financing is the same as applying for a personal loan or pool loan. The benefit is that you get a one-stop-shop experience instead of having to reach out to lenders individually. Your pool contractor may even be able to assist you through the loan process.

The downside is that you could potentially miss out on a better deal by only getting quotes from the pool company’s partnered lenders.

Credit Cards

Because of their high interest rates, credit cards are usually not recommended as options for financing a new swimming pool. However, there can be situations where it’d make sense.

If you’re able to open a zero-interest credit card and pay the balance back before the zero-interest period expires, paying with a credit card can be a great option — especially if it’s a rewards card that’ll give you points, airline miles or cash-back for spending or a bonus just for opening the account.

If you choose this financing option, be sure that you’ll be able to pay off the balance in a relatively short period of time. Most credit cards only offer zero-interest periods for the first 12 to 21 months. After that your interest rate could go up to 18% or more.

Pool Loan Comparisons

Getting quotes from multiple lenders will help you select the best deal for your pool construction project. Here’s what a few top lenders are currently offering.

Lyon Financial

Best for Long Loan Terms

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Pays the pool contractor directly
  • 600 minimum credit score
  • Offers military discounts

Lyon Financial is a financing consultant that has been in business since 1979 and works with a network of lenders to provide loans for pool and home improvement projects. Unlike personal loans that provide the borrower with the funds upfront, Lyon Financial disburses the funding directly to the pool builder in stages as the project progresses.

Lyon Financial

APR (interest rates)

As low as 2.99%

Maximum loan amount

$200,000

Loan terms

Up to 25 years

HFS Financial

Best for Large Pool Loans

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Provides loans up to $500,000
  • Most loans are funded within 48 hours
  • No prepayment penalties

HFS Financial is a financing company that partners with third-party lenders to provide homeowners with the money to construct pools on their property. Use their “60 second loan application” to kick off the loan process. Funds are typically dispersed within 48 hours.

HFS Financial

APR (interest rates)

As low as 2.99%

Maximum loan amount

$500,000

Loan terms

Up to 20 years

Viking Capital

Best for Customer Service

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Supports a network of pool builders
  • 650 minimum credit score
  • Offers military discounts

Viking Capital is a family-owned business that has been in operation since 1999. The company acts in the capacity of a financial consultant, and partners with a network of lenders to provide multiple loan offers for pool construction projects.

Viking Capital

APR (interest rates)

As low as 5.49%

Maximum loan amount

$125,000

Loan terms

Up to 20 years

5 Steps to Securing Pool Financing

Follow these steps to secure a loan for your pool.

1. Determine What Monthly Payments You Can Afford

Before you dig into your pool financing options, you should be clear on what monthly payment you can afford. Having a pool is a luxury. You don’t want a pool construction project to jeopardize your ability to pay your bills and meet your needs.

Figure out how much disposable income you have to work with by comparing your monthly earnings to how much you typically spend each month.

Don’t forget to factor in maintenance and additional utilities usage when estimating how much you can afford to go toward pool costs.

2. Check Your Credit History

When you’re financing a pool, having a good or excellent credit score will help you secure a loan with a low interest rate. Ideally, your credit score should be 700 or above.

Some lenders may offer you financing if you have fair or poor credit, however you may have to pay a lot more over time due to higher interest rates.

To boost your credit score before applying for a pool loan, follow these steps.

3. Get Cost Estimates for Your Pool

Talk with pool builders to get estimates on the total cost of your desired pool project. Get estimates from multiple pool companies so you have a better idea of what options exist.

If the estimates come in higher than you expected, consider scaling down the size of your pool project or using different materials.

Make sure any additional work — like constructing safety fencing — is included in your estimate.

4. Choose What Type of Financing Your Prefer and Shop Around For Lenders

After you figure out what options are available within your budget, it’s time to decide on what type of financing you prefer.

Will you be applying for an unsecured loan or do you plan to tap into your home equity or refinance your mortgage? Are you going to purchase a small above-ground pool that you could pay off in 15 months using a zero-interest credit card?

Once you know what type of financing you’ll go with, reach out to multiple lenders so you can compare offers and choose the best deal. You may be able to use a competitor’s lower offer to get a lender to reduce their offer even further.

5. Complete Loan Application and Sign Off on All Paperwork

The final step to get your pool project financed is to complete any additional paperwork and sign off on the dotted line. Expect to provide information about your income and other existing debt.

Your credit score may take a dip after taking on new debt, but it should rebound as you make regular, on-time payments.

Alternatives to Pool Financing

Taking on debt for a new pool doesn’t have to be your only option.

You could put off your pool construction project for a few years and save up for the expense in cash. Open a high-yield savings account to use as a sinking fund and don’t make withdrawals from the account until you’ve reached your savings goal.

If you think you’re outgrowing your current home — or are looking to downsize — wait until you’re ready to move and then look for a new home with an existing pool.

Or if you’re okay with not having a pool in your backyard, you’ll save money by visiting public pools or renting private pools from Swimply on occasion. This is a good option if you think you wouldn’t get much regular use of having your own pool.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many years can you refinance a pool for?

You can finance a pool over 20 to 30 years, depending on the type of financing you secure. If you need decades to pay back the loan, you might consider refinancing your mortgage or taking out a second mortgage. Private, unsecured loans typically need to be repaid sooner, however some have loan terms of 20 years or more.

What is the best way to finance a pool?

It all depends on your individual circumstances and preferences. If you’ve built up a ton of equity in your home and want to spread your debt payments over a lot of time, you might lean toward a home equity loan or HELOC. If you’ve got excellent credit and would qualify for a low-interest personal loan (unsecured loan), that might be the better option.

What credit score do you need for pool financing?

Ideally, you’ll want to have a credit score of 700 or higher to get the best interest rates for pool financing. Some companies, however, will accept lower credit scores. As a result, your loan may have a higher interest rate.

What is a good interest rate for a pool loan?

An interest rate around 5% is a good deal for a pool loan. You may be able to find rates even lower if you have excellent credit.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Guide to Cross-Collateralized Loans

One type of loan that isn’t often discussed is cross-collateralized, also known as cross-collateral loans, which is a type of secured loan. If someone is looking to take out multiple loans through the same financial institution, it’s important that they understand what cross-collateralization is and when it can happen.

So, what is a cross-collateralized loan? Keep reading to find out.

What Is Cross-Collateralization?

Cross-collateralization involves a borrower using an asset they already used as collateral on a loan as collateral again for a second loan. Collateral is an asset that acts as a loan guarantee. If the borrower fails to make their loan payments, the lender has the option to seize the collateral or to force the sale of the collateral to recoup its losses.

In short, cross-collateralization involves using the same collateral for one loan to serve as collateral for another loan at the same time.

Recommended: Using Collateral on a Personal Loan

How Does Cross-Collateralization Work?

The way that cross-collateralization works is that the same form of collateral is used to back more than one loan. The collateral used needs to guarantee the loan value. For example, if someone takes out an auto loan, the car (which equates to the value of the loan) is used as collateral. For cross-collateralization to work, that car also needs to be worth the same or more than the value of the second loan.

A common example of cross-collateralization is a second mortgage. If someone takes out a second mortgage on their home, the home is going to be used as collateral for both the primary mortgage used to purchase the home and the new second mortgage.

While cross-collateralization can involve using the same type of asset against one another, it doesn’t have to happen this way. For example, a lender can use a borrower’s car as collateral for a new loan that isn’t an auto loan, even though the car is already being used as collateral for the auto loan.

When Is Cross-Collateralization Used?

It’s more common to come across cross-collateralization in practice at credit unions and auto lenders. Unlike banks, credit unions are owned by the members of the credit union. To help protect this group against various losses, credit unions often use cross-collateralization to gain some extra security. Credit unions tend to have more favorable loan terms than larger financial institutions and banks, and members may secure those better terms by agreeing to cross-collateralization.

An example of this would be if a credit union member wants to finance their car through their credit union. Fast forward six months, and they want to take out an unsecured loan with a low-interest rate. The reason the credit union can offer an unsecured loan to the member at such a great rate is because they are actually securing the loan with the existing collateral from the member’s car loan.

The lender is legally obligated to disclose cross-collateralization, and the borrower must consent. It’s important to ask about cross-collateralization practices when taking out a new loan, however. A lender could include a clause in the loan agreement allowing it to cross-collateralize any collateral you used on any loan with that lender, and the wording in such a clause can vary by lender.

Once a form of collateral is being used to secure multiple loans, the borrower can’t sell that collateral. This means that a borrower who thinks their vehicle is securing only their auto loan may be unable to sell the vehicle if it is acting as collateral for another loan, whether or not the lender informed them verbally that cross-collateralization was happening.

How Can You Get Out of Cross-Collateral Loans?

Getting out of a cross-collateralized loan without paying it off in full can be very difficult. And it may not be as simple as transferring the loan to another lender. It’s usually quite challenging and expensive to move a cross-collateral loan to another lender, which can leave a borrower stuck with whatever rates and terms were offered to them when they took out the loan. That’s why it’s a really good idea to read the fine print of any loan agreements before signing and confirming whether a bank or credit union plans to start a cross-collateral loan.

Pros and Cons of Cross-Collateral Loan

Pros Cons
Typically easy to qualify for Larger risk of losing collateral
Potentially low cost Tied to just one lender
Allows borrowers to leverage existing assets Unfavorable terms may unchangeable without a change in lender

There are some major advantages and disadvantages associated with cross-collateral loans that are worth taking into consideration before signing any loan documents.

Benefits

Some of the benefits of a cross-collateral loan include:

•   Ease of qualification. Because cross-collateral loans are secured, they can be easier to qualify for than unsecured loans, for which the lender takes on more risk. Applicants with low credit scores may find it easier to qualify for this type of loan than some others.

•   Lower cost. General cross-collateral loans tend to be less expensive than unsecured loans. This type of loan tends to come with lower interest rates, which could equal savings over the life of the loan, and longer repayment terms, which could lower monthly payments but increase total interest cost.

•   Allows borrowers to leverage existing assets. Cross-collateral loans use an asset that is already trapped in an existing loan, and allows the borrower to get more value out of it by using it to ensure more loans.

Drawbacks

There are some serious downsides associated with cross-collateral loans that are worth thinking carefully about.

•   Larger risk. If the borrower isn’t able to repay their debts, the lender can seize the asset acting as collateral.

•   Tied to just one lender. With a cross-collateral loan, multiple of the borrower’s assets are being financed through one lender which can make it hard and expensive to ever switch to a lender offering more favorable terms.

•   Unfavorable terms. Collateralized loans, especially cross-collateral loans, can have stricter terms to meet in order to protect the lenders on subsequent loans.

Cross-Collateralization and Bankruptcy

Cross-collateralization can become particularly complex during bankruptcy. For example, a borrower of a cross-collateral loan (using their car as collateral) who files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy will be required to either reaffirm the debt or surrender their car. If they choose to reaffirm the debt and that loan is with a financial institution that has secured other sources of debt to the car, then they will need to pay off all of those debts in order to keep their car. Don’t forget, that borrower may not even be aware that some of their loans were cross-collateralized.

How cross-collateralization affects bankruptcy depends on the type of bankruptcy filed. Anyone dealing with cross-collateralization complications during bankruptcy may find that consulting a bankruptcy attorney will help them determine what their next steps should be.

Recommended: Getting Approved for a Personal Loan After Bankruptcy

Applying for SoFi’s Personal Loans

For someone looking for an alternative to a cross-collateralized loan with their existing bank or credit union, taking out an unsecured personal loan through a different financial institution may be one option to consider. Personal loans can be used to finance a variety of purchases, with the exception of higher education expenses and home purchases, typically.

SoFi Personal Loans offer fixed rates, no fees, and a variety of repayment terms.

Check your rate on a personal loan from SoFi

FAQ

Is cross-collateralization legal?

Yes, cross-collateralization is legal. Many banks and credit unions practice cross-collateralization.

Who can and can’t cross-collateralize?

Borrowers who already have a secured loan at a financial institution may qualify for cross-collateralization. Lenders don’t always inform borrowers verbally that they are participating in cross-collateralization, so it’s worth confirming whether or not this is happening before taking on a second loan through the same lender.

Can you get out of cross-collateralization?

A major downside of cross-collateralized loans is that once a borrower has multiple sources of debt through the same lender that are cross-collateral loans, it can be difficult to move them to another lender. Paying off the loan is usually the best option for getting out of this type of loan.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

Photo credit: iStock/mapodile
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Source: sofi.com

Guide to Refinancing Your Student Loans After Marriage

After getting married, you’ll start to merge your life, your home, and possibly your finances with your partner. As you plan for the future, it’s helpful to consider the implications of student loans and marriage—which can affect your credit, your ability to get a home mortgage, and even the repayment of your student debt.

Consolidating your federal loans or refinancing student loans after marriage may be options to consider as you begin handling finances in your marriage and working together to reach your financial goals

Student Loans and Marriage

There are currently over 45 million borrowers in the U.S. and the total amount of student loan debt is $1.7 trillion. So the odds are high that either you or your partner may have student loans. As you begin planning for your financial future together, it’s helpful to look at how marriage can affect student loan payments.

Recommended: What is the Average Student Loan Debt?

What Happens to Student Loans When You Get Married?

If you haven’t already had a conversation about student loans and marriage before tying the knot, you and your partner should sit down and discuss your individual student loan debt: how much you have, whether you have federal or private student loans, as well as what your balances, payment status, and monthly payments are. It’s important to share this information since getting married may change your debt repayment plans.

If someone has federal student loans and is on an income-based repayment (IBR) plan when they get married, for example, their monthly payments may increase post-marriage as income-based repayment plans are determined by household income and size. Depending on how a couple chooses to file their taxes, the government may take a new spouse’s salary into account when determining what the borrower’s monthly payments should be.

Because federal student loan borrowers on an income-based repayment plan have to recertify each year, the current year’s income is taken into account which may be higher after marriage if both spouses work. If the borrower’s new spouse doesn’t earn income then they may actually see their monthly payment requirements drop as their household size went up, but their household income remained the same.

Household income also affects how much student loan interest a borrower can deduct on their federal taxes. It’s worth consulting an accountant if a newly married couple needs help figuring out where they stand financially post-marriage.

It’s also important to be aware of how marriage affects your credit score as how someone manages their student loan debt is a factor. Since spouses don’t share credit reports, marrying someone with bad credit won’t hurt your credit score. That said, when it comes time to apply for a loan together, a bad credit score can make getting approved harder—which is another reason it’s key to get on the same page about repaying any debt on time.

Recommended: Types of Federal Student Loans

Refinancing Student Loans After Marriage

Refinancing student loans gives borrowers the chance to take out a new student loan with ideally better interest rates and terms than their original student loan or loans. Some borrowers may choose to consolidate multiple student loans into one newly refinanced loan to streamline their debt repayment process.

The result? One convenient monthly payment to make with the same interest rate and the same loan servicer instead of multiple ones.

As tempting as it may be to combine debt with a spouse and work toward paying it off together, married couples typically cannot refinance their loans together and each spouse would need to refinance their student loans separately. But even though a couple can’t refinance their student loan debt together, they’ll still want to be aware of what’s going on with their partner’s student loans.

Recommended: Top 5 Tips for Refinancing Student Loans in 2022

How to Refinance Student Loans After Marriage

Refinancing student loans after marriage looks the same as it does before marriage and is pretty straightforward. The student loan borrower will take out a new loan, which is used to repay the original student loan.

Ideally, this results in a better interest rate which will help borrowers save money on interest payments, but this isn’t a guarantee. Before refinancing, it’s important that borrowers shop around to find the best rates possible as factors like their credit score and income can qualify them for different rates.

Borrowers have the option of refinancing both federal and private student loans, but it’s worth noting that refinancing a federal student loan into a private one removes access to valuable federal benefits like income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness for public service employees.

Refinancing vs. Consolidating Student Loans After Marriage

Borrowers can choose to refinance or consolidate their student loans before or after marriage.

If a borrower has multiple federal student loans, then they can choose to consolidate their different loans into one Direct Consolidation Loan. This type of loan only applies to federal student loans and is offered through the U.S. Department of Education.

This type of loan takes a weighted average of all of the loans consolidated to determine the new interest rate, so generally this is an option designed to simplify debt repayment, not to save money. If a borrower chooses to consolidate through a private lender, they will be issued new rates and terms, which may be more financially beneficial.

Consolidating through a private lender is a form of refinancing that allows borrowers to take out one new loan that covers all of their different sources of student loan debt. While some private lenders will only refinance private student loans, there are plenty of private lenders that refinance both private and federal loans. As mentioned earlier, refinancing a federal loan means losing access to federal protections and benefits.

Refinancing can be advantageous if the borrower is in a better financial place than they were when they originally took out private student loans. If they’ve improved their credit score, paid down debt, and taken other steps to improve their financial picture, they may qualify for a better interest rate that can save them a lot of money over the life of their loan.

Another option in refinancing student loans after marriage is co-signing a partner’s loan. Doing so may mean that you can leverage greater earning power and possibly better credit, but it also means both partners are responsible for the loan, and can put one partner at risk in the event of death or divorce.

Student Loan Refinancing With SoFi

SoFi refinances both federal and private student loans, which can help borrowers save because of our flexible terms and low fixed or variable rates. Borrowers won’t ever have to worry about any fees and can apply quickly online today.

Learn more about refinancing student loans with SoFi.

FAQ

What happens when you marry someone with student loan debt?

If someone’s new spouse has student loan debt, this indirectly affects them. While the debt won’t be under their name or affect their credit score when it comes time to apply for credit products with their spouse (such as a mortgage loan) their credit score and current sources of debt will likely be taken into account.

Is one spouse responsible for the other’s student loans?

No one spouse is directly responsible for their spouse’s student loans, but it’s important to work together to pay off student loan debt. Again, once it comes time to apply for a joint loan, any student loan debt can have an effect on eligibility.

Does getting married affect student loan repayment?

Getting married can affect student loan repayment if a borrower is on an income-based repayment plan for their federal student loans. This type of repayment plan takes household size and income into account when determining what the borrower’s monthly payment should be. If their spouse brings in an income they may find their monthly payments are higher, but if their spouse doesn’t have an income their payments may become smaller.


Photo credit: iStock/South_agency

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL SEPTEMBER 1, 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
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Source: sofi.com

Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio – What It Is & How It Affects Your Mortgage Rate

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In the fourth quarter of 2021, the median home sold for just over $408,000. 

Could you afford to pay that out of pocket? Probably not. That’s why most homebuyers wind up applying for mortgage loans.

Getting a mortgage can be a long process and lenders look at a lot of factors when deciding whether to approve your application. You also have to go through a similar process when refinancing.

One thing that lenders look for when making a lending decision is the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of the loan.


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What Is a Loan-to-Value Ratio?

The loan-to-value ratio of a loan is how much money you’re borrowing compared to the value of the asset securing the loan. In the case of a mortgage, it compares the remaining balance of your loan to the value of your house. On an auto loan, it compares the balance of your loan to the value of your car.

Lenders use LTV as a way to measure the risk of a loan. The lower a loan’s LTV, the less risk the lender is taking. If you fail to make payments and the lender forecloses, a lower LTV ratio means the lender has a higher chance of fully recovering their losses by selling the foreclosed asset. A higher LTV means more risk the lender loses some money.

Lenders may have maximum LTVs that they’ll approve. For example, FHA loans require at least 96.5% LTV. Conventional loans require at least 97% LTV, but only for the best-qualified borrowers — most require 95% LTV or lower. Your loan’s LTV can have other important impacts on your borrowing experience, including your interest rate and monthly payment.


Calculating the Loan-to-Value Ratio

Because LTV plays a big role in the overall cost of your loan, it’s a good idea to calculate it before you apply. 

LTV Formula

To calculate the LTV ratio of a loan, you divide the balance of your loan by the value of your home.

The formula is:

(Loan balance / Home value) = LTV

LTV Calculation Example 

Imagine that you want to purchase a home that appraises for $300,000. You apply for a mortgage and get approved for a $270,000 loan.

The LTV of that loan is:

$270,000 / $300,000 = 90%

If you choose to make a larger down payment and only borrow $240,000, your mortgage’s LTV will be.

$240,000 / $300,000 = 80%

As you pay down your mortgage or as your home’s value changes, the loan’s LTV ratio moves away from this initial value. Typically, as you pay off your mortgage, the LTV ratio drops.


How LTV Affects Your Mortgage Rates

Lenders use LTV as a way to measure the risk of a loan. The higher the LTV of a loan, the higher its risk.

Lenders compensate for risk in a few ways. 

One is that they tend to charge higher interest rates for riskier loans. If you apply for a loan with a high LTV, expect to be quoted a higher interest rate than if you were willing to make a larger down payment. A higher rate raises your monthly payment and the overall cost of your loan.

Another is that lenders may charge additional fees to borrowers who apply for riskier loans. For example, you might have to pay more points to secure an affordable rate, or the lender might charge a higher origination fee. A larger down payment might mean lower upfront fees.

One of the most significant impacts of a mortgage’s LTV ratio is private mortgage insurance (PMI). While PMI does not affect the interest rate of your loan, it is an additional cost that you have to pay. Many lenders will make borrowers pay for PMI until their loan’s LTV reaches 80%. 

PMI can cost as much as 2% of the loan’s value each year. That can be a big cost to add to your loan, especially if you have a large mortgage.


LTV Ratio Rules for Different Mortgage Types

There are many different mortgage programs out there, each designed for a different type of homebuyer.

Different programs can have different rules and requirements when it comes to the LTV of a mortgage.

Conventional Mortgage

A conventional mortgage is one that meets requirements set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. While these loans are not backed by a government entity, they must meet Fannie or Freddie’s minimum credit score and maximum loan amount thresholds, among other criteria. Otherwise, they can’t easily be repackaged and sold to investors — the fate of most mortgage loans after closing. 

Conventional mortgages have a maximum LTV of 97%. That means your down payment will need to equal at least 3% of the home’s value. If your LTV is higher than 80% to begin with, you’ll have to pay PMI until your LTV drops below 78%.

Refinancing Mortgage

Refinancing your mortgage lets you take your existing loan and replace it with a new one. This gives you a chance to adjust the interest rate or the length of your loan.

Most lenders aren’t willing to underwrite refinance loans above 80% LTV, but you might find lenders willing to make an exception.

FHA Loans

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans are popular with homebuyers because they allow low down payments and give people with poor credit the opportunity to qualify.

If you’re applying for an FHA loan, the maximum LTV is 96.5%, meaning you’ll need a down payment of at least 3.5%. If the LTV value of your mortgage starts above 90%, you’ll have to pay PMI for the life of the loan. If your LTV is less than that amount, you can stop paying PMI after 11 years.

VA Loans

VA loans are secured by the Department of Veterans Affairs. They’re only available to veterans, service members, members of the National Guard or Reserves, or an eligible surviving spouse.

These loans offer many benefits, including the option to get a loan with an LTV as high as 100%. That means that you can borrow the full amount needed to purchase your home. The only upfront costs you need to pay are the fees associated with getting the loan.

USDA Loans

USDA loans, guaranteed by the US Department of Agriculture, are designed to help people purchase homes in designated rural areas. Borrowers also have to meet certain maximum income requirements.

USDA loans can have LTV ratios of 100%, letting borrowers finance the entire cost of their home. The LTV of the loan can exceed 100% if the borrower chooses to finance certain upfront fees involved in the loan.

Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government-backed mortgage companies. Neither business offers loans directly to consumers. Instead, they buy and offer guarantees on loans offered by other lenders.

Together, the two companies control a major portion of the secondary market for mortgages, meaning that lenders look to offer loans that meet their requirements.

For a single-family home, Freddie Mac has a maximum LTV of 95% while Fannie Mae sets the maximum at 97% for fixed-rate loans and 95% for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs).


Limitations of LTV

There are multiple drawbacks to the use of LTV ratios in mortgage lending, both for borrowers and lenders.

One disadvantage is that LTV looks only at the mortgage and not the borrower’s other obligations. A mortgage with a low LTV might seem like it has very little risk to the lender. However, if the borrower has other debts, they may struggle to pay the loan despite its low LTV.

Another drawback of LTV is that it doesn’t consider the income of the borrower, which is an essential part of their ability to repay loans.

LTV ratios also depend on accurate assessments of a home’s value. Typically, homeowners or lenders order an appraisal as part of the mortgage process. However, if a home’s value increases over time, it can be difficult to know the home’s actual worth without ordering another appraisal.

That means that you might be paying PMI on a loan without realizing that your home’s value has increased enough to reduce the LTV to the point that PMI is no longer necessary. You can always order another appraisal, but you’ll have to bear the cost — typically around $500 out of pocket.


LTV vs. Combined LTV (CLTV)

When looking at a property, lenders often use combined loan-to-value (CLTV) ratios alongside LTV ratios to assess risk.

While an LTV ratio compares the balance of a single loan to the value of a property, CLTV looks at all of the loans secured by a property and compares them to the home’s value. It’s a more complete way of assessing the risk of lending to someone based on the value of the collateral they’ve offered.

For example, if you have a mortgage and later get a home equity loan, CLTV compares the combined balance of both the initial mortgage and the home equity loan against your home’s appraised value.


LTV Ratio FAQs

Loan-to-value ratios aren’t easy to understand. If you still have questions, we have answers. 

What Is a Good LTV?

What qualifies as a good LTV ratio depends on the situation, the loan you’re applying for, and your goals.

An LTV over 100% is pretty universally seen as bad because you wouldn’t be able to repay your loan even if you sold the collateral asset.

In general, a lower LTV ratio is better than a high LTV ratio, especially if you want to avoid paying for PMI on top of your mortgage loan payment.

The 80% threshold is a particularly important breakpoint, especially for conventional loans. If you have an LTV of 80% or lower, you can avoid PMI on conventional mortgages, saving hundreds of dollars per month early in the life of your loan. At 80% LTV, you’ll qualify for a good interest rate, though dropping to 70% or even 60% could drop your rate further.  

How Can I Lower My LTV?

There are two ways to lower the LTV of your mortgage: pay down your mortgage balance or increase the value of the property.

Your loan’s LTV will naturally decrease as you make your mortgage payments. You can speed up the process by making additional payments to reduce your balance more quickly.

If you make improvements to your home, it can increase your home’s value. Real estate prices may also rise in your area, bringing your home’s value up too. However, to formally update the value of your home, you’ll need to pay a few hundred dollars to get it appraised again.

What Does a 50% LTV Ratio Mean?

A 50% LTV ratio means that you have 50% equity in your home. In other words, the total loan balance secured by the home — whether it’s a first mortgage, home equity line of credit (HELOC), home equity loan, or some combination of the three — is half the appraised value of the property.

As an example, your loan-to-value ratio is 50% if your home is worth $200,000 and you still owe $100,000 on your mortgage.

What Does a 75% LTV Ratio Mean?

A 75% LTV means that your loan balance is three-quarters of your home’s value. For example, if your home is worth $200,000 and your remaining mortgage balance is $150,000, your LTV is 75%.


Final Word

LTV ratio is one way that lenders look at the risk of making a loan based on the value of the collateral securing it. In the real estate world, LTV is a very important measure because it impacts things like private mortgage insurance and mortgage interest rates.

If you’re looking to avoid paying PMI or trying to get out of paying PMI on your loan, you’ll want to take steps to lower your mortgage’s LTV ratio. You can do this by investing in home improvements that increase the value of your home, then ordering a professional appraisal, or by paying extra principal each month to reduce your mortgage balance faster.

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GME is so 2021. Fine art is forever. And its 5-year returns are a heck of a lot better than this week’s meme stock. Invest in something real. Invest with Masterworks.

TJ is a Boston-based writer who focuses on credit cards, credit, and bank accounts. When he’s not writing about all things personal finance, he enjoys cooking, esports, soccer, hockey, and games of the video and board varieties.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Can You Actually Buy an Apartment?

Find out the differences between renting an apartment and buying a condominium or co-op to decide which option is right for you.

Would you like to own your apartment rather than shell out rent on a monthly basis? That’s possible, but only if you own the building in which the apartment is. You can’t buy an apartment, but if real estate ownership is important to you, there are other alternatives to purchasing an apartment building, including a condominium or a co-op.

Each of those three options offers plusses and minuses, and it’s wise to weigh them against one another before deciding where to live next.

What is a condominium?

A condominium, also known as a condo, is a residential living community featuring separate units owned by individual owners. Major similarities between owning a condo and a house include:

  • The right to change the interior décor, including remodeling and updating
  • The responsibility for maintenance and repairs
  • The duty to pay real estate taxes on the property

As for the maintenance and care of shared areas, building amenities and the exterior of the complex, condominium owners pay regular fees to a condo association responsible for those matters.

In a condo, “you own the space within your unit and an undivided percentage interest of the entire complex,” explains Daniel Homick, a Raleigh, NC, real estate and finance specialist with Axiom and an attorney licensed in Ohio. Moreover, condo residents must follow by-laws enacted by the condo association.

Owning a condo is similar to homeownership, overall, but with condo fees and by-laws as two major differences. A third is owners of either also pay taxes on their real property.

You can buy and sell a condominium, and its value can appreciate or depreciate. If condo by-laws permit it, an owner may also rent their condo to a tenant. Doing so, however, does not relieve the condo owner from their duty to pay the mortgage on their property. That’s because renting to another person does not alter or impact the financial obligation incurred by the condo owner when they secured a mortgage.

A co-op has a board you

A co-op has a board you

What is a co-op?

Primarily found in populous metropolitan cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, a co-op does not convey ownership of property directly but rather through a share in the structure. Says Homick, a co-op share offers “the right use the space the co-op occupies. You own the wallpaper but not the walls, the carpet but not the floor. The cooperative owns everything.”

In other words, when a person buys into a co-op, they become a shareholder that grants certain rights. “You’re a shareholder in the cooperative which owns the real estate. As a shareholder in the cooperative, you are entitled to occupy a specific unit represented by the shares,” he says.

Therefore, a co-op shareholder agreement does not convey real estate. Instead, Homick explains, the structure itself belongs to the co-operative. A co-op unit owner is must pay fees assessed by a co-op association for the maintenance of common areas of the structure, just like a condo.

Co-ops also have their own rules and regulations as to what can and can’t do in the living space, says Keith Martin, a Realtor based in Cincinnati, OH.

In addition, some laws apply to condominiums that do not pertain to cooperative ownership. Among them, says Homick, is that “co-ops may prevent the sale of shares to those they disapprove.” While certainly there are state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination in mortgage loan approvals for homes and condos,” cooperative-laws are not as airtight as condo laws” when it comes to that, he says.

Pros of owning a condominium

There are several benefits to owning a condominium. Among them is the right to remodel the living area according to the owner’s taste and needs. Of course, those alterations must abide by the condo’s by-laws.

Other advantages include:

  • No responsibility for outside maintenance, such as grass cutting and snow removal
  • Sharing the financial burden of the maintenance of common areas of the development with the other condo owners
  • Tax benefits of owning real property
  • Owning an asset to distribute to heirs

Benefits of apartment living

When deciding what type of abode is best for you, it’s wise to consider your needs.

If you prefer to pay rent and not be responsible for the physical maintenance of your apartment or its exterior, an apartment is your best option.

Another benefit of renting is flexibility. Whereas an apartment lease is for a specific length of time, usually a year, a condominium or co-op is for much longer typically. That’s because the latter two grant different levels of ownership, whereas renting an abode offers none.

Decisions, decisions, decision

When deciding whether to buy a condo, purchase a co-op title or rent an apartment, you must consider many factors, such as your income, lifestyle and needs so you make the best possible decision for your situation.

Source: rent.com