Selling Your Home in the Age of Coronavirus? Here Are All Your Top Questions, Answered

With every day of this pandemic feeling like it brings a fresh batch of news, you’d be forgiven for feeling confused about the actual state of things now. While many cities start to reopen—and some continue to experience a high volume of new COVID-19 cases—it’s hard to know how any sector of the economy is doing, especially the real estate market.

Are things getting back to normal? Is now an OK (or even appropriate) time to consider selling a home? Whether you’re curious about the timing of a sale or the nitty-gritty details of how it will all go down, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve gathered advice from the real estate experts to answer your most pressing questions about selling a home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Can I sell my house during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Selling a house should always be based on a number of factors, particularly with regard to your family’s health and financial situation. But to cut to the chase: Yes, you can still sell a home during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly now that states are beginning to reopen.

In most markets, inventories are low and prices are high—which means you can still make a profitable sale.

“Now’s a great time to sell,” says Michelle Sloan, a broker and a Realtor® who’s with Re/Max Time Cincinnati. “With low inventory and high buyer interest, many homes are selling very quickly—within days or hours in some cases. Interest rates are also low, and there’s serious pent-up demand for homes, especially in lower price ranges.”

Is it safe to sell your home during such an outbreak?

Selling your home during a pandemic means extra precautions.
Selling your home during a pandemic means extra precautions.

Siriporn Carrelli/Getty Images

You might be asking yourself if it’s safe to go through the traditional home showing and selling process. Assuming your family members are all in good health, there are several precautions your real estate agent can take to safely show your home to interested buyers.

“We’re allowing showings, but with safety in mind,” Sloan says.

For her team, that means no overlapping showings, no children in the house, masks on, shoes off, and hand sanitizer at the door. She also recommends people leave all of their lights on and doors open (even for closets), since this translates into fewer surfaces being touched.

Are houses even selling now?

Yes! The fact is that people still need to move, pandemic or no pandemic. For instance, in Austin, TX, at least 400 homes “and counting” are closing every single week, reports Regine Nelson with Wealthward Realty.

“Austin is low on inventory; we still have more people moving here than we have housing available,” she says.

Other markets, like Tampa, FL, are seeing a similar trend in sales.

“Houses are definitely selling now,” says Nadia Anac, a Realtor with Reagan Realty. “In my market, I’ve even been in multiple-offer situations.”

The key to these kinds of numbers seems to be in the inventory: Markets with low inventory are seeing houses sold quickly. As always, we’d recommend chatting with a local real estate agent to get the pulse on exactly how your market is performing.

Should I sell my house during a recession?

Since this recession is largely dictated by the pandemic, it’s almost impossible to keep the two separate. But if you do decide to sell during this period of economic downturn, take the time to consider your own financial stability, as well as the conditions of the market you’re moving to.

“If you planned to sell your home due to relocation, a short sale, or moving for larger space, then I would recommend proceeding—but with caution,” says Nelson. “Do you have another home or area in mind? Always be sure to see if what you are seeking is available or will be available when you’re ready to find a property to purchase.”

And while the buyer pool has undoubtedly shrunk in the past few weeks, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“Homes are still selling, but lending requirements have tightened, meaning buyers are more qualified and ready to move forward,” says Karen Parnes, owner of NextHome Your Way.

Will I have competition if I try to sell my house right now?

Even during a pandemic, you can expect some competition from other sellers.
Even during a pandemic, you can expect some competition from other sellers.

georgeclerk/Getty Images

“You’re likely to have much less competition as a seller right now,” Parnes says, since potential sellers are still wary about putting their homes on the market amid a pandemic. (These conditions are expected to change as summer ramps up; more on that later.)

But Nelson advises her clients to avoid getting caught up in the competition, and focus instead on the things they can control—like competitive pricing, getting their home in a good state, and having a solid marketing strategy.

Another point to remember? Competition happens on both sides of the street.

“Once you sell, you’re way more likely to have competition as a buyer,” says Parnes.

Should I expect to sell for less right now?

Not necessarily. Although the economy’s experiencing a recession, that doesn’t mean prices are going down.

“There are less buyers, but there are also a lot less homes on the market,” says Parnes. “The old rule of supply and demand still holds.”

While some predicted a price drop for 2020, experts now expect the summer home-buying market to be much hotter than expected, as many Americans feel more secure in their jobs and can physically step into the homes they are considering.

While you might not have to drop your price, Anac reminds her clients that they may need to be more patient in pursuing a good sale.

“If your house is priced correctly, and depending on your market, it may just take a little bit longer to sell,” she says.

How can I sell my house without allowing buyers to walk through?

If you're selling, now's the time to make the most of virtual tours.
If you’re selling, now’s the time to make the most of virtual tours.

dem10/Getty Images

It may be the safest option, but it’s not the easiest to pull off. Understandably, buyers want to see the home they’re buying in person. And no, telling them they can walk the property without entering won’t help matters much.

“It’s mostly impossible to sell your home with no showings or [prospective buyers] in the home at all,” says Parnes, although she admits “real estate transactions are still happening in states where showings are not allowed and being done completely virtually.”

If you have special health concerns or live with someone who’s considered high-risk, talk with your real estate agent about the possibility of virtual showings. Otherwise, consider just cleaning up thoroughly after would-be buyers leave.

Should I stage my house?

This room was virtually staged with furniture for adults.
This room was virtually staged with furniture for adults.

VHT Studios

“Staged homes always sell faster,” says Anac, “but especially in times like these.”

The real question isn’t whether you should stage your house, but how you should stage it. With more tours and showings happening online, you might consider having your home virtually staged rather than actually inviting people into your home to decorate it.

How can I prepare my home for a virtual tour?

A virtual tour can run the gamut from a live walk-through with an agent on FaceTime to a sophisticated 3D rendering from companies such as Matterport. But for the most part you want to prepare for a virtual tour the same way you would for a still-photo shoot—by decluttering it, upping the curb appeal, and making sure nothing is broken or an eyesore.

“Make sure everything is clean, all lights are turned on, fans are off, blinds are open, surfaces are cleared, and everything is put away,” advises Anac.

How can I close remotely?

States are handling remote closings a little differently, so the short answer is to ask your real estate agent. The long answer: The way settlements are being handled varies quite a bit.

“Some, but not all, states have remote settlements,” says Parnes. “Some have approved it temporarily, and those that don’t are typically splitting the buyers and sellers at settlement and having only the essential people involved at the table.”

Looking for more advice on selling your home in the age of COVID-19? We’ve got you covered.

Source: realtor.com

Prepping Your Home to Sell in 2021: How to Attract Homebuyers

One of the most noticeable impacts of coronavirus is how it drastically changed how everything was done in 2020 – including selling a home. Due to the pandemic, many fundamental elements of real estate were changed: what’s popular in a home, how to market a home, what sellers should be doing, what showing protocols should be in place just to name a few. Now, those changes are not isolated to 2020. As we approach a new year, the new way of preparing a home to sell is here to stay, so if your 2021 plans include selling a home, it’s important to understand exactly how to attract homebuyers and how to prep your home to sell.

Read: What Could a Second Wave of COVID-19 Mean for the Housing Market?

Virtual Walkthrough and Tours

In an era of unprecedented lockdowns and quarantines, the ability to tour a home virtually is now a non-negotiable to attract homebuyers. Many Realtors are now offering this service as part of their listing services.  In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, 66% of Realtors surveyed expect that within the next year the demand for virtual tours will increase. Promoting virtual tours can increase the online presence of a listing, as well as to increase buyer interest in a property.

woman sitting on her computer touring homes virtually 2021 home woman sitting on her computer touring homes virtually 2021 home

Tip: Relying solely on a virtual tour can be risky. It’s important sellers are utilizing professional companies that offer complete tours of the entire property and not just highlighting the positive features.

Read: What You Need to Know About Virtual Tours and Walkthroughs

Social Distancing Protocols

While the general rule-of-thumb when selling a home is to have as many people tour the home as possible, COVID-19 has altered this philosophy. With social distancing the new norm, it’s critical that homeowners not only keep themselves safe, but potential homebuyers too. It’s not only encouraged but becoming more prevalent for each listing to have their own COVID-19 safety protocols: limiting the size of groups allowed to view, requiring buyers to wear masks, sellers providing hand sanitizer and gloves, requiring showing agents and homebuyers to disclose COVID-19 diagnosis, providing protective shoe booties for tours to name a few.

covid-19 housing marketcovid-19 housing market

Tip: Clearly conveying protocols both in the MLS and at the property ensures everyone is on the same page. Each Realtor should convey the COVID-19 safety protocols in the MLS listing for other agents, and homeowners can display safety rules on the front door for each buyer to review before entering.

Read: What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know About Multiple Listing Services

Cleanliness and Incentives

One of the main concerns with home showings during the COVID-19 era has been keeping the home clean and sanitized. Both homebuyers and homeowners are equally concerned; however, by utilizing and marketing a clean and disinfected home is a new asset in real estate marketing. As buyers feel apprehensive moving into a home previously occupied, homeowners can minimize their apprehension by marketing a professional cleaning and disinfecting prior to closing. In addition, sellers should strongly consider having their home professionally cleaned and disinfected prior to showings and utilizing this in the home’s marketing.

Tip: Homeowners should conduct a sanitation and marketing plan with their Realtor. This is crucial during, and after, COVID-19.

Despite the changes COVID-19 has brought to the real estate industry, it has not slowed the intensity of the market. In fact, “Existing-home sales grew for the fifth consecutive month in October.” Home prices have continued to soar, as well as buyer demand. Combined with the shrinking housing inventory, it’s still a great to sell as most of the country remains in a seller’s market.

Tip: If you’re thinking of buying a home in 2021, check out our homebuyer’s guide of questions to ask post-COVID-19.


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Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

Current Mortgage Rates Continue to Rise Gradually

Here we go with yet another week. We should be in for a bit of action with a handful of speaking engagements from Federal Reserve officials and the September Jobs Report on Friday morning.

Mortgage rates will likely remain in a tight range but it wouldn’t be too surprising if they jumped around a little. Read on for more details.

Where are mortgage rates going?  

Mortgage rates poised to stay in tight range

Mortgage rates have been on the rise for a little over a month now.

Last week, the Federal Reserve followed through with a widely anticipated increase to the nation’s benchmark interest rate, the federal funds rate.

Financial market participants had already priced that rise into their portfolios so there was little commotion once the final verdict came through.

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, investors are giving the December meeting the greatest odds of another quarter point increase with about an 80% chance according to the CME Group’s Fed Funds Futures.

Getting back to events closer on the horizon, we have several speaking engagements from Federal Reserve officials this week.

It will be interesting to get their takes on the recent decision and see if they offer any insight into what might happen in the coming months.

Also this week, we have the monthly jobs report for September out on Friday morning.

That report is always one of the most closely watched pieces of economic data every month and there’s no reason to believe that this time around will be different. Depending on what happens, we could see mortgage rates rise or fall as we head into the weekend.

Rate/Float Recommendation                                     

Lock now before rates move even higher          

Mortgage rates have been moving higher recently and that trend is expected to continue over the coming weeks and months.

If you’re on the market for a purchase or refinance, we strongly recommend that you take action sooner rather than later in order to get the best rate possible.

The longer you wait, the more likely it is that you will be locking in a higher rate and paying more in interest over the life of your loan.

Learn what you can do to get the best interest rate possible.  

Today’s economic data:                   

Fedspeak 

  • Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic at 8:30am
  • Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari at 11:00am
  • Boston Fed President at 12:15pm

PMI Manufacturing Index 

The PMI Manufacturing Index hit a 55.6 for September. That’s slightly above the consensus for 54.5.

ISM Mfg Index

The ISM Mfg Index hit a 59.8 in September.

Construction Spending

Construction

Notable events this week:       

Monday:   

  • Fedspeak
  • PMI Manufacturing Index
  • ISM Mfg Index
  • Construction Spending

Tuesday:   

Wednesday:         

  • Fedspeak
  • ADP Employment Report
  • PMI Services Index
  • ISM Non-Mfg Index
  • EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday:     

  • Fedspeak
  • Jobless Claims
  • Factory Orders

Friday:          

  • Employment Situation
  • International Trade
  • Fedspeak

*Terms and conditions apply.

Carter Wessman

Carter Wessman is originally from the charming town of Norfolk, Massachusetts. When he isn’t busy writing about mortgage related topics, you can find him playing table tennis, or jamming on his bass guitar.

Source: totalmortgage.com

Rising Rents, Stagnant Wages, and the Burden of Unstable Housing

With rents rising and wages stagnant, affording rent can be an insurmountable burden.

While homelessness may not be viewed as a looming issue for those who are financially stable, it’s not as distant as some might think.

With rents rising faster than wages, the burden of affording rent is looming larger and larger for many Americans and, in, some cases becoming insurmountable.

According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, 79 percent of renters who moved in the last 12 months experienced an increase in their monthly rent before moving to a new place. And over half (57 percent) said that hike was a factor in pushing them out the door and into another rental. Only 21 percent of renter households didn’t report experiencing a rent increase.

Nearly a third (30 percent) of households nationwide, representing roughly 73 million adults, report they’re struggling or just getting by financially. And it’s no wonder; Americans spend on average a median of 29.1 percent of their income on rent, including many who spend a higher percentage but have lower incomes.

Increasingly, major metro areas are becoming out of reach for those who aren’t earning more than minimum wage, and this is becoming increasingly true even in markets that have historically been more affordable.

Take Houston, for instance, where the median low-income earner spends 65.1 percent of their income on the median bottom-tier rent. Then there’s notoriously expensive New York, where — along with San Francisco and Los Angeles markets — the median low-income wage will not even cover a low-end apartment. In New York alone, to afford apartments with median bottom-tier rents, renters need to shill out 111.8 percent of the median low-income wage.

With such large percentages of household incomes going toward rent, saving for the future is less of a priority — and a possibility. More than half (51 percent) of Americans say they don’t have enough money saved to support themselves for three months, according to a Zillow analysis of the Federal Reserve Board’s 2016 Survey of Household Economics and Decision-making.

Millions struggle to afford stable housing

According to the Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends 2017, today’s median household income for renters is $37,500, which equates to about $18 per hour — or 2.5 times the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Nationwide, in 2016, 2.2 million people lived off wages at or below the federal minimum wage, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When it comes to renting, there is no state where a 40-hour minimum wage is enough to afford a 2-bedroom apartment, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

While renting is becoming increasingly more difficult, buying a home becomes a distant dream.“Honestly, if you’re making $37,500 per year and have no savings, it’s probably not feasible for you to buy in most markets,” Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell says.

Across all states, the median renter can expect to pay $1,430 per month on rent. It’s no wonder many Americans are struggling financially — particularly in New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Seattle, where there’s also a stronger relationship between rising rents and an increase in the homeless population.

Homelessness by the numbers

Coast to coast, there are an estimated 550,000 homeless people, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

But Zillow Research used statistical modeling to estimate the uncounted homeless population, unsheltered homeless people often missed during the One Night Counts, to estimate the true number of homeless people, a number much higher than the official estimates. And as rents climb, the numbers will only grow, especially in large, tight metros, where the rent burden can become life-altering.

Take New York City, for example. The metro has the largest population of homeless people in the nation. Last year, there were an estimated 76,411 people experiencing homelessness, according to Zillow’s estimates. If rents were to rise 5 percent, an additional 2,982 people would be forced to the streets.

And Los Angeles doesn’t fare much better. Given the same rent hike, an additional 1,993 people would fall into homelessness. And a rent hike of 5 percent isn’t implausible, especially given that in L.A., rents rose 4.4 percent over the past year.

The geography of social mobility

Right now in L.A., renters dish out $2,707 per month for the median rent, which is almost twice the national median rent and amounts to nearly half of the median household income in the metro. With such a substantial chunk of money spent every month on rent, it’s no surprise the metro has an estimated 59,508 people without a home.

But rents haven’t always been so unaffordable. Just 17 years ago, three of the top 20 metros were rent-burdened, meaning renters paid more than 30 percent of their income on living expenses. Today, however, the number of cities that have become unaffordable have grown exponentially.

Currently, renters in nine of the same top 20 metros can expect to spend 30 percent or more of their income on rent. The biggest share spent on rent comes from Los Angeles, where renters pay nearly half (49 percent) of their income on rent.

“The places where social mobility — the ability to climb the income ladder — is the greatest are now in places that are unaffordable for most people,” said Gudell. “San Jose or the Bay Area in general, parts of Boston, for example — these places have gotten to be so expensive that a lot of people who have an income of $37,500 a year will not be able to buy a home or even afford a family-sized rental.”

The costs of housing instability go beyond financial

Unfortunately, for too many, lack of affordable housing can complicate other critical aspects of life, including health and future livelihoods.

Individuals living in shelters are more than twice as likely to have a disability compared to the general population. This includes serious mental illnesses, conditions related to chronic substance abuse, diabetes, heart disease and HIV/AIDS, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Gudell says people have better outcomes when they aren’t constantly moving from place to place.

“It’s been shown that you have better outcomes if you live in a stable environment with less frequent moves, which is easier to attain when you own versus rent,” Gudell said. “So, if you take stable environments away from people, their outcomes will most likely be worse than they are today, and that has an impact on education, on health and on income growth in the future.”

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Source: zillow.com

Foreclosure and Buying a Foreclosed Home: A Guide

A mortgage is a type of secured loan, with the house serving as collateral. Technically, a borrower owns the house as soon as they sign the mortgage contract, but if they fail to meet their monthly repayments and any other obligations, the lender may seek to secure the asset.

This process is known as foreclosure. It’s something that lenders are keen to avoid and something they will only do if they have no other choice. 

The Foreclosure Process

The foreclosure process differs from state to state, but in most cases, the act of foreclosure takes place after a lengthy pre-foreclosure process, during which time the lender looks for solutions that will negate some of the inevitable losses.

The process begins when a borrower misses a monthly mortgage payment. At this point, the account becomes delinquent, and if the borrower does not meet the payment demands within 3 to 6 months, the lender will seek to gain control of the property.

The lender will often provide the borrower with multiple chances to repay the debt and avoid foreclosure. But as soon as that first payment is missed, successive payments will then increase the borrower’s obligation and make it difficult for them to cover the debt. If they have recently lost their job and simply can’t find the funds they need to repay, they may feel powerless.

This is what happens to thousands of homeowners every year and it was a process that became all too common during the housing crises of 2008, when countless borrowers found themselves with houses they couldn’t afford and debts they couldn’t repay.

Do Banks Want to Foreclose?

Foreclosure is devastating for the homeowners, but it’s also costly for the banks. There is a misconception that all lenders are eagerly waiting for the buyer to make a mistake and miss a payment so they can take advantage and initiate the foreclosure process. Apparently, this is how lenders make their money and if they can destroy a family in the process, win-win!

But this is a rather nihilistic way of looking at things and it’s actually the opposite of what banks want. It might be true that big financial institutions don’t care much about making American families homeless, but only in the name of profit and the foreclosure process is just not profitable for them.

It takes time and money to prepare paperwork and safeguard a house in a way that prevents it from being damaged by squatters and vandals. And at the end of that process, they still need to find a buyer. 

Foreclosed properties typically sell for much less than their market value, and this, combined with all the red tape, is why banks lose an average of $50,000 per foreclosed home.

This probably won’t do much to ease your woes, but it’s worth keeping in mind the next time you edge dangerously close to foreclosure. The bank wants you to pay and to stay in the house; they want to find a suitable middle ground. As a result, you may have some wiggle-room left, providing you’re prepared to make some sacrifices and commitments.

Foreclosure Statistics

It has been estimated that as many as 1 in 200 American homes will be foreclosed upon, which equates to 0.5% of all households. This is the national average, however, and in some states the rate of foreclosure is much higher. Take a look at these statewide foreclosure rates to determine the risk of being foreclosed upon in your area:

  • Alabama: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.47%
  • Alaska: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.37%
  • Arizona: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.42%
  • Arkansas: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.27%
  • California: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.34%
  • Colorado: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.25%
  • Connecticut: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.72%
  • Delaware: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.96%
  • Florida: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.71%
  • Georgia: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.45%
  • Hawaii: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.28%
  • Idaho: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.16%
  • Illinois: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.74%
  • Indiana: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.52%
  • Iowa: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.33%
  • Kansas: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.23%
  • Kentucky: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.30%
  • Louisiana: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.36%
  • Maine: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.35%
  • Maryland: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.86%
  • Massachusetts: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.44%
  • Michigan: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.34%
  • Minnesota: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.24%
  • Mississippi: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.22%
  • Missouri: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.35%
  • Montana: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.11%
  • Nebraska: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.24%
  • Nevada: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.60%
  • New Hampshire: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.25%
  • New Jersey: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 1.33%
  • New Mexico: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.57%
  • New York: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.54%
  • North Carolina: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.43%
  • North Dakota: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.06%
  • Ohio: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.63%
  • Oklahoma: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.48%
  • Oregon: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.29%
  • Pennsylvania: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.49%
  • Rhode Island: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.30%
  • South Carolina: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.63%
  • South Dakota: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.07%
  • Tennessee: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.36%
  • Texas: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.38%
  • Utah: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.32%
  • Vermont: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.13%
  • Virginia: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.37%
  • Washington: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.20%
  • West Virginia: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.12%
  • Wisconsin: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.31%
  • Wyoming: Statewide Foreclosure Rate = 0.27%

As you can see from the list above, many states don’t stray too far from the national average, but there are a few outliers. Foreclosed properties are much rarer in North Dakota and South Dakota and nearly 20 times more common in New Jersey. 

There is no direct correlation between real estate prices, as California and Hawaii have some of the highest prices in the United States and both have a foreclosure rate below the national average. However, debt and average wages, along with the cost of living, certainly play a role.

Buying a Foreclosed Property

A foreclosure auction is a great way to get a property at a discounted price, with up to 15% of all new home purchases coming as a result of foreclosure sales. 

You can choose from an array of property types in most counties and could save up to a fifth of the market value. These houses sell for less because you can’t see them before you buy, and this puts many buyers off. You also have very little knowledge of what happened in the house and who the owners were before it was foreclosed.

If you’re looking for a new property, take a look at these tips for buying foreclosure homes:

  1. Understand the Rules

Buying a foreclosed home is a lot like buying a traditional home through a real estate agent, but with a few key differences. 

Firstly, the homes are sold as-is and you can’t arrange viewings. In the usual homebuying process, you can negotiate with the sellers and make offers for existing furniture. If you notice a problem with the home, you can mention this and ask that it be fixed or the price be dropped.

None of these are possible when buying foreclosed homes. You get what you are given and can’t change your mind because you noticed a little mold or don’t like the carpets.

  1. Get a Loan Approval

Just because you’re buying from a bank doesn’t mean they will automatically finance the purchase. You need to go through the usual process of getting pre-approved for a home loan.

The pre-approval letter should be your first priority, so make sure you have this before you start shopping for foreclosed properties.

  1. Speak with Real Estate Agents

Foreclosed homes are sold quickly. You don’t have a lot of time to do your research and prepare your budget. But if you speak with a local real estate agent and let them know what you are looking for, they can help you.

A real estate agent will have a better understanding of the process and can learn about houses as soon as they are available. They may have also sold similar houses and even the exact same house, which means they can offer you some valuable insight.

  1. Look at the Surroundings

While you won’t be given access to the house, there is nothing stopping you from paying a visit and taking a peek around the neighborhood and the grounds. Not only will this tell you more about your future neighbors, but the exterior of the house should give you a good idea of how long it has been sitting there and what state of disrepair it’s in.

Has the garden overgrown; is it filled with junk? Does the exterior of the house look like something out of a post-apocalyptic wasteland or has it retained its charm?

If you find any neighbors wandering around their yards, you can drop by and ask them some questions about the house, enquiring about the previous owners and their habits. While this won’t paint a complete picture of the interior, it will give you a good idea.

A happy, loving family is likely to have kept the home in better condition than a young couple who only used it as a party house.

  1. Think About Your Budget

One of the reasons houses are foreclosed in the first place is because buyers don’t budget properly. They throw all their savings on a down payment and other moving expenses and get a mortgage that essentially maxes out their monthly expenses. In doing so, they are constantly walking the line, and with no savings to protect them and a budget stretched to its limits, they are always one financial mishap away from complete disaster.

Make sure you budget for additional moving costs, repairs and maintenance, as well as the cost of the house itself. Set a realistic budget, don’t stretch your finances thin and don’t be tempted to go above this. It is easy to get carried away in a real estate auction, so you have to be very strict with yourself.

You start thinking, “It’s only $1,000 more” and before you know it you have bid way over your budget and a small part of you is secretly hoping someone outbids you.

What Happens if Foreclosure Listings Don’t Sell?

Foreclosed properties don’t always make it to an auction and when they do, there is no guarantee they will sell. When a mortgage lender can’t sell a property, it will often add it to its list of foreclosed properties, known as real estate owned (REO) properties. 

These properties can be purchased directly through the lender and are often marketed at real estate investors.

Consequences of Foreclosure

A foreclosure will remain on your credit report for up to 7 years and could greatly reduce your credit score, making it harder for you to get lines of credit and loans in the future.

Naturally, a mortgage lender will be wary of giving you a new mortgage after seeing what happened with your last one and, as a result, you may struggle to purchase a home for a number of years.

The good news is that this won’t last forever and the damage caused to your credit report will lessen over time.

Bottom Line: Avoiding and Buying

Many prospective homebuyers will avoid foreclosure properties because they see it as profiting from the misery of others. After all, while you’re patting yourself on the back for getting a discount on a nice big house, the previous occupants are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

But your interest in that property has nothing to do with the previous occupants and by completing a sale, you won’t be making their situation any better or worse.

This is just one of those times when you have to think about yourself, because a strange as this process might feel, the truth is that if you don’t buy the house, someone else will, and the previous occupants will be in the same dire situation regardless of who owns the house now or in the future.

As a current homebuyer, it’s important to avoid foreclosure proceedings. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but if you remember that lenders are just as keen on avoiding this process, you may be able to find a solution. 

A house is your biggest and most important asset and you need to do what you can to hold onto it, whether that means getting a smaller and more affordable house in the first place or creating an emergency fund for when money dries up.

 

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

2020 Business and Life Review

Welcome to my 2020 Business and Life Review!

Usually, I separate my travel and business annual review content into two separate blog posts, but this year I’ve decided to combine it into one.

2020 was a different kind of year, and I’m sure nearly everyone would agree with that statement.

It was a tough year for a lot of people, and I completely understand.

I feel very grateful for the life that I get to live, but it was a hard year for me as well. I lost two important family members in my life, my grandma as well as my dog who was my best friend for almost 14 years.

Family

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include this section in this life update, as I’m also talking about travel and business, and honestly, it just seems odd to have it all in one.

I went back and forth so many times, and I’m still unsure of it.

But, it just doesn’t seem right to me to not include it, as this is all a part of my life.

Good and bad things happen, and will happen throughout a person’s lifetime.

I do feel guilty writing about the passings of two of my favorites, and at the same time also writing about business and travel. Anyways…

Me and my grandma around 4 years ago.

My grandma passed away in the summer of 2020. She passed away at the age of 97.

I spent a lot of time growing up with my grandma, as she watched us everyday after school when we were kids and lived in Chicago.

She lived in the building just behind us, so I saw her all the time.

She didn’t speak much English (and I don’t speak Korean), although she took daily/weekly English classes even in her old age so that she could at least make hand gestures and talk to us as best as she could.

I remember as a kid, she would make me plain ramen (with no seasoning!) and I was always so confused as to why she would throw the seasoning packet away and make it taste bland. But I couldn’t tell her easily because I didn’t know how to tell her in Korean. After months of eating noodles in plain water, I figured out how to tell her. She thought it was weird that I liked watery noodles but she made it because she thought I liked it, haha. That is a story that always makes me laugh.

She was also a world traveler, and went to so many amazing places.

Also the kindest woman ever, and she was so great to us. I will forever miss her.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

This picture was taken about one week before she passed away.

My favorite girl passed away – Sailor. My best friend, the sweetest sweetie pie, the best adventure buddy, passed away in December of 2020.

We adopted Sailor when she was just two months old. I had just turned 18 about a week earlier, and just graduated from high school. Wes and I were moving in together (we were crazy kids), and decided to adopt a puppy that a friend was trying to find a home for.

Shortly after, I found out that my dad had brain and lung cancer, and that he did not have much time left. Sailor was there through all of the tears and sadness (I leaned heavily on her), and always brought me joy.

She has climbed some of the tallest mountains in the U.S., sailed to many islands, and been to some of the most scenic spots around.

It was very sudden, and before she could get to a vet (the vet was actually on her way to the boat). The vet thinks it may have been a fast moving cancer, as she didn’t show signs of it when she was just at the vet shortly before.

I’m still processing what this means as she was such a huge and beautiful part of my life for the past almost 14 years.

I am heartbroken and miss her so much. I was dreading this time for awhile, as I knew she was getting older, and it’s been much harder than I could have ever imagined.

Now, I’m not really sure how to transition to the next section, but below I will be switching to my travel and business review for 2020.

Like it was for nearly everyone – 2020 was a weird year, full of highs and lows.

Hanging out during lockdown on the boat in Puerto Rico.

Travel in 2020

2020 started with us in the Exumas in the Bahamas. We have spent a decent amount of time in the Bahamas the past couple of years on our boat, and it’s an amazing place to be, especially on a boat!

We then sailed to the Dominican Republic in February and spent around a month. We saw whales, went up the only cable car in the Caribbean (and it goes up around 2,500 feet!), rented a car and drove around the country, and more.

Then, we sailed to Puerto Rico in March. Shortly after we arrived, the lockdown started, and it was very strict. It has loosened since, but the first several months they had some of the strictest rules in the world. You could only grocery shop on certain days according to your license plate, you weren’t allowed to go outside (not even to let your dog use the bathroom), and more.

We had planned on hopping down the island chain and spending hurricane season in Grenada, but everything changed.

We stayed in Puerto Rico for around 3 months, pondering our next move.

Since we live on a boat, we had to figure something out, as hurricane season was approaching and we are not allowed to stay in the “Hurricane Box” during hurricane season because of our boat insurance policy.

So, we had two options, sail to Grenada or sail to the U.S. The sail to Grenada would have been about 3 days.

We decided to sail to the U.S. as we weren’t sure what the state of the world would be like, especially after being in such a strict lockdown for 3 months in Puerto Rico. Plus, we wanted to be outside of the Hurricane Box, and if you’re going north then that means heading all the way back to the U.S. Also, we had a lot of boat work that we needed to get done, so going to Annapolis seemed like an easy choice.

It was a 1,300 nautical mile sail and took us 9 days. It was our longest passage, and it was just me, Wes, and our two dogs. Our highest speed was 14.5 knots, and we hit 12 and 13 quite often. We caught fish, saw a submarine, dealt with Tropical Storm Bertha, and more. Our dogs did amazingly well on the passage, and it was a wonderful time.

We spent several months in Annapolis, Maryland for hurricane season and got a ton of work done on SV Paradise, including a major electrical refit. We can now run everything off of our lithium batteries and our solar, including running the watermaker, our washer/dryer, water heater, and more. Since I know I’ll be asked, the company we used for our electrical refit was Marine Electric Systems in Annapolis, and I highly recommend them.

Hurricane season ended in November, and then we’re required by insurance to head south to avoid winter weather on our boat. We did some offshore hops and we’re now in sunny Florida!

We’re not sure what we’ll be doing in 2021, but decisions have to be made eventually because hurricane season comes every year. We have a few ideas but I won’t be sharing anything just yet – you’ll just have to wait and see! 🙂

Fortunately, we’re fairly off-grid and self-sufficient on SV Paradise, so we can safely live on our boat, even in a time like this.

Note: If you want to follow my travels and life more, please follow me on Instagram. 

2020 Business Year In Review

2020 was definitely a weird year for businesses.

Many businesses failed, while many others thrived. Working from home and/or starting your own small business is now at an all-time high as well.

I am very grateful for the business that I get to run, and I am excited to grow it well into the future.

While I no longer disclose exact income numbers due to privacy reasons (and so that I, as well as others, don’t feel the need to “keep up” with others), income was at a good level in 2020.

Here’s what my income has looked like in the past:

  • In 2013, my business income totaled $116,519. This was the year that I quit my job to blog full-time.
  • In 2014, it totaled $163,929. This was my first full year of being self-employed with no day job.
  • In 2015, I made $320,888. I think this was the year where I fired all of my freelance clients and started just working on my blog. This helped me to grow my income significantly because I was FOCUSED!
  • In 2016, I made $979,321. This is the year where I created my first product (Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing).
  • In 2017, I earned $1,536,732.
  • In 2018, I earned over $1,500,000 (I stopped disclosing exact numbers in 2018).

It’s crazy to think that I have now been blogging for over nine years. What started as a fun little blog with no goals (I was even anonymous!), has turned into a great business for me.

If you want to start a blog of your own, I have a free How To Start a Blog Course.

2020 was a weird year, as we all know.

Even though I had a ton more free time due to lockdowns, I didn’t get as much work done as I had hoped. My mind was all over the place a lot of the time, which led to me wasting a lot of time.

But, I have heard that was normal for a lot of people for 2020. So, if you experienced the same – do not feel bad about yourself!

I didn’t take part in many interviews, didn’t release any new projects, and I was barely on social media. I really don’t know what I spent so much of my time on, to be honest.

Luckily, around 2019, I slowed down significantly when it came to working, and it helped tremendously. I wasn’t feeling burned out or anything with Making Sense of Cents. But, I knew that I needed to be more mindful of how I use my time online. I no longer want to be hooked to my laptop and phone for both personal and business social media browsing/blogging.

And, after several years of blogging full-time and spending 100+ hour weeks on my blog, it’s been nice to relax and focus on other areas of my life.

I will be completely honest – income did not grow in 2020 over 2019 – but it was still a great amount.

Thankfully, all of the hard work that I’ve put in over the past several years has paid off.

In case you are new to this blog, the main areas I earn a living from include:

Three articles that I recommend reading:

Thank you to all of my readers for being here with me on this journey! I’m so glad that I can share everything with you.

Anchored in Puerto Rico.

Affiliate marketing results in 2020.

Affiliate income was at a great level this past year.

Not much changed from the previous year, and everything is fairly passive when it comes to affiliate marketing income on Making Sense of Cents.

I am hoping to start ranking for more blog posts through SEO, which will hopefully increase my affiliate income further and grow my audience on Making Sense of Cents.

The areas that I am working on to improve my affiliate income include:

  • Planning out 2021 for affiliate offers. I’m not really much of a big planner, so this is something I’m always working on. This will help to keep me organized and better prepared.
  • Learning about SEO and applying techniques to my blog. This past guest post has made me super interested in taking SEO seriously – The exact template that helped my site earn $95,000 in affiliate income last year.
  • Continuing to improve and build a high-quality funnel. I want to have a high-quality funnel where I continue to give valuable information to my readers, and keep them happy for the times when I may not have the greatest wifi.
  • Continuing to grow the reach of Making Sense of Cents. Traffic has been a little stuck lately, and I want to change that! I want to see what I can do to grow the traffic, as that will help me to reach new readers.
  • Analyzing popular blog posts to see how they can be improved for the future.
  • Seeking out new affiliate products to promote, and seeing what else my audience is interested in.

If you want to learn more about affiliate marketing, I recommend getting the free guide 10 Easy Tips To Increase Your Affiliate Income. With this time-saving cheat sheet, you’ll learn how to make affiliate income from your blog. These tips will help you to rapidly improve your results and increase your blogging income in no time.

Sponsored partnership results in 2020.

Sponsored partnerships were great in the first few months of 2020. But, when the world’s events hit in March, things slowed down drastically. This is because companies were waiting to see how everything would play out.

But, in the summer of 2020, it all picked up like crazy.

I had so many offers in my email inbox that I actually had to turn good offers down.

I believe that 2021 will be a great year for sponsored partnerships, and I already have many lined up for the year.

Plus, the first few months of each year are usually the best for me, as that’s when advertisers tend to be looking for a lot of bloggers.

You can learn more about sponsored partnerships in my free guide 8 Easy Tips To Make Money From Sponsored Posts On Your Blog.

Hiking in Puerto Rico (before the lockdown).

Goals for 2021.

I’m hoping that 2021 will be the year of growth for both myself and Making Sense of Cents.

After taking much of 2019 off, and a lot of 2020, I’m ready to get back to it for 2021.

My goals for 2021:

  1. Grow Making Sense of Cents. I’d like to grow in terms of readers and income, and there are two main things that I plan on doing in order to help with that (see #2 and #3 below)
  2. Get featured in the media more. I’m currently taking a course on this subject and I’ll be sharing more information on it soon! In the meantime, you can sign up for the freebie –  2021 Publicity Calendar – This contains 179 story ideas, dates, and hooks to help you create endless media attention and buzz! If you want to get featured in magazines and popular websites, this is something that you will definitely want to sign up for.
  3. See growth from SEO. I took an SEO course that I really enjoyed, and ever since then I have been soaking up all of the SEO knowledge that I can. I am hoping that 2021 is the year of explosive growth from SEO for Making Sense of Cents. The free course I recommend taking is The SEO Starter Pack (FREE Video Training).
  4. Get at least three months ahead on Making Sense of Cents posts. I’m currently around 3 months ahead in content, and I’d like to continue the streak that I am on.
  5. Be more present. My main goal in 2021 (just like with previous years) is to be more present.
  6. Read 5 books. I have only read one book lately that wasn’t work or sailing/boat-educational related. I would like to get back to reading books that have nothing to do with trying to learn something, haha.
  7. Start learning a new language. I know I won’t be fluent, but I’d love to learn a new language. I took 3-4 years of French in high school, and that’s the one I’m trying to learn right now through Duolingo. It’s a good language to learn when sailing about the world, so wish me luck!
  8. Learn how to dive. We would possibly like to add scuba equipment to our sailboat so that we can explore the water further as we sail about the world. So, that means I actually have to learn how to do it. This is definitely a huge goal of mine for this year!

I hope you enjoyed this 2020 year in review blog post. It’s always interesting putting these types of blog posts together so that I can reflect on the previous year.

And, it’s nice to take a look at it once this next coming year is over as well.

How was 2020 for you? What questions do you have for me? Share in the comments below!

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Buying a Home for the First Time? Avoid These Mistakes

Buying a home, especially if you’re a first-time home buyer, can be daunting and nerve racking.

But it does not have to be. LendingTree’s online loan marketplace has got you covered – at least when it comes to getting a mortgage.

A 2016 study by the Office of Research of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection reveals that prospective buyers who shop for a mortgage when buying a home for the first time report “increases consumers’ knowledge of the mortgage market and increases consumers’ self confidence in their ability to deal with mortgage related issues.”

The importance of shopping for a mortgage as a first-time home buyer is that it saves you money in the long term and “reduces the cost of consumers’ mortgages,” the study found.

The home-buying process can be intimidating. So being aware of these mistakes when buying a home for the first time can help you save thousands and thousands of dollars in the long term.

10 Mistakes to avoid when buying a home for the first time.

1. Not knowing your credit score.

We are all aware that the higher your credit score, the better.
Yet, despite this fact, many people fail to check their credit score before
buying their first home.

And a low credit score can lead to a high interest mortgage loan, or even worse, a loan rejection. Given the fact that your credit score is the number 1 item mortgage lender looks at, it pays off to know where you stand.

Credit Sesame will let you know what your credit score is for free and monitor it for you. It will also offer tips on how to raise your credit score and reduce your debt.

Just sign up for a free account – it only takes 90 seconds.

Mortgage rates and fees vary across lenders. In other words, two applicants with the identical credentials can get different mortgage rates. Despite this, however, many fist-time homebuyers fail to shop and compare mortgage rates before buying their first home.

The study reveals that 30 percent first time homebuyers do not
compare and shop for their mortgages, and more than 75 percent reported
applying for a mortgage with only one mortgage lender.

The study further reveals that “failing to comparison shop for a
mortgage costs the average homebuyer approximately $300 per year and many thousands
of dollars over the life of the loan.”

An easy way to shop and compare for a mortgage is with LendingTree. Their simple and straightforward platform can help you find and apply for the right loan all in one place.

3. Sticking with the first mortgage lender you meet.

While it’s tempting to work with your local mortgage lender who’s
only a few blocks away from your home, this decision requires more time. Take
time to meet with at least three mortgage lenders before picking the best match
for you.

Fortunately, LendingTree free online platform, allows you to quickly browse several mortgage rates with several mortgage lenders without visiting a dozen bank branches.

4. Not knowing what loans are available to you.

If you’re buying a home for the first time, one thing you need to address is what types of loans are available to me. Sometimes the answer to this can be quite simple: conventional loan. This is because most people know about this type of loan.

But conventional loan requires at least 20% down payment. And the credit score needs to be in the 700. *Note: You can put less than 20% down payment, but you will have to pay for a private insurance mortgage (PMI).

Sometimes it’s not feasible to come up with that type of money as a first time home buyer. So knowing if other loans are available to you is very important.

FHA loan

One type of loan that is popular among first time home buyers is FHA loan. It is so popular because it’s easier to get qualified for it. And the down payment is very little comparing to that of a conventional loan.

For example, FHA loans require a 580 credit score and a down payment as low as 3.5% of the home purchase price. This makes it easier to qualify for a home loan when you’re on a low income.

VA loans

VA loans are another great option for first-time homebuyers. However, you have to be a veteran. Unlike a FHA or a conventional loan, VA loans require no down payment and no mortgage insurance. This can save you thousands of dollars per year.

So if you’re in market for a loan to buy your first home, you need to educate yourself about the different available loans.


Not All Mortgage Lenders Are Created Equally

When it comes to getting a mortgage, rates and fees vary. LendingTree allows you to view and compare multiple mortgage rates from multiple mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time, so you can choose the best rates for your needs. LendingTree makes getting a loan faster, simpler, and better. Get started today >>>


5. Not getting pre-approved for a mortgage

One of the first time home buying mistakes you should avoid making is not getting a pre-approval letter. You can simply contact a lender and request it. The mortgage lender will pull your credit report to make sure you have the minimum credit score requirement.

They will also need your bank statements, W2s, recent income tax returns, pay-stubs to verify your employment and ability to afford the loan.

Why this is important? A pre-approval letter means that you’re a serious buyer. It signals that you’re able to commit to the house once an offer has been accepted. It also makes you more desirable than the other potential buyers.

Get a Pre-Approval for a Mortgage Today

6. Not knowing how much you can afford

Buying a home is probably going to be the biggest expenses you’ve ever made. But buying a house you cannot afford can lead to financial trouble along the road. Paying an expensive mortgage for 15 to 30 years on a low income can be hard.

So it pays to know how much house you can afford before you start searching for your home.

The best way to know how much house you can afford is to look at your budget. Take into account your expenses and income and other costs associated with owning a home.

7. Not knowing other upfront costs

If you think that the only cost to buying a home is a down payment, then think again. There are several upfront costs associated with owning a house. These upfront costs include private mortgage insurance, inspection costs, loan application fees, repair costs, moving costs, appraisal costs, earnest money, home association dues.

As a first time home buyer, this may come to you as a surprise. So, be ready to have enough money to cover these costs.

8. Failure to inspect your home.

Although some banks would prefer you inspect your home before they offer you a loan, it’s not mandatory. But that does not mean you shouldn’t do it. Not inspecting your home can cost you a lot. Inspection discovers defects that you may not know about. Inspection costs can be anywhere from $300 to $700.

Don’t be stingy with these costs. It’s better to find out about any hidden defects , like a faulty wiring and plumbing, than finding about them later. To avoid regretting your decision or having to spend thousand of dollars on repairs down the road, consider an inspector.

9. Failure to check out the neighborhood.

Just because the street or the neighborhood your potential house is located is quiet or is not run down doesn’t mean crime is not a problem. So before buying your home, you should check out the neighborhood. Take a trip at night to get a feeling of the environment. Talk to residents. Most importantly, check with the local police station – they can be a great resource when it comes to crime rates in a particular location. This is simply one of the first time home buying tips you shouldn’t ignore.

10. Searching for a mortgage on your own.

There are several mortgage lenders available to you. But choosing one that is right for you can be tough.

The LendingTree online platform makes it easy and simple for you to find the right home loan for you. Now you can get matched up to several mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time. And the whole process just takes a few minutes.

Follow these steps to get matched with the right mortgage:

  1. Go to www.lendingtree.com;
  2. Answer a few questions regarding the type pf loan yo need and you’ll use it. Within a few seconds, you’ll see multiple, competing offers from several lenders;
  3. You then shop and compare offers side by side.

Ready to get started? Find your best loan!

The bottom line is when it comes to buying a home for the first time, you should not take any shortcut. Doing so can cost a lot of money down the road. So before buying your first home, make sure you get the right mortgage loan, inspect the home, and have enough money to cover some of the upfront and ongoing costs associated with owning a house.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

Still looking for first time home buying tips? You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

Source: growthrapidly.com


About the Author

Laura Adams, MBA

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

The Essential Guide to Budgeting for New Homeowners

Budgeting for new homeowners starts with understanding the true costs of owning a home.

Ready to buy your first home? While open houses, mortgage paperwork and the planning of your housewarming party may have you busy, creating your budget as a new homeowner and uncovering the hidden costs of owning a home should be top of mind as you take this big financial step.

“It’s extremely important to determine how homeownership will affect your monthly budget before you purchase a home and not afterwards,” says Emily Graham Stroud, president and owner of Stroud Financial Management, Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas. “One of the biggest mistakes people make financially is house hunting and falling in love with a home before they’ve analyzed their monthly budget.”

“How do I adjust my budget after buying a home?” is a question to tackle as soon as possible during the buying process. Learning the rules of budgeting for new homeowners can help you avoid money headaches once the ink is dry on your mortgage.

To start budgeting for new homeowners, be sure to break down the cost of owning a home.

Break down the costs of owning a home

When adding up homeownership expenses, your mortgage payment is just the tip of the iceberg. There are other things to budget for after buying a home beyond what you pay to your lender each month.

John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, a digital home management app, says budgeting expenses for a first home usually fall into four categories:

  • Mortgage, insurance and property taxes
  • Utilities, including electric, water, pest control, garbage collection, internet and phone services
  • Maintenance and repair costs
  • Remodeling expenses

In addition to the principal and interest on your home loan, your mortgage payment may also include escrow for your annual property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and homeowner’s association dues (if you live in a condominium or neighborhood with an HOA). If not, you’ll need to separately include these hidden costs of owning a home in your budget.

“If you don’t escrow for property taxes and homeowner’s insurance, then you need to create your own escrow savings account that’s earmarked specifically for these expenses,” Stroud says.

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For example, if your annual homeowner’s insurance premium totals $2,400, you could budget $200 per month toward this cost and stash that money in a high-yield online savings account. You’ll need to do the same for your property taxes. When it’s time to pay for these hidden costs of owning a home, you’ll have the cash on hand to cover all of it.

Include a line item in your budget for home savings

You likely already know that an emergency fund can help you cover unexpected expenses, like a flat tire or an unplanned visit to the doctor. When buying a home, budgeting for new homeowners should also include setting up a separate savings account for unplanned home maintenance and repairs.

“A good rule of thumb is to save between 1 and 4 percent of the purchase price of your home for annual preventative maintenance and repair costs,” Bodrozic says.

When considering things to budget for after buying a home, Bodrozic says if you’re dealing with a newer home, you may be able to aim for a one percent savings goal, as things like the roof, appliances, and heating and air system should still be in good shape. “If your home is 20 to 25 years or older, a budget of 4 percent is more appropriate because many of the home’s equipment and assets are near the end of their useful life.”

When determining which things to budget for after buying a home, remember that repair costs may increase over time as the property ages, and you’ll need to adjust your budget accordingly. Bodrozic says keeping up with regular maintenance can help preserve your home’s equipment and structural elements, potentially allowing you to delay spending on major repairs.

Determine your new disposable income

The hidden costs of owning a home could affect how much money you have left over each month after your bills are paid. While your monthly mortgage payment could be less than your previous rent, your property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and other home-related expenses may mean you’ll pay more on housing each month.

Stroud says if owning a home means having less disposable income each month, then you need to be clear about distinguishing between your wants and needs to better adjust your spending plan.

On the other hand, budgeting for new homeowners could mean monthly housing costs that are less than or equal to what you previously paid in rent. If you have more wiggle room in your budget, you could funnel any “extra” cash into your emergency fund or home maintenance savings.

Once those are fully funded, you could find room in your budget to pay down credit card or student loan debt, or increase the amount you’re saving for retirement each month. As you’re working toward your financial goals, be mindful of purchases you may be tempted make as a new homeowner—especially if lower housing costs mean you have more discretionary spending to play with in your budget.

“Many first-time homeowners find that their first home causes lifestyle changes,” Bodrozic says. That could mean buying new furniture, upgrading your TV, purchasing an expensive lawn mower or rushing into costly renovation projects.

Plan regular budget reviews

Once you add up the hidden costs of owning a home and the not-so-hidden ones, budgeting for new homeowners means regularly reviewing and adjusting your spending and savings plan.

“It’s important to review your home’s budget and expenses at least four times a year, perhaps even monthly if you bought an older home,” Bodrozic says.

The things to budget for after buying a home will change over time, so review your budget regularly.

Checking in with your budget regularly can help you track things to budget for after buying a home, like maintenance and repairs and seasonal changes that may affect your utility bills. It’s also a good way to stay on top of all of your expenses, not just homeownership costs, and monitor your savings progress, which can help you avoid overspending and taking on debt.

Think ahead

One final thing to consider is how much you will be chipping away at your mortgage over time. Though it’s not one of the things to budget for after buying a home, Bodrozic recommends being aware of how much equity you’re building up in the home over time because it may influence your future housing expenses.

For example, if you took out a conventional loan with less than 20 percent down and are paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), you can request that it be removed once you reach 20 percent equity in the home. That in turn can reduce your monthly mortgage payment. If you think you might consider a cash out refinance at some point to make upgrades or renovations, you’ll need to have equity available that you can draw on later.

Master budgeting for new homeowners

Buying a home can change your life and your budget. Reviewing the numbers and planning your budget before you sign on the dotted line can make a huge difference in creating a positive homeownership experience.

Source: discover.com