9 Best Books to Read Before Buying a Home

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For most people, buying a home is the biggest purchase decision of a lifetime. In fact, it’s one of the biggest decisions, period. 

Your mortgage is probably the largest debt you’ll ever take on, and taking care of a house is one of the largest responsibilities. Next to getting married or having children, it’s hard to think of anything that will have a greater impact on your life. 

With so much at stake, it makes sense to learn as much as possible about the process before you take the plunge. You can find lots of articles about home buying online, of course, just like any other subject. But for a really in-depth take on the topic, you can’t beat a good book.

Best Books to Read Before Buying a Home

There are literally hundreds of books on home buying, covering the subject from every possible angle. Some real estate books provide a walk-through of the whole process. Some focus on the legal details. And some are all about getting the best deal on a mortgage.

With so many books to choose from, how do you find one that’s useful for you? To get started, look at what books other people have found most helpful. The books on this list all get good reviews from finance professionals, as well as ordinary homeowners.

1. “Home Buying Kit for Dummies” by Eric Tyson & Ray Brown 

All the books in the “Dummies” series explain complex topics — from computer languages to sports — to people who know nothing about them. “Home Buying Kit for Dummies” takes the same approach. It covers all the basics of buying a home in an easy-to-digest form.

This comprehensive guide covers every step of the home-buying process, including:

The book is ideal for first-time home buyers because it assumes no prior knowledge. It’s all in plain English, with no fancy lingo. You can read it from cover to cover or dip into it as needed to learn about specific topics.

To aid reading, the pages are peppered with icons marking key points. These include a light bulb for tips, a warning sign for pitfalls to avoid, and a deerstalker cap for topics to research on your own. They make it easy to spot important info at a glance.

2. “Buying a Home: The Missing Manual” by Nancy Conner 

The “Missing Manuals” series deals mostly with computer software and hardware. But it’s branched out into finance, another subject that ought to come with instructions. In this volume, Conner, a real estate investor, walks you through the home-buying process from start to finish.

“Buying a Home: The Missing Manual” is a step-by step guide to all the ins and outs of home buying. Its includes chapters on:

  • Choosing a real estate agent, mortgage lender, and lawyer
  • Choosing the right neighborhood
  • Finding your dream home 
  • Figuring out how much to offer on a house 
  • Financing your down payment
  • Comparing mortgages
  • Inspections
  • Closing costs

And it does all this with simple language and handy, bite-size chunks of information. Fill-in forms throughout the book help you apply the author’s expert advice to your specific situation.

3. “NOLO’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home” by Ilona Bray J.D., Alayna Schroeder & Marcia Stewart 

The legal website NOLO is the top place to find legal advice online. Along with its free articles, the site offers an array of do-it-yourself forms, books, and software. This walk-through guide to homebuying is just one example.

“NOLO’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home” covers most of the same topics as the Dummies and Missing Manual books, but from a different angle. It focuses on all the legal ins and outs of the home-buying process.

Although three attorneys wrote this book, it doesn’t rely on their knowledge alone. It draws on the knowledge of 15 other real estate professionals, including Realtors, loan officers, investors, home inspectors, and landlords. It’s like having your own private team of experts. For example:

  • A real estate agent offers tips on how to dress for an open house. 
  • A mortgage broker explains the risks of oral loan preapprovals. 
  • A closing expert discusses the importance of title insurance. 

Along with the expert advice, the book provides real-world stories from over 20 first-time home-buyers. Their experiences let you preview the process before jumping in yourself.

4. “Home Buyer’s Checklist: Everything You Need to Know — But Forgot to Ask — Before You Buy a Home” by Robert Irwin 

Every home-buying guide talks about the need for a home inspection. However, there are many problems home inspectors don’t always look for. The only way to detect them is to ask the right questions. In “Home Buyer’s Checklist,” Robert Irwin tells you what those questions are.

Irwin is a real estate professional with over three decades of experience. He knows all about the hidden flaws in homes and how to track them down. Irwin walks you through a house room by room and points out possible problem areas, such as:

  • Doors and door frames
  • Windows and window screens
  • Fireplaces
  • Light fixtures
  • Floors
  • Woodwork
  • Attic insulation

For each area, he notes possible problems and how to spot them. He also explains what they cost to fix and what damage they can cause if you don’t fix them. And he helps you use that information to your advantage in negotiating the price of the house.

Armed with this information, you can avoid unpleasant surprises when you move into your new home. It won’t make your house’s problems go away, but it will prepare you to deal with them — and keep the money in your pocket to do it.

5. “The 106 Common Mistakes Home Buyers Make (and How to Avoid Them)” by Gary Eldred

To first-time homebuyers, the real estate market is a big, confusing place. In “The 106 Common Mistakes Home Buyers Make (and How to Avoid Them),” Gary Eldred offers you a map to help you find your way around.

Eldred’s guide draws on the real-world experiences of homebuyers, home builders, real estate agents, and mortgage lenders. They shed light on the mistakes homebuyers make most often, such as:

  • Believing everything a real estate agent says
  • Underestimating the cost of owning a home
  • Buying in an upscale neighborhood that’s on the decline
  • Paying too much for a house
  • Letting your agent handle the price negotiations
  • Staying out of the housing market due to fear

With the help of Eldred’s examples, you can avoid these pitfalls and find a house that’s both a comfortable home and a sound investment.

6. “No Nonsense Real Estate: What Everyone Should Know Before Buying or Selling a Home” by Alex Goldstein 

As both a Realtor and a real estate investor, Alex Goldstein has been on both sides of a real estate transaction. This gives him a unique perspective on what works and what doesn’t in the home buying process.

In “No Nonsense Real Estate,” Goldstein puts that experience to work for you. He offers a step-by-step guide to the home buying process in language a first time home buyer can easily understand. This comprehensive guide covers:

  • The economics of the housing market in simple terms
  • The pros and cons of working with a real estate agent
  • What to look for in a home
  • Assembling a real estate team
  • Types of homes, such as single-family homes, condos, and co-ops
  • Traditional home loans and non-bank financing
  • Tips for sellers to get the best price on a home
  • The five elements of a successful real estate negotiation
  • Real estate contracts and closing costs
  • The eight steps of a real estate closing
  • The basics of real estate investing
  • A real-world case study of a home purchase
  • A list of frequently asked questions
  • A glossary of real estate terms

As a bonus, all buyers of the book gain access to a library of training videos and materials. They can help you find a real estate agent in your area, evaluate investment properties, and more.

7. “The Mortgage Encyclopedia” by Jack Guttentag

One of the most intimidating parts of buying your first home is getting your first mortgage. Not only is it likely the biggest loan you’ve ever taken out, there are dozens of options to consider. And the jargon loan officers use, from “escrow” to “points,” doesn’t make it any easier.

Jack Guttentag’s “The Mortgage Encyclopedia” offers a solution. The author, a former professor of finance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, tells you everything you need to know about how mortgages work and what your options are. The book includes:

  • A glossary of mortgage terms, from “A-credit” to “Zillow mortgage”
  • Advice on nitty-gritty issues such as the risks of cosigning a loan and the pros and cons of paying points versus making a larger down payment 
  • The lowdown on common mortgage myths, traps, and hidden costs to avoid
  • At-a-glance tables on topics like affordability and interest costs for fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages

For first-time homebuyers grappling with the details of choosing and signing a mortgage, it’s a must-read.

8. “How to Get Approved for the Best Mortgage Without Sticking a Fork in Your Eye” by Elysia Stobbe 

Another book that focuses on mortgages is “How to Get Approved for the Best Mortgage Without Sticking a Fork in Your Eye.” As the whimsical title suggests, mortgage expert Elysia Stobbe understands how frustrating the mortgage approval process can be. 

To keep you sane, she helps break the process down into bite-sized chunks of info that are easy to manage. Her guide walks you through such details as types of mortgages, loan programs, interest rates, mortgage insurance, and fees. 

Stobbe explains how to find the right lender, choose the best real estate agent to handle negotiations, and find an appropriate type of loan. She also devotes a lot of space to mistakes you should avoid. And she supports it all with interviews with top real estate professionals.

Buying a home is such a huge, complicated process that it’s often hard to figure out where to start. In “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask,” Ilyce R. Glink addresses this problem by breaking the process down into a series of questions.

This approach makes it easy to find the information you want. Look through the table of contents to find the question that’s on your mind, then flip to the right page to see the answer. Glink tackles questions on all aspects of home buying, such as:

  • Should I buy a home or continue to rent?
  • How much can I afford to spend?
  • Is a new construction home better than an existing home?
  • What’s the difference between a real estate agent and a broker?
  • Where should I start looking for my dream home?
  • What should I look for at a house showing?
  • How does my credit score affect my chance of getting a mortgage?
  • How do I make an offer on a home?
  • Do I need a home inspection?
  • What happens at the closing?

Glink combines advice from top brokers, real-world stories, and her own experience to provide solid answers to all these questions. And she wraps it up with three appendices covering mistakes to avoid and simple steps to make the home-buying process easier.

Final Word

All the books on this list offer a good grounding in the basics of home buying. But if you’re looking for more details on any part of the process, there’s sure to be a book for that too.

You can find books on just about every aspect of home buying. There are books on every stage of the process, from raising cash for a down payment to preparing for your closing. There are books about home buying just for single people and books on buying a home as an investment.

And once you move into your new home, there are more books to help you organize it, decorate it, and keep it in repair. Just search for the topic that interests you at Amazon, a local bookstore, or your local public library.

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Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASP): What Are They?

We live in a world of service providers: health service providers, cloud service providers, internet service providers — the list goes on. And when we’re talking about cryptocurrency, virtual asset service providers (VASP) are inevitably part of the conversation.

Just what exactly is a VASP? And why should you know about them if you’re interested in cryptocurrency? This article will cover everything you need to know.

What are Virtual Assets (VAs)?

Most, if not all, cryptocurrencies and digital tokens are virtual assets. As outlined by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) , a virtual asset fits the following criteria:

•   It’s a digital store or representation of value.

•   It can be digitally traded or transacted, or used for payment or investment.

•   It doesn’t include a digital representation of fiat currency or securities.

Virtual assets that can be traded or exchanged require a medium upon which those trades can be executed. That’s where VASPs come into play.

What is a Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP)?

A VASP is a platform used to buy, sell, exchange, or otherwise interact with the cryptocurrency market. In other words, VASPs are crypto exchanges — or, at least the framework and theory behind a digital currency exchange.

The acronym “VASP” was coined by the FATF, which is an intergovernmental, international body that shores up standards and regulations — or promotes the use of them — in an effort to curb money laundering and stop the financing of terrorism.

Given that different types of virtual currency can and may be used for illicit or illegal activities, the FATF is stepping in to create some rules and frameworks for entities in the crypto space to operate within. Just as many cryptocurrency platforms must abide by existing regulations and compliance protocols, they may also be subject to additional guidelines and scrutiny from the FATF.

What Makes VASPs Unique?

In order for an organization to be classified as a VASP, it must tick certain boxes. In guidance issued in June 2019, the FATF asserted that a VASP is a business that conducts at least one of the following activities:

•   Acts as an exchange for virtual assets or fiat currencies

•   Acts as an exchange between one or more types of virtual assets

•   Acts as a medium of transfer for virtual assets

•   Provides safekeeping or administration of instruments that allow entities to control virtual assets

•   Participates in or provides financial services related to an offer or sale of a virtual asset

What Are Some VASP Types?

The FATF guidelines clearly describe crypto exchanges, as well as other participants in the crypto markets, including:

•   Mining pools

•   Investment vehicles

•   Digital wallet providers

•   Companies offering escrow services (transferring digital assets between two parties, ensuring a transaction goes down smoothly). And yes, companies providing these services may be classified as VASPs, after the FATF expanded and clarified its definition of a VASP in.

In an early 2021 update , the FATF also stated that decentralized exchanges, decentralized platforms, and DApps may also be considered VASPs, as well as platforms that facilitate peer-to-peer crypto transactions.

Recommended: What is a dApp?

What Businesses are Not VASPs?

There are numerous types of crypto-related entities that are not VASPs, including but not limited to:

•   Individual crypto miners

•   Individuals participating in a Bitcoin mining pool

•   Individual traders

•   Central banks

In short, if you’re just a regular Joe who’s trading or otherwise participating in the crypto markets or validating a blockchain network, you’re not a VASP.

Other Key Terms to Know When Talking About VASPs

In order to get a full picture of VASPs, it’s important to understand a couple of other terms: Digital Asset Entity (DAE), and Digital Asset Customer (DAC).

The distinction between these specific types of entities — which may exist in more than one type of classification (an entity could be both a DAE and a VASP, for instance) — can have an impact on how the entity is regulated.

What is a Digital Asset Entity (DAE)?

A Digital Asset Entity refers to some of the various businesses and organizations in the digital transaction space. For example, a VASP is a DAE. But the DAE umbrella includes many other types of organizations, such as gambling platforms, that may not necessarily be labeled as traditional financial institutions.

What is a Digital Asset Customer (DAC)?

A Digital Asset Customer is an entity that makes use of the services of a DAE. You or anyone else can be a DAC, as you may utilize a financial institution’s services to engage with the cryptocurrency markets.

What Are Some Examples of VASPs?

There are several different types of businesses or platforms that can fit the description of a VASP, or that may take some role in the transaction process. Those can include centralized and decentralized exchanges, mining pools, investment vehicles, and more.

Here are some examples of companies or platforms that fit the description of a VASP:

•   Centralized exchange: These exchanges that act as a third party between crypto buyers and sellers. Examples include Coinbase and Kraken .

•   Decentralized exchange: These exchanges eliminate the need for a third-party middleman to execute trades or transactions. Examples include Uniswap and Venus .

•   Escrow service: There are also a lot of companies that provide escrow services (many exchanges offer the service, too) for digital asset transactions, such as Escaroo or Bitrated .

•   Investment vehicles: Crypto-tied investment vehicles, which may take the form of securities like crypto ETFs, are becoming more common and mainstream. One example: BITO , a Bitcoin-linked ETF that hit stock exchanges in October 2021.

The Takeaway

VASPs are businesses or companies that facilitate the exchange of virtual assets. Virtual assets can include things like cryptocurrency (Bitcoin, for example), non-fungible tokens (NFTs), or utility tokens (like Filecoin).

Had your fill of crypto-related acronyms? Ready to start investing in crypto? With SoFi Invest®, investors can trade more than two dozen cryptocurrencies, including Chainlink, Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Solana, Bitcoin, Litecoin, Cardano, and Enjin Coin.

Find out how to get started today.

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Second-Hand Shopping: How to Save at Thrift Stores and Consignment Shops

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Over the past two years, my husband and I have spent less than $400 per year on clothing. Our secret? We buy most of our clothes secondhand.

And clothing is just the tip of the iceberg. We prefer to shop secondhand whenever possible for nearly everything we buy — furniture, books, tools, even materials for home repair. No matter what we need, we always check out secondhand sources like thrift stores, yard sales, and Craigslist before resorting to buying new.

Shopping that way isn’t just good for our budget. With each great find, we’re saving money and helping the environment. And with the right shopping strategies, you can do the same.

Where to Shop Secondhand

There are many kinds of secondhand stores specializing in different types of goods. On top of that, there’s a wide variety of apps for buying and selling used stuff, both in your local area and across the country. 

With so many options, it’s possible to pick up almost anything secondhand if you know where to look.

Thrift Stores

There are two primary kinds of thrift shops: for-profit and nonprofit. For-profit thrift stores, like other retailers, are in business to make a profit. 

For-profit thrift store chains include Savers (known as Value Village in the Northwest), Red White and Blue, MyUnique.com, Plato’s Closet, and Once Upon a Child. Chains like these often focus on higher-quality merchandise that’s more likely to sell.

Nonprofit thrift stores are run by charitable organizations like Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. In my experience, these stores usually charge lower prices than for-profit ones. For instance, at a local church thrift shop, I’ve bought T-shirts for $1 and jeans for $2. However, a lot of the garments on the racks are worn or damaged.

The most common item sold at thrift stores is clothing. However, most stores sell other types of goods as well. Nearly every thrift shop I’ve ever been to had at least a shelf or two loaded with dishware, little knick-knacks, and household goods like pots and pans. Depending on the store, you may also find books, videos, toys, games, and even furniture.

Consignment Shops

Like thrift stores, consignment shops typically specialize in clothing. But they operate on a different business model. 

At thrift stores, people can either donate their garments or sell them to the store at a low price. At consignment shops, people give their garments to the store in exchange for a cut of the sale price.

Along with clothes, consignment stores sometimes sell small furniture and home decor. They generally deal in higher-quality merchandise than thrift stores, making them an excellent place to buy designer clothing on a budget. However, their prices are typically higher than most thrift shops’.

Goodwill Outlets

At the opposite end of the price scale for secondhand goods are Goodwill Outlet Stores. 

These are locations where Goodwill unloads all the merchandise that hasn’t sold in its retail stores. After they’ve been on the shelves a specified length of time, local Goodwill staff ships them to an outlet location to be sold by the pound to thrifty buyers.

Goodwill Outlet Stores aren’t like ordinary thrift shops, where merchandise is sorted onto racks or shelves by type, size, and color. Instead, everything’s usually just piled into huge bins you can rummage through. 

They’re not the best place to hunt for something specific. But they’re a fantastic place to find cheap goods you can resell online as a side hustle.

Vintage Stores

Vintage clothing stores deal in the garments and accessories of past decades. Some focus on garb from a specific era, such as the 1960s, while others offer clothing spanning a wide range of periods. But everything in the store is at least 20 years old. 

Unlike thrift stores, vintage stores typically feature rare goods that command a higher price tag. They often focus on well-known brand names, including retired brands like Gunne Sax. 

Vintage stores charge a lot more than thrift stores. But shop wisely. In some cases, their garments cost more than brand-new ones sold at regular retail stores, though you can find few-of-a-kind garments for less than high-end designer duds. 

For women’s clothes, one thing to watch out for when shopping vintage is the sizing. Women’s clothing sizes have changed over the years, so your size in vintage clothing is likely several sizes larger than in modern clothes. 

Antique Stores

Antique stores take vintage to the next level. They sell goods from bygone eras, including furniture, home decor, clothing, and jewelry. While the merchandise in vintage stores can be as little as 20 years old, antique stores deal primarily in goods that are at least 100 years old.

Like vintage stores, antique stores aren’t usually a good place to shop if your main goal is to save money. But you can find some unique pieces that are cheaper than buying new high-end goods if you know how.

Flea Markets

A flea market, also known as a swap meet, is a big open-air market where lots of vendors set up booths to sell secondhand wares. Furniture and home decor are the most common goods sold at flea markets, but you can find a vast array of other stuff as well, from clothing to musical instruments. 

Flea markets vary widely in size, selection, and prices. Some markets are vast tent cities covering acres of ground, while others are merely a dozen or so booths set up in a warehouse. Depending on the market, you may also find vendors selling new or handmade wares, such as artwork.

Reuse Centers

If you’re seeking materials for a home remodeling project, check out reuse centers such as Habitat for Humanity ReStores. They carry furniture, appliances, and building materials like lumber, tile, and paint for around half the retail price. 

Some supplies have been torn out of demolished or renovated buildings, while others are left over from building projects.

Architectural salvage stores are similar to reuse centers, but they skew a bit higher-end. They specialize in antique furniture and fixtures you can’t find in a typical home center, such as carved woodwork and vintage lighting fixtures. 

They’re a fantastic place to look if you’re renovating a period home and want to find materials that match its original style.

Specialty Secondhand Stores

There are many other kinds of secondhand stores that focus on specific types of goods. For instance, used bookstores sell secondhand paperback and hardcover books at prices that can often beat Amazon’s. Used record stores deal in secondhand vinyl LPs, and some offer CDs as well.

Online Resale Sites & Apps

There’s a huge variety of websites and apps devoted to connecting sellers of secondhand merchandise with buyers. You can find an online secondhand market for almost anything you want to buy.


If you can’t find the right garment in the right size at your local thrift store, try shopping online thrift stores and consignment stores like ThredUp and Swap.com. These sites offer a more extensive selection and make it easy to search for exactly what you want. 

Some online resale sites specialize in specific types of clothing. For instance, Tradesy, Poshmark, and The RealReal deal in designer clothes at prices up to 70% off retail, while Stillwhite provides a market for used wedding dresses.

The biggest downside of shopping at online thrift stores is that you can’t try on clothes before buying. You have to rely on the description and measurements provided by the seller. Most sites accept returns, but you usually have to pay a shipping or restocking fee. 


You can find vintage furniture, home decor, and artwork online through Chairish. This site focuses on high-end appointments costing hundreds or thousands of dollars, so it’s more useful for finding unique pieces than for saving money. 

There are several ways to search listings on Chairish. You can look for a particular category, such as rugs or rocking chairs, or a particular style, such as art deco or midcentury modern. 

You can also narrow your choices by price and by location. And with the Chairish app, you can get a preview of how a piece will look in your home before buying. And once you choose, you can have purchases shipped to your home or arrange a pickup with a local seller.


It’s hard to be sure used electronics work. But you can eliminate any purchase risk by choosing certified refurbished. The manufacturer or a reseller has thoroughly repaired them to ensure they work like new for a fraction of the cost. They even come with warranties.

Good sites for buying refurbished gadgets include Back Market, Decluttr, and Gazelle. You can also buy refurbished electronics directly from manufacturers like Samsung and Apple and retail sites like Amazon Warehouse.

Another site worth checking out is Swappa. While Swappa doesn’t technically refurbish the devices it lists, it reviews them to ensure they’re functional and meet company standards.


There are several good sites for buying books secondhand. You can find used copies of many volumes at online booksellers like Amazon and Alibris, and ThriftBooks deals in used books specifically. 

You can also swap your old books for new books from other users at PaperBackSwap and BookMooch.

To save money on textbooks, look to sites like Amazon, eCampus.com, CampusBooks, and Chegg. You can buy textbooks for up to 90% off the cover price and resell them when you complete the course to recover part of the cost.

Everything Else

Practically anything is available on eBay, including clothing, household goods, art, electronics, toys, and office equipment. It’s also a fantastic place to look for rare vintage finds. But eBay sellers also stock new goods, so check the listing before adding it to your cart.

Another good marketplace for all kinds of secondhand goods is Mercari. Like eBay, it offers both new and used goods in a wide range of categories. For oversize merchandise that’s too heavy to ship economically, such as furniture, you can use Mercari Local.

Local Listings

You probably already know about Craigslist, a marketplace for secondhand goods of all kinds from sellers in your local area. However, there are several other peer-to-peer marketplaces for local sales, including Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, and 5Miles.

Users can buy and sell almost anything through these sites. But what’s available through your local group depends on where you live and can vary daily. Prices also vary widely depending on the item and the location. 

One nice perk of buying local is being able to see the merchandise in person before handing over your money.


A pawnshop is a store where people can trade their high-value goods for quick cash. The store pays only a fraction of their value, but it gives the borrower the right to reclaim their belongings within a month for a fee. If they don’t, the merchandise goes up for sale.

Pawnshops are an excellent place to find higher-end items. Jewelry, electronics, bicycles, firearms, power tools, and musical instruments all show up on their shelves. 

The prices on the tag aren’t always that much cheaper than retail. However, it’s usually possible to haggle. And pawnbrokers are more willing to offer you a good price if you pay in cash.

Yard & Garage Sales

Yard-sale shopping is a hit-or-miss proposition. You can find all kinds of stuff at great prices — typically no more than one-third of what you’d pay for a similar new item. However, the selection and pricing vary widely from sale to sale. 

The downside is that you can never be sure of finding exactly what you want at any given sale. But if you visit enough sales, you’re almost certain to find something interesting at a reasonable price.

Going to a resale shop or yard sale isn’t like shopping in a department store. You can’t decide what exact item you want to buy down to the model number and color. 

Think of secondhand shopping more like a treasure hunt. On some trips, you may search the shelves for an hour and find nothing useful. But the occasions when you strike it rich — finding the perfect sweater for $5 or a great end table for $10 — make it all worthwhile.

Moreover, there are ways to improve your chances of finding treasure. By adapting your shopping strategies and behaviors, you can find the best values and make the most of your shopping excursion.

1. Choose the Right Store

Just like a real treasure hunt, a successful thrifting excursion starts with knowing where to look. If you’re looking for brand-name clothing, a consignment shop is probably the best place to search. If you want the lowest prices on kids’ clothes for back-to-school, you’re better off shopping at a nonprofit thrift store or yard sale. 

For books, try a secondhand bookstore. For jewelry, try a pawnshop. And for home furnishings, consider flea markets, antique stores, and reuse centers.

The location can also affect the selection. Stores in wealthier parts of town tend to carry higher-end merchandise, while shops in working-class neighborhoods are more likely to have rock-bottom prices.

If the stores in your neighborhood don’t carry the kinds of goods you’re looking for, try branching out to other parts of town. Ask friends about secondhand stores in their area, or do an online search to see what’s available. Then check online reviews to learn more about what each store has to offer.

2. Know Your Local Store

You can shop more efficiently when you’re familiar with your local secondhand options and their policies. Useful things to know include:

  • Store Layout. If you know how the store is organized, you can go straight to the section that carries your size or the type of goods you’re looking for. That saves you time on every shopping trip.
  • Return Policies. At many secondhand stores, all sales are final, even if an item is defective. If your store doesn’t accept returns, it’s good to know that upfront so you can be extra careful about what you buy.
  • Sale Schedule. Some resale shops have end-of-season clearance sales. Others sometimes give you a flat rate to fill up an entire bag. Some, like Goodwill, regularly mark down the oldest wares. By learning when and how sales work, you can show up on the right day to score the best deals.
  • Delivery Schedule. Some stores always receive or put out new merchandise on a specific day and time, such as Monday mornings. Learning when new goods show up lets you get there before other shoppers have picked them over.
  • Available Discounts. Some shops reduce their prices for older people, students, or military members and first responders. Others offer a discount when you buy a lot at once. Always ask about discounts so you get the price you’re entitled to.

There are several ways to get the inside scoop. If they have a contact list, sign up to receive email or text alerts about sales and special deals. You can also follow the store on social media.

But perhaps the best way to know what’s going on is to make friends with the staff. Take a little extra time to chat and get to know them instead of just bustling out with your purchases. 

If they know and like you, they’re more likely to let you in on secrets other customers don’t know. They may even be willing to set stuff aside for you or at least give you a heads up if they know what you’re looking for.

3. Join the Loyalty Program

Some secondhand stores, such as certain Goodwill and Habitat ReStore branches, offer customer loyalty programs. Members earn points they can cash in for coupons or discounts.

If your local thrift store or resale shop has a loyalty program, it’s definitely worth signing up for it. In fact, if you shop at multiple stores that all have loyalty programs, there’s no reason not to sign up for all of them. It costs nothing, and it allows you to earn rewards every time you shop.

4. Use Teamwork

It isn’t always easy to find what you want at resale stores. Racks and shelves can be disorganized, and the selection changes frequently. If you’re not in the right place at the right time, you could miss out on the exact product you’re looking for.

That’s why it helps to have a partner — or several — in your thrifting endeavors. Let your friends know what’s on your shopping list, including details like the brands you like or the size you need, and learn the same about each of them.

That way, whenever you hit the secondhand store, you can shop for each other. If one of you finds something that’s on a friend’s wish list, you can text them a photo to let them know where to find it. They can come in for a quick look or ask you to pick it up for them. 

Another perk of teamwork is that it gives you a fresh perspective. Sometimes, your friends alert you to finds that aren’t on your list — perhaps even things you wouldn’t have thought to buy for yourself. But as soon as you see them, you realize they’re perfect for you.

5. Inspect Merchandise Carefully

Since most secondhand goods are sold as is, you have to scrutinize them before you buy. If you’re buying clothing, check it for rips, stains, odors, or missing buttons. Minor damage isn’t necessarily a deal breaker since you may be able to repair it. But you should take the problems into account when deciding how much you’re willing to pay.

When buying furniture, the most important thing to check is whether it’s sturdy and well made. Examine all the joints to see if they feel secure, and open drawers to see if they glide effortlessly. Sit in chairs to check their comfort. Basically, test it out the way you’d use it in your own home.

With anything that runs on electricity, it’s essential to plug it in and test its function. Check the power button and all controls, and ensure all the accessories and attachments are included and work. If possible, put the item to a full test right there in the store — for instance, put a record on the turntable you want to see how it plays.

6. Only Buy What You’ll Use

If you’re new to secondhand shopping, it’s easy to be bowled over by the amazingly low prices. You can end up loading up a cart with stuff you don’t need just because the prices are so irresistible. 

Then, you get it all home and realize you have no use for a slow cooker, you’re never going to wear a bright-orange sweater, and those jeans are so tight you can’t sit down in them.

Keep your needs and your preferences firmly in mind while you shop. Consider the clothes in your closet and the furnishings in your home, and think about which colors and styles you love the most. Focus on those, and don’t be tempted by “bargains” that aren’t right for you.

Likewise, be careful about falling for clothing that doesn’t quite fit. If you find a slightly too-big garment you love, a tailor may be able to take it in for you. But if it’s too small, don’t buy it hoping to lose weight. Chances are it will just sit in your closet making you unhappy every time you see it. 

If you’re trying to lose weight, wait until you’re down a size before hitting the resale shops. That way, you can try on everything. And since prices are so low, you can pick up a whole new wardrobe for your smaller size without blowing your budget.

7. Shop Out of Season

If you’re shopping for clothing, you can sometimes find better deals on off-season clothes. If you’re shopping for shorts in summer or sweaters in winter, you’re competing with other secondhand shoppers looking for the same garments. The merchandise at thrift shops and yard sales is picked over, and anything you find is likely to be more expensive or less desirable.

To save money, switch it up and look for cool-weather clothes in summer and warm-weather clothes in winter. You’ll have more pieces to choose from, and they’ll probably be cheaper.

This strategy doesn’t work everywhere. For instance, some thrift shops and consignment stores rotate their selections, displaying only season-appropriate clothes.

However, you can still improve your odds of finding good clothes by shopping around the start of the season. In September, when the cool-weather clothes have just appeared on thrift-store shelves, you’ll see everything they have. Wait until February, and you’ll be left with other shoppers’ dregs.

8. Avoid Big Names

When shopping at antique stores, you’re likely to pay more if you focus on big-name manufacturers. For example, an authentic Thomas Chippendale sofa is likely to cost more than a sofa of comparable age and quality from a maker who’s less well-known.

Likewise, at vintage stores and consignment shops, designer clothes and well-known brands are likely to have higher price tags than similar styles from no-name brands. By choosing a knockoff, you can get the look you want for less.

9. Give In to Impulse Buys

Most of the time, impulse buying is a bad idea. If you see something you like but don’t need, it makes more sense to skip it. Often, after taking a few days to think about it, you decide you don’t want it. And if you still want it, you can always go back and buy it.

But at the resale store, you can’t count on today’s great deal to be there tomorrow. These shops usually only have one of each item in stock, so if you leave something behind, someone else could buy it before you have a chance to come back.

That means getting the best values when secondhand shopping sometimes means giving in to impulse purchases. If you see something you love and know you’ll use and the price is right, grab it while you have the chance. 

Even if you end up deciding you don’t love it, you’ve only lost a few bucks. That’s better than spending the next several years searching the stores for that one perfect item you missed out on. And if you decide you don’t want it, you can resell it to recover the money you spent.

10. Negotiate

At many secondhand stores and nearly all pawnshops and yard sales, it’s possible to negotiate a better price than the one you see on the tag. That’s particularly true with oversized items like furniture or appliances. If they’ve been sitting unsold for a while, the manager may decide they’d rather free up the floor space than hold out.

However, stores that allow haggling don’t always advertise it. The only way to find out for sure is to try it. For example, if you’re buying $13 worth of goods, ask if they’d accept $10 for all of it. The worst they can do is say no, and if they do, you haven’t lost anything.

Note that in some establishments, only the owner or manager has the authority to change the prices. If a clerk says no, you can try asking to speak to a manager. But if they’re not available, don’t press the issue. But if you find yourself dealing with a different person on your next visit, try again. You might get a different answer next time.

11. Be Patient

When you shop secondhand, you can’t be sure you’ll find what you’re looking for. Sometimes, you have to walk out empty-handed because there wasn’t a single pair of pants in your size or a single chair that was comfortable to sit in.

Experiences like that can be frustrating, but you shouldn’t let them sour you on thrifting in general. For every frustrating trip, there’s another when you magically seem to find everything on your list — or something amazing you weren’t even looking for.

The key to making this resale magic happen is to give yourself as many opportunities as possible. Stop by your local thrift shop often, whenever you’re in the neighborhood. That gives you more chances to see new goods as they arrive and grab that special piece before it disappears. And hit the brakes for every yard sale you see.

It also helps to keep an open mind. Don’t get stuck on a specific idea of what you want, such as “navy blue L.L. bean turtleneck with whale pattern.” 

Instead, think in general terms about what you need, such as “turtleneck shirts.” That frees you up to consider more goods and find something that wouldn’t have been on your radar otherwise.

Final Word

The thrill of finding bargains at the resale shop can be intoxicating. But it’s best not to get carried away. 

It’s not a good idea to buy used every time. For example, used bike helmets and car seats may present safety hazards. In these cases, stick to brand-new items.

But for many things, secondhand shopping is an easy way to save money. It’s a particularly smart move for people who want to choose sustainable clothing but can’t afford eco-conscious brands. By making your local thrift store your first stop for clothes shopping, you can keep your wardrobe green while sticking to a budget.

If you want to take your secondhand shopping skills to the next level, expand your searches to include secondhand goods that cost nothing at all. By visiting free stores, swap parties, and websites like Freecycle and the Buy Nothing Project, you can get new-to-you stuff for no money at all.

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Source: moneycrashers.com

In 2 Minutes, Credit Sesame Can Help Improve Your Chances of Getting a Home in This Market

If you’ve been trying to buy a house in this chaotic pandemic housing market, you know you could lose an opportunity from right under your feet in an instant.
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Source: thepennyhoarder.com
And with a poor credit score, you might not get a pre-approval at all — meaning just putting an offer on a home is out of the question.

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The market is as competitive as we’ve ever seen it, and cash buyers are snatching up houses left and right. Bidding wars start within hours of a house being listed, and it’s not uncommon to see people offering ,000 over asking price. Some things are just out of your control.
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Buy the Dip Meaning – Pros and Cons of Stock Purchases After a Market Drop

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The expression “time is money” is true in most senses, but nowhere more so than in the stock market. 

The amount of money you make or lose when you actively trade often depends on your market-timing skills. If you time things right, you’ll buy low and sell high, making a profit. If you time your investments wrong, you’ll buy high and be forced to sell low, reaping losses. 

So, when is the best time to buy? Often, the answer is when a dip takes place. 

What Does “Buy the Dip” Mean?

The equities market is a self-balancing system based on the law of supply and demand. When there are more buyers who want a stock than sellers who want to sell it, its price increases, enticing more sellers to get involved. On the other hand, when there are more sellers than buyers, the price of the stock must fall to get buyers excited. 

In the market, you see quite a few peaks and valleys as the supply and demand equation works to find fair values of equities. 

A dip means that the price of a stock is down, but likely for a short period of time. Buying the dip is a short-term trading strategy that gives day traders the ability to exploit these short-term price drops for a profit. 

Essentially, traders buy stocks at lower prices when dips take place in hopes of turning around and selling their shares shortly after the purchase, when the price of the stock normalizes back to higher levels. The difference between the purchase price and the later sale price becomes the profit (or loss) for the trader. 

Why Are Dips Seen as Buying Opportunities?

“Buy low, sell high.” The expression is the basic premise of investing — the idea that when you buy a stock, your goal is to buy in at a low price and sell when the price increases to make a profit. 

Dip buying is a faster-paced version of doing just that. Many dips usually only last for a portion of a trading session — sometimes only a few minutes — making them perfect opportunities for quick profits from day trading. 

When a dip happens, investors who buy in enjoy a discount to the general price the stock should be trading for. It’s like finding a coupon for a product you wanted to buy anyway. And while coupons limit the amount of the product you can buy using the offer, when you find a discounted stock, you can buy as many shares as you’d like and enjoy the discount. 

Pros & Cons of Buying the Dip

At first glance, buying the dip seems like a great way to go for any investor, but you should never judge a book by its cover. As with any other investment strategy, there are potential upsides and potential downsides to consider. Here are some of the most significant pros and cons to think about before diving into dips in the market.

Pros of Buying the Dip 

Buying the dip has become a popular idea for several good reasons. Some of the most exciting benefits to taking part in the strategy include:

1. High Potential Profitability

Long-term investors don’t tend to worry about peaks and valleys in the market. Instead, they buy equities they intend to hold for a while, no matter the short-term ebbs and flows seen in its price. 

However, technical analysis pros who have the ability to time dips in the market have the potential to beat the returns of long-term investors by wide margins. After all, if you can get in at a discount, you stand to make compelling gains when the uptrend in the value of the stock commences. 

2. Dips Happen All the Time

Dips happen regardless of whether Wall Street is in the midst of a bull market or bear market. While the market is seen as a balanced system, it’s actually a constant battle between the bulls and the bears that’s always using supply and demand to work out inefficiencies. 

As a result, short-lived peaks and valleys are far more common than most newcomers to the investing community think. That means there are always opportunities somewhere.

3. Excitement

There’s a bit of excitement that comes along with a discount. After all, you work hard for your money, and if you can spend less than you expected, the transaction is going to make you feel good. The same is true whether you’re buying a new pair of jeans or shares of Apple stock. 

Cons of Buying the Dip 

At this point, you’re probably pretty excited about trying your hand at dip buying, but don’t let the allure of big profits fool you — it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Before you decide to take part in the strategy, consider the following pitfalls:

1. Volatility

The market is filled with volatile price movements, and even pros at technical analysis get it wrong from time to time. Attempting to make a quick profit in just about any space can end in a headache, and the market is no different. 

Finding the right time to jump into a stock that’s experiencing volatility is a challenge for even the most experienced traders. Beginners hoping to score a quick profit just because a stock’s price is down could be in for a bumpy ride. 

2. History Isn’t Always an Indicator of the Future

It’s a widespread saying that history repeats itself, but it’s not always true, especially when you’re talking about the market. 

The idea of buying the dip is based on the premise that a stock’s past performance is indicative of what you can expect in the future, but that’s not always the case either. 

Unfortunately, this false premise is why even the best of the best traders often make losing trades. When a dip appears, you may think it’s a good time to buy, but there’s no telling when or if the dip will correct itself. Sometimes a stock’s price goes down and stays down — or goes even lower.

3. There Could Be a Reason for the Dip

Unwarranted declines are commonplace in the market, but that doesn’t mean every dip you see is unwarranted. Sometimes, there are serious underlying issues in the business represented by the stock that causes investors to abandon ship, leading to a dip on the chart. 

Unfortunately, with buying the dip being such a fast-paced process, traders don’t always have the time to do adequate fundamental research before executing their trades. Instead, they may dive in on stocks that have fallen due to issues that aren’t likely to resolve themselves in the near term, leading to losses. 

Who Should Buy the Dip?

Buying dips in the market may seem like an exciting way to turn a profit, but most investors shouldn’t be chasing fast-paced gains in the market. For the right trader, though, buying the dip can be a good trading strategy. You may be a prime candidate for buying dips if:

1. You Are Risk-Tolerant

As mentioned above, there are significant risks that come with attempting to make meaningful profits in the market over a short period of time. The prime candidate for the strategy would be someone who isn’t afraid to lose a few bucks here and there in search of the treasure trove. 

2. You’re Skilled in Technical Analysis

Technical analysis is the process of analyzing trends in a stock chart to determine where the value of a stock is likely headed. Swing traders use indicators like support and resistance to create a theoretical range in which the value of the stock should stay, and they take advantage of various other indicators to tell them where in this range the stock is and the direction it’s likely headed next. 

The best candidate for this strategy is one who has a deep understanding of technical analysis and is able to use it to make fast-paced decisions in the market. 

3. You Don’t Care About Income From Investing

Because buying the dip is a fast-paced process, investors and traders who take advantage of the strategy will rarely hold a stock long enough to collect dividends. If you’re a long-term investor who depends on income from your investments, this strategy simply won’t fit the bill. 

Take Part in Dollar-Cost Averaging When Buying a Dip

When using the buy-the-dip investment strategy, one of the best ways to protect yourself from significant losses is to employ dollar-cost averaging. 

The reality is that when you buy a dip, you’re buying a stock that’s trending downward, and there’s no 100% accurate way to tell where the bottom is. As a result, if you’re making a large purchase into a dip, it’s best to spread your purchase over time by making multiple smaller purchases. 

For example, say you notice a stock is on a downtrend and you believe the trend will last no more than a couple of trading sessions. Instead of buying 100 shares of the stock right now, you might decide that you’ll buy five blocks of 20 shares, with each purchase taking place an hour apart. 

In doing so, if the price of the stock continues to fall after the first purchase, the later purchases at lower prices bring the average price you pay for all the shares down, increasing your overall earnings potential when the dip subsides and the stock makes its way back up. 

Can Long-Term Investors Benefit From Buying the Dip?

While most dips in the market tend to be incredibly short term, making them best for traders rather than long-term investors, there are some instances when long-term focused investors can benefit from buying the dip and using dollar-cost averaging in the process. 

One of the best recent examples of this was during the coronavirus pandemic. When the pandemic set in, the overall market experienced painful declines as the global economy took a major hit. During this time, countless individual stocks quickly became undervalued. 

The declines during the pandemic started in late February and found the bottom by late March. Even long-term investors who weren’t trading stocks daily had time to put extra money to work in the market. After the month-long market bloodbath, stocks began to recover. Investors with a long-term outlook who took the opportunity to buy new shares as prices were falling started to benefit greatly. 

So, while the buy-the-dip concept is generally seen as a trading strategy, in some cases, it makes for a great investing strategy as well. 

Final Word

Buying the dip is an exciting concept. After all, who doesn’t want a discount on a product they’re purchasing, be it a toy for their kids or a share of stock? 

However, the concept can also be dangerous. After all, when stocks fall, there are often reasons for the declines, and the dips seen in the stock chart could become long-term headaches. 

Nonetheless, with a little research, you’ll be able to tell whether there’s a serious reason for the declines or if the dip is likely to be short lived. So, when taking advantage of the buy-the-dip strategy, as is the case when making any other investment decision, it’s important to do your research and get an understanding of what you’re buying before you make the purchase. 

.kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_03170d-d1 .kb-table-of-content-wrappadding:30px 30px 30px 30px;background-color:#f9fafa;border-color:#cacaca;border-width:1px 1px 1px 1px;.kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_03170d-d1 .kb-table-of-contents-titlefont-size:14px;line-height:18px;letter-spacing:0.06px;font-family:-apple-system,BlinkMacSystemFont,”Segoe UI”,Roboto,Oxygen-Sans,Ubuntu,Cantarell,”Helvetica Neue”,sans-serif, “Apple Color Emoji”, “Segoe UI Emoji”, “Segoe UI Symbol”;font-weight:inherit;text-transform:uppercase;.kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_03170d-d1 .kb-table-of-content-wrap .kb-table-of-content-listcolor:#001c29;font-size:14px;line-height:21px;letter-spacing:0.01px;font-family:-apple-system,BlinkMacSystemFont,”Segoe UI”,Roboto,Oxygen-Sans,Ubuntu,Cantarell,”Helvetica Neue”,sans-serif, “Apple Color Emoji”, “Segoe UI Emoji”, “Segoe UI Symbol”;font-weight:inherit;.kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_03170d-d1 .kb-table-of-content-wrap .kb-table-of-content-list .kb-table-of-contents__entry:hovercolor:#16928d;.kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_03170d-d1 .kb-table-of-content-list limargin-bottom:7px;.kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_03170d-d1 .kb-table-of-content-list li .kb-table-of-contents-list-submargin-top:7px;.kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_03170d-d1 .kb-toggle-icon-style-basiccircle .kb-table-of-contents-icon-trigger:after, .kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_03170d-d1 .kb-toggle-icon-style-basiccircle .kb-table-of-contents-icon-trigger:before, .kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_03170d-d1 .kb-toggle-icon-style-arrowcircle .kb-table-of-contents-icon-trigger:after, .kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_03170d-d1 .kb-toggle-icon-style-arrowcircle .kb-table-of-contents-icon-trigger:before, .kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_03170d-d1 .kb-toggle-icon-style-xclosecircle .kb-table-of-contents-icon-trigger:after, .kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_03170d-d1 .kb-toggle-icon-style-xclosecircle .kb-table-of-contents-icon-trigger:beforebackground-color:#f9fafa;

Source: moneycrashers.com

8 Commonly Inherited Items Worth Almost Nothing

Disappointed Man
Damir Khabirov / Shutterstock.com

Inheriting a houseful of items usually comes at the end of a long and emotional journey. In these moments, the treasures passed down to us take on a whole new meaning and value.

Sadly though, many things we inherit have limited resale value. In my 20-year career as a professional reseller, I’ve seen people struggle to let go of items for a tiny fraction of what they were once worth.

Still, having a clear view of the resale market can make liquidating an estate easier. It helps set expectations and allows friends and family to focus on high-demand, high-worth pieces.

With that in mind (and with the understanding that every market is different), here are some commonly inherited items worth almost nothing:

1. Silver-plated flatware

Dee Dalasio / Shutterstock.com

Though beautiful, silver-plated flatware sets are a tough sell. Buyers don’t want to spend time polishing the silver before and after large family meals.

Individual forks and spoons usually sell for a dollar or two in antique shops. Primary buyers for these pieces are jewelry makers and crafters who turn the ornate handles into cuff bracelets, rings and keychains.

Pro tip: Look up how to distinguish silver plate from sterling silver. Sterling has a market all its own, and full flatware sets contain enough silver to be valuable by weight alone.

For more tips, check out “The Smart Way to Sell the Family Silver for Cash.”

2. Large pieces of furniture

maramorosz / Shutterstock.com

In the estate liquidation business, wooden hutches, sideboards and formal dining room sets are collectively referred to as “big browns.” Notoriously difficult to sell, these large pieces can linger for years in consignment stores.

More mobile than previous generations, young buyers simply don’t want hulking pieces of furniture. Instead, they favor small-scale furnishings that are easy to move and multifunctional.

But sellers, take heart! Antique wardrobes are one important exception to this rule. Wardrobes are popular among apartment and condo dwellers with limited closet space. Other buyers repurpose them as entertainment and gaming centers.

3. Formal sets of china

Set of china dishware
Kondor83 / Shutterstock.com

Lifestyles change. Though it may be tough to admit, there’s a very limited market for grandma’s prized wedding china.

Today’s homeowner doesn’t entertain the same way our parents and grandparents did. Gatherings tend to be smaller and less formal. As a result, a single set of neutral dinnerware is preferred over five-piece place settings with a matching gravy boat and teapot.

4. Mass-produced collectibles

collectible figurine
Ugis Riba / Shutterstock.com

Items made to be collectible seldom hold their value long term. Tastes change, collectors pass away and hot markets cool off. Here are some of the most common collectibles that are worth almost nothing today:

  • Souvenir thimbles
  • Souvenir miniature spoons
  • Commemorative plates
  • Beanie Babies
  • Hummel figurines
  • Precious Moments figurines
  • Longaberger baskets

5. Avon perfume bottles

vintage Avon perfume bottle
Moonavie / Shutterstock.com

While technically a collectible, vintage Avon bottles deserve a category all their own. The sheer volume of figural cologne bottles sold by the company means that most households have at least a few laying around.

But the market stinks (pun intended) for vintage Avon. With the exception of its 32-piece chess set (which can sell for as much as $279.99 on eBay), the majority of Avon bottles aren’t worth anything.

6. Many types of crystal

Supermop / Shutterstock.com

A quick review of completed eBay listings shows that most lead crystal just doesn’t sell. Blame it on a shift in taste and lifestyle. Like silver, crystal requires hand-washing and meticulous cleaning to keep pieces looking their best.

But before you donate your grandparents’ prized crystal collection, check the labels. Crystal pieces by these makers are bucking the trend and selling well:

  • Baccarat
  • Hofbauer
  • Kosta Boda
  • Lalique

7. Most books

sebra / Shutterstock.com

At the last estate sale I attended, books were priced at $2 per box (and the boxes were big). Expect to get similar prices for inherited books unless they fall into one of these categories:

  • First edition: Depending on the popularity of the book and author, first-printings may be more valuable. Unsure about a book? Here’s how to identify a first edition.
  • Author-signed: Again, depending on the popularity of the book, signed copies may carry more value.
  • Decorative: Leather-bound and antique books with decorative covers sell well. Homeowners and interior designers use them as accent pieces.

8. Contemporary holiday decorations

Christmas decor
Alena Ozerova / Shutterstock.com

Though the price of new holiday decorations goes up every year, the market is miserly for used items. Expect to sell inherited artificial trees, ornaments and yard decor pieces for slightly more than a lump of coal.

One bright spot: There’s a strong collectors’ market for antique Christmas and Halloween items. In 2020, I bought an old papier-mache Halloween lantern for $9. Within days, I sold it to a collector for $235.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Understanding Property Valuations

If you’re applying for a mortgage, you probably expect the lender to take a look at your income, debt, credit history, employment, and assets.

There’s another loan element the lender will consider that may be less familiar: an objective property valuation.

What Is a Property Valuation?

Sellers may use a property valuation to determine how much their house is worth and how much they can charge on the open market.

A mortgage lender’s property valuation is slightly different. It helps the lender determine the value of the property you’re hoping to buy based on factors like size, location, condition, and demand.

Why would lenders require this type of home appraisal? They want to know that the loans they offer are backed by a sufficiently valuable property so that if a borrower were to default on the loan, they can recoup their losses.

Consider this: Sellers can choose any listing price they want — whatever they think someone is willing to pay. But if the buyer needs financing, the selling price must be supported by market value (what comparable homes have recently sold for in the area) before a lender will pony up the cash for a loan.

If the home you want to buy is appraised for less than the sales price, the seller would need to lower the price to the appraised value, you would have to make up the difference, or you’d exit the deal.

Who Carries Out a Property Valuation?

A lender’s property valuation typically will be carried out by a professional appraiser assigned by a third party.

The lender, buyer, and seller are not to have any relationship with the appraiser so that the valuation is unbiased. Buyers can hire an independent appraiser, but the valuation would not be official.

The kind of valuation required by lenders depends on factors such as the type of home you’re looking to buy, the type of loan you’re applying for, your credit score, and whether you’re buying a single-family or multifamily home.

Home Appraisals, Explained

The most common kind of property valuation is an appraisal.

How Does a Home Appraisal Work?

An appraisal is an independent estimate of the home’s value by a licensed or certified real estate appraiser.

Appraisers weigh factors like location, the condition of the home, size and layout, the year it was built, and any renovations that have been done. They also consider “comps” — what similar homes in the neighborhood recently sold for — tax records, and zoning.

The appraisal will determine a market value that is either “as is” or “subject to” certain conditions, such as completion of repairs or upgrades.

Lenders rely on the appraiser’s market value to come up with the loan-to-value ratio of a property, which influences the amount they’re willing to lend and the terms of the loan.

When Does an Appraisal Happen and What Does It Cost?

The federal government no longer requires appraisals for homes that cost less than $400,000, allowing simpler evaluations to stand in their place. That said, most mortgage lenders probably will still require an appraisal.

The appraisal typically occurs once the seller has accepted an offer and is normally performed within the loan contingency date of the purchase contract, usually 21 days.

The buyer pays for the appraisal ordered through the lender. The cost depends on the type of property, city, size, and features, but for a single-family home it averages $348, according to a national survey from HomeAdvisor, an online platform for home services professionals.

A desktop appraisal may cost much less than that.

What If You Get a Low Appraisal?

If the appraised value is as much as the agreed-upon price or more, that encourages the lender to move forward with the home loan, assuming that the other aspects of the property and your application are in order.

If the appraisal comes in under the agreed-upon price, the lender may reduce the amount of the loan it’s willing to offer.

You or the sellers can dispute the appraisal with the lender or ask for a second appraisal. If the value is still too low, there are three routes:

•   You can agree to contribute the difference in cash.

•   You can try to get the seller to reduce the price.

•   You and the seller may agree to split the difference.

Buyers can back out of the deal if the contract includes an appraisal contingency. A clean offer, one with as few contingencies as possible, caught on in the recent hot market, but buyers take risks in dropping contingencies.

Alternatives to a Full Home Appraisal

In certain situations or stages of the homebuying process, you may not need to go through a full formal home appraisal. Here are some alternative methods lenders use for home valuations.

Automated Valuation Model

Algorithms take into account the size of the home, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, comps, and other factors to estimate property value.

Some lenders of conventional mortgages using Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac’s automated underwriting systems may receive a waiver for a full appraisal, thanks to robust sales in the neighborhood to support the purchase price, the amount of the down payment, strength of the borrower, or the type of transaction.

Some lenders also use automated valuation models when deciding whether to extend or adjust a home equity line of credit.

Drive-by or Exterior-Only Appraisal

A drive-by appraisal (also known as a summary appraisal) refers to an inspection that only looks at the exterior of a home. The appraiser will photograph the front and sides of the home, as well as the street in both directions.

The appraiser takes notes on the neighborhood and the condition of the home and looks at comps when coming up with an estimated value.

Desktop Appraisal

Never having to leave the desk, an appraiser uses property tax records, comps, and other public record data in lieu of a physical property inspection.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency made desktop appraisals, implemented in March 2020 amid lockdowns and social distancing, permanent for purchase loans starting in early 2022.

That means both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow appraisals to be conducted remotely.

Broker Price Opinion

A broker price opinion is an estimate of a property’s value determined by a real estate agent or broker, rather than a licensed appraiser. A client may request this estimate to underpin a home’s listing price.

A lender may request a broker price opinion when a borrower is behind on payments, and will use the unofficial assessment to see whether the home value is below the amount of the loan, potentially making the borrower eligible to negotiate a short sale.

Broker price opinions can also be used to buy and sell mortgages on the secondary market. Lenders prefer them in these cases because a full appraisal isn’t required, and because the valuations are fast and generally less costly.

The Takeaway

An unbiased professional appraiser determines real estate valuation based on factors like home size, condition, location, and comparable sales. When big money is at stake, a lender needs to determine the true property valuation.

Before you get to the home valuation stage, the first steps to becoming a homeowner may be getting prequalified and preapproved for a mortgage loan.

SoFi offers home loans with as little as 5% down, competitive rates, and flexible terms.

It’s quick and easy to find your rate on a SoFi mortgage.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Source: sofi.com

What Is After-Hours Trading and Who Can Trade These Extended Times

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The vast majority of trading activity on the stock market happens during the normal trading session, which lasts from 9:30am to 4:00pm Eastern time on business days. However, you might notice a stock you own ends the trading session at one price and starts the next session with the stock up or down to a completely different price. 

How does this happen? Isn’t trading closed once the session is over?

Not exactly! In fact, institutional investors have been active in stock trading after normal business hours for decades, and the trend is starting to pick up with the retail crowd too.

What Is After-Hours Trading?

Regular market hours are set by the two major stock exchanges in the United States, the Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). These exchanges will only facilitate trades between the hours of 9:30am and 4:00pm Eastern time. 

However, trading doesn’t stop once normal market hours are over. Instead, there’s a large crowd of investors who make moves in the after-hours session, which starts at 4:00pm and ends at 8:00pm. 

Investors also take advantage of extended hours, trading before normal market hours in a session that starts at 8:00am and ends at 9:30am. This session is known as the premarket trading session. 

During these sessions, stocks aren’t traded on major exchanges the way they are in the general trading session. Instead, these trades are facilitated by electronic communications networks, or ECNs. More on these shortly.

The majority of traders in these sessions are institutions and high net worth investors, but the rise of availability of ECNs has made it possible for the average investor to get involved too. 

If you notice the price of a stock has jumped or fallen drastically in the time between when the market closes one day and when the market opens the next, don’t worry. It’s perfectly normal for prices to change outside of normal market hours because trading continues in these extra sessions when the major exchanges are closed for the day.  

Who Can Trade After Hours?

For decades, the after-hours market was only available to institutional investors and has long been a popular hot spot for mutual funds, hedge funds, and other deep-pocketed market participants. As recently as 1999, institutional investors were the only ones able to access these sessions.

The good news is that technology has changed the way people do just about everything, and investing is no different. Thanks to the invention of ECNs, individual investors now have a trading system that gives them the ability to make moves outside of normal trading hours. 

ECNs are complex trading systems that match buyers and sellers without the need for a traditional stock exchange like the Nasdaq or NYSE. Like a traditional exchange, ECNs provide stock quote data surrounding bid and asking prices and facilitate trades once the buyer and seller agree on the deal.

So to put it simply, today anyone can trade after hours.

However, not all brokerages provide access to these sessions. If you want to trade in the after-hours or premarket sessions, you’ll need to choose a broker that makes it possible to do so. Some of the most popular brokers that offer access to extended trading hours include Charles Schwab, Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, Robinhood, Firstrade, and Webull. 

What Order Types Are Accepted After Hours?

The order types available to you in after-hours sessions largely depend on what’s offered by your broker. While most brokers that offer after-hours services offer all the same types of orders they would during normal sessions, some restrict order types to the most basic, such as buy orders, sell orders, and limit orders only.  

If there are specific types of orders you’ll need when you trade stocks, reach out to the broker you’re working with to make sure those order types are available in the after-hours and premarket sessions. 

Pros & Cons of After-Hours Trading

Trading outside of regular trading hours comes with pros and cons that should be considered before you begin to participate. 

After Hours Pros

There’s quite a bit to be excited about in the after-hours trading session. Some of the most exciting aspects of trading in the extended session include:

1. Catch the Gap

By taking part in the extended market activity, you’ll never be the victim of wide gaps between a stock’s closing price and its opening price. Because you’ll be active at all times trades can be made, you’ll be able to catch a falling stock before it hits the bottom or jump in on a rising stock before the institutions drive the price to its maximum. 

2. Take Advantage of After-Hours Catalysts

When good news is released about a company, it has the potential to send its stock skyward. Conversely, bad news can send a stock tumbling like a penny dropped from the Empire State Building. 

Unfortunately, the news that’s most likely to cause significant price fluctuations is generally released outside of normal trading hours. That can create a major problem for investors who only make trades during traditional trading sessions. 

For example, when a publicly traded company schedules its earnings report, it will either schedule it to be released before the bell (before the market opens), or after the bell (after the market closes). 

The contents of the company’s report can create big moves in its stock price — often while the earnings call is still in progress — as investors try to pile in or jump ship based on the news. By the opening bell of the next trading session, many investors have already made their move, which will be reflected by the stock’s new price at the open.

By taking part in the after-hours session, you’ll be able to make your trades as soon as the news is released, ditching a stock before its likely collapse or buying in before the masses realize the opportunity. 

3. Trade After Work

The average investor doesn’t work on Wall Street, but rather is a normal person who typically has to work elsewhere to make a living. Making investments in a market that’s only open from 9:30am to 4:00pm when you’re working a 9-to-5 job is hardly convenient. 

Before the after-hours session was available to the average investor, people had to find a way to invest on their lunch break or hire a professional to make their trades during the day for them. Today, ECNs give the average person the ability to trade outside the regular trading session, making investing far more convenient for people with limited availability during the workday.  

After-Hours Cons

While there are plenty of perks that come with trading in extended hours, there are also some significant drawbacks that investors should consider before diving in:

1. Potentially Increased Cost

Because after-hours trading is facilitated by different means than trades made during a normal trading day, costs associated with trading may be higher. Make sure to read all documents provided by your broker to get an understanding of the fees you’ll be charged for taking part in the after-hours or premarket sessions. 

2. Wider Spreads

The spread on a stock is the difference between its bid price and its ask price. These spreads are determined by market makers based on the liquidity of stocks. Stocks in high demand that are largely liquid are charged smaller fees by market makers, making spreads small. 

Because there is much lower volume in after-hours sessions than during regular market hours, spreads increase, leading to higher costs represented as wider spreads. 

Ultimately, with low demand and a lower liquidity, it is difficult for individual investors to buy in at low prices. 

3. Heavy Volatility

The vast majority of investors who trade after hours are institutional and high net worth investors who often buy and sell large blocks of shares. When these large blocks hit the market, and a large institution is willing to sell to another, wide swings in stock prices happen. 

So, while there’s lower trading volume in the extended session, the volume that does take place has the potential to move the needle in a big way, leading to a high volatility. 

4. Delays

Finally, the technology used to process trades in after-hours and premarket sessions is very different from that of regular trading hours. In these extended sessions, trades are more delayed. 

This can create a bit of a problem. 

With fewer traders active in extended sessions, there are already fewer people out there willing to buy or sell shares. Add in lags and other delays in the processing of orders, and some of the orders you place in these after-hours sessions may not even go through. 

Final Word

After-hours trading is simply the process of trading outside of the regular trading session hours. However, there’s far more to this type of trading than initially meets the eye. 

While it may seem convenient to access the market after it closes, most retail investors are better off avoiding the process altogether. 

After all, not only will you pay higher fees to make trades in extended sessions, but retail investors tend to find themselves in David and Goliath-style financial battles with big money institutions. 

While there are benefits to being able to trade the news as soon as it’s released, high volatility, stiff competition, and added fees add to the general risks associated with investing and should be thoughtfully considered before you dive into after-hours trading. 

As always, whether you’re trading in the normal or extended sessions, the foundation of profitable moves in the stock market is quality research. Always be sure to do your research before making any investments. 

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Source: moneycrashers.com

Power Hour Stocks: What Are They and How Do You Trade Them?

While the U.S. stock market is technically open from 9:30 AM to 4 PM EST every trading day, attentive stock traders know that some hours of the day are more active than others.

Traders have a name for that window of opportunity — they call it the “Power Hour”.

Depending on who you talk to, the Power Hour can be the first hour of trading (from 9:30 to 10:30 EST) or the last hour of trading (3:30 to 4:30 EST). Derivative traders may argue that the time is even more specific, such as at 3:30 on the third Friday of every month in March, June, September, and December when option, futures and index contracts all expire on the same day. They call it “triple witching hour”.

Power Hours can be subjective: A day trader who only trades a few hours a day may decide the first hour of the trading session is what matters — or they may hone in on the last hour if the goal is to get out of a current position or buy into a new one.

Past that, there is some agreement over what the stock market Power Hour actually means to investors. Here’s a closer look at the Power Hour, and what it might mean to you.

What is the Stock Market Power Hour?

With the Power Hour, stock market traders have a concentrated time to leverage specific market opportunities. That goes for anyone trading common market securities like stocks, index funds, commodities, currencies, and derivatives, especially options trading and futures.

When Does Stock Power Hour Occur?

Most market observers land on two specific times, however, in defining the term:

•   The first trading hour of the market day. This is when news flows in overnight from across the world that can impact portfolio positions that investors may want to leverage.

•   The last hour of the trading day. This is when sellers may be anxious to close a position for the day, and buyers may be in a position to pounce and buy low when selling activity is high.

One commonality between the first hour of a stock market trading session and the last hour is that trading volatility tends to be higher than it is during the middle of a normal trading day. That’s primarily because traders are looking to buy or sell when demand for trading is robust, and that usually happens at or near the market opening or the market closing.

Each Power Hour brings something different to the table, when it comes to potential investing opportunities.

Power Hour Start of Day

The first hour of any trading session tends to be the most active, as traders react to overnight news and data numbers and stake out advantageous positions.

For example, an investor may have watched CNBC or Fox Business the previous night, and is now reacting to a story, interview, or prediction made on a show the night before.

Some traders refer to this scenario as “stupid money” trading, as conventional wisdom holds that one news event or one interview with a Fortune 500 CEO shouldn’t sway an investor from a strategy-guided long-term investment position. The fact is, by the time the average investor reacts to overnight data, it’s likely the chance for profit is already gone.

Here’s why: Most professional day traders were likely already aware of the news, and have already priced that information into their portfolios. As the price goes up on a stock based on artificial demand, the professional traders typically step in and take the other side of the trade, knowing that in the long run, investing money will drift back to the original trade price for the stock and the professional investor will likely end up making money.

Power Hour End of Day

The last hour of the trading day may also come with high market volatility, which tends to generate more stock trading. Many professional traders tend to trade actively in the morning session and step back during mid-day trading, when volatility is lower and the market is quieter than in the first and last hours of the day.

Regular traders can perk up at the last hour of trading, where trading is typically more abundant and the size of trades generally climb as more buyers and sellers engage before the trading session closes out. Just as in the first hour of the trading day, amateur investors tend to wade into the markets, buying and selling on the day’s news.

That activity can attract bigger, more seasoned traders who may be looking to take advantage of ill-considered positions by average investors, which increases market trading toward the close.

Red Flags and Triggers to Look for During Power Hour Trading

For any investor looking to gain an advantage during Power Hour trading, the idea is to look for specific market news that can spike market activity and heighten the chances of making a profit in the stock market.

These “triggers” may signal an imminent Power Hour market period, when trading can grow more volatile.

Any Earnings Report

Publicly-traded companies are obligated to release company earnings on a quarterly basis. When larger companies release earnings, the news has a tendency to move the financial markets. Depending on whether the earnings news comes in the morning or after hours, investors can typically expect higher trading to follow. That could lead to heavier Power Hour trading.

News on Big “Daily Gainers”

Stock market trading activity can grow more intense when specific economic or company news pushes a single large stock — or stock sector — into volatile trading territory.

For instance, if a technology company X announces a new smartphone release, investors may want to pounce and buy the stock, hoping for a significant share price uptick. That can lead to higher volume trading stock X, making the company and the market more volatile (especially later in the day), thus ensuring an active Power Hour trading time.

Federal Reserve/Economic News

Major economic news, like jobs reports, consumer sentiment, inflation rates, and gross domestic product (GDP) reports, are released in the morning. Big news from the Federal Reserve typically comes later in the day, after a key speech by a Fed officer or news of an interest rate move after a Fed Open Markets Committee meeting.

Make no mistake, news on both fronts can be big market movers, and can lead to even more powerful Power Hour trading sessions. Anticipation of huge economic news, like a Federal Reserve interest rate hike or the release of the U.S. government’s monthly non-farm labor report, can move markets before the actual news is released, potentially fueling an even larger trading surge after the news is released, either at the open (for government economic news) or at the end of the trading day (for Federal Reserve news).

Triple Witching Hour Events

Quarterly triple witching hours — when stock options, futures and index contracts expire on four separate Fridays during the year — historically have had a substantial impact on market activity on those Friday afternoons, in advance of the contracts expiring at the days’ end.

When options contracts involving larger companies expire, market activity on a Friday afternoon prior to closing can be especially volatile. Thus, any late afternoon Power Hour on a triple-witching-hour Friday can be highly active, and may be one of the largest drivers of Power Hour trading during the year.

The Takeaway

The concept of a stock market “Power Hour” is very real, but so is the risk of trading in more volatile markets when Power Hours tend to be more active.

Consequently, it’s a good idea to give Power Hours a wide berth if you’re not familiar with trading in choppy markets, where the risk of losing money is high when Power Trading activity is at its highest.

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Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.

Photo credit: iStock/Tatiana Sviridova

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Why You May Have to Take Your Shoes Off at an Open House

It’s been a long week, and now you’re spending your weekend house hunting, running from one open house to another. You’re tired but still hopeful as you step into yet another home, only to be greeted with a command: Take off your shoes. What gives?

It might sound like a ridiculous request, but it’s not. Sellers have good reasons to make their open houses shoeless, but they should also take care not to offend buyers in the process.

What’s the big deal about shoes?

Sellers go through the trouble of making their homes sparkling clean before an open house, paying for that shine from their wallets or with their own sweat. Open houses can attract hundreds of people—and twice that number of feet—so some sellers want to reduce the chance of floor damage, like from the following:

Scuffs: With tons of people coming and going, it’s possible one or more might ding up a hardwood floor with heavy boots or high heels.

Salt damage: When it snows, there’s salt. The same substance that provides traction on slick surfaces can act like sandpaper on hardwood or laminate flooring.

Wet spots: Since there’s not necessarily anyone to clean up after guests, tracked-in water can create a falling hazard. It also dirties up carpets.

Dirt, mud … and worse: How often do you check the bottom of your shoe? Chances are, there’s something gross under there.

Reduce the risk of offense

If you’re a seller, asking buyers to make an effort that’s out of the ordinary carries a risk. Some buyers feel uncomfortable taking off their shoes to show dirty or torn-up socks. Others might simply feel offended by the idea of their shoes being too dirty for admittance. Plus, the inconvenience of having to bend down and untie one’s shoes can diminish the “wow” factor of the front room, slightly sour a first impression, or simply make buyers feel awkward.

So, make the no-shoe rule as convenient as possible:

Put a sign outside: By informing buyers upfront, you’ll save them an awkward confrontation with your listing agent inside. Make the sign apologetic or add a touch of humor to put buyers at ease.

Create a shoe-shedding space: You don’t want buyers forming a line or bumping into one another to get their shoes on or off. If you have a tiny mudroom, consider setting up some chairs in a larger area in the adjacent room.

Keep it organized: Keep those shoes easy to find and out of the way with a shoe rack positioned against the wall.

Provide slippers: Consider buying inexpensive, nonslip slippers or socks for your guests.

Turn on the heat: A cold floor can make potential buyers rush through your house. Keep the heat on a little warmer than usual.

Provide hand sanitizer and towels: Your buyers might end up with mud or dirt on their hands, so have some hand sanitizer and paper towels ready, plus a trash can for the refuse.

Be flexible: You might need to make exceptions. If some buyers have orthopedic needs, it’s best not to press them to take off their shoes or they probably won’t bother coming in. Talk with your agent about how much you’re willing to budge. A large welcome mat can be handy in these situations.

Source: realtor.com