The Art of Mortgage Pre-Approval

Buying a home can feel like a cut-throat process. You may find the craftsman style house of your dreams only to be bumped out of the running by a buyer paying in all cash, or moving super swiftly. But fear not, understanding the home buying process and getting a mortgage pre-approval can put you back in the race and help you secure the house you want.

What is Mortgage Pre-approval?

Mortgage pre-approval is essentially a letter from a lender that states that you qualify for a loan of a certain amount and at a certain interest rate based on an evaluation of your credit and financial history. You’ll need to shop for homes within the price range guaranteed by your pre-approved mortgage. You can find out how much house you can afford with our home affordability calculator.

Armed with a letter of pre-approval you can show sellers that you are a serious homebuyer with the means to purchase a home. In many ways it’s competitive to buying a home in cash. In the eyes of the seller, pre-approval can often push you ahead of other potential buyers who have not yet been approved for a mortgage.

Getting pre-qualified for a mortgage is not the same as pre-approval. It’s actually a relatively simple process in which a lender looks at a few financial details, such as income, assets, and debt, and gives you an estimate of how much of a mortgage they think you can afford.

Taking out a mortgage is a huge step and pre-qualification can help you hunt down reputable lenders and find a loan that potentially works for you. Going through this process can be useful, because it gives you an idea of your buying power, or how much house you can afford.

Check out local real estate
market trends to help with
your home-buying journey.

It also gives you an idea of what your monthly payment might be and is a chance to shop around to various lenders to see what types of terms and interest rates they offer. Pre-qualification is not a guarantee that you will actually qualify for a mortgage.

Getting pre-approval is a more complicated process. You’ll have to fill out an application with your lender and agree to a credit check in addition to providing information about your income and assets. There are a number of steps you can take to increase your chances of pre-approval or to increase the amount your lender will approve. Consider the following:

Building Your Credit

Think of this as step zero when you apply for any type of loan. Lenders want to see that you have a history of properly managing your debt before offering you credit themselves. You can build credit history by opening and using a credit card and paying your bills on time. Or consider having regular payments , such as your rent, tracked and added to your credit score.

Checking Your Credit

If you’ve already established a credit history, the first thing you’ll want to do before applying for a mortgage is check your credit report and your FICO score. Your credit report is a history of your credit compiled from sources such as banks, credit card companies, collection agencies, and the government.

This information is collected by the three main credit reporting bureaus, Transunion, Equifax and Experian. Your FICO score is one number that represents your credit risk should a lender offer you a loan.
You’ll want to make sure that the information on your credit report is correct.

If you find any mistakes, contact the credit reporting agencies immediately to let them know. You don’t want any incorrect information weighing down your credit score, putting your chances for pre-approval at risk.

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Stay on Top of Your Debt

Your ability to pay your bills on time has a big impact on your credit score. If you can, make sure you make regular payments. And if your budget allows, you can make payments in full. If you have any debts that are dragging on your credit score—for example, debts that are in collection—work on paying them off first, as this can give your score a more immediate boost.

Watch Your Debt-to-income Ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio is your monthly debts divided by your monthly income. If you have $1,000 a month in debt payments and make $5,000 a month, your debt-income ratio is $1,000 divided by $5,000, or 20%.

Lenders may assume that borrowers with a high debt-to-income ratio will have a harder time making their mortgage payments. Keep your debt-to-income ratio in check by avoiding making large purchases before seeking pre-approval for a mortgage. For example, you may want to hold off on buying a new car until you’ve been pre-approved.

Prove Consistent Income

Your lender will want to know that you’ve got enough money coming in each month to cover a potential mortgage payment. So, they’ll likely ask you to prove that you have consistent income for at least two years by taking a look at your income documents (W-2, 1099 etc.).

For some potential borrowers, such as freelancers, this may be a tricky process since you may have income from various sources. Keep all pay stubs, tax returns, and other proof of income and be prepared to show them to your lender.

What Happens if You’re Rejected?

Rejection hurts. But if you aren’t pre-approved, or you aren’t approved for a large enough mortgage to buy the house you want, you also aren’t powerless. First, ask the bank why they made the decision they did. This will give you an idea about what you might need to work on in order to secure the mortgage you want.

SoFi Mortgage.


The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi Mortgages are not available in all states. Products and terms may vary from those advertised on this site. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria#eligibility-mortgage for details.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

SOMG18100

Source: sofi.com

8 Tips for How to Sell on Craigslist

Most of us have probably taken a deep, exasperated breath while surveying our homes, wondering how we managed to accumulate so much clutter. But there might be a way to turn that clutter into cash. It comes down to one word: Craigslist.

8 Tips for Selling on Craigslist

Selling on Craigslist seems easy, but it requires some know-how to get the intended result and money in your wallet. We scoured the Internet for the best tips.

So list that chair you’ve always hated. We’re here to help you find success and sell more of your items on Craigslist.

1. Take Photos That Work

Ever seen a Craigslist listing with an object you can’t quite make out? Is that a nightstand or a coffee table? Are they selling the whole dining room table set or just one chair?

A good photo can make your listing stand out while a bad photo has the potential to shut down any business. Take a good photo by posing your object in a well-lit spot, whether it’s in natural light or a warm artificial glow, and focus on the details that make your object special. Only photograph what you’re selling — leave extraneous things out of the picture.

2. It’s In the Details

Your listing can’t simply be a photo and the name of the object. You need a description and any relevant details — think dimensions or number of items or even age of the item, if relevant. It’s ideal for your listing to answer all of the questions a potential buyer might have so they don’t have time to really agonize over their purchase.

3. Tell the Truth

That being said, it’s important to be honest in your listing. If your couch has stains or your wooden dresser is chipped, add images that show the damage. Point that out to potential buyers in your description. People will be more likely to buy an item when they feel they are getting an upfront understanding of it.

One example: do not post the catalogue image of your piece of furniture from when it was brand new. (People do this.) Take a photo of your furniture piece as is — after all, that’s what you’re selling.

4. Be Simple

While you should absolutely share relevant details, there’s no need to tell the story of how your kids bounced around on these couch cushions or how the table was passed down in the family generation after generation. Potential buyers know they’re browsing for a used object, but they don’t want the legacy that comes with it. They want it to feel like their own.

And stick to simplicity in your listing title. Potential buyers often search for specific objects — trash cans or mirrors — and they likely won’t be searching with various adjectives.

5. Offer Delivery

Potential buyers love it when Craigslist sellers offer delivery. It’s an added perk and makes things easier, especially when the site caters to people from all over. Make sure to add a higher cost for delivery — whatever seems worth it to you based on location — and be safe. Bring someone along with you when you go to deliver.

6. The Price is Right

It really does boil down to whether the asking price is right. Craigslist is known for sellers that practically give items away, so it’s better to price your listing lower rather than higher. Interest is always key, and if you price it too high, you may have no takers.

But make sure you price your item at a level with which you’re comfortable. It’s not worth giving something away if it has sentimental value and you think it can go for more.

7. Reach Out to Your Network

Word of mouth is a powerful tool. If you think you might know someone in your social network — whether that’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or more — who might be interested in what you’re selling, share it on those forums.

And better yet, if you have a specific buyer in mind, feel free to be direct and share your listing with friends and family. If it doesn’t work for them, they may know the right person.

8. Always Be Safe

Always remember that you are dealing with strangers online on Craigslist. If someone is coming to your house or you are going to theirs, have a friend with you. Don’t assume that you will be fine if you are alone. Entering a stranger’s house or allowing a stranger to enter yours always comes with risk. It’s better to be prepared and meet in a public place if that is the only way the meeting can take place.

Writer Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder, often writing about selling goods online through social platforms. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Smithsonian Magazine and the Tampa Bay Times.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

5 Tips for Approaching the Open House

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For decades, sellers and their agents have been using open houses to help generate interest in their listings. Open houses give the general public the chance to view a home without scheduling a private showing. While open houses do get a lot of curious neighbors and casual browsers, they can be a good opportunity for serious buyers to decide if a home is worth pursuing further, or a way to get a better grasp on neighborhood home values. 

In fact, 59% of home buyers attended an open house during their shopping process last year and 43% of buyers said attending the open house was very or extremely important to determining if the home was right for them.* On average, home buyers attended 2.6 open houses before buying.

Whether you’re a sincere buyer or simply curious about the inside of a home, you should know how open houses work and understand how you can be a good open house attendee. 

Note: If open houses are restricted or unavailable due to public health concerns, work with your agent to arrange a private tour or video tour. All Zillow-owned homes include a self-tour option — just use our app to unlock the door and tour at your convenience.

What is an open house?

An open house is an event during which potential buyers can tour a home that’s on the market. It’s usually hosted by the seller’s listing agent, or by the seller themselves, in case of a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) listing. Open houses usually take place on weekends, during a set range of hours typically midday.

Open house benefits for buyers

No scheduling required: Unlike a private showing, you don’t need to set up a specific appointment to see a home. Simply show up during the open house hours and view the home at your own pace. 

Scope out the competition: If you’re interested in a home, attending the open house can help you gauge interest from other buyers. This can be helpful when determining how quickly you need to submit an offer and how much you should offer. 

Understand current home values: Seeing what homes are selling for in your area and what you can buy at a particular price point can be helpful if you’re just starting your search. 

Redefine your nonnegotiable home features: Checking out homes in person can help you redefine your list of must-haves: Do you really need that extra bedroom? What does a backyard of this size really look like?

How do open houses work?

Not every seller or listing agent will hold one, but here’s the typical process for sellers setting up an open house:

  1. The seller and their agent determine a day and time for the open house.
  2. The agent lists the open house on the local MLS.
  3. The agent advertises the open house on social media, online and with print ads or flyers. 
  4. The agent prepares for the open house — purchasing refreshments, printing flyers, setting up signs and adding little touches to make the home feel welcoming to buyers. (Yes, as a shopper, you can eat the cookies.)
  5. The agent hosts the event, greeting buyers and answering questions about the property and community.
  6. Buyers remove their shoes, tour the home, take pictures and video (if allowed) and jot down important notes. 
  7. Any buyer who liked the house will contact their own agent. They’ll then set up a private showing to see the home again or they’ll submit an offer right away — the latter is common in fast-moving real estate markets.

Who hosts an open house?

The person hosting an open house could be any one of the following: 

  • Listing agent: As the person hired to sell the home, the listing agent should be an expert on the property. 
  • Listing agent’s team member or associate: A busy listing agent may also send another agent in their place — either someone on their team or another agent in their office. They should be experts in the local market, but may not be as familiar with the individual home. 
  • Homeowner: If a home is for sale by owner (FSBO), the homeowner will be hosting their own open house. They’re undoubtedly the expert on the home, but their local market expertise may be limited. 

How to prepare for an open house

There are times when you might just stumble upon an open house while you’re on a walk or running errands. But if you’re intentionally looking for open houses as part of your home-buying strategy, try these tips.

Seek out relevant open houses

If you plan to visit multiple open houses in one day, make sure you’re focusing on listings that fit your criteria for budget and location. It’s not worth wasting time looking at homes outside your budget or those that are too far from your work or school. 

Tip: With Zillow’s home search tool, buyers can filter by homes with upcoming open houses (this filter can be applied in addition to other search filters like price, bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage and location). When you use the open houses filter in conjunction with filters for your other criteria, you can easily find the right open houses for your search.

A map of home listings on Zillow.

You can also tour most Zillow-owned homes any time between 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., any day of the week — just select the tour option on the listing. Although the listing agent will not be present, you can avoid a busy open house and rest assured the property is in move-in ready condition.

Do research on the market beforehand

With help from your agent or on your own, find out how each home you’re planning to visit stacks up against others nearby. Is the price in line with similar listings in the area? Are there any defects? Has it gone under contract recently and then returned to the market? Are there a lot of other interested buyers? Has it been sitting on the market for a long time? (“Days on market” is an indicator of a stale listing, but the standard number of days on market can vary based on where you live.)

Stay open-minded

If you’re searching on a tight budget in a hot neighborhood, there’s a good chance that the home that fits the bill will need some TLC. Fortunately, attending an open house can give you a better idea of the home’s condition and potential, while also giving you the opportunity to ask renovation-related questions — e.g., the location of load bearing walls and the details of local regulations. 

How to attend an open house

Now that you’ve done your research and are prepared to add some open houses to your home search, here’s what you should do once the day arrives. 

Ask questions

An open house is your best opportunity to ask the listing agent (or their associate) your questions — don’t be shy. Ask questions that you wouldn’t be able to answer just by reading a home’s listing description, such as:

  • What are the HOA restrictions?
  • Has the seller done a property tax appeal?
  • Have there been any recent renovations or repairs?

Tip: If you’re not currently working with an agent and you ultimately decide you aren’t interested in a particular home you tour, the open house could help you see if the listing agent might be the right person to represent you — many agents represent both buyers and sellers. 

Be honest

If anyone other than the listing agent or the homeowner is hosting the open house, they’re likely an agent hoping to find potential buyer clients. If you’re already working with an agent (or if you have no real interest in buying), be honest.

Check for damage and disrepair

Professional or edited photos can make a home look a lot better online than it is in person. At an open house, take the opportunity to closely evaluate a home’s condition and take note of any potential defects that would factor into your offer price. 

Assess the windows: Look for flaking paint, misaligned sashes and condensation due to air leaks. These could be signs of windows that need replacement. 

Check for water damage: Look for warped baseboards, ceiling stains and musty smells. 

Make note of cracks: Noticeable cracks in the ceiling or drywall could indicate foundation issues. 

Test functions: Open cabinets, doors and drawers. Run the faucets. Check the water pressure. An open house is a good opportunity to make sure every part of the home is in good working order. 

Gauge potential renovation needs: Home improvements can really add up. As you walk through a home, keep an eye out for urgent renovation needs like floors, fixtures or large repainting projects.

Open house tips for buyers

Whenever you attend an open house, put yourself in the seller’s shoes — you’re letting a bunch of strangers walk through your home while you’re not there. While every seller wants their open house to net a buyer, they also want to keep their home safe and their furnishings free of damage.

Do

  • Take off your shoes or wear booties if requested.
  • Greet the host and provide your name.
  • Sign in if necessary or requested (this is a safety issue for the seller and their agent).
  • Take notes on your phone about your likes, dislikes and follow-up questions.
  • Ask if you can capture a video (if the listing doesn’t already include a video).
  • Respect other buyers and guests. 
  • Wait for others to exit a room before you enter.
  • Provide feedback if requested.
  • Thank the person hosting the event.

Don’t

  • Refuse to comply with an agent or homeowner’s house rules.
  • Criticize the home or the owner’s style.
  • Listen in on other visitors’ conversations.
  • Touch the owner’s belongings.
  • Let kids run around without supervision.
  • Bring food or beverages in (except water).
  • Reveal information that would compromise your negotiating power, like your budget or level of interest in the home.
  • Bring pets.

*Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019 survey data

Source: zillow.com

One-Tap Online Shopping Savings Compared: Capital One Shopping Vs. Honey

There’s no sense in paying full price when shopping online — not when there are two truly legit discount apps that will save you money: Capital One Shopping and Honey.

The question is, which one to go with? Since I do at least 75% of my shopping exclusively online, I decided to run some tests to find out which coupon app was going to come out on top.

If you’re ready to save some serious cash on your next shopping trip, read on.

What’s Ahead:

Capital One Shopping vs. Honey summary

Features Capital One Shopping Honey
Format App
Browser extension
Website
App
Browser extension
Website
Partners Not specified, but most major name brands, plus Amazon 30,000 participating merchants including Amazon and
Watchlist Yes Yes (called Droplist)
Automatic coupon codes Yes Yes
Lowest Amazon price No Yes
Membership required No, except for credits No, except for Gold program
Local offers Yes No

About Capital One Shopping

One-Tap Online Shopping Savings Compared: Capital One Shopping Vs. Honey - Capital One Shopping

One-Tap Online Shopping Savings Compared: Capital One Shopping Vs. Honey - Capital One ShoppingCapital One Shopping is a discount and savings app owned by Capital One. It bills itself as the best option for discounts, loyalty perks, and deals.

To use Capital One Shopping, simply download the app, install the browser extension, or just visit the web site. Using Capital One Shopping gets you better prices on your online shopping, automatic discount codes at checkout, and tracks your must-have items to find the best price.

About Honey

One-tap Savings Compared: Wikibuy Vs. Honey - Honey

One-tap Savings Compared: Wikibuy Vs. Honey - HoneyHoney is an app dedicated to finding you the best deals and promos on all your online shopping. Installing the browser extension or downloading the app gets you great discounts and automatic coupon codes when you’re shopping online.

You don’t even have to lift a finger, Honey will add the best coupon they find right to your cart, or they’ll let you know that you have the best deal. 

Capital One Shopping vs. Honey savings

As major players in the discount code space, it may be tough to tell what sets Capital One Shopping and Honey apart. They’re both extremely effective at finding deals and applying codes. So let’s compare them in terms of savings. 

Capital One Shopping savings

Capital One Shopping helps you save in two main ways. First, it runs a comparison for the item you’re looking at, showing you if there’s a better price somewhere else. So, if you’re browsing Walmart.com for a particular camera, Capital One Shopping checks Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo Video, and other stores to see if you’re really getting the best possible deal.

Capital One Shopping shows you who has the lowest price, so that you can make the best choice for your wallet. They even spell out how long to expect for shipping at each alternative store and how much it costs to ship — so you get the true total price.

Then, at checkout, Capital One Shopping will scan all available coupon codes for you — automatically. No more Google searches or saving endless store emails; just have Capital One Shopping work its magic and you get the savings.

A word of warning, though: sometimes the savings you get are just cash back credits, and you can’t cash those out immediately. They may need to be verified and then can be redeemed for gift cards at some of your favorite retailers. 

Honey savings

Honey also automatically scans and applies coupon codes for you when you shop online. You don’t have to waste time with coupons that don’t work, because Honey only applies valid promo codes. 

Honey also saves you money by notifying you when items in your Droplist have changed price. The Droplist is Honey’s version of a watchlist; it’s where you save items you’re interested in. Not only will the Droplist notify you when prices drop, but you can see the price history, too.

Like Capital One Shopping, Honey also offers a cash back program, called Honey Gold, which requires a sign-up. Similar to Capital One Shopping, you have to save up a certain dollar amount (in this case, $10 of “gold”) before you can cash out in the form of a gift card. 

Capital One Shopping vs. Honey savings summary

Both Capital One Shopping and Honey will show you deals and automatically apply promo codes. The real difference comes down to the way you shop. Are you mostly an Amazon shopper? Then Honey is going to help you out. Do you want to take a moment to compare prices across a bunch of different retailers and go with the lowest cost? Then Capital One Shopping is for you. 

Here’s an example: I am in the market for a new pressure cooker. I found one I liked on Amazon. The Honey extension notified me that I found the lowest price of all the sellers on Amazon. I could check out with confidence. But the Capital One Shopping extension showed me that I could actually save $5.99 by taking advantage of a 7% cash back deal at Macy’s. I never would have known about that offer otherwise. 

However, while I may technically be saving $5.99 by purchasing my pressure cooker at that particular department store, I do not actually see those savings immediately; I have to save up the credits and apply them to a gift card, choosing from 32 different stores. Sometimes, you’d just rather have the cash.

Capital One Shopping vs. Honey pros

Capital One Shopping pros:

  • Detailed price history and insights – You’ll get insights into each product you shop for.
  • Compare prices at multiple stores – You can find the best deal at a large number of big-box retailers. 
  • Shipping included in price comparison – Easily see how much you’ll pay for everything, including shipping. 

Honey pros:

  • Finds the lowest offers on Amazon – There are thousands of shops on Amazon, so knowing which has the lowest price can be a huge help.
  • The website is more pleasant and transparent to use – Honey is as simple as downloading a Google Chrome extension.
  • Honey Gold program rewards you with gift cards – After earning a set amount of gold, you can cash out for gift cards. 

Capital One Shopping vs. Honey cons

Capital One Shopping cons:

  • Discounts are sometimes in the form of cash back, not lower prices – Not everyone wants to deal with cash back, some folks would prefer straight cash. 
  • Local deals require linking a credit card – If you want local deals, you’ll need to link your credit card, which could be a problem for those worried about privacy issues. 

Honey cons:

  • “Cash back” is in the form of gift cards at select retailers – Just like Capital One Shopping, cash back comes in the form of gift cards, rather than just cash. 
  • Doesn’t always find a valid code to apply – Honey isn’t perfect, and sometimes they miss coupon codes. 

Why choose Capital One Shopping?

Multiple store comparisons

Since both Capital One Shopping and Honey automatically apply coupon codes, one of the biggest differences might be that Capital One Shopping compares prices across multiple stores. You can also use the Mobile Price Comparison tool if you’re on mobile; text an Amazon link to PRICE1 and Capital One Shopping will text you back if there are lower-priced options available.  

Effective discounts

Capital One Shopping frequently finds a way to save on shopping trips, whether it’s a promo code, cash back offers, or lower shipping. Based on my usage, it seemed to deliver lower prices in some format more often than Honey.

Detailed product pages

The product pages showed a great deal of detail. In addition to the price, you’ll also be able to see a detailed price history, 180-day price insights, price volatility ratio, YouTube reviews, related products, and top alternatives.

Why choose Honey?

Get the lowest Amazon price

Having to sort through all the different prices offered by different Amazon sellers on the same product can be a pain in the neck. Honey does a great job of reducing that workload for you, simply showing the lowest-priced Amazon seller for what you’re looking for. So if you do most of your online shopping with your Amazon Prime subscription, the Honey browser extension will be a big boon.

Or avoid Amazon altogether

If you’re more of a mobile shopper and you tend not to shop on Amazon, the Honey mobile app (as opposed to the desktop browser extension) is a way to find thousands of great deals when you’re on your phone — no Amazon required. In fact, the mobile app doesn’t show Amazon products at all, which could be a good fit for you if you’re not a fan of the behemoth site.

Summary

Overall, choosing either Capital One Shopping or Honey is better than shopping online without them. Each will scour the internet for valid coupon codes, which can save you lots of money. You don’t need a membership with either one unless you want to start earning credits (or “gold”) to be redeemed for cash back. Not to mention, signing up for cash back offers could be worth your while, especially if you don’t mind turning over some of your privacy and letting these extensions track where you shop in exchange for saving a little bit of dough.

However, all that being said, Capital One Shopping does edge out the competition by a nose if you’re looking for the overall lowest price. If you’re primarily interested in coupon codes and Amazon deals, Honey is your better bet.

Read more:

Source: moneyunder30.com

Cheap Mother’s Day Gifts Under $20 Including Shipping

While some families feel safer reuniting for Mother’s Day this year with vaccination programs rolling out across the country, others are still keeping their distance as they wait for everyone to get shots.

Pandemic aside, some of us live across the country or state from dear old Mom and can’t treat her to brunch. Whatever’s keeping you and Mom apart this Mother’s Day, May 9, there are plenty of ways you can show her you love and miss her. Not only that, but you can do it all while going easy on your wallet.

To help, we’ve put together a list of 20 Mother’s Day gifts under $20 you can order online. And that $20 includes shipping — free for some items.

Mother’s Day Gifts That Will Help Her Get Outdoors

The outdoors is a safer place to hang out than inside thanks to the coronavirus.

Pickleball Glove for Mom

Pickleball is the hottest team sport these days. This is the perfect season to play socially-distanced and outdoors. If your mom is seriously into this sport, you can pick her up a brand-name pickleball glove on Amazon for between $18 and $20. If you have Prime membership, shipping is free, keeping you under budget.

Annual Flower Bulbs

Does Mom love gardening?

Give her a gift that keeps on giving with annual bulbs. Plant these flowers once, and they will bloom year after year. Bulbs that need a freeze to bloom (iris, daffodils, tulips) are typically put in the ground in the fall before it gets too hard for digging and they pop up and blossom in spring. The following bulbs can be planted in the spring to bloom in the summer.

Gladiolus Flower Bulbs

Gladiolus are beautiful and you can get a lot of them even on a budget. You can pick your color, ordering a bag in white or purple for  $13.95 on Walmart’s platform. Shipping is free.

Lily Flower Bulbs

You can get about three lily bulbs for under $20. Some options from Walmart sellers include:

These options run between $13.95 and $15.99 and come with free shipping.

Gift Certificate to a Local Garden Center

Maybe Mom doesn’t have space for a garden, but does love having flowers and plants around. In this case, consider getting her a gift certificate to her local garden center for $20.

There’s an added bonus to sending your card on Mother’s Day; when she goes shopping after the holiday, excess inventory will be marked down dramatically, giving her more bang for her buck.

A blue butterfly stands out amongst a group of red butterflies.
Getty Images

Butterfly Habitat

Butterfly habitats may be marketed towards children, but Mom can enjoy one, too! This kit from Target is $19.99, and comes with a habitat and voucher for live caterpillars — which ship separately. Your order should qualify for free shipping.

Mom will be able to watch the caterpillars as they build their chrysalises and grow into butterflies, eventually releasing them into the wild. Bonus points for sending a card with a cheesy analogy about how she helped you grow into a butterfly, and what a great job she did.

Sweets & Culinary Gift Ideas for Moms

Mother’s Day is a great time to shower your mom with sweets. Or, if Mom’s great in the kitchen, it’s a fun time to celebrate those skills with gifts.

Personalized Recipe Cards

Mom’s a great cook. Everyone’s always asking her for recipes. Pick her up a set of personalized recipe cards on Etsy so she’ll get full credit when she shares her skills. This set costs $10.75 and ships free to the US.

Heart-Shaped Pan

We’ve all been cooking at home this past year — perhaps way more than normal. Turn the mundane fun with this heart-shaped pan from Ecolution on Amazon.com. Whether your mother’s making pancakes or eggs, she’ll appreciate that Ecolution’s products are eco-friendly yet durable. You’ll appreciate that it clocks in at just $12.51 and ships free with Prime membership.

Fruit Infusion Pitcher

We haven’t just been eating at home a lot more often — we’ve been drinking at home a lot more often, too. This fruit infusion pitcher is great for making mimosas and flavored water alike. It is $19.99 on Amazon.com and ships free with Prime membership.

Chocolate

Believe it or not, you can get a fair amount of good chocolate for under $20. The “ G-Cube” from Godiva comes with an assortment of 22 flavors, and costs $11.95. With shipping, you can expect to pay around $19.95.

Delivery from a Local Bakery

Ask your mom about her favorite local bakery recommendations. Then, place an order for delivery with them on Mother’s Day. This allows you to not only get mom a gift, but also support small businesses in her community.

If the delivery fee would put you over budget and Mom is vaccinated, you can find another way. You could likely request curbside pickup or she could take a very quick trip inside while double-masked to pick up the treats herself.

Self-Care Gifts for Mother’s Day

We all need a little more self-care these days. Help Mom relax with these soothing Mother’s Day gift ideas until you can see each other again.

Comfortable Sleep Mask

A lot of people have experienced insomnia throughout this pandemic. If Mom’s one of them, you might want to consider helping her get some better shut eye. This silk satin sleep mask from Kessom on Walmart’s platform not only comes in under budget with no shipping costs, but also comes with a matching scrunchie and storage pouch.

Shea Butter Replenishing Bar Soap

This shea butter soap, infused with essential oils, lots of benefits. Rebourne Home + Body says it can:

  • Fight inflammation.
  • Heal chapped, dull or prematurely aging skin.
  • Fight eczema.
  • Improve skin elasticity.
  • Increase blood circulation.

Rebourne sells high-quality bath and beauty products. This one will cost you around $19.45 to send to mom after accounting for shipping costs.

A woman puts cucumbers over her eyes as she sits up with a charcoal facial mask on her.
Getty Images

Luxe Face Masks

Charmed Bath & Body offers several different face masks available via Etsy. You can choose from:

  • Matcha
  • Rose clay.
  • White clay
  • Charcoal
  • Turmeric

It should cost you around $15.95 in all to purchase and ship one of these mask powders for Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day Coloring Book

Give Mom an opportunity to de-stress with this Mother’s Day coloring book from Amazon. Each page comes with intricate drawings to color in and encouraging and cute quotes about motherhood.

This book is $14.99 and ships free for Prime members.

Blue Light Glasses

We’ve all been spending a lot more time in front of screens over the past year. That means we’ve been spending a lot more time staring at blue light, which can cause migraines, damage our vision and even throw off circadian rhythms, our natural sleep-wake cycles.

Help Mom out with some self-care she didn’t even know she needed with these blue light blocking glasses from Nordstrom. They’re only $15 and shipping is free.

Sentimental Mother’s Day Gifts Under $20

These sweet, mom-centric products will highlight your relationship as you take a trip down memory lane.

Tell Me Your Story Book (Grandma Edition)

You know what’s been happening a lot less often thanks to the pandemic and social distancing? We aren’t telling each other as many stories on a regular basis. That includes grandmas telling their own life stories and family histories to their grandchildren.

Compensate for the loss over the past year with this memory journal. It’s available for $10 on Amazon.com with free shipping for Prime members.

Tell Me Your Story Book (Mom Edition)

Don’t have kids, but love the memory book idea?

Fear not. There is a version of these products for children to give directly to their moms — no procreation required. This daily journal of childhood memories will run you $12, once again with free shipping for Amazon Prime members.

You & Me Mom Journal

Want to make the memory journal thing a two way street?

This journal from Uncommon Goods can be sent back and forth between you and your mother. Each page has prompts encouraging the two of you to reflect on your life memories and love together over the years. It will run you $13, and should come in just under $20 after accounting for shipping costs.

Photo Book

There’s nothing moms love more than pictures of their kids and grandkids . Photo books can often be cumbersome to create, or come with deceptive discounts and “deals” that don’t account for exorbitant shipping costs.

You can get around all that by creating a book with Google Photos. You can easily import all the pictures already on your Google account, and can create a 20-page, soft-cover photo book that’s sure to put a smile on her face for just $13.95 including shipping.

Cash

You’re shopping on a tight budget, so your wallet is probably thin right now. She might not want to admit it, but money might be tight for your mom in this pandemic, too.

Instead of buying her physical presents, consider sending her the cash. If Mom’s on Venmo or CashApp, you can keep things completely socially distant. Be sure to send a card or heartfelt note.

Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. She blogs at femmefrugality.com. 



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Earnest Money And Deposits: 4 Things You Should Know

In this intense seller’s market, buyers are pulling out the stops in order to compete. For some, that may mean offering over list price, waiving inspection, or offering other incentives to the seller. Two of the most common incentives are earnest money and non-refundable deposits. These incentives help to show a seller that a buyer is serious, but they do have some risks for buyers. Here are four things you should know about earnest money and deposits before you sign the contract!

earnest moneyearnest money

Earnest Money & Deposits Are Credits At Closing

Earnest money is a deposit that represents a buyer’s good faith in entering into an offer to purchase a property. While buyers must pay earnest money and deposits before closing, they are both considered credits to the buyer at closing. Desiree Kumar, a licensed attorney with AMT Law Group in Illinois and a former real estate agent, reminds buyers, “Both deposits and earnest money deposits function similarly and are both typically credited at closing.” How the earnest money or deposit is credited is typically at the discretion of the lender, so buyers should communicate with their loan officer to determine how those funds will be credited.

You Might Not Get The Money Back

If you’re asking yourself, “Is earnest money refundable?”—you aren’t alone. According to Kumar, the most misunderstood aspect of deposits and earnest money is “that they are always refundable.” This misunderstanding can lead to an unpleasant financial situation and even litigation if a buyer terminates a contract. Kumar says “earnest money provisions have a propensity for litigation,” however, depending on how the contract is written, earnest money can be refundable. To determine if your earnest money is refundable, Kumar advises “The executed offer will dictate what happens to the earnest money upon termination of the contract. It is important to understand what the offer says before signing it.”

Tip: It is possible for sellers to negotiate for earnest money to become non-refundable after inspection. If buyers are looking for ways to strengthen their offer, they might consider this option.

Non-refundable deposits, common with new construction, differ from earnest money. “Deposits generally benefit the seller,” says Kumar. And in this market of rising building costs, builders prefer buyers to pay a deposit. In most cases, unlike with earnest money, these deposits are not refundable to the buyer if they terminate. However, Kumar reminds buyers “Depending upon the reason for termination, the deposit may still be refundable.” But she would advise buyers considering a non-refundable deposit to remember “that no matter the reason, they cannot get their deposit back, even if the sale does not go through.”

Tip: Buyers have the right to have an attorney review a contract before signing it. Fully understanding the legal wording and ramifications of a termination is critical to avoid any future litigation.  

How The Money Is Accessed Varies

Both types of pre-payments are handled differently when it comes to who has access to the funds. For example, earnest money is held by a 3rd party until closing or termination. In most cases, earnest money funds are typically held in escrow until closing, meaning sellers can’t access those funds until closing. Earnest money funds can be held by the real estate brokerage, the title company, closing attorney or other 3rd party.

Deposits, on the other hand, can vary. Depending upon how the contract is written, deposits can be spent immediately by the seller and may not have to be held in escrow. Even if the funds are immediately accessible by the seller, if the buyer does close then they still receive a credit at closing.

Tip: Non-refundable deposits typically benefit the seller and are another way to make an offer stand out among multiple offers; however, buyers should be aware of the risks involved before agreeing to a deposit.

One Benefits The Seller and One Benefits The Buyer

Non-refundable deposits tend to benefit the seller, since (in most cases) these deposits are not refundable to the buyer. The amount of the deposit can be determined by the buyer, the seller, or negotiated between the two. While sellers like the appeal of non-refundable deposits, Kumar states she “very rarely advise[s] a buyer to enter into an offer with a non-refundable deposit.” The risk with a non-refundable deposit is that the buyer could lose the money if they fail to close.

Earnest money, on the other hand, can benefit the buyer. Again, depending on how the contract is written, that “good faith” can be refundable to the buyer if they fail to close. If sellers are wanting a guaranteed payment should the buyer fail to close, a non-refundable deposit may be the best option for them; however, it’s important both sides understand what happens to the funds upon termination and what can legally be done with the funds prior to termination or closing.

Work With an Agent!

In this intense market, buyers are desperately searching for ways to make their offer stand out. By strategically structuring an offer with benefits to the seller, this can help a buyer’s offer to standout. It’s important to know which type of pre-payment offers the most benefits and least risk. The best way to safely navigate the current real estate market is to utilize the services of an experienced real estate agent. You can find an agent in your area by using Homes.com agent search tool!


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

Understanding Seller Concessions

Buying a new home requires managing a lot of moving parts, from mortgage preapproval to closing. Even after an offer is accepted, buyers and sellers are still at the negotiating table. If closing costs or surprise expenses become too much for the buyer, a seller concession could help seal the deal.

Although seller concessions can work to a buyer’s advantage, they are neither a guaranteed outcome nor a one-size-fits-all solution for every real estate transaction.

To determine if seller concessions are the right move from a buyer’s perspective, here are some key things to know, including what costs they can cover and when to consider asking for them.

Recommended: How Much Are Closing Costs on a New Home?

What Are Seller Concessions?

Seller concessions represent a seller’s contribution toward the buyer’s closing costs, which include certain prepaid expenses and discount points. A seller concession is not the equivalent of a price reduction; nor is it received as cash or a loan discount.

Closing costs usually range from 2% to 5% of a home’s purchase price. When combined with a down payment, the upfront expense of buying a home can be burdensome, especially for first-time homebuyers.

Buyers can ask for concessions on the initial purchase offer or later if the home inspection reveals problems that require repairs.

Although this can be a helpful tool to negotiate a house price, there are rules for eligible costs and limits to how much buyers can ask for.

Recommended: Home Buyer’s Guide

What Costs Can Seller Concessions Cover?

A buyer’s closing costs can vary case by case. Generally, buyers incur fees related to the mortgage loan and other expenses to complete the real estate transaction.

There are also types of prepaid expenses and home repairs that can be requested as a seller concession.

Some common examples of eligible costs include the following:

•   Property taxes: If the sellers have paid their taxes for the year, the buyer may be required to reimburse the sellers for their prorated share.

•   Appraisal fees: Determining the estimated home value may be required by a lender to obtain a mortgage. Appraisal costs can vary by geography and home size but generally run between $300 and $500.

•   Loan origination fees: Money paid to a lender to process a mortgage, origination fees, can be bundled into seller concessions.

•   Homeowners insurance costs: Prepaid components of closing costs like homeowners insurance premiums can be included in seller concessions.

•   Title insurance costs: A title insurance company will search if there are any liens or claims against the property. This verification, which averages $1,000 but varies widely, protects both the homeowner and lender.

•   Funding fees: One-time funding fees for federally guaranteed mortgages, such as FHA and VA loans, can be paid through seller contributions. Rates vary based on down payment and loan type.

•   Attorney fees: Many states require a lawyer to handle real estate closings. Associated fees can run $500 to $1,500, based on location.

•   Recording fees: Some local governments may charge a fee to document the purchase of a home.

•   HOA fees: If a home is in a neighborhood with a homeowners association, there will likely be monthly dues to pay for maintenance and services. A portion of these fees may be covered by the seller.

•   Discount points: Buyers may pay an upfront fee, known as discount points, to lower the interest rate they pay over the life of the mortgage loan. (The cost of one point is 1% of the loan amount.)

•   Home repairs: If any issues emerge during a home inspection, the repair costs can be requested as a seller concession.

Closing costs can also be influenced by the mortgage lender. When shopping for a mortgage, evaluating expected fees and closing costs is a useful way to compare lenders. Factoring in these costs early on can give buyers a more accurate idea of what they can afford and better inform their negotiations with a seller.

Recommended: Home Improvement Calculator

Rules and Limits for Seller Concessions

Determining how much to ask for in seller concessions isn’t just about negotiating power. For starters, the seller’s contributions can’t exceed the buyer’s closing costs.

Other factors can affect the allowable amount of seller concessions, including the type of mortgage loan and whether the home will serve as a primary residence, vacation home, or investment property.

Here’s a breakdown of how concessions work for common types of loans.

Conventional Loans

Guidance on seller concessions for conventional loans is set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These federally sponsored enterprises buy and guarantee mortgages issued through lenders in the secondary mortgage market.

With conventional loans, the limit on seller concessions is calculated as a percentage of the home sale price based on the down payment and occupancy type.

If it’s an investment property, buyers can only request up to 2% of the sale price in seller concessions.

For a primary or secondary residence, seller concessions can add up to the following percentages of the home sale price:

•   Up to 3% when the down payment is less than 10%
•   Up to 6% when the down payment is 10-25%
•   Up to 9% when the down payment is greater than 25%

FHA Loans

FHA loans, which are insured by the Federal Housing Administration, are a popular financing choice because down payments may be as low as 3.5%, depending on a borrower’s credit score.

For this type of mortgage, seller concessions are limited to 6% of the home sale price.

VA Loans

Active service members, veterans, and surviving spouses may qualify for a mortgage loan guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. For buyers with this type of mortgage, seller concessions are capped at 4% of the home sale price.

VA loans also dictate what types of costs may qualify as a seller concession. Some eligible examples: paying property taxes and VA loan fees or gifting home furnishings, such as a television.

Seller Concession Advantages

There are a few key ways seller concessions can benefit a homebuyer. For starters, they can reduce the amount paid out of pocket for closing costs. This can make the upfront costs of a home purchase more affordable and avoid depleting savings.

Reducing closing costs could help a buyer make a higher offer on a home, too. If it’s a seller’s market, this could be an option to be a more competitive buyer.

Buyers planning significant home remodeling may want to request seller concessions to keep more cash on hand for their projects.

Seller Concession Disadvantages

Seller concessions can also come with some drawbacks. If sellers are looking for a quick deal, they may view concessions as time-consuming and decline an offer.

When sellers agree to contribute to a buyer’s closing costs, the purchase price can go up accordingly. The deal could go awry if the home is appraised at a value less than the agreed-upon sale price. Unless the seller agrees to lower the asking price to align with the appraised value, the buyer may have to increase their down payment to qualify for their original financing.

Another potential downside is that buyers could ultimately pay more over the loan’s term if they receive seller concessions than they would otherwise. If a buyer offers, say, $350,000 and requests $3,000 in concessions, the seller may counteroffer with a purchase price of $353,000, with $3,000 in concessions.

The Takeaway

Seller concessions can make a home purchase more affordable for buyers by reducing closing costs and expenses, but whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market will affect a buyer’s potential to negotiate. A real estate agent can offer guidance on asking for seller concessions.

The vast majority of homebuyers finance their purchase. So for most buyers, finding the right mortgage is an important step in landing their dream home.

SoFi offers home loans with competitive rates and down payments as low as 5%. And prequalifying takes just a few minutes.

Buying a home? Find out how much you could qualify for with SoFi.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (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.

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Source: sofi.com

Never Buy These 10 Things on Amazon

Shopper upset about an online purchase
Kate Kultsevych / Shutterstock.com

It’s hard to beat having things delivered straight to your door — even when you’re not stuck at home due to a pandemic.

Amazon has made it easy for anyone to order just about anything and have it delivered to their doorstep. But just because you can purchase something on Amazon, it doesn’t mean you should.

Following are some purchases that we don’t think you should ever make on Amazon — and our reasons why.

1. Kirkland-branded items

Costco's Kirkland Signature brand of organic creamy almond butter
David Tonelson / Shutterstock.com

When you buy Kirkland-branded products on Amazon, you are buying from a third-party reseller, as Costco doesn’t sell its private-label products on Amazon. Costco says on its website that “Costco.com will not be liable for merchandise once it has been signed for and approved by the third party facility.”

Additionally, because Kirkland products on Amazon have gone through a third-party reseller, it’s possible that some of those products could be counterfeit or expired. A 2019 Quartz analysis also found that Kirkland products tend to be more expensive on Amazon.

If you have a Costco close to you, consider shopping there. Many items are also available to order on Costco.com and can be shipped to your home.

Even if you don’t have a membership, you still can shop at warehouses if you pay with a Costco gift card and shop online if you pay a surcharge, as we detail in “7 Ways to Shop at Costco Without a Membership.”

2. Add-on items you don’t need

Amazon boxes seen piled up on a doorstep
Jeramey Lende / Shutterstock.com

Amazon offers what it calls “add-on items” — items that are low-priced but only available for purchase if your order totals $25.

While many of the add-on items are great deals, you will end up spending money to save money — which is never a good idea — if you buy an add-on item you don’t need.

Stick to buying add-on items that are already on your shopping list and avoid buying ones that simply looked good at the time.

3. Trader Joe’s products

R.A. Walker Photography / Shutterstock.com

Trader Joe’s items sold on Amazon can come with a high markup compared with buying in a store. They are sold by third-party sellers who may list damaged, expired or even counterfeit products.

A Trader Joe’s representative told Refinery 29 in 2019, “We do not authorize the reselling of our products and cannot stand behind the quality, safety or value of any Trader Joe’s product sold outside of our store.”

For more TJ’s shopping guidance, check out “15 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s.”

4. Paper towels

Couple using paper towels
LightField Studios / Shutterstock.com

It’s easy to assume that household items such as paper towels are cheaper on Amazon. However, Money Talks News managing editor Karla Bowsher has a different take:

“Every single time I’ve compared per-square-foot prices, Costco’s Kirkland paper towels have been cheaper than even Amazon’s own brands of paper towels (Presto and Solimo). That was even the case on Prime Day.”

You might also find cheaper paper towels at stores like Walmart. So, compare prices before pulling out your credit card.

5. Ikea products

monticello / Shutterstock.com

Since Ikea locations can be out of the way, it’s tempting to order their products online via Amazon. But Ikea no longer sells products online via Amazon, so everything you see on Amazon comes from third-party sellers.

Ikea offers many of its items online. You’ll pay at least $5 for shipping, but you’ll know that what you are getting is a new and genuine Ikea item.

6. Off-brand accessories for Apple devices

think4photop / Shutterstock.com

Acessories for Apple devices are not cheap, so it’s tempting to hop on Amazon and search for off-brand versions. But knock-off chargers, for example, can damage your iPhone’s motherboard — which isn’t easily or cheaply repaired.

Vice explains:

“The Geniuses at the Apple won’t be able to help, either — they can’t make repairs to the motherboard. So if you don’t want to be stuck buying a new phone, you’ll have to go to an independent repair shop that offers microsoldering services. They’re the only ones who will be able to revive a mangled motherboard. Of course, it’s much easier to just avoid knock-off chargers in the first place.”

7. Almost anything else that is cheaper elsewhere

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Don’t assume that Amazon has the best price on everything. At least comparison-shop at other online retailers before clicking the “buy” button.

Amazon’s prices also fluctuate, so something may be cheaper one day and more expensive the next. But free tools like CamelCamelCamel can tell you how the price for a certain item has fluctuated over time, which gives you a sense of whether Amazon’s current price is good.

To learn about other tools like CamelCamelCamel, check out “7 Free Tools for Saving More Money on Amazon.”

8. Fresh produce

nd3000 / Shutterstock.com

If you order your food through Amazon Fresh — Amazon’s grocery delivery and pickup service — the quality of fresh produce can vary. You are relying on a shopper to select produce for you, so you may not get what you want.

When you go to a local store, on the other hand, you can pick out your own produce, ensuring you get the best size and quality for the price.

9. Anything with reviews you didn’t vet

fizkes / Shutterstock.com

You find what seems like a great product at an even better price and all the reviews are glowing. That’s an automatic buy, right? Not necessarily. Amazon has had issues with fake reviews in the past — as CNET reported in 2019, for example — so you might not want to take Amazon reviews at face value.

Fortunately, free tools like Fakespot and ReviewMeta can help by giving you an idea of how authentic reviews of a particular item are.

10. Designer items sold by third parties

Nejron Photo / Shutterstock.com

While some designers sell their products through Amazon, many of the listings you will find are from third parties. So, it’s important to scrutinize each listing to ensure that the item you’re buying is sold by the company or an authorized reseller.

When buying through a third-party seller that is not an authorized reseller, there is no way to verify that what you’re getting is authentic.

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

Source: moneytalksnews.com