What to Know about FHA 203K loans

Buying a fixer-upper is sometimes romanticized by pop culture. While it’s fun to dream, the reality of home renovation is that it can be laborious and draining, especially if the home needs serious help.

Repair work requires energy and resources, and it can be difficult to secure a loan to cover both the value of the home and the cost of repairs—especially if the home is currently uninhabitable. Most lenders won’t take that sort of chance.

But if you have your heart set on buying a fixer upper, an FHA 203(k) loan can help.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), insures loans for the purchase and substantial rehab of homes. It is also possible to take out an FHA 203(k) loan for home repairs only, though it might not be your best option if that’s all you need.

If you have the vision to revive a dreary house, here’s info about FHA 203(k) loans and other home improvement loan options.

What Is an FHA 203(k) home loan?

Section 203(k) insurance lets buyers finance both the purchase of a house and its rehabilitation costs through a single long-term, fixed- or adjustable-rate loan.

Before the availability of FHA 203(k) loans, borrowers often had to secure multiple loans to obtain a mortgage and a home improvement loan.

The loans are provided through HUD-approved mortgage lenders and insured by the FHA. The government is interested in rejuvenating neighborhoods and expanding homeownership opportunities.

Because the loans are backed by the federal government, you may be able to secure one even if you don’t have stellar credit. Rates are generally competitive but may not be the best, because a home with major flaws is a risk to the lender.

The FHA 203(k) process also requires more coordination, paperwork, and work on behalf of the lender, which can drive the interest rate up slightly. Lenders also may charge a supplemental origination fee, fees to cover review of the rehabilitation plan, and a higher appraisal fee.

The loan will require an upfront mortgage insurance payment of 1.75% of the total loan amount (it can be wrapped into the financing) and then a monthly mortgage insurance premium.

Applications must be submitted through an approved lender .

What Can FHA 203(k) Loans Be Used For?

Purchase and Repairs

Other than the cost of acquiring a property, rehabilitation may range from minor repairs (though exceeding $5,000 worth) to virtual reconstruction.

If a home needs a new bathroom or new siding, for example, the loan will include the projected cost of those renovations in addition to the value of the existing home. An FHA 203(k) loan, however, will not cover “luxury” upgrades like a pool, tennis court, or gazebo (so close!).

If you’re buying a condo, 203(k) loans are generally only issued for interior improvements. However, you can use a 203(k) loan to convert a property into a two- to four-unit dwelling.

Your loan amount is determined by project estimates done by the lender or the FHA. The loan process is paperwork-heavy. Working with contractors who are familiar with the way the program works and will not underbid will be important.

Contractors will also need to be efficient: The work must begin within 30 days of closing and be finished within six months.

Mortgage LoanMortgage Loan

Temporary Housing

If the home is indeed unlivable, the 203(k) loan can include a provision to provide you with up to six months of temporary housing costs or existing mortgage payments.

Who Is Eligible for an FHA 203(k) Loan?

Individuals and nonprofit organizations can use an FHA 203(k) loan, but investors cannot.

Most of the eligibility guidelines for regular FHA loans apply to 203(k) loans. They include a minimum credit score of 580 and at least a 3.5% down payment.

Applicants with a score as low as 500 will typically need to put 10% down.

Your debt-to-income ratio typically can’t exceed 43%. And you must be able to qualify for the costs of the renovations and the purchase price.

Again, to apply for any FHA loan, you have to use an approved lender. (It’s a good idea to get multiple quotes.)

Home Improvement Loan Options

The FHA 203(k) provides the most comprehensive solution for buyers who need a loan for both a home and substantial repairs. However, if you need a loan only for home improvements, there are other options to consider.

Depending on the improvements you have planned, your timeline, and your personal financial situation, one of the following could be a better fit.

Other Government-Backed Loans

In addition to the standard FHA 203(k) program, there is a limited FHA 203(k) loan of up to $35,000. Homebuyers and homeowners can use the funding to repair or upgrade a home.

Then there are FHA Title 1 loans for improvements that “substantially protect or improve the basic livability or utility of the property.” The fixed-rate loans may be used in tandem with a 203(k) rehabilitation mortgage.

The owner of a single-family home can apply to borrow up to $25,000 with a secured Title 1 loan.

With Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle® Renovation Mortgage, homebuyers and homeowners can combine their home purchase or refinance with renovation funding in a single mortgage. There’s also a Freddie Mac renovation mortgage, but standard credit score guidelines apply.

Cash-Out Refinance

If you have an existing mortgage and equity in the home, and want to take out a loan for home improvements, a cash-out refinance from a private lender may be worth looking into.

You usually must have at least 20% equity in your home to be eligible, meaning a maximum 80% loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of the home’s current value. (To calculate LTV, divide your mortgage balance by the home’s appraised value. Let’s say your mortgage balance is $225,000 and the home’s appraised value is $350,000. Your LTV is 64%, which indicates 36% equity in the home.)

A cash-out refi could also be an opportunity to improve your mortgage interest rate and change the length of the loan.

PACE Loan

For green improvements to your home, such as solar panels or an energy-efficient heating system, you might be eligible for a PACE loan .

The nonprofit organization PACENation promotes property-assessed clean energy (or PACE) financing for homeowners and commercial property owners, to be repaid over a period of up to 30 years.

Home Improvement Loan

A home improvement loan is an unsecured personal loan—meaning the house isn’t used as collateral to secure the loan. Approval is based on personal financial factors that will vary from lender to lender.

Lenders offer a wide range of loan sizes, so you can invest in minor updates to major renovations.

Home Equity Line of Credit

If you need a loan only for repairs but don’t have great credit, a HELOC may provide a lower rate. Be aware that if you can’t make payments on the borrowed funding, which is secured by your home, the lender can seize your home.

The Takeaway

If you have your eye on a fixer-upper that you just know can be polished into a jewel, an FHA 203(k) loan could be the ticket, but options may make more sense to other homebuyers and homeowners.

SoFi offers cash-out refinancing, turning your home equity into renovation money.

Or maybe a home improvement loan of $5,000 to $100,000 seems like a better way to turn your home into a haven.

Check your rate today.



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.

Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
External Websites: 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.
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

15 Words That Could Add Value to Your Listing

When it comes to writing an effective listing description, don’t hold back. If you’ve got it, flaunt it!

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Why do some homes sell for a premium? Timing, for starters. An analysis of 24,000 home sales in “Zillow Talk: Rewriting the Rules of Real Estate” also reveals listings with certain keywords tend to sell for more than expected.

“Bottom-tier homes described as luxurious tend to beat their expected sale price by a whopping 8.2 percent,” write co-authors Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries. “Top-tier homes described as captivating tend to beat theirs by 6.5 percent. That means, if your home’s estimated home value is $110,000, but your listing includes the key word ‘luxurious,’ you could pocket an extra $8,965.”

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If one of the following words accurately describes your home, you might want to consider adding it to your listing.

1. Luxurious

As mentioned above, lower-priced listings with the word “luxurious” sold for 8.2 percent more on average than expected. “Luxurious” signals that a home’s finishes and amenities are high-end. This is a huge selling point, particularly in this price range.

2. Captivating

Top-tier listings described as “captivating” sold for 6.5 percent more on average than expected. Unlike the word “nice,” “captivating” provides a richer, more enticing description for buyers. Plus, it’s less open to interpretation. Anything can be seen as “nice,” but “captivating” sets a high bar.

3. Impeccable

On average, listings in the bottom tier with the word “impeccable” sold for 5.9 percent more than expected. Like “captivating,” “impeccable” is a rich adjective. It also implies something about the quality of a home: The features are desirable and the home is move-in ready.

4. Stainless

“Stainless” is typically used to describe kitchens with “stainless steel appliances.” It’s in your favor to talk up these features in your listing — especially if your home is in the bottom price tier. In our analysis, lower-priced homes with the word “stainless” sold for 5 percent more on average than expected.

5. Basketball

On average, lower-priced homes with the word “basketball” sold for 4.5 percent more than expected. This may seem like an odd word to include in this list, but when you consider the context it makes sense. Among lower-priced homes, a basketball court — or even better, an indoor basketball court — is a huge selling point. While it may not stand out as much among higher-priced homes, it’s definitely worth mentioning in this price range.

6. Landscaped

It’s just as valuable to describe your yard as your house. In all price tiers, listings with the word “landscaped” sold for more than expected on average. The biggest premium was seen among lower-priced listings, which on average sold for 4.2 percent more than expected.

7. Granite

In the same vein as “stainless,” “granite” is typically used to describe countertops or another high-end home feature. Listings with the word “granite” sold, on average, for 1 to 4 percent more than expected across all price tiers.

8. Pergola

Not only should you include high-end home features in your listing description, you should also mention features not found in every home. They’ll help your listing stand out, especially if buyers are searching for homes online by keyword. The data shows mid-priced listings with the word “pergola” sold for 4 percent more on average than expected.

9. Remodel

Was your home recently remodeled? It may be worth mentioning. On average, bottom-tier listings with the word “remodel” sold for 2.9 percent more, middle-tier homes for 1.8 percent more and top-tier homes for 1.7 percent more than expected.

10. Beautiful

While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a beautiful feature like a view may be worth noting. Lower-priced listings with the word “beautiful” sold for 2.3 percent more on average than expected.

11. Gentle

“Gentle” may seem like a weird adjective to have in a listing description. It’s typically used to describe “gentle rolling hills” or something about a home’s location. Top-tier listings with the word “gentle” sold for 2.3 percent more, on average, than expected.

12. Spotless

You may think all homes are spotless when a buyer moves in, so it’s not worth mentioning in a listing. But when it comes to lower-priced homes, cleanliness isn’t always a given. In this price range, listings described as “spotless” sold for 2 percent more on average than expected.

13. Tile

Much like “stainless” and “granite,” “tile” is a great word when it comes to describing the features of your home. A newly tiled backsplash or updated bathroom tile not only indicates a home’s aesthetic value but also sends a message to buyers that the home’s been well cared for by the current owners. Bottom-tier homes with the word “tile” in the listing sold for 2 percent more on average than expected.

14. Upgraded

On average, lower-priced listings with the word “upgraded” sold for 1.8 percent more than expected. Most buyers will agree that upgrades are a selling point. They indicate a home not only looks nice but also functions well. Spelling out which features have been updated is a good approach, so buyers have the right expectations when they see your home.

15. Updated

“Updated” sends a similar message to “upgraded.” But in addition to speaking to the quality of a home, it signals that something old has been replaced with something new. This is a great fact to communicate to potential buyers, as evidenced by the data. Mid-priced homes with “updated” in the listing sold for 0.8 percent more on average than expected.

Related:

Source: zillow.com

How to avoid or remove PMI

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) has been around for more than 60 years, helping make mortgages more affordable for buyers who can’t afford a 20 percent down payment. Loans with PMI certificates have often accounted for a decent percentage of mortgages issued each year. In fact, in 2019, that number was just below 40 percent.

But PMI does add an expense to your home loan, and you likely want to sidestep it if possible. Find out below if you can avoid PMI, or learn how to remove PMI if you’re already paying it.

What is PMI?

PMI is insurance, but don’t get it confused with homeowner’s insurance—that’s a different product you might need to pay for. PMI is insurance for the lender. It’s meant to be a fail-safe to help a lender recover losses if you default on the loan.

Lenders require that you purchase PMI in cases where you aren’t putting at least 20 percent down on your home. Most commonly, you pay PMI as part of your monthly mortgage payment. In rarer cases, you might pay all of the PMI as a lump sum when you close on the home or pay a partial lump sum and pay the rest in your monthly mortgage payments.

Regardless of how you pay, PMI can be an expensive addition to your mortgage. It’s important to note, however, that PMI works differently with FHA loans and certain other government-backed loans. For example, FHA loans have MIP, which is a mortgage insurance premium, instead of PMI.

What factors affect the cost of my PMI?

According to Freddie Mac, PMI can cost on average between $30 and $70 extra per month for every $100,000 you borrow. So, if you’re borrowing $200,000 for 30 years and you pay PMI for half of that term, you could pay between $60 and $140 per month for 15 years—or 180 months. That’s between $10,800 and $25,200 added to your mortgage.

The exact amount you pay for PMI depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • Size of down payment (the more you pay up front, the less risk there is to the lender because the home has some equity—or profitability—built in)
  • Credit score (the higher your score, the less risky of a borrower you appear to lenders)
  • Loan appreciation potential
  • Borrower occupancy
  • Loan type

How can I avoid PMI?

In today’s mortgage market, it can be difficult to steer clear of PMI altogether. But here are some things you can do, depending on your situation, to avoid this expense.

Make a 20 percent down payment

If you can make a 20 percent down payment, you typically avoid PMI. That’s because PMI kicks in when you owe more than 78 to 80 percent of the value of the home. Assuming the home you’re purchasing is priced at or below its appraisal value, paying 20 percent up front automatically gets you enough equity to not need to pay for PMI.

Get a VA loan

VA loans don’t require a down payment at all, and no matter what, they don’t come with PMI. These loans are reserved for qualifying veterans and their eligible beneficiaries.

Get a piggyback loan

A piggyback loan is a second mortgage or home equity line of credit that you take out at the same time you take out your first mortgage. You use the piggyback loan to fund all or part of your down payment so you can meet the 20 percent requirement. If you consider this option, make sure to do the math to determine which saves you the most money: paying PMI or paying the interest on the second mortgage.

Request lender-paid mortgage insurance

In some cases, the lender might be willing to take on the burden of the PMI cost. They would do so through lender-paid mortgage insurance, or LPMI. Typically, the lender charges a higher rate of interest in exchange for this favor. Again, it’s important to do the math to find out which one is in your best interest.

How can I remove PMI once I have it?

As a homeowner, you have some options for removing PMI once you have it. You can take some of the actions summarized below, but the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes that you must also meet four criteria to protect your right. Those are:

  • Asking for the PMI cancellation in writing
  • Being up to date on payments and having a generally solid payment history
  • Certifying, if required, that there are no other liens on your mortgage
  • Providing evidence, if required, that the property value has not fallen below the original value of the home when you purchased it

If you can fulfill these criteria, here are some ways you can cancel your PMI.

Get enough equity in your home

The PMI Cancellation Act, or Homeowners Protection Act, mandates PMI cancellation when your principal mortgage balance reaches 78 percent of the value of the property (or you can also think of it as you reaching 22 percent equity). At that point, lenders must remove PMI. If you want, you can ask for PMI cancellation as soon as you reach 20 percent equity, but lenders aren’t required to remove PMI at that point.

Lenders are also required to tell you when you will reach the point of PMI cancellation if you continue to pay on your loan as agreed. You can calculate where you are in the process at any time by taking your current loan balance and dividing it by the amount the property originally appraised for. For example, if you owe $170,000 and the property appraised for $200,000, you are at 85 percent.

Get halfway through your mortgage term

Values can rise and fall, but you’re not stuck with PMI forever. Lenders must remove PMI when you’re halfway through your mortgage regardless of values. So, if you have a 30-year loan, your PMI should be canceled at the 15-year mark.

Refinance your mortgage

Another way to remove PMI is to remove your mortgage altogether. If you can arrange it so you meet the 78 percent value requirement on a new mortgage, you avoid PMI.

Get a reappraisal

Perhaps your home has gone up in value substantially and you owe much less than 80 percent of the current value. If you can demonstrate this, the lender may remove PMI because there’s less risk involved with the loan.

Remodel your home

If your home hasn’t gone up in value on its own, you might be able to add value with a remodel. Certain types of remodels, such as kitchen upgrades, could add enough value to impact the loan-to-value ratio so you don’t need PMI anymore.

Getting rid of PMI can be a great way to save money on your mortgage, but always remember to follow good personal financial management. Look at all your options and run the numbers to ensure you’re not spending more than you would save. If you’re already considering a home remodel, tossing PMI to the curb is a great perk. But you might not want to put in $30,000 worth of remodel costs just to save $10,000 in PMI, for example.

Finally, while you’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on your mortgage expenses, make sure you don’t lose track of other financial matters. Keep an eye on your credit report, and if you find something that looks wrong, consider working with Lexington Law on credit repair.


Reviewed by Vince R. Mayr, Supervising Attorney of Bankruptcies at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Vince has considerable expertise in the field of bankruptcy law. He has represented clients in more than 3,000 bankruptcy matters under chapters 7, 11, 12, and 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Vince earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Government from the University of Maryland. His Masters of Public Administration degree was earned from Golden Gate University School of Public Administration. His Juris Doctor was earned at Golden Gate University School of Law, San Francisco, California. Vince is licensed to practice law in Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado. He is located in the Phoenix office.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

What is a Home Equity Line of Credit?

As housing prices continue to rise homeowners are looking into how they can leverage their home’s equity to receive low-interest financing. A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is a great way to gain access to a line of credit based on a percentage of your home’s value, less the amount you still own on your mortgage.

The downsides are that if get yourself into a situation where you cannot repay your HELOC, the lender may force you to sell your home in order to settle the debt.

How a HELOC Works

Let’s say your home has an appraisal value of $400,000 and you have a remaining balance of $200,000 on your home’s mortgage. A lender typically allows access of up to 85% of your home’s total equity.

(Value X Lender Access) – Amount Owed = Line of Credit
$400,000 X 0.85 = $340,000
$340,000 – $200,000 = $140,000

Unlike home equity loans, your home equity line of credit will have a variable rate, meaning that your interest rate can go up and down overtime. Your lender will determine your rate by taking the index rate and adding a markup, depending on the health of your credit profile – Not sure how your credit profile stacks up? Need help improving your credit? Contact Credit Absolute for a consultation. 

Home Equity Line of CreditHome Equity Line of Credit

When a HELOC Makes Sense

Your home equity line of credit is best used for wealth building uses such as home upgrades and repairs, but may also be used for things like debt consolidation, or the cost of sending your kid off to college. While it may be tempting to use your HELOC for all sorts of things, such as a new car, a vacation, or other splurges, these don’t do anything to help improve your home’s value. To ensure that you will be able to pay back your loan, it’s important to focus on wealth-building attributes where you can.

Home Equity Line of Credit vs. Home Equity Loan

If you’re exploring various lending options, you’ve probably come across two different home lending terms, home equity line of credit and home equity loan.

While home equity loans give you all the flexibility and benefits of tapping into the value of your home when you need it, a home equity loan offers a lump-sum payment.

Depending on your situation, a lump-sum withdrawal may be better suited for your needs. Understanding the differences is the first step in making a loan decision that is best for you.

Home Equity Loan (HEL) – A home equity loan lets you borrow a fixed amount in one lump sum, secured by the equity of your home. The loan amount you will qualify for will depend on your Loan to Value ratio, credit history, verifiable income, and payment term. These types of loans have a fixed interest rate, which is often 100% deductible on your taxes.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) – A home equity line of credit is not so much a loan, but a revolving credit line permitting you to borrow money as you need it with your home as collateral. Applicants are typically approved based on a percentage of their home’s appraised value and then subtracting the balance owed on your existing mortgage. Things like credit history, debts, and income are also considered. Plans may or may not have regulations on minimum withdrawals and balances, as well as a variable interest rate.

Before tapping into your home’s equity, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each type of loan for your situation. Because your home equity line of credit and loan involves your most important asset – your home – the decision should be considered carefully. Is a second mortgage better than a credit card or a secured loan? If you’re not 100% sure, talk to a finance specialist before putting your home at risk.

Source: creditabsolute.com

How to Save Money on Business Travel – 21 Ideas To Reduce Trip Costs

It doesn’t matter if you’re an executive at a large corporation or a small-business owner. It’s likely you sometimes have to travel for work.

Business travel is also becoming more common. According to Statista, worldwide business travel spending has more than doubled since 2000. While spending has recently declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, traveling for work is still a reality for some and should eventually recover.

Business travel often involves international travel or significant domestic travel. Trade shows, conferences, networking events, and meeting new clients can require you to hop on a flight to do business in a new city or country. With airfare, hotel costs, transportation, and general travel expenses, costs rack up quickly.

If you want to save money on business travel, you’re in luck. There are numerous ways to reduce travel expenses beyond just booking economy.

Saving Money on Business Airfare

Of all business travel expenses, airfare is often the costliest. Booking flights in advance and sticking with economy are the two most straightforward ways to cut travel costs. But there are other ways to find cheap flights and reduce airfare costs.

1. Book Cheap & Discounted Flights

If you’re trying to save on business travel, booking flights early is the best way to find deals. Last-minute flights are usually expensive, and the more time you have to shop around, the better.

But that’s not the only trick you can use to find cheap flight options.

  • Book flights with layovers, provided the savings are worth the extra travel time.
  • Use airline search engines like Expedia, Travelocity, and CheapOair to find low-cost airfare.
  • Try alternate airports to your closest airport if they have lower prices.
  • Book directly through an airline carrier since some airlines don’t appear on airline search engines.
  • Take a red-eye (overnight) flight.

You can also take travel planning a step further and possibly score free flights or serious discounts. One popular strategy is to buy airline miles during a promotion, which is essentially buying a future flight at a discount. You can also earn airline miles without a credit card by opening a Bask Bank account or even participating in focus groups.

As long as you browse travel sites for deals and remain flexible, there’s no reason your next business flight should be full price.

2. Avoid Airline Fees

Finding cheap airline tickets is an effective way to reduce travel costs. However, if you aren’t careful, unnecessary airline fees can turn an otherwise frugal trip into a significant business expense.

The best way to avoid airline fees is to read the fine print carefully and stick with the right carrier. Some airlines, like Southwest and United, are generally lenient with checked bag fees and carry-on luggage, and you can sometimes avoid paying for these conveniences altogether.

If your airline charges for checked baggage, consider traveling light and just bringing a carry-on. If you need a suitcase to pack business attire, use a luggage scale to weigh your bag at home to avoid paying for overweight baggage.

Finally, resist paying for airline fees like early boarding or picking your seat if you aren’t picky about getting the aisle or window seat. These sound like luxuries, but these expenses add up quickly and don’t necessarily improve the quality of your flight.

3. Skip Airport Parking

Another common airport travel expense is parking. If you’re traveling for a week or longer, the daily cost of airport parking adds up. For example, at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, 24 hours of parking is $18 in the economy lot, meaning seven days of parking is an additional $126.

Thankfully, you can avoid parking fees entirely. One method is to take an Uber or Lyft to the airport. Alternatively, having a co-worker or family member drop you off is your next best bet. Public transportation is also worth the extra time if it saves you from expensive daily parking fees.

4. Book Through Rewards Websites

Booking your flight and hotel through a rewards website helps you save money on vacation and personal trips. But the right website can also cut business travel expenses.

Rakuten lets you earn cash back for shopping at thousands of partners. Creating an account is free, and once you shop at an eligible partner, you earn cash back in your account. You get paid quarterly as long as your account has $5, which is easy to do if you score cash back on a flight or hotel stay.

Rakuten has numerous travel partners, including:

  • Travelocity
  • CheapOair
  • OneTravel
  • Cheapair
  • Orbitz
  • Priceline
  • Holiday Inn
  • Extended Stay America
  • Hotels.com

Rakuten also has non-travel partners you can use to save even more money. For example, it lets you earn up to 5% cash back at thousands of restaurants, which helps you save if you eat out or take clients out for meals. Additionally, Rakuten partners with office supply companies, print shops, and electronics retailers, so you can save on a variety of business-related expenses.

It might seem strange to use a rewards website for business expenses. But if you’re trying to cut costs, every bit of savings counts.

Read our Rakuten review for more information.

5. Always Use a Travel Rewards Credit Card

If you’re a frequent business traveler, you need a travel rewards credit card. Typically, these cards let you earn points for travel-related expenses like flights and in-flight purchases alongside everyday spending.

You can often redeem points for discounted flights and even free airfare if you stack enough points. Plus, many travel rewards credit cards offer additional perks like hotel discounts, priority boarding, and airport lounge access.

Popular travel rewards credit cards include:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve Card: Earn a $750 travel bonus for spending $4,000 in your first three months; $300 annual travel credit; triple points on travel and dining; perks like lost luggage and trip cancellation coverage; $550 annual fee
  • American Express Platinum Card: Earn a $750 bonus for spending $5,000 in your first three months; $200 annual airline fee credit; quintuple points on flights and prepaid hotels; $200 annual savings on Uber rides and food delivery; various hotel upgrades and discounts; $550 annual fee
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn a $750 travel bonus for spending $4,000 in your first three months; double points on travel and dining; quintuple points on Lyft rides; perks like lost luggage and trip cancellation coverage; $95 annual fee

There are other travel credit card options, including lucrative cash-back credit cards. If you’re a business owner, you can also look at small-business credit cards like the Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card. This card has numerous travel perks and an impressive $1,250 account opening bonus if you spend at least $15,000 within the first three months of becoming a cardholder.

Ideally, your credit card should offer enough travel perks and other rewards to help you save money even with the annual fee.


Saving Money on Accommodations

Finding a pleasant hotel or rental can help foster a successful business trip. Ideally, the location is close to clients or any event you need to attend and has ample access to restaurants for client meetings. Ultimately, you want to strike a balance among comfort, convenience, and affordability.

That can be difficult to get right. The worst-case scenario is that employee performance suffers because of location or simply being too cheap when booking. On the flip side, always sticking with 5-star luxury suites isn’t cost-effective.

As with airfare, there are several tips you can use to reduce how much you spend on accommodations.

6. Negotiate With Hotels

As an independent traveler, calling a hotel and negotiating room prices isn’t always feasible. But business travelers have a slight advantage, especially when traveling in larger groups.

Hotel chains want to incentivize visits from business travelers because it’s reliable, repeat business. If you’re heading out of town for a conference or meeting, take time to call nearby hotels to see what they can offer.

If it’s a frequent trip and you plan to return regularly, let the hotel know. You might find the manager is willing to drop your room price or at least give a free upgrade to keep you happy.

7. Try Dosh Travel

Dosh is a popular cash-back reward app that pays you for shopping at hundreds of partners. Once you link a credit or debit card to Dosh, you automatically earn for shopping at eligible retailers. That’s different from apps like Ibotta that require you to preselect offers before shopping.

Dosh works with dozens of companies, including:

  • Walmart
  • Pizza Hut
  • Sephora
  • Macy’s
  • Uber
  • Old Navy

Currently, you can earn with Dosh at over 100,000 stores across the United States. However, Dosh is also a way to save money on your next business trip.

With Dosh Travel, you can earn up to 40% cash back for booking a hotel through the app. Dosh works with more than 600,000 hotels globally, so there’s no shortage of choice.

You need at least $25 to withdraw your balance, but a single hotel stay can easily earn this amount. Additionally, Dosh partners with local restaurants and Uber Eats, so you can save money taking clients out and feeding your employees. With partners like Walmart and Office Depot, you can also earn cash back for buying office supplies, which can help you reach $25 faster.

Read our Dosh app review to learn more.

8. Consider Airbnb

If your company is traveling with multiple employees, it’s likely everyone needs their own room. Ultimately, that means a substantial hotel bill, even if you negotiate prices or find a deal.

Before you spend thousands of dollars on multiple hotel rooms, search Airbnb’s business accommodations. The platform has grown beyond vacation rentals, and you can find top-rated homes and boutique hotels that also have collaborative workspaces. Plus, Airbnb listings also mention nearby activities and attractions you can use for team building.

Airbnb isn’t always cheaper than hotels, but large groups are likely to save money. Even when you factor in cleaning charges and service fees, Airbnb has some remarkably low nightly prices. Plus, you can negotiate with hosts to get a lower price, and your amenities are likely better than a single hotel room.

If you want to save money and increase your comfort, using Airbnb for your next business trip is certainly worth it.


Saving Money on Food

It’s standard practice for employers to pay for employee meals during business trips. And taking clients and potential customers out for food and drinks is common during business travel. But expenses like client dinners and catering for your team add up quickly unless you implement some money-saving tips for food costs.

9. Schedule Breakfast & Lunchtime Meetings

The practice of wining and dining exists for good reason. For existing relationships, taking clients out shows them you appreciate their business. Similarly, taking a prospect out for food and drinks helps establish a more personal relationship and lets you discuss business in a less formal environment.

However, dinner is almost always more expensive than breakfast or lunch. If you treat a client to a nice dinner with a main course and drinks, you could easily spend $100 or more for the meal, depending on where you go and how many diners you have.

For example, at Scarpetta, a popular Italian restaurant in New York City, most dinner entrees range from $30 to $45. If you add two drinks and an appetizer, that’s another $50 or so for your bill. With an 18% tip, you’re paying around $140 for dinner for just you and one client. When you multiply that by several dinners over a business trip, expenses rack up quickly.

To save money on client meals, schedule breakfast or lunch meetings instead. The brunch menu at Scarpetta, which runs until 3pm, is noticeably cheaper than the dinner menu, with most entrees costing $18. Even with drinks, brunch or lunchtime dining likely brings your bill down to around $80, saving you over 40% on your meal with a client.

For breakfast, you can also find trendy restaurants and cafes suitable for client meetings, like La Parisienne, where a breakfast meeting for two costs around $40 to $50.

You don’t have to go to fast-food restaurants to save money on taking clients out. Instead, research several restaurants with affordable lunch and breakfast menus in the city you’re traveling to so you have some options.

10. Use Corporate Meal-Delivery Services

You may also need to feed your team on business trips. For that, you can save even more using corporate food-delivery services instead of catering companies, time-consuming reimbursement, or cash per-diem allowances.

For example, if you’re running a team event, try using DoorDash for Work to order everyone’s food. Perks of DoorDash for Work include:

  • No delivery fees
  • Lower service fees
  • Easy-to-create group orders
  • Spending limits and reimbursement options to let employees expense their meals

Uber Eats also has a corporate option that lets team members place group orders. As an employer, you can create rules like stipends and hours during which you cover employees’ expenses.

11. Scout Ahead for Cheap Food Joints

Often, if you book accommodations in a city’s downtown business district, you’ll find yourself surrounded by expensive restaurants and bars. But if you’re a mile or more out of downtown, you can probably find cheaper restaurants that are still suitable for client meetings and employee dining.

When booking accommodations, scout the area for affordable restaurants and nearby grocery stores. You should also search for quick and cheap restaurants or even food trucks that are nearby. That’s especially handy if you’re attending trade shows or events and only have time for a quick bite during a lull in the day.

12. Book Cooking-Friendly Accommodations

You don’t need a hotel with a complete kitchen for business travel. But having a microwave and small stovetop means you and your employees can cook some meals rather than relying on hotel food services and eating out constantly (a boon for those on special diets or with food allergies or restrictions).

The savings can add up quickly. For example, if you book a room with a stovetop, you can make a quick breakfast of eggs and toast rather than eating out each morning. That means you’re spending $1 to $2 at most for breakfast instead of $10 to $20 going out. However, if the cost of the room is significantly more expensive than a room without a kitchen, the savings likely aren’t worth it, so consider how impactful potential food savings is when booking accommodations.

For long business trips, companies like Extended Stay America have rooms with a full kitchen and let you save up to 31% on nightly rates if you book for 30 nights or longer. Booking an Airbnb is also ideal for saving on food since you typically have access to a full kitchen.


Saving Money on Transportation

While transportation usually doesn’t cost as much as airfare or accommodations, getting around a new city can still be a significant business travel expense. If you want to cut costs, there are several tricks you can try.

13. Use Rideshare Apps

As a business traveler, your first instinct might be to use an airport car rental service or even a higher-end rental company like Silvercar. However, when you consider car rental upsells and various hidden fees, it can be challenging to find a cheap car rental option.

Plus, if your trip consists of meetings and conferences, you won’t spend much time behind the wheel, making your rental car a near waste. In that case, you’re better off using rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft to travel.

Uber and Lyft also simplify corporate travel budgeting. For example, companies can set travel stipends and track ride history to ensure employees are only expensing business rides rather than personal.

If you’re responsible for approving reimbursement requests, you can quickly check the time, pickup, and drop-off location of every ride an employee expenses. If a ride seems like it wasn’t for business purposes, ask for clarification so your company doesn’t accidentally pay or attempt to take a tax deduction for personal employee expenses.

14. Book Accommodations in the Right Location

In an ideal world, you can skip renting a car or using rideshare apps altogether by booking accommodations within walking distance to wherever you need to go for your business trip.

If you’re attending a trade show or conference, check to see if they have arrangements with nearby hotels to offer special prices for attendees. Alternatively, book your own accommodations within walking distance. Even if you pay slightly more per night, the savings on a rental car or rideshare apps is probably worth it.

15. Save Money on Gas

For some business trips, renting a car or driving your own vehicle is more economical than taking a flight or using rideshare apps. But if you’re driving, anything you can do to save money on gas helps make your trip cheaper.

For starters, use a gas credit card to earn rewards for refueling. Popular gas credit cards include:

  • CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard: Earn 65,000 bonus miles for spending $4,000 within your first four months; earn 2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 you spend at gas stations and car rental companies; earn unlimited 1 mile per $1 you spend on other categories; $99 annual fee that’s waived for your first year
  • Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi: Earn 4% cash back on gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter; 3% cash back on restaurants and travel purchases; 2% cash back on Costco and Costco.com purchases; 1 cash back everywhere else; no annual fee
  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card: Earn a $200 bonus for spending $1,000 in your first three months; earn unlimited 3% cash back on gas, restaurants, rideshares, transit, flights, hotels, and car rentals; earn 1% cash back everywhere else; no annual fee

To complement your gas credit card, use apps that help you find cheap gas stations, like GasBuddy. With GasBuddy, you can also get up to $0.25 off per gallon by signing up for Pay With GasBuddy, a free fuel rewards card you use like a debit card to pay at the pump and save.

Finally, when driving, use an app like Waze to avoid traffic and find the most efficient route possible. That’s especially important in an unfamiliar city where you don’t know your way around very well. Driving more efficiently helps reduce fuel consumption, ultimately saving more money.

It’s essential to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of driving versus flying and using rideshare apps or a rental car. But if the savings point toward driving, there’s no reason to pay full price at the pump.


Other Tips to Save on Business Travel

If you can cut down on airfare, accommodation, and transportation costs, you’re already on track to keep business travel more affordable. But there are other tips you can use to save money and keep trip planning simple.

16. Have a Trip-Approval Process

If you want to cut business costs, you need to understand your annual expenses to identify areas of wasteful spending. Therefore, every business budget should have a designated portion for business travel expenses and an approval process for trips.

You don’t need an extensive corporate travel policy to take a client out for lunch or drive across town for a meeting. But for out-of-town trips, it’s worth getting management involved. Ideally, employees should submit a trip summary that includes:

  • The purpose and length of a trip
  • The employees who are attending
  • A rough estimate of cost

The summary should then pass to human resources or management for approval.

While this might seem redundant, this process is useful for tracking costs and whether trips result in business development. Plus, as a business owner, you might find that you can skip certain trips or involve fewer employees after reviewing the details more closely.

17. Create a Travel Stipend

A trip approval process helps an organization budget for business travel expenses and forces teams to put more thought into deciding to travel in the first place.

But your business travel policy should also outline a daily employee stipend.

Creating a travel stipend for business travel benefits everyone. For employers, a travel stipend makes budgeting simpler. For employees, a stipend helps clarify limits and ensures there aren’t any awkward post-trip conversations about expensive restaurant or bar tabs.

You should also decide on a reimbursement method. One option is to open a business credit card for traveling employees. For example, Ramp lets you create unlimited virtual and physical cards for employees and pays 1.5% cash back. Plus, there’s no annual fee, and Ramp also collects and stores receipts automatically to help track spending.

Alternatively, you can let your employees spend with their own cards and submit expenses for reimbursement. However, ensure your employees know they need to provide receipts.

But weigh the pros and cons of leaving it in your employees’ hands. Making employees pay for expenses means they have to front significant costs like hotels and flights. That could put employees having financial issues in a tight spot they’d rather not discuss with their employer. And it also means they get to leverage their own credit card rewards that otherwise would have gone to the business.

18. Look for a Corporate Travel Agency

If you’re booking a simple business trip, working with a travel agency probably isn’t worth it. Travel agents used to be incredibly helpful because they could find exclusive deals and would book your trip for you. These days, booking travel plans online is straightforward, and you can find travel deals with a few searches.

But if you’re planning a complicated business trip with multiple employees and hotel bookings, a corporate travel agency could be worth it. Agencies charge a fee to ensure a smooth journey, but it could pay for itself if it prevents one of your employees from taking time out of their day to plan an entire trip.

19. Always Keep Receipts

Another simple way to save on business travel is to keep receipts for tax season. There are numerous tax deductions for self-employed individuals and small-business owners, but you need to track expenses to claim them accurately.

Business travel expenses are also deductible. Examples of deductible expenses include:

  • Travel by train, airplane, bus, or car between your home and business destination
  • Shipping baggage or business products to other work locations
  • Using your car for business purposes
  • Accommodations and business-related meals
  • Tolls, parking fees, and rental car usage for business purposes
  • Dry cleaning
  • Taxis and shuttle services

Keeping paper receipts is one way to track your spending. Alternatively, personal finance apps like MoneyPatrol let you save receipts on your smartphone to ensure you’re ready for tax season.

20. Plan Ahead

If you leave trip planning until the last minute, it’s almost impossible to find low prices or deals. That means paying more for flights, hotels, and transportation. Plus, feeling rushed is a surefire way to have a worse trip and potentially forget a critical part of planning.

Give your organization more time to plan trips whenever possible. Ideally, your company should have a calendar of upcoming trips throughout the year to help budget and plan business travel.

That responsibility can fall to department heads or relevant employees, but it needs to be prioritized if employees regularly travel for work.

21. Prioritize Impactful Savings

One of the worst ways to reduce business travel spending is to save money in a way that hurts your business’s image. For example, if you take a client out for lunch, choose a decent restaurant instead of a fast-food joint and cover the bill.

Similarly, there’s little point in nickel-and-diming your way toward a cheaper travel budget. If you spend hours agonizing over rental car prices to save $15, that’s hardly worth your time as an employee.

Ultimately, you should focus on efficient trip planning and tackling major expenses. Find cheap airfare and accommodations, consider sending fewer employees on trips, and always maximize rewards with the right business credit card.


Final Word

Business travel can be a significant expense. But as long as you plan and budget accordingly, there’s no reason for business trips to hurt your bottom line. In fact, business trips are an excellent way to increase business revenue if they create new opportunities.

Just remember to factor upcoming trips into your annual budget and create a trip-approval process and travel stipend. You can also conduct a yearly business checkup to review whether business travel costs have paid for themselves with new opportunities.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Outgrown a Student Credit Card? Here Are 3 Worthy Upgrades for New Grads

Americans are lucky to be offered hundreds of competing credit cards, but it can be difficult to find the right one to suit your needs. Therefore, it’s important to know what your spending habits are in order to choose the card that makes the most sense for you.

Cardholders who carry a balance should look for a card with the lowest interest rate, and possibly one with 0% APR introductory financing. A lower interest rate means you will pay less money toward interest charges as you pay down the balance. Meanwhile, those who can avoid interest charges by paying their balances in full every month should choose a card that offers the most valuable rewards in the form of points, miles or cash back.

Make sure you also generally meet the credit issuer’s criteria. It’s a good idea to know what your credit score is so that you can target your search to a card you’re more likely to get approved for.

You should consider any benefits offered by the card, such as purchase protection or travel insurance. Finally, applicants should also take into account any applicable fees — such as annual fees and foreign transaction fees.

Source: credit.com

Are Hotel Rewards Credit Cards a Bad Idea?

Hotel Credit Card RewardsHotel Credit Card Rewards

If you are an avid traveler, it’s likely that you’ve been tempted to apply for a hotel credit card at one time or another. The best hotel cards out there offer a variety of benefits for everyday and travel spending, giving consumers the opportunity to earn rewards such as free hotel stays and upgraded accommodations.

But are these rewards all they are advertised to be? Let’s explore what hotel rewards credit cards are and how this type of loyalty program may or may not benefit consumers.

What are hotel rewards credit cards?

Hotel credit cards enable the holder to book free nights at a variety of hotels around the world. They advertise fantastic rewards and exclusive cardholder perks (late checkouts, loyalty program status upgrades, free in-room internet, etc.) to enhance your travel experience. When searching for the best hotel credit card that is going to give you the most for your spending habits, experts recommend keeping these criteria in mind:

  • Available introductory point bonuses and your ability to meet the card’s initial spending requirements.
  • Rewards for different spending categories, and how this fits in with your day-to-day spending.
  • Hotel upgrades, add-ons, and perks to make your stay more enjoyable.
  • Annual, as well as foreign, transaction fees. Will the card give you enough value to justify these fees?

What’s the big deal?

At this point, you may be thinking that a hotel rewards credit card sounds like a pretty great deal – but is it really? The travel industry is one of the largest industries in the US, contributing a total of 1.5 trillion dollars to the GDP in 2015. While it may seem that they certainly have enough money to give away a night or two, that’s just not how big business works. In fact, with the amount of money that it costs to simply maintain a luxury hotel, they aren’t likely to start giving away rooms for free anytime soon.

Generally speaking, rewards cards often have the highest APRs, in part to help pay for all of the points, fancy hotel stays, and miles they are dishing out. As such, hotel rewards cards probably aren’t the best idea if you find yourself in a situation where you need to carry a revolving debt for a period of time. In fact, experts say that in some circumstances the fees can far outweigh the benefits of reward and loyalty credit cards.

When is a hotel reward credit card a good idea?

While anyone who chooses to join a rewards or loyalty program should do so with caution, there are steps that consumers can take to make the most of out of their hotel rewards credit card. Before you apply for a credit card, it’s important to understand the offer, along with the card’s terms and agreements. Read through the fine print before you apply to help you understand just what type of contract you are entering into.

Whenever possible save large purchases for low-interest cards. You may feel like you are missing out on your “rewards,” but you’ll probably save more than that free night stay would have been worth anyway. You know that your “frequent-flyer miles” are far from free, so save your reward cards for small purchases that you know you can pay within the month’s billing cycle.

Conclusion

Different people have different opinions about what the “best” hotel credit card is. No card is universally superior to another. Just like any other credit card you apply for, you’ll want to understand your commitment and make the best choice for your spending habits and style.

Source: creditabsolute.com

Renting an Older Home: 5 Red Flags to Look Out For

Often, the oldest homes are in some of the most desirable neighborhoods and are more affordable than something brand new in the same location.

It’s tough to beat the charm and character you’ll find when renting an older home or apartment.

However, it is important to remember that older buildings come with their own unique set of quirks.

While some characteristics commonly found in older homes are easy to upgrade or simply based on personal preference, there are a few red flags to keep in mind that might make or break your decision when considering signing a lease.

1. Potential utility costs

Ask your new landlord if they are willing to share a previous month’s utility bill so you can get a sense of how much you’ll be spending on utilities. Efficiency wasn’t necessarily a priority in the past, and things like electricity, heating and water can add up quickly.

Many older homes run on gas heat (or oil!), often a new expense for many.

Ask if any previous tenants have experienced any electrical issues, and take note of outlet placement as this is something you can’t really change once you’ve moved in.

Interior of older home.

2. Check out the windows

Older homes and older windows can often mean cold drafts in the winter months.

Ask your potential landlord if the windows are single or double pane windows — this will be critical when it comes to outside noise and maintaining the temperature you want inside the home.

3. Test appliances and fixtures

Older buildings have their quirks, and it’s likely you’ll deal with one or two if you decide to move forward with renting.

Make sure you know what you’re signing up for by giving things a quick test when you view the unit – flush the toilets, turn on the sink, turn on the stovetop, see if you are familiar with the heating system, etc. For example, if you notice things like slow-flowing drains or a toilet taking forever to flush, it might be a sign of larger plumbing issues down the line.

4. Ask about maintenance and repairs

There’s no way around it – older homes and apartments are generally going to require more maintenance and repair than brand new buildings. Ask the landlord about any major projects or upgrades they have planned for the near future.

Plans to replace kitchen appliances may entice you to stick around. Plans to replace the roof could deter you depending on your situation. As things age, they start to wear out, so be aware that you’re more likely to deal with regular maintenance issues.

Older home, kitchen interior.

5. Watch out for lead paint

Lead paint was banned in the U.S. in the late 70s, so if the building you’re considering existed before then, watch out for lead-based paint in the home or apartment.

Federal law requires landlords to warn tenants of the presence of lead paint at a rental property, which many do through a Lead Warning Statement built into the rental agreement. Additionally, landlords must provide renters with EPA-approved information on lead-based paints and potential hazards — it’s required.

Don’t hesitate to approach this topic before you get to the lease signing process, and keep an eye out for any noticeable peeling paint that may exacerbate the issue.

Renting an older home

Older rental properties might not have all of the luxury amenities of a brand new building, but you are more likely to find a one-of-a-kind space to call home.

Keep these considerations in mind when renting an older apartment or home. Make sure it’s the right fit for you.

Source: rent.com

Why We Built A New Home, and What We Learned Along The Way

Buying a home is an incredibly personal decision, but there’s an added level of complexity when it’s a new home build. For our family, the decision to build came from a discussion my husband and I had when we were all at home together during quarantine. We were actually quite surprised that we were even considering leaving our current home we loved so much, but not after we came to a couple realizations.

new homenew home

Why Did We Choose a New Home Build?

Space
In the next couple years we’ll have full-fledged teenagers who will be driving. We need a home that will give them space to interact with their friends separately from us, but also a place for them to park their cars. Thinking even further down the road, when they have families of their own, we’ll want a space where everyone can fit comfortably without feeling cramped.

Our Love of Water
During quarantine, beaches and water access points shut down. We love to be outdoors, and we quickly realized how important it was for us to be near the water. Since our children are now in virtual school, we were able to expand our search radius; and while living beachfront was outside of our price range, we actually found the next best thing. We stumbled upon what would become our new home site that backed up to a small lake!

new homenew home

No More Big Projects
This was a hard realization for me, but one that I’ve been avoiding to acknowledge for quite some time. After we finished renovating my friend’s beach condo, I realized my body physically can’t handle the big projects like it used to. Building a new, sturdy home with fully functioning, well….everything….sounds way more desirable than taking on another project house!

Market Was Hot and Rates Were Low
Our current home is in a very desirable location and we knew that selling it would not be an issue. The bigger incentive to sell and build were the interest rates, and since we had no idea how much longer they’d stay so low, the time to act was now. To add icing on the cake, the area we chose with the lake is actually less expensive than our current location; not only did we get a great rate, but we’ll be getting an amazing house for the cost.

(READ MORE: 5 Reasons You Should Pay for a Pre-Drywall Inspection)

The Most Surprising Parts of Building and Designing

Every Builder is Different
We’ve built a home one other time, and we quickly learned that what was an upgrade the first time around is now a standard feature. My advice? Double check the list of standard features from your builder, which will help you determine what you should and can upgrade.

Timing is Everything
The shutdown during quarantine had a ripple effect on nearly everything, including home building. The builder warned us early in the process that the timeline would be determined by the availability of supplies. Thankfully, the builder was willing to work with us since we were up against a hot market. We all knew that the second we listed our home, we would be at the mercy of buyer competition, so we had to be flexible with our schedule. If we listed our home too soon, we could find ourselves in a situation of moving to another location until the home build was complete (something we were trying to avoid with two virtually-educated school kids and three dogs).

Upgrade Options Might Not Be As Available 
Even though the builder had a lot of standard features we considered upgrades, we were surprised by the limited options to choose from when we did decided to upgrade. Being a DIYer and having access to unlimited options, this part was challenging. We were not doing a custom build, but we thought that there would be a little bit more to choose from. Instead we opted not to upgrade things like faucets, lighting fixtures, and appliances. Instead we’ll take those on later with something that we’re in love with.

new homenew home

It is crazy to believe that building a home today came from a single conversation, followed by a series of events we could have never imagined at the beginning of 2020. Our perspectives and situational changes definitely had us taking a deeper look into our future and what we ultimately wanted for our life and where we pictured ourselves living. While we love our current home and all the hard work we put into it, we are definitely looking forward to making memories in our new home.

Don’t Go it Alone

Home building may not be for everyone, but if you’re wanting that new home experience from the ground up, check out Homes.com’s “How to Build” section. It’s a one-stop resource that walks you through the process of a new home build so you can be prepared, organized and ready to enjoy your new home.

Happy building!


Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.

Source: homes.com

How to Get a TV for Cheap – 7 Ways to Get Deals on a New Television

TVs and many other electronics are interesting because as quality has steadily improved over the years, prices have dropped. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price index for TVs decreased by 94% between 1997 and 2015.

In other words, TVs become more affordable every year despite continuous upgrades and new features.

However, if you’re buying a new TV, you still need to be somewhat price-conscious. The latest plasma or LCD TV models still set you back several hundred dollars or more. Like other major purchases, it’s important to ensure you buy the right TV that has the right balance between price and features.

Thankfully, there are several ways to get the best deal on a new TV to help keep costs down. As long as you give yourself enough time to shop and keep these strategies in mind, your next TV upgrade shouldn’t drain your wallet.

The Best Ways to Save Money on a New TV

Buying a new TV isn’t going to be cheap. Ultimately, screen size, features, and brand influence prices the most. If you’re set on a specific size and type of TV, your savings will only go so far.

However, there’s no reason to pay full price for a new TV, regardless of the size and type you buy. Implement one or more of the following money-saving tips the next time you decide to upgrade your TV to keep more money in your wallet.

1. Shop Online

It might seem daunting to buy a new TV online. After all, you probably want to see it in person to help visualize what it would look like in your home.

However, one of the easiest ways to save on a new TV is to buy online. Shopping online saves time, and if you use shopping browser extensions, it’s easy to comparison shop to ensure you’re getting the lowest possible price.

For example, extensions like PriceBlink tracks product prices across thousands of retailers. If you’re shopping for a new TV, PriceBlink notifies you if there’s a better deal on a different website for instant savings.

To take your savings further, use extensions like Capital One Shopping and Honey. Both extensions automatically apply coupon codes at checkout to help you save money.

Plus, you can earn free gift cards with both extensions for shopping at specific retail partners. If you’re buying a high-ticket item like a TV, a single coupon code can go a long way in your efforts to save money.

Finally, online tech deal sites are also worth checking to find low prices on TVs and other electronics. For example, websites like Newegg and SlickDeals often have TV discounts that can shave off a significant portion of your price tag.

Buying a new TV online is also less stressful if you do your research. Room size matters for screen size, so measure the area you plan to set up your TV to gauge if you’re buying the right size. TV buying guides can also help you decide on your screen size based on how far away your seating is from the TV and how crowded the room is.

Finally, read reviews for any TV you’re considering. If you’re concerned, you can also check out the TV you’re considering in-store before placing your order online.


2. Use a Cash-Back Credit Card

Buying a new TV is a considerable expense. Additionally, if your new TV purchase is part of a home improvement project or move, you probably have other major expenses alongside your new tech.

Using a cash-back credit card for everyday purchases is a savvy move. However, for large expenses, credit cards are even more lucrative.

Plus, credit cards often have introductory bonuses if you spend a certain amount of money within the first few months of becoming a cardholder. If you take advantage of a bonus while TV shopping, you’re making the most of your money.

Several popular cash-back credit cards worth considering include:

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited: No annual fee; earn $200 when you spend $500 within the first three months; 5% cash back at grocery stores; unlimited 1.5% on most other purchases; up to $500 in purchase protection for 120 days. Read our Chase Freedom Unlimited review for more information.
  • U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card: No annual fee; earn $150 when you spend $500 within the first three months; 5% cash back up to $2,000 on two categories of your choice, which can include electronics; 1% to 2% cash back on everything else. Read our U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card review for more information.
  • Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi: Requires a Costco membership; 4% cash back on first $7,000 in eligible gas purchases; unlimited 3% cash back on travel and restaurant spending, unlimited 2% cash back on Costco purchases; unlimited 1% cash back on everything else; purchase protection against loss or damage for up to 90 to 120 days. Read our Costco Anywhere Visa Card review for more information.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is ideal if you want to take advantage of an easy $200 sign-up bonus. However, depending on how expensive your new TV is, 5% cash back from the U.S. Bank Cash+ card and sign-up bonus might earn more.

Finally, shopping at Costco to save money is already a smart move; if you do electronics shopping at Costco, sweeten the deal by signing up for their Anywhere Visa card to earn 2% cash back.


3. Tread Carefully with Extended Warranties

Extended warranties are protection plans you can purchase to cover damage and defects. You commonly find extended warranty plans for consumer electronics, vehicles, mobile phones, and even home warranty plans.

On paper, extended warranties might seem like they’re worth it. After all, if you buy a new TV or other expensive product, your first instinct is to insure yourself against damage and disappointment down the line.

However, according to Consumer Reports, extended warranties for electronics are almost never worth the cost. We tend to overestimate the likelihood our tech products will fail, and there are several other considerations to keep in mind:

  • Manufacturer Warranties. Tech products usually have some form of manufacturer warranty to protect against defects. Most warranties last for 90 days, which might suffice for protecting your purchase against defects and damage.
  • Store Policies. Big box retailers generally have lenient return policies that cover product malfunctions or defects. Some stores even let you return products without any real reason, provided they aren’t damaged. For example, Walmart lets you return TVs within 30 days and provides a refund for damaged or defective products. Therefore, extended warranties aren’t needed to protect yourself against out-of-the-box defects.
  • Term Length. Companies sell extended warranties to profit, which isn’t in customers’ best interests. Many extended warranty plans last one to two years, but the bulk of technical issues you encounter will probably occur long after this time frame. In other words, extended warranties on electronics is buying protection for the least risky period of ownership.

If you want to maximize your savings when buying a new TV, you should almost always skip the warranty.


4. Consider Older Models

Like most tech products, TVs improve every year with the release of new models. Resolutions of 4K become 8K, screen sizes get larger, and picture quality sharpens. For true technophiles and cinema lovers, the latest models are undeniably a cause for excitement.

However, part of TV shopping involves considering the diminishing returns on your spending. Do you really need the latest TV model, largest screen, and sharpest resolution that’s on the market? Depending on your room, viewing habits, and budget, buying an older TV model is often how you get the most value.

Even buying a year-old model can make a significant difference on price. Plus, modern TVs have come a long way compared to their heavy, clunky predecessors. Smart TVs that are a few years old still work with streaming services and devices.

Until a truly revolutionary line of TVs release, slightly older models will suffice for most viewers — and can save you hundreds of dollars.


5. Shop at The Right Time

For major purchases, timing sometimes means a significant difference in savings. Retailers price products differently based on demand and season, and TVs are no different. Therefore, if you’re planning to spend a few hundred dollars or more on a new TV, it might be best to hold off.

Historically, TV deals are most popular during two events: Black Friday and the Super Bowl. Black Friday is especially popular for TV shopping because almost every major retailer will offer a discount on electronics. Super Bowl deals are less common, but they’re worth keeping an eye on.

The best way to take advantage of a sale is to research presale prices at least a few weeks before the sale begins. Retailers are crafty, and sometimes your sale price is actually the same or more expensive than regular pricing because retailers first raise the base price to make a “sale” seem more appealing.

If you shop on Black Friday for the holidays, this is especially important because these faux sales are rampant. Following the price of the TV you want in the month leading up to Black Friday can help you spot a real bargain.

If you’re buying from Amazon, you can use the CamelCamelCamel extension to track Amazon prices and view price history for millions of products. Similarly, Honey and Capital One Shopping let you set up price tracking alerts on products to receive notifications when a product you’re interested in drops in price.

New TV models usually release in spring, so this is another ideal time to buy older TV models. Ultimately, if you give yourself enough runway, you can buy a new TV at a low price point for easy savings.


6. Use Reward Websites and Apps

Comparison-shopping websites or daily deal websites are useful for finding discounts. However, sometimes cash-back reward websites offer the greatest chance to save.

Rakuten is one popular option that pays you cash back for shopping at their partners. Creating a Rakuten account is free, and you simply visit Rakuten before shopping online to find opportunities to earn cash back.

In terms of TVs and electronics, notable Rakuten partners include:

  • Best Buy: Up to 1% cash back
  • TV Store Online: 7.5% cash back
  • Staples: 2% cash back
  • Office Depot: 2% cash back
  • Overstock: 4% cash back

Cash-back rewards are subject to change. Luckily, Rakuten partners with thousands of retailers, and there’s always an opportunity to earn cash back on your next electronics purchase. Rakuten also has online coupon codes, although cash back is where the platform shines.

If you can’t find deals on Rakuten, various reward apps are also worth trying. Apps like Drop pay you in free gift cards for shopping through the app at specific partners. Drop partners with plenty of big box retailers, making it easy to find TV deals.

Similarly, Dosh is another rewards app that automatically pays you cash back for shopping through its partners. Once you link your credit and debit cards to Dosh, you never have to worry about preselecting offers before shopping, and Dosh also partners with plenty of major U.S. retailers.

If you combine these rewards with shopping at the right time of year and other savvy tricks, you can get a new TV for much less than full price.


7. Consider Cheaper Brands

With electronics, you largely get what you pay for. Whether you’re shopping for noise-canceling headphones, a laptop, or a new TV, going for the cheapest option sometimes has consequences for performance and longevity.

If you’re buying a new TV for your home theater or family room, spending more on a premium brand and model might be worth it. However, if you just need a TV for watching the hockey game in your garage or for sending with your kid back to college, you don’t need to splurge on a leading brand.

Cheaper TV brands like Vizio and Insignia can get the job done without draining your wallet. You can also shop for refurbished electronics if you find a reputable seller and understand the warranty that comes with the TV.


Final Word

Like most electronics, TVs feel like something we need to update every few years. New models come out, screen sizes get larger, and it seems like upgrades are an inevitability.

There’s nothing wrong with buying a new TV or even splurging on a recent model with the latest specs. However, you should never pay full price for a new TV, especially if you’re on a tight budget and are trying to maximize your savings rate.

Additionally, consider the diminishing returns on your spending before making your next upgrade. New TVs are a luxury, but there comes a point at which spending more doesn’t necessarily increase enjoyment.

Source: moneycrashers.com