Getting a Low Mortgage Rate

Are you planning to buy a new house, and want to save money along the way? Then here are some ways to get a good interest on your home mortgage, as well as minimize the amount of money you’ll shell out throughout the payment period.

Tip #1: Keep Your Job or Get Promoted

If you’ve been gainfully employed for the past two years, you’re in good shape. If you got promoted during that span, that’s even better. Your application may be disapproved if your employment record is spotty, or if you demonstrate declining earnings.

It’s even tougher when you’re self-employed. You’ll be asked to present your income tax returns over the past two years, and may even be required to accomplish IRS Form 4506, which will let them verify whether your ITR’s are the same ones in the IRS’s records.

Tip #2: Save Up Enough to Cover the 20% Down Payment

When you qualify for a mortgage, you have the option to pay a down payment as low as 5%, but this tends to hike the interest rate and increase the amount of money you’ll shell out in the long run. To get the best interest rate for your situation, opt to pay a 20% down payment.

The reasoning behind this is that a loan with a 5% down payment is considered high-risk, and they’ll cover that risk by raising the interest rate accordingly. On the other hand, paying a higher down payment is an indication of stable earnings and money in the bank, so they can afford to give you a lower interest rate.

Another tip: They’ll also expect you to have enough cash reserves to cover your mortgage payments for the next 60 days. These cash reserves can be in the form of savings and checking accounts, certificates of deposit, or money market funds. It does NOT normally include retirement funds – unless you’re willing to pay additional taxes and penalties.

Tip #3: Keep Your Credit Score Up

In most cases, a credit score of 620 is the minimum required to take out a home loan – and it will likely get you a higher interest rate. On the other hand, you’ll get the best interest rates when your credit score is at 760 and up. How well do you score?

Study your credit score right now, correct any errors, and work on bringing it up over the next several months. With professional credit repair help, you could raise your credit score by over 100 points in a matter of months.

Tip #4: Check If You Qualify For Special Programs

There are special programs out there that qualify you for lower interest rates on your home mortgage, or allow you a smaller down payment with no additional interest. If you or your spouse is a war veteran, you can qualify for a Veterans Affairs loan, which offers protection when you fall behind on your payments.

Other programs benefit first-time home buyers, such as those of the Federal Housing Administration and the US. Department of Housing and Urban Development. And if you plan to buy a house in a rural area, the U.S. Department of Agriculture mortgage program will help you.

Do Your Homework Ahead of Time

Ideally, you should study your home mortgage options two years in advance. This gives you enough time to get your finances in order to get the best deal possible.

Source: creditabsolute.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

12 Cheapest Small Towns in America

Small-town living has plenty of perks: light traffic, a strong sense of community and a slower pace of life. Perhaps best of all, there’s the cost of living, which typically is cheaper in small towns than in expensive big cities.

To get a better sense of what inexpensive small-town living really has to offer, we compiled a list of the 12 cheapest small towns in America, with small towns defined as places with populations of 10,000 to 50,000 people. We based our rankings on the Council for Community and Economic Research’s (C2ER) calculations of living expenses in 269 urban areas. C2ER’s expansive study tracks prices for housing, utilities, healthcare, groceries, transportation and miscellaneous goods and services (such as going to a movie theater or hair salon).

It goes without saying that you should weigh the pros and cons before you pack up and relocate to one of the 12 cheapest small towns in America. While a low cost of living is attractive, it can be offset by issues such as scarce jobs, small paychecks or a lack of things to do in the area. Plan an extended visit to ensure the small town fits your lifestyle.

The most recent Council for Community and Economic Research’s (C2ER) Cost of Living Index, published February 2021, is based on price data collected during the first three quarters of 2020. City-level data on city populations, household incomes and home values come from the U.S. Census Bureau. Unemployment rates come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of April 7 for the period ended February 2021.

1 of 12

Benton Harbor, Mich.

photo of lighthouse and pierphoto of lighthouse and pier
  • Cost of living: 12.6% below U.S. average
  • City population: 9,843
  • Median household income: $21,916 (U.S.: $65,712)
  • Median home value: $63,300 (U.S.: $240,500)
  • Unemployment rate: 6.0% (U.S.: 6.0%)

Benton Harbor sits by the shores of Lake Michigan about 50 miles west of Kalamazoo, which is one of the cheapest larger cities in the U.S. The small town’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s home to Whirlpool (WHR), the global manufacturer of washers, dryers, refrigerators and a range of other home appliances.

But despite being host to a Fortune 500 company, Benton Harbor is among America’s cheapest small towns, boasting a cost of living that’s more than 12% below the national average.

True, median income is roughly a third of the national level, but the unemployment rate is in line with the country as a whole. Poverty and crime are also high in Benton Harbor – factors that contribute to a median home value that’s an eye-popping 74% lower than the national median. Indeed, housing-related costs, including rents and mortgages, are 32% cheaper in Benton Harbor, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

Neighboring St. Joseph, about the same size as Benton Harbor, is a popular beach resort town with significantly higher household incomes and home values.

2 of 12

Hutchinson, Kan.

Strataca salt mine Strataca salt mine
  • Cost of living: 13.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 40,914
  • Median household income: $46,927
  • Median home value: $96,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.8%

Hutchinson, known as “Hutch” by the locals, is about an hour’s drive northwest from Wichita. Founded in the early 1870s as a railroad town, Hutch soon became known for its salt deposits, which were first discovered in 1887.

Today, Hutch is synonymous with the Kansas State Fair, which it hosts annually. The town is also home to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Basketball Tournament. Local cultural attractions include the Fox Theatre, which opened in 1931. The grand movie palace is considered to be among the finest examples of theater art deco architecture in the Midwest.

Where Hutch stands out among America’s cheapest small towns is that it boasts the lowest housing costs on this list. Indeed, they run 41.3% below the national average. Apartment rents are 43% lower than national average, while home prices come in at a 40% discount.

However, other major costs of living aren’t too far off from what the average American pays. Although prices for groceries are almost 7% lower than the national average, healthcare and miscellaneous goods & services are essentially the same as the U.S. average.

3 of 12

Meridian, Miss.

photo of a courthousephoto of a courthouse
  • Cost of living: 14.1% below U.S. average
  • City population: 37,848
  • Median household income: $32,422
  • Median home value: $83,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.7%

Meridian was rebuilt from 1890 to 1930 after being almost totally destroyed in the Civil War. As a result, it has not one but nine registered historic districts. The Highland Park Dentzel Carousel, dating back to 1909, is one of the more whimsical ones.

Meridian’s other claim to fame is as the birthplace of Jimmie Rodgers, known as the “Father of Country Music.” Music remains a centerpiece of Meridian’s cultural scene to this day.

Today, the federal government plays an important role in its economic life, as Naval Air Station Meridian and Key Field are two of the largest employers.

Happily, the men and women in uniform, and Meridian’s civilian citizens, catch a break on expenses. The cost of living stands 14.1% below the U.S. average; what really pushes Meridian into America’s absolute cheapest small towns are its comparatively modest housing costs. Indeed, housing expenses are a third lower than what the average American pays.

4 of 12

Burlington, Iowa

photo of a bridge in Iowaphoto of a bridge in Iowa
  • Cost of living: 14.3% below U.S. average
  • City population: 24,974
  • Median household income: $47,540
  • Median home value: $93,200 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.9%

Burlington sits on the Mississippi River, about 165 miles east of Des Moines. Manufacturing has long been a staple of the area economy, but a number of major employers have left over the years. Today, top employers include Great River Health System and American Ordnance, which makes ammunition for the U.S. military.

Utilities in Burlington are close to 12% more expensive than the national average and healthcare costs are essentially the same. Inexpensive housing is what makes Burlington a truly affordable small town. Housing-related costs are 35% cheaper compared to what the average American pays. Rents, on average, are almost 40% lower than the national average.

True, median incomes are 28% lower than the national figure, but then, median home values are cheaper by more than 60%.

5 of 12

Ponca City, Okla.

photo of a courthouse in Ponca City, OKphoto of a courthouse in Ponca City, OK
  • Cost of living: 14.5% below U.S. average
  • City population: 24,134
  • Median household income: $44,043
  • Median home value: $96,600 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.8%

Ponca City traces its lineage back to the days of the Land Run of 1893, when pioneers decided to build a town in north-central Oklahoma near the Arkansas River and a freshwater spring. Not long after its founding, enterprising oil men successfully drilled wells in the area, and Ponca City remains an oil town to this day. The area’s largest employers include energy companies such as Schlumberger (SLB), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Phillips 66 (PSX).

Household incomes are well below the national median, but housing is a heck of a deal. The median value of a Ponca City home is just $96,600. Nationally, it’s $240,500. Indeed, total housing costs are just two-thirds of what the average American pays, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index. Residents also catch a break on healthcare, which is 12.4% less expensive.

Although it’s among the cheapest small towns in America, Ponca City’s low costs of living do come at a cost of their own: The town sits pretty much in the middle of Tornado Alley.

6 of 12

Martinsville, Va.

photo of Martinsville Speedwayphoto of Martinsville Speedway
  • Cost of living: 15.2% below U.S. average
  • City population: 12,852
  • Median household income: $34,371
  • Median home value: $87,700 
  • Unemployment rate: 9.8%

Martinsville needs no introduction to race fans. The tiny Virginia town, an hour’s drive south of Roanoke, lays claim to the Martinsville Speedway of NASCAR fame. Racing enthusiasts laud the short track for its tight turns and intimate seating.

Beyond the track, manufacturing has always been central to the area’s economy, and although a number of firms have moved on over the past decades, factory work remains important. Major employers include Eastman Chemical (EMN), a manufacturer of plastics, and Monogram Foods.

Martinsville has a rich history dating back to colonial times, and the town boasts multiple historic districts and historic sites including the John Waddey Carter House and the Dry Bridge School.

But Martinsville also is notable as one of America’s cheapest small towns. Housing expenses are 32% below the national average. Fittingly for a racing town, gasoline is about 6% cheaper per gallon.

7 of 12

Salina, Kan.

photo of downtown Salina, KSphoto of downtown Salina, KS
  • Cost of living: 16.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 46,998
  • Median household income: $50,490
  • Median home value: $129,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3%

The small town of Salina sits at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 135, about 90 miles north of Wichita and 180 miles west of Kansas City.

Manufacturing and healthcare are among the town’s most important industries. Major employers include Schwan’s Company, the maker of Tony’s frozen pizza; Great Plains Manufacturing, which serves the agricultural industry; and the Salina Regional Health Center. Salina is also home to several institutions of higher education, including the University of Kansas School of Medicine Salina Campus and Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus.

This economic mix is producing both low unemployment and low living costs. Housing expenses run two-thirds of the national average, according to C2ER. Groceries are cheaper too, running about 8% lower than the national average.

Utility bills, however, take a bit of a bite. In Salina, they’re almost 2% higher than the U.S. average.

8 of 12

Statesboro, Ga.

courthouse Statesboro, GAcourthouse Statesboro, GA
  • Cost of living: 16.8% below U.S. average
  • City population: 31,495
  • Median household income: $29,203
  • Median home value: $113,600 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.8%

As home to the flagship campus of Georgia Southern University, Statesboro offers many of the benefits of college-town living but at exceedingly affordable prices. Thanks to its status as an academic hub, cultural attractions tied to the local university include a performing arts center, symphony, museum, planetarium and botanic gardens.

Another perk? The charming city of Savannah is just an hour’s drive to the southeast.

Although the university is the area’s largest employer, manufacturing jobs also play an important part in the local economy. At the same time, it should be noted that Statesboro has a high poverty rate, or 41.8% vs. 13.3% for the state of Georgia as a whole.

Statesboro’s place among America’s cheapest small towns is largely due to housing costs, which are about 32% lower compared with the national average, while healthcare runs roughly 14% below average. For example, a visit to a doctor costs about 24% less in Statesboro. Dental care is about a fifth less expensive, according to the C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

9 of 12

Tupelo, Miss.

photo of house where Elvis Presley was bornphoto of house where Elvis Presley was born
  • Cost of living: 19% below U.S. average
  • City population: 38,271
  • Median household income: $50,694
  • Median home value: $145,400 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.6%

Tupelo’s biggest claim to fame is being the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Indeed, the town, 100 miles southeast of Memphis’s Graceland, is looking forward to hosting its 23rd annual Elvis Festival in June. (Last year’s gathering was a virtual-only affair.)

Not a fan of The King? The cultural scene also includes the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and the Tupelo Automobile Museum. But Tupelo’s second-biggest claim to fame is arguably its super-low living costs. Electric and gas bills are about 12% lower than the national average, according to the Cost of Living Index. Housing is 34% cheaper and groceries go for 16% less.

For residents not making a living as Elvis impersonators, major employers include North Mississippi Health Services, Cooper Tire & Rubber (CTB) and BancorpSouth (BXS), which is headquartered in Tupelo.

10 of 12

Richmond, Ind.

Amish man in horse and buggyAmish man in horse and buggy
  • Cost of living: 19.1% below U.S. average
  • City population: 35,539
  • Median household income: $39,724
  • Median home value: $88,400 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.1%

Few cities of any size can claim Richmond’s place in the early history of recorded jazz. Some of the first jazz records were made in this small town, featuring greats such as Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. There’s a Walk of Fame celebrating jazz and other artists who recorded with Richmond’s Gennett Records.

While jazz will always be part of its history, today’s Richmond, which is an hour’s drive west from Dayton, Ohio, is known more for its colleges and seminaries. They include Indiana University East, the Earlham School of Religion (part of Quaker-influenced Earlham College) and the Bethany Theological Seminary.

Inexpensive housing is a key to Richmond’s place among our nation’s cheapest small towns. Residents spend 34% less on housing than the average American does. Apartment rents are about half the national average. Average home prices are 26% less. Healthcare is also a bargain. For example, a visit to the eye doctor costs about 50% less than the national average. An appointment with a physician is cheaper by a third.

11 of 12

Muskogee, Okla.

museum in Muskogee, OKmuseum in Muskogee, OK
  • Cost of living: 19.2% below U.S. average
  • City population: 37,624
  • Median household income: $38,194
  • Median home value: $92,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.3%

Muskogee packs a lot of history, culture and colleges into a small package.

Located about 50 miles south of Tulsa, the town traces its roots back to 1817. It’s home to four institutions of higher learning, as well as the Oklahoma School for the Blind. Jim Thorpe – All-American, the 1951 film starring Burt Lancaster, was shot on the campus of what was then known as the Bacone Indian University in Muskogee. The town also boasts six museums and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

And let’s not forget what is arguably the town’s most famous appearance in popular culture – Merle Haggard’s hit song “Okie from Muskogee,” which became an emblem of Vietnam-era America. 

Today, the area’s employers include the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a VA medical center and paper company Georgia-Pacific.

But what really puts Muskogee on the map is its ultra-low cost of living. The biggest break comes from housing-related expenses, which are more than 35% lower than the national average, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index. Transportation, groceries and healthcare are notably cheaper, too.

12 of 12

Pittsburg, Kan.

Russ Hall at Pittsburg State UniversityRuss Hall at Pittsburg State University
  • Cost of living: 19.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 20,171
  • Median household income: $34,956
  • Median home value: $88,500 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.4%

The cheapest small town in America is Pittsburg, Kan., based on the 269 urban areas analyzed by C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

Pittsburg is about a two-hour drive due south from Kansas City on Route 69. When you get there, you’ll find a small town with a cost of living more than 19% below the national average.

Once upon a time, the town was known for its abundance of coal and the Southern and Eastern European immigrants who worked the mines. Today, the area relies more heavily on higher education, thanks to the presence of Pittsburg State University. Famous alumni of Pittsburg’s local university include actor Gary Busey and Brian Moorman, retired two-time Pro Bowl punter for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Although median incomes are almost $31,000 below the national average, median home prices are a whopping $152,000 cheaper. That helps make housing costs 37.2% less expensive than what the average American pays. A myriad of other items are cheap, as well. For example, a haircut will set you back an average of $14.82 vs. $18.88 nationally. Shampoo costs 89 cents, whereas the average American pays $1.05.

Source: kiplinger.com

Social Security Recipients to Get Third Stimulus Check This Week

Millions of seniors who didn’t file a 2019 or 2020 tax return could receive a third stimulus check this week. After receiving data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) on March 25, the IRS was able to start processing third stimulus payments for approximately 30 million seniors. These people will generally get their stimulus payment in the same way they get their regular Social Security benefits. Since most of these payments will be paid electronically through direct deposits or to existing Direct Express debit cards, the funds should be available on April 7 for many seniors.

Third stimulus payments are generally based on information found on your 2019 or 2020 tax return. That’s why many people who receive Social Security benefits who filed a 2019 or 2020 return, or who used the IRS’s Non-Filers tool last year, already received a third stimulus check. However, since some Social Security recipients don’t file tax returns, the IRS didn’t have the necessary information in its computer systems to process third-round stimulus payments for them. That’s why the tax agency needed data from the SSA to send out checks to seniors who haven’t file a recent tax return.

In addition to seniors receiving Social Security retirement benefits, payments will also be arriving on April 7 for some people receiving Social Security disability (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits who didn’t file a 2019 or 2020 tax return or didn’t use the Non-Filers tool. The IRS is still reviewing data received from the Department of Veterans Affairs for people who receive VA benefits, so payments to them will come later (probably in mid-April).

Most Social Security, SSDI, SSI, and RRB beneficiaries who are eligible for a third stimulus check don’t need to take any action to receive a payment (not everyone is eligible). However, as with previous stimulus payments, some beneficiaries may need to file a 2020 tax return – even if they don’t usually file – to provide the IRS the information it needs to send an additional $1,400 for any dependents. The deadline for filing a 2020 tax return has been pushed back from April 15 to May 17, 2021.

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Amount of Your Third Stimulus Check

Every eligible American will receive a $1,400 third stimulus check “base amount.” The base amount jumps to $2,800 for married couples filing a joint tax return. You also get an extra $1,400 for each dependent in your family (regardless of the dependent’s age).

Not everyone will receive the full amount, though. As with the first two stimulus payments, third-round stimulus checks will be reduced – potentially to zero – for people reporting an adjusted gross income (AGI) above a certain amount on their latest tax return. If you filed your most recent tax return as a single filer, your third stimulus check will be phased-out if your AGI is $75,000 or more. That threshold jumps to $112,500 for head-of-household filers, and to $150,000 for married couples filing a joint return. Third-round stimulus checks will be completely phased out for single filers with an AGI above $80,000, head-of-household filers with an AGI over $120,000, and joint filers with an AGI exceeding $160,000.

You can use our handy Third Stimulus Check Calculator to get a customized estimated payment amount. All you have to do is answer three easy questions.

How to Track the Status of Your Third Stimulus Check

The IRS’s “Get My Payment” tool lets you track your third stimulus check payment. The online portal lets you:

  • Check the status of your stimulus payment;
  • Confirm your payment type (paper check or direct deposit); and
  • Get a projected direct deposit or paper check delivery date (or find out if a payment hasn’t been scheduled).

Payments for Social Security recipients and other federal beneficiaries with an official payment date of April 7 may show up in the portal before that date as “pending” or “provisional” payments.

For more information about the tool, see Where’s My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS’s “Get My Payment” Tool to Get an Answer.

Source: kiplinger.com

Third Stimulus Check Update: Supplemental “Plus-Up” Payments Coming Soon

Did you already get a third stimulus check? If so, would you like the IRS to send you even more money? Well, for some people, that’s exactly what’s going to happen, thanks to a new twist in the recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act that requires the IRS to send a supplemental payment to certain people who already received a third stimulus check. (And we’re not talking about a fourth round of stimulus payments to everyone.) The IRS is calling these extra checks “plus-up” payments, and some lucky Americans could get them as early as next week.

Generally, supplemental payments will go to Americans who received a third stimulus check that was based on information taken from their 2019 federal income tax return or some other source, but who are eligible for a larger payment based on a 2020 return that is filed and/or processed later. This could happen, for example, if you had a new baby last year that is reported as a dependent for the first time on your 2020 return (see below for other possible triggers).

So, if you haven’t already filed your 2020 return, you may have an extra incentive to get it done quickly. Your 2020 return must be filed and processed by the IRS before August 16, 2021 (or September 1 if the May 17 filing deadline is pushed back any further) if you want to get a supplemental payment. That means you still have plenty of time to act – by why wait? The sooner you turn in your return, the sooner you’ll get your “plus-up” payment.

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How Stimulus Payments Are Calculated

Each eligible American will receive a $1,400 third stimulus check “base amount” ($2,800 for married couples filing a joint tax return). Plus, for each dependent in your family, the IRS will tack on an additional $1,400. Unlike for the previous stimulus payments, the age of the dependent is irrelevant.

However, third-round stimulus checks will then be “phased out” (i.e., reduced) for people with an adjusted gross income (AGI) above a certain amount. If you filed your most recent tax return as a single filer, your payment will be reduced if your AGI is over $75,000. It will be completely phased-out if your AGI is $80,000 or more. For head-of-household filers, the phase-out begins when AGI reaches $112,500 and payments are reduced to zero when AGI hits $120,000. Married couples filing a joint return will see their third stimulus check drop if their AGI exceeds $150,000 and completely disappear when AGI is $160,000 or more.

The IRS will look at your 2019 or 2020 tax return to determine your filing status, AGI, and information about your dependents. If you don’t file a 2019 or 2020 return, the IRS can sometimes get the information it needs from another source. For instance, it can get information from the Social Security Administration, Railroad Retirement Board, or Veterans Administration if you’re currently receiving benefits from one of those federal agencies (although the IRS might not get all the information it needs to send a full payment). If you supplied the IRS information last year through its online Non-Filers tool or by submitting a special simplified tax return, the tax agency can use that information, too.

If your 2020 tax return isn’t filed and processed by the time it starts processing your third stimulus check, the IRS will base your payment on your 2019 return or whatever other information is available. If your 2020 return is already filed and processed, then your stimulus check will be based on that return. If, however, your 2020 return is not filed and/or processed until after the IRS sends your third stimulus check, but before August 16, 2021, that’s when the IRS will send you a supplemental payment for the difference between what your payment should have been if based on your 2020 return and the payment actually sent that was based on your 2019 return or other data.

(Note: The IRS is experiencing tax return processing delays. So, even if you submit your 2020 return before the IRS sends your stimulus check, your payment still might be based on your 2019 return because your 2020 return isn’t processed in time. Returns filed electronically are generally processed faster than paper returns.)

If the American Rescue Plan didn’t authorize supplemental payments, you would still get your money if the payment based on your 2020 tax return is higher than the payment you actually received – but you would have to wait until next year to get it. Without a “pull-up” payment, you would have to claim the difference as a Recovery Rebate credit on your 2021 tax return, which you won’t file until 2022.

[Use our Third Stimulus Check Calculator to compare your payment if it’s based on your 2019 return vs. your 2020 return. Just answer three easy questions to get a customized estimate.]

Who Will Get a Supplemental “Plus-Up” Payment

Again, you’ll only get a supplemental “plus-up” payment if you received a third stimulus check based on your 2019 tax return or other information, but you would have gotten a larger check if the IRS based it on your 2020 return. So, who falls into this category? Of course, it depends on your specific circumstance. However, to give you a general idea, here are a few examples of hypothetical taxpayers who would get a supplemental payment.

You Had Less Income in 2020 Than in 2019: Kay was unemployed for much of 2020. As a result, her AGI dropped from $78,000 in 2019 to $40,000 in 2020. Kay received a $560 third stimulus check that was based on her 2019 return (she is single with no dependents). Since her 2019 AGI was above the phase-out threshold for single filers ($75,000), her payment was reduced. Kay later files her 2020 tax return, which is processed before August 16, 2021. Since Kay’s 2020 AGI is well below the applicable phase-out threshold, her third stimulus check would have been for $1,400 if it were based on her 2020 return. As a result, Kay will receive a $840 supplemental payment ($1,400 – $560 = $840).

You Had a Baby in 2020: Josh and Samantha had their first child in 2020. They’ve been married for five years, and they file a joint return each year. Their AGI was $110,000 in 2019 and $120,000 in 2020, which are both below the phase-out threshold for joint filers ($150,000). The IRS sent Josh and Samantha a $2,800 third stimulus check based on their 2019 return. They filed their 2020 tax return before the IRS sent the payment, but the return was not processed until a week after the payment was sent. That’s why the payment was based on their 2019 return. Since Josh and Samantha claimed their new bundle of joy as a dependent on their 2020 return, their stimulus check would have been for $4,200 if it were based on their 2020 return (i.e., they would have received an additional $1,400 for their baby). As a result, the IRS will send Josh and Samantha a $1,400 supplemental payment ($4,200 – $2,800 = $1,400).

You Got Married in 2020: Patty and Greg were married in 2020. They had a combined AGI of $150,000 in 2020 and have no dependents. In 2019, as separate single filers, Patty had an AGI of $72,000 and Greg had an AGI of $78,000. The IRS sent Patty a $1,400 third stimulus check based on her 2019 return. Since her 2019 AGI was below the phase-out threshold for single filers ($75,000), her payment was not reduced. The IRS sent Greg a $560 third stimulus check based on his 2019 return. Since his 2019 AGI was above the phase-out threshold for single filers, his payment was reduced. Between the two of them, they got a total of $1,960 in third stimulus check payments ($1,400 + $560 = $1,960). After receiving their stimulus checks, Patty and Greg file a joint return for the 2020 tax year that is processed before August 16, 2021. Since the AGI reported on their 2020 joint return does not exceed the phase-out threshold for joint filers ($150,000), their stimulus check would have been for $2,800 if it were based on their 2020 return (i.e., it wouldn’t have been reduced). As a result, the IRS will send Patty and Greg a $840 supplemental payment ($2,800 – $1,960 = $840).

You Used the Non-Filers Tool Last Year: Mary is single and has two dependent children. One turned 15 and the other turned 18 in 2020. Mary was not required to file a 2019 tax return, but she did use the IRS’s Non-Filers tool last year to get a first-round stimulus check. Since children over 16 did not qualify for the extra $500 payment for first-round payments, Mary only reported her youngest child to through the tool. The IRS sent Mary a $2,800 third stimulus check based on the information it received through the Non-Filers tool. Mary later files a 2020 tax return, which is processed before August 16, 2021. She used the head-of-household filing status, reported an AGI of $15,000, and claimed both of her children as dependents. For third-round stimulus checks, an additional $1,400 is added to the total payment for each dependent regardless of the dependent’s age. Since Mary’s 2020 AGI is below the phase-out threshold for head-of-household filers ($112,500), her third stimulus check would have been for $4,200 if it were based on her 2020 return. As a result, Mary will receive a $1,400 supplemental payment ($4,200 – $2,800 = $1,400).

A Federal Agency Supplied Information to the IRS: Ron is a disabled veteran who receives benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He is single and has one dependent child. Ron was not required to file a 2019 tax return, but the VA sent information to the IRS about Ron. The VA did not send any information about Ron’s child. Based on the information it had, the IRS sent Ron a $1,400 third stimulus check. After receiving this payment, Ron files a 2020 tax return, which is processed before August 16, 2021. Ron filed as a single person with an AGI of $18,000 and one dependent. Since Ron’s 2020 AGI does not exceed the phase-out threshold for single filers ($75,000), his third stimulus check would have been for $2,800 if it were based on his 2020 return. As a result, the IRS will send Ron a $1,400 supplemental payment ($2,800 – $1,400 = $1,400).

Source: kiplinger.com

Social Security Recipients to Get Third Stimulus Check Next Week

Millions of seniors who didn’t file a 2019 or 2020 tax return could receive a third stimulus check next week. After receiving data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) on March 25, the IRS says it has already started reviewing, validating, and testing the information needed to process third stimulus payments for approximately 30 million seniors. Assuming there are no problems, the IRS expects to finish that work and begin processing payments by the end of this week. These seniors will generally get their stimulus payment in the same way they get their regular Social Security benefits. Since most of these payments will be paid electronically through direct deposits or to existing Direct Express debit cards, the funds should be available on April 7 for many seniors.

Third stimulus payments are generally based on information found on your 2019 or 2020 tax return. However, since some Social Security recipients don’t file tax returns, the IRS didn’t have the necessary information in its computer systems to process third-round stimulus payments. That’s why the tax agency needed data from the SSA to send out checks to seniors who haven’t file a recent tax return.

Many people who receive Social Security benefits who filed a 2019 or 2020 return, or who used the IRS’s Non-Filers tool last year, already received a third stimulus check. The IRS’s statement about payments arriving on April 7 applies to people receiving Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits who didn’t file a 2019 or 2020 tax return or didn’t use the Non-Filers tool. The IRS is still reviewing data received from the Department of Veterans Affairs for people who receive VA benefits, so payments to them will come later.

Most Social Security, SSI, and RRB beneficiaries who are eligible for a third stimulus check don’t need to take any action to receive a payment (not everyone is eligible). However, as with previous stimulus payments, some beneficiaries may need to file a 2020 tax return – even if they don’t usually file – to provide the IRS the information it needs to send an additional $1,400 for any dependents. The deadline for filing a 2020 tax return has been pushed back from April 15 to May 17, 2021.

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Amount of Your Third Stimulus Check

Every eligible American will receive a $1,400 third stimulus check “base amount.” The base amount jumps to $2,800 for married couples filing a joint tax return. You also get an extra $1,400 for each dependent in your family (regardless of the dependent’s age).

Not everyone will receive the full amount, though. As with the first two stimulus payments, third-round stimulus checks will be reduced – potentially to zero – for people reporting an adjusted gross income (AGI) above a certain amount on their latest tax return. If you filed your most recent tax return as a single filer, your third stimulus check will be phased-out if your AGI is $75,000 or more. That threshold jumps to $112,500 for head-of-household filers, and to $150,000 for married couples filing a joint return. Third-round stimulus checks will be completely phased out for single filers with an AGI above $80,000, head-of-household filers with an AGI over $120,000, and joint filers with an AGI exceeding $160,000.

You can use our handy Third Stimulus Check Calculator to get a customized estimated payment amount. All you have to do is answer three easy questions.

How to Track the Status of Your Third Stimulus Check

The IRS’s “Get My Payment” tool lets you track your third stimulus check payment. The online portal lets you:

  • Check the status of your stimulus payment;
  • Confirm your payment type (paper check or direct deposit); and
  • Get a projected direct deposit or paper check delivery date (or find out if a payment hasn’t been scheduled).

However, according to the IRS, the tool won’t be updated until the weekend of April 3 – 4 with information for Social Security recipients expecting payments next week.

For more information about the tool, see Where’s My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS’s “Get My Payment” Tool to Get an Answer.

Source: kiplinger.com

Veterans: Get 100% Financing on Home Loans up to $1 Million

In this article:

What Is a VA Loan?

A VA loan is a mortgage loan that’s backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for those who have served or are presently serving in the U.S. military. While the VA does not lend money for VA loans, it backs loans made by private lenders (banks, savings and loans, or mortgage companies) to veterans, active military personnel, and military spouses who qualify.

There are three types of VA loans: purchase loans, interest rate reduction refinance loans (or IRRRL, also referred to as a VA streamline refinance loan), and cash-out refinance loans. There are many benefits to a VA loan, but one of biggest benefits is that no down payment is needed to purchase a home. This can make home ownership a reality for active military or veterans who might otherwise not be able to afford it.

Who Is Eligible for VA Loans?

VA loans are designed for military personnel, veterans, and military families. The list of those who are eligible for this home-buying military benefit include:

  • Veterans
  • Active-duty personnel
  • Reserve  members
  • National Guard members
  • Some surviving spouses

You must also have suitable credit, sufficient income, and a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE). And you must use the home for your own personal occupancy. Still unsure if you’re eligible? Check the Department of Veterans Affairs website for a detailed list of eligibility requirements for military service members, veterans, and military spouses.


Need help with your VA loan? Find a VA lender on Zillow   Arrow


What Are the Benefits?

The VA loan program offers some of the most attractive and flexible loan benefits available, and they are exclusively for military personnel, veterans and their families. Perhaps the two biggest benefits that make these loan more affordable than a typical loan are that the borrower typically does not need to make a down payment, and there is no private mortgage insurance (PMI) requirement.

Here’s a look at the complete list of benefits, as taken directly from the Veterans Affairs site:

  • No down payment required
  • Negotiable and competitive interest rate.
  • Ability to finance the VA funding fee (plus reduced funding fees with a down payment of at least 5 percent and exemption for veterans receiving VA compensation).
  • VA rules limit the amount you can be charged for closing costs.
  • Closing costs are comparable with other financing types (and may be lower).
  • Closing costs may be paid by the seller.
  • No private mortgage insurance premiums are required.
  • An assumable mortgage.
  • Right to prepay your mortgage without penalty.
  • For homes inspected by VA during construction, a warranty from builder and assistance from VA to obtain cooperation of builder.
  • VA assistance to veteran borrowers in default due to temporary financial difficulty.

How Can Veterans & Military Personnel Get VA Loans?

Veterans, active military personnel, and military families can follow these steps to get a VA loan:

  1. Make sure you are eligible for a VA loan. Check the VA website for a detailed list of eligibility requirements for military service members, veterans, and military spouses.
  2. Find a lender that participates in the VA home loan program. You can find a VA lender in your area here.
  3. Get a Certificate of Eligibility from the VA to prove you are eligible for a VA loan. Learn how to get a Certificate of Eligibility here. Or, your lender can request one on your behalf.
  4. Apply for your VA loan. Your VA lender will work with you to complete the steps needed to finance your home.

How to Find a VA Lender

There are many ways for veterans and military personnel to find a VA lender, such as getting recommendations from friends, or searching on the VA website. And just like conventional loans, it can pay to shop around and talk to several different lenders.

Zillow helps make it easy to find a VA lender in your area. Use this link to answer a few questions about the home you want to buy, and you’ll find a VA lender in minutes. You can also shop for live, custom VA loan mortgage quotes anonymously on Zillow, and then contact the lenders whose quotes you are interested in. Be sure to check the “Military/Veteran?” box so that VA loans will come up in your search results.

Source: zillow.com