Tag Archives: millennials

UNDERSTANDING HOW YOUR CREDIT RATING IMPACTS YOUR HOME BUYING OPTIONS

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Raymond C. McMillan, BA., Mortgage and Real Estate Advisor – May 17, 2020

In our previous blog we briefly touched on the importance of your credit profile and debt, and how it affects you in the mortgage application process. Your credit profile or credit report gives the lender a snapshot at the way you manage your finances, so they can determine if you are a good or bad credit risk when it comes to lending you money. So how is your credit profile or credit score determined? There are five categories that impact the calculation of your credit score. They are:

  1. Types of Credit
  2. New Credit
  3. Length of Credit History
  4. Amounts Owed
  5. Payment History.

Each category has a weight that is used in your credit score calculation and impacts your credit rating.

TYPES OF CREDIT used by you will have an impact on your credit rating. What do we mean by type of credit? Here we are referring to the types of lenders that currently hold any loan you have outstanding. Someone who has finance company credit products and department store credit cards will usually have a lower credit score than someone who uses the financial products of major banks, credit unions and trust companies. Similarly, financing your automobile through the manufacturers finance division or your financial institution will also more positively impact your credit score than using a secondary automotive finance company.

NEW CREDIT also has an impact on your credit score calculation. A high amount of new credit accounts will usually have a lender asking questions. You may wonder why? Usually it is because it is usually an indication of two things, the person has had credit issues in the past and are currently rebuilding their credit rating or they are a credit seeker trying to get access to as much credit as they can in a short space of time. The former is not a major issue for most lenders, providing there is a reasonable explanation, but the latter could be a red flag for some lenders.

LENGTH OF CREDIT HISTORY has a relatively significant impact on your credit score. The longer you have had credit products, the more comfortable the lender will be with you as it displays financial maturity and responsibility. So, it is important to keep that first credit card you ever got with a five hundred dollar credit limit when you sixteen or seventeen years old. While most lenders will want to see a credit profile that is one to two years old, a recent credit profile with a 800 credit score may not be as impressive as a 680 credit score that has reported for more than ten years. Mortagge lenders want to see more than just a high credit score, they want to see how you have managed your debt and credit repayment over an extended period.

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AMOUNTS OWED on your credit cards has the second highest impact on calculating your credit score. When applying for a mortgage, lenders are more reluctant to loan money to potential homebuyers who have high amounts of consumer debt – either revolving or instalment. If the amounts owing on your credit cards are at or near the limit for most of the credit reporting cycles, this will significantly lower your credit score. However, of all the variables that impact your credit score, this is perhaps the easiest to remedy. If you have an established credit profile with no payment delinquencies but have credit cards that are all at the limits, paying them off or down to less than half of the credit limit can see your credit score increase by several points in a month to two months.

PAYMENT HISTORY is our final and perhaps most important variable in computing your credit score. The approach here is quite simple – pay your bills on time to maintain a decent credit rating. I always say, “bad things sometimes happen to good people” and these bad things could be anything from job loss to illness to divorce, could significantly affect your ability to pay your bills on time. If you find yourself in any of these situations my advice is to contact your credit grantor and let them know your circumstances so they can work with you and protect your credit rating. It is important to make your payments on time both on your credit cards and instalment loans and avoid late payments and delinquencies. Most mortgage lenders will look at your payment history over the last year or two when reviewing your application to make a lending decision.

Keep in mind a poor credit score is not a life sentence and can be fixed with a few steps. In the case of delinquent debt that has been transferred to a collection company, settling that debt and repairing your credit is a quite simple process.

As a consumer, it is important to check your credit profile periodically to ensure there are no inaccuracies. To check your credit score, you can contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax Phone: 800-685-1111, Experian Phone: 888- 397-3742 and TransUnion Phone: 800-909-8872.

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The writer: Raymond McMillan is a mortgage broker and real estate consultant and principal of The McMillan Group who has been in the banking, mortgage and real estate industry since 1994. He has been licensed as a mortgage broker since 1999 and has helped many people purchase their homes and invest in real estate. You can reach him at 1-866-883-0885 or visit www.TheMcMillanGroupInc.com

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Trapped: Helping separated clients manage unwanted cohabitation during COVID-19

Trapped: Helping separated clients manage unwanted cohabitation during COVID-19

There’s a certain level of connectedness that comes from dealing closely with clients’ finances, their families and their dreams for the future. Because of the proximity to a client’s life and everything that makes it unique and worth securing, it’s only natural for brokers to concern themselves with more than just the bottom line.

When COVID-19 came barrelling toward Canada in March and strict social distancing and stay-at-home orders were put in place, one of the many unforeseen disruptions involved couples in the midst of divorces or separations being forced to shelter in place together.

“Pre-COVID-19, couples that were at crossroads in their relationships, someone would just pick up and go. They could easily find accommodations,” says Nathalie Boutet of Boutet Family Law and Mediation in Toronto. “Right now, with COVID-19, it’s very difficult for people to move out quickly. They don’t know where to go, they don’t know what’s available and you can’t see suites in person.”

The inability to separate has put many couples into complex, sometimes violent situations. In those involving domestic abuse, many victims simply have nowhere else to go. Government shelters are full and most short-term solutions, like Airbnb’s, have been taken off the market.

“People are nervous, and they’re accessing mediation services to try and sort out rules and regulations around their current properties,” Boutet says.

For owners bent on selling, one of the ongoing problems is access to a comprehensive appraisal, which is critical in ensuring the separated parties receive a fair share of the proceeds. Realtors can still access data on comparable properties to determine a home’s value, but few would trust the comps established over the last four weeks. Certified home evaluators can provide a more thorough look at a property’s structure – if they can get inside.

Faced with the prospect of selling into an unpredictable market, the advice most mortgage professionals would give would be “Don’t sell!” But Boutet says there may be more at stake than achieving an above-asking sale price.

“It’s really important to figure out what’s going on in the house. Is there a lot of pressure? Is someone really, really unhappy and you can see it?” she says. “If there are children and it’s really, really tense, there should be ways to put the house up for sale.”

That might involve moving more quickly than most mortgage brokers and real estate agents would prefer. Boutet suggests patch-ups over renovations and says sellers could potentially reach out to staging companies for advice rather than waiting for an in-home consultation that can’t legally occur.

Selling rather than waiting out the pandemic may also help alleviate some of the stress involved with selling a home, which will be particularly high in separated households also reeling from COVID-19 layoffs.

“It’s not just a commercial issue right now,” Boutet says. “It’s also an emotional issue, and an energy issue.”

Mortgage brokers don’t have a legal obligation to step in and try to improve a client’s domestic situation, but Boutet urges them to be observant and sensitive and be willing to refer clients to services they may be in need of, whether it’s moderate mediation or full-on therapy.

“Mortgage people are people persons. They have instincts and they’re super good at picking things up,” she says. “Don’t hesitate to refer out to professionals because there are a lot of services that are running efficiently, even under COVID-19.

 

Source: Mortgage Broker News – by Clayton Jarvis 08 May 2020

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FOUR STEPS TO BUYING YOUR FIRST HOME

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Raymond C. McMillan BA., Mortgage and Real Estate Advisor – May 4, 2020

A few years ago, I was listening to a program on a local television station and they were discussing the benefits of investing in the stock market and renting over buying your own home. The guest on the program believed it made more sense to pay rent and invest in the stock market, than purchase a home. Then the TV host asked him if he owned his own home, and he responded “yes”. At that point, I turned the television off.

Many will say that in some cases homeownership is overrated. I strongly disagree. Owning a home is one of the fastest ways to grow your net worth and start the journey to creating generational wealth. Not only is growing your net worth important but it is a proven fact that children who grow up in homes, display better overall social character traits.

Buying your first home is much easier than you think, if you have a plan. There are four basic steps in the journey of homeownership. These are: understanding your credit and debt, your down payment, your employment and sources of income, and finding the right home

Understanding Your Credit and Debt: Your credit plays an important role in purchasing your home. Your credit profile or credit report gives the lender a snapshot of the way you manage your finances which determines if you are a good or bad credit risk when it comes to lending you money. This is done by reviewing your credit report. Your credit report is made up of information collected by three agencies and is shared with lenders. The agencies are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. The agencies use a scoring system to determine your credit worthiness. The score ranges from 360 to 850, with 360 being the worse score and 850 being the best. Ideally your score should be within the range of 620 to 750*. The credit score is determined by how well you pay your bills and how much is owed on credit cards and instalment loans. If your bills are not paid in a timely manner, and you carry high credit card balances, your credit score will be lower. If your bills are paid on time and you have low outstanding balances on your credit cards, you will have a higher credit score. To check your credit score, you can contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax Phone: 800-685-1111, Experian Phone: 888- 397-3742 and TransUnion Phone: 800-909-8872.

Down Payment: The next step in the home purchasing journey is having your down payment. Your down payment is the required funds the lender needs you to have to qualify for the home you are purchasing. This can range from 3% – 20% of the home purchase price.  The minimum amount of down payment required is 3% of the purchase price of the home. Therefore, if you are purchasing a home for $300,000.00, your minimum required down payment will be a minimum of $9,000.00. Where do you get these funds? It could be a gift from family, money you saved over time or a loan. If it is a loan, you will have to ensure that you are still able to qualify for the mortgage with this additional debt. Once you decide to go house hunting you will be required to have this money readily available. Remember, you will also need money for your closing costs. These closing costs include but are not limited to your lender fees and title fees.

Employment and Sources of Income: The lender will look at are your income sources. This will allow them to understand your ability to pay for the home you intend to purchase. Prior to beginning your search for a home, you should examine your budget to determine how much you can comfortably afford to pay monthly for your mortgage. Remember, home ownership should be enjoyable, not a stressful experience. So, what are the main income sources? These include salary and hourly wages, commission income, self employed income, alimony and child support, investment income, pension income and income from a trust. Note any sources of income that are used for the mortgage application, will be validated by the lender.

Your Home: This is without a doubt the most exciting part of the home buying process, and the one that needs careful analysis. Now that you have knowledge of our credit rating, have your down payment and have been pre-approved based on your income, it is time to determine what home works best for you. My recommendation is to assess your needs. If you are single a condo may work best. If you have a young family, then it many be important to have a backyard for the children. If you work in the city, it may be important to be close to transit. There is much to be considered when determining where to buy your first home. You want to ensure the neighbourhood works for you, because you may be there for a while. Some things to consider are: is it close to transit? What are the schools like if you have school age children? How close or far it is from your family and friends? What is the crime statistics like? Is it a declining or improving neighbourhood? Are there parks and cycling and running trails close by? I am sure you have some of your own things to add to this list.

Now that the four steps have been outlined, it is now time to put your home buying team together.

 

The writer: Raymond McMillan is a mortgage broker and real estate consultant who has been in the banking, mortgage and real estate industry since 1994. He has been licensed as a mortgage broker since 1999 and has helped many people purchase their homes and invest in real estate. You can reach him at 1-866-883-0885 or visit www.TheMcMillanGroupInc.com

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Should I Buy a House During the Coronavirus Crisis? An Essential Guide

Spring is upon us, which typically involves a big peak of home buyers checking out properties, negotiating, and closing on new places. But the coronavirus outbreak—with its quarantine measures and economic uncertainties—has many a real estate shopper wondering: Should I buy a home now, or wait?

We’re here to help you navigate this confusing new normal with this series, “Home Buying in the Age of Coronavirus.”

This first installment aims to help you figure out whether you can—and should—shop for a home right now, or hold off until this crisis blows over. Read on for some honest answers that will help you decide what to do.

The impact of the coronavirus on the housing market

So what state is the housing market in right now, anyway? While that depends on how bad an outbreak an area is suffering, most markets are feeling some sort of hit.

“The coronavirus is leading to fewer home buyers searching in the marketplace, as well as some listings being delayed,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors®.

The latest NAR Flash Survey: Economic Pulse, conducted on March 16 and 17, found that 48% of real estate agents have noticed a decrease in buyer interest attributable to the coronavirus outbreak.

However, nearly an equal number of members (45%) said that they believe lower-than-average mortgage rates are tempting buyers to shop around anyway, without any significant overall change in buyer behavior.

For those who are determined to buy a home, there is opportunity out there.

“This is the best buyer’s market I have ever seen in my career,” says Ryan Serhant of Nest Seekers and Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York.”

“Sellers are nervous, there’s excess supply, and interest rates have been hovering at historic lows. You can own a home for less per month than you can rent an equivalent property in most areas,” he adds.

With fewer home buyers out there looking, you have less competition in your way.

“Unmotivated and uncommitted buyers have dropped off,” adds Maggie Wells, a real estate professional in Lexington, KY. “Less competition is a huge leg up in this market.”

The window of opportunity for buyers won’t stay open wide forever. NAR data shows that there was a housing shortage prior to the outbreak.

“The temporary softening of the real estate market will likely be followed by a strong rebound, once the quarantine is lifted,” says Yun.

This pent-up demand could eventually push home prices higher. That could mean that the time to strike for bargains is now.

Bottom line: If social distancing has made you realize you don’t love the place where you’re currently spending most of your time, it’s a good time to consider buying.

How the housing industry has adapted to keep buyers safe

Although it’s a scary time to be out and about checking out real estate, it is still possible to do so and stay relatively safe. The industry has rapidly adapted, introducing approaches that minimize exposure to the virus.

For instance, many agents are now working remotely and conducting most of their business virtually.

“Buyer and seller consultations have transitioned to virtual meetings with success,” says Kate Ziegler, a real estate agent with Arborview Realty in Boston.

While open houses or showings may not be easy to arrange because of quarantine or other safety issues, real estate listings have stepped up to the plate by offering virtual tours.

“We can send clients videos of whatever properties they want to see, or we are happy to have our agents FaceTime from a property,” says Leslie Turner of Maison Real Estate in Charleston, SC.

While those who are immunocompromised may want to stay home, if you’re otherwise healthy, it is also still possible to see some homes in person in some parts of the country. You’ll want to take some precautions before you go.

“Hand sanitizer at the door has become the norm, as well as shoe covers, even on sunny days,” says Ziegler.

During the tour, it’s also now customary for the listing agent to open all doors, so that home buyers can explore closets and other enclosed spaces without touching anything as they look.

If you do make an offer that’s accepted and you head to the closing table, real estate agents and attorneys are also adapting to remote closings, to keep you out of a crowded conference room. (We’ll provide more information about virtual tours and remote closings in later installments.)

How to weigh economic concerns

Coronavirus aside, anyone thinking about buying a home is also likely to be weighing whether it’s a smart idea when the economy is in a downward spiral. But in the same way you can’t easily time a stock purchase to make a profit, you can’t easily time a home purchase, either.

“Recession or not, it’s impossible to time the market, whether for buying stock or buying real estate,” says Roger Ma, a New York–based financial planner and owner of lifelaidout.

Just keep in mind that while current market conditions offer an incredible opportunity for home buyers to lock in historically low interest rates for a mortgage, rates are actually going up quickly, because so many people are refinancing.

If you wait too long to buy, you may miss the money-saving boat. So make sure to read up on the latest mortgage rates first.

Besides mortgage rates, home buyers are probably wondering about the stability of their income, as fear of layoffs loom.

“We are entering uncharted territory,” says Michael Zschunke, a real estate agent in Scottsdale, AZ.

On the flip side, putting a property under contract now and locking in a low interest rate gives a buyer some control at a time of relative uncertainty, adds Turner.

The takeaway from all this? It matters more than ever to get pre-approved for a mortgage, to calculate your home-buying budget accurately.

If you’re worried about layoffs, you should buy a home well under budget so you have enough money left over for closing costs, home maintenance, and a rainy day fund. Now is the time to crunch your numbers more carefully than ever before. Below is what you need to consider.

  • Research ways to reduce your closing costs. For instance, many loans allow sellers to contribute up to 6% of the sale price to the buyer as a closing-cost credit.
  • Figure out how much you need to set aside for yearly home maintenance and repairs. A smart budget is to have between 1% and 4% of the purchase price of your home.
  • Be sure to put aside an emergency nest egg for unexpected repairs. On average, it’s a good idea to sock away 1% to 3% of a home’s value in cash reserves.

In our next installment, we’ll explore all the ways to conduct a house hunt safely. Stay tuned! In the meantime, here’s more on buying a home during a recession.

Source: Realtor.com –  | Apr 6, 2020
Margaret Heidenry is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Boston Magazine.
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Family Renovations: Tips for Involving the Kids

Undertaking a large renovation with children can be stressful, especially if they are toddlers. These tips for safely involving your kids in a small-scale renovation will make the experience both fun and educational.

Six quick tips for involving your children in a renovation:

1) Brainstorming

Explain what will happen during the renovation and ask them to share their design ideas with you! This is especially helpful if you’re planning a renovation that will benefit the whole family, like a new playroom in the basement.

2) Customized to Their Needs

Consider what will make your children’s lives easier and how they will use the new space/addition. Keep this in mind when planning the layout! Updating your kitchen? Consider or an extra sink in the kitchen island for easy clean up after baking cookies with the kids. Finishing the basement? Consider adding a half-bathroom near the playroom for quick bathroom breaks! SANIFLO®’s range of products makes it easy. SANIFLO®’s quiet macerators, pumping systems and self-contained toilets are cost-effective and easy to install, often in as little as one to two days with minimal construction or damage to existing walls and floors

3) Gain Inspiration and Build Excitement

Let your kids partake in paint color choices and overall decor. You get the final say, of course, but your children may have some great ideas you wouldn’t have considered otherwise! Encourage younger children to draw what they imagine the new space will look like and keep the artwork in a renovation scrapbook!

4) Age Appropriate Assistance

Depending on their age and skill level, children can help rip down wallpaper, paint walls or hand you small tools. Older children and teens can help with heavier work, clean up, and more!

5) Safety First

Safety is always the first concern when renovating a home, especially with small children running around. They are naturally curious and will want to see what is going on. Sharp tools, heavy furniture or harmful products can be dangerous so it is important to set up barriers around the work area, keep tools out of their reach and unplug all equipment when not in use. Set specific safety rules and don’t leave children unsupervised near the work area.

6) Adjusting Routines

A renovation can be a big disruption to a child;’s daily routine, especially when they are younger. Set up alternative areas for them to eat and play in while the renovation is underway and try to be mindful of quiet times like bed time or nap times, delegating quieter tasks to those time periods. Nothing makes a renovation more stressful like an over tired, crabby toddler!

Source: Canadian Home Trends

 

 

 

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4 Tips for Flipping Houses Successfully

Here’s how to find the right house to flip — and know what sort of renovations will help you command top dollar.

One effective way to make money through real estate investing is to know how to buy and flip houses. Often, this involves buying homes that are priced under-market, such as foreclosures or short sales, renovating them, and then selling them shortly after the fact at a higher price.

But flipping houses isn’t for the faint of heart, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could wind up losing money. With that in mind, here are a few tips for flipping houses that will increase your chances of coming out ahead financially.

1. Find a house to flip in the right location

The purpose of flipping a house is to find a buyer who’s willing to pay a handsome price for your hard work. As such, there’s no sense in buying a home in a stagnant market, because that property is likely to sit for a while once your renovations are done. A better bet? Do your research to find areas where housing is in high demand. Some generally good bets include suburbs of major cities with highly-rated school districts, areas in close proximity to major attractions, or metro areas where housing inventory is generally limited.

2. Make sure you’re buying well below market value

Flipping a home often means sinking thousands upon thousands of dollars into renovations. Even if you’re handy enough to do that work yourself, and have the time for it, supplies and materials cost money. Therefore, make certain the price you’re paying for a home to flip is reasonable, given the amount you’ll need to put into it. This means you may not want to buy a foreclosure at auction, when you’ll often be unable to perform an inspection. A better bet could be a short sale or REO property, where you have a chance to see what you’re getting into.

3. Focus on improvements with the best return on investment

If the home you buy to flip has damaged plumbing and out-of-code electrical work, you’ll clearly need to address those issues if you want to be able to sell it. But once you tackle your “must do” repairs, set priorities on cosmetic enhancements. Typically, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you sink money into kitchens and bathrooms — these are high-profile areas that tend to be important to buyers. At the same time, focus on low-cost improvements that offer a lot of value. For example, paint and carpet are fairly inexpensive but make a huge impact. Refreshing a home’s walls and floors could be a better bet to drive up its purchase price and attract potential buyers than putting in high-end lighting features.

4. Don’t over-improve that property

When you buy a home in disarray, it’s easy to go overboard on renovations to the point where it becomes the nicest property in town. That’s not necessarily what you want. If most homes in the area don’t have marble flooring or ultra-high-end kitchen appliances, follow that trend. You don’t want to improve a home to the point where you have to price it at the very top of its market. Often, buyers will balk at buying the most expensive home on the block because it’s a sign that they may not recoup their investment once the time comes to sell the house .

Flipping a home is a great way to be successful as a real estate investor. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into so you don’t lose money. If you’re not confident, talk to people who have been through the process before. Enlisting the help of a local real estate agent could also help you not only identify the right home to flip, but also invest just the right amount of money into making it marketable.

Better Returns – half the volatility. Join Mogul Today

Whether over the 21st century, the past 50 years… Or all the way back to more than 100 years… Real estate returns exceed stocks with SIGNIFICANTLY less volatility! In fact, since the early 1970’s real estate has beat the stock market nearly 2:1.

Source: MillionAcres.com – By: , Contributor
Published on: Oct 27, 2019
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Why You Should Buy Less House Than You Can Afford

When it comes to real estate, the more you spend, the more money everyone makes. And it happens on every level of your home purchase.

The costs start adding up once you find the perfect place. According to the National Association of Realtors, real estate agents get paid by taking a percentage of the purchase price of your home. In other words, the more you spend, the bigger the payday. And the bigger the loan, the higher the closing costs and borrowing fees tend to be – a benefit that goes directly from your pocket to your lender’s.

In case you were wondering, this is why your real estate professional may pay little attention when you tell them you only want to spend X number of dollars on a new home. It’s not that they aren’t professional, or that they don’t care about your financial situation; it’s just that they only stand to benefit if your budget creeps up a few dollars here or there.

And what’s a few thousand dollars between friends?

Budgeting for Your Priorities

I know – I’ve been there. When my husband and I moved to a new town last year, our income qualified us to spend 300% more than we planned. And even though we told our Realtor what our intentions were, it didn’t stop her from suggesting houses outside our comfort zone. In fact, I remember having plenty of conversations about it, and getting advice like this:

“You know, for every $1,000 you spend, your payment will only go up $16.”

“Your kids are getting older – you need a house you can grow into.”

“Interest rates are so low. You can get a lot more house for your money in today’s market.”

In the end, we bought exactly what we wanted, and actually spent less than we planned. And it didn’t end up that way just because we’re cheap; we based our decision on our shared beliefs and goals.

Still, the principles that steered us toward a less expensive home don’t just apply to us; they could apply to your situation, too. There are some really good arguments against borrowing as much as you possibly can. Here are some of them:

What Goes Up Might Come Down

Decades ago, most people believed housing prices would keep climbing for eternity. I remember my mom telling me years ago that, when she and my dad bought their first home, their Realtor pushed them to borrow as much as possible.

“The more you buy, the more appreciation you will see over time,” they were told.

And that notion made sense at the time. After all, land is a limited commodity, and a growing population will always need somewhere to live. Housing prices should go up forever, in theory. The problem? Just because they should doesn’t mean they will stay that way.

In fact, the housing crisis of 2007-08 proved that market corrections are somewhat inevitable. Although some regions remained relatively unscathed, housing prices dropped an average of 30% nationwide. According to Forbes, some of the most overvalued housing markets, such as Las Vegas, saw housing values drop as much as 60% from 2006 to 2011. And other big markets followed suit. For example, the Chicago area witnessed a 40% drop in real estate prices, Detroit endured a 50% correction, and Phoenix saw housing prices plummet as much as 56%.

If you plan on living in your home forever, you may not care how much your new house will be worth. But what if you need to move?

Need an example? Picture this: Two families are shopping for a house in the same neighborhood. Family A drops $400,000 on their dream home, while Family B spends only $200,000. If housing prices drop 20% over the next two years, which family will be better off? (Hint: Family A would lose twice as much equity as Family B — a difference of $80,000!)

Bigger House? Expect Everything to Cost More

But even if housing prices go up, some costs are inevitable. No matter how much house you buy, the sticker price is only one piece of the puzzle. And when you buy a bigger or more expensive home, almost everything costs more.

For example, more space generally means more square footage to heat and cool — in other words, higher utility bills. And nicer, more expensive properties almost always mean higher property taxes and pricier homeowners insurance premiums.

But that’s not all. A bigger house means everything is bigger and more expensive to repair. A bigger roof will cost more than a small one, and the more windows you have, the more expensive it will be to upgrade or replace them. Flooring is typically priced by the square foot, so more carpet and tile will always lead to higher costs. A bigger yard means more landscaping and a longer driveway means more concrete to pour. The list goes on, and all of those additional costs can add up quick.

Kids Need More Than Room: They Need Money

It’s true that kids may benefit from some extra space in the house. They’ll need a place to bring friends when they come over to visit, and it’s always nice when teenagers are able to have their own room.

But you know what’s better? Having money to help your kids through college. Being able to afford a really nice family vacation each year. Having the extra money to pay for the important things your kids will inevitably start asking for as they grow older – fees for school trips, sports, and activities, spending money for weekends, and even their first car.

Buying a house you can easily afford can mean the difference between having extra money for your kid’s changing needs and being house-poor and unable to afford much of anything. That bonus room above the garage might be nice, but not so much when you consider what you had to give up.

Don’t Forget to Save for Everything Else

Speaking of giving things up, the extra money for a bigger house payment has to come from somewhere. By and large, Americans have large houses but tiny bank accounts. According to a recent survey, the average middle-class worker has a median savings of around $20,000 for retirement. Further, a full third of working middle-class adults aren’t contributing anything to retirement at all – not in a 401(k), Roth IRA, or any other retirement savings vehicle.

The poll in question, which was conducted by Harris Poll and included 1,001 middle-class adults ages 25 to 75, also proved we aren’t great at planning ahead. According to results shared in USA Today, around 55% of participants planned to save more for retirement when they’re older to make up for any shortfalls.

If a bad idea ever existed, that would surely be it. Why? Because compound interest needs time to work its magic – and the later you start saving, the less power it will have.

Simply put, if you want to retire one day, you need to start saving today — or maybe yesterday. Not doing so will only cause you grief down the line or delay your retirement altogether. Simply put, when you buy a house that is unaffordable, you will have fewer dollars to sock away for your future self.

Your Mortgage Doesn’t Have to Be Forever

Most people get a 30-year mortgage and pay that monthly payment until the cows come home. Unfortunately, that usually means they never really own a home until the bitter end.

But wait – do people really stay in their homes for 30 years anymore? According to the National Association of Home Builders, the answer is no. In fact, recent data show the average family only stays in their home for around 12 years.

So if you opt for a 30-year-mortgage each time you move, it could easily mean you’ll be making that monthly payment your entire life. Frugal friends, is there anything more depressing than that?

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way, which leads me to the next reason it makes sense to borrow less than you can afford. Obviously, the less you borrow, the faster you may be able to pay it off. And if you buy a house that is on the lower end of your budget, you may even be able to afford the monthly payment on a home loan with a shorter term.

Imagine paying your house off within 15 years and all of the financial freedom that would afford you. Big, expensive houses may have their own set of benefits, but being debt-free will be priceless.

When Life Happens, You’ll Be Prepared

Good health, youth, and job security are often fleeting. In other words, the amazing standard of living you’re experiencing now isn’t guaranteed to last. Further, a study from 2014 showed that as many as 25 million middle-class families are living paycheck to paycheck, meaning they might only be one illness – or one job loss – away from losing it all.

Look at the monthly financial obligations you have and ask yourself how you would meet them if you or your spouse lost your job, got in a debilitating accident, or experienced any other hardship that resulted in a loss of pay. Would you be okay? Could you easily afford your bills? If the answer is no, then you should try to buy even less house than you have now, and certainly not more!

The bottom line: Tragedies happen every day, but if you leave some breathing room in your monthly budget, you will be much more equipped to take them in stride. And if something unfortunate happens to one of you, having a small, manageable payment might mean the difference between keeping your home – and losing everything.

Deciding on a Price Range You Can Live With

Most mortgage companies believe your total debts should make up no more than 36% of your total gross income in any given year. So when they decide how much you qualify to borrow, they use that figure as a guideline. While other liabilities such as car payments, child support, taxes, and insurance can eat into that amount, 36% is still a pretty generous place to start.

The thing is, even the best mortgage lenders don’t know what kind of lifestyle you live. It doesn’t know if you want to help your kids with college, or if you prefer to take two family vacations every year. They’ve never listened to you talk about your dream to retire early and spend your golden years as you wish. To them, you’re just a number on a page. And they’ll be long gone by the time you realize you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

That’s why it’s up to each of us to decide what we can truly afford to borrow. It’s up to each of us to set a price range we can live with, and not just one we can live with today, but tomorrow, too.

It all boils down to choices; when you spend less than you can afford, you have them, and when you overspend, you don’t. Just remember to look beyond this year, and even this decade, when you make that choice. You might be giving up more than you think.

Source: The Simple Dollar –  Feb 19, 2020

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5 Ways My Home Has Calmed Me Down During the Coronavirus

I’m usually pretty calm during a crisis—I’m a New Yorker, after all. I’ve endured everything from the horrors of Sept. 11 to the blackouts of Superstorm Sandy and beyond. But the coronavirus feels even scarier, perhaps because it will last so much longer—and that definitely has me on edge.

Yet as I was folding an enormous basket of laundry the other morning (the piles have exploded since my college-aged girls returned home), I decided to light a pine-scented candle, still on display in my living room since Christmas. And as I breathed in its calming scent, I instantly felt my shoulders relax.

Thymes Frasier fir–scented candle for the win!
Thymes Frasier fir–scented candle for the win!Jennifer Geddes

Yup, one of the unexpected upsides of having to shelter in place is my rediscovery of the joys within my own home—a sentiment that many of my friends and family say they’ve felt, too.

So, in case you need something positive to focus on as you’re holed up at home, here are a few things about home that are making me and my fellow neighbors smile during this bleak hour.

1. Discovering food I totally forgot I had

The deeper you dig, the more you'll find.
The deeper you dig, the more you’ll find.Jennifer Geddes

Since we can no longer pop out to local restaurants and even grocery runs are discouraged, I decided to do a full excavation of my pantry—and was pleasantly surprised by what I found in its depths.

I could probably live for weeks using the forgotten foods in my pantry and deep freezer. I unearthed seven kinds of rice, pork and cabbage dumplings, boxes of bread crumbs, and a few cans of tuna.

Larry Perlstein of Westport, CT, reports discovering parts of his pantry that he hasn’t seen since he moved in to his house 12 years ago. The items included a box of raisins dating to 2015, which he wisely decided not to eat.

“But I also found lots of sprinkles, both rainbow and chocolate, and I’ve read they last forever,” he says. Baking projects are now on deck with his 12-year-old.

Christina Vercelletto of Babylon, NY, has reaped the same sweet rewards at her house.

“I’m baking with my daughter using every neglected box mix we have, plus a bag of coconut and white chocolate chips that we bought in the fall but never used,” she shares.

2. Having time to organize and declutter my house

New York City resident Anne Levy did a colossal cleaning and reorg of her house in order to prepare both of her daughters to learn remotely, and so her school teacher husband could teach from home.

“The place feels lighter—and I feel mentally lighter, too,” she says. Levy gathered nine bags of clothing and textile donations and plans to keep on purging.

One person does not need more than a dozen tablecloths.
One person does not need more than a dozen tablecloths.Jennifer Geddes

Meanwhile, I’ve finally whittled down my linen drawer. My amazing mother-in-law, you see, gives me every tablecloth she’s tired of—and she runs through several a year, which means the two dresser drawers where I store these linens is full to bursting. During this virus crisis, I’ve finally had a chance to tackle this spot and embrace only the tablecloths I truly love—and toss that yellow-and-green tropical number in the middle!

3. Taking long, luxurious baths

A nightly soak is a must during turbulent times.
A nightly soak is a must during turbulent times.Jennifer Geddes

I used to complain about this tub (too big, takes too long to fill, a pain to clean), but I no longer sing that tune. Instead, I’m digging around for bath salts, oils, and other potions to pour in so I can soak my stress away. I’m using it as long as the coronavirus lasts—and maybe longer.

4. Having date nights—in the basement

No movie theater? No problem. We watch shows in the chilly basement with our pup Django.
No movie theater? No problem. We watch shows in the chilly basement with our pup Django.Jennifer Geddes

Stressful days like these were made for streaming mindless movies and TV shows, which I’m suddenly finding pretty enjoyable in my little basement. It’s dark and cold, but we have excellent Wi-Fi and comfy chairs, so I’m ready to embrace regular date nights here with my hubs.

5. Checking off home to-do lists

Working from home has given me pockets of down time, and as a result, my perpetual list of household chores is just about whittled to zero. Burned-out lightbulbs? Replaced! No-slip mats finally laid under dangerous throw rugs? Done. Next up, I’m steeling myself to enter the basement “scary closet” (so named because of the occasional mouse that pops up) to sort through my garden pots that I hope to plant once this crisis is over.

Granted, I will be thrilled once this coronavirus scourge has finally lifted—but until then, I will try to look at the silver lining and relish all the comforts and opportunities that staying at home has to offer.

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COVID-19 pandemic: Tips to remain ‘sane and safe’ during social distancing

social-distance.jpg

Photo: Crystal Eye Studio/Shutterstock

Muncie, IN — Maintaining a routine, helping others and taking time to focus on self-care are among the tips one Ball State University professor is sharing to help people stay “sane and safe” while practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jagdish Khubchandani, a health sciences professor, has 15 recommendations to “counterbalance” the physical and psychological effects of social distancing, which involves reducing close contact with others in an effort to help stop the spread of the disease, per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Khubchandani’s tips:

  • Maintain a routine. As much as possible, social distancing should not disrupt your sleep-wake cycle, working hours and daily activities.
  • Make social distancing a positive by taking time to focus on your personal health, training, diet, physical activity levels and health habits, as well as reassessing your work.
  • Cook for yourself and others in need. Add more fruits, vegetables, vitamins and proteins to your diet. (Most U.S. adults don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables). Eat two or three meals a day.
  • Go for a walk or exercise at home. “Definitely go out in nature as much as possible. Only half of American adults today get enough exercise.”
  • Don’t let anxiety or being at home lead to binge eating or alcohol and drug use. Don’t oversleep, but try to sleep at least seven hours a day.
  • Know that social distancing can cause anxiety and depression because of disruption to routines, isolation and fear over a pandemic. If you or someone you know is experiencing either, help is available.
  • Make the best use of technology to finish your work, attend meetings and engage with co-workers with the same frequency required during active office hours. “The good news: Working from home can make people more productive and happier.”
  • Small breaks during social distancing are also good times to reassess your skills and training – consider taking an online course, pursuing certification, undergoing training or personality development, or learning a new language.
  • Engage in spring cleaning, clear clutter and donate household items. Home clutter can harbor pollutants, lead to infections and result in unhygienic spaces.
  • Social distancing shouldn’t translate to an unhealthy life on social media. Although you can certainly become a victim of myths, misinformation, anxiety and fearmongering, you can also inadvertently become a perpetrator, creating more trouble for communities.
  • Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey and leisure-related time-spending patterns worldwide, “too much time” is spent on screens. Except for one to two times a day to watch, read or listen to national news for general consumption and local news for updates on the spread of COVID-19 in your community, you’re likely overconsuming information and taking away time for yourself and from friends and family.
  • Reach out to others and offer help. Social distancing should help reinvest in and recreate social bonds. Consider providing for and helping those at risk or marginalized (e.g., the elderly, disabled and homeless; survivors of natural disasters; and people living in shelters). “You will certainly find someone in the neighborhood who needs some help.” This can be done from a distance via a phone or by online activities, as well as giving.
  • Check your list of contacts on email and your phone. It may be a good time to check on your friends’ and family members’ well-being. This will also help you feel more connected, social, healthier and engaged. “Be kind to all; you never know who is struggling and how you can make a difference.”
  • Engage in alternative activities to keep your mind and body active. For example, listen to music or sing; try dancing or biking, yoga or meditation; take virtual tours of museums and places of interest; sketch or paint; read books or novels; solve puzzles or play board games; try new recipes; and learn about other cultures.
  • Don’t isolate yourself completely – social distancing shouldn’t become social isolation. Don’t be afraid, don’t panic and do keep communicating with others.

“Social distancing can be tough on people and disrupt the social and economic fibers of our society,” Khubchandani said. “Given the existing crisis of isolation in societies — with probably the loneliest young generation that we have today — social distancing can also take a personal health toll on people, causing psychological problems, among many others.”

Source: Safety & Health The Official Magazine – March 18, 2020

 

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Frustrated Canadians looking for mortgage deferrals from big banks facing delays, denials

Mortgage holders say the process, criteria are unclear

With some people out of work during the COVID-19 outbreak, many are waiting for clear answers from their banks to see if they qualify for mortgage payment deferrals. (CBC)

Some Canadians looking to defer mortgage payments due to COVID-19 say they are facing delays, confusion and outright denials from the country’s big banks.

“My wife called the 1-800 number for Bank of Montreal, talked to an adviser on the line to see what we are eligible for,” said Evan McFatridge of Dartmouth, N.S., whose family is down to a single income because his wife has been laid off from her job at a restaurant.

“She was told that our mortgage was too new to qualify for a deferral,” he said.

As part of the government’s pledge to help Canadians suffering financially due to COVID-19, Finance Minister Bill Morneau asked the heads of Canada’s big banks to allow people to defer mortgage payments for up to six months.

The banks responded by issuing a statement saying they “have made a commitment to work with personal and small business banking customers on a case-by-case basis to provide flexible solutions to help them manage through challenges such as pay disruption due to COVID-19; child-care disruption due to school closures; or those facing illness from COVID-19.”

Evan and Janna McFatridge of Dartmouth, N.S., were told their mortgage was too new to qualify for a deferral. (Evan McFatridge)

But some Canadians looking for relief from mortgage payments say they’re encountering a confusing, opaque and seemingly arbitrary process that is only adding to the stress of illness, isolation and lost income.

“I called in yesterday, spent two hours on the phone, and they required a full credit check and credit application in order to even see if I was qualified [for a deferral] and then didn’t even give me a time frame,” said one former BMO branch manager.

CBC has agreed to keep his name confidential because of his concerns that his comments could jeopardize his current employment situation.

“So, they had to speak to both me and my wife over the phone, get all our income, our jobs, our assets, our liabilities, said they had to send it to the credit department for review and that someone would contact us,” he said.

“They had no criteria for what they’re looking for. If they said to me, ‘One of you has to be laid off. One of you has to be in isolation. You have to sign a disclosure statement.’ Fine.”

The man’s wife is on reduced hours at home because she has to care for their kids, whose schools have been shut. Facing the loss of a large chunk of their family income, he said ,he wanted to get ahead of the problem and defer two or three months of payments.

When a BMO mortgage holder — who is actually a former BMO manager — called BMO to see if he could get a mortgage payment deferral, he was told it required a full credit check and credit application in order to even see if he qualified. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

“Even if I had to pay the interest payments during that time and they deferred the principal amount so the balance stayed the same, so be it, that’s fine,” he said.

“I’ve been through things in Alberta like the Fort McMurray fires where basically [all that was required then] was a call in to defer payments.”

Questions for banks unanswered

CBC News asked each of the big five banks for more information on the criteria for the case-by-case-based decisions on mortgage and credit deferrals.

We asked:

  • Who would qualify?
  • Is there an application process?
  • Does the entire household have to be off work?
  • Will they require documentation?

None of the banks answered any of those questions.

TD, CIBC and Scotiabank all responded by repeating their commitment to work with personal and small-business banking customers on a case-by-case basis. Each encouraged customers to contact their call centres directly or visit their websites.

BMO and RBC did not respond to emails from CBC News.

‘My family will run out of money’

RBC customer Elsie Mamaradlo of Edmonton said she was also denied a deferral because her mortgage was too new.

“I got so frustrated and at the same time worried,” said Mamaradlo, who lost her job when the public recreation centre she works at was shut down due to coronavirus concerns.

Mamaradlo said that without the mortgage deferral, she faces a grim future.

“My family will run out of money for food and essentials,” she said.

Mamaradlo’s mortgage is insured with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The government is purchasing up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools through the CMHC, which says that stable funding for the banks and mortgage lenders is meant to ensure continued lending to Canadian consumers.

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau speaks during a press conference on economic support for Canadians impacted by COVID-19, at West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Wednesday. The federal government is rolling out $27 billion in new spending and $55 billion in credit to help families and businesses. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

In a tweet, CMHC said it “will support lenders in allowing deferral of mortgage payments for up to six months for those impacted [by the coronavirus].”

Alyson Whittle of Cochrane, Alta., said her bank, B2B, which is a subsidiary of Laurentian Bank, told her she could defer her next mortgage payment but then the following payment would be double.

“I was super frustrated,” she said.

Whittle, who works in sales for a home builder, and her husband, a utilities driller, are both out of work.

“My mom came to visit us and she had just come back from Las Vegas and developed a respiratory illness,” she said.

After that visit, Whittle says both she and her husband started feeling similar symptoms. They’re now both off work in isolation but haven’t been tested yet.

Laurentian Financial Group’s assistant vice-president of communications, Hélène Soulard, said it’s possible Whittle called before they were able to inform their call centre representatives about the deferral options.

“Rest assured we are committed to helping our customers who are facing hardships if they are not able to work due to illness, job loss or other reasons related to the COVID-19 crisis,” she said.

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