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Why Refinance Rates Are Higher Than Purchase Loan Rates

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How To Become a Freelancer and Make a Full-Time Income

Today, I have a fun interview to share with you that will show you how to become a freelancer.

I recently had the chance to interview Ben Taylor. Ben has been freelancing since 2004, and he has worked for dozens of companies.

Yes, this is a career path that you can learn!

As Ben will tell you in the interview below, a freelancer can be anything. You can be a freelance designer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, online teacher, virtual assistant, writer, and more.

If you are looking for a new business or even just a side hustle so that you can learn how to make extra money, learning how to become a freelancer may be something that you want to look into.

In this interview, you will learn:

  • What a freelancer is, who they work for, what they do, etc.
  • How much a new freelancer should expect to earn
  • How a person can find their first freelancing job
  • The steps needed to take to make money as a freelancer

And much more!

He also has an informative course called Freelance Kickstarter. This course takes you through the step by step process of creating your own freelance business.

Check out the interview below for more information.

How to become a freelancer.

1. Please give us a background on yourself and how you started as a freelancer.

I’m Ben, and I live by the sea in England with my wife and two young sons.

I started a career in tech back in 1998, and by 2004 was Head of IT for a government department. It didn’t take long for me to tire of company politics, and the endless meetings that were more about displays of ego than really getting anything done.

I came from an entrepreneurial family and my parents both had businesses rather than jobs. The businesses weren’t always successful, and there were definitely periods of “feast and famine.” However, I was well used to that and I think that branching out on my own was something I was destined to do.

My move into freelancing splits into a couple of clear phases:

Initially, in 2004, I quit my IT job, walking away from business class travel and a gold-plated pension with nothing more than a vague plan to begin to work as a freelancer!

I started to provide IT support and consultancy to both businesses and individuals. I do actually still do some of that work for a select group of long-term clients, but by 2009 I had managed to burn myself out with it. The business was going well, but I was working ridiculously long days and every holiday I tried to take was interrupted by constant phone calls and emails.

So phase two began when I sold off most of my client-base and moved to Portugal! That’s when I really started to broaden my freelance horizons. I had to start from scratch, with an unclear intention to start writing for a living, and no real plan for how to do it.

I did lots of things, including wasting a LOT of time down fruitless blind alleys. I wrote for content mills, started blogs, found clients on freelance job boards, and – slowly and steadily – started to build my income back up. The difference was that I was doing it all completely on my terms with work I really enjoyed. 

I was also living in a dream destination whilst doing it.

2. Can you explain what exactly a freelancer is, who they work for, what they do, etc.?

This seems like a basic question, but it’s very worthwhile. There’s a considerable difference between freelancing and remote working that not everybody appreciates.

First off, a freelancer can be anything. For some reason many people immediately think of writing when they think about freelancing. But you can be a freelancer designer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, online teacher, virtual assistant, and dozens of other things.

It’s also worth noting you don’t only have to be one of those things. I AM a freelancer writer, but I also still dabble in IT consultancy, run my own blogs, provide coaching, and even build websites for people (if they ask nicely and the price is right!)

Regardless of what you do as a freelancer, the important thing to realise is that you are running your own business. The big plus of this is that you are in total charge. But the big negative is that you don’t have any of the safety nets you have if you are employed by a single company. This means you’re responsible for everything from your own insurance and healthcare to your own technical support!

Freelancers typically work for several different clients. There are myriad places to find those clients. It’s quite common for freelancers to find clients within their existing professional networks, and not at all unusual for ex-employers to be among them. Then there are freelance job boards like Upwork and PeoplePerHour, which provide an endless stream of new opportunities.

3. How much should a new/beginner freelancer expect to earn?

This is an incredibly difficult question to answer! I can think of one freelancer I coached who’s in a very specific writing niche. He went onto Upwork with an initial rate of $100 per hour and found lots of work. I started out in IT consultancy charging a similar rate and was quickly earning more than I did in my full-time job.   

However, at the other end of the scale there are people with limited experience or specialist skills who will need to pay their dues. This means building the foundations of a freelance career by proving yourself and taking low paying jobs to build up examples of work and positive feedback. My move into writing was much more like this!

I think “job replacement income” is a useful target for new freelancers to keep in mind. That can vary vastly from individual to individual. Obviously replacing and exceeding a corporate-level income takes much more than freelancing as an alternative to a part-time, entry-level job. That said, people with senior-level experience command much higher freelance rates.

Related content: 20 Of The Best Entry Level Work From Home Jobs

4. What do you like about being a freelancer?

Not having a boss!

The difference in lifestyle is massive when you work for yourself. This is always brought home to me when I’m making plans with friends and family, and people say “I’ll see if I can get the time off.”

This makes me shudder, because it’s SO alien to me now. The example I always use is that I never have to ask anybody before I can tell my children I’ll be at their sports day or nativity play.

When you have what I call a “traditional job,” you DO have the security of healthcare, and perhaps things like holiday and sick pay. But you give up a tremendous amount of freedom in return. Freelancing is profoundly different, and it’s rare to find people who’ve given it a go that would ever choose to go back to full-time employment.

So that’s a huge thing for me, but there are other huge benefits too. I love the fact I can pivot into different things, which always allows me to keep things fresh.

About four times a year I reassess my priorities and lay out new goals for the short, medium and long term. They might involve starting a new blog, writing another book, learning a new marketable skill. For somebody like me who relishes variety, I love having total control of this.

5. How can a person find their first freelancing job?

There are SO many ways to find freelance jobs. I have an article listing 50 different options!

However, they broadly split into two categories that I call “real world” and “online world.”

It’s always worth starting out by thinking of your real life networks. As I’ve said, many freelancers do their first self-employed work for people who already know them. I’d advise people to think about any contacts who’ve already seen the kind of work they’re capable of. These are “warm leads” that are well worth perusing.

It makes sense to think about personal contacts as well as business contacts, too. Plenty of freelancers find clients who are their “wife’s best friend’s brother” or something like that!

Remaining in the “real world,” there are also options like local business groups and networking events – although they are obviously far less accessible at the present time.

Moving to the online world, the freelance job boards are the place to be. They can be intimidating places initially, and it’s crucial to learn how to use them and how to avoid scammers and low paying clients. But there are plenty of great clients out there, including many household name companies who use those boards to hire freelancers.

Often, a quick one-off $50 job can evolve into a long and lucrative client relationship. My wife and I both have clients who we first met on the freelance boards years ago. We still work with them now.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to where to find the first client, but there are options for everybody.

setting rates when learning how to become a freelancer

setting rates when learning how to become a freelancer

6. How does a freelancer decide what to set their rates at?

This is a question I’m asked a LOT! The answer leads to lots more questions, and I think many of my readers are disappointed when I don’t just give them an answer of “$x per hour” or “$x per article!”

It’s a subject I cover in my Freelance Kickstarter course, and I’m happy to share a slide from that particular lesson here. The factors to consider include tangible things like the “market rates” for specific types of work, and how each client’s geographical location could impact how much they expect to pay.

But there’s much more to consider beyond that: How much does the gig align with your long-term goals? Will the job produce a great example of work that will help you win more clients in the future? Is this a job that could lead to on-going, long-term work?

I guess a simpler answer is that your rate needs to be fair and competitive, and sufficient to make it worth your while to do the job. However, the rate for each job really needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The reality is that there are millions of freelancers out there charging vastly different rates, often for very similar services. There’s a bit of an art to working out where you sit on the pricing spectrum, but it’s an art you can learn, and it gets easier with experience.

7. What steps does a person need to take to make money as a freelancer?

The first and most important is working out what it is you actually want to do. That may seem obvious, but my inbox is full of emails from people asking what they should do, without telling me what they’re capable of and what kind of work would make them happy.

I will attempt to lay it out in a fairly simple series of steps:

  1. Work out what skills you have and what market there is for them.
  2. Look at who else is providing those services, what they charge, and what you can provide that will make you stand out and appeal to clients.
  3. Identify any gaps in your knowledge and experience, and work to fill them. This could mean doing some training, or doing some voluntary jobs to bulk out your portfolio.
  4. Establish a personal brand. This isn’t as big a deal as it sounds, but does mean having a solid resumé and LinkedIn profile, and sometimes some other ways to demonstrate your expertise.
  5. Learn how the freelance job boards work. Even if you have a rich personal network to draw on, it’s wise to understand the wider world of freelancing.
  6. Put yourself out there, and start pitching and applying for things.
  7. Make sure you provide perfect work and delight your clients, so that they want to work with you again and recommend you to others.

Repeating and refining these steps is the essence of becoming a successful freelancer.

8. How much does it cost to start this type of business and how much on a monthly basis to maintain it?

Freelancing is generally a low-cost venture, but that’s not to say it’s free. Depending on what you do, you may need specialist equipment and / or software. And if you’re switching from an employed position, you may have to buy things like this yourself for the first time.

A good computer is a must, as it’s often the key tool of your trade. You may also need to budget for things like insurance, possibly including healthcare cover if you are somewhere like the US where this isn’t covered by tax payments.

When it comes to monthly costs, the main things I pay for include software subscriptions and insurance policies. Thankfully these tend to build over time and no individual thing is particularly expensive. You can start out as an online freelancer without even having a personal website, and add things like that once you gain some momentum.

I also recommend budgeting for ongoing training and learning. Thankfully there are all kinds of ways to learn online inexpensively. Companies have training budgets, but when you’re a freelancer, keeping your skills on point is on you.

9. What kind of training is needed to become a freelancer?

I’d say the training splits into two: learning about freelancing itself, and building skills around the specific work you want to do.

Courses like my own Freelance Kickstarter cover the first part. Freelancing is a skill in itself, and we’ve covered some of the important areas in this interview already. Stuff like setting rates isn’t immediately obvious, so learning from those who have been there and done it already is very valuable.

When it comes to skills-specific training it depends what work you’re doing. Let’s say somebody wanted to work as a freelance social media manager. Not that long ago it would have been all about Twitter and Facebook. Nowadays Pinterest is a much bigger deal for many people, and TikTok is emerging as the latest trend.

So as that freelancer, you need to decide what you’re going to focus on. Do you want to be the “go-to guru” for TikTok, or be more of a generalist with social media in general?

It’s wonderful to have the choice.

10. Are there any other tips that you have for someone who wants to become a freelancer?

I have many!

The one I repeat over and over is that you have to eventually go for it and make the jump. I see a lot of people who never get past the “thinking about it” phase. Meanwhile the go-getters have taken the leap of faith and started to build success.

Moving to freelancing is one of those things where there may never be a perfect time to do it. Those who keep waiting for that time to arrive can easily find themselves looking back ten years later with the same commute and the same job.

Another thing I’m like a broken record about is the importance of “paying your dues.” There are often plenty of less-than-ideal gigs to finish successfully before you arrive at the amazing ones.

I wrote about some really dull topics in my early days of freelance writing, for example. But I had to wade through that stuff to build my reputation. It all felt thoroughly worth it a few years later when I was being well paid for travel articles and restaurant reviews!

You learn something from every job along the way: How to handle clients, renegotiate rates, refine your skills, and get work done more efficiently so that you’re boosting the value of your time. Freelancing isn’t supposed to be easy but it’s almost always challenging, interesting and rewarding.

And let’s face it, many people don’t feel that way about their jobs.

11. What can a person learn from your course? Can you tell us about some of the people who have successfully taken your course?

OK, so Freelance Kickstarter expands on all of the topics I’ve touched on here, and many others. It’s intended to remove confusion, and that feeling of overwhelm that often descends when researching this stuff online. It helps new freelancers make a clear plan for getting started. As the strapline goes, the idea is that people “stop wasting time, and start making money!”

I never intended to create a course, but after running the HomeWorkingClub website for several years, it became clear there was a space for something like this. I make it very clear that it’s not some kind of “get rich quick” scheme.

To be brutally honest, I don’t want students who are looking for shortcuts. There is real hard work involved in being a successful freelancer, but it’s a more than viable option for those willing to do what’s required.

The course starts with the basics of working out what you can do and want to do, and presents LOTS of different options. It then moves on to auditing your skills and experience, building your brand, and working out your own personal goals. I particularly like that section because it helps people learn the exact process I use myself every few months to keep things moving forward.

The next lessons cover finding clients, and there’s a big module on learning how to use freelance job boards like Upwork. Once people have completed this, they will know how to uncover the good and genuine jobs, and how to side-step the time-drains and scams.

Students also learn about setting rates, and all the other practicalities of running a freelance business, from getting the tech right to taking undisturbed holidays! We also cover side gigs, and long-term slow-burn projects like blogs and self-published books.

I provide personal support on the course, and people can ask me all the questions they need as they go along. There are also regular exclusive podcasts with extra advice and news of industry developments and new opportunities.

In terms of people who have already taken the course, I recently published a case study from a lady called Lyn. She now has “more work than she can handle” as a freelance writer working via Upwork. Two things that have particularly pleased me about her situation is that she’s cherry-picking projects that interest her, and that she’s been able to do exactly what I suggest in increasing her rates as she builds experience and reputation.

I’ve also had great feedback from people at a much earlier stage. I’ve kept the course price low so that people can use it to help decide if freelancing is for them – just dipping their toes in for the first time.

As one student said, the course is “ideal if you are considering going freelance and don’t know where or when to start, or even if freelancing is for you.”

Several of the testimonials so far have aligned perfectly with the original objective, which was – essentially – to help people see the wood for the trees in an environment than can seem very daunting to begin with.

I set out to create the course I wish I’d had! I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes in over 16 years of freelancing. The people taking Freelance Kickstarter should hopefully be able to avoid the same ones!

Click here to learn more about Freelance Kickstarter.

 Are you interested in learning how to become a freelancer?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

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What Are the Best Car Loans When You Have Bad Credit?

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How to Build Credit with Fingerhut

  • Raise Credit Score

If you’ve been wanting to make a big purchase, but your credit is less than spectacular, you might have looked into Fingerhut as an option. 

Fingerhut is an online catalog and retailer that showcases a multitude of products. On this website, customers can shop for anything from electronics to home décor to auto parts. Fingerhut offers financing through their own line of credit, making it appealing to shoppers with poor credit or a nonexistent credit history. Many consumers have a better chance of getting approved by Fingerhut, than they might have of getting approved through most other credit card companies. It’s an option worth looking into if you want to improve your credit score through credit utilization.  

The major difference between Fingerhut and credit cards that cater to low credit scores is that Fingerhut credit is exclusively available for use with its own company’s products and authorized partners. You’ll also find that the company’s products are pricier than they would be through most other retailers, while also bearing the weight of higher interest rates. While it might seem like a good idea if you don’t have good credit, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the company beforehand so that you know what you’re signing up for. 

How Fingerhut credit works

When you apply for a Fingerhut credit account, you can get approved by one of two accounts:

  • WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account.
  • Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan issued by WebBank.

As it happens, by submitting your application, you are applying for both credit accounts. Applicants will be considered for the Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan issued by WebBank as a direct result of being denied for the WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account. In other words, you won’t have a way of knowing which one you will be approved for prior to applying. Both credit accounts are issued by WebBank and are set up so that customers can purchase merchandise by paying for them on an installment plan with a 29.99% Annual Percentage Rate (APR). These are the only things that the different Fingerhut credit accounts have in common.

The WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account

The WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account works very much like an unsecured credit card, except that it’s an account that you can only use it to shop on Fingerhut or through its authorized partners. 

This credit account features:

  •  No annual fee.
  • A 29.99% interest rate.
  • A $38 fee on late or returned payments.
  • A possible down payment; it may or may not be required. You won’t know prior to applying. 

If you get denied for this line of credit, your application will automatically be reviewed for the Fingerhut FreshStart Credit Account issued by WebBank, which is both structured and conditioned differently.

Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan issued by WebBank

If you get approved for the Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan, you must follow these three steps to activate it:

  • Make a one-time purchase of no less than $50.
  • Put a minimum payment of $30 down on your purchase, and your order will be shipped to you upon receipt of your payment. You may not use a credit card to make down payments, but you can use a debit card, check, or a money order. 
  • Make monthly payments on your balance within a span of six to eight months.

You can become eligible to upgrade to the Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account so long as you are able to pay off your balance during that time frame or sooner without having made any late payments. Keep in mind that paying for the entire balance in full at the time you make your down payment will result in you not qualifying for the loan as well as being ineligible for upgrade. 

How a Fingerhut credit account helps raise your credit score

The fact that it can help you improve your credit is one of the biggest advantages of using a Fingerhut credit account. 

When you make your payments to Fingerhut in full and on-time, the company will report that activity to the three major credit bureaus. This means that your good credit utilization won’t go unnoticed nor unrewarded. If you use Fingerhut to improve your credit score, you will eventually be able to apply for a credit card through a traditional credit card company—one where you can make purchases anywhere, not just at Fingerhut. 

Additional benefits of a Fingerhut credit account

Besides using it as a tool to repair your bad credit, there are a few other benefits to using a WebBank Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account such as:

  • No annual fee.
  • Fingerhut has partnerships with a handful of other retailers, which means you can use your Fingerhut credit line to make purchases through a variety of companies. Fingerhut is partnered with companies that specialize in everything from floral arrangements to insurance plans.
  • There are no penalties on the WebBank Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account when you pay off your balance early.

How to build credit with Fingerhut

Fingerhut credit works the same way as the loans from credit card companies work: in the form of a revolving loan. 

A revolving loan is when you are designated a maximum credit limit by your lender, in which you are allowed to spend. Whatever you spend, you are expected to pay back in full and on-time through a series of monthly payments. This act of borrowing money and paying off bills using your Fingerhut account causes your balances to revolve and fluctuate, hence, its name. 

Your credit activity, good or bad, gets reported to the three major credit bureaus and in turn, will have an effect on your credit report. Revolving loans play a large role in your credit score, affecting approximately 30% of your score through your credit utilization ratio. If your credit utilization ratio, the amount of available revolving credit divided by your amount owed, is too high then your credit score will plummet. 

When using a Fingerhut account, the goal is to try to keep your amounts owed as low as you possibly can so that you can maintain a low utilization ratio, and as a result, have a higher credit score.

Alternatives to Fingerhut

If you’ve done all your research and decided that Fingerhut isn’t the right choice for you, there are other options that might serve you better, even if you have bad credit. There are a variety of secured credit cards that you can apply for such as:

  • The OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card: You will need a $200 security deposit to qualify for this secured credit card, but you can most likely get approved without a credit check or even a bank account. It can also be used to improve your credit, as this card does report to the three major credit bureaus. While this card does come with an annual $35 fee, you can use it to shop anywhere that will accept a Visa. 
  • Discover it Secured:  For all those opposed to paying an annual fee of any sort, this card might just be the one for you. With a $0 annual fee and the ability to earn rewards through purchases, there’s not much to frown about with this secured credit card. One of the best perks, is that it allows you the chance to upgrade to an unsecured card after only eight months. 
  • Deserve Pro Mastercard: This card is a desirable option for those with a short credit history. There is no annual fee and no security deposit required and, if your credit history isn’t very long-winded, that’s okay. The issuers for this card may use their own process to decide whether or not you qualify for credit, by evaluating other factors such as income and employment. This card is especially nifty because you can get cash-back rewards such as 3% back on every dollar that you spend on travel and entertainment, 2% back on every dollar spent at restaurants, and 1% cash back on every dollar spent on anything else. 

Final Thoughts 

Fingerhut is an option worth looking into for those with bad credit or a short credit history. If you want to use a Fingerhunt credit account to improve your credit score, be sure to use it wisely and make all of your payments on time, just as you would with any other credit card.

Even though it might be easy to get approved, the prices and interest rates on items sold through Fingerhut are set higher than they would be at most other retailers, so it’s important to consider this before applying. 

There are a ton of options available, regardless of what your credit report looks like, if you are trying to improve your credit. If the prices of Fingerhut’s merchandise are enough to scare you away, you might want to consider applying for a secured credit card. 

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Six Suburbs for Generation Z

Are you thinking about buying your first home? If you’re a member of Generation Z, you’re not alone. Post-millennial adults have learned a lot from the unexpected delays and disappointments that are keeping 19 million mortgage-ready millennials in rentals. Planning well is one of them.

One question to answer is where you want to live. Conditions for first-time homebuyers vary a lot from one place to another. Affordability, employment prospects, and proximity to friends and family are three variables that can help you decide where to settle. In deciding where to buy a first home, each generation has likes and dislikes that reflect its values and priorities. Recently Homes.com surveyed more than 1,000 members of Generation Z to find out more about their home-buying plans, including what kind of neighborhood they prefer.

The survey found preferences centered around four characteristics:

  • Diversity. More than half prefer neighborhoods and communities that are racially and ethnically diverse;
  • Accessibility. Three out of four want a location that is accessible to work as well as to friends and family;
  • Safety. This is a priority when Generation Z-ers evaluate neighborhoods
  • Affordability. Generation Z is very aware of rising home prices that have kept millions of millennials from becoming homeowner.,

If you haven’t yet settled down and are open to moving, you might be interested in learning about options. In no particular order, here are six suburban locations that rank high in the four characteristics identified by the survey.

Lilburn, Georgia (Atlanta)

Located in Gwinnet County, northeast of Atlanta, Lilburn is a bedroom community with an approximate 30-minute drive to the city. With a population of about 12,000, it grew following construction of the Lawrenceville highway that radiated from Atlanta. Its median income, unemployment rate, home value, and age of its residents are slightly higher than the state average. Lilburn has been recognized nationally as one of the most diversified communities in the nation by Niche.com and one of the safest in Georgia by BackgroundChecks.org. Its population is only 49% white. Hispanics account for 30% of its population, Asians for 20%, and African Americans 18%.

atlanta, georgiaatlanta, georgia

Florin, California (Sacramento)

A city of 47,000 in Sacramento County, Florin is only 5.5 miles and an average commute time of 27 minutes from Sacramento. Florin (derived from “flora” or flowers) is in a rich agricultural district in the Central Valley, not far from the base of the Sierra Nevada. Florin flourished between the late 1890s and early 1900s, producing record crops of strawberries and grapes. After the turn of the 20th century, it developed a size-able Japanese community, which was devastated by World War II and the internment of its Japanese citizens in camps. Today, Florin’s unemployment rate is 3.8%, its median income level is about $20,000 lower than the state average, and its median home price is about equal to the national median. Asians account for 30% of its population, and Hispanics 28%.

Shaker Heights OH (Cleveland)

With a population of more than 28,000 residents, Shaker Heights is only a 25-minute ride on one of town’s two RTA lines or a ten-minute drive from downtown Cleveland. Its nine distinctive neighborhoods feature classic architecture, tree-lined streets and access to a variety of amenities from biking and ice skating to a 200-acre nature center. Healthcare, management, and teaching are the top fields of employment, and its crime rate is close to the national average. Shaker Heights is the sixth most ethnically diverse in Ohio. Only about half of its residents are white, a third are African American, and 5% are Asian. Two-thirds of its residents are college graduates and its median household income is $30,000 higher than the national median. However, its real estate is comparatively affordable. The median home value is about $260,000, about the same as the national median.

Glendale Heights, Illinois (Chicago)

Glendale Heights is a western suburb of Chicago with a population of about 35,000. The city is the most important passenger and freight transport hub in the country with over 30 Fortune 500 companies have headquarters there. It is recognized locally for its economic and cultural diversity, arts and culture and historic preservation. Until 1958, the site of Glendale Heights was mostly rural, but over the years, it has experienced significant economic and population growth. The average commute time to downtown Chicago is about 25 minutes by car. The median home price in Glendale Heights is about $225,000, equal to the statewide median and lower than the median of $263,000 for the Chicago metro. Glendale Heights’ population is 35% white, 32% are Hispanic, 23% Asian, and 7% are African American.

chicago, illinoischicago, illinois

Valley Stream, New York (New York City)

Located in Nassau County on Long Island, Valley Stream is a village of about 40,000 in the town of Hempstead, along the border with Queens. Living in Valley Stream has an urban feel and most residents are young professionals who own their homes. Median household income is about $100,000 and median home values are around $400,000, which is approximately $50,000 lower than the median for Long Island. Valley Stream’s population is 32% white, and 23% are African Americans. Hispanics account for 25% of the populace and 15% are Asian. Valley Stream’s crime rate is about one-third of the average for New York State.

Stafford, Texas (Houston)

Stafford began life in 1830 as a plantation with a cane mill and a horse-powered cotton gin. Today it’s a bedroom community in the greater Houston area with 18,000 residents, a performing arts theatre & convention center, and a Swaminarayan Mandir, one of four temples of the Hindu sect in the US. At $59,094. Stafford’s median annual income is slightly higher than the state median and its median house value is $195,527, higher than Houston’s but far below the national median of $260,000. Its violent crime rate is half as high as Houston’s and is the fourth most diverse community in Texas. African Americans constitute Stafford’s most populous race at 30%.


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report and provides public relations consulting services to leading companies and non-profits in residential real estate and housing finance. He has been vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors, senior vice president of Edelman Worldwide and press secretary to two members of Congress.

Source: homes.com

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Documents You Need to Apply for a Mortgage – Lexington Law

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

Any application for credit should be taken as a serious matter. Simply applying and allowing the lender to pull your credit report has an impact on your credit score, so it’s not a good idea to apply for things on a whim. But mortgage applications tend to be more serious than most other apps because they’re for such large amounts of money and longer terms.

When you’re borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars for 15 to 30 years, the lender wants to ensure you’re a sound investment. They actually have an obligation to their shareholders, employees and other customers to try to take on mortgage accounts that are likely to result in a return instead of a loss.

For these reasons, you usually have to show up to the mortgage application process with a lot of documentation. Here’s a rundown of the documents needed for a mortgage application.

Mortgage Application

The first document is the mortgage application itself. Whether you complete it online or as a physical piece of paper at a broker’s office or bank, this is the document that launches the process.

Typically, mortgage applications require the same type of information. That includes:

  • What type of loan you want. You may need to check or click boxes to indicate whether you want a conventional loan, VA loan, FHA loan or other type of loan.
  • Why you need the loan. Is it a refinance or new purchase, and are you purchasing a single-unit home you plan to live in, a rental property or a business property?
  • The property itself. You must fill in the address and some other basic information about the property you want to buy.
  • Demographic information about the person or people borrowing the money, including name, address, phone number and Social Security number.
  • Employment history for all borrowers.
  • Income and assets for all borrowers.
  • Debts and other liabilities for all borrowers.

You’ll also need to sign various agreements and disclosures. That includes whether you have a bankruptcy or other issue in your financial history and an agreement that the creditor can pull your reports.

Assets

You can’t just list items like assets on your mortgage application, though. You also have to prove your statements with documents. Documents that prove your assets can include bank statements showing current cash balances, investment statements showing current values and life insurance policies. If you’re including gift funds in your assets, you’ll need letters or other documents demonstrating where the money came from.

Debts and Expenses

Most of the time, the mortgage company can see evidence of your debts and expenses on your credit report. If the underwriter has any questions or concerns during the approval process, they may reach out for additional information such as copies of credit card statements. This is especially true if you’ve recently paid down debt and that isn’t yet reflected on your credit report.

When it comes to debts, one of the major concerns is your debt-to-income ratio. If it’s too high, the lender is less likely to approve you. Calculate this ratio by adding up all your monthly debt payments along with the estimated mortgage payment and dividing it by your total monthly income.

For example, if you have a car payment of $400, credit card bills with monthly minimums of $200 and student loans of $500 a month, that’s $1,100 in debt. Add a $1,500 mortgage and you would have $2,600 in debt. If you make $7,000 a month, your debt-to-income ratio is 37 percent.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes that the preferred debt-to-income ratio for mortgage approval is 43 percent or less. This is because you can’t use all your income up on debt—you still need money for utilities, food, fuel, savings and other critical expenditures.

Income and Employment Verification

You do have to prove the income amounts you put on a mortgage application. Common ways of doing so are summarized below.

Tax Returns

Tax returns from the past few years can demonstrate that you make a certain amount per year and have done so consistently. If you’re planning to apply for a mortgage soon and don’t have copies of your tax returns, consider proactively ordering a free transcript from the IRS.

W-2s and Pay Stubs

Copies of W-2 forms or a handful of pay stubs from your employer are also good ways to demonstrate your income. Start saving your paycheck stubs if you think you’ll apply for a mortgage soon.

Additional Information (Self-Employed)

If you’re self-employed or have forms of income that aren’t from an employer, you’ll need documentation. Some options can include statements from checking accounts or payment systems that show money you received. You could also provide a profit and loss statement if you’re self-employed.

Credit History

While the lender can get most of what they need from your credit report, you may need to be available to answer questions. Specifically, be ready to explain any negative items on the report. It’s a good idea to get a copy of your credit report for yourself before you apply for a mortgage so you know what might come up.

Other Documents

  • Photo IDs, such as a driver’s license or passport
  • Your rental history if you don’t already own a home, especially if you want to use it as demonstration of your payment history
  • Divorce records to prove that certain debts are no longer yours or that you don’t have access to funds from a previous spouse
  • Foreclosure or bankruptcy records, if applicable
  • Documentation of residency status if you’re applying as a noncitizen

Who Do You Give These Documents to?

You give the documents as requested to a mortgage broker you’re working with or to an underwriter with the mortgage company. You might be asked more than once for some documents, especially if you go through a preapproval process.

During preapproval, the mortgage company evaluates you as a borrower in general and lets you know what amount, terms and interest you can qualify for. Once you move to buy a home, the mortgage must go through a final approval process, and someone may need to look at your documents again or request additional documents.

Start Preparing for a Mortgage Early

A lender might ask for documents and require that you respond in a certain amount of time or it will deny the application automatically. So, you don’t want to get caught searching for documents during the process. Prepare for a mortgage app early by gathering everything that you anticipate that you might need. Another way to boost your chances for mortgage approval is to check your credit and resolve any negative items you can.

You might also be able to take actions to positively impact your credit before you apply for a mortgage—especially if your report has mistakes on it. If you want to repair your credit before making a big financial move, contact Lexington Law to find out how we can help.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

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

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

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How Does a Line of Credit Work?

How Does a Line of Credit Work? – SmartAsset

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When it comes to borrowing money, you have a few options like loans and credit cards. With a loan, you receive a lump sum all at once. You then have to repay that amount, plus interest over time. You also have the option of taking out a line of credit from a bank or credit union. A line of credit is more similar to a credit card than to a loan. Let’s take a look a how a line of credit works exactly.

How Lines of Credit Work

A line of credit works like a credit card. You receive a set credit limit and your borrow money as you need. You can get a line of credit in a wide range of amounts, whether you need $1,000 or $100,000 or more. This is different from a loan, where you receive a lump sum all at once and pay it back over time. With a line of credit, you get to spread out your usage over days, months or even years. You only have to repay what you’ve actively borrowed.

For example, say you need some extra money to make some home repairs. A loan would give you $10,000 upfront (if you qualify). You almost always have to start repaying that immediately. On the other hand, you can get a line of credit for $10,000 if you think you’ll need that much. You can borrow whenever you need, say for a new roof one month and then a new kitchen the next. You don’t even have to borrow the entire $10,000 if you need. This can help you borrow in smaller amounts which makes it much easier to pay back.

Just like credit cards, lines of credit also carry interest rates. Your credit report will determine the rate and the amount of the credit line. This rate determines how much your debt grows over time. However, the rate only applies once you’ve actually borrowed and spent the money. Simply having a line of credit won’t accrue interest if you haven’t spent any of it.

To access your line of credit, you can write a special check, on the institution’s website, over the phone or in person at an institution’s branch. This is during your “draw period.” You’ll then pay back the money you borrowed, plus interest, during the “repayment period.”

How to Get a Line of Credit

Just like with any credit application, you’ll need to provide the lender with your personal and financial information. This includes your Social Security number, date of birth, home address, employment information, income and more. Often, it’s not enough to list the information. You’ll need to provide proof this information like pay stubs.

Lenders will also look at your credit score and credit report. They want to ensure you’re safe enough to lend to. If you have a history of making late payments or going into debt, you probably won’t qualify for a line of credit. This is especially true since lenders never know when you will actually borrow from the line of credit.

Managing Your Line of Credit

The beauty of a line of credit is that you have it there when you need it. But if you don’t borrow from it, you don’t have to pay a penny of interest. It can be used for home or car repairs, a wedding, college expenses and more.

As with any other type of credit, you should only borrow what you absolutely need. It’s equally as important to pay it back as agreed. Review your bill each month and, if you can, make more than just the minimum payment. If any extra money shows up in your budget, like a raise or a bonus, put that money toward the loan. To stay on top of your payments and avoid accruing too much interest, you might want to automate your payments directly from another bank account.

Should I Get a Line of Credit?

Lines of credit are good for upcoming big purchases where the total cost isn’t entirely known. Home repairs are a good example since unexpected costs do tend to spring up. You may also open a line of credit associated with your checking account if you anticipate running into overdraft fees and costs.

You’ll also want to review the fees and rates that may come with a line of credit. Fees can often includes late fees, fees for accessing your account and application fees. There may also be closing costs when you close the deal. Plus, interest rates tend to be higher for lines of credit. They’ll go even higher if your credit isn’t up to par. This will vary from institution to institution so be sure to check the paperwork or ask a representative.

Finally, it’s important to only ever borrow money when you can afford to pay it back. This means not only what you borrow, but any fees and interest you may accrue. Excessive borrowing can get you into serious trouble and debt.

Bottom Line

Lines of credit can really come in handy when you have a big purchase in the future, but you don’t know the exact cost. They allow for much more flexibility in borrowing and repaying the amounts. Plus, if you’re responsible about it, you’ll end up borrowing and repaying much less than you would with a regular loan. Just always remain aware about any fees, rates and due dates so you can stay on top of your finances and debts.

Tips for Staying out of Debt

  • The key to staying out of debt is simply to spend and borrow what you can afford. That way, it will be easier to pay back on time and in full so you don’t incur any late fees or accrue any interest.
  • If you feel yourself about to fall under a pile of credit card debt, you have the option of transferring that credit card balance to a balance transfer credit card. That will give you some time to pay back that amount at no interest. You’ll have to do so quickly, though, before the promotional period ends.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/andresr, ©iStock.com/vm, ©iStock.com/bill oxford

Lucy Lazarony Lucy Lazarony has been writing about personal finance for more than a decade. Lucy’s a credit card expert. She is a freelance writer and award-winning journalist living in South Florida. Lucy earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. Her work is featured on Credit.com, CardRatings.com, MoneyRates.com and Art Hive Magazine.
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How to Get Approved for Credit in a Financial Downturn

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