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How Much Is Enough For Retirement?

April 20, 2019 Posted By: growth-rapidly Tag: Financial Advisor

If you’re thinking about how much is enough for retirement, you’re probably contemplating a retirement and need to know how to pay for it. If you are, that’s good because one of the challenges we face is how we’re going to fund our retirement.

Determining then how much retirement savings is enough depends on a number of factors, including your lifestyle and your current income. Either way, you want to make sure that you have plenty of money in your retirement savings so you don’t work too hard, or work at all, during your golden years.

If you’re already thinking about retirement and you’re not sure whether your savings is in good shape, it may make sense to speak with a financial advisor to help you set up a savings plan.

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How Much Is Enough For Retirement?

Your needs and expectations might be different in retirement than others. Because of that, there’s no magic number out there. In other words, how much is enough for retirement depends on a myriad of personal factors.

However, the conventional wisdom out there is that you should have $1 million to $1.5 million, or that your retirement savings should be 10 to 12 times your current income.

Even $1 million may not be enough to retire comfortably. According to a report from a major personal finance website, GoBankingRates, you could easily blow $1 million in as little as 12 years.

GoBankingRates concludes that a better way to figure out how long $1 million will last you largely depends on your state. For example, if you live in California, the report found, “$1 Million will last you 14 years, 3 months, 7 days.” Whereas if you live in Mississippi, “$1 Million will last you 23 years, 2 months, 2 days.” In other words, how much is enough for retirement largely depends on the state you reside.

For some, coming up with that much money to retire comfortably can be scary, especially if you haven’t saved any money for retirement, or, if your savings is not where it’s supposed to be.

Related topics:

How to Become a 401(k) Millionaire

Early Retirement: 7 Steps to Retire Early

5 Reasons Why You Will Retire Broke

Your current lifestyle and expected lifestyle?

What is your current lifestyle? To determine how much you need to save for retirement, you should determine how much your expenses are currently now and whether you intend to keep the current lifestyle during retirement.

So, if you’re making $110,000 and live off of $90,000, then multiply $90,000 by 20 ($1,800,000). With that number in mind, start working toward a retirement saving goals. However, if you intend to eat and spend lavishly during retirement, then you’ll obviously have to save more. And the same is true if you intend to reduce your expenses during retirement: you can save less money now.

The best way to start saving for retirement is to contribute to a tax-advantaged retirement account. It can be a Roth IRA, a traditional IRA or a 401(k) account. A 401k account should be your best choice, because the amount you can contribute every year is much more than a Roth IRA and traditional IRA.

1. See if you can max out your 401k. If you’re lucky enough to have a 401k plan at your job, you should contribute to it or max it out if you’re able to. The contribution limit for a 401k plan if you’re under 50 years old is $19,000 in 2019. If you’re funding a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA, the limit is $6,000. For more information, see How to Become a 401(k) Millionaire.

2. Automate your retirement savings. If you’re contributing to an employer 401k plan, that money automatically gets deducted from your paycheck. But if you’re funding a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA, you have to do it yourself. So set up an automatic deposit for your retirement account from a savings account. If your employer offers direct deposit, you can have a portion of your paycheck deposited directly into that savings account.

Related: The Best 5 Places For Your Savings Account.

Life expectancy

How long do you expect to live? Have your parents or grandparents lived through 80’s or 90’s or 100’s? If so, there is a chance you might live longer in retirement if you’re in good health. Therefore, you need to adjust your savings goal higher.

Consider seeking financial advice.

Saving money for retirement may not be your strong suit. Therefore, you may need to work with a financial advisor to boost your retirement income. For example, if you have a lot of money sitting in your retirement savings account, a financial advisor can help with investment options.

Bottom Line:

Figuring out how much is enough for retirement depends on how much retirement will cost you and what lifestyle you intend to have. Once you know the answer to these two questions, you can start working towards your savings goal.

How much money you will need in retirement? Use this retirement calculator below to determine whether you are on tract and determine how much you’ll need to save a month.

More on retirement:

Working With The Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

Source: growthrapidly.com

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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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How to Manage Your Debt Effectively

Love it or hate it, debt is an integral part of modern life in the United States. And, when you think about it, debt in itself really isn’t a bad thing. Neither are credit cards or loans.

high five

They only become a potentially negative thing when they’re misused or mismanaged. And once they get out of control, they can head down a long spiral and bring you down with them.

The wise use of debt — whether it’s revolving (like credit cards and lines of credit) or fixed (like a secured car loan or mortgage) — is like the skillful use of the right tool at the right time for the right purpose.

So, it’s important to realize that avoiding debt isn’t really the answer. In fact, trying to go through life without incurring any debt or using credit can be unnecessarily difficult and troublesome. It can even impact non-credit-related situations like renting an apartment. The skill Americans truly need to focus on developing is how to manage debt effectively.

Following are 7 tips to help you manage your debt more effectively:

1. Think Before You Sign

Banks, retailers, and many other organizations make credit very easy to obtain if you have a good credit score.

Nearly every department store or specialty shop has its own credit card that you can sign up for instantly while you’re making a purchase, and it often comes with the enticement of an immediate discount off your purchase.

Even if your credit score isn’t very good, there are many lenders who are willing to offer credit at high interest rates, from 25% APR credit cards to 33% payday loans.

The point to keep in mind is that lenders and retailers want you to spend money with them. They’re not concerned in the least with what more debt is going to do to your budget, your lifestyle, or your future.

So, the first tip is simple:

2. Avoid Applying for Credit Impulsively

Don’t sign up for additional credit as an impulse buy or based on desperation. It’s always going to be a bad idea under those circumstances.

However, if you frequent a certain store and routinely spend money there anyway, and you’re confident you can be responsible with a new credit line, it may be beneficial to sign up. The point is, that needs to be a conscious decision, not a second thought for the sake of a one-time 15% discount.

3. Educate Yourself About Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a 3-digit number calculated by credit reporting agencies based on a number of factors, many of which the average American couldn’t even name. While it may seem somewhat arbitrary, that doesn’t change the fact that that 3-digit number can determine:

  • Whether you qualify for a 0% introductory interest rate or have to settle for a rate that fluctuates at “prime plus 23%”.
  • Whether you’re considered financially trustworthy or not, and therefore whether a landlord will rent to you or certain employers will hire you.
  • Whether or not you can afford to buy your own house one day.
  • And much more…

There are numerous situations that are partially or fully out of your control that can result in damage to your credit score. However, much of the damage done could be avoided if consumers simply understood the basic factors that affect their credit score. Then, they could actively work to improve a bad score or maintain a good one.

So, our second tip is: Seek out reliable information about managing debt effectively and educate yourself, so you’re equipped to take strategic action.

4. Assess Your Current Debt Situation

As you learn more about managing debt and understanding your credit score, you’ll begin learning terms like credit utilization ratio and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. These simple calculations have a huge impact on your score, and on how willing lenders may be to offer you favorable terms or to offer any credit at all.

  • Credit utilization ratio is the percentage of your currently available credit that you’re already using. (A simple example: If you own one credit card with a $1,000 credit limit, and it has a current balance of $200, you have a credit utilization ratio of 20%.)
  • Debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of your monthly or annual income that goes toward paying off debt you’ve already incurred. (Another simple example: If you earn $6,000 per month and the combined total of your existing car loan, mortgage, and minimum credit card payments amount to $2,000, you have a debt-to-income ratio of 33%.)

There are other important factors as well, but these two figures form a significant part of the calculation when determining your credit score. If they’re going to offer you the best possible terms, lenders want to be relatively confident you’re able to easily afford to pay for the credit they’re offering you.

They can make that decision based, in part, on how much of your current reliable income is already going toward other debt you’ve incurred in the past, as well as how much of your available credit you’ve taken advantage of thus far.

5. Keep Your Credit Utilization Ratio Low

If you already have four credit cards and they’re all maxed out, when you apply for a new credit card, it’s a pretty good bet you’re going to max that one out too. You already have a 100% credit utilization ratio.

This shows you’re probably not great at managing debt, and there’s a good chance you’ll eventually overdraw your ability to pay. So, the credit card company may decline your application, or they may offer a lower credit limit and/or a higher interest rate to help mitigate their risk.

Of course, if your income is such that, even with all those maxed-out cards, you’re having no trouble at all making the monthly payments, (your DTI ratio is still low,) they may not worry about your utilization at all. And that’s where debt tends to snowball quickly and dangerously.

To sum up, here’s the tip: To improve your credit score and make sure you’re managing your debt effectively, you should shoot to maintain a credit utilization ratio and a DTI ratio of no more than 30%. In other words, you’re taking advantage of available credit, but you’re coming nowhere near the maximum you can afford to spend on it.

6. Make and Keep a Budget

This one requires very little explanation. Everyone realizes that creating a budget is necessary if you’re going to manage your spending. The more formal your budget, the better.

If you’re currently in good shape, your credit score is high and your debt is low, A strategic budget can help keep it that way while improving important tools like emergency savings and investments.

If you’re on the other end of the spectrum, your credit score is low and/or your debt is getting out of control. A budget can be the lifeline you need to slowly but surely pull yourself out of that downward spiral one penny at a time.

The formula is very simple: Income > Expenses.

Of course, putting it into practice is a little more challenging. There are plenty of tools available, from a pile of envelopes with cash set aside for various expenses to smartphone apps, but the real value of budgeting depends on your own self-discipline and willingness to stick to the plan you create.

So, for this tip: Make a budget that consistently keeps your income above your expenses, and do everything you possibly can to stick to it.

7. Get Professional Help with Credit Repair If It’s Needed

While all of the above tips are self-serve actions you can take right now to make a difference in your debt management, many Americans are already in a situation where it may not be possible to turn it around completely on their own.

For instance, if the loss of a job, divorce, military deployment, or other major life events caused you to unexpectedly rely on credit cards for months, you may be in a desperate situation that isn’t really even your fault.

Likewise, if you’re like so many Americans who grew up, finished school, and left home without ever learning the basics of financial responsibility, you may have gotten in over your head in debt without even realizing that was possible.

No matter what the reason is for your current situation, you don’t have to go it alone.

Hire a Credit Repair Company

Get in touch with a reputable credit repair agency and discuss your situation with a professional who can help. For a small fee, they can take the reins on your situation by:

  • Investigating your credit report to confirm its accuracy and completeness
  • Working with creditors on your behalf to negotiate payment plans or better terms
  • Disputing errors and eliminating inconsistencies on your report
  • Setting up a realistic budget and debt reduction plan
  • Guiding you through the challenges that will inevitably rise as you resolve your situation

So, the final tip is this: If you need help getting out of snowballing debt and getting yourself to the point that you can effectively manage it going forward, don’t hesitate. Get the help you need.

In modern America, completely avoiding debt is not only difficult, it’s potentially harmful. However, incurring debt without managing it effectively can be even worse. Follow the tips above, and you’re sure to get a solid handle on debt and use it skillfully.

Source: crediful.com

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Budgeting for Beginners: These 5 Steps Will Help You Get Started

Setting up a budget is challenging. Doing it forces you to face your spending habits and then work to change them.

But when you decide to make a budget, it means you’re serious about your money. Maybe you even have some financial goals in mind.

The end result will bring you peace of mind. But if you’re creating a budget for the first time, remember that budgets will vary by individual and family. It’s important to set up a budget that’s a fit for YOU.

Budgeting for Beginners in 5 Painless Steps

Follow these basic steps and tailor them to your needs to create a monthly budget that will set you up for financial success.

Step 1: Set a Financial Goal

First thing’s first: Why do you want a budget?

Your reason will be your anchor and incentive as you create a budget, and it will help you stick to it.

Set a short-term or long-term goal. It can be to pay off debts like student loans, credit cards or a mortgage, or to save for retirement, an emergency fund, a new car, a home down payment or a vacation.

For example, creating a budget is a must for many people trying to buy their first home. But it shouldn’t stop there. Once you’ve bought a home, keep sticking to a budget in order to pay off debt and give yourself some wiggle room for unexpected expenses.

Once one goal is complete, you can move on to another and personalize your budget to fit whatever your needs are.

Step 2: Log Your Income, Expenses and Savings

You’ll want to use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or another budget template to track all of your monthly expenses and spending. List out each expense line by line. This list is the foundation for your monthly budget.

Tally Your Monthly Income

Review your pay stubs and determine how much money you and anyone else in your household take home every month. Include any passive income, rental income, child support payments or side gigs.

If your income varies, estimate as best as you can, or use the average of your income for the past three months.

Make a List of Your Mandatory Monthly Expenses

Start with:

  1. Rent or mortgage payment.

  2. Living expenses like utilities (electric, gas and water bills), internet and phone.

  3. Car payment and transportation costs.

  4. Insurance (car, life, health).

  5. Child care.

  6. Groceries.

  7. Debt repayments for things like credit cards, student loans, medical debt, etc.

Anything that will result in a late fee for not paying goes in this category.

List Non-Essential Monthly and Irregular Expenses

Non-essential expenses include entertainment, coffee, subscription and streaming services, memberships, cable TV, gifts, dining out and miscellaneous items.

Don’t forget to account for expenses you don’t incur every month, such as annual fees, taxes, car registration, oil changes and one-time charges. Add them to the month in which they usually occur OR tally up all of your irregular expenses for the year and divide by 12 so you can work them into your monthly budget.

Pro Tip

Review all of your bank account statements for the past 12 months to make sure you don’t miss periodic expenses like quarterly insurance premiums.

A woman with a dog reviews financial docements spread out on the floor.
Getty Images

Don’t Forget Your Savings

Be sure to include a line item for savings in your monthly budget. Use it for those short- or long-term savings goals, building up an emergency fund or investments.

Figure out how much you can afford — no matter how big or small. If you get direct deposit, saving can be simplified with an automated paycheck deduction. Something as little as $10 a week adds up to over $500 in a year.

Step 3: Adjust Your Expenses to Match Your Income

Now, what does your monthly budget look like so far?

Are you living within your income, or spending more money than you make? Either way, it’s time to make some adjustments to meet your goals.

How to Cut Your Expenses

If you are overspending each month, don’t panic. This is a great opportunity to evaluate areas to save money now that you have itemized your spending. Truthfully, this is the exact reason you created a budget!

Here are some ways you can save money each month:

Cut optional outings like happy hours and eating out. Even cutting a $4 daily purchase on weekdays will add up to over $1,000 a year.

Consider pulling the plug on cable TV or a subscription service. The average cost of cable is $1,284 a year, so if you cut the cord and switch to a streaming service, you could save at least $50 a month.

Fine-tune your grocery bill and practice meal prepping. You’ll save money by planning and prepping recipes for the week that use many of the same ingredients. Use the circulars to see what’s on sale, and plan your meals around those sales.

Make homemade gifts for family and friends. Special occasions and holidays happen constantly and can get expensive. Honing in on thoughtful and homemade gifts like framed pictures, magnets and ornaments costs more time and less money.

Consolidate credit cards or transfer high-interest balances. You can consolidate multiple credit card payments into one and lower the amount of interest you’re paying every month by applying for a debt consolidation loan or by taking advantage of a 0% balance-transfer credit card offer. The sooner you pay off that principal balance, the sooner you’ll be out of debt.

Refinance loans. Refinancing your mortgage, student loan or car loan can lower your interest rates and cut your monthly payments. You could save significantly if you’ve improved your credit since you got the original loan.

Get a new quote for car insurance to lower monthly payments. Use a free online service to shop around for new quotes based on your needs. A $20 savings every month is $20 that can go toward savings or debt repayments.

Start small and see how big of a wave it makes.

Oh, and don’t forget to remind yourself of your financial goal when you’re craving Starbucks at 3 p.m. But remember that it’s OK to treat yourself — occasionally.

A couple organize tax-related paperwork.
Lindsey Cox and Jonathan Tuttle dig into income- and expense-related paperwork as they prepare to file their taxes at their home in Temple Terrace, Fla. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

What to Do With Your Extra Cash

If you have money left over after paying for your monthly expenses, prioritize building an emergency fund if you don’t have one.

Having an emergency fund is often what makes it possible to stick to a budget. Because when an unexpected expense crops up, like a broken appliance or a big car repair, you won’t have to borrow money to cover it.

When you do dip into that emergency fund, immediately start building it up again.

Otherwise, you can use any extra money outside your expenses to reach your financial goals.

Here are four questions to ask yourself before dipping into your emergency fund..

Step 4: Choose a Budgeting Method

You have your income, expenses and spending spelled out in a monthly budget, but how do you act on it? Trying out a budgeting method helps manage your money and accommodates your lifestyle.

Living on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun or splurges, and fortunately many budgeting methods account for those things. Here are a few to consider:

  • The Envelope System is a cash-based budgeting system that works well for overspenders. It curbs excess spending on debit and credit cards because you’re forced to withdraw cash and place it into pre-labeled envelopes for your variable expenses (like groceries and clothing) instead of pulling out that plastic. 
  • The 50/20/30 Method is for those with more financial flexibility and who can pay all their bills with 50% of their income. You apply 50% of your income to living expenses, 20% toward savings and/or debt reduction, and 30% to personal spending (vacations, coffee, entertainment). This way, you can have fun and save at the same time. Because your basic needs can only account for 50% of your income, it’s typically not a good fit for those living paycheck to paycheck.
  • The 60/20/20 Budget uses the same concept as the 50/20/30, except you apply 60% of your income to living expenses, 20% toward savings and/or debt reduction, and 20% to personal spending. It’s a good fit for fans of the 50/20/30 Method who need to devote more of their incomes to living costs.
  • The Zero-Based Budget makes you account for all of your income. You budget for your expenses and bills, and then assign any extra money toward your goals. The strict system is good for people trying to pay off debt as fast as possible. It’s also beneficial for those living to paycheck to paycheck.
A hand writes financial-related labels on envelopes.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Budgeting Apps

Another money management option is to use a budgeting app. Apps can help you organize and access your personal finances on the go and can alert you of finance charges, late fees and bill payment due dates. Many also offer free credit score monitoring.

Step 5: Follow Through

Budgeting becomes super easy once you get in the groove, but you can’t set it and forget it. You should review your budget monthly to monitor your expenses and spending and adjust accordingly. Review checking and savings account statements for any irregularities even if you set bills to autopay.

Even if your income increases, try to prioritize saving the extra money. That will help you avoid lifestyle inflation, which happens when your spending increases as your income rises.

The thrill of being debt-free or finally having enough money to travel might even inspire you to seek out other financial opportunities or advice. For example, if you’re looking for professional help, set up a consultation with a certified financial planner who can assist you with long-term goals like retirement and savings plans.

Stephanie Bolling is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

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Wine Country towns you can actually afford

You love​ the Napa lifestyle. The Napa prices? Not so much. If your budget is more “house blend” than “rare vintage,” you might assume that you’re priced out of a life among the vineyards. Not so. We found four wine country towns where you can sip local vino on your patio without dropping a fortune on your house.

Median sales price: $296,500

Palisade, where the median sales price is under $300,000. Photo: njplantguru/Instagram

Like Traverse City, Palisade has a microclimate that allows the area to grow produce you wouldn’t think was possible in Colorado. Its most notable crop is wine grapes—the area is home to two-thirds of the state’s vineyard acres and a quarter of its wineries. Orchards, vineyards, tasting rooms, and wineries are everywhere in this small town, and they’re all full of local Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc. At Varaison Vineyards and Winery, locals show up on Fire Pit Fridays for s’mores and wine tastings. Residents enjoy outdoorsy adventures at Mount Lincoln and Mount Garfield and weekend festivals like September’s Colorado Mountain Winefest.

With wineries are spread throughout town, locals are never far from one, regardless of their address or budget. Here, living near a winery doesn’t require a million-dollar bank account. The good life can be had with a median sales price of $296,500.

Interested? You can have your own view of the mountains from this tidy five-bedroom for sale in Palisade for $339,357.


Median sales price: $252,111

The view from this Walla Walla home is a wine lover’s dream.

When Italians started immigrating to Walla Walla in the late 1800s, they came with a gift: winemaking know-how. Unfortunately, it would take nearly 100 years to figure out how to make grapes survive the often-fickle weather here. Today, the area is knowns for its Cabernet Sauvignon, but you’ll also find plenty of vines producing Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. There are more than 120 wineries in Walla Walla, including one owned by NFL star Drew Bledsoe and a mini-winery cluster on the grounds of the local airport.

Though locals take their wine seriously, the Walla Walla vibe is as light-hearted as its name. This is a city where one of the best restaurants is found in a gas station—Andrae’s Kitchen, run by acclaimed chef Andrae Bopp. And in the wineries around town, you’re likely to find winemakers mixing with patrons, or in the case of Julia Russell of Mansion Creek Cellars, teaching them flamenco moves.

Though still somewhat under the radar as a wine region, Walla Walla is getting more attention all the time. Get ahead of the crowd while the median sales price is a friendly $252,111.

Interested? This three-bedroom charmer is available now for $250,000 in Walla Walla.


Median sales price: $288,500

Overmountain Vineyards sits on a 70-acre parcel east of Tryon. Photo: pryorreggie/Instagram

This small town of 1,700 in the heart of North Carolina’s horse country has a well-deserved reputation as an oasis for the arts. Many artists, actors, and writers (including F. Scott Fitzgerald) have lived in this town near the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Locals and visitors love the galleries, independent bookstores, and restaurants along Trade Street, but the Tryon Foothills Wine Country has become an even bigger attraction. Protected from extreme weather by the mountains, the Tryon Foothills have the longest grape-growing season in the state. In fact, the area has been famous for its prime grape-growing conditions for well over a century. Today, the area produces a large variety of wine grapes, including  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. At Mountain Brook Vineyard, grapes are harvested entirely by hand. And over at Overmountain Vineyards, a father-daughter team handcrafts French-style wine.

Interested? Even the address of this sunny two-bedroom in Tryon is right: it’s on Vineyard Road. And at $269,500, it’s less than the median price of $288,500.


Median listing price: $220,650

This home for sale in Traverse City comes with a vineyard.

The mountain-like dunes on the shores of Lake Michigan aren’t the only quirk of geography for Traverse City. Its location near the lake gives the city ideal conditions for producing cool-climate grapes, a feat not possible anywhere else in the region. Wine experts love the area’s Rieslings, and both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are popular Traverse City varieties, too. And there’s more praise still for the natural beauty at the area’s 35 wineries, especially those on the panoramic Leelanau Peninsula. Whether you’re gazing over Grand Traverse Bay from Chateau Chantel or at the rolling fields of lavender of Brys Estate, the views pair perfectly with the wine.

Though Traverse City is a favorite among summer vacationers, it doesn’t shut down after the high season. Most wineries remain open year-round, and the arts and entertainment scene stays busy with galleries, events, and film screenings at the restored vintage State Theatre. With a median listing price of $220,650, you’d have room in your budget to explore it all.

Interested? You can find an adorable three-bedroom for sale in Traverse City for $229,900.


Ready to find the wine-country home of your dreams? See what’s available now on Trulia.

Source: trulia.com

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Buying a Home in 2021? 11 Tips to Get It Done!

If you’ve yet to enter the housing market, but are thinking of buying a home in 2021, there’s a lot you need to know.

As I once pointed out, this isn’t your older sibling’s housing market. Not just anyone can get a mortgage these days. You actually have to qualify. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Let’s start by talking about home prices, which have soared in recent years. The good news is mortgage rates remain very low, and may even break new record lows this year, which can keep affordability within reach.

1. Prepare for More Sticker Shock

Yes, if you’re prepping to buy a home in 2021, expect to be shocked, and not in a good way. At this point in the cycle, home prices have eclipsed old all-time highs in many parts of the country.

And even if they haven’t yet, there’s a good chance you’ll be paying more than the Zestimate or Redfin Estimate for the property in question due to limited inventory and strong home buyer demand.

The bad news for renters is home prices are expected to rise another 10% this year, so things are just getting more and more expensive.

In short, expect to shell out a lot of dough if you want a home in 2021, and that could often mean paying over asking price, even if the original list price seems high.

2. Get Pre-Approved for a Home Loan Early

Speaking of that home being out of your price range, you may want to get pre-approved with a bank or mortgage lender ASAP.

First off, real estate agents won’t give you the time of day without one, especially in a red-hot market.

And secondly, if you don’t know how much house you can afford, you’re basically wasting your time by perusing listings and going to open houses.

This is especially true if the homes you’ve got your eye on are consistently going above asking since you’ll need even more purchasing power.

It’s not hard or all that time consuming to get a mortgage pre-approval, and it’ll give you more confidence and perhaps make you more serious about finally making the move.

Tip: Look for an online mortgage lender that lets you generate a pre-approval on the fly in minutes (and know you don’t have to use them if and when you proceed with a purchase!).

3. Check Your Credit Scores and Put Away Your Credit Cards

While you’re at it, you should check your credit scores (all 3 of them) and determine if anything needs to be addressed.

As I always say, credit scoring changes can take time, so give yourself plenty of it. Don’t wait until the last minute to fix any errors or issues.

And while you’re addressing anything that needs more attention, do yourself a favor and put the credit cards in the freezer (or somewhere else out of reach).

Lots of spending, even if you pay it back, can ding your scores, even if just momentarily. It can also increase your DTI ratio and limit your purchasing power. Ultimately, bad timing can create big headaches.

Additionally, pumping the brakes on spending might give you a nice buffer for closing costs, down payment funds, moving costs, and renovation expenses once you do buy.

4. Housing Inventory Will Be…Limited

It’s the same story in 2021 as it was in 2020, 2019, 2018, and heck, even as far back as 2012. There’s really been a lack of inventory since the housing market bottomed because homes were never for sale en masse.

During the prior housing crisis, borrowers got foreclosed on or deployed real estate short sales to move on, and banks made sure all that inventory never flooded the market.

Now we’ve got would-be sellers with nowhere to go, thanks to the massive price increases realized in the past few years. It’s hard to move up or downsize, so a lot of folks are staying put. That means less choice for you.

While we saw an uptick in inventory in 2019, it appeared to be short-lived and now housing supply is at an all-time low!

With near-record low interest rates and lots of Americans hitting the ripe first-time buyer age of 34, expect competition to intensify.

Again, this supports the argument of being prepared early so you’re ready to make an offer at a moment’s notice!

5. That Home Might Be a Fixer

You probably don’t have the same skill set as Joanna and Chip Gaines, but you might still wind up with a fixer-upper thanks to those inventory constraints. And that’s totally okay.

What I’ve learned from buying real estate is that you’ll typically never be content with the upgrades previous owners or developers make, even if they were super expensive and high quality. So why pay extra for it?

There’s a good chance you’ll want to make the home yours, with special touches and changes that distance yourself from the previous owner.

Don’t be afraid to go down that road, but also know the difference between superficial blemishes and design challenges, and even worse, major problems.

Especially this year, watch out for money pits that sellers can finally unload because real estate is just so very hot.

Those properties that could never sell may finally find a buyer, and you might not want that buyer to be you.

6. You May Have to Fight for It

What’s even more annoying is that you may have to fight to get your hands on the few properties that are out there, depending on the housing market in question.

In popular metros, bidding wars will still take place, and they even become the norm again as they were in previous years.

If the property is popular, there will always be someone willing to outbid you for that home they just must have. This is another reason why the fixer can be a winner, the hidden gem if you will.

That being said, it’s okay to pay more than asking (or even the fully appraised value), just keep in mind that there are plenty of fish in the sea.

Well, perhaps not plenty right now, but there’s always another opportunity around the corner.

Stay poised and don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Like anything else, it’s okay to walk away. Trust your gut.

7. Still Negotiate with the Seller

Just because 2021 will be a seller’s market once again, at least in popular markets, doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate. You can still get into a bidding war, win the thing, and then inspect the heck out of the house.

Inspections are key to determining what will need to be addressed once the home changes hands, and what the seller will need to do to compensate you for those issues.

If you don’t get a quality inspection (or two), you will have a difficult time asking for credits for closing costs or even a lower purchase price. Take it very seriously, the return on investment can be staggering.

Also know that in some markets, buyers may have the upper hand in 2021. Not all real estate markets are red-hot anymore, so you might be able to bid below asking and still get money for repairs.

8. Do Your Mortgage Homework

While you might have your hands full with an overzealous real estate agent, it’s important not to neglect your mortgage homework.

Mortgages are often just mailed in, with little attention given to where they are originated.

Your real estate agent will have their preferred lender that you “really should consider using because they’re the best,” but you don’t have to use them or even speak to them.

I’ll typically say get a quote from them as a courtesy to keep things amicable, and to appease your agent, but also shop around with other banks, credit unions, lenders, and mortgage brokers.

At the same time, think about how you want to structure the mortgage, including down payment, loan type (FHA or conventional), and loan program.

The 30-year fixed isn’t always a no-brainer, though right now it’s a tough argument to go against it.

There are other loan programs that can make sense too, such as the 5/1 ARM, which often get swept under the rug. Make the choice yourself.

9. Expect a Very Good Mortgage Rate

If you’ve done your homework and are in good financial shape, you should be able to get your hands on a very low mortgage rate in 2021.

In fact, mortgage interest rates are historically amazing at the moment and could even reach new depths depending on what transpires this year.

Once again, the 2021 mortgage rate forecast looks excellent, so they may stay put for awhile longer or even hit new all-time lows.

In terms of financing, it’s still a great time to buy a home. Consider that the silver lining to an otherwise pricey and competitive housing market.

Of course, with home prices creeping higher and higher, even a low interest rate may not be enough to offset that growing monthly payment.

So always make time to shop to ensure you get the best rate and the lowest fees, even if financing is on sale.

Just because rates are cheap doesn’t mean you should just accept what’s thrown in front of you. Still complain, still negotiate, still ask for more!

10. The Best Time to Buy Might Be Later in the Year

Before you get too excited, or worried that time is running out, it might actually be in your favor to slow play this one.

Per Zillow, the best time to buy a home may be in late summer, including the months of August and September.

Basically, you’ve got the slow, cold months at the start of the year where there isn’t much inventory, followed by the strong spring housing market where everyone and their mother wants to buy.

Then you get a lull and perhaps even a dip in home prices during summer, which could be an attractive entry point.

You might even get lucky and snag a price cut with a lot less competition while other prospective buyers are on vacation.

That being said, get pre-approved NOW and set up your alerts for new listings ASAP and just be ready to pounce whenever.

11. Are You Sure You Want to Buy a Home?

Lastly, take a moment to ensure you actually want to buy a home as opposed to continuing to rent.

I constantly hear the old “throwing away money on rent” line and it never gets old. Then I proceed to fantasize about renting with not a care in the world.

Are you sure you’re throwing away money on rent? Renting can be pretty awesome.

You don’t pay property taxes, homeowners insurance, HOA dues, PMI, or mortgage interest. And you can leave whenever you want. That sounds like a sweet deal too.

Oh, and if anything goes wrong, you can just call your landlord or property management company.

With a home, the problem is yours, and yours alone to deal with. Broken water heater? You’re paying thousands out of pocket, not the landlord.

Consider the Effects of COVID-19

One extra thing to consider given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that reared its head last year.

As you might expect, it’s making the home buying and selling process a bit more complicated than usual, despite companies learning to adapt.

For example, home sellers are more reluctant to hold open houses or let anyone in their home, and prospective buyers are probably also a bit apprehensive entering a stranger’s house.

But it’s still very important to get a good look at a property you’re considering buying. The same goes for the home inspection and the home appraisal.

Both should still be taken very seriously, even if more difficult to complete.

A home purchase doesn’t necessarily have to be put on hold due to COVID-19, but it might require more thought given the increased uncertainty with the economy, demographic shifts (city vs. suburban living), and so on.

Also, think before you make a complete lifestyle change like moving out of the city and into the country, just because it’s on-trend. You might look back in a year or two and say what was I thinking?!

Ultimately, you should always give a home purchase a ton of thought though, so for me not much has changed.

Read more: When to look for a house to buy.

Don't let today's rates get away.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

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What to Look for When Buying a House

In this article:

While everybody knows that buyers shop based on price range, there are many additional considerations to make when looking for a home. And, most buyers end up refining their criteria once they start touring homes. Ultimately, your home criteria should depend on your personal lifestyle and needs. Regardless of what you’re looking for, here are some general rules you should follow to make sure you’ll be happy with the home you buy for the foreseeable future.

What are the top features buyers look for in a home?

Today’s buyers are juggling many different priorities when it comes to buying a home, but according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019, here are the features that rank as very important or extremely important to most buyers.

Neighborhood wants and needs for buyers

  • Safety: 82% say a neighborhood that feels safe is very or extremely important
  • Walkability: 60% say it’s very or extremely important
  • Preferred neighborhood: 56% say it’s very or extremely important
  • Proximity to shopping, services and/or leisure activities: 53% say it’s very or extremely important
  • Optimal commute to work or school: 52% say it’s very or extremely important
  • Offers a sense of community or belonging: 48% say it’s very or extremely important
  • Close to family and friends: 46% say it’s very or extremely important
  • In preferred school district: 43% say it’s very or extremely important

Home features buyers want

  • Within initial budget: 83% say it’s very or extremely important
  • Air conditioning: 78% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
  • Preferred number of bedrooms: 76% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
  • Preferred number of bathrooms: 67% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
  • Private outdoor space: 67% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
  • Preferred size/square footage: 67% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
  • Floor plan/layout that fits preferences: 67% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important

28% of buyers look for a home to rent out, 27% looked for smart homes, 58% of buyers looked for assigned parking

1. Search for the right price

Price will ultimately dictate what you can or cannot buy. While looking at homes above your price range can be fun, it’s not a good use of time — and it can lead to heartbreak when you realize it’s not financially feasible. Despite this, Zillow research found that in 2019, just 55% of buyers stayed on budget, while 26% went over their initial budget.

How to set your home buying budget

Use Zillow’s Affordability Calculator: This handy tool gives you an initial budget range based on your income, existing monthly bills, and down payment amount. Once you have that range, you can set up Zillow alerts for homes on the market that fit your price range, along with other criteria.

Get pre-approved: Once you’re ready to really start your home search, you’ll want to get pre-approved by the lender of your choice. They’ll approve you for a loan up to a specific amount, based on your income, debt and credit history.

Forecast your mortgage payment: Even if you are pre-approved for a large loan from your lender, you should make sure you’re comfortable with your estimated monthly housing payment. When you use Zillow’s mortgage calculator to estimate your monthly payments, be sure the taxes, insurance, and HOA fees are accurate — those items can make a big difference in your monthly costs.

2. Prioritize the location

Next to budget, location is one of the most important things to consider when buying a house. The 2019 report uncovered that 24% of buyers found it difficult or extremely difficult to find a home in their desired location. If you can’t find or afford a home in your ideal neighborhood, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions (and enlist the help of your agent) to find a location that fits your lifestyle, needs and budget. Remember — your home’s location can’t be changed, so take the time to really identify a neighborhood where you’ll be happy live.

Proximity to downtown

Unsurprisingly, homes closer to core downtown areas have better resale value, thanks to their shorter commutes. According to Zillow research, in 29 of the country’s 33 largest metro areas included in the analysis, buyers should expect to pay more per square foot for a home within a 15-minute rush-hour drive to the downtown core. That may be why 15% of buyers who compromise to stay within their budget add time to their commute.

Community attributes

If you like being able to walk to restaurants and shops, try walking the distance to town to see if it’s doable. Spend some time exploring the area, checking out nearby parks and figuring out what kinds of attractions are nearby.

Alternatively, if you’re someone who likes a more solitary life and doesn’t mind driving, you might prioritize a home that offers more privacy, perhaps in a location that’s off the beaten path.

School district quality

If you have kids (or are planning on having kids in the future), you want them to get the best education possible. Checking out the school district ratings is a starting point, but you should visit the local schools to gather your assessment of the education and programs. Even if you don’t have children, the school district that your home is in can impact your future resale value.

Flood zone status

Homes located in flood zones require additional insurance, and buying a home in a flood-prone area means you need to be prepared if a flood actually happens.

3. Think long term

According to the Zillow Group Report, the typical homeowner stays in their home for 14 years before selling. When shopping for a home, don’t just think of your immediate needs. Make sure the home you select will meet your long-term goals, so you won’t have to move again in the near future.

Bedrooms and bathrooms

If you plan to expand your family in the near future, make sure the new home can accommodate your plans, whether it’s an extra room for a new baby, an in-law suite for parents, or a guest bedroom if you’re moving out of state and anticipate lots of visitors. The same goes if you are planning to downsize or you have grown children who will be moving out soon.

Outdoor space

As mentioned above, most buyers rank outdoor space as important. If you have a dog (or plan to get one), have kids who need a safe place to play or are an avid gardener, you’ll want to make sure the home’s outdoor space meets your needs.

Potential to personalize

Many buyers look for a home that’s move-in ready, so they can avoid costly repairs and updates (especially right after moving in). But at the same time, it’s nice to be able to add some personal flair to make a house feel like home. If you’d like to add some of your own style, be sure to steer clear of homes that you won’t be able to change enough to fit your preferences.

Lifestyle amenities

Ideally, your new home should enhance your current lifestyle — and you’ve probably already envisioned what your life in a new home will look like. As you evaluate houses, consider your hobbies and what makes you happy. For example, if you love spending time outdoors, you probably want a home with a nice yard. If you love to cook, maybe a nice, big kitchen is on your wish list. And, think about your current living situation: What things do you wish were different?

4. Assess property condition

TV makes home renovations look easy, but in reality, they’re anything but. If you’re a first-time buyer who has never undergone a renovation, you may want to steer clear of a home in serious disrepair. The costs can add up quickly, and if the home needs structural work, it could delay your move-in, causing unnecessary stress. Here are the three major categories of property condition.

Move-in ready

A move-in ready home is new, close to new, or has been recently renovated. Zillow-owned homes are move-in ready homes that have been recently renovated by a licensed contractor, and are ready for new owners to start their lives.

Minor updates

A home that needs minor updates might have cosmetic issues you’d like to change, or have some dated mechanical systems that could be updated for energy savings. Learn more about minor cosmetic details below.

Major renovation

A home that needs major repairs is usually priced lower due to the work that needs to be done. One upside to a major renovation is the opportunity to personalize the home to your tastes. Keep in mind that the return on investment for a major renovation isn’t 100%, and you risk a delayed move-in if the repairs are more extensive than anticipated.

Check condition of costly systems

No matter the condition of the home you’re buying, make sure your inspector checks to make sure major systems and mechanicals in the home are functioning properly. If issues are uncovered, you’ll want to ask the seller to either repair them before closing or offer a credit so you can fix them yourself. Look out for the following costly issues:

  • Damaged roof
  • Older furnace or HVAC system
  • Flooding, water damage or mold
  • Old insulation
  • Plumbing issues
  • Exterior cracks
  • Uneven floors

5. Don’t focus on minor cosmetic details

No house is perfect, so try not to get hung up on little imperfections. For example, don’t eliminate a home from your list just because you don’t like the interior paint color. Cosmetic changes are fairly easy and affordable to make. Don’t let the following minor issues keep you from buying a house you would otherwise love:

  • Paint
  • Hardware
  • Furnishings
  • Landscaping

When you attend showings and open houses, or even when you’re just browsing through pictures online, it’s easy to get distracted by clutter. Try not to pay too much attention to the seller’s stuff — it’ll all be removed by the time you move in. Put in the effort to picture the house as a blank canvas for all of your belongings.

6. Stick with your must-haves

There’s a big difference between wants and needs, so create two different lists when searching for a home. For instance, a shorter commute may be a must-have, but smart home features are a nice-to-have. Practicality and functionality should always take priority over the bells and whistles.

Things to consider when buying a house: needs vs. wants

For example, your list of needs might look like this.

  • Need: shorter commute
  • Need: specific number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Need: parking

Other items might fall to your list of wants, like these.

  • Want: updated kitchen
  • Want: upstairs washer and dryer
  • Want: smart home features

Source: zillow.com

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Home Buyer’s Guide: How to Purchase a Property, From Start to Finish [Free Download]

Purchasing a home is both exciting and a major milestone in your life, so you’ll want to be prepared for what to expect to avoid a stressful process. Having an in-depth look at the buyer’s journey can help you make informed and confident decisions.

From finding a real estate agent, negotiating offers to getting your keys on closing day, we’ve outlined all the steps of a home buyer’s journey in our free Buyer’s Guide, which you can download here.

The Buyer’s Guide will cover the buyer’s timeline from meeting an agent to preparing for closing day. We’ve outlined the 8 steps in a home buyer’s journey below.

1. Working With An Agent

Every city is filled with thousands of agents, but not all are equal. We believe it is important to choose an agent that you feel confident with. Before you commit to working with an agent, make sure you have a good understanding of the knowledge and experience they offer. It’s important that you ask your questions before making the decision to work with them.

2. Financing Your Purchase

Before you set a budget and start looking for a home, you’ll have to understand what costs to expect when purchasing a home. Here are some of the major costs involved:

  • Deposits
  • Down payments
  • Mortgage insurance
  • Closing costs

You’ll also want to calculate a rough estimate of the down payment that you will be expected to pay. Depending on the price of your home, your minimum down payment can range from 5% to 20%. If you’re interested in learning more about how to finance your home, you can get our free Financing Your Purchase guide here.

3. Searching For A Home

An important part of searching for a home is understanding how the home will fit with your needs and your lifestyle. You’ll want to consider home ownership as well as different types of properties and features. 

Types of Home Ownership

  • Freehold Ownership
    • You purchase the home and directly own the lot of land it sits on
  • Condominium Ownership
    • For condos, you own specific parts of one building: titled ownership of your unit, along with shared ownership in the condo corporation that owns the common spaces and amenities
  • Co-Op Ownership
    • You own an exact portion of the building as a whole and also have exclusive use of your unit

Types of Properties

  • Detached houses
  • Semi-detached houses
  • Attached houses
  • Condos and apartments
  • Multi-unit

Tip: Depending on your budget and desired location, you may need to be flexible to find a home that meets your needs. By being willing to trade some features for others, you’ll have more options to choose from.

4. Negotiating An Offer

When you are making an offer to purchase a home, the purchase agreement should include the essential components listed below. Your agent can help put together an offer that is compelling, while safeguarding your interests and puts you in a competitive position to secure your new home.

You’ll also have the opportunity to choose the conditions that you’ll want in your offer. Some of these may include a home inspection or a status certificate review.

5. Financial Due Diligence

Whenever you make an offer on a house, you need to provide a deposit to secure the offer. The deposit is in the form of a certified cheque, bank draft, or wire transfer; it’s held in trust by the selling brokerage and is applied towards your down payment if your offer is successful.

There are two types of deposits:

  • Upon acceptance
    • The deposit is provided within 24 hours of the seller choosing your offer
  • Herewith
    • The deposit is provided when the offer is made

6. Property Due Diligence

To firm up a deal or educate yourself more on the state of the property, you’ll likely want to have a home inspection if you’re purchasing a house. If you’re purchasing a condo, then your lawyer will review the building’s status certificate.

Home Inspection

A home inspector will assess elements of the home such as the walls, windows, plumbing, heating and roof to judge the condition of the home. This process is non-invasive and is essential to help provide buyers with a good idea of the home’s current condition and the confidence of putting in an offer. 

Tip: The home inspector will provide a summary of suggested work along with a minimum budget estimate for the repairs needed. 

Status Certificates

If you’re purchasing a condominium, you’ll need to obtain a status certificate from the condo board or management for your lawyer’s review. This document will include valuable information about the condo’s budget, legal issues, reserve fund, maintenance fees and future fees increases – and the lawyer can help identify potential red flags

7. Preparing For Closing

Before the big day, you’ll want to keep a checklist of what to do ahead of time. Some of these include:

  • Review your contract
  • Complete a final walkthrough of the home
  • Purchase home insurance
  • Meet with your lawyer
  • Know how much cash you’ll need
  • Secure cash required for closing

8. Closing Day

Closing Day is when you’ll finally get the keys to your new home! In addition to bringing the cash required for closing, you’ll have to sign a few more documents which will include:

  • Mortgage loan
  • Title transfer
  • Statement of adjustments
  • Tax certificates

For the full details on the home buyer’s journey including examples, advice, pictures and sample calculations, download a copy of our free Buyer’s Guide here.

Source: zoocasa.com

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