How to Set a Home Renovation Budget

Before you start picking out tile and paint chips, be sure you know how much it will cost to remodel your house.

Have you just moved into a new place and want to spruce it up? Or maybe you’ve been in your home for a while and feel ready for a change. The easy part is knowing your goal for home remodeling — whether you’re trying to keep up with your growing family, add office space, modernize dated features or generally increase your home’s value.

Even if you’re ready for a kitchen renovation or anxious for a bathroom remodel, figuring out how to plan a home renovation that doesn’t break the bank can be tricky.

Here are five key steps in planning your home remodeling project.

1. Estimate home renovation costs

As a general rule of thumb, you should spend no more on each room than the value of that room as a percentage of your overall house value. (Get an approximate value of your home to start with.)

For example, a kitchen generally accounts for 10 to 15 percent of the property value, so spend no more than this on kitchen renovation costs. If your home is worth $200,000, for example, you’ll want to spend $30,000 or less.

Something else to keep in mind: Contrary to popular belief, kitchen renovations offer among the lowest return on investment. Every dollar you spend on a kitchen remodel increases the value of your home by approximately 50 cents.

The highest return on investment? A mid-range bathroom remodel.

2. Consider home remodeling loan options

If you plan on borrowing money to fund your home renovations, there are a number of loans out there to help with just that.

  • Refinancing. Depending on your current interest rate, you might be able to refinance your mortgage at a lower rate and/or for a longer loan term, which could lower your monthly payments and help you save up for your renovations.
  • Cash-out refinance. If you have enough equity, you could also consider a cash-out refinance, which means refinancing your existing loan for an amount that’s higher than what you owe. Going this route, you pay off your original mortgage and have cash left over. Use a refinance calculator to see if refinancing makes sense for you.
  • HELOC. If refinancing sounds like too big of a leap, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) might work better. A HELOC works a lot like a credit card in the sense that it has a set limit that you can borrow against.
  • Home equity loan. Although it sounds similar to a HELOC, a home equity loan is a bit different. This loan requires you to take out all the cash at one time. They’re often referred to as “second mortgages” because homeowners get them in addition to their first mortgage.

Refinancing, getting a HELOC or taking out a home equity loan are all big decisions, and it can be tough to know which one makes the most sense for you. As with any new loan, consult with a lender to see which option is best for your situation.

3. Get home renovation quotes from contractors

Some contractors will give you an estimate based on what they think you want done, and work completed under these circumstances is almost guaranteed to cost more. You have to be very specific about what you want done, and spell it out in the contract — right down to the materials you’d like used.

Get quotes from several contractors, but don’t necessarily go for the the lowest estimate. A bid that comes in much lower than the others could be a sign of a contractor who cuts corners — which can lead to extra costs in the long run.

4. Stick to the home remodeling plan

As the renovation moves along, you might be tempted to add on another “small” project or incorporate the newest design trend at the last minute. But know that every time you change your mind, there’s a change order, and even minor changes can be costly. Strive to stick to the original agreement, if possible.

5. Account for hidden home renovation costs

Your home may look perfect on the outside, but there could be issues lurking beneath the surface. In fact, hidden imperfections are one of the reasons renovation projects often end up costing more than anticipated.

Rather than scramble to come up with extra money after the fact, give yourself a cushion upfront. Factor in 10 to 20 percent (or more) of your contracted budget for unforeseen expenses, as they can — and do — occur. In fact, it’s rare that any project goes completely smoothly.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published June 2015.

Source: zillow.com

Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips

October 29, 2020 &• 5 min read by Constance Brinkley-Badgett Comments 0 Comments

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According to a YouGov Parent Survey in 2019, a quarter of parents entered the 2019 holiday shopping seasonstill paying down debt related to 2018 holiday spending. Deloitte numbers put holidayretail salesgrowth in 2019 at 4.1% year-over-year. In 2020, Deloitte predicts growth of between 1% and 1.5% year-over-year for the holiday season.

It might be that some people no longer want to pay for holiday gifts, decorations and food a year down the road. But it’s also true that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit consumerwallets and some people might be cutting back this year.

That doesn’t mean that people aren’t shopping. Google and other thought leaders note that changes to shopping habits and the need for social distancing and other measures will likely spread the holiday shopping season out longer. Shoppers are also likely to turn to online shopping.

With a ton of shopping opportunities, a longer holiday shopping season and pent-up pandemic energy, it might be easy to overspend and create debt you’ll deal with into the future. Follow these tips to prepare for holiday shopping so you can protect your financial standing, save money and make the most of the resources you have this season.

1. Check your credit scores

Begin by checking your credit scores and reports. They tell you where you stand if you want to apply for credit. They also give you a baseline of where you are so you know if your score goes up or down later with no explanation.

An unexplained drop in your credit score can be a sign your financial information is compromised. Unfortunately, the holidays are prime time for many scammers. Using a service, such as ExtraCredit’s Track It feature to keep tabs on 28 of your FICO scores, helps you know when you need to act to protect your credit.

2. Ask for a credit limit increase

If you have existing credit cards and you’re a cardholder in good standing, the months prior to the holidays can be a good time to ask for a credit limit increase. You’re not asking so you can spend more-it’s typically advisable to keep spending in line with your budget no matter how much credit you have.

You’re asking for a higher limit so you can spend what you already planned to without hurting your credit utilization. Credit utilization is the second-most important factor in determining your credit score-second only to payment history. It’s the ratio between your credit limit and how much of that credit you have used.

If you have a card with a limit of $1,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of 30%. But if you get approved for a credit limit of $2,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of only 15%, which is better for your score.

3. Apply for a credit cardwith a 0% APR introductory offer

Those with good or excellent credit might want to consider applying for a card with a 0% APR introductory offer. If you qualify for such a card, you typically have one or two years to pay off purchases made during the introductory period without accruing any interest.

This can be a way to finance your entire holiday without paying anything more for the privilege of doing so. However, it’s still important to maintain your budget and not overspend just because you won’t be paying the balance off until later. Otherwise, you make this season’s holiday festivities next season’s problem.

4. Pay down debt before-and after-the holidays

Speaking of last season’s debt: If you can pay it down before you start spending this season, that’s a great accomplishment. It also frees up your credit and your budget so you can better enjoy the current holiday season. If you’re paying $100 a month on your debt, that’s $100 a month that might go toward gifts or celebrations that you don’t have to put on a card this year.

If you do use credit to pay for the 2020 holidays, have a plan for paying it down as soon as possible. That’s especially true with 0% interest cards. The longer you wait, the greater the chance you’ll miss the introductory period and potentially be on the hook for a lot of interest expense.

5. Create a holiday spending budget

Whether you’re using cash or credit-or a mix of both-enter the 2020 holiday shopping season with a plan. Take an honest look at your personal budget. If you don’t have a budget, create one before you move forward. Then decide how much you can realistically spend during the holidays.

Consider which gifts you want to buy and which events you want to host or attend. You might not be able to do everything, and that’s OK. Be honest with yourself, your family and your friends about what you can afford to do with your time and money this year.

Then make a list and assign each item a monetary budget. That can include:

  • Gifts as a total
  • Gift extras, such as wrapping and tags
  • Shipping, both for receiving items you buy and for shipping gifts to others
  • Food and drinks
  • Travel
  • Decor
  • General festivities, such as tickets to holiday events

Once you assign a dollar amount to a category, stick to it. That’s a good idea even if you’re spending with credit.

6. Align budgeted spendingwith credit cardrewards

Once you know how much you want to spend, decide how best to spend it. If you’re using credit cards for the holidays, check your accounts to see if any offer cash back or rewards points. If they do, double-check which categories or stores you can shop in to earn the most points with each card.

For example, some travel rewards cards offer 6x points when you shop at supermarkets. You could use such a card to cover the food-and-drink portion of your holiday budget and reap the biggest rewards possible from that spending. You might also be able to maximize rewards when purchasing gift cards.

7. Guard your financial information and identity

As you enjoy holiday shopping, be on guard. Don’t use debit card PIN numbers unless you have to, and shield the keypad when you enter your information. Keep a close eye on your wallet or purse, and check your credit card statements regularly to ensure all charges are yours. You can also use ExtraCredit’s Guard It feature to help keep your identity and account information safe during and beyond the season.

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How to Build Credit Without Student Loans

June 6, 2016 &• min read by Jeanine Skowronski Comments 0 Comments

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College graduates saddled with student loans may find this hard to believe, but there is one upside to having to pay back all that debt: It helps you build credit.

That may seem like a small consolation — particularly if the balances you owe are even average — but credit can be hard to come by. Of course, all hope isn’t lost for those who don’t have student loans.

Here are some ways to build credit without that kind of debt.

1. Get a Secured Credit Card

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act prohibits lenders from giving credit cards to anyone under 21 who doesn’t have a willing co-signer or a demonstrated ability to repay, but if you’re over that age or you have a source of income, you can apply for some entry-level plastic.

Secured credit cards — which require you to put down a deposit that serves as your credit line — are specifically designed to help people repair or build credit. These cards generally require a deposit to “secure” the limit of the credit card. (You can go here to learn more about the best secured credit cards in America.)

There are also student credit cards geared to young borrowers that could be worth considering. The better ones have low credit limits that can keep new borrowers out of trouble and tout rewards or alerts designed to build smart-spending habits.

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2. Become an Authorized User

If you can’t qualify for a credit card, you may want to see if a parent, guardian or family friend is willing to add you as an authorized user to one of their credit cards. Authorized users aren’t responsible for paying off an account, but will get credit (pun intended) for any good activity associated with it. Just be sure to have the primary cardholder check if the issuer reports authorized users to the major credit bureaus, since not all of them do so.

3. Take Out a Credit-Builder Loan

An alternative to starter credit cards, credit-builder loans, offered by some credit unions and banks to help people improve their credit, allow you to borrow a nominal amount (often $1,000 or less) and make payments for 12 to 24 months. The payments are deposited in an interest-bearing CD or savings account. These loans typically have relatively low interest rates and can help people with a thin credit history develop a more solid credit profile as long as on-time payments are reported to the three major credit reporting agencies. (Again, you may want to check this ahead of time.)

4. Apply for a Personal Loan

You may be able to qualify for a personal loan. These installment loans do not require collateral and typically have slightly higher interest rates than secured loans. A bank or credit union that you have a relationship with may be willing to extend financing, though you may be asked to get a co-signer.

5. Establish Good Habits

Of course, you’ll only build good credit if you use any financing you are able to obtain wisely. You can establish a good credit score over the long term by making all your payments on time, keeping debt levels lower than 30% (ideally 10%) of your total available credit limit(s), and adding a mix of credit accounts (revolving lines, like credit cards, and installment loans, like an auto loan) as your score and wallet can handle them.

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You can track your progress by viewing your two free credit scores each month on Credit.com. If you make a misstep, you may be able to fix your credit by disputing errors on your credit report, identifying your particular credit score killers and coming up with a game plan to address them.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

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The Counteroffer: Negotiating a Real Estate Deal

A lot can happen between an initial offer and closing day. Meet the counteroffer …

Buying a home is rarely as simple as making an offer and paying that offer out. Negotiations can go back and forth for weeks before the seller and buyer are both satisfied.

The vehicle for this negotiation is the counteroffer — a vital and complex rejection and counter to an offer made by either party. Counteroffers are typically handled between real estate agents and are time sensitive.

Selling or buying a home is more of a process than a transaction, so it’s important to understand counteroffers before you make your first offer.

Why was I countered?

As a home buyer, if you make an offer below list price, the seller may choose to reject, accept or simply let the offer expire. If there are multiple offers, the listing agent will lay out the options for their client and then notify all buyers’ agents of the choices.

Sellers may also counter your proposed closing date. If they need to move out quickly, they may want to push it earlier. They may also ask to rent the property for a time after the settlement.

Price and closing date negotiations are common from both parties, but there are even more reasons sellers can potentially get countered.

The condition of the home is likely the biggest factor here. As home buyers conduct ongoing research into the home, any problems with the condition of the house can result in a counteroffer.

If you’ve chosen to take appliances with you when you move, buyers may also look to negotiate for those.

Appraisals are another reason for counteroffers. If an appraisal comes in below the agreed-upon sale price, it will affect the amount the mortgage company will lend to the buyer.

Negotiation power

When reviewing a counteroffer, it’s important to have an experienced real estate agent who can capitalize on your advantages in a negotiation. Both sellers and buyers can take steps to put themselves in an advantageous position through planning and smart counteroffers.

Knowledge is power in negotiations, so try to glean as much information about the seller or buyer as you can. Your agent will also seek information from the other agent on your behalf.

Sometimes sellers use the pending sale of their home to finance another, meaning they have a truncated timeline and could be more eager to make a deal. Similarly, buyers who have terminated a lease may be desperate for a place to live and more willing to negotiate.

If you’re selling a home with known issues, anticipate how these problems may put you at a disadvantage during negotiations. A leaky roof may not be discovered until after buyers order a home inspection. Depending on the cost, they may ask the seller to either fix the roof or deduct the cost of a new roof from the sale price.

These types of issues put sellers at a distinct disadvantage because they have to either pay for repairs, lower the selling price, or reject the counteroffer and hope the next buyer doesn’t notice or care about repairs.

This is why it’s worth the money (around $500) to pay for an inspection before listing a house. Preparation can save you headaches and money down the road.

Responding to a counteroffer

If you’ve received a counteroffer as a buyer or a seller, carefully review every aspect. Real estate agents, apart from yours, are under no obligation to ensure you read the full contract. So make sure you read everything carefully before you sign.

With each individual counteroffer, consider every aspect of the sale, including old and new information. If you made an offer above the list price, there is always the possibility for an appraisal to come in low.

If you are responding to a counteroffer before an appraisal or inspection, keep those at the forefront of your mind. Prepare yourself for future counteroffers once they are completed.

Whether you’re selling or buying a home, establish a baseline for when you will walk away from a sale. As a buyer, you don’t want to spend so much on a home that you move in with no cash for improvements and repairs. And as a seller, you should know how much you want to make off the sale.

With a measured and informed approach, counteroffers can be your friend. Communicate often with your agent to let them know what you want from the sale, and never be afraid to walk away if things go south.

Top featured photo from Shutterstock.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published October 25, 2016.

Source: zillow.com

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