Tagged: pros

Credit Card Balance Transfers

Credit card balances are crippling households across the United States, giving them insurmountable debts that just keep on growing and never seem to go away. But there is some good news, as this problem has spawned a multitude of debt relief options, one of which is a credit card balance transfer. Balance transfers are a […]

Credit Card Balance Transfers is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

USA Mortgage Review: #1 Mortgage Lender in Missouri?

If you live in the USA and need a mortgage, perhaps you’ve thought about applying at “USA Mortgage.” Makes sense, right? It just so happens that USA Mortgage is located right smack in the middle of our fine country, in St. Louis, Missouri to be exact. Well, that’s pretty darn close to the midpoint… Anyway, [&hellip

The post USA Mortgage Review: #1 Mortgage Lender in Missouri? first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.

Why You Need ExtraCredit in Your Life

What do you need your credit score for? In a nutshell, a lot. Credit cards, loans, mortgages, APR, even renting an apartment—whether or not you qualify is based largely on your credit score. If your credit is less-than-ideal, you know it can make your life just that much harder.    Having a bad credit score can hold… Read More

The post Why You Need ExtraCredit in Your Life appeared first on Credit.com.

5 Ways to Not Get Divorced During the Homebuying Process

image of a couple fighting on a bench

Even the most level-headed couples can go a little crazy when hunting for a home. If not careful, stress levels can suddenly shoot through the roof.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Most homebuying decisions swirl around major life changes: marriage, a new baby, job relocation, retirement, and downsizing. Those are tectonic shifts in one’s life, and adding a hefty down payment and a 30-year mortgage to the mix doesn't ease the burden.

Tensions don’t end there. A home isn’t just an investment; it’s a place you’re tethered to for years. You’re literally shaping your future by the neighborhood you choose.

In such an emotional situation, people easily become overwhelmed. In fact, a U.K. report found that 70 percent of respondents thought buying a home was a critically stressful time in their lives. Only one other life event was ranked worse: getting a divorce.

Yet it’s not practical to live in the same place forever. In other words, it’s up to every couple to rethink the way they handle the house-seeking experience, starting with preparing themselves for the reality of the situation.

Decisions, Decisions, and More Decisions!

Any homebuying newbie can relate to how complicated the process can be. When two people are involved, however, the strain amplifies. Luckily, knowing a few upfront expectations and being prepared to make tough decisions can ease the pressure.

First, understand the substantial financial burden. You must openly talk about your expenditure expectations with your partner. Partners can have significantly different ideas of what they are willing to spend to have a comfortable, safe home.

You must also accept that both of your priorities won’t necessarily align. For example, you drive east for work, and your spouse drives west. Whose work is more important if you can’t find a house centralized between the offices? In addition, what if the new home allows your partner to be 10 minutes from relatives, while you have a two-hour trek to visit yours? Until these considerations are aired out, a couple will be far from acing the homebuying process.

5 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Intact During Homebuying

Overall, communication is essential. In fact, with a few steps, you can turn looking for the perfect house into a way to strengthen — not wreck — your relationship:

1. Stick to a budget

Ironically, people often discuss stretching their budgets before they’ve even set them. Take a pragmatic approach, and know your budget first. A fast way to figure out your top monthly payment is by multiplying your combined monthly income by 0.25. For example, if you two make $10,000 a month, your mortgage payment with taxes and insurance shouldn’t be more than $2,500.

At that point, you can work backward. Use a mortgage calculator, like the one provided by Zillow, to figure out that a $2,500 monthly payment equates to a $500,000 house. Don’t even consider asking your mom to co-sign a loan to get more money. Instead, acknowledge the fact that you two can only afford what you can. Accepting this will help you both make decisions logically.

2. Start with the “good,” and work up to “best”

You know you can afford a $500,000 house, but don't initially schedule showings in that price range. The first three homes should be listed at about 20 percent below your budget. As you walk through the homes, notice what you like and what you don’t. For your next house, go up to the $450,000 level. Jot down what you love and hate. Finally, step into a $500,000 home. Is it tremendously better than the $450,000 one? Are its advantages worth an additional $50,000?

By starting at “good” options and moving toward “best” choices, you gain control over the process, and both partners have a chance to air out their objections. But be warned: If you flip the order and start with a $500,000 listing, anything less would seem subpar.

3. Quantify what’s important

Try to quantify preferences to put a more rational tenor on the process. An example is weighing the objective value of school districts and home prices. Typically, a home in a stellar school district will cost up to 25 percent more than comparable homes. Thus, for your money, you would have to get a smaller home to live in a preferred community.

Talk about this not as a way to “steal” opportunity from your kids but as a way to look at the pros and cons of each decision. For example, if you have 15 percent less of a house, your kids could attend a better school. This is a more rational approach than blaming your partner for not caring about your children's education. Quantifying priorities allows both of you to look at the big picture.

4. Speak magic words

Couples involved in buying homes often forget to incorporate productive, positive phrases into their conversations. Even if it doesn’t come naturally, emphasize how grateful you are for your partner throughout the process. Talk about how you appreciate that he or she has helped make it possible to look at better homes. Or admit that you’re blown away by the flexibility you’re seeing in your partner’s willingness to incur a longer commute to work.

While it isn’t an easy feat to be affirmative, you'll end up with better long-term results. You’re starting a new chapter together, after all. Don't you want your partner to know you are here for him or her in this journey? All it takes is a sprinkling of gratitude.

5. Invest in a little reflection

Whether or not you’re religious or spiritual, make time for reflection before signing on the dotted line. This will ground you and your partner and create a sense of much-needed calm. Ask yourself: “Is this really the direction for us? Is this where we’re supposed to be?”

In addition, vow not to bicker about dollar amounts after making your choice. Rather, use your home as a launching pad for the next page of your relationship.

Who has time to heap additional stress into their lives? Avoid the price of a divorce lawyer, and focus on the exciting possibilities ahead that come with buying a new home. The homebuying process might not be a cake walk, but your marriage doesn't have to pay for it.

An entrepreneur at heart, CEO Mike Kalis leads the team at MarketplaceHomes.com, a Detroit-based brokerage that specializes in new construction sales and property management. If you purchase a new home through Marketplacehomes.com, we'll agree to buy yours. Marketplace Homes has sold more than $3 billion in new construction homes through its unique home trade-in system and manages more than 3,500 single-family properties for investors who have 1 to 10 properties. It also offers new-construction homebuyers a guaranteed lease on their previous properties for up to six years.

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5 Key Property Features When House Hunting

When shopping for a home, many of us know our basic focal points, such as identifying the right neighborhood or finding a house with the ideal number of bedrooms and bathrooms. These factors are important, but there are other home features (some very large and some very small) that can greatly contribute to the enjoyment of your new home. Let’s make sure you don’t miss any of them. Here are five opportunities to maximize the benefits of your purchase that go beyond just the house and why each one deserves your consideration. Home Buying Consideration #1: The Garage Garages are a very important feature for many homebuyers, and can even end up being a dealbreaker for some buyers. More than a parking spot, garages provide valuable storage and project space, as well as a way to protect your vehicles from all types of damage. When you are first shopping for a home, you may know that you want a garage, but you may not have considered all of the variables that go into the garage design, and which choice is right for you. Garage Design: Why it Matters When evaluating garage design, it’s important to start by considering what you may want to use the space for, and what external factors (such as weather) might impact your use. Here are several major garage design aspects to keep in mind as you house hunt. Rental space: Depending on the size and layout of your garage, is there space that could be rented out full time, or used as a short-term rental to generate additional income? That extra income could be directed towards your mortgage payment. Storage opportunities: Does the garage have room to store what you need to reduce in-home clutter? Is there space for shelves, or even room in the rafters? Potential property value increase: According to the sales comparison approach (SCA), one of the most recognizable forms of valuing residential real estate, a “finished” garage that feels like an extension of the home’s indoor living space is one of several features that can increase overall home value. You may also want to consider the possibilities of eventually remodeling a bland garage in an otherwise perfect home. Attached vs. Detached Garages: Pros vs. Cons One of the biggest distinctions in garage design is whether a garage is attached or detached. Often influenced by lot shape (narrow lots on an alley often have detached garages, wider lots with a driveway often have attached garages) or the age of a home, having a detached or attached garage has both advantages and disadvantages.   Attached Garages: Pros Convenient access to your cars, storage, and other items, particularly if you live in an area with an extreme climate  Attached garages are often less expensive to build, and can be climate controlled by accessing the electrical and HVAC systems that are part of the home As attached garages are the most popular type of garage, having one typically increases the value of your home Attached Garages: Cons If you’re thinking of adding one, it may not be possible to fit on a narrow, urban lot Since they offer direct access to the home, they can be a security and fire risk   They can be hard to add onto or expand, and any additions or changes might require more expensive permits and extensive inspections Adding an attached garage, particularly to a vintage home, may look strange or otherwise detract from the exterior look of the home Noisy garage activities may be heard more inside the home Detached Garages: Pros More flexibility in size, layout and location, lot size and shape permitting It’s easier to add room for cars, storage, and projects, and to add onto if needed Less fire and security risk to your home  Less of an impact to the look or curb appeal of your home Can increase the resale value of your home Detached Garages: Cons  Particularly in bad weather, less convenient in terms of access  Will require separate utilities, HVAC, and more May not be allowed by your HOA or city permitting office Now that we’ve examined the garage, let’s take a look at another key feature — what’s going on with the front and backyard? Home Buying Consideration #2: The Yard No longer limited to just a lawn, yards have now become an extension of the home. A convenient, well-designed outdoor living space is something that many homeowners desire. Yards can be great spaces for entertaining and are often much less expensive to create than comparable indoor entertaining spaces. Here are some important yard elements to consider.  Trees and landscaping: Important for both aesthetic and practical reasons, trees and landscaping can increase your yard’s appeal. A mature, well-designed landscape is valuable, as it represents an investment of both time and money.  Outdoor kitchen: Whether you are grilling for two or entertaining 200, an outdoor kitchen makes cooking fun and convenient.  Fireplace or fire pit: This stylish focal point makes it easy to keep enjoying your yard, even after dark or in cooler weather.  Automatic sprinklers, drip system, and misting system: Automatic sprinklers and drip systems can keep your yard looking lush for a low cost, and are particularly valuable in dry climates. Misting systems can also keep you cool on hot days.  Deck or Patio: A stylish outdoor surface makes it easy to enjoy your yard, and many new construction materials require little to no maintenance.  Shed: Well-designed sheds can go beyond storage, offering everything from a private workspace to extra space for guests to sleep.  So, you’re considering the finer points of a yard. But what about adding a body of water to that yard for cooling off on hot days? Here’s the pros and cons of investing in a water element for your next home. Just starting your home search? Here’s the best time to begin. Home Buying Consideration #3: The Pool Pools and hot tubs are perhaps the most controversial of all outdoor home features. Some homebuyers totally avoid them, and some won’t look at a house without them. Which side are you on? Here are some factors to consider.  Backyard Pool and Hot Tub: Pros  Pools and hot tubs can be aesthetically pleasing Both are also useful for entertaining In warmer climates, pools can provide a way to enjoy the outdoors comfortably If you like to swim, engage in other aquatic exercises regularly for fitness, or use a hot tub for muscle and joint pain, having your own can be convenient In hot climates where pools are common (i.e., Arizona, California, Florida), having a pool can significantly increase the resale value of your home  Backyard Pool and Hot Tub: Cons Both pools and hot tubs require regular maintenance that includes chemicals, cleaning, and repair Many families with small children do not want a pool at home due to safety concerns Your insurance cost may be higher, and your utility bills may go up as well, particularly for heating a pool  When it is time to sell your home, there are many buyers who will not want a house with a pool A pool is a big decision that comes with both maintenance and benefits alike. You can always opt for a different kind of water feature, like a backyard stream. But if you’re looking to streamline your life, investing in home tech devices is almost a no-brainer. Home Buying Consideration #4: The Appliances and Tech Gadgets As technology improves and designs continually evolve, having up-to-date appliances and other devices in your home has become increasingly important. For example, while attractive kitchens are near the top of many house-hunters’ wish lists, there are items within those kitchens that can help — and items that can hurt — when it comes to increasing a home’s value. Appliances That Can Help Property Value Commercial-grade appliances: Particularly in high-end properties, many buyers expect to see appliances from luxury or professional brands.  Smart devices: Thermostats, fire detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, security cameras, door locks, and doorbells are just a few of the relatively new smart home devices that homebuyers are now beginning to appreciate and even expect. Appliances That Can Hurt Property Value Old and energy inefficient: These power-sucking products will cost you in both your utility bill, and the resale value of your home.  Homes totally lacking certain appliances: Is your property missing a dishwasher, indoor laundry, or other key features? This can be a major turn-off for buyers who don’t want to have to complete a complicated remodeling and installation project.  Mismatched appliances: Appliances from different eras or in different colors can make your kitchen look unfinished and low-quality, even if your other finishes are fantastic. Looking to stock up on home amenities? We’ve targeted the seasonal best deals for doing so. Now that you’ve considered the key interior and exterior components of your dream home, there’s one last important element to contemplate: the driveway. Home Buying Consideration #5: The Driveway Walkways and driveways connect your home to the outside world and play a crucial role in the curb appeal of your residence. Although often overlooked, they are important home features that can be messy and expensive to replace or update.  If you are evaluating the driveway at a potential home, or considering an update at your current home, the first choice you will need to make is whether you want asphalt or concrete. Both have benefits and drawbacks that may vary depending on your climate, landscape, and usage needs. Today, many homeowners and buyers are also looking for something beyond the basics, with driveway design trends including elaborate paving materials, irregular shapes, and additional features like extra parking for guests. Know the Tricks, Now Land the House Although these five features may not be your first considerations in the house-hunting process, they are important elements that you will use or interact with nearly every day. Add them to your consideration list, and you will be sure to end up in a customized home that you enjoy and treasure. If you’ve found your ideal home with all the right features, reach out to a PennyMac Loan Officer today or apply online to get pre-approved for the loan that’s right for you.

Nations Lending Review: A Human Home Loan?

While tech has taken center stage in the mortgage world, Nations Lending still strives to make home loans human. That’s their motto, and it means looking beyond the numbers and at the individual themselves to determine their needs. They believe the key to a successful mortgage starts with a good conversation, which should ultimately ensure [&hellip

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Debt Consolidation Vs. Bankruptcy: Which Should You Choose?

TL;DR: Debt consolidation and bankruptcy are two options for debt relief available to you. Bankruptcy involves discharging or restructuring all your debts—but it stays on your credit report for seven to ten years. It’s generally considered a last resort when no other debt relief options are available. Debt consolidation means consolidating multiple older debts into… Read More

The post Debt Consolidation Vs. Bankruptcy: Which Should You Choose? appeared first on Credit.com.

Should You Transfer Balances to No-Interest Credit Cards Multiple Times?

Karen, our editor at Quick and Dirty Tips, has a friend named Heather who listens to the Money Girl podcast and has a money question. She thought it would be a great podcast topic and sent it to me. 

Heather says:

I had a financial crisis and ended up with a $2,500 balance on my new credit card, which had a no-interest promotion for 18 months when I got it. That promotional rate is going to expire in a couple of months. I have good credit, and I keep getting offers from other card companies for zero-interest balance transfer promotions. Would it be a good idea to apply for another card and transfer my balance so I don't have to pay any interest? Are there any downsides that I should watch out for?

Thanks, Karen and Heather! That's a terrific question. I'm sure many podcast listeners and readers also wonder if it's a good idea to transfer a balance multiple times. 

This article will explain balance transfer credit cards, how they make paying off high-interest debt easier, and tips to handle them the right way. You'll learn some pros and cons of doing multiple balance transfers and mistakes to avoid.

What is a balance transfer credit card or offer?

A balance transfer credit card is also known as a no-interest or zero-interest credit card. It's a card feature that includes an offer for you to transfer balances from other accounts and save money for a limited period.

You typically pay an annual percentage rate (APR) of 0% during a promotional period ranging from 6 to 18 months. In general, you'll need good credit to qualify for the best transfer deals.

Every transfer offer is different because it depends on the issuer and your financial situation; however, the longer the promotional period, the better. You don't accrue one penny of interest until the promotion expires.

However, you typically must pay a one-time transfer fee in the range of 2% to 5%. For example, if you transfer $1,000 to a card with a 2% transfer fee, you'll be charged $20, which increases your debt to $1,020. So, choose a transfer card with the lowest transfer fee and no annual fee, when possible.

When you get approved for a new balance transfer card, you get a credit limit, just like you do with other credit cards. You can only transfer amounts up to that limit. 

Missing a payment means your sweet 0% APR could end and that you could get charged a default APR as high as 29.99%!

You can use a transfer card for just about any type of debt, such as credit cards, auto loans, and personal loans. The issuer may give you the option to have funds deposited into your bank account so that you can send it to the creditor of your choice. Or you might be asked to complete an online form indicating who to pay, the account number, and the amount so that the transfer card company can pay it on your behalf.

Once the transfer is complete, the debt balance moves over to your transfer card account, and any transfer fee gets added. But even though no interest accrues to your account, you must still make monthly minimum payments throughout the promotional period.

Missing a payment means your sweet 0% APR could end and that you could get charged a default APR as high as 29.99%! That could easily wipe out any benefits you hoped to gain by doing a balance transfer in the first place.

How does a balance transfer affect your credit?

A common question about balance transfers is how they affect your credit. One of the most significant factors in your credit scores is your credit utilization ratio. It's the amount of debt you owe on revolving accounts (such as credit cards and lines of credit) compared to your available credit limits. 

For example, if you have $2,000 on a credit card and $8,000 in available credit, you're using one-quarter of your limit and have a 25% credit utilization ratio. This ratio gets calculated for each of your revolving accounts and as a total on all of them.  

Getting a new balance transfer credit card (or an additional limit on an existing card) instantly raises your available credit, while your debt level remains the same. That causes your credit utilization ratio to plummet, boosting your scores.

I recommend using no more than 20% of your available credit to build or maintain optimal credit scores. Having a low utilization shows that you can use credit responsibly without maxing out your accounts.

Getting a new balance transfer credit card (or an additional limit on an existing card) instantly raises your available credit, while your debt level remains the same. That causes your credit utilization ratio to plummet, boosting your scores.

Likewise, the opposite is true when you close a credit card or a line of credit. So, if you transfer a card balance and close the old account, it reduces your available credit, which spikes your utilization ratio and causes your credit scores to drop. 

Only cancel a paid-off card if you're prepared to see your credit scores take a dip.

So, only cancel a paid-off card if you're prepared to see your scores take a dip. A better decision may be to file away a card or use it sparingly for purchases you pay off in full each month.

Another factor that plays a small role in your credit scores is the number of recent inquiries for new credit. Applying for a new transfer card typically causes a slight, short-term dip in your credit. Having a temporary ding on your credit usually isn't a problem, unless you have plans to finance a big purchase, such as a house or car, within the next six months.

The takeaway is that if you don't close a credit card after transferring a balance to a new account, and you don't apply for other new credit accounts around the same time, the net effect should raise your credit scores, not hurt them.

RELATED: When to Cancel a Credit Card? 10 Dos and Don’ts to Follow

When is using a balance transfer credit card a good idea?

I've done many zero-interest balance transfers because they save money when used correctly. It's a good strategy if you can pay off the balance before the offer's expiration date. 

Let's say you're having a good year and expect to receive a bonus within a few months that you can use to pay off a credit card balance. Instead of waiting for the bonus to hit your bank account, you could use a no-interest transfer card. That will cut the amount of interest you must pay during the card's promotional period.

When should you do multiple balance transfers?

But what if you're like Heather and won't pay off a no-interest promotional offer before it ends? Carrying a balance after the promotion means your interest rate goes back up to the standard rate, which could be higher than what you paid before the transfer. So, doing another transfer to defer interest for an additional promotional period can make sense. 

If you make a second or third balance transfer but aren't making any progress toward paying down your debt, it can become a shell game.

However, it may only be possible if you're like Heather and have good credit to qualify. Balance transfer cards and promotions are typically only offered to consumers with good or excellent credit.

If you make a second or third balance transfer but aren't making any progress toward paying down your debt, it can become a shell game. And don't forget about the transfer fee you typically must pay that gets added to your outstanding balance. While avoiding interest is a good move, creating a solid plan to pay down your debt is even better.

If you have a goal to pay off your card balance and find reasonable transfer offers, there's no harm in using a balance transfer to cut interest while you regroup. 

Advantages of doing a balance transfer

Here are several advantages of using a balance transfer credit card.

  • Reducing your interest. That's the point of transferring debt, so you save money for a limited period, even after paying a transfer fee.
  • Paying off debt faster. If you put the extra savings from doing a transfer toward your balance, you can eliminate it more quickly.
  • Boosting your credit. This is a nice side effect if you open a new balance transfer card and instantly have more available credit in your name, which lowers your credit utilization ratio.

Disadvantages of doing a balance transfer

Here are some cons for doing a balance transfer. 

  • Paying a fee. It's standard with most cards, which charge in the range of 2% to 5% per transfer.
  • Paying higher interest. When the promotion ends, your rate will vary by issuer and your financial situation, but it could spike dramatically. 
  • Giving up student loan benefits. This is a downside if you're considering using a transfer card to pay off federal student loans that come with repayment or forgiveness options. Once the debt gets transferred to a credit card, the loan benefits, including a tax deduction on interest, no longer apply. 

Tips for using a balance transfer credit card wisely

The best way to use a balance transfer is to have a realistic plan to pay off the balance before the promotion expires.

The best way to use a balance transfer is to have a realistic plan to pay off the balance before the promotion expires. Or be sure that the interest rate will be reasonable after the promotion ends.

Shifting a high-interest debt to a no-interest transfer account is a smart way to save money. It doesn't make your debt disappear, but it does make it less expensive for a period.

If you can save money during the promotional period, despite any balance transfer fees, you'll come out ahead. And if you plow your savings back into your balance, instead of spending it, you'll get out of debt faster than you thought possible.