How to Cover Unexpected Costs with a Personal Loan

By Jennifer Calonia

Owning a home comes with its rewards — it’s an investment, a cozy haven to kick-up your feet after a long day of work, and a welcoming place to bring family and friends together. Although all of this makes homeownership fulfilling, owning a home also opens the door for unexpected (but necessary) expenses.

If you’ve suddenly been hit with a home improvement project that’s pinching your budget, like a roofing issue or heater malfunction, a personal loan might be an option to help cover the cost.

What is a personal loan?

A personal loan is an installment loan that’s typically issued by a bank, credit union or online lender. According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate on a two-year personal loan is 10.70% but varies depending on your credit score and other criteria. Some lenders offer repayment terms anywhere from 12 months to five years.

A benefit of using a personal loan for emergency home improvement projects is that the approval process is generally quick so you can address urgent home repairs sooner. Some online lenders can run a credit check, approve your application and send funds your way with a couple of days. The approval process for banks and credit unions, on the other hand, can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, if the lender needs additional information.

How to find a personal loan

If you’ve decided that a personal loan makes sense to fund your next home project, make sure you’re aware of these next steps.

1. Assess your budget

The last thing you need is taking out a personal loan only to realize after the fact that you can’t afford to repay it. Calculate how much you realistically need for your home improvement project, giving yourself a reasonable buffer for unforeseen repair expenses (e.g. permit fees, price changes for a specific material, etc.)

Then, tally your monthly income and financial obligations to ensure you still have enough cash on hand to keep the lights on and make monthly installments toward your loan. Using a spreadsheet or budgeting app can help you track these numbers easily.

2. Know your credit score

Generally, you need a good credit score to get approved for a personal loan. Your credit score is one of the key factors that lenders use to determine whether your application is approved, and a higher credit score results in a lower interest rate offer.

Check your credit score with the three credit bureaus to ensure there isn’t an error or suspicious activity that might inadvertently lower your credit score. For a free credit report, go to AnnualCreditReport.com to see where your credit stands before moving forward in the process.

3. Compare rates and terms

When you’ve confirmed that you have a good credit score that can get you competitive interest rates, it’s tempting to accept a loan from the first lender that approves you. But like other major purchases, it’s important to shop around.

Compare interest rates, annual percentage rates (APR), and term durations available, and read the fine print for any conditions or fees that might offset any benefits.

To start, try reaching out to your existing financial institution first to see what they can offer; sometimes credit unions, in particular, offer rate incentives for loyal members. Also, consider using a personal loan aggregator website to compare offers from multiple online lenders at once (just do your due diligence to ensure the site is legitimate).

4. Submit an application

If you’re ready to submit an application, you can either complete a form online or apply in-person, depending on your lender. Although all lenders require different information to process a loan application, some common information to prepare ahead of time include:

  • Personal information
  • Income
  • Employment information
  • Reason for the loan
  • Amount you want to borrow

To minimize any delays on your end, it’s helpful to prepare copies of verification documents, such as a driver’s license, proof of address like a utility statement, information about your home and pay stubs. Your prospective lender will likely reach out to you if they need any other information to make a decision.

Although it’s always best to have emergency savings set aside for a sudden home improvement project, turning to a personal loan is a useful option when you’re pressed for funds and time. As urgent as your project might feel, however, always take the time to do your research to ensure you’re making the right move for your situation.

Jennifer Calonia is a native Los Angeles-based writer for Upstart whose goal is to help readers get excited about improving their financial health and lifestyle. Her work has been featured on Forbes, The Huffington Post, MSN Money, Business Insider, CNN Money, and Yahoo Finance. When she’s not wordsmithing, you can find her outdoors, exploring state and national parks.

Posted on May 15, 2019 at 6:43 pm
Rondi duPont | Category: Blog, For Buyers & Sellers | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Home Warranties Provide Buyers and Sellers With A Peace Of Mind

If you are a homeowner, you probably know all-too-well how costly home repairs can be. And, thanks to Murphy’s Law, appliance break-downs seem to happen at the worst possible time—like when you are selling your home. For this reason, it is in the best interest of all home sellers to consider purchasing a home warranty.

A home warranty offers many advantages to the home seller, the least of which is a peace of mind that your major home appliances are covered in the event of a break down. Most home warranties cover both parts and labor of your home’s most vital systems and major appliances. This protects the home seller from potentially large, unexpected repair bills and also allows the buyer to purchase the home with more confidence. Additionally, a home warranty is usually for the term of at least one year, so any unforeseen repairs/replacements are also covered well after the home has been sold. A home warranty also provides a competitive edge over those homes without warranties because it communicates confidence to buyers. This can add up to a faster selling period, resulting in a more convenient process for all involved.

A home is probably the single largest investment you’ll ever make, so the last thing you want as a home seller or buyer, are unexpected home repairs/replacements. Major appliance replacement can cost you several thousand dollars, and during the process of a home sale/purchase, your budget doesn’t often allow for costly expenses. A home warranty is designed to protect you from these types of expenditures. Furthermore, it is convenient for home sellers because a home warranty offers after-sale liability. While an inspection may find many faults that are covered by a home warranty, it cannot account for latent problems that are beyond an inspection’s scope, or problems that occur down the road. In most cases, a home warranty will cover these expenses, alleviating potential financial burdens for the seller once they have sold the home.

When considering a home warranty, it’s important to ask the right questions. Warranties vary from one company to the next and there are also many different types of coverage available. Your Realtor should be able to help you with this process. First and foremost, you should identify which components of the home will be covered by the warranty. It’s also important to attain annual costs and the charge for service calls. You will want to ask what the total dollar limit is on the warranty and what the limits are for the individual items that are covered. Many home sellers purchase home warranties, which are then passed along to the homebuyer when they move into the home. As a homebuyer, you may want to look into whether or not the coverage can be renewed once the warranty has expired.

According to American Home Shield, one of the largest home warranty companies in the nation, the average home warranty customer uses their warranty plan 2.3 times. Furthermore, the number of home warranties is increasing with every year because homeowners are becoming more informed of their benefits. Eventually home warranties will become commonplace, as buyers and sellers realize the advantages they offer. Ultimately, what it comes down to is that a home warranty is a very simple, cost-effective way to purchase a peace of mind for both homebuyers and sellers alike.

Posted on April 15, 2019 at 4:37 pm
Rondi duPont | Category: Blog, For Buyers, For Buyers & Sellers, For Sellers | Tagged , , , , ,

Are You Better Off Paying Your Mortgage Earlier or Investing Your Money?

Photo Credit: Rawpixel via Unsplash

Few topics cause more division among economists than the age-old debate of whether you’re better off paying off your mortgage earlier, or investing that money instead. And there’s a good reason why that debate continues; both sides make compelling arguments.

For many people, their mortgage is the largest expense they will ever incur in their lives. So if given the chance, it only makes logical sense you would want to pay it off as quickly as possible. On the other hand, a mortgage is also the cheapest money you will ever borrow, and it’s generally considered good debt. Any extra money you obtain could be definitely be put to good use elsewhere.

The reality is, however, a little less cut and clear. For some homeowners, paying off their mortgage earlier is the right answer. While for others, it would be far more advantageous to invest their money.

Advantages of paying off your mortgage earlier

  • You’ll pay less interest: Each time you make a mortgage payment, a portion is dedicated towards interest, and another towards principal (we’ll ignore other costs for now). Interest is calculated monthly by taking your remaining balance, the length of your amortization period, and the interest rate agreed upon with your lending institution.

If you have a $300,000 mortgage, at a 4% fixed rate over 30 years, your monthly payment would be around $1,432.25. By the time you finish paying off your mortgage, you would have paid a total of $515,609, of which $215,609 were interest.

If you wanted to lower the total amount you pay on interest, you don’t need to make a large lump sum to make a difference. If you were to increase your monthly mortgage payment to $1,632.25 (a $200 a month increase), you would be saving $50,298 in interest, and you’ll pay off your mortgage 6 years and 3 months earlier.

Though this is an oversimplified example, it shows how even a small increase in monthly payments makes a big difference in the long run.

  • Every additional dollar towards your principal has a guaranteed return on investment: Every additional payment you make towards your mortgage has a direct effect in lowering the amount you pay in interest. In fact, each additional payment is, in fact, an investment. And unlike stocks, bonds, and other investment vehicles, you are guaranteed to have a return on your investment.
  • Enforced discipline: It takes real commitment to invest your money wisely each month instead of spending it elsewhere.

Your monthly mortgage payments are a form of enforced discipline since you know you can’t afford to miss them. It’s far easier to set a higher monthly payment towards your mortgage and stick to it than making regular investments on your own.

Besides, once your home is completely paid off, you can dedicate a larger portion of your income towards investments, your children or grandchildren’s education, or simply cut down on your working hours.

Advantages of investing your money

  • A greater return on your investment: The biggest reason why you should invest your money instead comes down to a simple, green truth: there’s more money to be made in investments.

Suppose that instead of dedicating an additional $200 towards your monthly mortgage payment, you decide to invest it in a conservative index fund which tracks S&P 500’s index. You start your investment today with $200 and add an additional $200 each month for the next 30 years. By the end of the term, if the index fund had a modest yield of 5% per year, you will have earned $91,739 in interest, and the total value of your investment would be $163,939.

If you think that 5% per year is a little too optimistic, all we have to do is see the S&P 500 performance between December 2002 and December 2012, which averaged an annual yield of 7.10%.

  • A greater level of diversification: Real estate has historically been one of the safest vehicles of investment available, but it’s still subject to market forces and changes in government policies. The forces that affect the stock and bonds markets are not always the same that affect real estate, because the former are subject to their issuer’s economic performance, while property values could change due to local events.

By putting your extra money towards investments, you are diversifying your investment portfolio and spreading out your risk. If you are relying exclusively on the value of your home, you are in essence putting all your eggs in one basket.

  • Greater liquidity: Homes are a great investment, but it takes time to sell a home even in the best of circumstances. So if you need emergency funds now, it’s a lot easier to sell stocks and bonds than a home.

 

Misael Lizarraga is a real estate writer with a passion for teaching real estate concepts to first time buyers and investors. He runs realestatecontentguy.com and is a contributing writer for several leading real estate blogs in North America.

Posted on March 20, 2019 at 9:37 pm
Rondi duPont | Category: Blog, For Buyers, For Buyers & Sellers, For Sellers, Mortgage | Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Reality of Home Improvement: HGTV installment

Painting2On any given weekend in my house, at least a couple of hours will be spent watching the designers, craftspeople and entertainers on HGTV or its spunky sister station, the DIY Network.  The premise of these home-centered television networks is that somewhere, sandwiched between long commercial breaks for paint, faucets, flooring warehouses and something called “Slab Jacking”, you’ll find programming about real people making real decisions about their homes. Sometimes those decisions are about buying a home, while other times they may be about selling or remodeling a home.  In all of the situations, experts are brought in to help and a camera crew just happens to tag along, so the rest of us can enjoy the unfolding drama from the comfort of our couches.

Home improvement programming has been around for a long time and is generally considered reality TV, but a lot of the real life is lost between cuts. Here’s a quick guide of some of the more popular programs.

House Hunters – The formula is simple but always entertaining.  Each episode begins with someone unhappy with their living situation, so they call an agent and look at 3 properties.   After weighing the options, a home is chosen.  Of course, this show is over-simplified and leaves out the long weekends the buyer spends in their agent’s car driving from listing to listing.  What you do get is a sense of home values and styles in different regions, the humor of buyers’ reactions to homes, and the excitement new home owners feel as they take the keys to their dream home. You rarely get the type of tension home shopping can bring. The big climax of the show is when an offer is made: the narrator might say something like, “Though their offer was rejected the first time around, the other buyer ultimately backed out and they ended up getting the house for X amount.” But I don’t think they usually talk about it at all. For that kind of tension, you need to check out Property Virgins. The best part of the half hour happens in the last 30 seconds when you see how the new owner redecorates the home in their own style.

Property Virgins– Similar premise to House Hunters, except these first-time homebuyers walk through the basics. The best part about the show is the excitement (and sometimes clumsiness) of the virgin house-hunters. The worst part of this show is when would be homebuyers have unrealistic expectations for their first home.

House Hunters International – Comparable to House Hunters but everyone has accents and the kitchens are shockingly small.

Designed to Sell – Did you know that your spare bedroom filled with Grandpa’s taxidermy and the vintage 1950’s kitchen can be a turn-off to potential buyers? Valuable lessons like these are a just a few of the gems I’ve picked up on Designed to Sell.  Each episode features a home which has been racking up days on the market but no one is interested in buying.  That’s where the army of carpenters and designers step in. When they’re done, the house that looked like Grandma’s musty basement now looks like the lobby of a hip hotel, and they only spent a few hundred dollars.  I love this program for the inspiration but find it short on reality.  The listed prices of these improvements don’t seem realistic, and I often wonder if the costs include the lifetime of carpentry skills, design training, garage filled with power tools and time required to do the job. If you are looking for design ideas and hope for a home that isn’t attracting buyers, you’ll find some great ideas here, but take the true cost of those improvements with a grain of salt.

Real Estate Intervention – Being a real estate agent takes a lot of diplomacy, and this is never more important than that moment they suggest a market-friendly price to a home seller. On Real Estate Intervention, that diplomacy generally fails, sellers are unrealistic, and a stern man with a menacing mustache steps in for an intervention.  He dishes out tough love to the seller and paints a clear picture of market reality.  In a half hour he is able to change minds and make the seller feel good about the decision they made.

This Old House – This PBS staple wrote the book on home improvement programming.  With TOH you’ll trade commercials for pledge drives, but you’ll also get a more cerebral home improvement viewing experience.  TOH does take patience, as it takes a full season to complete a home improvement project instead of 30 minutes on other programs.  If you are looking for the same quality instruction in a more digestible format, you can check out the spin off, Ask This Old House.

Be warned that the home improvement bug often bites soon after watching any of these programs.  After a long HGTV bender, I find myself wandering through the paint sample aisle and making trips to home improvement stores that aren’t on my way home from the office.  Sometimes life does imitate art and the voice in the back of my head keeps saying, “They make it look so easy.”

What about you? Do you find home-improvement shows useful or do you think they set unrealistic expectations? What are your favorite home-improvement resources?

by Justin Waskow

Posted on March 18, 2019 at 9:36 pm
Rondi duPont | Category: Blog, For Buyers & Sellers, Housing Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Are You Better Off Paying Your Mortgage Earlier or Investing Your Money?

Photo Credit: Rawpixel via Unsplash

Few topics cause more division among economists than the age-old debate of whether you’re better off paying off your mortgage earlier, or investing that money instead. And there’s a good reason why that debate continues; both sides make compelling arguments.

For many people, their mortgage is the largest expense they will ever incur in their lives. So if given the chance, it only makes logical sense you would want to pay it off as quickly as possible. On the other hand, a mortgage is also the cheapest money you will ever borrow, and it’s generally considered good debt. Any extra money you obtain could be definitely be put to good use elsewhere.

The reality is, however, a little less cut and clear. For some homeowners, paying off their mortgage earlier is the right answer. While for others, it would be far more advantageous to invest their money.

Advantages of paying off your mortgage earlier

  • You’ll pay less interest: Each time you make a mortgage payment, a portion is dedicated towards interest, and another towards principal (we’ll ignore other costs for now). Interest is calculated monthly by taking your remaining balance, the length of your amortization period, and the interest rate agreed upon with your lending institution.

If you have a $300,000 mortgage, at a 4% fixed rate over 30 years, your monthly payment would be around $1,432.25. By the time you finish paying off your mortgage, you would have paid a total of $515,609, of which $215,609 were interest.

If you wanted to lower the total amount you pay on interest, you don’t need to make a large lump sum to make a difference. If you were to increase your monthly mortgage payment to $1,632.25 (a $200 a month increase), you would be saving $50,298 in interest, and you’ll pay off your mortgage 6 years and 3 months earlier.

Though this is an oversimplified example, it shows how even a small increase in monthly payments makes a big difference in the long run.

  • Every additional dollar towards your principal has a guaranteed return on investment: Every additional payment you make towards your mortgage has a direct effect in lowering the amount you pay in interest. In fact, each additional payment is, in fact, an investment. And unlike stocks, bonds, and other investment vehicles, you are guaranteed to have a return on your investment.
  • Enforced discipline: It takes real commitment to invest your money wisely each month instead of spending it elsewhere.

Your monthly mortgage payments are a form of enforced discipline since you know you can’t afford to miss them. It’s far easier to set a higher monthly payment towards your mortgage and stick to it than making regular investments on your own.

Besides, once your home is completely paid off, you can dedicate a larger portion of your income towards investments, your children or grandchildren’s education, or simply cut down on your working hours.

Advantages of investing your money

  • A greater return on your investment: The biggest reason why you should invest your money instead comes down to a simple, green truth: there’s more money to be made in investments.

Suppose that instead of dedicating an additional $200 towards your monthly mortgage payment, you decide to invest it in a conservative index fund which tracks S&P 500’s index. You start your investment today with $200 and add an additional $200 each month for the next 30 years. By the end of the term, if the index fund had a modest yield of 5% per year, you will have earned $91,739 in interest, and the total value of your investment would be $163,939.

If you think that 5% per year is a little too optimistic, all we have to do is see the S&P 500 performance between December 2002 and December 2012, which averaged an annual yield of 7.10%.

  • A greater level of diversification: Real estate has historically been one of the safest vehicles of investment available, but it’s still subject to market forces and changes in government policies. The forces that affect the stock and bonds markets are not always the same that affect real estate, because the former are subject to their issuer’s economic performance, while property values could change due to local events.

By putting your extra money towards investments, you are diversifying your investment portfolio and spreading out your risk. If you are relying exclusively on the value of your home, you are in essence putting all your eggs in one basket.

  • Greater liquidity: Homes are a great investment, but it takes time to sell a home even in the best of circumstances. So if you need emergency funds now, it’s a lot easier to sell stocks and bonds than a home.
Posted on March 6, 2019 at 8:00 am
Rondi duPont | Category: For Buyers & Sellers, Fort Collins Real Estate, Homeowners | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,