How Interest Rate Hikes Affect Personal Loan Investors – SmartAsset

How Interest Rate Hikes Affect Personal Loan Investors – SmartAsset

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In December 2015, the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate by a quarter of a percentage point. That was the first time the Fed had raised rates in nearly a decade. While federal funds rate changes don’t directly impact peer-to-peer (P2P) loan interest rates, lending platforms may begin increasing their rates. If you’re investing in peer-to-peer loans, it’s important to understand how that may impact your portfolio.

Rising Rates May Mean Better Returns

Personal loan investors make money by claiming a share of the interest that’s paid on the loans, in proportion to the amount that’s invested. If the platform you’re using raises rates for their borrowers, that means you’ll likely see higher returns.

That’s especially true if you’re open to funding high-risk loans. Peer-to-peer platforms assign each of their borrowers a credit risk rating, based on their credit scores and credit history. The loans that get the lowest ratings are assigned the highest rates. For example, Lending Club’s “G” grade loans (the loans that go to the riskiest borrowers) have interest rates of 25.72%.

Assuming borrowers don’t default on their payments, these investments can be more lucrative than lower-risk loans. Using Lending Club as an example again, F and G grade loans historically have had annual returns of 9.05%, which is nearly double the 5.22% return that investors earn from low-risk “A” grade loans.

The Downsides of a Rate Increase

While rising interest rates may put more money in investors’ pockets, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind. For one thing, it’s possible that as rates rise, borrowers could decide to explore other lending options. If that happens, there would be a smaller pool of loans for investors to choose from.

To compensate, peer-to-peer lenders may resort to issuing lower-quality loans as rates rise, but that could be problematic for investors who prefer to steer away from riskier borrowers. If the platform you use no longer offers the kinds of loan products you want to invest in, you’ll have to reallocate those assets elsewhere to keep your portfolio from becoming unbalanced.

Finally, rising interest rates could result in a higher default rate. Increased rates mean that borrowers have to pay a lot of money for taking out personal loans. If the personal loan payments become unmanageable, a borrower may end up defaulting on their loan altogether. Some platforms refund the fees that investors have paid, but they usually don’t refund their initial investments after borrowers default.

What Investors Ought to Consider

If you’re an active P2P investor or you’re thinking of adding P2P loans to your portfolio, you can’t afford to overlook the risk that’s involved. Financing the riskiest loans is a gamble, so it’s important to consider the consequences of putting money into those kinds of investments.

A good way to hedge your bets is to spread out your investments over a variety of loan grades. That way, if a high-risk borrower defaults you still have other loans to fall back on.

If you want more help with this decision and others relating to your financial health, you might want to consider hiring a financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with top financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Ondine32, ©iStock.com/Tomwang112, ©iStock.com/xijian

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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5 Things to Consider Before Getting a Personal Loan

Consider This Before Getting a Personal Loan – SmartAsset

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It’s a new year and if one of your resolutions is to get out of debt, you might be thinking about consolidating your bills into a personal loan. With this kind of loan, you can streamline your payments and potentially get rid of your debt more quickly. If you plan on getting a personal loan in 2016, here are some key things to keep in mind before you start searching for a lender.

Check out our personal loan calculator.

1. Interest Rates Are Going Up

At the end of 2015, the Federal Reserve initiated a much anticipated hike in the federal funds rate. What this means for borrowers is that taking on debt is going to be more expensive going forward. That means that the personal loan rates you’re seeing now could be a lot higher six or nine months from now. If you’re planning on borrowing, it might be a good idea to scope out loan offers sooner rather than later.

2. Online Lenders Likely Have the Best Deals

The online lending marketplace has exploded in recent years. With an online lender, there are fewer overhead costs involved, which translates to fewer fees and lower rates for borrowers.

With a lower interest rate, more money will stay in your pocket in the long run. Lending Club, for example, claims that their customers have interest rates that are 33% lower, on average, after consolidating their debt or paying off credit cards using a personal loan.

Related Article: How to Get a Personal Loan

3. Your Credit Matters

Regardless of whether you go through a brick-and-mortar bank or an online lender, you  likely won’t have access to the best rates if you don’t have a great credit score. In the worst case scenario, you could be denied a personal loan altogether.

You can check your credit score for free. And each year, you have a chance to get a free credit report from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. If you haven’t pulled yours in a while, now might be a good time to take a look.

As you review your report, it’s important to make sure that all of your account information is being reported properly. If you see a paid account that’s still showing a balance, for example, or a collection account you don’t recognize, you’ll need to dispute those items with the credit bureau that’s reporting the information.

4. Personal Loan Scams Are Common

As more and more lenders enter the personal loan arena, the opportunity for scammers to cash in on unsuspecting victims also increases. If you’re applying for a loan online, it’s best to be careful about who you give your personal information to.

Some of the signs that may indicate that a personal loan agreement is actually a scam include lenders who use overly pushy sales tactics to get you to commit or ask you to put up a deposit as a guarantee against the loan. If you come across a lender who doesn’t seem concerned about checking your credit or tells you they can give you a loan without doing any paperwork, those are big red flags that the lender may not be legit.

Related Article: How to Avoid Personal Loan Scams

5. Not Reading the Fine Print Could Cost You

Before you sign off on a personal loan, it’s best to take time to read over the details of the loan agreement. Something as simple as paying one date late could trigger a fee or cause a higher penalty rate to kick in, which would make the loan more expensive in the long run.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/DragonImages, ©iStock.com/Vikram Raghuvanshi, ©iStock.com/MachineHeadz

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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The REO Guide: 10 Steps to Buying a Bank-Owned Home

Many potential homebuyers and investors overlook bank-owned properties, but for buyers who take the time to understand the REO process, these homes can be a significant opportunity.

Some homebuyers are intimidated by foreclosed and bank-owned homes because they often require more renovations — and a different type of negotiation — than other options on the market. However, some REO properties come at a significant discount, and, if you’re willing to work through some of the nuances of the post-foreclosure market, you can set yourself up for a great deal.

What is a Real Estate Owned (REO) Property?

REO, which stands for “Real Estate Owned,” is a term applied to foreclosed properties whose ownership has transferred to the bank or lender.

In order to become an REO property, it must go through these general steps:

  1. Loan Default. The homeowner/borrower defaults on (fails to make) their mortgage payments for a certain length of time, with the qualifying amount usually specified in the mortgage terms.
  2. Foreclosure. The lender initiates legal proceedings against the borrower to foreclose on the property.
  3. Auction. The property is then offered to the public at a foreclosure auction and typically sold to the highest bidder. If the property sells to a third party at the auction, the bank or lender recoups some of the cost of the outstanding loan balance, interest and fees from the sale of the property.
  4. REO Status. If the home fails to sell at auction to a third party, possession typically passes to the lender and it becomes a Real Estate Owned (REO) property. The lender prepares to sell it, which may involve evicting occupants and removing outstanding liens attached to the property.

REO properties are attractive to homebuyers or real estate investors for several reasons. In many cases, lenders are motivated sellers who do not want to sit on their REO inventory, and (depending on the bank’s history with the property) these homes may be priced at a discount. However, other factors — like the home being sold “as is” — may affect the ultimate price, so it’s important to work through the process methodically to make sure you account for every variable.

10 Steps to Buying REO Properties

The process for buying an REO home is similar to the standard home buying process, but there are a few key exceptions to keep in mind. Whether you’re buying the home to live in or as an investment, these 10 steps should help set you up for success with bank-owned properties.

Step 1: Browse Available REO Properties

Before you get too far into the process, take a look at the properties available in your target market or price range. There are several ways for prospective homebuyers to browse available REO properties:

  • Bank and lender listings: Lender-specific listings, such as PennyMac REO listings, show all available bank-owned properties from a certain lender.
  • Multiple Listing Service: Lenders and Realtors® often use the Multiple Listing Service to list REO properties, making it easy to find options from multiple lenders in one place.
  • Real estate agent: A real estate agent will be able to find REO offerings from multiple lenders in your desired area.
  • Online services: Other online services, such as Zillow, offer tools to look up foreclosures by certain characteristics or in certain areas. Some of these tools are free to use, while others may charge a fee.

Step 2: Find a Lender and Discuss REO Financing

Once you’ve found a property you are interested in, talk to a lender about your financing options. This is particularly important because of the timing of the REO homebuying process; lenders are motivated to sell and want to get these homes off of their books, so the more prepared you are with financing, the better.

One thing that can speed up the REO homebuying process is getting pre-approved by the lender that owns the home. With this pre-approval, the lender that owns the REO property will know that you are financially qualified to purchase the property, making them more likely to accept your offer.

Step 3: Find a Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Who Knows REO Homes

A buyer’s agent is a great partner to have while you navigate the home buying process. Your buyer’s agent helps make sure you are finding the best properties at the best possible prices, and they will use their experience to guide you through every stage of the process. Your agent should also be able to tell you if you need to hire anyone else, such as an attorney or an inspection service, depending on your state and situation.

If you are specifically interested in REO properties, try to find a buyer’s agent who works with REO properties frequently. This way, your real estate agent knows the ins and outs of negotiating with a lender, how to calculate the cost of necessary repairs, how to work within the lender’s timeline and how to prepare you for what comes next.

Step 4: Refine Your List of Lender-Owned Properties

Once you are working with a buyer’s agent, you can start narrowing down your list of REO properties. Some major characteristics that should be taken into account include the following:

  • Listing price
  • Significant repairs needed (and the overall impact on price)
  • Location (and proximity to a school, workplace, or other desired area)
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Quality of neighborhood and surrounding areas
  • Community resources in the area, such as parks, gyms, places of worship, etc.
  • Lender-specific contingencies or requirements

Once you have taken your “must have” features into account, if you are left with multiple properties, refine your list based on “nice to have“ features like a large yard, a finished basement or an in-ground pool. Share your favorite homes with your agent, who can set up tours for properties at the top of your list.

Step 5: Get an Appraisal on Your Ideal Property

Some REO homes go for a great price, but buying a bank-owned home is not an automatic bargain. An REO property may be discounted based on an undesirable location or severe damage, or it can be overpriced based on comparable sales in the area or the lender’s desire to recoup the money spent. Either way, it’s a good idea to consider getting an appraisal so you know how the true value compares to the asking price.

An appraisal will help you get an objective estimated value, which you can compare to the bank’s asking price to see if the price is fair. During the appraisal, a licensed appraiser will take inventory of major systems (i.e., HVAC, plumbing), the structural integrity of the home, and check the prices of comparable homes in the area.

Note: An appraisal, which tries to estimate true home value, is different from a home inspection, which tries to take inventory of current and potential issues. An appraisal will help you decide whether or not the asking price is fair; an inspection will help you understand the repairs and renovations needed, which is critical for a bank-owned home.

Step 6: Make an Offer

Once you’ve found a property that is right for you, it’s time to make an offer.

Your agent will help you decide what kind of offer is likely to be accepted, put together the offer and submit it to the lender. Depending on the lender, you may need to submit special contract forms or paperwork. It is also common to attach an earnest money deposit check to your offer. This check (commonly 1-2% of the purchase price) is usually held in an escrow account until the purchase is finalized.

Make sure to consider the inspection process as you are making your offer. You may choose to make the offer contingent on inspection so you are protected if the inspection uncovers significant (and potentially dangerous) issues. If necessary repairs are well-documented, you can use that documentation to make your case for a low offer. Talk to your agent to understand your options when it comes to inspection contingencies.

Step 7: Have the Property Inspected

An inspection should be part of buying any home, but it is crucial for bank-owned homes. Real estate owned properties are typically sold “as is,” meaning the homebuyer is on the hook for any repairs — including major structural issues — that need to be fixed. An REO home may have been vacant for weeks or months, it may be neglected due to the homeowner’s financial trouble, or the previous owners may have removed items or damaged the property before vacating. Additionally, it’s possible that the property has gone through non-permitted renovations.

With that in mind, you need to be 100% sure you know what needs to be fixed before finalizing the loan. Having a home inspection done is the best way to take a thorough inventory of what repairs need to be made. The cost of these repairs should be added to the asking price so you have a better idea of what the home will cost you (and whether it’s still a good deal after repair costs are factored in).

In some cases, the lender may conduct an inspection when the home becomes bank-owned. If so, make sure you get a copy of the inspection report and review it thoroughly to decide if it is comprehensive enough to help make your decision.

Step 8: Negotiate Details

For better or worse, negotiating with a lender for a bank-owned home is different from negotiating with a homeowner.

On one hand, dealing with a bank instead of a homeowner means you don’t have to worry about emotional attachments to the home influencing the decision. You are also usually dealing with a very motivated lender who wants to get rid of the property (especially if it’s been on the market more than 30 days).

On the other hand, banks typically take longer to respond to an offer (or a question) than a homeowner because the offer must be reviewed by several individuals or companies. When the lender does respond, they will expect you to respond quickly to keep the process moving.

Working with a lender also means jumping through more corporate hoops. Banks are also more likely to present a counter offer because they must demonstrate they tried to get the best possible price for the property. In addition, the lender may ask you to sign a purchase addendum (which you should thoroughly review with your real estate agent or lawyer) and your final offer may be contingent on corporate approval.

Step 9: Finalize Your Loan

Now that you have submitted an offer, several things will be going on at once: the home inspection, negotiations with the bank, and the finalizing of your loan. During this time, you will be filling out paperwork and sharing information with your lender to ensure your loan is the right fit for the offer you have submitted.

Now is also the time to verify the status of the title. The bank typically clears the title before selling a bank-owned home but you can never assume this is the case. Contact the lender to see if the title has been cleared. If not, the lender may have a title company standing by to perform these services. If you are expected to do so yourself, hire a title company to run a full, insured title search before closing the deal.

Step 10: Closing

Once all of the paperwork is in place, you’ve wired in your down payment and your loan funds are in place, it’s time to close.

Closing on an REO property is similar to any other closing, with a few notable exceptions. If you’re unable to close by a predetermined closing date, the lender may charge a penalty for each day beyond the deadline. (You can try to avoid these delays by getting pre-approved for a loan and getting assurance that your financing will come through by a given date.)

At the closing, you and the lender representative will sign the documents necessary to transfer the house into your name and to finish your mortgage. After you’ve signed everything and the money goes to the right place, you’ll get the keys and a new title: homeowner.

Is an REO Home the Right Fit For You?

A bank-owned home can be a great opportunity for homebuyers or investors to find a good deal — but only if you’re willing to be patient and thorough. Dealing with a lender rather than an individual seller may mean slower response times and a more difficult negotiation, but it can lead to a potentially lower price from a motivated seller that has already handled outstanding taxes.

Browse PennyMac REO listings to see available bank-owned properties from PennyMac, or call a PennyMac Loan Officer to discuss your options today.

Source: pennymacusa.com

What Is Mortgage Insurance?

If buying a home is your next financial goal, then you may have heard about mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance is probably not what you expect it to be. We will cover what you need to know about mortgage insurance before you buy your future home.

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What is mortgage insurance?

Mortgage insurance is a way for lenders to protect themselves from high-risk borrowers. The mortgage payments allow lenders to compensate for any losses due to defaulting on a mortgage loan.

When you think of insurance of any kind, you typically think that the insurance would help you in times of need. Instead, this helps mortgage lenders to limit the risk from borrowers, which allows for more lending to happen.

The mortgage insurance payments protect the mortgage lender. It does not protect you in any way if you fall behind on your monthly payments.

Mortgage insurance makes the home buying process more expensive for the borrower. However, it will make it possible for some to buy a home at all. If your down payment is less than 20%, then receiving a loan with mortgage insurance attached may be the best (and only) way to secure a home loan.

How Mortgage Insurance Works

As the borrower, you would need to pay extra money to the lender as a form of insurance. The method of payment can vary by lender.

You may need to pay an upfront fee or a monthly insurance payment that is added to your mortgage payment. Some lenders may even require both an upfront fee and an additional monthly payment.

The payment amount will vary widely based on your own credit, loan amount, and ability to pay the mortgage. Typically, low-risk borrowers will be entitled to lower mortgage insurance costs. High-risk borrowers should expect to pay a higher mortgage insurance premium.

The borrow is basically paying for the privilege of borrowing the money even though the borrower has a high associated risk.

Why would I get mortgage insurance?

Borrowers are required to pay mortgage insurance if they make a down payment of less than 20% of the home purchase price. Many federal programs like the FHA and USDA loans also require mortgage insurance as a part of the loan conditions.

If you are purchasing a home through a loan, your lender may require that you purchase mortgage insurance. You may have no choice in the matter if your lender dictates that you must purchase mortgage insurance to receive the loan.

It is generally not helpful for your financial situation to sign up for mortgage insurance. If you have the option to skip mortgage insurance, then that may be a good choice, depending on your situation. Otherwise, you will be paying for your lender to be protected, but you will not gain anything in the process.

What are the common types loans that require mortgage insurance?

There are many different kinds of home loans. Each type of loan has a slightly different type of mortgage insurance associated with it for some high-risk borrowers. We will cover the most common kinds below.

Conventional Loans

Conventional loans are typically offered through private companies. Depending on your down payment amount and your credit score, the private lender may require private mortgage insurance (PMI) as a condition of the conventional loan.

The amount of private mortgage insurance will also vary based on the down payment, loan amount, and your credit history. Higher credit scores and down payments will generally lead to lower required mortgage insurance premiums.

With private mortgage insurance, the premiums are usually paid out monthly with no initial upfront fee. You may also have the ability to cancel your private mortgage insurance in certain situations.

Department of Veterans’ Affairs Loans

If you are a service member or a veteran, you have likely heard of the VA loan. The idea is to help these honorable men and women purchase homes.

The VA will back your loan, so there are no monthly mortgage insurance fees required. However, you may need to pay an upfront funding fee that will act as mortgage insurance. The initial funding fee will vary based on your military history, down payment, credit score, and several other factors.

Although the upfront funding fee is not termed as mortgage insurance, the idea is the same.

US Department of Agriculture Loans

USDA loans offer great mortgage rates meant to help low to moderate-income home buyers in rural areas. The hope is that these loans will help to infuse life back into rural areas.

The loans offer zero down payments to home buyers, but mortgage insurance is required. A USDA loan requires that you pay an upfront premium as well as monthly premiums.

Federal Housing Administration Loans

FHA loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration but are completed through private lending companies.

FHA loans offer another low down payment option for people with lower credit scores. However, there is an enforced maximum loan limit that varies by county.

Every loan insured by the FHA requires mortgage insurance. You pay the annual mortgage insurance premium (MIP) monthly for the life of the FHA loan. The upfront and monthly mortgage insurance premium amounts vary by loan, but you can expect to pay it with FHA loans.

See also: FHA Loan Requirements for 2021

Can I avoid paying for mortgage insurance?

The easiest way to avoid mortgage insurance is by making a down payment of 20% or more. Of course, this is not feasible for every situation. Depending on your current financial picture, you may need to pay for mortgage insurance in order to purchase a home.

Alternatively, you can request to have your PMI canceled once the equity in your home reaches 20% of the purchase price or appraised value.

Bottom Line

Mortgage insurance is a required expense for many home buyers. If you are unable to make a 20% down payment on your home purchase, you will likely be required to pay for mortgage insurance.

Source: crediful.com

Where More Young Residents Are Buying Homes – 2021 Study

Where More Young Residents Are Buying Homes – 2021 Study – SmartAsset

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The homeownership rate in America peaked at a little more than 69% in 2004 before falling to 63.7% in 2016, according to U.S. Census data. Despite the fact that it has rebounded to a little more than 65% in 2019 overall, only 36.4% of Americans younger than 35 own their homes. It may be easier in some places, though, for this young cohort to buy homes. To that end, SmartAsset crunched the numbers to find the cities where people younger than the age of 35 are most likely to own their own home – and to see where this number has gone up in recent years.

To find the cities where more under-35 residents are buying homes, we compared the homeownership rate for this demographic in 2009 with the homeownership rate in 2019 for 200 of the largest U.S. cities. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Young homeownership has decreased overall since 2009. While there are plenty of cities where homeownership among younger residents has increased, over the past decade the under-35 homeownership rate decreased by 3.71%, on average, across the 200 cities we analyzed.
  • Under-35 homeownership lags compared to that of older generations, particularly in large cities. Though some two-thirds of all Americans owned their homes in 2019, just one-fourth (26.15%) of residents younger than 35 did in the 200 cities we analyzed. Homeownership rates are particularly low for the under-35 set in America’s largest cities: of the 10 with the highest populations, nine are in the bottom half of the study for 2019 homeownership rate (only Phoenix cracks the top half at No. 67), and all 10 had decreasing homeownership rates from 2009 to 2019, with six out of 10 — Phoenix, San Jose, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, Chicago — ranking in the bottom half of the study for change in homeownership rate from 2009 to 2019.

1. Midland, TX

Midland, Texas has seen a 10-year increase of 17.11 percentage points in the homeownership rate among people younger than 35, the largest growth seen in this study. The total homeownership for that age cohort in 2019 was 52.42%, the fourth-highest rate we analyzed for that metric. Together, this makes Midland the top place where more young residents are buying homes.

2. Cape Coral, FL

The homeownership for younger Cape Coral, Florida residents in 2019 was 55.54%, the third-highest rate in the study for this metric. That’s an increase of 8.71 percentage points compared to 2009, the fourth-highest increase for this metric across all 200 cities we considered.

3. Joliet, IL

Joliet, Illinois, located about 30 miles southwest of Chicago, had a homeownership rate of 63.48% for under-35 residents in 2019, the highest rate of all the cities we studied. Joliet ranks ninth for the 10-year change in homeownership, increasing 5.48 percentage points from its 2009 rate of 58.00%.

4. Mesquite, TX

Mesquite, Texas is part of the Dallas metro area, and in 2019, the homeownership rate among residents younger than 35 was 45.46%. That ranks 11th in our study, but in 2009 the rate was just 35.47%, meaning the increase over 10 years was 9.99 percentage points, third place for this metric.

5. Bakersfield, CA

Bakersfield, in central California, ranks 20th for homeownership rate among younger people in 2019, at 39.75%. That’s a 10.01 percentage point increase over the 10-year period from 2009 to 2019, the second-highest jump for this metric in the study.

6. Aurora, CO (tied)

Aurora, Colorado ranks 15th for the 2019 homeownership rate among people younger than 35, at 42.28%. That is an increase of 5.29 percentage points from 2009, the 10th-largest jump we observed in the study.

6. Port St. Lucie, FL (tied)

Port St. Lucie, Florida has the fifth-highest homeownership rate among younger people in 2019, at 51.93%. It ranks 20th for its increase in that percentage from 2009, at 2.70 percentage points.

8. Gilbert, AZ

Gilbert, Arizona, located near Phoenix, has the eighth-highest homeownership rate among residents younger than 35, at 50.08%. That increased 2.69 percentage points since 2009, good enough for 21st place in that metric.

9. Fort Wayne, IN

Fort Wayne, Indiana ranked 17th in both of the metrics we measured for this study. The homeownership rate among those younger than 35 was 41.24% in 2019, a 3.32 percentage point increase over the previous 10 years.

10. Rancho Cucamonga, CA

The final city in the top 10 of this study is Rancho Cucamonga, California, which ranked 21st for under-35 homeownership in 2019, at 39.39%. That is a 3.77 percentage point jump since 2009, the 14th-biggest increase we observed across all 200 cities in the study.

Data and Methodology

To find the cities where more young Americans are buying homes, SmartAsset examined data for 200 of the largest cities in the U.S. We considered two metrics:

  • 2019 homeownership rate for those under 35. This is the homeownership rate among 18- to 34-year-olds. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • 10-year change in homeownership rate for those under 35. This compares the homeownership rate among 18- to 34-year-olds in 2009 and 2019. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 and 2019 1-year American Community Surveys.

First, we ranked each city in both metrics. Then we found each city’s average ranking and used the average to determine a final score. The city with the highest average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.

Tips for Buying a Home

  • Never too old for some expert guidance. No matter what age you are, buying a home is a big step, and a financial advisor can help you get ready to take it. Finding the right financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Meticulous mortgage management. Chances are you’ll need a mortgage to facilitate buying your home. Use SmartAsset’s free mortgage calculator to see what your monthly payments might be based on your financing rate and down payment.
  • Taxes don’t always have to be taxing. If you’re moving to one of the cities on this list, your tax burden might change. Use SmartAsset’s free income tax calculator to see what you’d owe the government each year if you pick up stakes and move.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com.

Photo Credit: © iStock/valentinrussanov

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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Are Social Security Disability Benefits Taxable?

Are Social Security Disability Benefits Taxable? – SmartAsset

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Social Security benefits, including disability benefits, can help provide a supplemental source of income to people who are eligible to receive them. If you’re receiving disability benefits from Social Security, you might be wondering whether you’ll owe taxes on the money. For most people, the answer is no. But there are some scenarios where you may have to pay taxes on Social Security disability benefits. It may also behoove you to consult with a trusted financial advisor as you navigate the complicated terrain of taxes on Social Security disability benefits.

What Is Social Security Disability?

The Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI) pays benefits to eligible people who have become disabled. To be considered eligible for Social Security disability benefits, you have to be “insured”, which means you worked long enough and recently enough to accumulate benefits based on your Social Security taxes paid.

You also have to meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disabled. To be considered disabled, it would have to be determined that you can no longer do the kind of work you did before you became disabled and that you won’t be able to do any other type of work because of your disability. Your disability must have lasted at least 12 months or be expected to last 12 months.

Social Security disability benefits are different from Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security retirement benefits. SSI benefits are paid to people who are aged, blind or disabled and have little to no income. These benefits are designed to help meet basic needs for living expenses. Social Security retirement benefits are paid out based on your past earnings, regardless of disability status.

Supplemental Security Income generally isn’t taxed as it’s a needs-based benefit. The people who receive these benefits typically don’t have enough income to require tax reporting. Social Security retirement benefits, on the other hand, can be taxable if you’re working part-time or full-time while receiving benefits.

Is Social Security Disability Taxable? 

This is an important question to ask if you receive Social Security disability benefits and the short answer is, it depends. For the majority of people, these benefits are not taxable. But your Social Security disability benefits may be taxable if you’re also receiving income from another source or your spouse is receiving income.

The good news is, there are thresholds you have to reach before your Social Security disability benefits become taxable.

When Is Social Security Disability Taxable? 

The IRS says that Social Security disability benefits may be taxable if one-half of your benefits, plus all your other income, is greater than a certain amount which is based on your tax filing status. Even if you’re not working at all because of a disability, other income you’d have to report includes unearned income such as tax-exempt interest and dividends.

If you’re married and file a joint return, you also have to include your spouse’s income to determine whether any part of your Social Security disability benefits are taxable. This true even if your spouse isn’t receiving any benefits from Social Security.

The IRS sets the threshold for taxing Social Security disability benefits at the following limits:

  • $25,000 if you’re single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er),
  • $25,000 if you’re married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse for the entire year,
  • $32,000 if you’re married filing jointly,
  • $0 if you’re married filing separately and lived with your spouse at any time during the tax year.

This means that if you’re married and file a joint return, you can report a combined income of up to $32,000 before you’d have to pay taxes on Social Security disability benefits. There are two different tax rates the IRS can apply, based on how much income you report and your filing status.

If you’re single and file an individual return, you’d pay taxes on:

  • Up to 50% of your benefits if your income is between $25,000 and $34,000
  • Up to 85% of your benefits if your income is more than $34,000

If you’re married and file a joint return, you’d pay taxes on:

  • Up to 50% of your benefits if your combined income is between $32,000 and $44,000
  • Up to 85% of your benefits if your combined income is more than $44,000

In other words, the more income you have individually or as a married couple, the more likely you are to have to pay taxes on Social Security disability benefits. In terms of the actual tax rate that’s applied to these benefits, the IRS uses your marginal tax rate. So you wouldn’t be paying a 50% or 85% tax rate; instead, you’d pay your ordinary income tax rate based on whatever tax bracket you land in.

It’s also important to note that you could be temporarily pushed into a higher tax bracket if you receive Social Security disability back payments. These back payments can be paid to you in a lump sum to cover periods where you were disabled but were still waiting for your benefits application to be approved. The good news is you can apply some of those benefits to past years’ tax returns retroactively to spread out your tax liability. You’d need to file an amended return to do so.

Is Social Security Disability Taxable at the State Level?

Besides owing federal income taxes on Social Security disability benefits, it’s possible that you could owe state taxes as well. As of 2020, 12 states imposed some form of taxation on Social Security disability benefits, though they each apply the tax differently.

Nebraska and Utah, for example, follow federal government taxation rules. But other states allow for certain exemptions or exclusions and at least one state, West Virginia, plans to phase out Social Security benefits taxation by 2022. If you’re concerned about how much you might have to pay in state taxes on Social Security benefits, it can help to read up on the taxation rules for where you live.

How to Report Taxes on Social Security Disability Benefits

If you received Social Security disability benefits, those are reported in Box 5 of Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement. This is mailed out to you each year by the Social Security Administration.

You report the amount listed in Box 5 on that form on line 5a of your Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR, depending on which one you file. The taxable part of your Social Security disability benefits is reported on line 5b of either form.

The Bottom Line

Social Security disability benefits aren’t automatically taxable, but you may owe taxes on them if you pass the income thresholds. If you’re worried about how receiving disability benefits while reporting other income might affect your tax bill, talking to a tax professional can help. They may be able to come up with strategies or solutions to minimize the amount of taxes you’ll end up owing.

Tips on Taxes

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor as well about how to make the most of your Social Security disability benefits and other income. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help. By answering a few simple questions you can get personalized recommendations for professional advisors in your local area in minutes. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • While you don’t have to reach a specific age to apply for Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income benefits, there is a minimum age for claiming Social Security retirement benefits. A Social Security calculator can help you decide when you should retire.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/kate_sept2004, ©iStock.com/JannHuizenga, ©iStock.com/AndreyPopov

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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VA Loan Myths


Tim Lucas

Posted on: December 12, 2020

Because of their complexity relative to other mortgage programs, VA loans are the subject of plenty of different myths. Some of these myths are based on truths, but what you hear can end up being very misleading, and it could be entirely untrue.

If you were to take these myths at face value without doing your own research, you might miss out on one of the best mortgage products available. Here’s the truth to some of the biggest myths surrounding VA loans:

Click to check today’s VA rates.

Myth #1: VA loans can only be used once

Because of how useful VA loans can be, some people believe they’re too good to be true. The myth VA loans can only be used once is completely false, but it’s easy to see where this mistaken idea might have come from. If you currently have a VA loan, you are not eligible for a second one.

However, this doesn’t mean you aren’t eligible for a second VA loan ever again.

Once you pay off your current VA loan, you’re eligible to use the program again. There are some small differences after the first time, such as a slightly higher cost at closing. But aside from the small differences, your second VA loan will be similar to the first one that you paid off.

Myth #2: VA members are guaranteed a mortgage

Nobody is guaranteed any type of mortgage, regardless of which mortgage program they’re applying for or whether they’re veterans. You must be approved for a mortgage, which means — depending on which program you choose — meeting credit requirements and having a specific debt-to-income ratio, among other factors.

When a lender says a VA loan is “guaranteed,” they mean the VA backs the loan. The VA guarantee is there to tell veterans they can get a mortgage with no required down payment, competitive mortgage rates and other benefits.

You can learn more about what “guaranteed” means here.

Myth #3: VA appraisals are impossible to pass

It is true that VA appraisals can be stricter than an appraisal with a different mortgage type. But that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to pass, and many VA home buyers don’t have any trouble with the VA appraisal at all. Because the VA is backing the home, they want to confirm it’s in good and livable condition before they approve any type of loan.

If you are applying for a VA loan and want to have a quick, speedy appraisal process, check here for some tips on how to pass the appraisal.

Check your VA eligibility.

Myth #4: Today’s home prices require a higher down payment

There’s no denying home prices have increased over the past decade. This has made homes harder to afford for many would-be home buyers, since down payments are usually used to lower the costs of monthly payments. The higher the downpayment, the lower the monthly payments.

Here’s the truth: with a VA loan, you don’t need to make a down payment and you can still afford a house. The key to buying an affordable home isn’t the size of the down payment, but finding a home within your means.

Many VA members purchase a home without a large down payment. In March, the average down payment for a VA loan was just two percent – below the minimum 3.5% required by FHA loans, and much lower than the traditional 20%.

While a larger down payment will lower your monthly costs, you probably don’t need to make a larger downpayment to be eligible for a VA loan.

Myth #5: VA loans take forever

When comparing FHA loans, conventional loans and VA loans, VA loans are typically the slowest program. According to mortgage software giant Ellie Mae’s October 2020 Origination Report, VA loans took an average of 54 days to close.

By comparison, FHA loans took 52 days to close, and conventional loans took an average of 54 days as well.

So yes, a VA loan is likely going to take longer to close than another program. However, a difference of 2-3 days is small when you consider how much lower VA rates are.

VA loans are slower than other mortgage types, but they do not take forever.

Click to start the VA home buying process.

Myth #6: Surviving spouses don’t qualify for VA mortgages

Actually, many spouses of veterans can qualify for a VA home loan.

Generally, the spouse must be un-remarried and the veteran must have died during service or from service-connected causes. But there are exceptions and other ways a surviving spouse can be eligible.

And, surviving spouses are exempt from paying the VA funding fee. To confirm your eligibility, your VA loan officer will request your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) and verify that it has Entitlement Code 06.

Myth #7: All realtors are good VA home loan advisors

There is no VA loan certification for real estate agents. As a result, you shouldn’t look to your real estate agent for reliable information about VA loans. And an underinformed real estate agent can unintentionally push VA-eligible borrowers towards programs that might be less advantageous for them.

Instead, you should get your VA loan facts from a VA specialty lender whose primary product is VA-backed loans.

The VA loan facts are hard to beat

The proliferation of myths about VA loans can obscure the fact this is simply one of the best loan products available to aspiring home buyers.

The VA loan rates available to eligible buyers — combined with the low down payments — are hard to beat with a conventional or FHA loan. But with a little research and a well-informed VA lender, you could be on your way to a VA home loan.

Click to check today’s VA rates.

Source: militaryvaloan.com

Buying a Home for the First Time? Avoid These Mistakes

Buying a home, especially if you’re a first-time home buyer, can be daunting and nerve racking.

But it does not have to be. LendingTree’s online loan marketplace has got you covered – at least when it comes to getting a mortgage.

A 2016 study by the Office of Research of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection reveals that prospective buyers who shop for a mortgage when buying a home for the first time report “increases consumers’ knowledge of the mortgage market and increases consumers’ self confidence in their ability to deal with mortgage related issues.”

The importance of shopping for a mortgage as a first-time home buyer is that it saves you money in the long term and “reduces the cost of consumers’ mortgages,” the study found.

The home-buying process can be intimidating. So being aware of these mistakes when buying a home for the first time can help you save thousands and thousands of dollars in the long term.

10 Mistakes to avoid when buying a home for the first time.

1. Not knowing your credit score.

We are all aware that the higher your credit score, the better.
Yet, despite this fact, many people fail to check their credit score before
buying their first home.

And a low credit score can lead to a high interest mortgage loan, or even worse, a loan rejection. Given the fact that your credit score is the number 1 item mortgage lender looks at, it pays off to know where you stand.

Credit Sesame will let you know what your credit score is for free and monitor it for you. It will also offer tips on how to raise your credit score and reduce your debt.

Just sign up for a free account – it only takes 90 seconds.

Mortgage rates and fees vary across lenders. In other words, two applicants with the identical credentials can get different mortgage rates. Despite this, however, many fist-time homebuyers fail to shop and compare mortgage rates before buying their first home.

The study reveals that 30 percent first time homebuyers do not
compare and shop for their mortgages, and more than 75 percent reported
applying for a mortgage with only one mortgage lender.

The study further reveals that “failing to comparison shop for a
mortgage costs the average homebuyer approximately $300 per year and many thousands
of dollars over the life of the loan.”

An easy way to shop and compare for a mortgage is with LendingTree. Their simple and straightforward platform can help you find and apply for the right loan all in one place.

3. Sticking with the first mortgage lender you meet.

While it’s tempting to work with your local mortgage lender who’s
only a few blocks away from your home, this decision requires more time. Take
time to meet with at least three mortgage lenders before picking the best match
for you.

Fortunately, LendingTree free online platform, allows you to quickly browse several mortgage rates with several mortgage lenders without visiting a dozen bank branches.

4. Not knowing what loans are available to you.

If you’re buying a home for the first time, one thing you need to address is what types of loans are available to me. Sometimes the answer to this can be quite simple: conventional loan. This is because most people know about this type of loan.

But conventional loan requires at least 20% down payment. And the credit score needs to be in the 700. *Note: You can put less than 20% down payment, but you will have to pay for a private insurance mortgage (PMI).

Sometimes it’s not feasible to come up with that type of money as a first time home buyer. So knowing if other loans are available to you is very important.

FHA loan

One type of loan that is popular among first time home buyers is FHA loan. It is so popular because it’s easier to get qualified for it. And the down payment is very little comparing to that of a conventional loan.

For example, FHA loans require a 580 credit score and a down payment as low as 3.5% of the home purchase price. This makes it easier to qualify for a home loan when you’re on a low income.

VA loans

VA loans are another great option for first-time homebuyers. However, you have to be a veteran. Unlike a FHA or a conventional loan, VA loans require no down payment and no mortgage insurance. This can save you thousands of dollars per year.

So if you’re in market for a loan to buy your first home, you need to educate yourself about the different available loans.


Not All Mortgage Lenders Are Created Equally

When it comes to getting a mortgage, rates and fees vary. LendingTree allows you to view and compare multiple mortgage rates from multiple mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time, so you can choose the best rates for your needs. LendingTree makes getting a loan faster, simpler, and better. Get started today >>>


5. Not getting pre-approved for a mortgage

One of the first time home buying mistakes you should avoid making is not getting a pre-approval letter. You can simply contact a lender and request it. The mortgage lender will pull your credit report to make sure you have the minimum credit score requirement.

They will also need your bank statements, W2s, recent income tax returns, pay-stubs to verify your employment and ability to afford the loan.

Why this is important? A pre-approval letter means that you’re a serious buyer. It signals that you’re able to commit to the house once an offer has been accepted. It also makes you more desirable than the other potential buyers.

Get a Pre-Approval for a Mortgage Today

6. Not knowing how much you can afford

Buying a home is probably going to be the biggest expenses you’ve ever made. But buying a house you cannot afford can lead to financial trouble along the road. Paying an expensive mortgage for 15 to 30 years on a low income can be hard.

So it pays to know how much house you can afford before you start searching for your home.

The best way to know how much house you can afford is to look at your budget. Take into account your expenses and income and other costs associated with owning a home.

7. Not knowing other upfront costs

If you think that the only cost to buying a home is a down payment, then think again. There are several upfront costs associated with owning a house. These upfront costs include private mortgage insurance, inspection costs, loan application fees, repair costs, moving costs, appraisal costs, earnest money, home association dues.

As a first time home buyer, this may come to you as a surprise. So, be ready to have enough money to cover these costs.

8. Failure to inspect your home.

Although some banks would prefer you inspect your home before they offer you a loan, it’s not mandatory. But that does not mean you shouldn’t do it. Not inspecting your home can cost you a lot. Inspection discovers defects that you may not know about. Inspection costs can be anywhere from $300 to $700.

Don’t be stingy with these costs. It’s better to find out about any hidden defects , like a faulty wiring and plumbing, than finding about them later. To avoid regretting your decision or having to spend thousand of dollars on repairs down the road, consider an inspector.

9. Failure to check out the neighborhood.

Just because the street or the neighborhood your potential house is located is quiet or is not run down doesn’t mean crime is not a problem. So before buying your home, you should check out the neighborhood. Take a trip at night to get a feeling of the environment. Talk to residents. Most importantly, check with the local police station – they can be a great resource when it comes to crime rates in a particular location. This is simply one of the first time home buying tips you shouldn’t ignore.

10. Searching for a mortgage on your own.

There are several mortgage lenders available to you. But choosing one that is right for you can be tough.

The LendingTree online platform makes it easy and simple for you to find the right home loan for you. Now you can get matched up to several mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time. And the whole process just takes a few minutes.

Follow these steps to get matched with the right mortgage:

  1. Go to www.lendingtree.com;
  2. Answer a few questions regarding the type pf loan yo need and you’ll use it. Within a few seconds, you’ll see multiple, competing offers from several lenders;
  3. You then shop and compare offers side by side.

Ready to get started? Find your best loan!

The bottom line is when it comes to buying a home for the first time, you should not take any shortcut. Doing so can cost a lot of money down the road. So before buying your first home, make sure you get the right mortgage loan, inspect the home, and have enough money to cover some of the upfront and ongoing costs associated with owning a house.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

Still looking for first time home buying tips? You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, 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

Mvelopes Review: Digitize the Cash Envelope Method With This App

The cash envelope budgeting method can be a very effective way to control your spending.

The premise is simple. You come up with spending limits for your variable expenses, like groceries, eating out or entertainment. Next, you fill up envelopes with cash to match what you’ve budgeted for each category.

As you shop throughout the month, you can only spend the amount of money in your envelopes. Once you’ve run out of cash, you’ve got to freeze spending until it’s time to fill the envelopes again.

There’s one significant flaw in this budgeting method though: What if you don’t shop with cash? Many people opt for online shopping or use a debit or credit card rather than dollars and coins.

Fortunately, there are ways to adapt the cash envelope budget for cashless shoppers. One of the solutions is to use a budgeting app, like Mvelopes.

In this Mvelopes review, we’ll explain how this app works to help you keep your spending in check.

What Is Mvelopes?

Mvelopes is a budgeting app from Finicity, a fintech company owned by Mastercard. It’s based on the cash envelope system, so all of the categories you set up in your budget are essentially your digital envelopes.

Mvelopes syncs to your financial accounts, so whenever you pay a bill, shop online or swipe your debit card, that transaction shows up in the app. The app uses bank-level encryption to keep your information safe.

Once you assign the transaction to its appropriate envelope, you’ll automatically see how much money you have left to spend in that category. And if you do happen to use cash for something, you can manually enter that info in the app.

How to Get Started with Mvelopes

You can download the Mvelopes app for your Apple or Android mobile device — or you can create an account and manage your money straight from your computer.

Mvelopes offers three tiers of service. Mvelopes Basic costs $5.97 per month or $69 per year and lets you set up your budget by syncing to all your financial accounts. The next step up is Mvelopes Premier, which costs $9.97 per month or $99 per year and includes access to the Mvelopes Learning Center and Debt Reduction Center.

The Mvelopes Learning Center has online video lessons on topics like mastering your spending, creating an emergency fund, insuring your future, home buying and how to have stress-free holidays. With the Debt Reduction Center, you get support to create a tailor-made debt payoff plan.

The app’s top tier of service is Mvelopes Plus. This plan connects you with a real-live personal finance trainer for one-on-one virtual sessions four times a year. You’ll also get higher priority customer service support. Mvelopes Plus costs $19.97 a month or $199 a year.

Although there is no free version of Mvelopes, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial of Mvelopes Premier — the app’s most popular option — to test out the service with no financial commitment.

The Pros and Cons of Mvelopes

Mvelopes can sync with over 16,000 financial institutions, so most users can track their spending with minimal effort. Keeping your spending in check means you can free up more money to go toward saving or debt.

According to the company, Mvelopes has helped users save an average of $6,175 and pay off an average of $17,425 of debt.

One disadvantage of this app, however, is that it’s not free, like the budgeting apps Mint or Clarity Money. Also, if you’re looking for a tool that tracks more aspects of your financial life, such as your net worth and where you stand with your investments, you might want to consider an app like Personal Capital.

Who Is Mvelopes For?

The Mvelopes app is a great option for fans of the cash envelope method who are looking to digitize their money management.

It is also a good choice for people looking to nix overspending, because the app keeps you up-to-date with how much funds you have left to spend in each budget category.

Additionally, Mvelopes can help you boost your personal finance knowledge via online courses or pay down debt with a tailored payoff plan.

By signing up for the free 30-day trial, you’ll have a month to decide whether Mvelopes is the right choice for you.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com