Prepping Your Home for Sale? Why You Should Hire a Handyman – Redfin

December 1, 2020 December 7, 2020 by Emily Huddleston

Updated on December 7th, 2020

As you get ready to sell your home, you may discover the need to make a few (or even many) repairs and updates – from touching up paint on walls and replacing hardware to fixing your mailbox or repairing drywall. Sure, there will be home repair projects you can easily complete yourself, but what if you don’t have the time with everything else going on or a repair project is over your head? That’s where hiring a handyman comes in.

two story grey home

two story grey home

Why should I hire a handyman?

Buyers want a house that looks new – no nicks or scuffs on the walls, fresh paint, a fence in good condition, and doors and windows that are free of drafts and leaks. Over time, you may not realize that some of the small damages in your house can add up to an overall impression of neglect. Keeping up with general maintenance and care of your home, such as cleaning the gutters, freshening the paint, and fixing overall wear and tear can help you maintain, if not increase your home value each year. By contrast, not fixing things around the home can reduce your home’s sale value by about 10%.

Here’s where a handyman can help. A handyman is a jack of all trades, capable of many different kinds of home repairs. Some may have plumbing and electrical licenses and certifications, while others are specialists in home carpentry, tile replacement, or laying carpet. Many handyman services offer a wide variety of skills and can complete a multitude of different projects around the house.

A handyman can also find items in the home that you may not realize need repair – anything from faulty or leaking ductwork in your HVAC system to a crack in the foundation.

Also, many homebuyers will conduct their own home inspection before closing on the house, and often, if there are things that need to be fixed, the buyer may ask for concessions or reduce their offer to offset the costs of fixing these things themselves. When you hire a handyman to complete any home improvement project before you sell your home, you can reduce the chances of having concessions or missing out on a potential deal. 

bright bathroom with patterned tile

bright bathroom with patterned tile

Projects your handyman can complete

Your handyman service can complete many different types of projects. Some common ones include:

  • Fixing a broken garbage disposal
  • Repairing or calibrating an HVAC thermostat
  • Replacing a mailbox
  • Anchoring or installing shelves
  • Painting walls
  • Applying wallpaper
  • Removing wallpaper
  • Adding locks to the interior or exterior doors
  • Repairing drywall
  • Replacing tile or carpet
  • Cleaning gutters
  • Power washing brick or siding
  • Fixing cracks in stucco exteriors
  • Installing an exterior walkway
  • And so much more

Some handymen may also be capable of unclogging pipes and drains, installing lighting or ceiling fans, and replacing kitchen sinks or toilets. However, depending on where you live, the handyman may need to have a certification for plumbing services, be a licensed electrician, or have undergone formal masonry training, both for foundation work and other types of training. In order to ensure that the repairs are all compliant with local residential building codes, you’ll want to make sure to speak with an expert.

Another thing to consider when determining what kind of repairs your handyman service will complete is whether your home poses a safety risk. Things like broken window panes and loose handrails may jeopardize certain types of home loans, which can limit your buyer pool. For example, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has certain requirements for a home’s condition before they’ll approve an FHA or VA home loan. The last thing many home sellers wish to have is a deal that falls apart right before closing, so be sure to address any safety issues with your handyman before listing your home.

bright white kitchen with bar stools

bright white kitchen with bar stools

Should I hire a handyman or a contractor?

You may not always need a residential contractor to complete many of the projects on your home repair list. Oftentimes a handyman can get the job done and they tend to be less expensive than a contractor. They charge by the hour and have their own tools, so while you’ll be responsible for providing the materials for each job, you’ll only have to pay the handyman’s hourly rate.

However, if you need extensive repairs done, or if a home inspector wishes to see receipts or invoices from the job, it’s better to hire a contractor. General contractors often do home renovations and remodeling, while a subcontractor is a professional that specializes in a certain area, such as roofing, plumbing, or electrical work. A contractor will also have a warranty for their work, which you, as a seller, should provide to potential buyers. Contractors also are well-versed in local building codes and will ensure that your repairs are compliant.

Choosing the right handyman to hire

Not all handyman services are created equal, and some have a more comprehensive list of services that they can provide than others. Finding the right handyman can start with getting recommendations from friends or neighbors, or even asking your real estate agent about reliable, talented handyman services in your area. In fact, your real estate agent may be the best source for a reliable handyman, as realtors often have a greater understanding of what it takes for homes to receive top-dollar offers.

Don’t be afraid to interview potential handymen or ask for references and photos of their past projects. You should also ask what kinds of certifications they hold and about their experience. Remember, this is an individual you’ll likely be working closely with, so this must be someone you can work well with.

With all the stress that goes into preparing a house to sell, hiring a handyman can be extremely helpful and save you a ton of time, money, and worry. Better yet, you may even find the perfect handyman and want to hire them again for any future repairs with your new home. 

Source: redfin.com

Biden to provide $25 billion in rental assistance

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden last week announced a stimulus plan worth $1.9 trillion that included several housing-related proposals aimed at helping people to stave off the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposals would extend the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures until Sept. 30, provide an additional $25 billion in rental assistance to help landlords, plus $5 billion for homelessness protection.

“While the $25 billion allocated by Congress was an important down payment on the back rent accrued during the crisis, it is insufficient to meet the scale of the need,” Biden’s team said in a statement regarding the stimulus package.

The proposal was warmly welcomed by the National Association of Realtors, which has been advocating for increased rental assistance since the first round of pandemic relief, called the CARES Act, was passed in March 2020. The NAR has said that extending moratoriums on evictions without rental assistance would hurt landlords that can’t cover their own costs.

“NAR looks forward to reviewing this proposal in more depth, but we are pleased to initially note President-elect Biden’s intentions to expand unemployment assistance, provide hundreds of billions in funding for state and local governments and authorize significant resources for homelessness assistance,” said NAR President Charlie Oppler. “Perhaps most notably for our members and for America’s real estate industry, we applaud the inclusion of an additional $25 billion in rental assistance for housing providers and rental families.”

Biden said Thursday during a press conference that the stimulus is needed to prevent a wave of evictions and foreclosures as there are thousands of Americans who have lost jobs and income due to the pandemic. A stimulus package approved by Congress in December extended moratoriums until Jan 31., but about 19% of all renters in the country remained behind on their payments as of that month, CNBC reported.

Biden’s plan also calls for funds to be set aside to provide legal assistance to households that might face foreclosure or eviction, as well as $5 billion in emergency assistance for those who are, or are at risk of, becoming homeless.

The President-elect has also called on housing agencies to allow forbearance applications on federally backed mortgages until Sept. 30, to give those who’re struggling to pay their mortgages more time to request a delay in making payments.

Biden’s plan also calls for individual stimulus checks of $1,400 per person.

Source: realtybiznews.com

Homebuyers and sellers: Look to this brokerage if you’re worried about coronavirus 

Brokerage takes stand against coronavirus

The coronavirus has continued spreading across the country, impacting travel, local economies and, of course, real estate markets. But if worries of COVID-19 have you shying away from buying that dream house (or selling your current property), then one brokerage has you covered.

Verify your new rate (Jan 17th, 2021)

Forget in-person tours, use this brokerage’s virtual tours instead

Tech-enabled brokerage Redfin has announced a new strategy to keep homebuyers, sellers, and even its agents out of harm’s way as the coronavirus sweeps the country.

According to a recent announcement, the company will now offer on-demand, virtual tours for all Redfin listings.

“We’ve long had a push-button tool for requesting a private, in-person tour of homes for sale,” said Glenn Kelman, Redfin’s CEO. “Starting today, we’re letting homebuyers use that tool to ask the agent to conduct the tour virtually via video chat.”

The company is also enabling fully virtual closings where possible to stave off potential infection even more.

“Our customers can also complete every part of a contract virtually,” Kelman said. “In the states where the law allows it, customers who use our mortgage and title service can close electronically. If you’d rather not meet others except where necessary, we can let you see a home, bid on it, and close on it, all virtually.”

Making an offer on a home without seeing it first

Keeping things clean

Redfin is also taking steps to keep its agents safe — as well as keep them from passing on any viruses to their clients. 

“Out of an abundance of caution, we’re taking other measures to protect buyers and sellers,” Kelman said. “We’ve advised our agents not to shake hands with customers who would rather not have to worry about contact with new people. Please don’t take it personally.”

Here’s how many Americans plan to buy a home next year

The brokerage is also asking sellers to have cleaning sprays and wipes on hand, so potential buyers and their agents can sanitize after concluding a tour. It is also providing agents with their own stores of wipes and cleaning materials.

Verify your new rate (Jan 17th, 2021)

Get today’s mortgage rates

Are you planning to use virtual tours to find your dream home amidst the coronavirus scare? Then use our tools to shop digitally for your mortgage, too.

Verify your new rate (Jan 17th, 2021)

Source: themortgagereports.com

Existing-Home Sales Soar Despite Record-Low Inventory

The numbers: Existing-home sales rose for the fifth consecutive month in October, as the housing market finally made up for the pandemic-related downturn in sales this spring.

Total existing-home sales increased 4.3% from September to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 6.85 million, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday. Compared with a year ago, home sales were up roughly 27%. It was the highest level of home sales in 15 years.

“Considering that we remain in a period of stubbornly high unemployment relative to pre-pandemic levels, the housing sector has performed remarkably well this year,” Lawrence Yun, the trade group’s chief economist, said in the report. “The surge in sales in recent months has now offset the spring market losses.”

Economists polled by MarketWatch had projected existing-home sales to rise to a median rate of 6.5 million.

What happened: Home sales grew in every region across the country, led by an 8.6% increase in the Midwest, the National Association of Realtors reported.

But the supply of homes on the market is a growing concern. By month’s end the total inventory of homes for sale dropped to a 2.5 months’ supply, the lowest on record. A six-month supply of homes is considered to be indicative of a balanced market.

As in September, 7 in 10 homes sold in less than a month. The fast pace of sales drove prices higher, with the median existing-home price was $313,000, up 15.5% from October 2019.

The big picture: A number of recent trends are supportive of growing home sales. Mortgage rates remain at all-time lows — dropping to the lowest level on record for the 13th time this week. Not only do low rates ease affordability constraints caused by the low supply of homes on the market, but they also serve as a catalyst spurring people to enter the market to lock in the cheap financing before it goes away.

Additionally, Americans are busy improving their homes. Both Home Depot and Lowe’s reported increasing sales in the third quarter as Americans spent money renovating their properties. Some of this was undoubtedly caused by people spending more time at home amid the pandemic — and therefore finding more flaws to fix. As economist Christophe Barraud notes, “home-improvement activity is closely correlated with existing home sales.” Sellers want to put their best foot forward, and that means doing things like touching up paint or fixing broken fixtures.

What they’re saying: “So far, the housing market appears immune to the virus due to record-low borrowing costs and teleworkers seeking roomier and cheaper properties outside of major cities,” Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said in a research note.

“While rising prices may be a drag on home sales, mortgage rates are contributing to affordability,” Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a research note. “While demand for mortgages is likely to stay strong — despite job and income losses — tightening lending standards may be a constraint going forward.”

“With the recent good news on vaccines, it is likely many buyers and sellers are going to reevaluate their preferences as they imagine a world getting back to pre-pandemic conditions in the near future,” said chief economist at Keller Williams.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were both down in Thursday morning trading.

Source: realtor.com

A Sad Photo Essay That Sums Up What It’s Like to Sell Your Housewares Online

Long ago, I learned that I lack the fortitude or tenacity to ever host another garage sale. So when I looked around my home this past spring and saw a bunch of items I no longer wanted or needed, I decided it was time to try something new: Sell them online!

Whether you’re moving to new digs or just decluttering the home, it’s hard to resist the opportunity to turn your castoffs into cash. And, if the idea of Craigslist also gives you qualms, online consignment groups on Facebook —where you post your wares to local members who then swing by to take a look—are a more sheltered alternative, since only members get to view the goods (translation: fewer randos).

As I began photographing and listing my inventory, my hopes were high … yet I soon found myself in an oddly depressing, albeit comical, vicious circle.

So, to prepare the rest of you for this roller coaster, check out these pics of the stages you’ll endure if you dare to sell your housewares online.

You’re excited

Your heart’s beating a little faster just thinking about that sweet combination of cash in hand and more room in your home. Even though you haven’t touched your stationary bike since the Clinton administration, you’re certain someone out there is going to want to ride this beauty right out of your basement. Maybe you’ll even get multiple offers—your very own bicycle-based bidding war!

This recumbent bike brought in $50, though several people offered to take it off my hands for $25. If you're in no rush, wait for your asking price.
This recumbent bike brought in $50, though several people offered to take it off my hands for $25. If you’re in no rush, wait for your asking price.

Liz Alterman

You hone your photo-taking skills to the max

We all know the old saying, “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” Well, what if it’s worth a thousand dollars? (OK, maybe a couple of hundred?) Surely, if you take the perfect photo from all the right angles, crop out your cat’s litter box and those unsightly carpet stains, you’ll have buyers beating down the door for that old sofa. After all, staging is everything! (Right?)

When my kids outgrew this Pottery Barn Teen furniture, I sold it for $200, a fraction of what I paid for it, but still, it's out of my basement!
When my kids outgrew this Pottery Barn Teen furniture, I sold it for $200, a fraction of what I paid for it, but still, it’s out of my basement!

Liz Alterman

You use a little poetic license

Want to attract as much interest as possible? You’ll need a description that proves to the public they can’t live without that hand blender you never figured out how to use. But you’re not a copywriter! Looks like it’s time to plagiarize a description from whichever website you purchased that contraption from and hope that’s not illegal.

You post your item, then check your computer and phone every 10 seconds

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! You’ve posted your item and your listing looks so good, if you didn’t already own that outdoor bar cart, you’d be tempted to buy it all over again. Any minute, someone is going to let you know they’re interested. Wait, is this what online dating feels like?

You plan how you’ll spend your windfall

Now that you look at it, that corner will look awfully bare without your kids’ drum set. You should probably get right on Pinterest for ideas on what to put in its place. Bookshelf? Funky ottoman? Exotic plant? Because, why not? You’re about to have oodles of cash coming your way any moment. And also, how else would you pass the time as you wait for would-be buyers to realize this is their chance to raise the next Ringo Starr?

Despite the fact that I noted all the dimensions on this "kid's" set, many adults came calling believing it was adult-sized. Awkward.
Despite the fact that I noted all the dimensions on this “kid’s” set, many adults came calling believing it was adult-sized. Awkward.

Liz Alterman

You get your first nibble

OK, you’ve got your first potential buyer. You’re elated! You assure them, yes, this weed whacker is still available. This is going great … until your customer asks more questions than a CIA interrogator. Why are you selling? Will you throw in a can of gasoline and/or an extension cord? Would you be willing to demo it, preferably in their yard? Uh-oh.

You get several more (equally annoying) interested parties

You thought that by joining a local group, you’d avoid the hassle of the packing and shipping. Not so fast. People are interested in that hand-painted toy chest, but they’ll only buy it if you deliver it. Oh, and by the way, they moved out of your town months ago. Oh yeah, and they’d also like to pay half, or maybe a third, of your asking price.

You wonder why you ever thought this was a good idea

After writing to tell 11 potential buyers that, yes, your big inflatable water slide is still available—but, no, you’re not renting a truck to drop it off—you begin to experience self-doubt. You banish all thoughts that resemble, “Time is money,” because you’ve already invested at least six hours in trying to sell something that may, if the stars align, bring in $75. Even though you’re fundamentally and ideologically opposed to it, you’re approaching the point where you’d be happy to see this plastic behemoth upside down in a landfill—so long as it’s out of your backyard.

Think of the hours of backyard fun your kids could have on this baby!
Think of the hours of backyard fun your kids could have on this baby!

Liz Alterman

Finally, a real buyer emerges

After some haggling and hoping you haven’t just welcomed a Craigslist killer into your basement, you sell your foosball table and bask in the splendor of having that cold hard cash in hand. “That wasn’t so hard now, was it?” you tell yourself.

What’s next?

Who knew you’d experience inexplicable feelings of joy, akin to a runner’s high, after watching a father and son leave your driveway with those gently used, left-handed golf clubs? You immediately begin looking around your home for more items to sell. Who needs a stove? It’s summer, after all!

OK, true confession time. These never sold. They're still available for $30. Any takers?
OK, true confession time. These never sold. They’re still available for $30. Any takers?

Liz Alterman

See Step 1 and repeat ad nauseam

Source: realtor.com

Pre-Wedding Bashes Can Put a Dent in Saving for a Home Down Payment

A sobering report finds that millennials who take nine destination bachelor trips will spend up to 35% of the down payment on the median-priced home.

Destination bachelor and bachelorette parties are becoming the norm, especially among millennials who prize experiences and grew up watching “The Hangover.” While flying off to exotic locales for pre-wedding bashes can be a trip of a lifetime, big-ticket adventures can add up fast.

A new Zillow report finds that people who attend just nine of these bashes will have spent up to $13,788, or 35 percent of a down payment on a median-price home.

Owning a home is important to millennials, yet many of them struggle to save enough money for a down payment. To help first-time buyers, Zillow calculated how much cash is needed for a 20 percent down payment on a home, and how much of it may instead be going toward bachelor or bachelorette parties.

Party on

A destination bachelor party costs on average $1,532 ($1,106 for a bachelorette), according to wedding website, The Knot. If the average person attends nine destination parties in a lifetime, they will have spent up to 34 percent of the cash needed for a down payment on the median-priced home.

In some metro areas, like Cleveland and Pittsburgh, millennials can spend up to half (51 and 50 percent, respectively) of their future home’s down payment on bachelor parties and well over a third of a down payment on bachelorette parties. However, in hot and expensive markets like San Jose or San Francisco, nine destination bachelor parties equates to only 5 or 6 percent, respectively, of the down payment on the median-priced home.

The wedding party

Bachelor and bachelorette parties are not the only expense associated with attending a wedding. On average, bridesmaids and groomsmen spend an additional $1,154 for things like wedding day attire, a gift for the bride and groom, as well as travel and accommodations for the wedding day. Guests not in the bridal party still spend $888, on average, to attend each wedding.

Help with budgeting

Buyers can use Zillow’s affordability calculator to see how much they can actually afford to spend on a home, based on their income, debts and savings. Zillow’s mortgage calculator can also provide custom down payment estimates based on home price and interest rates.

Curious where bachelor and bachelorette party expenses make up the largest portion of a down payment on a home? Check out the full report here.

Source: zillow.com

1099-C: What You Need to Know about the Cancellation of Debt Tax Form

January 6, 2021 &• 5 min read by Brooke Niemeyer Comments 4 Comments

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Disclaimer

From early January to mid-February, you might receive a number of tax documents in the mail. They can range from expected W-2s from your employer to forms about mortgage interest you paid. One form that many people don’t expect is the 1099-C. Discover why you would receive such a form and what the IRS expects you to do with it. Make sure to consult with your tax professional for your specific situation.

What Is a 1099-C Form?

A 1099-C is a tax form required by the IRS in certain situations where your debts have been forgiven or canceled. The IRS requires a 1099-C form for certain acts of debt forgiveness because it sees that forgiven debt as a form of income.

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For example, if you borrowed $12,000 for a personal loan and only paid back $6,000, you still received the original $12,000. Not paying back the other half of the loan means you got the benefit of that money without paying for it. The IRS considers that to be income in many cases.

Why Did You Get a 1099-C Form?

Not every debt cancellation involves a 1099-C form. But if you received this form in the mail, it’s because of a debt cancellation that occurred at some point during the tax year.

Box 6 on the 1099-C form should have a code to help you determine why you received the form. You can also learn more about 1099-C cancellation of debt processes and the reasons you might receive such a form if you’re not sure whether yours is accurate.

The IRS provides instructions and information about 1099-C forms and cancellation of debt in general. That includes a list of potential codes that might be found in Box 6:

  • A—Bankruptcy (Title 11)
  • B—Other judicial debt relief
  • C—Statute of limitations or expiration of deficiency period
  • D—Foreclosure election
  • E—Debt relief from probate or similar proceeding
  • F—By agreement
  • G—Decision or policy to discontinue collection
  • H—Other actual discharge before identifiable event

What Should You Do with a 1099-C Form?

You should never ignore any tax form you receive, as each might have positive or negative implications on your tax return. But you should also not panic if you receive a 1099-C form indicating a large amount of income. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will owe a lot more in taxes.

First, find out whether the type of debt cancellation on the 1099-C form is excluded from taxable income. The IRS provides a list of exclusions, which include debts that were forgiven because you were insolvent or involved in certain types of bankruptcies. It’s a good idea to double check with your bankruptcy lawyer about whether you need to claim 1099-C income relevant to your bankruptcy discharge.

Once you know whether you need to claim the income or not, you must incorporate the 1099-C into your federal tax filing. If the canceled debt doesn’t fall under an exclusion, you report it as “other income” on your tax return.

That income will be included with your other income in determining how much tax you must pay for the year. In short, you’ll have to pay taxes on the extra income. That might mean your refund is reduced or that you owe more taxes than you would otherwise.

In cases where the 1099-C canceled debt falls under an IRS exclusion—which means you don’t have to pay taxes on all or some of the income—you still may need to file a form. The creditor that sent you the 1099-C also sent a copy to the IRS. If you don’t acknowledge the form and income on your own tax filing, it could raise a red flag. Red flags could result in an audit or having to prove to the IRS later that you didn’t owe taxes on that money.

Luckily, the IRS provides a form for this purpose. It’s Form 982, the Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness.

What to Do if You Received a 1099-C Form After Filing Your Taxes

If you don’t know a 1099-C form is coming—and many people don’t realize they might receive one—you could file your taxes before it arrives. You should file an amended return if this happens. That’s true even if the 1099-C doesn’t change your tax obligation, as you might want to get the Form 982 on record for documentation purposes. 

What’s the 1099-C Statute of Limitations?

There aren’t really statutes of limitations on cancellation of debt, though the IRS does have rules about when these forms should be filed. The creditor must file a 1099-C the year following the calendar year when a qualifying event occurs. That just means the creditor must file the next year if they discharge or forgive a debt.

If the creditor files a 1099-C with the IRS, then typically it must provide you with a copy by January 31 so you have it for tax filing purposes that year. This is similar to the rule for W-2s from employers.

However, there is no rule for how long a creditor can carry debt on its books before it decides it’s uncollectible. So, if your debt isn’t canceled via repossession, bankruptcy, or other processes, cancellation could happen at any time. The creditor doesn’t have to tell you about it other than sending the 1099-C.

Is a 1099-C Form Good or Bad for Your Credit?

The 1099-C form shouldn’t have any impact on your credit. However, the activity that led to the 1099-C probably does impact your credit. Typically, by the time a creditor forgives a debt, you’ve engaged in at least one of the following activities:

  • Failed to make payments for an extended period of time
  • Negotiated a settlement on the debt
  • Entered into a program with the creditor because you can’t pay the debt, such as a home short sale or voluntary repossession
  • Been sent to collections
  • Had a foreclosure or repossession
  • Gone through a bankruptcy

All of those are negative items that can impact your credit report and score for years. So, while getting a 1099-C itself doesn’t change your credit at all, you’ve probably already experienced a negative hit to your score.

Get Tax Help if You Receive a 1099-C

As with other tax topics, the 1099-C can be complicated. It’s a good idea to work with a professional when dealing with complicated tax matters or trying to reduce your tax burden legally.

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Escaping from a Payday Loan Organization: Tips for Getting Out of the Payday Trap

March 31, 2020 &• 7 min read by Gerri Detweiler Comments 11 Comments

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According to a 2016 Pew Research study, most borrowers who incur payday loan debt end up paying a lot in fees. In fact, most pay more in fees than they borrowed. Pew Research also notes that more than half of payday loan borrowers already struggle to meet monthly obligations. When you have an emergency you can’t otherwise fund, it can be tempting to use a payday loan “just this once.” But more often than not “just once” turns into “over and over again.”

If you’ve fallen into the payday loan trap, we’ve got some tips for escaping and avoiding the negatives of dealing with payday loan organizations.

Which Payday Loan Is Best?

There’s really no such thing as a good payday loan, which means there’s really no such thing as the “best” payday loan.

Payday loan organizations are considered predatory lenders for good reasons. In fact, some states have outright banned them. Pew Research calculates that the average borrower spends an average of $520 in fees on a loan of $375. The average annual interest rate of payday loans to net out to a whopping 391%. That’s about 10 times more than you’ll pay on any credit card or personal loan you qualify for.

How to Get Out of Payday Loans

Before you take out a payday loan, educate yourself about what a payday loan really is. Often, people stay trapped in this process because they don’t understand how it works and how much it costs. If you’ve already fallen into the payday loan trap, don’t despair. We have some tips to make it out and work your way toward financial independence.

Seek Alternatives to Payday Loans

Before you get another payday loan to pay off the fees of your previous payday loan, look into alternatives to payday loans. If you can use one of them to pay off the existing payday loan, get out of the trap and don’t go back.

  • The Earnin app, which lets you get an advance of up to $100 per day on your paycheck without the fees and trap associated with payday loans. You can use this advance to pay off your payday loan and avoid the fees that have kept you trapped. Some limitations apply.
  • Personal loans, which let you borrow a larger amount at a fixed monthly payment. This may be a better way to get ahead with your money matters while also agreeing to a realistic payment that you can afford over a few years.
  • Debt consolidation loans, which let you take a loan to cover your payday loan debt as well as other debt you might owe. The result is one account and payment you need to manage, and it’s almost always at a lower interest rate than your payday loan. Consolidation loans can stretch what you owe into payments over a year or more, making it easier to budget for the debt.
  • OppLoans, a popular alternative to payday loans and personal loans. They don’t look at your credit score like most personal loan options, approve you quickly and lend you more than payday loans without the super-high fees. Be aware though, their fees are higher than traditional bank personal loans.
  • Credit cards can be an option if you already have one. They have lower interest rates than payday loans so they can be easier to pay off. If you already have credit card debt, you could consider a balance transfer credit card, which allows you to transfer the balance of another credit card with no interest for a certain amount of time.

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Ask for an Extended Payment Plan

If you’re currently caught with a payday loan you can’t pay back on time, find out if your state requires payday lenders to work with consumers on extended payment plans. These plans let you make payments over time on the loan instead of taking out another expensive payday loan you may not be able to pay in two weeks.

The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a breakdown of state laws governing payday lenders. You can refer to this resource to find out if an extended payment plan is an option for you.

Engage in Debt Management Planning Processes

If you’re not sure what to do and you’re dealing with much more than a single payday loan gone wrong, consider debt management planning. This lets you engage with a professional organization that works with you and your creditors. Debt counselors help you create a working budget and catch up on financial matters so you no longer need payday loan organizations.

How to Stop Paying Payday Loans Legally

Unfortunately, you can’t just stop paying your payday loans. These are legal debts, which means the payday lender can report negative items on your credit report, send you to collections or even sue you.

Many payday lenders also make you sign an agreement that the payments will draft out of your bank account. If you don’t make a payment, they take the money anyway. That can leave you on the hook for even more expenses, such as overdraft and NSF charges.

If you’ve exhausted your other options, there are a few ways to move forward from a legal perspective.

File for Bankruptcy

If you simply can’t make your payments at all, you may be able to stop paying payday loans legally via bankruptcy processes. When you file a petition of bankruptcy, an automatic stay goes into place. That means any creditor you listed on the bankruptcy must cease collections activities.

Depending on whether you file a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may need to make payments on your debt through the trustee. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the trustee pays priority debts such as mortgages, auto loans and taxes first. They then make some payments on nonpriority debts, such as credit cards or payday loans.

The payday lender may or may not receive money if you file bankruptcy. But once your bankruptcy has been finalized, you no longer owe the payday loan organization any money.

Bankruptcy is a last resort, though. If you’re not to that point yet, consider a few other options first.

Contact State Regulators  

While state regulators can’t necessarily help you stop paying your payday loans, they could be a good next step if you can’t get the lender to work with you any other way. If payday lenders refuse to work with you on an extended payment plan for your debt, contacting the agency that regulates lenders in your specific state could be helpful.

You can use the National Conference of State Legislatures list of state laws to determine if the payday lender has broken any laws in its dealings with you. State regulators may be able to help negotiate a payment plan with licensed lenders of payday loans. They may also take action against unlicensed lenders of payday loans.

File a Complaint

Filing a formal complaint against the payday lending company if it refuses to work with you on a payment plan creates an official record of the situation. Complaints can be filed with state regulators as well as on a national level with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Depending on the severity of your complaint, you may not be required to pay.

Turn to Better Options

Payday loan organizations offer lending that can be classified as “desperate measures.” Before you take out one of these loans—and before you consider drastic measures such as bankruptcy—make sure you’ve considered all the options listed above.

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Buying a Home With Well Water? Here’s 5 Ways to Maintain It

November 23, 2020 December 1, 2020 by Julia Weaver

Updated on December 1st, 2020

If you’re moving out of the bustling city to a more peaceful and quiet countryside home, chances are you’re buying a home that has a well water system. Most homes in cities access their water via traditional municipal sewer systems. However, millions of homes in rural areas across the US housing market rely on well water to keep faucets flowing – over 15 million, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. While using well water may be new for you, there are many upsides to a well water system, including:

  • Safety: well water, when properly maintained, is perfectly safe to drink and use.
  • Availability: well water is available anywhere, even in rural areas that don’t have access to a municipal water supply.
  • Affordability: well water can be cheaper than paying sewer fees. You’re not hooked up to the local water supply, which means no monthly bill.

If you’re buying a home with well water, it’s ultimately up to you to maintain it. So it’s important to have a thorough understanding of how the well water system works and the preventative care necessary to keep your well and your water at an ideal level of quality. Some homeowners don’t know that their water well systems require service and routine maintenance until it’s too late. Add these five tasks to your home maintenance to ensure your water stays safe and usable.

Blue, two-story home with a water well system

Blue, two-story home with a water well system

1) Test your well water annually

The quality of well water is always changing. While the government doesn’t require annual testing, it’s important to have your well water tested annually to protect those in your household.

The very nature of well water makes it far more susceptible to contamination. It’s important to make sure your well water is safe to drink and use in cooking, cleaning, and bathing. The testing process looks for things like bacteria, nitrates, iron, water hardness, manganese, and sulfides. If levels are too high or too low, depending on the substance in question, maintenance can be essential to prevent potential health hazards. If you do notice a change in the color, taste, or smell of your water, make sure to get it tested immediately – even if it hasn’t been a year since the last test. And, if you live in an area affected by flooding, you should have your water tested after every major flood in addition to an annual inspection.

The good news is testing water is both easy and affordable. DIY kits are available at most hardware stores. These products allow homeowners to take a water sample and send it to a third-party lab to be analyzed. Once analyzed, the testing company will provide results and, if necessary, guidance on next steps. 

Or, you can choose to hire a professional. They’ll collect samples from the well, send them to a lab, and provide you with reports on water quality. This can give peace of mind in knowing your water was tested in a state-certified lab. You’ll also have the opportunity to review the results with an expert who will provide next steps.

2) Get your well water system inspected each year

In addition to testing the quality of the water, you’ll also want the well itself professionally inspected once a year if you’re buying a home with a well. Your well water system plays a key role in keeping water clean and usable. If it’s not operating up to standard, it’s easy for problems to arise.

A professional can determine whether your well and your well pump are working properly and diagnose any problems if present. They’ll look for damage or irregularities – such as signs of cracking or settling – which could allow contaminants into your water. An inspector can assess the damage and help you make the necessary adjustments to keep your well working as it should.

Ignoring issues with your well can result in costly problems down the road, like full system replacements. An annual inspection is relatively affordable and can guarantee peace of mind while helping you save on repair costs.

3) Evaluate your water softener

Water hardness refers to the mineral levels in the water. Hard water has high mineral content, while soft water has low mineral content. Due to the nature of a well, well water tends to be hard. Drinking or using hard water in day-to-day cleaning isn’t dangerous. However, there are still side effects to watch out for, such as:

  • Build up around faucets and in tubs, sinks, and toilets
  • Leaving skin dry and itchy
  • Spots and stains on dishes
  • Dingy laundry
  • Slow-draining sinks and tubs
  • Corroded plumbing
  • Reduced appliance lifespan, like washers and dishwashers

Most homes with well water likely require a water softener to avoid the challenges of hard water. This equipment uses salt to neutralize the impact of heavy mineral content. However, maintaining a water softener can require regular replacement of a brine tank. Be sure to check salt levels regularly and replace the tank whenever necessary.

Washing dishes with soap and water

Washing dishes with soap and water

4) Prevent hard water stains

If your new home has hard water, you’ve probably noticed the rusty orange stains in your porcelain sink, tubs, toilets, and residue on your laundry and dishes. This is from the high iron content Hard water stains are caused by the high iron content found in well water. And although iron is typically not a safety concern, hard water stains can be a challenge to remove if not addressed immediately. 

For those who do not have a water softener, it’s best to prevent hard water stains at the source. After each use, wipe down the surfaces of your tub and shower. Regularly clean sinks and toilets to prevent buildup. If hard water is damaging your clothing, let laundry sit in a vinegar solution prior to washing. Place a cup of vinegar in your dishwasher prior to starting a cycle to avoid hard water stains on your clean dishes. Vinegar and baking soda can work wonders on existing hard water stains, as can numerous hard water-specific cleaning products.

Consider incorporating a water softening system into your home to significantly reduce stains, and perhaps eliminate them altogether.

5) Keep your well water tasting and smelling fresh

Most of the time, wells don’t result in dangerous drinking water, unless bacteria is present, but water can smell or taste different.

A filtration system can eliminate minor impurities, including hydrogen sulfide – a harmless substance with no flavor but can smell like rotten eggs. However, if filtration isn’t keeping water clear and odor-free, there may be larger issues involved with your water well system that a professional will need to address.

If you’re buying a home with well water, be sure to do some research about the water in your area, and any regulations for the area where you’re buying.

Source: redfin.com

Nearly Half of Americans Are Considering a Move During the Pandemic, but Why?>

With the coronavirus pandemic likely to stretch into next year, many people are spending more time than ever before in their homes—but some are ready to find a new place altogether. Cue the U-Haul trucks.

Nearly half of Americans, 46%, are considering moving within the next year, according to a recent LendingTree survey. The online financial services marketplace based the report on a survey of more than 2,000 participants in September. But certain groups of people are much more likely to consider relocating than others—and they have some pretty compelling reasons for doing so.

“A lot of the reasons people are thinking about moving are related to the pandemic and the recession,” says LendingTree Chief Economist Tendayi Kapfidze. “A lot of people are concerned about their living expenses. We have a lot of people who are behind on their rent and behind on their mortgage.

“A lot of people are looking for ways to reduce their housing payments, which for a lot of people is their largest expense,” says Kapfidze. “They’re thinking of moving somewhere where it costs less to live.”

Many of those hoping for a change of scenery want to move to cut costs. That was the top reason for about 44% of survey respondents. Other reasons included needing more space, 27%; wanting a home with different features, 27%; wanting to live in a different part of town, 12%; and renters who weren’t fans of their landlords, 11%.

Those looking for new homes are overwhelmingly looking for amenities and features they might not have prioritized before the emergence of COVID-19. They’re seeking out bigger yards, larger kitchens, and a dedicated office space to work remotely or where the kids can do their online schooling.

“People are working from home more, so you need different things to be comfortable,” says Kapfidze. “Perhaps you need extra space, perhaps you need a separate room dedicated for working. People are valuing some outside space a lot more than they used to because you’re stuck at home.”

Who’s the most likely to want to move?

Remote workers were much more likely to contemplate picking up and leaving than those who need to report to their jobs in person. That’s because it’s a lot easier for these lucky folks to move just about anywhere with a good internet connection. Heck, why not go to a beach in Bali or a house by the lake?

Almost two-thirds of those able to work from home, about 64%, were thinking of moving compared with nearly a third, 31%, of commuters.

“If you’re now working remotely, you may not need to be in an expensive city, or maybe you’re somewhere that’s really far away from your family,” says Kapfidze. “[You] can move because there’s more flexibility with work arrangements.”

Meanwhile, renters were likelier to dream of moving than homeowners, at about 56% compared with 39% of homeowners. That’s probably because they’re a lot more mobile, as they’re only tied to a property for as long as their lease. Homeowners, meanwhile, have to get their abodes into tiptop shape to put them on the market and secure a buyer before they can pick up and go.

Of those considering a move, more than a quarter, 27%, don’t plan to go far. They would like to stay in the same area.

With the economy still struggling to rebound and millions out of work, many are hoping to save money by moving in with family and friends, 14%, or having those family and friends move in with them, 10%. This enables folks to cut down on rent, utilities, and other living expenses.

“There are still a lot of people who are out of work and receiving some sort of government support,” says Kapfidze. “If you’re sharing fixed living expenses with other people that [means] your proportion is smaller and that can save you some money.”

Source: realtor.com