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How to Keep Common Summer Pests Away from Your Home

If you’re spending more time outdoors, then you’re probably not alone. Here are some easy tricks and natural hacks to get rid of those unwanted summer pests.

The post How to Keep Common Summer Pests Away from Your Home appeared first on Homes.com.

Source: homes.com

Home Buyer Checklist: What to Look for in an Open House

Open houses may be staged to look like a home decor dream, but don’t let that distract you from the real reason you’re there: to potentially buy a home. Make sure you can look past the neatly arranged furniture and focus solely on whether the house would be a good fit for you and your family. To help, here’s a home buyer’s checklist of things you might have missed at first glance.

Windows – Look specifically if they are facing the right direction to let sunlight in, and whether they open to a nice view (versus directly toward another neighbor’s window).

Under the Sink Cabinets – Check for possible signs of water damage due to leaky plumbing.

Electrical Outlets – Make sure there are enough outlets for the appliances and other electronics you’ll be using. If not, you can decide if that’s a renovation you’d like to make.

Storage Space – Don’t just look to see if there’s enough closet space, but look for closet placement. Also check that the storage is in a convenient location.

Appliances – If they’re included in the house, make sure they’re in good condition. They should be on and working while you’re there.

Under the Rugs – Lift up any rugs to check the condition of the floor underneath.

Floor Level – Check to see if the floors are level. Place a marble or another small, round object on the floor and see if it rolls consistently in one direction.

Attic – If the house has one, make sure it’s well insulated.

Water Spouts – Runoff from the gutters should be pointed away from the house, so take a step outside to see if this is the case.

This list isn’t all-inclusive, but it’s a good place to start. Talk to a CENTURY 21 ® agent to see what else he or she might add.

The post Home Buyer Checklist: What to Look for in an Open House first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com

5 Ways to Keep Winter Decor Bright

Traditionally, spring and summer corner the market on bold, bright colors, with fall and winter ushering in richer, more muted tones. However, this year’s popular colors, featured in Shutterfly’s Hottest Hues Guide, have a versatility that helps enhance decor year-round. Incorporate pops of modern color trends into everyday home accessories to warm up your house and your heart in the cool days ahead.

Fall Harvest, see larger

1. Set a Color-filled Table

’Tis the season for holiday dinners, and your dining room table is the perfect place to fill your room with color. Saturate your tablescape with chargers, plates, placemats and napkins in festive colors. Deep reds and burgundies are not only perfect for the holidays, but they add warmth to your tablescape throughout the winter season. But don’t limit yourself to the standard red and green—get creative with color palettes as you set your table, bringing in metallic and unexpected shades for a dose of fun!

2. Patch it Together

Invite color to visit by adding seasonally inspired throw pillows or a practical and colorful quilt to your couch or bed. Think outside of your regularly colored box, and experiment with contrast to create a cozy space without committing to a color scheme.

Room filled with daylight, see larger

3. Bring the Outdoors In

Flowers lend a festive touch as well as a hint of brightness to any area. A bold spray of pink orchids or peonies can add a pleasantly surprising shock of color to a sleek neutral winter space. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you’re stuck with poinsettias. Pale pink is enjoying a comeback in the design world as a romantic neutral with a range of versatility—and rose quartz just happens to be one of Pantone’s colors of the year for 2016. As interior redesign specialist Wendy Wrzos says, “In fall, it can be paired with a rich brown and cream. In winter, a touch of pale pink will add a cozy warmth to a room, or be an unexpected addition to the more saturated colors.” Pick your palette from a favorite bouquet for a touch of color you already love.

vibrant laundry room, see larger

4. Live a Little Large

Bring big color to a small space by painting your laundry room a bold color for brightness you can enjoy all year round. “The laundry room is a room that gets used all the time, and it is rare to see one that has been decorated. A painted wall and a colorful rug takes no effort at all, and will cheer it up in an instant.” —Wrzos advised. Use a small, out-of-the-way area to be brave with a shade that brings you joy when you see it.

Living room artwork, see larger

5. Hang It Up

The artwork in a room is often a focal point and the perfect place to feature color. With a foundation of neutral furniture, flooring, and walls, art and decor accessories can take center stage. Create a canvas or three-panel piece of art from a nature-inspired vacation photo and select a matching color palette to complement your art work. If you’re looking for a more seasonal do-it-yourself option, wrap poster frame inserts in pretty wrapping paper for a temporary triptych to match your holiday decorating scheme.

Between bad weather and Daylight Savings Time, winter feels dark enough. Fill your life with brightness all year round by incorporating color in easy, unexpected ways and bring a little more boldness and brilliance into your everyday world.

About the Author

Ashley McCann shares home décor tips for Shutterfly.com. She is a mom of two and enjoys reading and karaoke. For more from Ashley, you can find her on Twitter.

The post 5 Ways to Keep Winter Decor Bright first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com

How Much Money Do You Need to Buy a House?

Understanding how much money you need to buy a house can give you an idea of how much you should expect to save.

You’re probably excited about the thought of buying your first home? If so, you have every right to be.

But how much money do you need to buy a house? A calculator can help you determine that. But the average cost of buying a $300,000 is typically around $17,000.

In this article, we’ll go over the main costs of buying a house including the down payment, inspection cost, appraisal cost, closing cost, etc.

Check Current Mortgage Rate

How much money do you need to buy a house?

Out of Pocket Cost of buying a house

The five main out of pocket costs of buying a house are 1) the down payment; 2) inspection cost; 3) the appraisal cost; 4) earnest money and 5) closing costs. These out of pocket costs or upfront costs are money yo need to pay before you become the owner of the property.

In addition, some lenders also require you have some cash reserves to cover 2 to 3 months of the mortgage repayments.

Determining how much cash needed to buy a house depends on the type of loan you’re using.

Let’s suppose you’re buying a $300,000 house with an FHA loan.

An FHA loan requires a 3.5% of the home purchase price as a down payment as long as you have a 580 credit score. So, for the down payment alone, you will need $10,500.

Here’s a quick breakdown for how much cash needed to buy a $300,000 house:

  • Down payment: $10,500
  • Inspection cost: $300
  • Appraisal cost: $300
  • Closing cost: $6000

So, $ 17,100 is how much money you need to buy a house.

Whether you’re buying a house with a 20% down payment or 3.5% down payment, you can certainly find a loan with both the price and features to suit your needs as a first time home buyer. You can compare First Time Home Buyer home loans on the LendingTree website.

The down payment

The biggest cost of buying a house is obviously your down payment. But that depends on the type of loan you are looking for.

For example, a conventional loan requires a 20% down payment. You can pay less than that, but you will have to pay for a private mortgage insurance – which covers the lender in case you default on your loan.

A 20% down payment however can also mean that you’ll get a better interest rate, which also means you’ll save money on interest.

For an FHA loan, you only need 3.5% down payment as long as your credit score is 580.

FHA loans are very popular these days. Not only it’s easier to get qualified (low down payment and low credit score), but also your down payment can come from a friend, a relative or your employer.

Using our example above, you only need $10,500 for a down payment for a $300,000 house.

If you’re using a VA loan then you pay $0 down payment.

Check to see if you’re eligible for an FHA loan or VA loan

How much money do you need to buy a house also depends on other factors, such as whether you are a first time home buyer or not. Your state may have a range of programs that may contribute toward your down payment.

So visit your local government office to find out if you are eligible for any down payment assistance for first time home buyers.

Inspection cost

Another upfront cost of buying a home is the inspection cost.

It is highly recommended to perform inspection for your home for any defects so there are no surprises later on.

Inspections typically cost between $300 to $500, but it depends on the property and your local rates.

Compare home loans for first time home buyers with LendingTree

Appraisal cost

Before a lender can give you a loan to finance a house, they will want to know how much the house is worth. So appraisal means an estimate of the home’s value. A home’s appraisal usually costs between $300 to $500. A home appraisal will also determine what your property tax will likely be.

If you’re pay the home appraisal, it will be deducted from the closing cost. (see below).

Earnest money

Earnest money is a deposit you will have to pay upfront as soon as an offer is accepted, while you working on other aspects such as getting the home inspected, etc…

This deposit is part of the down payment, and it is usually between 1% to 3% of the final sale price. It is held by an escrow firm or attorney until the closing process is completed.

So if the sale is successful, that money is applied to your down payment. If it’s not, you get 100% of your money back.

Closing costs

The closing costs are fees by the lenders. They typically cost 2% to 5% of the final price. The costs include fees for homeowner’s insurance, title insurance, title insurance, property tax, HOA dues, private mortgage insurance.

It’s possible to lower these costs by comparing mortgage options.

Other costs of buying a home:

In addition to upfront costs, there are other recurring costs associated with buying a home. They include moving fees, repair costs, furniture, remodeling, etc. So consider these costs when making your budget to buy a house.

So how much money do you need to buy a house? The answer is it depends on the type of loans you’ re using. But if you’re buying a $300,000 house with an FHA loan, which requires a 3.5% down payment, $ 17,100 is how much money you need.

For more information about upfront costs of buying a house, check out this guide.

Read more cost of buying a house:

  • How Much House Can I Afford?
  • How Long Does It Take to Buy a House?
  • Buying a House for the First Time? Avoid these Mistakes
  • 5 Signs You’re Not Ready to Buy a House

Work with the Right Financial Advisor

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). So, 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.

The post How Much Money Do You Need to Buy a House? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

How to Buy a Used Car, Step By Step

New cars are sleek, shiny, full of impressive tech and smell amazing — mmm, new car smell. But they also come with price tags that can take your breath away — and not in a good way.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the average price of a new car in November 2020 was more than $39,000. Yowser.

If you’re in the market for a set of wheels that’s more affordable, steer your sights over to the used car lot to save a little money. Or even a lot of money.

Why Buying a Used Car Is a Smart Money Move

If you’ve ever heard someone refer to a car as a depreciating asset, it’s true. The longer you have a car, the less it’s worth. The first year of owning a new vehicle is when depreciation really packs a punch.

Jim Sharifi, formerly a content editor at Carfax, said research shows a new vehicle can lose as much as 10% of its value within the first month.

“In the first year of ownership, depreciation can continue, and that same car could be worth up to 20% less than its original sale price,” he said.

When you buy a used car, the original owner has already taken that initial hit on depreciation and the price you pay accounts for that, so you don’t have to shell out as much cash.

Just because you’re buying a car at a lower price point doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck with a clunker that was manufactured decades ago. Cars that are just two or three years old often hit dealership lots when their previous owners reach the end of their lease.

Those vehicles often have low mileage and are in great condition, having had only one previous owner. Sometimes they even still retain a hint of that new car smell.

So that covers the why. Now let’s get into how to buy a used car.

The Best Time to Buy a Used Car

RobertCorse/Getty Images

Unlike new car releases, used cars come on the market throughout the year. It all depends on when their previous owners end their leases, put them up for sale or decide to trade in their vehicles.

However, there are certain times when you’re more likely to score a better deal.

Matt DeLorenzo, senior managing editor for Kelley Blue Book, said when dealerships host big sales events for new models that can also benefit used car shoppers.

“[Dealerships] will have more used vehicle inventory as a result of those types of promotions,” he said.

Think of the big sales that fall around holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.

The end of a model year — around September or October — is another good time to shop, DeLorenzo noted, as salespeople are looking to make deals to clear out their used vehicle stock to make room for new inventory.

It’s best to avoid shopping for a car on the weekend when there’s an influx of customers and sales staff is spread thin, Sharifi said. You’ll get more attention from the sales team by visiting on off hours, specifically on weekdays.

“The end of the month (or the end of a quarter) can also be a good time to strike a deal, since dealerships may need to hit monthly or quarterly sales goals,” he said.

Of course, when you need a car might not align with a particular sale or time of month. Shopping for a vehicle before you’re in critical need of one will allow you time to search for the best deal rather than having to settle for something quick.

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Where to Shop for a Used Car — and Where to Avoid

Where you shop for a used car matters so you can avoid purchasing a lemon.

DeLorenzo recommends shopping at franchised car dealerships that have certified pre-owned cars — used vehicles that have been thoroughly inspected and typically come with some type of warranty coverage. Non-certified cars aren’t bad — and they’ll typically cost less — but they’re more likely to have higher mileage and more maintenance needs.

Be wary of independent car lots that boast they can make you a deal regardless of your credit or circumstance.

“Typically they’ll try to get you in with a low price, but you may not be getting the best quality car,” he said. “The other thing is that if you get your financing through those types of dealers, they typically charge you a much higher interest rate.”

Pro Tip

DeLorenzo recommends pre-qualifying for a loan at a bank or credit union before visiting a dealership. You can compare the offer with the dealer’s financing terms for better negotiating leverage.

For any dealer you visit, do some due diligence and check customer reviews online. If you know others who’ve recently purchased a car, ask for recommendations.

Outside of dealerships, look for cars online at trusted sites like Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Carfax or Edmunds — or buy from a private seller.

When you’re buying from a private party, you may be able to get more accurate information about how they’ve driven and maintained the vehicle and what particular issues it might have, said Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.

However, you also need to be OK with buying the vehicle as-is and securing your own financing. And be sure the owner has clear title to the car — in other words, don’t let anyone sell you a car they don’t legitimately own.

If cost is your primary concern, a private seller is likely to offer a lower price. A dealer folds overhead, repairs and marketing into its price.

What to Look for When Buying a Used Car

GreenPimp/Getty Images

Knowing when and where to buy a used car is just half the battle. Figuring out how to vet a used car can be tough, especially if you have little to no car knowledge.

These tips will give you some guidance to make a good choice.

1. Find a Vehicle That Fits Your Needs

It’s easy to focus on the numbers — age of the car, mileage and cost — but you also want to make sure you’re buying a car that’ll fit your needs for however long you expect to have it. If you have a growing family, you might want to rethink that two-door coupe or compact vehicle.

“You want to make sure there’s enough room for you,” Montoya said. “Take a look at the cargo area. Take a look at how easy it is to see out of the vehicle. Test out the entertainment system.”

2. Determine How ‘Used’ You’re Willing to Go

The older a car is, the cheaper it’ll be — but the more it’s likely to have issues requiring repair. Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to what they’re willing to handle. A general rule of thumb is that a car is driven about 12,000 miles per year. A higher average could mean the car has more wear and tear.

Montoya said used car buyers must strike a balance between the age of the car, the amount of miles and what price they’re willing to pay.

Buying an extended warranty or service plan can give you peace of mind that certain repairs or maintenance jobs will be covered.

Pro Tip

Montoya said plans sold by auto manufacturers or reputable dealerships are better options than those sold by third-party companies. Make sure you understand exactly what your plan covers.

3. Make Sure The Price is Right

Before you accept a sales price, research the value of the car to make sure you’re not overpaying. Carfax, Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds all have price appraisal tools online.

You can also compare similar vehicles on the market to get an estimate of a car’s value, but keep in mind, no two used vehicles will be the same due to how they were driven and maintained. Use all this information when you sit down to negotiate — and don’t be afraid to walk away if you don’t think you’re getting a fair price.

When you’re budgeting for a car purchase, make sure you’re factoring in all the associated costs, like sales tax, insurance and getting the car registered.

4. Check the History of the Car

Sometimes just looking at a car will give you some idea of its history. Rust, worn out pedals and a side panel painted in a different color are red flags.

But don’t just assume a car’s history. Getting the car’s history report, such as through Carfax, is a crucial step when buying a used car.

You’ll have to purchase the report if you’re buying from a private seller, so wait until you’re seriously interested in a particular vehicle. If you’re buying from a dealership, the salesperson should provide a copy of the vehicle history report for free.

Sharifi said to watch out for discrepancies with the odometer reading and if there’s a branded title, which indicates that the car has been significantly compromised in some way.

“Severe accidents and instances where a car has been declared a total loss should signal the buyer to use caution,” he said. “That said, a small fender bender shouldn’t always mean that a buyer should walk away from a great deal.”

5. Go for a Test Drive

Always, always, always take a car for a spin before buying it. If you can bring a mechanic with you, even better.

“Some general things you can do on your own without being super knowledgeable about cars is [to] turn off the radio [and] listen for any strange noises,” Montoya said. “See if the steering wheel stays straight when you drive down the road. Does it pull to one side? Look at the tires to see how old they are.”

Pro Tip

Don’t just look at the tires’ tread. Each tire should include a four-digit number marking the month and year it was manufactured. Tires older than six years can be dried out and need replacing.

For any used car purchase, but especially if you’re buying from a private seller, have your mechanic inspect the vehicle before committing to buy.

Knowing the ins and outs of how to buy a used car will make the whole process less stressful and, most importantly, save you money.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Former staff writer Carson Kohler contributed to this post.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

GSCU Mortgage Rates Reviews: Today’s Best Analysis

Granite State Credit Union (GSCU) provides members with a variety of mortgage products across the state of New Hampshire.

GSCU AT A GLANCE

Year Founded 1945
Coverage Area New Hampshire 
HQ Address 1415 Elm Street, Manchester, New Hampshire 03101
Phone Number 1-800-645-4728

 

GSCU COMPANY INFORMATION

  • Services the state of New Hampshire
  • Offers conventional loans, such as fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages
  • Provides FHA and VA loans to qualifying individuals
  • Allows first-time homebuyers to make down payments of zero to three percent
  • Member of the NHCUL and CUNA
  • Allows borrowers to use gifted funds for the down payment and closing costs on certain loan products

Granite State Credit Union provides a variety of mortgage products to individuals across the state of New Hampshire. It offers traditional loans, such as fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages, as well as government-assisted loans and options for individuals who cannot put 20 percent down on a new home.

GSCU Mortgage Facts

  • Services the state of New Hampshire
  • Offers conventional loans, such as fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages
  • Provides FHA and VA loans to qualifying individuals
  • Allows first-time homebuyers to make down payments of zero to three percent
  • Member of the NHCUL and CUNA
  • Allows borrowers to use gifted funds for the down payment and closing costs on certain loan products

Overall

gscu mortgage rates reviewGranite State Credit Union provides a variety of mortgage products to individuals across the state of New Hampshire. It offers traditional loans, such as fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages, as well as government-assisted loans and options for individuals who cannot put 20 percent down on a new home.

Current GSCU Mortgage Rates

GSCU Mortgage Products

Granite State Credit Union provides a variety of home mortgage products. Its offerings consist of traditional mortgages and government-assisted loans, as well as programs for first-time home-buyers and affordable home refinances.

Fixed-Rate Loans

Fixed-rate loans are the best choice for homebuyers who plan on staying in their home for an extended period. With fixed-rate loans, buyers can expect their principal and interest rates to remain the same throughout the loan’s lifetime. GSCU offers fixed-rate mortgages for lengths of 10, 15, 20, and 30 years.

Adjustable-Rate Loans

An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) provides borrowers with an interest rate that may vary throughout the loan term. Typically, these mortgages have a lower initial rate than fixed-rate loans, giving potential customers more financial freedom when looking for a new home.

After the initial period, the rates and payments associated with these mortgages may rise or fall to adjust to market prices. Typically, these costs will fluctuate on an annual basis.

Many companies, including GSCU, provide a cap that prevents these costs from getting too high from one year to the next. GSCU recommends these types of mortgages for home-buyers who do not plan on staying in the house for the loan’s full term. GSCU offers 1/1, 3/1, 5/1, and 7/1 ARMs.

First-Time Homebuyer Loans

GSCU offers excellent deals on mortgages for first-time buyers. The credit union gives borrowers the flexibility to choose a fixed- or adjustable-rate mortgage and even provides no and low down payment options to first-time buyers. The No Down Payment mortgage allows borrowers to take out a 5/1 ARM and pay zero percent down on the home.

The Low Down Payment Adjustable loan offers a 3 percent down payment with a 3/3 ARM and the option to refinance into a fixed mortgage if so desired. The Low Down Payment Fixed loan offers a 3 percent down payment and a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. For Low Down Payment Adjustable and Fixed mortgages, borrowers can use gifted funds for the down payments and closing costs on their homes.

FHA Loans

Unlike some other credit unions, GSCU offers FHA loans to home-buyers who do not qualify for other loan programs. Borrowers may have a high debt-to-income ratio, low credit score, or the inability to put 20 percent down on the home. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) created these types of home loans to grant buyers the opportunity to invest in property. GSCU allows 100 percent of the closing costs to be gifted.

VA Loans

GSCU allows veterans, military members, and their spouses to apply for VA loans. These types of mortgages are backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Qualified individuals can make a low down payment on the home and keep up with affordable monthly payments.

HARP Loans

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) introduced the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) as part of their Making Home Affordable™ initiative. HARP allows eligible homeowners to refinance their mortgages into a lower interest rate to keep their finances secure. HARP provides this opportunity for individuals who otherwise may not qualify for refinancing due to their declining home value.

GSCU Mortgage Customer Experience

Granite State Credit Union offers a variety of online resources that help current and prospective borrowers research home loan options. GSCU’s website contains several mortgage calculators, which assist home-buyers in determining how much they can take out on a home loan.

It also provides information about their different mortgage products, which helps borrowers figure out what type of home loan is right for them. GSCU has a Refer-a-Loan option, which incentivizes borrowers who refer a New Hampshire resident or business owner to procure a loan with the credit union.

In exchange for this referral, both parties can receive $25 for consumer loans or $50 for the mortgage and home equity loans.

GSCU Lender Reputation

Founded in 1945, Granite State Credit Union has provided affordable mortgage rates to New Hampshire residents for over 70 years. Its Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System ID number is 477276.

Since the credit union only services the states of New Hampshire, it does not have many online customer reviews. It is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, and has no reviews on the site, but maintains an A+ rating.

GSCU Mortgage Qualifications

Although GSCU has flexible mortgage qualifications for individuals taking out FHA loans, its qualification requirements for individuals requesting other home loans are similar to mortgage industry standards.

First and foremost, the credit union prioritizes credit score when approving someone for a loan or for calculating their rates. FICO reports that the industry-standard credit score is 740. However, those with credit scores above 760 can expect the best mortgage rates.

Credit score Quality Ease of approval
760+ Excellent Easy
700-759 Good Somewhat easy
621-699 Fair Moderate
620 and below Poor Somewhat difficult
No credit score n/a Difficult

Buyers should typically expect to put 20 percent down on the home, unless they qualify for a government-assisted loan. In some cases, buyers can anticipate paying as little as zero to three percent on their mortgage down payment.

With certain types of loans, such as first-time home-buyer, FHA, and VA loans, GSCU allows borrowers to use gifted funds to make down payments and pay closing costs. However, those taking out a traditional fixed- or adjustable-rate mortgage should anticipate paying these costs on their own.

History of GSCU

Granite State Credit Union (GSCU) was founded in 1945 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Founder John Edward Grace, who previously worked as a city bus driver, put down an initial deposit of $15.

With the work put forth by John and his wife, Betty, GSCU achieved notability and success before merging, in late 2003, with the Acorn Credit Union. GSCU is currently a member of the New Hampshire Credit Union League (NHCUL) and Credit Union National Association (CUNA). It offers a selection of home loan products, including fixed- and adjustable-rate, VA, FHA, HARP, and first-time home-buyer loans.

Bottom Line

If you live in New Hampshire, GSCU may be a great fit for you! With a variety of mortgage products, GSCU has something to offer for everyone. For more information, visit their website. 

The post GSCU Mortgage Rates Reviews: Today’s Best Analysis appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

With the growing use of paperless forms, electronic information transfers and storage has become the norm. This is true about our medical information as well. So, how do we know that our sensitive medical records are being kept private? Thanks to a federal law entitled Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), health plans, health care providers, and health care clearinghouses are required to abide by a set of standards to protect your data. While this law does offer protection for certain things, there are some companies that are not required to follow these standards. Keep reading to find out where the loopholes are and how you are being protected by this law. 

What is the HIPAA Law and Privacy Rule?

Although HIPAA and Privacy and Security Rules have been around since 1996, there have been many revisions and changes over the years so to keep up with evolving health information technology. HIPAA and the HIPAA Privacy Rule set the bar for standards that protect sensitive patient information by making the rules for electronic exchange as well as the privacy and confidentiality of medical records and information by health care providers, health care clearing houses, and health plans. In accordance with HIPPA, Administrative Simplification Rules were created to safeguard patient privacy. This allows for information that is medically necessary to be shared while also maintaining the patient’s privacy rights. The majority of professionals in the health care industry are required to be compliant with the HIPAA regulations and rules. 

Why do we have the HIPAA Act and Privacy Rule?

The original goal of HIPAA was to make it easier for patients to keep up with their health insurance coverage. This is ultimately why the Administrative Simplification Rules were created to simplify administrative procedures and keep costs at a decent rate. Because of all the exchanges of medical information between insurance companies and health care providers, the HIPAA Act aims to keep things simple when it comes to the healthcare industry’s handling of patient records and documents and places a high importance on maintain patients’ protected health information. 

HIPAA Titles

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal law which was designed to safeguard healthcare data from data breaches, has five titles. Here is a description of each title:

  • Title I: HIPAA Health Insurance Reform: The objective of Title I is to help individuals maintain health insurance coverage in the event that they lose or change jobs. It also prevents group health plans from rejecting applicants from being covered for having specific chronic illnesses or pre-existing conditions. 
  • Title II: HIPAA Administrative Simplification: Title II holds the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responsible for setting national standards for processing electronic healthcare transactions. In accordance with this title, healthcare organizations must implement data security for health data transactions and maintain HIPPA compliance with the rules set by HHS. 
  • Title III: HIPPA Tax-Related Health Provisions: This title is all about the national standards regarding tax-related provisions as well as the general rules and principles in relation to medical care.  
  • Title IV: Application and Enforcement of Group Health Plan Requirements: Title IV elaborates further on issues related to health insurance coverage and reform, one key point being for patients with pre-existing conditions. 
  • Title V: Revenue Offsets:  This title has provisions regarding company-owned life insurance policies as well as how to handle situations in which individuals lose their citizenship due to issues with income taxes. 

In day to day conversations, when you hear someone bring up HIPAA compliance, they are most likely referring to Title II. To become compliant with HIPAA Title II, the health care industry must follow these provisions:

  • National Provider Identifier Standard: Every healthcare entity is required to have a 10-digit national provider identifier number that is unique to them, otherwise known as, an NPI. 
  • Transactions and Code Sets Standard: Healthcare organizations are required to follow a set of standards pertaining to electronic data interchange (EDI) to be able to submit and process insurance claims.  
  • HIPAA Privacy Rule: This rule sets national standards that help to protect patient health information.
  • HIPAA Security Rule: This rule establishes the standards for patient data security. 

What information is protected by HIPAA?

The HIPAA Privacy Rule safeguards all individually identifiable health information obtained or transferred by a covered entity or business associate. Sometimes this information is stored or transmitted electronically, digitally, on paper or orally. Individually identifiable health information can also be referred to under the Privacy Rule as PHI. 

Examples of PHI are:

  • Personal identifying information such as the name, address, birth date and Social Security number of the patient. 
  • The mental or physical health condition of a person.
  • Certain Information regarding the payment for treatments.

HIPAA penalties

Health industries and professionals should take extra caution to prevent HIPAA violations. If a data breach occurs or if there is a failure to give patients access to their PHI, it could result in a fine. 

There are several types of HIPAA violations and penalties including:

  • Accidental HIPAA violations could result in $100 for an isolated incident and an upward of $25,000 for repeat offenses.
  • Situations in which there is reasonable cause for the HIPAA violation could result in a $1,000 fine and an upward of $100,000 annually for repeat violations.
  • Willfully neglecting HIPAA can cost anywhere between $10,000-$50,000 and $250,000-$1.5 million depending on whether or not it was an isolated occurrence, If it was corrected within a specific timeframe. 

The largest penalty one could receive for a HIPAA violation is $50,000 per violation and $1.5 million per year for repeated offenses.

HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

3 Strategies for Homebuyers to Reduce Expenses and Build Wealth

This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder. Buying a home is a visceral experience. Every house you walk into or click through online brings visions: future meals cooked in the kitchen, friends in the living room, kids playing in the backyard. These feelings are so strong that they can easily cloud your judgment when it’s time to put in an offer. So how should you view your first home…

Source: moneytalksnews.com