Seven things college freshmen don’t need — and ten they do

This article originally appeared on NerdWalletThose ubiquitous checklists of “dorm room essentials” for college freshmen are filled with items that will be ditched by the end of first semester.

Some parents “go to the store and grab a list like they did when their kids were in elementary and high school and just go straight down the list,” says Lisa Heffernan, mother of three sons and a college-shopping veteran. Or they buy things they only wish their students will use (looking at you, cleaning products).

You can safely skip about 70% of things on those lists, estimates Asha Dornfest, the author of Parent Hacks and mother of a rising college sophomore who’s home for the summer.

What Not to Buy or Bring

Freshmen really need just two things, says Heffernan, co-founder of the blog Grown and Flown: a good mattress topper and a laptop.

Here are seven items you can skip:

  • Printer. Don’t waste desk space or, worse, store it under the bed; printers are plentiful on campus.
  • TV. Students may watch on laptops or on TVs in common areas or in someone else’s room. Bonus: Your teen gets out and meets others.
  • Speakers. Small spaces don’t require powerful speakers; earphones may be a good idea and respectful of roommates.
  • Car. Some colleges bar freshmen from having cars on campus or limit their parking. You also may save on insurance by keeping the car at home.
  • Luggage. If you bring it, you must store it. Heffernan suggests collapsible blue Ikea storage bags with zippers.
  • Toiletries to last until May. Bulk buying may save money, but you need storage space.
  • Duplicates of anything provided by the college, such as a lamp, wastebasket, desk chair or dresser.

Items left behind when students pack for the summer are telling. Luke Jones, director of housing and residence life at Boise State University, sees unopened food — a lot of ramen and candy — and stuffed animals and mirrors.

Jones says many students regret bringing high school T-shirts and memorabilia and some of their clothes (dorm closets typically are tiny).

What Can You Buy, Then?

Before you shop, find out what the college forbids (candles, space heaters, electric blankets and halogen lights are common). Have your student check with assigned roommates about appliances (who’s bringing a fridge or microwave?) and color scheme if they want to set one. Know the dimensions of the room and the size of the bed. And most of all, know your budget. Not everything has to be brand new.

Ten things — besides the all-important mattress topper and laptop — that many students consider dorm room essentials include:

  • One or two fitted sheets in the correct bed size, plus pillowcases. Heffernan says most students don’t use top sheets.
  • Comforter or duvet with washable cover.
  • Towels in a distinctive pattern or light enough for labeling with laundry marker, plus shower sandals.
  • Power cord with surge protector and USB ports.
  • Basic first aid kit.
  • Easy-to-use storage. If it’s a lot of work to get something out, your student won’t, Heffernan says.
  • Cleaning wipes. Students might not touch products that require multiple steps, but they might use wipes, according to Heffernan.
  • Reading pillow with back support for studying in bed.
  • Area rug. Floors are often hard and cold.
  • Comfort items. Dornfest says it could be a blanket or a picture of the dog — something from home that will make the space a bit more personal.

Afraid you’ll forget something important? You might, Heffernan says. But chances are, you or your student can order it online and get it delivered. Consider doing this with some items simply to avoid the hassle of bringing them yourself, and remember that “dorm necessities” often go on sale once school starts.

Do a Reality Check

If you or your student still want to replicate the rooms you’ve seen on Instagram and Pinterest, think about how the room will actually be used.

Once your son or daughter moves in, the room will never look like that again. Opt for sturdy items and be realistic. Will throw pillows make the place look more homey and inviting, or will they be tossed on the floor until parents’ weekend?

Dornfest, a co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, offers a compelling reason not to make things too comfortable. “A freshman needs to be encouraged to get out of the dorm room,” she says. “Anything that pulls you into campus life can be good.”

She’s not advocating a monk-like environment, but rather one that encourages breaking out of routines. College should be a time to try new things and meet people from different backgrounds. Dornfest advises making the bed as comfortable as possible and keeping a few reminders of home. The ideal dorm room is more launch pad than cocoon.

More from Nerdwallet

  • Budgeting for College Students
  • How to Build Credit at 18
  • How to Choose a Student Credit Card

The article 7 Things College Freshmen Don’t Need — and 10 They Do originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Source: getrichslowly.org

The Home Gym Gets a Makeover

Where you work matters as much as where you work out. Like the home office, the home gym has moved from afterthought to forethought in the COVID era. Affluent homeowners are now creating workout spaces loaded with personal style. Whether it’s designing around Peloton bikes and Mirror systems or creating complete wellness suites for relaxation, the new home gym is all about you.

The post The Home Gym Gets a Makeover first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com

Where’s the House from ‘Home Alone 3’?

Year in and year out, we know the holidays are almost upon us when TV networks start airing Home Alone, the iconic family movie that has by now become synonymous with Christmas cheer. And while the first two Home Alone movies starring Macaulay Culkin are the clear fan favorites, the third one (written and produced by the same John Hughes that gave us the first two festive flicks) was deemed the least successful in the series — by far — and failed to make a lasting impression.

And that’s not because of the plot, cast, or setting, but rather the result of the ultra-high expectations created by the first two Home Alone movies, and the fondness audiences had for Macaulay Culkin (which refused to return for a role in the third one, despite popular demand). In fact, the plot of the third Home Alone was quite an elaborate — and downright frightening — one, seeing Alex Pruitt, an 8-year-old boy living in Chicago, fending off international spies who were seeking a top-secret computer chip that was hidden in his toy car.

The poster for Home Alone 3, featuring the house in the background.
The poster for Home Alone 3, featuring the house in the background. Image credit: IMDB

Unlike a normal cat burglar situation — the first two movies featured petty thieves just trying to score a hit during the holidays, eyeing million-dollar-homes left unattended while the owners were celebrating elsewhere — Home Alone 3 is actually a matter of national security. With four thieves (said to be working for a North Korean terrorist organization) looking to retrieve the toy car/computer chip gifted to Alex by his unknowing neighbor, Mrs. Hess, the movie’s plot tackles a far more dangerous situation that the first two, despite the light way in which it is presented.

But there are two major things that all the Home Alone movies have in common: a clever, brave 8-year-old that will stop at nothing to protect himself and a beautiful Chicago-area home that acts as the ‘battleground’ of sorts where the bad guys get what’s coming to them. And since we’ve already covered the house in the first Home Alone movies, we thought I’d be the perfect time to do some scouting and find the one in the third movie too, especially since it’s no less beautiful.

The real-life house from Home Alone 3

While the movie’s storyline places it in Chicago, the house used in the third Home Alone is located in Evanston — a city 12 miles north of Downtown Chicago. According to ItsFilmedThere.com, the exact address is 3026 Normandy Place, Evanston, and a quick Google Maps search confirms that, showing us the exact same Pruitt family house we see in the movie.

house in home alone 3 in real life
House in Home Alone 3 – Google Maps

According to real estate website Zillow.com, the Pruitt family home is worth a little over $1,000,000, with neighboring properties all selling for about the same amount — though admittedly, none of the other houses that line the street had a high profile movie credit in their property history. Nor did they have Hollywood A-listers on their grounds (just in case you forgot, the most famous cast member in Home Alone 3 was none other than Avengers star Scarlett Johansson, who played Alex Pruitt’s sister in the 1997 movie).

scarlett johansson as the sister in home alone 3
Screen grab from Home Alone 3, featuring a young Scarlett Johansson as the older sister.

Just in case you were wondering, the house where Alex Pruitt’s neighbor — Mrs. Hess — supposedly lived is actually located next door, at 3025 Normandy Place.

More famous TV homes

Richie Rich’s House is Actually the Biltmore Estate, America’s Largest Home
The ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ House Isn’t Even in Bel-Air
The Real-Life Homes from Modern Family — and Where to Find Them
The Simpsons House Gets a Modern Day Makeover

The post Where’s the House from ‘Home Alone 3’? appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

This Stunning Modern House Was Built With Fire Safety in Mind

The record-breaking 2020 fire season has seen huge wildfires tear across California. In fact, five of the six largest fires ever recorded in the state have occurred this year, endangering residents, prompting evacuations and leading to thousands of lost buildings.

Unfortunately, researchers are forecasting even longer, more extreme wildfire seasons in the years to come — which means fire safety is now fast becoming a feature more treasured than even the most extravagant of amenities. And home builders are starting to cater to that need, coming up with ingenious ways to ‘fire-proof’ their projects.

One stunning example of that is this newly-built $5 million home in Marin County, Calif. that prioritizes fire safety — something that’s likely to become a new standard for million dollar homes throughout the Golden State.

Newly-built home in Marin County, CA focuses on fire safety
Newly-built home in Marin County, CA. Image credit: Thomas Henthorne

The builder picked all of the outdoor finishes with fire safety in mind, using only steel, glass and concrete. Even the decks are made from Fibergrate (a type of molded fire-resistant fiberglass and stone).

In fact, the only wood you’ll find in this home is the wide-plank engineered oak floors. As expected, there is also a fire suppression system throughout the home.

Newly-built home in Marin County, CA focuses on fire safety
Newly-built home in Marin County, CA. Image credit: Thomas Henthorne

Yet fire safety is not the only area in which this home excels. With its dramatic walls of glass, soaring steel beamed ceilings, and high-end designer finishes, the property is a stunning example of modern 21st century architecture.

Set in the coveted Country Club neighborhood of San Rafael — roughly 11 miles north of San Francisco — the house boasts a modern industrial design, with its walls of glass opening up the indoor areas to the outdoor greenery and flooding the home with sunlight and captivating views. The space is anchored by a stunning ultra-modern kitchen and features wide-plank oak flooring and a modern fireplace.

The house boasts a modern industrial design with soaring steel beamed ceilings.
The house boasts a modern industrial design with soaring steel beamed ceilings. Image credit: Thomas Henthorne
Walls of glass open up to beautiful nature views and flood the home with light
Walls of glass open up to beautiful nature views and flood the home with light. Image credit: Thomas Henthorne
dining room of an ultra-modern house in california
Walls of glass open up to beautiful nature views and flood the home with light. Image credit: Thomas Henthorne

The fire-resistant home comes with 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, and quite a few ultra-modern features. It has its own solar system (powered by 28 solar panels) and battery back up systems for when the power is out, and has been outfitted with smart home technology like a Doorbird Entry System, Nest thermostats, smart lighting, automatic blinds and more.

Adding to that wow factor is a dramatic, Instagram-worthy foyer at the entrance, which has ‘living walls’ of exotic plants on both sides. Same goes for the outdoor pool, which comes with a built-in spa, automatic safety cover and gas heater.

living wall in the foyer of a luxury home
Dramatic entrance has walls of greenery on both sides. Image credit: Thomas Henthorne
The fire-resistant house features plenty spaces to entertain guests
The fire-resistant house features plenty spaces to entertain guests. Image credit: Thomas Henthorne
modern bedroom with glass walls overlooking the pool
Walls of glass open up to beautiful nature views and flood the home with light. Image credit: Thomas Henthorne
Newly-built home in Marin County, CA
Newly-built home in Marin County, CA. Image credit: Thomas Henthorne

The home is currently on the market with a $4,995,000 price tag. Thomas Henthorne with Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty is exclusively representing the property.

More striking homes

See Inside a Modern, Art-Filled Compound — with a Custom Outdoor Piece by French Artist Invader
Morgan Brown Re-Lists Stunning West Hollywood Home Amid Split from Actor Gerard Butler
Join the Ranks of the Hollywood Celebs Renting This House in Malibu
Mitch and Cam’s Duplex from the ‘Modern Family’ Pilot is On the Market & It’s Absolutely Lovely

The post This Stunning Modern House Was Built With Fire Safety in Mind appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

Kitchen Cleanup Checklist: A Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Breakdown of Tasks

Many lines have been written on the importance of cleanliness and household chores (remember that iconic speech by U.S. Admiral McRaven, urging us all to make our beds in the morning?) and the role they play in maintaining our mental and physical health.

And since we now see ourselves in a position to spend far more time in our homes (whether we want to or not), we can think of no better time to circle back on this subject, and focus on what’s arguably the first room of the house to get messy: the kitchen.

Naturally, with more of our family members inside, our kitchens are bound to become dirtier and more cluttered. And while there’s no way we’ll reach that perfect, Mr. Clean sparkling kitchen anytime soon (and you definitely shouldn’t feel the pressure to take it to that extreme), keeping your kitchen tidy and clean can have positive effects on your state of mind, especially during these troubling times.

According to a 2010 study published in The Personality and Social Psychology bulletin, higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol were observed in women who felt that their homes are cluttered and who had lots of unfinished projects around the house.

That’s why it’s vital to keep your house clean to reduce stress levels and help you feel more relaxed and comfortable at home. In addition to reducing stress, maintaining a healthy cleaning regimen for the home also makes you more productive, helps you sleep better, and protects your family from illness-causing bacteria and pathogens.

However, maintaining a clean home is easier said than done. This is especially true when it comes to the kitchen. And that’s because the kitchen requires more attention than any other room in your house, especially if you have more family members and young children. After every meal, there are spills that need to be cleaned, dishes and utensils to be washed, and lots of tidying up to do. Not to mention that if any dirt or spills are left unattended, there may be a buildup of bacteria that poses a significant health risk for your family. After all, this is the room where we keep all of our food.

Maintaining a clean kitchen requires a systematic approach, and that’s why it is vital to create a kitchen cleaning checklist. Taking a structured approach to your kitchen cleaning will ensure no cleaning task skips your mind and your kitchen is spotless at all times — without making you feel overburdened by all the chores that comes with kitchen maintenance.

Read on to find out what to include in your kitchen cleaning checklist and the tasks that you should schedule on daily, weekly, and monthly basis — so that you don’t feel all the tasks weighting on you without having a clear plan to address them.

#1 Tasks to include in your daily kitchen cleaning list

To ensure that food is not contaminated during preparation, and that your family enjoys meals in a clean and safe environment, there are a few cleaning tasks that must be carried out daily. Don’t worry, they’re not the type that take hours to get out of the way, but they’re crucial to keeping a clean kitchen. Here are the things you should watch for on a daily basis:

  • Cleaning spills on counters, tables, floors, and appliances as soon as they occur
  • Washing dirty dishes immediately after meals
  • Emptying the dishwasher and dish drainer as needed
  • Putting everything back in their rightful place after usage (think condiments, cooking ingredients, pans and pots, and utensils)
  • Checking fridge and kitchen counters for expired/spoiled food and throwing them out if you suspect they might have gotten bad
  • Sweeping the floor whenever something gets spilled
  • Cleaning the sink with a multi-purpose cleaner so that bacteria doesn’t get a chance to form
  • Removing items that don’t belong in the kitchen (like the kids’ toys)
  • Taking out the garbage

Making a habit out of these tasks will ensure that your kitchen is always tidy and will make your weekly and monthly cleaning easier.

Something else that might help, but that might need some advance planning, is choosing an easy to clean and maintain countertop material, which will also reduce your workload. Quartz is not only easy to clean, but is also visually stimulating. Read more information on kitchen countertops to understand why quartz may be a good choice for your kitchen and to find good alternatives that are easy to keep clean.

#2 Tasks for your weekly kitchen cleaning list

Depending on your weekly schedule, pick a day to schedule your weekly kitchen cleaning. Setting a specific day is the first step to ensure you do not bail on your weekly kitchen cleaning checklist — and it really doesn’t have to be in the same day you clean up the rest of your house. Having a separate schedule for the kitchen makes sense, and will allow you to spend more time on this crucial room of the house.

For your weekly kitchen cleaning, you’ll want to go a bit deeper into it than you do on your regular daily cleaning routine. Tasks to include in your weekly kitchen cleaning checklist are:

  • Mopping the floor (if you have small children or pets — or just a clumsy husband, like me — you may need to do this more often)
  • Cleaning the exterior of appliances thoroughly 
  • Sorting out leftovers in the fridge and throwing away those that have stayed too long
  • Cleaning off smudges and fingerprints from drawers and cabinets
  • Cleaning your dishcloths and towels
  • Cleaning and disinfecting the sink and faucets
  • Cleaning the interior of your microwave
cleaning the kitchen drawers

#3 Tasks for your monthly kitchen cleaning list

If you are thorough with your daily and weekly kitchen cleaning, you’ll breeze through your monthly cleaning. Monthly cleaning should be set for the first or last week of the month to make it harder for you to skip it, and should cover some essentials that don’t need to be checked on as regularly as the other items on our list.

Monthly kitchen cleaning tasks can include, depending on your home setup:

  • Checking your pantry to see what needs to be tossed out and which items should be restocked
  • Checking the freezer to see if there are any items that should be eaten soon, and those that need to be thrown or restocked
  • Cleaning the oven and stove
  • Cleaning your refrigerator and disinfecting the drip pan
  • Targeting the dirt and crumbs that hide between cabinets and floors during your daily and weekly cleaning
  • Dusting light fixtures as well as cabinets and the refrigerator
  • Cleaning the dishwasher and dish drainer drip pan
  • Spot-cleaning grout
julia-child-house-kitchen

General tips to make kitchen cleaning easier

There’s nothing more daunting than cleaning a kitchen that’s been neglected for some time. So that you’ll never have to face this challenge, follow the following tips:

  • Create visual checklists with your daily, weekly, and monthly kitchen cleaning tasks — use our suggestions above to create your own, personalized list with areas that require more attention in your household
  • Post your checklists in a visible place and encourage other members of the family to take cue on the things that have to be done on a daily basis
  • In fact, you could take things a step further and assign minor tasks to different family members
  • Make a habit of dealing with spills immediately and sweeping the floors each meal

Keeping your kitchen clean and safe for your family begins with healthy cleaning habits and a good tidying up regimen. Create a system that works for you and put it in a checklist so that you can keep your mind off all the things that need to be done, and instead, enjoy your time at home with your family.

Keep reading

These Luxury Bar Stools will Take Your Kitchen to the Next Level
The Importance of Housekeeping for a Comfortable Home
5 Types Of Home Improvement Permits You Should Know About
Pergolas – A Pleasing Addition to Your Outdoor Living Space

The post Kitchen Cleanup Checklist: A Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Breakdown of Tasks appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

Auto Loan: New Car vs Old Pros and Cons

There are over 25 million auto loans every year in the United States, with the majority of drivers using finance to pay for new and used vehicles. Car loans are some of the most common secured loans in the country and for many Americans, a car is the second most expensive purchase they will make in their lifetime.

But shopping for a new car and applying for a suitable car loan is a stressful experience filled with uncertainty and difficult decisions. One of the most difficult decisions is whether to opt for a new car or a used one. In this guide, we’ll showcase some of the pros and cons of both options, pointing you in the right direction and helping you to make the right choice.

Reasons to Buy Used

It is satisfying to own something that is brand-new. It’s fresh out of the factory—you’re the first to use it, the first to experience it. 

Consumers are prepared to pay a premium just to be the first owner. iPhones and other tech are great examples of this. You could save 30% on the price of a new phone by opting for a refurbished model. The screen and case will be near-perfect, the hardware and software will be fully functional, and everything will be backed by a warranty. However, you don’t get the satisfaction of peeling back the protective stickers and being the first to open the box.

It’s a similar story with cars. There are no stickers to peel and boxes to open, but you can’t beat the new car smell or the way the steering wheel feels in your palms.

That’s not all, either. There are many other benefits to owning a brand-new car and using your auto loan to acquire one.

New Cars Depreciate Fast

A $200,000 mortgage acquired today might cost you $300,000 or more over the lifetime of the loan. However, in a couple decades, when that mortgage is in the final stretch and you own a sizeable chunk of home equity, you’ll likely have something worth $250,000, $300,000, or more.

If you get an auto loan on a new car, it’s a different story. As your interest increases and your payments exceed the original value, the current value nose-dives. At the end of the term, you could have something that is worth a small fraction of what you paid for it.

As an example, let’s assume that you purchase a $40,000 car with a $10,000 down payment and a $30,000 loan. With an interest rate of 6% and a term of 60 months, you’ll repay just under $35,000 over the lifetime of the loan.

However, as soon as you drive that car out of the lot, the price will plummet. At the end of the first year, it will have lost between 20% and 30% of its value. If we assume a 20% loss, that car is now worth just $32,000. The irony here is that you will have paid just under $7,000 in that year, and as the years progress, you fall into a pattern where the more you pay, the less it’s worth.

In the next 4 years, the car will experience an average deprecation of between 15% and 18%. Again, let’s assume a conservative estimate of 15%. That $40.000 purchase will be worth $27,200 at the end of year 2; $23,120 at the end of year 3; $19,653 in year 4, and $16,705 at the end of the loan.

And don’t forget, that vehicle cost you $45,000 in total.

Unless you’re buying a rare car that will become a collectible, all cars will depreciate, and that depreciation will be pretty rapid. However, used cars don’t suffer such rapid deprecation because they don’t have that inflated sticker price. If you take good care of them and pay a good price, you won’t stand to lose as much money.

Used Cars are Cheaper

As stated above, all cars depreciate, but if the first year suffers the biggest drop then why not buy a car that is just a year or two old?

It’s the same car and offers many of the same benefits, but you’re getting it for up to 30% less on average. For a $40,000 car, that’s a saving of $8,000. Once you add a 20% down payment, your loan only needs to cover $25,600. For a 6% loan, that’s just $495 a month, compared to the $619 you’d pay on a $40,000 new car with the same 20% down payment.

That puts more money in your pocket and less debt on your credit report. That’s a double-whammy well worth sacrificing a new car smell for.

It’s Still Nearly New

If you buy a used car that is just a couple of years old, you can still get something that has been well maintained and is just as impressive as it was the day it rolled off the lot. 

Think about the last time you bought a brand-new car, computer, phone, musical instrument—or anything else that came with a premium price tag. You probably kept it in perfect condition soon after buying. Everyone goes through a period of doing their utmost to keep a new purchase immaculate and the more they pay, the longer than period lasts.

Most consumers will keep a car in perfect condition for at least two or three years, but no matter what they do, they are powerless to the depreciation. This means you can get an almost-new, perfect car that is nearly a third cheaper than it was when it was new.

Reasons to Buy New

Α used car doesn’t provide you with that enjoyable, tactile experience. You can’t enjoy the ubiquitous new car smell and you won’t be the first owner. However, there are numerous benefits to buying used instead of new, not least of which is the amount of money you will save now and in the future.

More Finance Options

You have a few more options at your disposal when it comes to financing a new car. Many dealerships offer low-interest and even no-interest financing to encourage you to sign on the dotted line. 

These deals often have hidden terms, penalties, and other issues, and if you fail to make a payment, they won’t hesitate to take your car from you. However, if you’re struggling to finance elsewhere and have your heart set on a brand-new car, this could be your only option.

Make sure you read the terms and conditions closely and don’t let them bombard you with small print and sales talk. They are there to sell you a car. All they care about is your signature on that contract and if that means glossing over a few of the terms, they won’t hesitate.

More Customization and Better Features

Technology is advancing at a tremendous pace and this can be felt in all industries, including the automotive sector. A lot can happen in a few short years and if you buy a used car as opposed to a new one, you could miss out on a host of electronics, safety features, and more.

Customization is also possible with new cars. You can request colors, fabrics, and other aesthetic changes, as well as additional features relating to the power and performance of the vehicle.

Better Cover

New cars offer bumper-to-bumper warranty cover, which means that you’re covered in the event of an issue. If major repairs are needed, you won’t be out of pocket, and these warranty plans tend to offer roadside assistance as well.

This can be true for used cars as well, with the manufacturer’s warranty being transferred when the car is in the hands of a new owner. However, the warranty is at its longest and most useful when the car is first purchased.

Cheaper Maintenance

The warranty won’t cover everything, and you will still be responsible for normal wear and tear. However, because the car is new, it should require less maintenance and may take several years before you need to make significant purchases.

Surveys suggest that new car owners pay anywhere from $0 to $300 for maintenance during the first 12 months, with this fee spanning between $300 and $1,100 once the car is a decade old.

Simpler Process

Used car purchases take time. You need to find the vehicle, inspect it, negotiate with the seller, and then hope you can agree to a price and payment plan. If you want something specific with regards to colors and features, you may have to search many inventories and individual sellers before you find something that fits.

With a new car, you simply agree to a budget and see what’s available. If you need any tweaks or changes, you can request them directly from the dealer.

Summary: New vs Old

There are two ways at looking at this. Firstly, there are more advantages for buying a new car and these include some pretty important ones. However, the advantages for buying used are much bigger and if your bank balance or credit score is low, that could be the deciding factor. 

In any case, it’s important to look closely at the pros and cons, evaluate them based on your personal situation, and don’t rush this decision.

Auto Loan: New Car vs Old Pros and Cons is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

How Long Does It Take To Buy A House?

How long does it take to buy a house? The answer is: it depends. You can buy a house in a matter of weeks or it can take you anywhere from 4 to 6 months. The question is how ready are you? It can take a long time, and that’s just learning about various mortgage options or improving your credit score.

So understanding the various factors involved in buying a house can give you an estimate of how long it will take you to buy the house

Check out now: 5 Signs You Are Not Ready To Buy A House

How long does it take to buy a house? A step-by-step guide.

It can take a homebuyer a few weeks to several months to complete the home buying process. But when determining how long it will take you to buy a house, you first have to find out if you will be pre-approved for a mortgage. There is no sense of shopping for a house to then realize you can’t afford it.

If you are interested in comparing the best mortgage rates through LendingTree click here. It’s completely free.

I. How long does it take to get a pre-approved mortgage letter in order to buy a house?

If you’re serious about buying a house, it’s important to get pre-approved for a mortgage. So when it’s time to make an offer, the seller will know you’re serious. If you don’t have one handy, the seller will likely move to the next buyer.

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage in order to buy a house can take longer. That is because you have to make sure your financial situation is in shape. For example, your income-to-debt ratio, your down payment, and your credit score must be good. That’s exactly what a mortgage lender will look at.

Even when these things are in order, shopping and comparing mortgage rates and fees can take several weeks.

Let’s take a look on how long it will take you to get these things in shape before buying a house.

Click here to compare mortgage rates through LendingTree. It’s completely FREE.

A. How good is your credit score?

A low credit score can make buying a house take longer, because it can take months to a year to improve a bad credit score.

A conventional loan will usually require a 640+ credit score.

In fact, your credit score is the number 1 item mortgage lenders look at to decide whether to offer you a mortgage. And if it is not where it’s supposed to be, you might get rejected.

Luckily for you there are other ways to get a loan with much lower credit score: FHA loans.

FHA loans only require a credit score of 580 with 3.5% down payment. You may get qualified with a 500 credit score, but you’ll have to come with a 10% down payment.

So before you get into the fun part of shopping for a mortgage or visiting homes, it’s best to know what your credit score is and take steps to improve it.

You can get a free credit score at Credit Sesame.

B. Fix errors on your credit report.

Fixing errors on your credit report in order to get pre-approved for a loan in order to buy a house can take 30 days.

According to Transunion, “most investigations are completed within 2 weeks, but some may take up 30 days.”

Again, we recommend you get a free credit report at Credit Sesame. A credit report will give you a detail analysis of your credit history, how much debt you owe, and how creditworthy you are, etc. If there are any errors or inaccuracies, fix them immediately so there’s no surprise when you’re actually applying for a mortgage.

The best way to do that is by filing a Transunion dispute or Equifax dispute.

C. Do you have a down payment for the house?

How long it will take you to buy a house will also depend on whether or not you already have money saved up for a down payment.

Unless you’re going to buy the house with outright cash, you’ll need a down payment. And saving for a down payment can take a long time. Depending on your income and expenses, saving for a down payment on a house can take years.

Assuming, for example, you want to buy a house that will cost you $450,000, and you’re using a conventional loan to finance the house. With a 20% down payment, you will need to come up with $90,000.

Let’s say again, because of other monthly expenses, you can only save $1500 a month for the down payment.

You see how long it will take you to save for a down payment to buy the house? 5 years. And that doesn’t even take into account other upfront costs of buying a house, such as closing cost.

While it’s possible to get a mortgage with a down payment as low as 3.5% of the home purchase price, it’s advisable to put at least 20% down. The reason is because you will avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which protects the lenders in case you default on your mortgage.

Home buyers with a down payment below 20% are usually charged with PMI.

Another reason for a larger down payment is that it reduces the cost of the mortgage, grows equity much faster, and saves you on interest over the life of the loan.

As you can see, it can take you as much as 5 years from the time you’re thinking about buying the house to the time you’re actually ready to start the process.

But once you have taken care the things above, buying a house can go a lot faster.

II. How long does it take to find a real estate agent?

Average time: 1 day to a month

Once you have been pre-approved for a mortgage, the next step is to find an experienced real estate agent. Finding a good real estate agent can take a day to a month. Websites such as Zillow and Redfin list real estate agents you can use.

III. Shopping for a home.

Average time: a few weeks to a few months

With the help of a real estate agent and your own due diligence, finding a home can can go faster or take longer depending on available homes, the season and your desired location.

But experts say on average it can take a minimum of three weeks to a few months.

IV. Making an offer, negotiation, and inspection.

Average time: 1 to 10 days

Once you have found the home of your dream, the next step is to make an offer. You and the seller can go back and forth negotiating the price.

Once your offer has been accepted, you and the seller sign something called a purchase agreement. Then, the next step is to hire a professional to inspect the home for defects. Depending on your state, a home inspection must be completed within 10 days. And if the inspection finds some defects in the house, that could delay the process.

V. How long does it take to close on a house?

Average time: 30 to 45 days.

Once the inspection is done, your lender will need to officially approve you for the loan. And depending on the lender, it can also affect how long it takes to buy a house. You may need to provide additional documents. But the lender will need to assess the home for its value. And depending on the program (whether it’s conventional loan or FHA loan) it can take anywhere from 30 to 45 days to close on a home.

Bottom line

When asking yourself this question: “how long does it take to buy a house?” The answer is : it depends. If you have your credit score, your down payment, your other finances under control, you can buy your house in two months or less. But if you have to save for a down payment, fix errors on your credit report, raise your credit score, the whole home buying process can take years.

Click here to compare mortgage rates through LendingTree. It’s completely FREE

Still wondering how long it takes to buy a house? Read the following articles:

  • 5 Signs You’re Not Ready To Buy A House
  • 10 First Time Home Buyer Mistakes To Avoid
  • 3 Signs You’re Not Ready to Refinance Your Mortgage
  • The Biggest Mistakes Millennials Make When Buying a House
  • 7 Signs You’re 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 Long Does It Take To Buy A House? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

What is a Conventional Loan?

A woman sits on the floor with her laptop in her lap.,

This year you’re finally ready to buy your home. But where to start? Where it’s your first time or you’re an experience home buyer, all the mortgage options out there can be overwhelming. 

If you’re on the hunt for a mortgage, you might want to consider a conventional loan. But there are a ton of different types of conventional loans, so which is the right one for you? We’re here to break down conventional loans so you can decide if it’s the right choice for you.

What Is a Conventional Loan?

A conventional loan—also called a conventional mortgage—is one that’s not guaranteed in part or fully by the government. Conventional loans are offered by private lenders and may be secured by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mac. And while those might sound like government entities, they’re actually government-sponsored entities. We know it’s confusing—but stick with us. We’ll break it down for you.

Conventional Loan vs. FHA Loan

Now that you know what a conventional loan is, you might be wondering about FHA loans. And what’s the differencebetween the two? An FHA loan is backed by the government. So if you don’t make your payments, the lender can recoup some of its losses. Because of that, FHA loans come with less rigorous credit requirements than most conventional loans do.

Types of Conventional Loans

Conventional loans come in a wide range of types. Here are the more common ones:

  • Conforming mortgage loans. These are loans that meet the standards of Freddie Mac or Fannie May. One of the major requirements is that the loan isn’t more than a certain amount. The agencies announce conforming loan limits annually. In most locations, it’s $510,400 for 2020, with allowances for up to $765,600 in high-cost areas.
  • Jumbo mortgage loans. These are mortgages that exceed conforming loan limits. Typically, you need higher credit scores and income to be approved for these bigger loans.
  • Subprime conventional loans. These mortgages may be available for those who don’t quite meet credit and financial requirements for a conforming mortgage loan. To make up for the greater risk, lenders may charge higher interest or fees.

Within every category of loan there are options, including fixed or variable interest and terms. You will need to decide, for example, if you want to pay your mortgage off over 15 years or 30 years. The former comes with cost savings related to interest while the latter offers a lower monthly payment.

Advantages of Conventional Loans

If you have good credit, conventional loans may offer you the best deal depending on what current interest rates are. This is especially true if you can afford to put 20% down—then you can avoid paying for private mortgage insurance in many cases.

Conventional loans can be more flexible than FHA or other government-backed loans. Lenders who offer these loans don’t have to follow specific government guidelines, which means they may be able to work with borrowers who don’t fit those requirements. They can also provide mortgages for properties that are more expensive.

Disadvantages of Conventional Loans

Conventional loans generally come with a higher bar for approval. That’s because they’re not guaranteed, and the lender is taking on all of the risk. You may need a higher credit score and stronger debt-to-income ratio to qualify for these loans.

While you can get a conventional loan with a relatively low down payment, you usually won’t get the best interest rate and will have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). Conventional loans typically work better for those who can put a decent amount down.

Conventional Loan Requirements

Requirements for conventional loans vary by lender, but you typically need to demonstrate credit-worthiness and the ability to make your payment every month. Here are some things that conventional mortgage loan lenders might look at:

  • Your credit score. In many cases, the bottom cut-off for conventional loan approvals is a credit score of 620. Though depending on other factors, such as the amount of the mortgage and your income, you may need a higher score to qualify.
  • Your credit history. Mortgage lenders may look more in-depth at your credit than other lenders, and you may be asked to clear up old accounts or negative items before final approval.
  • Your income and debt. The lender wants to ensure that you’re able to pay the required monthly amount. They’ll look at how much you make, as well as how much debt you already have—the ratio of your debt to your income. If your debt is already taking up a large chunk of your income every month, you’re less likely to be able to pay a mortgage and less likely to get approved.
  • The value of the home. Typically, banks won’t approve a loan that’s for more than the value of the home in question. You usually have to get a property appraised before a mortgage can be finalized for this reason.

Shop for a Conventional Mortgage Loan Online

Start your mortgage journey by ensuring your credit is in order. You can get your credit report free at AnnualCreditReport.com. If you want to see some of the same credit scores mortgage companies are likely to check, consider signing up for ExtraCredit, which provides access to 28 of your FICO®Scores from different models.

Next, you may want to get pre-approved for a mortgage. This can help you understand what your buying power might be and what type of interest rate you might qualify for. It’ll also show sellers that you’re a serious buyer.

Finally, start searching for a mortgage that’s right for you online. Check out rates and potential mortgage options right here on Credit.com.

The post What is a Conventional Loan? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Final Expense Life Insurance: What You Need to Know

Also known as burial or funeral insurance, final expense life insurance is a variant of whole life insurance designed to cover a single expense after the policyholder passes away. Often aimed at seniors, these insurance policies have reasonable monthly premiums but generally pay much smaller death benefits than term life insurance policies.

What is Final Expense Life Insurance?

Final expense life insurance is a whole life insurance policy that releases a lump sum when the policyholder dies. It charges a fixed monthly premium and generally offers a simplified sign up process, with few complications, fast decisions, and no medical exams.

Policyholders use final expense life insurance to protect their loved ones after their death. It’s often taken in lieu of a traditional whole life policy or term like policy, with the former not available to seniors and the latter proving very costly and limited. 

Policyholders can add a beneficiary to their final expense life insurance policy to ensure that the money goes to this individual when they die. They can also arrange for the money to be paid in monthly or yearly installments, although considering the purpose of this policy is to cover “final” expenses that may arise or remain after death, it’s often best to release it as a lump sum.

Who Can Benefit from Final Expense Life Insurance?

You can benefit from a final expense life insurance if you:

  • Have dependents
  • Don’t have a whole life or term-life policy
  • Have sizeable debts
  • Are worried about funeral costs

Think about what will happen when you die. It’s a morbid thought to have, but it’s important to see things from your family’s perspective.

Can they afford to provide you with an honorable send-off; can they afford to clear your debts? Will your death impact them financially or will you leave them with enough cash and assets to cover necessary expenses?

Your loved ones need time to grieve, to mourn your loss. They shouldn’t have to worry about financial issues, as that will just make a bad situation worse.

What is Final Expense Life Insurance Used For?

You can use final expense life insurance to cover any costs that your loved ones would otherwise be required to pay. The most common uses for this type of life insurance include:

Funerals

The average funeral costs close to $10,000, and those costs are rising. It’s one of the five biggest expenses that the average American will incur during their lifetime, and unlike a wedding, car or home, it’s not something you can simply avoid by going without, nor is it something you can delay until you have more money.

If you die, your loved ones will need to cover these costs quickly and completely, and while you might want them to cut costs and avoid spending too much, they will want to ensure that you have the best possible send-off. 

The only way to guarantee that you have a good funeral and they don’t bankrupt themselves is to cover the costs before you die.

Final expense life insurance can be paid directly to your loved ones or to the funeral home. In the case of the latter, you can plan your funeral yourself, choosing products and services based on the value of the death benefit that will eventually be paid to the home.

Of course, you can’t be sure that the funeral home will honor all of your requests or even still be operating by the time you pass, so unless you don’t have anyone who can arrange your funeral, we recommend paying the death benefit directly to your beneficiaries.

Medical Bills 

You are predicted to spend over a quarter of a million dollars on healthcare during your lifetime, most of which will occur in the final decade of your life. That’s a huge sum of money to spend on anything, and it’s a terrifying prospect to think that this money could be passed onto your loved ones.

In most instances, your loved ones won’t be responsible for your debt, but there are exceptions. What’s more, all medical debt charged during the final months of your life will be at the head of the queue to take money from your estate when you die. If that debt strips your assets bare, it means your loved ones won’t get anything and may struggle to cover their own debts and expenses.

With final expense life insurance, you can use a death benefit to repay those medical bills and remove the burden of responsibility from your loved ones.

Debt

Unsecured debt is often at the back of the queue when it comes to taking money from your estate. However, if you live in a community property state or your partner cosigned on the debt, they will be responsible for it.

You also have to think about mortgage and auto debt. These loans can pass onto your heirs, who will then be tasked with continuing the repayments if they want to keep the assets. If they don’t have the money, they could lose those assets, and this is where a final expense life insurance benefit can help. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Final Expense Life Insurance

Still got a few questions about final expense life insurance and its many nuances? We have answered some of the most frequently asked questions below to lend a helping hand.

How Much Does It Cost?

Final expense life insurance varies depending on your age, sex, weight, smoking status, and whether or not you have any preexisting medical conditions. Generally speaking, a woman between the age of 50 and 55 can expect to pay between $30 and $40, while a man of the same age will be charged between $40 and $50.

This cost increases as you age and while you can still apply when you hit 80, you can expect premiums as high as $200 a month, or $2,400 a year. 

Why Does it Cost So Much?

The costs are higher than term-life insurance because the risks are greater. Unlike term-life insurance, the term will not expire, which means the odds of the recipient receiving the death benefit are higher. 

Of course, there is still a chance that they will fail to meet their payment obligations, at which point the policy will void, but such instances are rare for this particular type of insurance.

Does it Expire?

Your final expense life insurance policy will remain active for as long as you make your insurance premiums. It will not expire like a term-life insurance policy, but you will lose it if you stop making payments while you are still alive.

Does the Money Have to be Used for Funeral Costs?

Not at all. The insurance company doesn’t care what the money is used for as it doesn’t impact their bottom line. There is also nothing preventing your loved ones from pocketing the cash and burning your body in the garden, if that’s what they choose to do.

We don’t mean to sound bleak, but the point is, there are no restrictions or limits and your loved ones are only bound by your word and their promise, so if you want the money to be used for a specific purpose, make sure you get everything in writing lest they forget.

How Much is the Death Benefit?

Final expense life insurance typically pays around $20,000 and is always less than $50,000. It’s a small sum when compared to many term-life insurance policies, but that’s because it serves a specific purpose and is not designed to clear mortgages or cover one or more family members for the rest of their life.

Is There a Medical Exam?

Because the payout is less than $50,000, a medical exam is rarely required. You will be asked some basic health questions and you need to be honest during this process, but in most cases, you will not be required to undergo a medical exam.

Final Expense Life Insurance: What You Need to Know is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com