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What to Know Before Buying a Foreclosed Home

If you’ve been keeping your eye on real estate home listings, you might’ve seen more foreclosed properties for sale at a reduced price. 

With record levels of unemployment and underemployment, many homeowners are falling further behind on their mortgages. Currently, there’s a federal moratorium on the most common mortgage programs through December 31, 2020. Unless further homeowner protections are in place, the foreclosure market will see an unfortunate rise.

In fact, according to mortgage and real estate analytics company Black Knight, 2.3 million homeowners are already seriously past-due on their mortgages. 

As devastating as it is to have more homes undergoing foreclosure, it also means that prospective home buyers, who were otherwise priced out of buying a home, might have greater access to homeownership. Here’s what you should know if you’re thinking about buying a foreclosed home.

Buying a Foreclosed Home 

There are many ways you can buy a foreclosed home, depending on what stage of the process the foreclosure is in:

  • Pre-foreclosure. Many homeowners are willing to sell before they’ve officially been foreclosed on. Depending on how much equity they have, they might need to do a short sale. 
  • Short sale. Homeowners can seek approval from their lenders to sell you the home for less than they owe on the mortgage. The bank will get less than it’s owed, but it still often approves short sales since they usually cost less than a foreclosure. 
  • Auction. Once a home is foreclosed it’ll often be auctioned off by the bank. But you’ll need cash on hand for this, and that’s not an option for most folks who need mortgage financing. 
  • Real-estate owned (REO) properties. Alternatively, banks can simply sell the foreclosed home through more traditional markets, just like a normal home.

It’s usually easiest to buy the foreclosed home once the bank takes over and it becomes an REO property. That’s because you can take your time and go through the mortgage underwriting process. You can also work with a realtor, and — importantly — write contingency clauses in the contract that let you pull out of the deal if a home inspection reveals more repairs than you expected. 

7 Caveats to Buying a Foreclosed Home

Buying a foreclosed home isn’t exactly the same as buying one directly from the homeowner. You’re potentially buying a home from a bank who took over after the previous homeowners were unable to afford the home anymore. This introduces a few twists into the home-buying process for you. 

1. You’ll Need a Realtor Who Specializes in Foreclosed Homes

The world is full of realtors, even including your Uncle Bob and Cousin Carolyn. But not everyone is equipped to handle the nuances of buying a foreclosed home. There are a lot of issues that can crop up — unplanned property damage, squatters, homeowners who settle the bill and try to reclaim ownership, etc.

If you’re serious about buying a foreclosed home, seek out a realtor with extra experience in this area. There are even special designations that some realtors can get, such as Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource (SFR) or Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE).

2. Houses Are Sold “As-Is”

With a typical home sale, you have the change to get the property professionally inspected before signing on the dotted line. It’s not uncommon for new issues to arise, and in a normal home buying transaction, you can often negotiate with the sellers to either fix the damage or discount the price. 

That’s not the case when you buy a foreclosed home. If a home inspection reveals unexpected damage — like the need for a full roof or a septic system replacement — banks often aren’t willing to negotiate. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it sale. 

3. Expect to Put In Some Work

The above point is especially important considering that most foreclosed homes do, in fact, need a lot of fixing up. 

Think about it: the previous homeowners lost the house because they couldn’t afford the mortgage. There’s a good chance they also weren’t able to keep up with routine maintenance either. From their perspective, even if they did have the cash, what’s the point of spending money on repairs, if they know they’ll lose the home in a few months?

You can save money by putting in some sweat equity (HGTV, anyone?), but even then you’ll need the cash to pay for materials. This also means that the home might not be move-in ready. If you do move in, you might need to put up with construction debris for a little while. On the bright side, though, this does give you a chance to upgrade the home to your own aesthetics. 

4. You Might Need Creative Financing

This brings up another issue: how do you pay for those renovations? Generally, you can’t just ask for a bigger mortgage to cover the necessary repairs. Most lenders will only lend you as much as the current home appraisal is worth, minus your down payment. 

You have a few options, though. You can hold some money back from your savings to pay for it in cash, but this means you’ll have a smaller down payment. An alternative is getting a loan from a different lender, like a personal loan, a 0% APR credit card, or even a home equity loan or line of credit if you’re lucky enough to start from a position with equity. 

Finally, there are some special “renovation mortgages” available through Fannie Mae and other lenders. These mortgages actually do allow you to take out a bigger mortgage so you can pay for renovations. You might need to provide a higher down payment or have a higher credit score to qualify, however. 

5. Watch for Liens on Foreclosed Homes at Auctions

If you have a big pot of cash and can pay for a home on the same day, an auction might be your best bet. But then you have to worry about a new factor: liens. 

If the property had any liens attached to it (such as from the previous homeowners not paying their taxes, or a judgement from unpaid debt), you’ll inherit that bill, too. 

This is usually only the case for auctioned homes. If you buy a foreclosed home as an REO sale, the bank generally pays off any liens attached to the property. Still, it may be worth double-checking if you have interest in a specific property. 

6. Be Prepared to Act Fast

You’re not the only one with the bright idea to get a low-priced, foreclosed home. Chances are good that there are a few other buyers interested in the property, which increases competition. Even though the home is listed at a big discount, this competition can still drive prices up. You might need to be ready to act fast, just the same as in any hot real estate market. 

7. Be Prepared to Wait

On the flip side, there’s a lot of extra bureaucracy involved in buying a foreclosed home once the seller accepts your offer. There’s often extra paperwork to fill out or other complications. 

For example, the home appraisal might come back lower than expected, which might make it harder to get enough financing for the agreed-on purchase price. If it’s a short sale, it might also take longer for the bank to approve the lower sale price for the home, based on what the homeowner’s mortgage is currently worth. 

Pros and Cons of Foreclosed Homes 

Buying a foreclosed home isn’t necessarily a good or bad idea on its own. It all depends on your own goals — for example, are you willing to figure out financing for repairs to get a deal on the home purchase price? Also consider how important it is for you to have a “move-in ready” home with no hassle. 

Weigh these pros and cons carefully, and what’s most important to you when buying a home. 

Pros Cons
Can get a deal that’s lower than market price Property is sold “as-is” and might not be move-in ready
Can customize the home to your specifications with repairs and upgrades Likely needs a lot of repairs and upgrades 
Requires creative financing for repairs and upgrades
Foreclosure process is long and might fall through 

The Bottom Line

Buying a foreclosed home can be a win-win situation. You get a home at a good price, and (usually) you can bring the property back to good, working order by fixing it up. As long as you go into the deal knowing that it’s not the same experience as a typical home purchase, buying a foreclosed home is a great way to launch into homeownership or real estate investing.   

The post What to Know Before Buying a Foreclosed Home appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com



What Credit Score Do I Need to Buy a Car?

What Credit Score Do You Need to Get An Auto Loan?

Article Updated July 18, 2018.

If it’s time to purchase a new vehicle, you may be wondering about one obstacle that could get in your way: your credit. Maybe you’re unsure how good your credit is, and you don’t know what credit score is needed to buy a car either. It is better to educate yourself with the knowledge you need to move forward with the car buying process to help alleviate any frustration or challenges you may find along the way to car ownership.

No matter your credit score, you can probably find a way to finance a car loan if you absolutely must buy a new vehicle. The real question is what your credit score will cost you when you make the purchase. The better your credit score, the better your chances may be of receiving a cheaper and more affordable interest rate and payment per month.

So, while there’s no minimum credit score required for car loans, your credit history and credit score can definitely make a big difference in the car buying process.

Bad Credit Scores Mean Much Higher Interest Rates

According to data from Experian Automotive, the difference in interest rates on a new car loan for someone with excellent credit versus someone with very poor credit is over 11 percentage points.

In fact, 2.84% was the average interest rate someone with a super-prime (excellent) credit score paid in the first quarter of 2017, while those with deep subprime (very poor) credit paid an average interest rate of 13.98% or higher.

To illustrate this difference, consider that you apply for a 60-month loan on a car that costs $25,000. With a 2.84% interest rate, the total cost of your car would be $26,847 with payments of $447 per month. Not too shabby.

For the same loan but an interest rate of 13.98%, your car loan would cost you $34,887, and you’d pay $581 per month. That’s more than $8,000 extra! Clearly, poor credit can result in you paying a lot more for your new vehicle.

The difference was even starker in comparison to those financing used cars. Those with super-prime credit paid an average rate of 3.56%, while those with deep subprime credit paid an average of 19.62%—more than 16 percentage points higher.

Average New Car Loan Rate by Credit Score (Q1 2017)

  • Super-prime (781–850): 2.84%
  • Prime (661–780): 3.77%
  • Nonprime (601–660): 6.60%
  • Subprime (501–600): 11.05%
  • Deep subprime (300–500): 13.98%

Note that the credit labels above represent Experian’s credit ranges. Other credit reporting agencies use different scales and labels so the information may differ between each credit bureau.

Experian uses a scoring model of 300 to 850. You will find the prime borrowers on the top of this spectrum, and the deep subprime borrowers are at the lower end of the spectrum.

Even if your credit score doesn’t fall into the average ranks as outlined below, you may still be able to qualify for a vehicle loan with a score of between 600 and 660.

Average Used Car Loan Rate by Credit Score (Q1 2017)

  • Super-prime: 3.56%
  • Prime: 5.29%
  • Nonprime: 9.88%
  • Subprime: 16.48%
  • Deep subprime: 19.62%

The dealer may also evaluate your credit using another type of credit score called VantageScore. VantageScore, which was developed by all three of the major reporting agencies, assigns different weights to different parts of your credit history, such as on-time payments, balances, and utilization.

Some people may benefit from a lender using their VantageScore, while others may be at a disadvantage.

Subprime Auto Loans

If you find that you are ineligible for a traditional car loan because you have a low credit score or less than perfect credit, or your income is below where it needs to be, then you will need to look into a subprime auto loan.

Subprime auto loans tend to be a lot riskier than regular or traditional car loans, and they typically come attached to much higher interest rates and fees, and you are paying for much longer terms.

Subprime lending is also often referred to as near-prime, subpar, non-prime, and second-chance lending. However, instead of using this type of high interest loan, if available, you should instead improve your credit, so it is no longer less-than-perfect-credit. You could also see if you could instead qualify for in-house financing at the dealership, so you do not have to be a subprime borrower and risk putting yourself under even more financial strain.

Where to Start If You’re Unsure

If you’re nervous about letting a car dealer check your credit—but even if you aren’t—it’s helpful to check your score yourself in advance. You can check your credit report for free to make sure you don’t have any surprises and to find mistakes.

Note that the credit scores an auto lender uses may be slightly different because it will be tailored for an auto loan. Still, it’s a good start—if your general credit score is strong, you can also bet that the score the dealer uses is strong.

We also recommend that you try to get pre-approved for a car loan from a bank or credit union before setting foot in the dealership. With a set interest rate in hand, if the dealer can offer you a better rate, perfect! If not, you’ll be prepared to pay what your bank approved you for.

How to Get Pre-approved for a Car Loan

You can apply for pre-approval for a car loan easily online, in person, or even over the phone. The lender will perform a hard credit check to see the state of your credit, and they will then gather all of your financial information such as your monthly income, and they will then have a better idea about whether or not they will provide you with the car loan.

All of these factors will figure into the interest rate, monthly payment, loan amount, and even the length of the loan. There is also something called pre-qualification, but this process will not be as accurate as the pre-approval process because they are not able to take such a close look at your credit.

If and when you are pre-approved, the lender will provide you with an offer statement in the form of a letter, certificate, or another form of proof so you can take it to the car dealership of your choice and begin the car buying process.

Remember, even if you are pre-approved, you will want to set a very realistic budget for yourself prior to looking at cars so you will have a better idea of what you can afford and what you should be looking into.

Getting the Best Auto Loan

Getting the best auto loan is important when it comes to affordability and value. It is recommended that you look at options from different banks and credit unions and other online lenders to make sure you are getting the lowest possible interest rate you can get. Finding a car dealership that offers financing may also prove to be a beneficial idea as well; especially if your credit is less than ideal.

When planning to finance a new or used car, it is always best to take your time and plan it out because it is a big purchase and investment. If you are able and have the time, you should consider working on your credit score to improve your credit, so you are able to lock in a much better deal.

Pull your credit report and look through it thoroughly. Always be on the lookout for any errors so you can dispute them and get them removed. It is also important to make sure you are paying all of your bills on time, your credit balances are low, and you are not opening any new lines of credit except when you actually need to.

You will be presented with better financing options if you can show the potential lenders that you are responsible and can pay your bills on time and maintain good credit.

A Word of Caution

Credit inquiries related to auto loans made within a short time frame (usually 14 days, or 45 days depending on the credit score model being used) are supposed to count as a single inquiry. However, some of our readers have found their credit scores dropping after multiple car dealers sent credit inquiries for financing. This is another reason why getting pre-approved before going to the dealership is a good idea.

 

If want to make sure your credit is good enough to purchase a car, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get a free credit score updated every 14 days.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.

Here’s What Else You Should Know about Auto Loans:

The post What Credit Score Do I Need to Buy a Car? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com



2020 Financial Crisis Auto Loan Relief

Car manufacturers have been feeling the strain during the financial crisis. There are fewer cars on the road, workers in the factories, and consumers willing to spend, and as a result, the automobile industry has been devastated.

But manufacturers and showrooms are fighting back, finding ways to encourage consumers to buy and to make life easier for the ones that already have. In this guide, we’ll look at the ways that auto lenders are helping consumers hit by the crisis and the ways that manufacturers are encouraging more drivers to purchase.

Financial Crisis Auto Relief: Manufacturers

Automobile manufacturers saw their profits free-fall in March 2020 and that followed into April, with suggestions that the chaos will progress as the year (and the pandemic that has gripped it so fiercely) continues. They are struggling and their customers are struggling as well.

Over 700,000 Americans lost their job in March and unemployment is set to rise to levels that haven’t been seen for years. To make matters work, the country’s 9.5 million+ self-employed workers have seen their incomes half. 

As a result, many are struggling with their debts and finding it harder to meet auto loan payments. To lend a helping hand, many of the world’s biggest manufacturers have established auto loan relief programs:

Ford

Ford announced its response to the crisis towards the end of March. Known as the Built to Lend a Hand program, it offers up to 6 months payments on a brand-new Ford and applies to all models from 2019 and 2020.

As soon as consumers sign up, they will be given 3 months of payments from Ford, while an additional 3 months can be deferred as per the customer’s request. The customer can choose to defer these payments as and when they want, but they must get their auto loan through the Ford Credit program to apply.

Hyundai

South Korean manufacturer, Hyundai, was one of the first to offer an auto loan relief program. South Korea was one of the hardest-hit countries in the early stages of the virus and this led to the major automobile brand offering a relief program in the middle of March.

Known as the Assurance Job Loss Protection, this program first appeared following the 2008 recession and has been revived for the recent pandemic. 

As part of this auto loan relief program, consumers who bought or borrowed a car after March 14 can have up to 6 payments made by Hyundai. They can also request payment deferment that lasts for up to 90 days.

The Assurance Job Loss Protection program is set to run until April 30 and applies to everyone who purchases a Hyundai through eligible finance programs. It also extends to Genesis, the luxury division of Hyundai Motors that is responsible for new vehicles such as the 2020 Genesis G90.

If the pandemic continues to grow in scale and severity, the program may be prolonged, although only time will tell.

Nissan

Nissan is following in the footsteps of many major creditors and lenders by working with customers on a case by case basis. If you’re feeling the strain of the crisis, whether because you’ve lost some or all of your income or your expenses have increased, you can contact them and request some relief.

For borrowers struggling to meet monthly payments, Nissan offers deferred payments, but only if hardship can be proved. You likely won’t be offered anything just because you ask for it and must show that your financial situation is worse now than it was before the financial crisis.

The same applies to all Infiniti car owners, which is Nissan’s luxury brand.

Kia

Kia announced that all 0% APR borrowers could defer payments for up to four months. Borrowers who don’t qualify for this can still request deferment of up to 30 days on 3 different occasions.

However, as with Nissan and many other providers, borrowers need to prove that they are experiencing hardship to be offered this auto loan relief.

General Motors

GM has seen some pretty hefty losses during the financial crisis, and this is despite the fact that it began the year on a high note, making noticeable gains that were all but wiped out in the first couple weeks of March.

GM is offering a few different options to keep consumers happy and to ensure cars are still driven out of the showroom. If you already have a finance program with General Motors, and you’re experiencing hardship, you can contact GM directly, tell them what you’re going through, and get assistance.

The GM OnStar program has also been activated for all current owners. This program offers 24/7 emergency assistance and can help you get to a hospital in your time of need.

If you need a new car, you can get 0% APR for up to 84 months on most GM manufactured vehicles.

Fiat Chrysler

Fiat Chrysler is another brand that began 2020 with a bang and then quickly suffered a substantial slump. To counteract this, it has improved its online offerings, allowing all consumers to purchase a brand-new vehicle online and to benefit from improved financing offers when they do.

In addition, Fiat Chrysler is assisting current owners by making it easy for them to pay their bills.

If you have a car made by this leading manufacturer and you’re struggling to make payments, contact them directly, tell them about your financial hardship, and they may offer to help you with deferred payments and other solutions.

Financial Crisis Auto Relief: Alternative Options

Contrary to what you might think, lenders are not desperate to get their hands on your collateral. The best outcome for them is that you meet your payments and they get every penny of the vehicle’s value along with the interest.

If you default and they are forced to repossess, they need to pay for the repossession, deal with the extra paperwork and hassle, and eventually sell the car for much less than it is worth. They can still chase you for what you owe, but they know they probably won’t get it, making repossession something that lenders are keen to avoid.

When you’re struggling to make your payments, be honest with them, lay it all on the line, and find a compromise. They will probably be a lot more forgiving than you expect, especially during the crisis, when everyone is more understanding and willing to help.

Unfortunately, you don’t have many other debt relief options when it comes to auto loans, as it doesn’t make sense to do a balance transfer and debt settlement simply doesn’t work here. But if you contact your lender, they’ll help you find a solution.

You can think about returning the vehicle, as well. When you lose your job and your income, and you no longer need to drive several miles to and from work every day, what’s the point of owning a car that costs you tens of thousands of dollars and leaves you with a substantial debt?

2020 Financial Crisis Auto Loan Relief is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com



Credit Union Vs. Bank Mortgage: Which Should You Choose?

Couple being handed the keys to their new home

You’ve saved up your money, you found the perfect house, and you’re ready to buy. Now you just need a mortgage. Commercial banks may be the obvious choice, but they aren’t the only option for your mortgage. Mortgage brokers, online mortgage lenders, and credit unions also originate mortgage loans.

Credit unions and other non-banks are gaining in popularity for mortgage originations. In fact, credit unions accounted for 9% of all mortgage originations in 2017. If you’re ready to take out a mortgage on your dream home, here’s what we think you should know about credit union vs. bank mortgages.

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The Advantages of Getting a Mortgage through a Credit Union

Credit unions operate like banks, but they are non-profit organizations with specific membership requirements. Members of the credit union are the collective owners of the union, offering some distinct advantages for mortgage origination. Credit unions may offer lower rates, easier approval, greater personalization, and more. Here are four advantages of working with a credit union vs. a bank for your mortgage.

Easier Approval

In general, credit unions are more likely to lend to people with poor credit scores and offer options for smaller down payments. Credit unions are also more likely to hold onto the mortgages they originate, rather than selling them like banks often do. When a bank sells a mortgage, outside investors drive the interest rates and underwriting standards, limiting the bank’s flexibility with mortgage terms. When credit unions don’t sell mortgages, they can be more flexible with who they loan to and what rates they offer.

In addition to having more flexible qualification options, credit unions prioritize customer service­—not profits. They want to help their members find the options that work best for them, their community, and the credit union membership as a whole. Plus, if you’re already a member of a credit union, it’s generally easier to get additional services through an institution you already have a relationship with. You may even be pre-approved for a mortgage based on your prior account activity.

Lower Rates

Because credit unions are exempt from paying federal taxes and prioritize breaking even, not making a profit, they can offer higher interest rates for deposits and lower interest rates for loans.

Overall, credit union rates tend to be lower for all loan types, including credit cards, but rates for mortgages may be similar to those from traditional banks if they sell their mortgages. Even a small difference in interest rate can make a big difference over the life of a mortgage, though, so any little bit helps.

Fewer Fees

There are many unavoidable costs of taking out a mortgage: closing costs, vendor fees, insurance. Many banks and mortgage brokers will also charge origination fees and other processing costs. Because credit unions are less concerned with turning a profit, originating a mortgage with one will often result in fewer origination fees and other processing costs. These reduced fees can potentially save you several hundred to several thousand dollars.

More Personalization

Credit unions prioritize customer service for their members. Banks, on the other hand, are primarily motivated by profits. You may get a better, more personalized experience by working with a credit union to originate your mortgage. Because credit unions more often hold on to their mortgages, you’re more likely to work with them for the life of the loan. They also often offer special rewards programs and incentives for first-time home buyers or no-down-payment plans.

Depending on the credit union you’re a part of, it may also be better able to provide specific advice and context for loans. For example, credit unions specifically for veterans may have more hands-on expertise with VA loans. Similarly, geographically based credit unions may have better understanding of local incentives for mortgages.

During times of crisis, like the coronavirus pandemic, credit unions may be more attuned to the needs of their customers and therefore more likely to offer financial hardship support. Reach out to your credit union if you need support or resources.

The Disadvantages of Originating a Mortgage with a Credit Union

Because credit unions are smaller, membership-based organizations, there are some disadvantages to working with one for your mortgage. Here are five things to keep in mind if you’re considering a credit union vs. bank mortgage.

Membership Requirements

While traditional banks open accounts with anyone who qualifies, credit union memberships have additional specific requirements and limitations depending on the union. If you do not meet those requirements, you cannot originate your mortgage with that credit union, even if it would be the best deal for you. You can find credit unions in your area that you may qualify for using CUlookup.com.

Fewer Locations

Credit unions are smaller and often more geographically limited than national banks. That means you’ll have fewer options for in-person service. In fact, credit unions have an average of three branches while most banks have an average of 16. Many credit unions still operate traditional banker’s hours—9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday—as well, limiting your options for service.

Dated Technology

Online services are becoming increasingly important to consumers who require and expect quick and easy self-serve online options. Credit unions are generally behind the times when it comes to technology, which means you may not be able to use an app or find other self-serve options online if you have questions. They are quickly catching up to traditional banks, though, so this may not be much of a disadvantage moving forward.

Limited Financing Options

Banks and credit unions fund mortgages and other loans with cash on hand and borrowed from other institutions. In order to lend more money to members, they must have more money available. Because credit unions typically have a smaller customer base, they tend to have less cash on hand to loan out, which may curtail loans available. Banks are, on average, 13 times larger than credit unions with $2.6 billion in assets vs. $207 million in assets for credit unions.

Insurance

The FDIC does not cover credit unions. Instead, the NCUA regulates federally insured credit unions and provides similar insurance coverage as the FDIC. Some credit unions are state chartered, however, and may be covered by a state agency or offer private insurance coverage instead. Private insurance is held to same regulatory standards but is generally considered less secure than federally chartered coverage. The NCAU Credit Union Locator can verify whether a credit union is federally chartered.

While the type of insurance an institution uses does not directly affect the terms of your mortgage, it should still be part of your consideration process for working with a credit union over a bank.

Credit Union vs. Bank Mortgage

When you’re ready to take out a mortgage, you have a lot of options. Like with other financial decisions, you should shop around across credit unions, banks and other lenders to find the best deal for you. And if you’re not getting the rate you think you deserve, working to improve your credit score is one of the best ways to increase your chances of getting a competitive mortgage rate.

Check your credit report using the free Credit Report Card. You can also find more resources, including a free, no-obligation quote, in our Loan Resource Center.

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The post Credit Union Vs. Bank Mortgage: Which Should You Choose? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com



10 Risky Investments That Could Make You Lose Everything

If the stock market crashed again, would you respond by investing more? Is day trading your sport of choice? Do you smirk at the idea of keeping money in a savings account instead of investing it?

If you answered yes to these questions, you’re probably an investor with a high risk tolerance.

Hold up, Evel Knievel.

It’s fine to embrace a “no-risk, no-reward” philosophy. But some investments are so high-risk that they aren’t worth the rewards.

10 Risky Investments That Could Lead to Huge Losses

We’re not saying no one should ever consider investing in any of the following. But even if you’re a personal finance daredevil, these investments should give you serious pause.

Sure, if things go well, you’d make money — lots of it. But if things go south, the potential losses are huge. In some cases, you could lose your entire investment.

1. Penny Stocks

There’s usually a good reason penny stocks are so cheap. Often they have zero history of earning a profit. Or they’ve run into trouble and have been delisted by a major stock exchange.

Penny stocks usually trade infrequently, meaning you could have trouble selling your shares if you want to get out. And because the issuing company is small, a single piece of good or bad news can make or break it.

Fraud is also rampant in the penny stock world. One common tactic is the “pump and dump.” Scammers create false hype, often using investing websites and newsletters, to pump up the price. Then they dump their shares on unknowing investors.

2. IPOs

You and I probably aren’t rich or connected enough to invest in an IPO, or initial public offering, at its actual offering price. That’s usually reserved for company insiders and investors with deep pockets.

Instead, we’re more likely to be swayed by the hype that a popular company gets when it goes public and the shares start trading on the stock market. Then, we’re at risk of paying overinflated prices because we think we’re buying the next Amazon.

But don’t assume that a company is profitable just because its CEO is ringing the opening bell on Wall Street. Many companies that go public have yet to make money.

The average first-day returns of a newly public company have consistently been between 10% to 20% since the 1990s, according to a 2019 report by investment firm UBS. But after five years, about 60% of IPOs had negative total returns.

3. Bitcoin

Proponents of bitcoin believe the cryptocurrency will eventually become a widespread way to pay for things. But its usage now as an actual way to pay for things remains extremely limited.

For now, bitcoin remains a speculative investment. People invest in it primarily because they think other investors will continue to drive up the price, not because they see value in it.

All that speculation creates wild price fluctuations. In December 2017, bitcoin peaked at nearly $20,000 per coin, then plummeted in 2018 to well below $4,000. That volatility makes bitcoin useless as a currency, as Bankrate’s James Royal writes.

Unless you can afford to part ways with a huge percentage of your investment, bitcoin is best avoided.

4. Anything You Buy on Margin

Margining gives you more money to invest, which sounds like a win. You borrow money from your broker using the stocks you own as collateral. Of course, you have to pay your broker back, plus interest.

If it goes well, you amplify your returns. But when margining goes badly, it can end really, really badly.

Suppose you buy $5,000 of stock and it drops 50%. Normally, you’d lose $2,500.

But if you’d put down $2,500 of your own money to buy the stock and used margin for the other 50%? You’d be left with $0 because you’d have to use the remaining $2,500 to pay back your broker.

That 50% drop has wiped out 100% of your investment — and that’s before we account for interest.

5. Leveraged ETFs

Buying a leveraged ETF is like margaining on steroids.

Like regular exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, leveraged ETFs give you a bundle of investments designed to mirror a stock index. But leveraged ETFs seek to earn two or three times the benchmark index by using a bunch of complicated financing maneuvers that give you greater exposure.

Essentially, a leveraged ETF that aims for twice the benchmark index’s returns (known as a 2x leveraged ETF) is letting you invest $2 for every $1 you’ve actually invested.

We won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty, but the risk here is similar to buying stocks on margin: It can lead to big profits but it can also magnify your losses.

But here’s what’s especially tricky about leveraged ETFs: They’re required to rebalance every day to reflect the makeup of the underlying index. That means you can’t sit back and enjoy the long-haul growth. Every day, you’re essentially investing in a different product.

For this reason, leveraged ETFs are only appropriate for day traders — specifically, day traders with very deep pockets who can stomach huge losses.

6. Collectibles

A lot of people collect cars, stamps, art, even Pokemon cards as a hobby. But some collectors hope their hobby will turn into a profitable investment.

It’s OK to spend a reasonable amount of money curating that collection if you enjoy it. But if your plans are contingent on selling the collection for a profit someday, you’re taking a big risk.

Collectibles are illiquid assets. That’s a jargony way of saying they’re often hard to sell.

If you need to cash out, you may not be able to find a buyer. Or you may need to sell at a steep discount. It’s also hard to figure out the actual value of collectibles. After all, there’s no New York Stock Exchange for Pokemon cards. And if you do sell, you’ll pay 28% tax on the gains. Stocks held long-term, on the other hand, are taxed at 15% for most middle-income earners.

Plus, there’s also the risk of losing your entire investment if your collection is physically destroyed.

7. Junk Bonds

If you have a low credit score, you’ll pay a high interest rate when you borrow money because banks think there’s a good chance you won’t pay them back. With corporations, it works the same way.

Companies issue bonds when they need to take on debt. The higher their risk of defaulting, the more interest they pay to those who invest in bonds. Junk bonds are the riskiest of bonds.

If you own bonds in a company that ends up declaring bankruptcy, you could lose your entire investment. Secured creditors — the ones whose claim is backed by actual property, like a bank that holds a mortgage — get paid back 100% in bankruptcy court before bondholders get anything.

8. Shares of a Bankrupt Company

Bondholders may be left empty-handed when a corporation declares bankruptcy. But guess who’s dead last in terms of priority for who gets paid? Common shareholders.

Secured creditors, bondholders and owners of preferred stock (it’s kind of like a stock/bond hybrid) all get paid in full before shareholders get a dime.

Typically when a company files for bankruptcy, its stock prices crash. Yet recently, eager investors have flocked in to buy those ultracheap shares and temporarily driven up the prices. (Ahem, ahem: Hertz.)

That post-bankruptcy filing surge is usually a temporary case of FOMO. Remember: The likelihood that those shares will eventually be worth $0 is high.

You may be planning on turning a quick profit during the run-up, but the spike in share prices is usually short-lived. If you don’t get the timing exactly right here, you could lose big when the uptick reverses.

9. Gold and Silver

If you’re worried about the stock market or high inflation, you may be tempted to invest in gold or silver.

Both precious metals are often thought of as hedges against a bear market because they’ve held their value throughout history. Plus in uncertain times, many investors seek out tangible assets, i.e., stuff you can touch.

Having a small amount invested in gold and silver can help you diversify your portfolio. But anything above 5% to 10% is risky.

Both gold and silver are highly volatile. Gold is much rarer, so discovery of a new source can bring down its price. Silver is even more volatile than gold because the value of its supply is much smaller. That means small price changes have a bigger impact. Both metals tend to underperform the S&P 500 in the long term.

The riskiest way to invest in gold and silver is by buying the physical metals because they’re difficult to store and sell. A less risky way to invest is by purchasing a gold or silver ETF that contains a variety of assets, such as mining company stocks and physical metals.

10. Options Trading

Options give you the right to buy or sell a stock at a certain price before a certain date. The right to buy is a call. You buy a call when you think a stock price will rise. The right to sell is a put. You buy a put when you think a stock price will drop.

What makes options trading unique is that there’s one clear winner and one clear loser. With most investments, you can sell for a profit to an investor who also goes on to sell at a profit. Hypothetically, this can continue forever.

But suppose you buy a call or a put. If your bet was correct, you exercise the option. You get to buy a winning stock at a bargain price, or you get to offload a tanking stock at a premium price. If you lose, you’re out the entire amount you paid for the option.

Options trading gets even riskier, though, when you’re the one selling the call or put. When you win, you pocket the entire amount you were paid.

But if you end up on the losing side: You could have to pay that high price for the stock that just crashed or sell a soaring stock at a deep discount.

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What Are the Signs That an Investment Is Too Risky?

The 10 things we just described certainly aren’t the only risky investments out there. So let’s review some common themes. Consider any of these traits a red flag when you’re making an investment decision.

  • They’re confusing. Are you perplexed by bitcoin and options trading? So is pretty much everyone else.If you don’t understand how something works, it’s a sign you shouldn’t invest in it.
  • They’re volatile. Dramatic price swings may be exciting compared with the tried-and-true approach of investing across the stock market. But investing is downright dangerous when everything hinges on getting the timing just right.
  • The price is way too low. Just because an investment is cheap doesn’t mean it’s a good value.
  • The price is way too high. Before you invest in the latest hype, ask yourself if the investment actually delivers value. Or are the high prices based on speculation?

The bottom line: If you can afford to put a small amount of money in high-risk investments just for the thrill of it, fine — as long as you can deal with losing it all.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

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



RVing on a Budget: The Biggest Costs and How to Save

What you may know about RVing: It’s a great, cheap way to travel, or even a low-cost alternative for living full time.

What you may not know: RVing costs can stack up, and even eclipse the cost of traditional car-and-hotel travel, or living in a sticks-and-bricks home.

Here, we’ll detail the primary expenses associated with the RV lifestyle, with tips to help you reduce them.

How to Go RVing on a Budget

As someone who’s traveled extensively by RV, and even lived in a travel trailer, I know exactly how much of a burden RVing can be on your budget. Here’s what I’ve learned.

The Vehicle Itself

The first thing you need to go RVing … is an RV. And depending on how you source it, this first purchase can be very pricy.

First-timers are more likely to rent than buy, but if you end up falling in love with the lifestyle, you should know that even modest motorhomes cost tens of thousands of dollars. Super luxurious ones go for over $1 million. (Yes, seriously.)

Travel trailers tend to be less expensive than motorcoaches for a comparable level of quality, from entry level all the way up to the top. Keep in mind, though, that you need a vehicle capable of towing the rig around.

A young man sweeps out an RV

But let’s go back to the rental option. Expect to see per-night prices of $250 or more, which can easily outstrip a moderately priced hotel room. Additional fees for mileage and insurance can push your bottom line even higher.

Consider looking at peer-to-peer RV rental marketplaces, like RVshare or Outdoorsy, where you can rent a rig directly from its private owner, which often means lower rental prices. (Think of it like Airbnb for RVs.)

You may also be able to find super-cheap rentals through RV relocation deals, in which you serve as a rental company’s courier, delivering RVs to destinations where they are in demand. In return, you get use of the rig for a steal — but keep in mind you’ll be limited in your ability to personalize your itinerary. You’ll have to stick to the company’s route and timetable.

As far as buying is concerned, shop around — and consider shopping gently used. RV does stand for recreational vehicle, after all, and although the loan you take out might look more like a mortgage than auto financing, you probably aren’t going to be building equity. You don’t want to go too old, because maintenance starts to become a problem, but something three to five years old could save you a nice chunk of change.

A motorhome travels through Arches National Park, Utah.

Fuel

The appeal of RVs is simple: You get to bring everything along with you for the trip, including the kitchen sink.

But all of those accommodations and extras are weighty, which means that all but the smallest RVs are pretty serious gas guzzlers. Case in point: The largest Class A motorhomes get as little as 4-6 miles to the gallon.

If you’re hoping to save at the pump, consider taking a vacation closer to home or narrowing down to a single destination. Not only will you spend less money on gas, you’ll also spend less of your time driving.

Campsite Accommodation Costs

Many people think you can load up into an RV, hit the road and just pull off to the side when you’re ready to catch some sleep.

But in most cases, that’s not true. Although some rest stops and big box store parking lots allow overnight RV parking, many do not. Besides, do you really want to spend your vacation sleeping under the glare of 24/7 floodlights?

The most comfortable campgrounds — the ones where you can hook up to electricity, water, and sewer connections — can cost a pretty penny, especially in highly sought-after destinations. Malibu Beach may be an extreme example, but during peak seasons, you’re looking at about $100 per night for a basic site, and up to $230 for a premium location. (Remember, that’s on top of your rental price. And fuel.)

A woman makes coffee in her travel trailer.

But you can find resort-style accommodations for $35 to $50 per night, often with discounts available for veterans, military members or those staying a week or longer. There are also a variety of camping discount clubs that can help you score lower-cost campground accommodations.

You’ll also want to look into state parks, which often offer RV sites with hookups for prices much lower than privately owned campgrounds (though they may not have a cell signal).

Finally, there are places you can camp for free (or super cheap), but even in an RV, you’ll kind of be roughing it. On BLM-managed land and in certain other wilderness locations, you can do “dispersed” camping, otherwise known as “boondocking” or “dry camping” — basically, camping without any hookups.

But you need to check ahead of time to make sure that cool-looking space is actually okay to park in and not privately owned. There isn’t always appropriate signage, and if you accidentally end up in someone’s backyard, you may be asked to move or even ticketed. Some great resources for finding spots include Campendium and FreeCampsites.net.

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Maintenance and Storage

If you buy an RV, you should be prepared for costs associated with maintenance — and, if you can’t park it on your own property, storage. In Portland, Oregon, I pay $75 a month to keep my travel trailer in an uncovered lot. More desirable, secure storage is almost $200.

Then there are the maintenance costs of both the vehicular and household systems of an RV, which need regular upkeep. Doing it yourself may be time intensive, but even a minor trip to the repair shop can mean a major bill.

It’s best if you already have a place in mind to keep it — and the initiative to learn some DIY mechanics. There’s a YouTube tutorial for most RV repair and maintenance basics.

Overall, the great thing about RVing is that the expenses are easily modified to fit almost any budget — you may just have to rethink which RV you drive, where you’re going and how you’ll be staying once you get there.

Jamie Cattanach’s work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Post, The Motley Fool and other outlets. Learn more at www.jamiecattanach.com.

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



So You Want to Buy a Fixer-Upper: Here’s What You Need to Know

Stephen and David St. Russell, self-taught renovation and fixer-upper experts, are sharing their advice for homebuyers who are looking to explore buying a home that needs some extra TLC.

The post So You Want to Buy a Fixer-Upper: Here’s What You Need to Know appeared first on Homes.com.

Source: homes.com




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