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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



Real Estate Market 2020 Recap & 2021 Forecast Denver, CO

Everyone knows that the real estate market fluctuates throughout the year, and some years are more extreme than others. The biggest question on the minds of everyone in 2020 and for the upcoming year is all about knowing when the time is right.

Should I buy or sell a home in Denver right now?

Our expert local agents have your back when it comes to market trends, but here’s a quick guide on understanding how and why the market changes.

Supply & Demand

The real estate market is often used as the number one example of a supply and demand industry. However, it’s important to understand what makes the demand or supply change. You’ve probably heard of a buyer’s or seller’s market before; what are they and how do they come about?

Seller’s market: People use this term when there are eager buyers but few sellers. This means that the homeowners who put their humble abodes up for sale are more likely to get multiple offers. This typically results in higher prices for homes.

Buyer’s market: This term is used when there is a high number of homes on the market and fewer buyers. Sellers often will wait longer for their home to sell and the sale price may be a bit lower than the listing price because buyers have more leverage to work with; when homes aren’t flying off the market, sellers are more willing to negotiate to get their sale underway.

The swing from buyer’s to seller’s market is influenced by several factors. Here are just a few.

Interest Rates

Interest rates play a big role in the ability for many buyers to afford a home. Locking into an interest rate is a long-term decision that spans the life of your mortgage in most cases. Therefore, many buyers are hyper-aware of rates and what that means for their payments over time. When interest rates are low, it gives more buyers the opportunity to make homeownership a reality.

If you’re looking to take advantage of low rates as a buyer, we recommend finding a mortgage lender or broker who can find you the best rates in your area and for your circumstances. Not all lenders are created equal, and a loan officer can help you make the best decision. Homie Loans™ guarantees that they will beat any competitor’s locked loan estimate, or they’ll pay you $500.*

As a seller, it’s still important to be aware of the rates. If you’re selling during a time when rates are high, there’s a good chance there will be fewer buyers.

World Events

Many world and national occurrences, like major storms and weather events, election years, and employment rates, impact the health of the real estate market. Be aware of what’s happening in your local market and keep an eye on the news.

Time of Year

If you’re looking to sell or buy during winter, be aware of how weather will impact you. Snow makes for undesirable moving conditions. This can mean fewer buyers in the market, which sellers may find extends their timeline for selling but buyers may see less competition.

While spring and summer may seem like the best time of year to sell a home, so will everyone else. Be aware of how the warmer months impact competition.

The Role of Real Estate Experts

Real estate agents are key players when buying or selling a home. Agents, like the pros at Homie, live and breathe the market. Whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market, your agent can help you make the right decision to sell your home fast and for top dollar or help you find and win your dream home within your budget.

You won’t want to enter the competitive real estate market in Denver without one!

Let Homie Help You Make Your Next Move

If you’re ready to take advantage of the hot market to come in 2021, click here to start your listing.

If your dream home is in your 2021 plans, let one of our buyer’s agents help you find and tour the perfect home, and then build a compelling offer. Click here to get in touch.

Want to learn more about buying or selling? Sign up to get more info directly to your inbox!

What are you interested in?

The post Real Estate Market 2020 Recap & 2021 Forecast Denver, CO appeared first on Homie Blog.

Source: homie.com



What Are Mutual Funds? Understanding The Basics

If you’re one of those investors with very little time to research and invest in individual stocks, it might be a good idea to look into investing in mutual funds.

Whether your goal is to save money for retirement, or for a down payment to buy a house, mutual funds are low-cost and effective way to invest your money.

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What is a mutual fund?

A mutual fund is an investment vehicle in which investors, like you ad me, pool their money together. They use the money to invest in securities such as stocks and bonds. A professional manages the funds.

In addition, mutual funds are cost efficient. They offer diversification to your portfolio. They have low minimum investment requirements.

These factors make mutual funds among the best investment vehicles to use. If you’re a beginner investor, you should consider investing in mutual funds or index funds.

Investing in the stock market in general, can be intimidating. If you are just starting out and don’t feel confident in your investing knowledge, you may value the advice of a financial advisor.

Types of mutual funds

There are different types of mutual funds. They are stock funds, bond funds, and money market funds.

Which funds you choose depends on your risk tolerance. While mutual funds in general are less risky than investing in individual stocks, some funds are riskier than others.

However, you can choose a combination of these three types of funds to diversify your portfolio.

  • Stock funds: a stock fund is a fund that invests heavily in stocks. However, that does not mean stock funds do not have other securities, i.e., bonds. It’s just that the majority of the money invested is in stocks.
  • Bond funds: if you don’t want your portfolio to fluctuate in value as stocks do, then you should consider bond funds.
  • Money market funds: money market funds are funds that you invest in if you tend to tap into your investment in the short term.
  • Sector funds. As the name suggests, sector funds are funds that invests in one particular sector or industry. For example, a fund that invests only in the health care industry is a sector fund. These mutual funds lack diversification. Therefore, you should avoid them or use them in conjunction to another mutual fund.

Additional funds

  • Index funds. Index funds seek to track the performance of a particular index, such as the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of 500 large U.S. company stocks or the CRSP US Small Cap Index. When you invest in the Vanguard S&P 500 Index fund, you’re essentially buying a piece of the 500 largest publicly traded US companies. Index funds don’t jump around. They stay invested in the market. 
  • Income funds: These funds focus invest primarily in corporate bonds. They also invest in some high-dividend stocks.
  • Balance funds: The portfolio of these funds have a mixed of stocks and bonds. Those funds enjoy capital growth and income dividend.

Related Article: 3 Ways to Protect Your Portfolio from the Volatile Stock Market

The advantages of mutual funds

Diversification. You’ve probably heard the popular saying “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” Well, it applies to mutual funds. Mutual funds invest in stocks or bonds from dozens of companies in several industries.

Thus, your risk is spread. If a stock of a company is not doing well, a stock from another company can balance it out. While most funds are diversified, some are not.

For example, sector funds which invest in a specific industry such as real estate can be risky if that industry is not doing well.

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Professional Management.

Mutual funds are professionally managed. These fund managers are well educated and experienced. Their job is to analyze data, research companies and find the best investments for the fund.

Thus, investing in mutual funds can be a huge time saver for those who have very little time and those who lack expertise in the matter.

Cost Efficiency. The operating expenses and the cost that you pay to sell or buy a fund are cheaper than trading in individual securities on your own. For example, the best Vanguard mutual funds have operating expenses as low as 0.04%. So by keeping expenses low, these funds can help boost your returns.

Low or Reasonable Minimum Investment. The majority of mutual funds, Vanguard mutual funds, for example, have a reasonable minimum requirement. Some funds even have a minimum of $1,000 and provide a monthly investment plan where you can start with as little as $50 a month.

Related Article: 7 Secrets Smart Professionals Use to Choose Financial Advisors

The disadvantage of mutual funds.

While there are several benefits to investing in mutual funds, there are some disadvantages as well. 

Active Fund Management. Mutual funds are actively managed. That means fund mangers are always on the look out for the best securities to purchase. That also means they can easily make mistakes.

Cost/expenses. While cost and expenses of investing in individual stocks are significantly higher than mutual funds, cost of a mutual fund can nonetheless be significant.

High cost can have a negative effect on your investment return. These fees are deducted from your mutual fund’s balance every year. Other fees can apply as well. So always find a company with a low cost. 

How you make money with mutual funds.

You make money with mutual funds the same way you would with individual stocks: dividend, capital gain and appreciation.

Dividend: Dividends are cash distributions from a company to its shareholders. Some companies offer dividends; others do not. And those who do pay out dividends are not obligated to do so. And the amount of dividends can vary from year to year.

As a mutual fund investor, you may receive dividend income on a regular basis.

Mutual funds offer dividend reinvestment plans. This means that instead of receiving a cash payment, you can reinvest your dividend income into buying more shares in the fund.

Capital gain distribution: in addition to receiving dividend income from the fund, you make money with mutual funds when you make a profit by selling a stock. This is called “capital gain.”

Capital gain occurs when the fund manager sells stocks for more he bought them for. The resulting profits can be paid out to the fund’s shareholders. Just as dividend income, you have the choice to reinvest your gains in the fund.

Appreciation: If stocks in your fund have appreciated in value, the price per share of the fund will increase as well. So whether you hold your shares for a short term or long term, you stand to make a profit when the shares rise. 

Best mutual funds.

Now that you know mutual funds make excellent investments, finding the best mutual funds can be overwhelming. 

Vanguard mutual funds.

Vanguard mutual funds are the best out there, because they are relatively cheaper; they are of high quality; a professional manage them; and their operating expenses are relative low. 

Here is a list of the best Vanguard mutual funds that you should invest in:

  • Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Funds
  • Vanguard 500 Index (VFIAX)
  • Total International Stock index Fund
  • Vanguard Health Care Investor

Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund 

If you’re looking for a diversified mutual fund, this Vanguard mutual fund is for you. The Vanguard’s VTSAX provides exposure to the entire U.S. stock market which includes stocks from large, medium and small U.S companies.

The top companies include Microsoft, Apple, Amazon. In addition, the expenses are relatively (0.04%). It has a minimum initial investment of $3,000, making it one of the best vanguard stock funds out there.

Vanguard S&P 500 (VFIAX)

The Vanguard 500 Index fund may be appropriate for you if you prefer a mutual fund that focuses on U.S. equities. This fund tracks the performance of the S&P 500, which means it holds about 500 of the largest U.S. stocks.

The largest U.S. companies included in this fund are Facebook, Alphabet/Google, Apple, and Amazon. This index fund has an expense ration of 0.04% and a reasonable minimum initial investment of $3,000.

Vanguard Total International Stock Market

You should consider the Vanguard International Stock Market fund of you prefer a mutual fund that invests in foreign stocks.

This international stock fund exposes its shareholders to over 6,000 non-U.S. stocks from several countries in both developed markets and emerging markets. The minimum investment is also $3,000 with an expense ratio of 0.11%.

Vanguard Health Care Investor

Sector funds are not usually a good idea, because the lack diversification. Sector funds are funds that invest in a specific industry like real estate or health care. However, if you want a fund to complement your portfolio, the Vanguard Health Care Investor is a good choice.

This Vanguard mutual fund offers investors exposure to U.S. and foreign equities focusing in the health care industry. The expense ration is a little bit higher, 0.34%. However, the minimum initial investment is $3,000, making it one of the cheapest Vanguard mutual funds.

Bottom Line

Mutual funds are great options for beginner investors or investors who have little time to research and invest in individual stocks. When you buy into these low cost investments, you’re essentially buying shares from companies.

Your money are pooled together with those of other investors. If you intend to invest in low cost investment funds, you must know which ones are the best. When it comes to saving money on fees and getting a good return on your investment, Vanguard mutual funds are among the best funds out there.

They provide professional management, diversity, low cost, income and price appreciation.

What’s Next: 5 Mistakes People Make When Hiring A Financial Advisor

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions beyond knowing which of the best Vanguard mutual funds to invest, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).
  • Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
*TOP CIT BANK PROMOTIONS*
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The post What Are Mutual Funds? Understanding The Basics appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com



A Guide to Estate Planning for Second Marriages

Couple getting married for the second timeGetting married for a second time following a divorce or the death of your first spouse can feel like a fresh start. But it’s important to consider how joining your life with someone else’s may impact your financial plan, including how you manage your estate. What is fair in a second marriage and estate planning? It can be a difficult question to answer, especially when you or your new spouse are bringing children into the marriage or you plan to have children together at some point. Understanding some of the key financial issues surrounding a second marriage can help with reshaping your estate plan. So can consulting a financial advisor, especially one experienced in estate planning for second marriages.

Key Estate Planning Considerations for Second Marriages

Remarriage can bring up a number of important questions for estate planning. Both spouses should be aware of what the central issues are when updating individual estate plans or creating a new joint one.

Here are some of the most important questions to ask for estate planning in a second marriage:

  • What assets will be left to each of your children?
  • Do you plan to have additional children together and if so, what assets will be preserved for them?
  • Which assets will you each continue to hold individually?
  • Are there any assets that will be retitled in both of your names, such as a first home, vacation home or bank accounts?
  • Are either of you bringing any debts into the marriage or will you incur new debts after the marriage?
  • Do each of you have a will in place that needs to be updated?
  • Or will you establish a new joint will?
  • Besides a will, what other estate planning tools may be necessary, i.e. a trust, advance healthcare directive or power of attorney?
  • Will you continue working with your current financial advisors or choose a new advisor to help you manage your financial plan together?

Asking these kinds of questions can help you each get a sense of the other’s perspective on estate planning. Ideally, you should be having these types of discussions before the marriage takes place to minimize potential conflicts later. This can also help you decide if a prenuptial agreement may be necessary to protect your individual financial interests. But if you’ve already remarried, it may be a good idea to have this discussion sooner, rather than later.

At the same time, it can also help to complete an inventory of your assets and liabilities so you both know what you’re bringing into the marriage. This can help with managing the distribution side of your estate plan later as well as planning for how any debts may need to be handled should one of you pass away.

Estate Planning for Second Marriages With Children

Having kids can add a wrinkle to your estate planning efforts when you’re getting remarried. For example, you may wish to leave certain assets to your children while your new spouse may want your assets to be equally distributed among his or her children as well as yours. Or there may be questions over who would assume control over assets on behalf of minor children should one of you die.

When there are children in the picture, it’s important to consider any provisions you’ve already made for them in a will or trust and how that might affect any assets your spouse stands to inherit. You may need to update your will or set up a separate marital trust, for example, to ensure that your spouse receives the share of your assets you wish them to have while still preserving your children’s inheritance. Provisions may also need to be made for any children you plan to have if you’re still relatively young when a second marriage occurs.

It’s important to consider the age of your children when deciding what is fair in a second marriage and estate planning. If you have adult children, for example, it could make sense to gift some of their inheritance to them during your lifetime. But if you have minor children, you and your new spouse would need to decide who should be in charge of managing their inheritance on their behalf if one of you dies prematurely.

Check Beneficiary Designations

Estate planning documentsAssets that already have a named beneficiary may need to be updated if you’re remarrying. For example, if you named your previous spouse as beneficiary to your 401(k), individual retirement account or life insurance policy, you’d likely want to change the beneficiary to your new spouse or to a trust you’ve set up so that your former spouse can’t collect on those assets.

You should also consider other assets, such as bank accounts or real estate, should be titled. Adding your new spouse to your home as a joint tenant with right of survivorship may seem like the right move for keeping things simple in your estate plan. But doing so means that if something happens to you, your spouse will automatically assume full ownership of the home. They could then do with it as they wish, regardless of what you might have specified in a will or trust.

Look for Gaps in Your Estate Plan

When deciding what is fair in a second marriage and estate planning, consider where the gaps might exist that could leave your assets in jeopardy. Not having a will, for example, could be problematic if you pass away. Without a will, your state’s inheritance laws would be applied – not your wishes. That means your assets may not go to your children or other heirs as you’d like them to.

A trust can also be a useful tool in estate planning for passing on assets to your spouse or children as well as managing estate and inheritance taxes. If either of you are bringing considerable assets into a second marriage or you want to minimize the potential for conflicts over asset distribution later, setting up one or more trusts could be a good idea. Talking to an estate planning attorney can help you decide whether a trust is necessary and if so, which type of trust to set up.

Also, consider whether you have sufficient life insurance coverage to provide for the surviving spouse and any children associated with the marriage. Both spouses in a second marriage may need to have life insurance coverage, particularly if one person is the primary breadwinner while the other is the primary caregiver for children. Checking your existing life insurance policies and talking to your insurance agent can help you determine whether what you have is enough or if more coverage is necessary.

Finally, think about what you may need in terms of end-of-life planning. Long-term care insurance, for instance, can help pay for nursing home costs so that your spouse or either of your children aren’t left in the lurch financially. An advance healthcare directive and a power of attorney can ensure that your wishes are carried out in end-of-life situations where you’re unable to make financial or medical care decisions on your own behalf.

The Bottom Line

Wedding decorationsDeciding what’s fair in a second marriage and estate planning can be tricky and it’s important to get the conversation started early. Understanding what the biggest challenges of estate planning in a second marriage are can help you work together to shape a plan that you can both be satisfied with. And if you have adult children, it’s important to keep them in the loop so they understand how a second marriage may impact their inheritance.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about the implications of a second marriage and what it might mean for your portfolio. You and your spouse may choose to maintain your current advisors or find a new advisor to work with together. In either case, finding the right professional to work with doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can offer personalized recommendations for professional advisors in your local area, in just minutes. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • Trusts can be a useful estate planning tool for couples, including those who are getting married for a second time. A marital trust, for example, goes into effect when the first spouse dies. This can be helpful for passing assets on to a surviving spouse while minimizing estate taxes. You may want to create this type of trust, along with a second living trust set up specifically for your children, to manage assets more efficiently while also protecting them from creditors.

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The post A Guide to Estate Planning for Second Marriages appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com



5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

One of the lessons I’ve learned as I continue to work my way out of debt is that you need to treat yourself and celebrate your little successes along the way so you can avoid debt fatigue down the road. Celebrating small milestones, like getting another $1,000 knocked off your debt total, starting to put money aside for retirement or paying off a credit card balance, is important for both your sanity and your family’s sanity.

Find out now: How much money do I need to save for retirement?

I don’t have kids, but several of my personal finance blogger friends do, and they have talked about how kids don’t always understand how they can contribute to the family financial goals since they don’t earn any money. Plus, sometimes kids don’t understand why there is a sudden need to cut back on expenses they have come to know as normal- things like going out to eat or having a night out at the movies with friends. Allowing yourself and your family to celebrate your financial wins as you work your way out of debt will help them understand that while your family is now living on a different budget, it’s still okay to enjoy the present.

With that in mind, here are five frugal ways you can celebrate your financial successes, so you don’t erase all your progress!

1. Go out for Dessert

As a kid, whenever we’d go out for dessert after a home-cooked meal, it felt like a real fancy treat. Now I know that this was mom and dad’s way of having a celebration without spending a lot of money on paying for a whole meal.

2. Rent a Movie

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

This may not seem like a treat if you rent movies all the time, but if you are living on a very strict budget and don’t often rent movies, this could be a treat for you and your family. Make it the full experience – popcorn, candy, etc. Renting a movie and making popcorn at home is a fun way to celebrate, and it’s still a lot cheaper than going to the theater.

12 Affordable Ways to Have Fun on a Tight Budget

3. Hit a Matinee

Wait, didn’t I just say to avoid the theater to save money? Yes, but sometimes movie theaters offer cheaper matinee movies earlier in the day. Often showings before noon can be as little as half price. This is a more budget-friendly way to enjoy a new movie.

4. Buy a Book or Magazine

One of the first things that got cut from my budget when I started focusing on financial goals was my magazine subscription. Most of the time I don’t miss it as I have plenty of things to keep me busy, but sometimes it’s nice to somewhat mindlessly flip through a magazine in the evenings. Buying yourself a new book – maybe one of these investing books – or magazine is a fairly cheap way to entertain yourself and if it’s a rare occasion, it can serve as a reward too.

Frugal Summer Fun for Adults

5. Go on a Day Trip

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

If you aren’t traveling too far, the most expensive part of the trip is usually the overnight accommodations. By taking a day trip instead to the beach or somewhere else, you can get out of town and away from the norm without having to shell out for an expensive hotel room.

What other frugal ways can you think of to celebrate your debt successes?

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/andresr, Â©iStock.com/sdominick, Â©iStock.com/AleksandarNakic

The post 5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com



Why You Should Not Buy a Credit Privacy Number (CPN)

What Is a CPN, or Credit Privacy Number?

If you’re looking to repair your credit, you may have come across websites that advertise a credit privacy number, credit protection number or CPN. These numbers are nine digits like a Social Security number (SSN), and sellers claim that you can use them instead of your SSN. However, these CPNs are often actual SSNs lifted from real people, reportedly children, prison inmates and the deceased – and you can never legally buy a new SSN. In other words, a CPN is no solution to your credit rating problem. Under no circumstances should you try to buy a CPN.

Why a CPN is No Credit Fix

Websites have sprung up all over the internet, offering CPNs to people with bad credit or low credit scores. They advertise that this number can serve as a “get out of jail free” card for your bad credit. In theory, you can use a CPN instead of your SSN on credit applications to hide the poor credit associated with your personal SSN. If you have bad credit but still need a credit card or loan, this can seem like the solution, assuming you can pay anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

That price might seem worth it for a chance to wipe the slate clean. However, these offers are essentially a big scam. The CPNs you can buy online are not legally assigned credit protection numbers. Instead, they are usually stolen Social Security numbers, taken from children, the deceased or inmates.

Also, using a purchased CPN puts you in some hot water, too. Credit agencies can easily spot discrepancies if you try to use a CPN on an application instead of your SSN. Not only will this fail to help your credit, but it’s also committing fraud which is punishable by jail time.

How to Avoid CPN Scams 

What Is a CPN, or Credit Privacy Number?

If you’re dealing with some bad credit, don’t turn to a CPN. Only scammers sell CPNs, and they in turn may cheat you out of your personal information as well as hundreds or thousands of dollars. Using a purchased CPN can also put you in jail, even if you didn’t know the number was fraudulent. This is why it’s important to be aware of this popular scam.

If you really need a CPN or new SSN, it will be free. The process will go through the Social Security Administration Office, since a new number would be tied to your old SSN. That said, it is very hard to qualify to receive a new number. Having bad credit is never a qualifying reason.

How to Get a Legal CPN

With so many fraudulent websites and companies trying to sell you a way to reset your credit, it’s hard to know how to get a legal CPN. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Some experts say that you can speak with an attorney to obtain a legal CPN. The attorney can then contact the Social Security Administration Office on your behalf. However, others maintain that all CPNs are illegal.

Generally, it seems that you cannot get a legal CPN unless you actually need one. These situations include celebrities, government officials and people under witness protection. You can also apply in other specific instances, like if you’re a victim of abuse, stalking or identity theft. A real CPN would be attached to your SSN, so it’s still not an escape from the credit tied to your SSN.

You may also stumble upon offers to obtain an EIN, or Employer Identification Number. The IRS does issue EINs, but only businesses can use them for business costs. This means that you cannot legally obtain an EIN as an individual looking to improve your credit. You also cannot make up a home business, apply for an EIN and use that new number for a credit reset. It is a federal crime to obtain an EIN under false pretenses. In any case, the credit profile for your EIN is still tied to your SSN.

Bottom Line

What Is a CPN, or Credit Privacy Number?

You shouldn’t ever, under any circumstances, try to purchase a CPN. These offers are fraudulent and don’t provide any credit repair or relief. At the very least, buying a CPN wastes money you should put towards repaying your loans in the first place. At worst, you could go to jail for fraud. There are better, more constructive ways to repair your credit. If you’re truly in a situation that calls for a CPN, contact your lawyer for assistance.

Tips on Rebuilding Your Credit 

  • Of course, the best way to legally clean up your credit is to pay back your debts and improve your credit practices. A good place to start is to pay off your credit card debt with the highest interest.
  • Sometimes you’ll just have to wait for your bad history to fall off your record. Generally, negative info stays on your credit report for seven years. If you can’t get a debt collection removed from your credit report, for example, it’ll stay there for seven years. However, as time goes on, the toll it takes on your report lessens.
  • Don’t go it alone. If you have a good income, but you’re just bad at managing your money, a financial advisor can help. With guidance, you can make smarter choices – and even start growing your wealth. To find an advisor, use our free, no-obligation matching tool. It will connect you with up to three advisors in your area.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/becon, Â©iStock.com/Xesai, Â©iStock.com/Kerkez

The post Why You Should Not Buy a Credit Privacy Number (CPN) appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com



New to Market: Matt Damon’s Zen Los Angeles Home Asks $21 Million

As part of his plan of leaving Los Angeles and moving his family to the Big Apple, Matt Damon has now listed his Pacific Palisades home for sale. And he’s hoping to cash in big from the sale, asking $21 million for the Zen-inspired contemporary home set in one of LA’s most desirable neighborhoods.

Recently listed with Eric Haskell, an agent with celebrity real estate brokerage The Agency, Matt Damon’s house is an architectural masterpiece with 7 bedrooms, 10 baths, tons of distinct design features and some pretty extraordinary amenities. The Academy Award-winning actor will be trading all this for a 6,000-square-foot penthouse in Brooklyn, New York, having broken records last year by paying $16.745 million for the top floor unit of a famous former hotel, The Standish.

inside matt damon's beautiful house in los angeles
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams

An architectural gem with striking features & Instagram-worthy interiors

Designed by award-winning architect Grant Kirkpatrick, founding partner of leading-edge design studio KAA Design Group, Matt Damon’s house is an extraordinary contemporary home that showcases masterful craftmanship throughout its 13,508-square-foot interiors.

With a modern-yet-timeless design, the house is anchored by a breathtaking atrium with 35-foot mahogany vaulted ceilings. The interiors are bathed in natural light and mix warm wood elements with natural stone, giving the whole space an inviting, relaxing vibe. Other striking features that deserve a shout-out: clerestory windows and glass walls that fuse the indoors with the outdoor areas.

two-story-atrium-with-vaulted-ceilings-in-matt-damons-house
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
inside matt damon's house, living room
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
inside matt damon's house, living room and dining room
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams

The family room opens to the magnificent chef’s kitchen with custom mahogany cabinetry, Bluestone countertops and stainless steel Viking, Wolf and Miele appliances. The kitchen then opens to the expansive backyard retreat (but more on that in a minute).

All in all, Matt Damon’s soon-to-be former Los Angeles abode packs 7 bedrooms and 10 baths across 13,508 square feet of space. The primary suite comes with its own private terrace, dual dressing rooms, massage room and a spa-style bath with soaking tub and expansive shower. Pretty much every room offers leafy property and treetop views, adding an extra note of serenity to this wonderfully Zen-inspired home.

kitchen in Matt Damon's house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million.
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
Inside Matt Damon's house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million.
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
primary suite in matt damon's los angeles house
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
massage room in matt damon's house
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
beautiful bedroom in matt damon's house in Los Angeles
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams

Amenities galore and a wonderful backyard retreat

Most celebrity homes tend to outdo themselves when it comes to amenities and bonus rooms and Matt Damon’s house is no exception. Interior amenities include a game room, bar, office, gym, plush media room, staff quarters and wine storage and tasting room. And that’s just what you’ll find inside the house.

Outside, the modern home has quite a few amenities that invite calm and relaxation (perfectly in tune with the rest of the house), including an expansive pool, spa, a cascading waterfall, koi pond and Hawaiian-inspired Lanai with a covered lounge and alfresco dining terrace. To appeal to the little ones — Damon is a father of four — there’s also a nice children’s play area.

Pool and outdoor area of Matt Damon's Los Angeles home in Pacific Palisades.
Pool and outdoor area of Matt Damon’s Los Angeles home in Pacific Palisades. Image credit: Alexis Adams
outdoor lounge and alfresco dining area in matt damon's $21 million house
Pool and outdoor area of Matt Damon’s Los Angeles home in Pacific Palisades. Image credit: Alexis Adams
kids playground in matt damon's house
Playground outside Matt Damon’s Los Angeles home in Pacific Palisades. Image credit: Alexis Adams

Matt Damon’s next home is vastly different from his Los Angeles digs

The Academy Award-winning actor, who is starring in the highly anticipated Ridley Scott-directed The Last Duel (to be released this year), will soon be leaving Los Angeles behind. The move has long been planned, with Damon and wife Luciana Bozán Barroso having purchased a Brooklyn Heights penthouse two years ago for a record-breaking price.

The couple paid $16.745 million for a 6-bedroom, 6,201-square-foot penthouse at The Standish — a historically significant converted building that was originally built in 1903 as a Beaux Arts hotel. At the time, Damon’s purchase set a new record for the borough, making him the owner of the most expensive property ever sold in Brooklyn.

Despite the fact that the penthouse consists of several units merged for extra space, the actor will be downsizing considerably. And the loss in square footage is matched by a significant downgrade in outdoor space — though it’s worth noting that Matt Damon’s new home does have an expansive terrace, a rarity for New York City. There’s no Zen backyard pool though, so we’re pretty sure the Good Will Hunting actor will, at times, miss his Pacific Palisades retreat.

More beautiful celebrity homes

Check Out this Beautiful House the Hemsworth Brothers Just Sold in Malibu
Wayne Gretzky is Selling his $22.9M California Home Designed by ‘The Megamansion King’
Morgan Brown Re-Lists Stunning West Hollywood Home Amid Split from Actor Gerard Butler
Chrissy Teigen & John Legend Buy $17.5M Beverly Hills Mansion

The post New to Market: Matt Damon’s Zen Los Angeles Home Asks $21 Million appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com



How to Explain a Gap in Your Résumé

My first job out of college was with a recruiting firm run by three women who had nearly a hundred combined years of experience in the workforce. They taught me everything I needed to know about how to read resumes, including the warning signs to look for. A gap in employment was, according to them, the kiss of death.

Today, a hot minute and three U.S. presidents later, I truly believe that wisdom is as outdated as my prom dress. It was fine in the moment, but the moment has passed.  

Each of us is complex and unique, and our personal stories should reflect that.

The rules of employment history have changed, and the story you craft about your timeline is yours. Whether your employment gap happened because of a layoff, becoming a caregiver, taking a sabbatical, exploring entrepreneurship, or even just a mental health break, let's talk about how you can own that gap in a way that will want a prospective employer wanting more of you!

1. Lead with transparency

As poet Walt Whitman said, “I am large. I contain multitudes.” Each of us is complex and unique, and our personal stories should reflect that. There are no right or wrong plot points as long as each point is truthful.

When capturing your history (employment and otherwise) on your resume, be honest and transparent. There's no need to flag a gap in employment in bold print, but neither should you try to hide it.

Our journeys are complex and diverse. The trend toward inclusion will only grow in 2021. And beyond diversity in terms of race and gender, I believe companies are ready to lean into a diversity of experiences in the workforce. Companies must look beyond the traditional one-directional career path, and search for talent whose life experience reflects that of their customers.

Beyond diversity in terms of race and gender, I believe companies are ready to lean into a diversity of experiences in the workforce.

So don’t be ashamed of revealing your lived experiences, from caregiving to travel to taking time to pursue a passion. Transparency upfront will help you begin the conversation with a prospective employer on the right foot.

2. Reflect on your gains

Maybe you opted out of the workforce for a year to care for a child or parent or to travel the world. Or perhaps you were laid off in an economic downturn. Whatever your reason and whatever the cause, you were still a person living in the world during this time. Your experience may not have been “work experience,” but this is where life experience gets its time in the sun.

When I spent 2007 at home with my newborn daughter, there were days—many days—that left me feeling like my brain had turned to mush. Baby Beluga had become my theme song and I was spending days calculating ounces of milk digested and … processed. (Yes, I mean poops).

This is where life experience gets its time in the sun.

But as I started gearing up for a job search in 2008, I pushed myself to reflect on the gift of that year. Certainly, it was a privilege just to be with my infant daughter. But it had also given me some new skills and perspective. 

Time management and prioritization become finely tuned when your baby’s naps are suddenly your only windows of productivity. I had become part of a new demographic—parents—which broadened my perspective not only on the world but on any company’s potential customer base.

Oh, and my ability to experience failure but keep on keeping on? That expanded immensely. I screwed up daily with sleep training and sign language and all the mothering things. But I also persisted because I had a new responsibility to manage.

These were some of my reflections. I challenge you to define your own.

Think expansively about how this time has added in any way to the multitudes you contain. It is now a part of your story to shape and own.

Maybe you were laid off during the pandemic. You’re not alone. And remember, you’re leading with transparency. You don’t have to pretend the layoff was some grand gift. You’re allowed to experience disappointment. But shift quickly into considering what you gained during the weeks or months of not being employed.

What have you spent time doing? Being with family? Caring for a loved one? Supporting a working partner? Have you taken any classes? Picked up a new certification? Learned to cook? Think expansively about how this time has added in any way to the multitudes you contain. It is now a part of your story to shape and own.

3. Craft the narrative

So now, armed with insight and reflection, it’s time to craft the story you will proudly tell any prospective employer. This is your chance to package yourself as the most irresistible product on the job market.

I’ve always loved the commencement address Steve Jobs delivered at Stanford back in 2005, during which he said:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.

Steve Jobs

So, as you look back at the totality of your experience—work and life—what is the story you want to tell that makes you the most compelling candidate? How will you choose to connect the dots and help your potential employer see the complete picture?

In 2008, I showed up in interviews not as a new mom hoping desperately for anyone to give me a chance, but as a person with a broad perspective to offer. I still had my pre-baby skills and experiences, but now I could apply a keen ability to prioritize, to think critically about what should command my focus, to learn from failure, and to be successful without having control over a situation.

My conversations with hiring leaders painted this picture of me. I made sure to bring in examples of both work and parenting experience. It made me real and whole. And it ultimately won me a great job.

So, what’s the story you’ll tell? Maybe being laid off taught you that things can change on a dime, which has challenged and enhanced your agility. Maybe you used your time to take classes, brush up on skills, and add a certification. 

Prepare examples of how these insights and added skills will deliver value for your next employer. How lucky they will be to have you!

4. Fake it till you make it

I stand by the logic of everything I’ve said thus far. But there is so much more than logic at play here. There's ego and emotion and anxiety and lots of other messy human things. I’ve lived through, and overcome, all of that. Some days I’m still overcoming it.

Confidence is something that will grow over time. But don’t wait for it; cultivate it.

Are you wondering how I managed to show up with so much confidence after spending a year away from the corporate world? Then let me tell you my secret: It wasn’t confidence at all! It was all my fear and anxiety hidden behind a smile and a firm handshake. (Remember those?)

Confidence is something that will grow over time. But don’t wait for it; cultivate it. For now, if you’re struggling to access confidence, then just play the part. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the real thing will follow.

And there you have it. Yes, whole, complex, messy you. So practice your most confident smile, prepare your firm handshake, brush up your résumé, and get ready to pound the pavement.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com



Why 2 Finance Experts Still Struggled To Buy This House

home buyerTony Matheson

Think two seasoned certified financial planners would have an easy time buying a house? Tony and Barbara Matheson would beg to differ.

In fall 2019, these empty nesters found themselves itching to downsize from their large rental in the uaexpensive San Francisco Bay Area. Hoping to buy a reasonably priced house within walking distance of restaurants and other amenities, they set their sights on Sacramento, CA. Armed with a healthy income, solid credit history, and a deep knowledge of personal finances—plus they’d owned property before—they figured they would sail through the home-buying process.

Six months and three lost bidding wars later, they realized that Sacramento’s real estate market was far more cutthroat than they’d imagined.

In March, the Mathesons finally purchased a three-bedroom, one-bathroom 1926 Tudor on a tree-lined street. With the closing papers signed, they figured they were home-free—but COVID-19 was about to throw another curveball into the picture.

Here Tony shares their story, and his hard-won lessons for aspiring first-time home buyers and others who want to learn what buying real estate is really like today.

Tony Matheson House
Tony and Barbara Matheson’s new home in Sacramento, CA

Tony Matheson

Location: Sacramento, CA
House specs: 1,225 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms
List price: $550,000
Price paid: $580,000

Why did you decide to move?

We’d been living in the Bay Area and were looking to downsize since both of our kids had moved out. We wanted to be near downtown Sacramento, close to restaurants, bars, museums, and coffee shops.

I’d think home buying would be a breeze for two finance pros. How did it go?

I was really surprised by how tough the market was. After five months touring homes, we made an offer on our first house. This house went into a bidding war; we had to raise our bid five times before tapping out.

Next, we fell in love with a second home. This time, we offered the sellers $30,000 over the asking price. The sellers had so many other bids, they never even bothered to counter our offer.

We found a third home, and once again bid over the asking price. But after five tries, we lost out again. It was heartbreaking.

How awful! Why do you think these homes sold to other buyers?

We came prepared with what most consider strong financials for making an offer on a single-family home: great credit scores, a significant down payment, pre-approval for a mortgage. We offered good earnest money and 15-day escrow, didn’t include an appraisal contingency, and probably had a few other bonuses to the seller that I’ve forgotten. So we were doing everything “right.”

What we were finding is that we were up against some other buyers who were making all-cash offers, sometimes $50,000 above the asking price. How does anyone compete with that?

So how did you finally get an offer accepted?

We were extremely fortunate that we had a great real estate agent who was able to find a home that hadn’t been listed yet. We could negotiate one on one with the seller without having to compete against multiple offers.

The sellers had planned to invest $30,000 to $40,000 on home improvements before putting it on the market. We offered to buy the house as is, without the improvements. After going back and forth a few times, the sellers took our offer.  

What did you like about this house?

We knew within 5 seconds of walking into the house that this was the one. It was the perfect neighborhood. We were close to everything, within walking distance to plenty of bars and restaurants. The outdoor area is gorgeous. Beautiful trees surround our house, and the house is the perfect size for us.

Living Room
The living room of Tony and Barbara’s Sacramento home

Tony Matheson

So once your offer was accepted, what happened next?

The sellers weren’t prepared to move immediately. They needed time to prepare. So we rented the house back to the sellers for a month after closing. We closed on Valentine’s Day, but we didn’t move in until mid-March.

Little did we know what was about to happen.

Tony's home
Tony and Barbara love this window in their Sacramento home.

Tony Matheson

March is when the coronavirus really hit. What was it like moving during that time?

It was difficult and terrifying in the beginning. We moved in ourselves without hiring movers. Then, after we moved in, it was quite an adjustment. Simple things like calling an electrician or completing other minor home projects were enormously difficult.

Did you make any renovations to your home?

We put $10,000 to $12,000 into the house so far. The major issue after moving in was electricity—it needed to be completely reconfigured. For example, the second bedroom, which became my office, only had two plugs. Between my monitors for work, computers, Peloton, cellphones, and other devices, I needed 12 plugs. We also wanted to put in a tankless water heater for more space, and install a security system.  

Tony working on the house
During the COVID-19 shutdown, Tony and Barbara painted their new home.

Tony Matheson

How did quarantine affect these repairs?

It was horrible. We couldn’t get anyone to come out to do any work for at least three months. For the first month, no one was booking. Then, when we could finally get through, the businesses were overwhelmed with requests.

Tony celebrating new home
Tony and Barbara celebrate finally closing on their dream home in Sacramento.

Tony Matheson

What was it like when you finally settled in?

It was exhilarating, exciting, and weird. Exhilarating because we got the house we wanted. Exciting because we were beginning a new phase in our lives. And weird because we moved in at the beginning of the pandemic. We wanted to have a housewarming party, but of course, we couldn’t.

What is your advice for aspiring home buyers?

Even if your finances are completely buttoned up, be prepared that buying a house may be a difficult and even painful process.

first time home buyer
Tony and his daughter on game night in their new home

Tony Matheson

Emotionally it does get hard. As much as you try not to get attached to a house during the negotiation process, you can’t help it. And there is a competitive drive that kicks in when you are in a bidding war with others. It’s draining.

Still, in the end, knowing that you’ve overcome challenges along the way just makes you more appreciative of the reward at the end. We have a place to call home amidst all this craziness. It’s all worth it.

first time home buyer
Their parrot Kiwi also enjoys the new home’s view.

Tony Matheson

The post Why 2 Finance Experts Still Struggled To Buy This House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com



Don’t Panic! 3 Money-Saving, Last-Minute Tax Tips for Homeowners

last minute tax tips for home ownerskroach/iStock

It’s heeeere: tax time.

Granted, this year, the coronavirus pandemic prompted the Internal Revenue Service to extend the usual April 15 deadline to July 15. That might have seemed like plenty of time—and yet here we are, with a mere two weeks to go and a filing window that’s closing fast.

We get it. Maybe you’re a procrastinator. Or maybe you’re a homeowner who, rather than taking the easy-peasy standard deduction, generally tries to save a bundle by itemizing your deductions instead.

Whatever your reason, if you’ve put off filing your taxes until now, don’t panic! You still have options.

Here are three last-minute tax tips for homeowners that could save you plenty of money, headaches, and more.

Tip No. 1: Grab Form 1098

Form 1098, or the Mortgage Interest Statement, is sort of like your home’s W-2: a one-stop shop for your possibly two biggest tax breaks.

  • Mortgage interest: “The biggest real estate tax deduction for most people will be the interest on their home loan,” according to Patrick O’Connor of O’Connor and Associates. Single people can deduct the full interest up to $500,000; for married couples filing jointly, the limit is $1 million if you purchased a house before Dec. 15, 2017. If you bought a home after that date, you will be allowed to deduct the interest on no more than $750,000 of acquisition debt—that’s a loan used to buy, build, or improve a main or secondary home. (Here’s more on how your mortgage interest deduction can help you save on taxes.)
  • Property taxes: This is the second-biggest deduction for most homeowners. Just remember the total amount you can deduct is $10,000, even if you pay way more—and that includes state and local income tax, property tax, and sales tax. (Here’s how to calculate your property taxes.)

You might be eligible for other real estate–related deductions and tax credits, but these are the biggies for most people. If you’re down to the wire on filing, you might just deduct these two and call it a day.

Just remember to make it worth your while. These numbers need to add up to more than the current standard deduction, which jumped to $12,200 for individuals, $18,350 for heads of household, and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly.

Tip No. 2: File an extension

If you still need more time to get your taxes together, it’s totally simple and penalty-free to file for an extension until Oct. 15. But don’t get too excited; the IRS still requires you to pay your estimated tax bill by July 15, or else you’ll pay interest on what you owe down the road.

The IRS makes it easy to file for an extension, either online or by mail. On the form, just estimate how much tax you owe. If you’re filing an extension because you need more time to figure out your itemized deductions, one easy shortcut is to just take the standard deduction now—or the same amount you claimed last year. All in all, it’s better to overestimate what you owe, because then you won’t pay any interest. Once you file for real, anything you’ve overpaid will come back to you.

But what if you need an extension because you can’t pay your tax bill? It’s still better to file for an extension with fuzzy numbers than to not file at all.

The IRS has payment plans that can help if you are short on cash. Just file something—blowing the deadline entirely will open you up to penalties as well as interest on your bill. And maybe an audit, too.

Tip No. 3: Hire some help

If you make less than $69,000 a year, you qualify to use free tax prep software from the IRS. Even if you make more than that, there are lots of free or low-cost online tax prep options that should work for anyone with relatively straightforward taxes.

Of course, another option is to find yourself a good accountant.

If paying for a tax preparer sounds extravagant, keep in mind that, according to the U.S. Tax Center, the average cost of getting your taxes done is only $225. This, generally speaking, is money well-spent.

A good accountant can actually save you money by spotting deductions you might not have found on your own, and helping you plan to minimize the next year’s taxes. All in all, that may add up to the best few hundred bucks you’ve ever spent!

Another timesaver: Rather than snail-mailing your accountant your tax forms, snap pictures of them on your smartphone; some apps like CamScanner can do so with scanner-style quality. Accountants don’t need the originals to file.

For next year, remember to prepare

OK, so this year you waited too long and stressed yourself out. If you don’t want a repeat ordeal next year, now is also the time to mend your ways and start tax prep early. Nobody wants to be thinking about taxes all year, of course. But as a homeowner, you can do some things to be better prepared.

So before you do any home maintenance, upgrades, or renovations, research whether there are any tax deductions you could be eligible for.

Start now, and you’ll be sitting pretty to collect on all the various tax perks that come with owning a home rather than pulling out your hair at the last minute.

The post Don’t Panic! 3 Money-Saving, Last-Minute Tax Tips for Homeowners appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com




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