More Rich People Are Choosing to Rent Than Ever Before — Here’s Why

Renting a home or condo has become a status symbol for some wealthy Americans.

Karen Rodriguez, an Atlanta, Ga., real estate agent, says people frequently contact her who are interested in condos renting for $10,000 to $15,000 a month in properties such as the Ritz-Carlton Residences, which have floors of condos above upscale hotel rooms.

“I do see a lot of high-net-worth renters,” says Rodriguez, with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties. “They have the disposable income to pay top dollar.”

Renter households increased by 9 million during 2005-2015, reaching nearly 43 million in 2015, according to the State of the Nation’s Housing report, an annual study by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies that analyzes U.S. Census Bureau data. Of those, 1.6 million renter households earn $100,000 or more, representing 11% of all renters.

“Indeed, renter households earning $100,000 or more have been the fastest-growing segment over the past three years,” the report stated.

Here are four reasons why high earners are choosing to rent.

They’re frustrated with market trends.

stock market numbers and graph

Rob Austin, a biotech account manager in the Los Angeles area with a household income of over $350,000, rents a 1,700-square-foot townhome with his wife and two children.

In the last 10 years, 1.2 million households that earn $150,000 became renters, up from 551,000 in 2005. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey, RentCafe.com reported in late 2016 that “wealthy households” that earn more than $150,000 annually increased by 217%, compared to an 82% rise in homeowners in the same income bracket.

The $150,000-and-up dollar amount served as the benchmark for “wealthy” renters because that’s the top of the bracket used in the American Community Survey to identify renters and homeowners.

Even when they had their second child in 2016, Austin says they were more steadfast to keep renting the two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath townhome instead of buying. Prices are increasing so much that they’re “priced beyond perfection,” he says.

“It’s gotten worse,” he says. “Everything is mispriced at this point.”z

They want the next best thing.

Some buyers’ mindset is, “I don’t love it, so I’m just going to go rent a house,” says Atlanta, Ga., real estate agent Ben Hirsh.

Some may be bored with what’s on the market and are holding out for a home or condo with even more extravagant features or amenities. “They’re not happy with what’s out there,” says Rodriguez, also founder of Group Kora Real Estate Group, which sells new and luxury condos.

If they’re in a location or price range that’s hot, they could get more for their home if they sell now. Some wealthy homeowners take advantage of the resale market by going ahead and selling a home or condo and biding their time while renting. For example, if they’re sold on news about ultraluxe condos that have been announced, but are not under construction, they don’t mind renting in the interim.

“People think there’s more coming,” Rodriguez says.

Some clients have so much wealth that they’re willing to pay for the entire year up front for an unfurnished condo, she adds. Investors also have noticed the market trends and are buying condos for $1 million to $2 million with the intention to rent them out.

They don’t want a long-term commitment.

retirement retire millionaire happy couple on the beach

Some wealthy homeowners are ready to sell their million-dollar estates for a lock-it-and-leave-it lifestyle, but aren’t sold on townhome or condo living.

Instead, they’re willing to spend what can amount to the down payment on a starter home for monthly rent to experience the luxury condo lifestyle with privacy and ritzy amenities, like 24/7 room service and spa access.

“They want to test out a high-rise,” Rodriguez says. “They are people who definitely can afford to buy.”

A 2016 report by the National Association of Realtors identified the top 10 markets in the U.S. with the highest share of renters qualified to buy. The study analyzed household income, areas with job growth above the national average, and qualifying income levels (a 3% down payment in each metro area’s median home price in 2015) in about 100 of the largest U.S. metro areas. The markets that are above the national level (28%) were:

  • Toledo, Ohio (46%)
  • Little Rock, Ark. (46%)
  • Dayton, Ohio (44%)
  • Lakeland, Fla. (41%)
  • St. Louis, Mo. (41%)
  • Columbia, S.C. (41%)
  • Atlanta, Ga. (40%)
  • Columbus, Ohio (38%)
  • Tampa, Fla. (38%)
  • Ogden, Utah (38%)

The short-term mentality also may be the nature of the industry that brings people to a city. Some prospective renters whom Rodriguez meets are planning to live in Georgia for a couple of years because of work, such as jobs in the growing entertainment sector. Films such as the “Avengers” and TV shows such as “The Walking Dead” shoot in metro Atlanta.

They don’t want to live out of a suitcase in a hotel and have the income to afford high-priced rentals, joining political figures and international executives who also are among those making the same choice, Rodriguez says.

They want cash in the bank.

Townhomes sell for about $800,000 in Austin’s neighborhood in California. To make a 20% down payment, he’d have to shell out $160,000 up front.

“Why would I want to tie up $160,000 in cash in an asset that most likely is not going to go up a lot more — and more than likely has topped and has nowhere to go but down in the next cycle?” Austin asks.

Austin says he’s not wavering from his decision, although he’s “taking heat” from friends since he has the income to purchase a home.

“We’re bucking the trend by saying, ‘No thanks, we don’t want to play (the real estate market),’” he says. “We’ll just wait.”

The post More Rich People Are Choosing to Rent Than Ever Before — Here’s Why appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

This Family Spent $6,000 to Save Their Home and Still Wound Up Facing Foreclosure

Lageshia Moore of Far Rockaway, N.Y. says her family spent $6,000 in hopes it would save them from foreclosure. “Some people might say, ‘OK, just get a new house.’ But it wasn’t that simple,” says Moore.

When Lageshia Moore and her husband found their home in 2006, they thought it would be a perfect place to raise their family. The $549,000 Far Rockaway, N.Y., duplex even had future income potential if they could find a reliable tenant and rent out one half of the house.

In order to purchase the property and avoid primary mortgage insurance, the couple took out two mortgages to cover the costs.

Like millions of Americans who purchased homes at the peak of the housing bubble, their timing could not have been worse. Moore, a teacher, left her job in 2007. It soon became impossible to meet their $4,000 total monthly mortgage payments. By the summer of 2008, they were deep in default, and the recession sent their home value plummeting.

They were officially underwater on their house, and the family was living solely on Moore’s husband’s income as a driver. Eventually, they were notified that their lenders had begun the foreclosure process.

“Some people might say, ‘OK, just get a new house.’ But it wasn’t that simple,” Moore said. “This was the house where we were raising our family. My husband is very proud and homeownership means a lot to him — so we weren’t going to just let it go.”

Instead, Moore and her husband did what many families facing foreclosure do: They began looking desperately for “foreclosure relief” companies, law firms, and groups who promised help. A nonprofit connected them to a court-appointed attorney, but it didn’t stop the foreclosure process. So they turned to companies that advertised foreclosure relief on radio stations and online.

Over the course of six years, the family handed over thousands to a handful of relief groups they thought could stop the foreclosure. “We were desperate, and we thought, ‘OK, we’ll hand over this money to someone and they’ll just fix it,’” Moore said.

One of those foreclosure relief companies was Florida-based Homeowners Helpline, LLC. In 2015 the family gave the company a total of $6,000: an initial $2,000 down payment, and then $1,000 in four monthly installments. By that time Moore had found a new job, but the family hadn’t paid the full mortgage amount in years.

Moore shared the contract with MagnifyMoney, in which Homeowners Helpline says it will “perform a mortgage loan review and audit,” including actions like sending a cease-and-desist letter and a “Qualified Written Request” for information about the account to the family’s lenders.

Here’s what Moore says happened: Homeowners Helpline connected her family with a New York City lawyer who “kept asking for endless paperwork, month after month after month,” and who eventually stopped answering their calls, she claims. They finally got in touch with him just before the house was set to go up for auction, she said, and he told them the efforts to stop the auction had failed.

“We were horrified,” Moore said.

Homeowners Helpline told MagnifyMoney a different story. Sharon Valentine, a processor at Homeowners Helpline who worked on Moore’s husband’s case, said the family was slow to hand over needed paperwork and “unrealistic about their expectations.”

Crucially, Valentine said, the family didn’t tell Homeowners Helpline the house was actively in foreclosure until they mentioned the auction. “And then it was like, ‘Wait, what?’” Valentine said. The company would have taken different actions had they known about the foreclosure proceedings, she added.

“We can’t help you effectively if you don’t give us all of the information and the paperwork,” Valentine said. “In general, some clients come in and they hear their friend was able to get a 2% [mortgage] rate or cut their payments in half, and it’s like, ‘Well, that’s a very different situation.’ We try to help educate, but sometimes you can’t change that expectation.”

The Best Help is Free

But there is a free resource to educate panicked homeowners about expectations and provide foreclosure assistance — as well as help them avoid scam companies that will steal their money. NeighborWorks America runs LoanScamAlert.org, which aims to be a one-stop shop for people with questions about or problems with their mortgages.

The Loan Modification Scam Alert Campaign launched in 2009, when Congress asked NeighborWorks America to educate and help homeowners. LoanScamAlert.org offers resources including information about how to spot and report scams, and lists of trusted authorities who can help. Its main goal: Drive people to call the Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline, at 888-995-HOPE (4673), which is staffed 24 hours a day by counselors who work at agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“We provide them with a single, trusted resource,” said Barbara Floyd Jones, senior manager of national homeownership programs at NeighborWorks America. “It gets confusing when you see companies with all of these similar names advertising on the radio or TV, and then you have to research them. We want to let people know they don’t have to pay a penny for assistance.”

Anyone — regardless of income or other factors — can contact the counselor network to receive free advice and help. Homeowners aren’t always aware of the myriad government-affiliated groups that can provide assistance, or of the federal and state programs created to speed loan refinances and modifications, Floyd Jones said.

“We can never promise that everyone will be able to save their home; there are a variety of circumstances,” Floyd Jones said. “But we can promise a trusted counselor will listen, take a look at your paperwork if you want, and tell you all of your options.”

In fact, if a homeowner grants permission, the counselor can contact the mortgage lender directly to discuss options to stop the foreclosure, modify the terms of the loan, or otherwise make a deal. If need be, homeowners will also be connected with vetted legal assistance — although Floyd Jones noted not every situation requires a lawyer.

True to LoanScamAlert.org’s name, the hotline counselors also take complaints about mortgage-related scams: third-party companies that take the money and run, or slip in paperwork that unwittingly gets homeowners to sign over the deed to the house.

The Federal Trade Commission received nearly 7,700 complaints about “Mortgage Foreclosure Relief and Debt Management” services in 2016 — down from almost 13,000 in 2014, but still a significant figure.

“Stopping phony mortgage relief operations continues to be a priority” for the FTC, said spokesman Frank Dorman.

Both the FTC and LoanScamAlert.org offer tips to avoid scams — and to make sure you’re taking advantage of all federal and state programs that could help.

Red Flags:

  • They ask you to pay before any services are rendered.
  • Pressure to pay a fee before action is taken, sign confusing paperwork, or hire a lawyer off the bat. As with any scam, fraudulent mortgage relief services rely on high pressure to push vulnerable homeowners into taking action. Companies shouldn’t ask for “processing fees” or “service fees” early in the process, Floyd Jones said, as early foreclosure-stoppage efforts don’t cost anything. Be wary of signing any document, as you could unwittingly surrender the home’s title or deed to a scammer.
  • They make promises they can’t keep.

    Promises or guarantees they’ll save your home from foreclosure — or even claims like “97% success rate!” No one can guarantee results.

  • They say they’re affiliated with the U.S. government.

    Companies that claim to have an affiliation with a government agency. Some scammers may claim to be associated with the government, charging fees to get you “qualified” for government mortgage modification programs like Hardest Hit Fund. You don’t have to pay for these government programs — and lenders, particularly big banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America, may be able to offer you their own modification options directly.

  • They want you to send your mortgage payments to them.

    Companies that tell you to start paying your mortgage directly to them, rather than your lender. They may promise to pass the money along, but they could pocket it and disappear.

    Companies that ask you to pay them through unconventional methods: Western Union/wire transfers, prepaid Visa cards, etc., instead of a check. They’re trying to get your money in a way that’s hard to trace.

As for Lageshia Moore and her husband, the family ultimately filed for bankruptcy — a move that can stop the foreclosure process, but only temporarily — and are now working with a law firm on a loan modification she hopes will reduce their payments to a manageable monthly sum. In giving advice to others, she reiterates the simplest but most important tip: “Just do your research.”

“You’re panicked, but you have to do your due diligence,” she added. “Really sit down and weigh the pros and cons: foreclosure, short sale, etc. What does this process or contract really mean? It’s an emotional time, but you have to try to keep the emotion out of it. That’s what I would tell myself.”

What to Do if You’re Facing Foreclosure:

  • Call a HUD-certified counselor at 1-888-995-HOPE. You’ll get advice and help for free, and while counselors can’t ever promise to save a home, they’ll be happy to take a look at any paperwork or information about your case, contact your lender about options if you grant permission, and connect you with vetted legal assistance if need be.
  • If you’re not facing foreclosure yet, but you’re worried that you’re about to run into trouble, contact your mortgage lender’s loss litigation department. They may be willing to work with you. Your lender can also tell you whether you’ll qualify for government programs.
  • Overall, don’t let desperation stop you from taking the time to research any potential actions, including signing on with a relief company. Explore the company’s background and track record. Check online for reviews from other homeowners — and be sure to look up phone numbers too. Many scam companies simply shut down, reopen under a new name, and retain the same phone number.

The post This Family Spent $6,000 to Save Their Home and Still Wound Up Facing Foreclosure appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Buying a House? You May Want to Avoid the 30% Rule

The 30% rule is a good place to start, but it’s not always the best gauge of how much should you spend on housing.

Ask someone the question, “How much should I spend on a house?” and there’s a good chance that they will respond with the 30% rule.

The 30% rule, which says not to spend more than 30% of your income on housing, is a good place to start, but it’s not always the best gauge of how much should you spend on housing. You don’t want to base your entire financial situation on it — especially since it’s not exactly clear what that 30% includes.

What Is the 30% Rule?

The 30% rule has been around since the 1930s, according to the Census Bureau. Back then, policymakers were trying to make housing affordable. They came up with the idea that you could spend about 30% of your income on housing and still have enough left for other expenses.

Over time, those numbers started to get used in home loans as well. A rough sketch of what you could afford, in terms of monthly payment, could be obtained by estimating 30% of your income.

Is the 30% Rule Right for You?

When deciding on your own 30% rule, it’s probably a good idea to base it on your take-home pay, rather than your gross income. Let’s say you bring home $3,500 a month. According to the 30% rule, that means you shouldn’t spend more than $1,050 on your housing payment.

Some folks like to use their gross income for this calculation, but that can get you into trouble in the long run. If you base what you spend on housing on an amount that you might not be bringing home, that can stress your budget.

Think about it: If your pre-tax pay is $3,800 a month, that lifts your max housing payment to $1,140. That’s $90 more per month. But the reality is that you are bringing home $300 less than your gross income. Trying to come up with another $90 a month could put a strain on your budget.

Don’t Forget About Extra Costs

You can use a mortgage calculator to figure out how much you should spend on housing. However, such calculators typically just include principal and interest. This doesn’t take into account other monthly homeownership costs.

If you’re thinking of buying an expensive house, don’t forget about other costs like insurance and taxes.

Experts suggest that you base your 30% figure on all your monthly payment costs, not just the principal and interest.

What Percentage of Income Should Be Spent on Housing?

But it goes beyond that for some homebuyers. When looking into buying a home or an affordable place to rent, don’t just base your estimates on your monthly payment. You should also include estimated utility costs and an estimate for maintenance and repairs.

HouseLogic suggests you budget between 1% and 3% of your home’s purchase price annually for repairs and maintenance. I like the idea of budgeting 2%. So, on a $200,000 home, that means you can expect to pay $4,000 for repairs and maintenance — about $333.33 per month.

Once you start adding in all the other aspects of homeownership, suddenly that 30% rule is less cut-and-dry. If you’re more conservative, adding up all the monthly costs of homeownership and keeping it all under 30% makes sense.

You’re less likely to overspend that way. But it might mean a smaller, less expensive home.

Consider the 28/36 Qualifying Ratio

Instead of relying on the 30% rule to answer the question, “How much should I spend on a house?”, consider using the 28/36 qualifying ratio.

According to Re/Max, many lenders use the 28/36 rule to figure out whether your finances can handle your home purchase. The 28 refers to the percentage of your gross monthly income that should be spent on your monthly housing cost. The 36 refers to the percentage of income that goes toward all your debt payments, including your mortgage.

So, if you make $3,800 in take-home pay, your monthly payment should be no more than $1,064. But, things get stickier when you calculate the 36% part of the ratio. Your total debt payments shouldn’t exceed $1,368. That leaves you about $304 for payments of other debts.

Let’s say your credit card and auto loan payments total $500. That means you’re going to have to adjust your expectations for what you can expect to pay for a mortgage. In fact, if your lender insists on the 36 part of the ratio, you have $196 less you can spend on your mortgage payment. And that might mean a less expensive house.

When figuring out what percentage of income you should spend on housing, base the calculations on your take-home pay. Even though Re/Max says many lenders use your gross pay for the 28/36 qualifying ratio, this way you’ll play it safe.

How Much Should I Spend on a House?

Everyone has to answer the “How much should I spend on a house?” question for themselves. However, the biggest reason to ditch the 30% rule is that you might not be comfortable with it.

Are you really comfortable spending 30% of your income each month on your housing? When you consider your other payment obligations, does it makes sense for you to spend so much on housing?

If you aren’t sure about the 30% rule, use your own rule. You might be more comfortable with 25% on all of your housing costs. Or perhaps you modify the rule. Maybe you spend 20% on mortgage and interest and keep your total housing costs to 25% or 28%.

No matter what you decide, the important thing is to be responsible with your finances. Only spend what you feel comfortable with on housing or rent.

Image: Portra

The post Buying a House? You May Want to Avoid the 30% Rule appeared first on Credit.com.

Mortgage Insurance Explained: What It Is and Why You Should Have It


There’s a lot to consider when purchasing a home. Location, size, and cost spring to mind as three of the most important factors. Perhaps you’ve budgeted and figured out how much you can afford for a down payment, but have you also considered your total monthly mortgage payments?

If you’re applying for a mortgage and can’t afford to put at least 20% down, you may have to pay for mortgage insurance.

What is mortgage insurance?

Mortgage insurance helps protect the lender’s investment, not the homeowner.

A homeowner’s insurance policy may reimburse you for a variety of expenses, including vandalism, thefts, and environmental damage to your home. Mortgage insurance is a bit different. Although you are responsible for mortgage insurance premiums, the policy protects the lender.

Casey Fleming, mortgage adviser and author of “The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage,” explains mortgage insurance “insures the lender against principal loss in the event you default, they foreclose, and the foreclosure sale doesn’t bring in enough money to cover what they’ve lent you.” In short, if you don’t pay your bills, the insurance company will help make the lender whole.

The 20% down payment rule

Mortgage insurance isn’t required for all homebuyers. “Typically, homebuyers looking to get a conventional mortgage must pay PMI if they are making a down payment of less than 20%,” says Josh Brown of the Ark Law Group in Bellevue, Wash., which specializes in bankruptcy and foreclosures. Brown points out PMI serves a valuable function by allowing otherwise qualified homebuyers (with an acceptable debt-to-income ratio and credit score) to be approved for a conventional loan without the need for a large down payment.

How to find mortgage insurance

Mortgage lenders will often find a PMI policy for you and package it with your mortgage. You will have a chance to review your PMI premiums on your Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure forms before signing paperwork and agreeing to the mortgage.

Types of mortgage insurance

There are two main types of mortgage insurance: Private mortgage insurance (PMI) and mortgage insurance premium (MIP).

PMI helps protect lenders that issue conventional, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-backed, mortgages. You’ll often be required to make monthly PMI payments, a large upfront payment at closing, or a combination of the two. These payments are made to a private insurance company and are required unless you have at least 20% equity in your home. You may request to cancel your PMI once you have paid down the principal balance of your home to below 80% of the original value.

Mortgages issued through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan program also require mortgage insurance in the form of a mortgage insurance premium (MIP). You will be required to pay an upfront fee at closing and an MIP every month as part of your monthly mortgage payment. Your MIPs depend on when your mortgage was finalized and your total down payment.

How much mortgage insurance will cost you

Protect Your House

PMI premiums can vary depending on the insurer, your loan terms, your credit score, and your down payment. The premiums often range from $30 to $70 per month for every $100,000 you have borrowed, according to Zillow.

Many homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments include their PMI premium. Alternatively, you might be able to make a one-time upfront PMI payment. Or, you could make a smaller upfront payment and monthly payments.

As we mentioned earlier, for an FHA loan, you will have to pay upfront mortgage insurance premium (UFMIP) which is generally 1.75% of your loan’s value. You may have the option of rolling this premium payment into your mortgage and pay it off over time. Your MIP depends on your down payment, the base loan amount, and the term of the mortgage and can range from .45% to 1.05% of the loan’s value. The MIPs must be paid monthly.

Mortgage insurance doesn’t have to be forever

There are a few situations when you may be able to stop making mortgage insurance premium payments.

There are two eligibility requirements for conventional mortgages closed after July 29, 1999. As long as you’re current on your payments, PMI will be terminated:

  • On the date when your loan-to-value is scheduled to fall below 78% of the home’s original value.
  • When you’re halfway through your loan’s amortization schedule; 15 years into a 30-year mortgage, for example.

Your home’s original value is often the lower of the purchase price or appraised value. The current value of your home and your current loan-to-value aren’t figured into the above criteria.

You can also submit a written request asking your lender to cancel your PMI:

  • On the date your loan-to-value is scheduled to fall below 80% of the home’s original value.
  • If your current loan-to-value ratio is lower than 80%, perhaps due to rising home prices in your area or renovations you’ve done.
  • After refinancing your mortgage once you have at least 20% equity in the home.

Unlike PMI, if you have an FHA loan, your MIP may not ever be removed. The date your mortgage was finalized and the amount you put down determines your eligibility:

  • The MIP stays for the life of the loan for mortgages closed between July 1991 and December 2000.
  • The MIP will be canceled once your loan-to-value is 78%, if you applied for the mortgage between January 2001 and June 2013, and you’ve owned the home for five or more years.
  • If you applied after June 2013 and put at least 10% down, the MIP will be canceled after 11 years. If you put less than 10% down, the MIP stays for the life of the loan.

Refinancing an FHA loan to a conventional mortgage may provide you with additional options.

The pros and cons

There are a variety of pros and cons to consider when weighing the options of waiting to save a 20% down payment versus paying mortgage insurance.

Melanie Russell, a mortgage loan officer in Henderson, Nev., points out buying now can make sense if you expect home prices to increase or interest rates to climb.

What about waiting? In addition to avoiding mortgage insurance, putting more money down could lead to lower closing costs and a lower interest rate on your mortgage. Also, if you expect prices to drop, you’re saving on all the costs that could come with ownership, including taxes, mortgage, insurance, maintenance, and potential homeowners’ association fees.

In the end, it’s often a situational and personal choice. While Russell shared a few positives to buying early and paying for PMI, she also notes, “Only you can answer this question for yourself.”

When you don’t need mortgage insurance

There are also a few options that don’t require mortgage insurance, even if you can’t afford a 20% down payment.

For example, Veterans Affairs (VA) loans, offered to qualified veterans, don’t require mortgage insurance. You might not have to put any money down either, but these loans usually require an upfront payment at closing.

The Affordable Loan Solution program offered through a partnership between Bank of America, Freddie Mac, and the Self-Help Ventures Fund allows borrowers to put as little as 3% down without taking on PMI. Maximum income and loan amount limit requirements may apply.

You may also find some lenders willing to offer lender-paid mortgage insurance. You’ll pay a higher interest rate on the loan, but in exchange, the lender will make the insurance payments for you. “The math works differently every time,” says Fleming. “If a borrower thinks they won’t be in the property very long, [lender-paid mortgage insurance] might be a good choice, as sometimes the additional amount you pay is lower this way.”

However, if you’re in the home and paying off the mortgage for a long time, it could be more expensive than taking out a conventional loan with PMI. Because the premiums are built into your mortgage, you won’t be able to get rid of the extra payments after building equity in the home.

Another option could be to take out a second loan, called a piggyback mortgage. Although there are potential downsides to this route, you can use the money from the second loan to afford a 20% down payment and avoid PMI. Some people also borrow money from friends or family to afford a 20% down payment, but that could put your relationship in jeopardy if you run into financial trouble.

Finally, you might also discover lenders offering no-mortgage-insurance loans with a 10% to 15% down payment. As with the lender-paid mortgages, it’s important to review the fine print and the potential pros and cons of the arrangement.

The post Mortgage Insurance Explained: What It Is and Why You Should Have It appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

TRUMP VS. CLINTON: Where the Candidates Stand on Job Growth, Taxes, and Housing

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With the election a month away, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have just a few weeks left to woo voters across the U.S.

If you’re still on the fence about which candidate to vote for, your final decision may hinge on how their policy ideas could potentially impact your wallet.

We have simplified and broken down each candidate’s stance on three key issues — job growth, taxes, and housing — to help you understand exactly how each candidate’s proposals could affect your wallet.

Jobs

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Hillary Clinton plans to create new jobs by investing $50 billion in programs that promote youth employment, small business growth, and re-entry programs for the formerly incarcerated. She plans to invest another $50 billion in the Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund, a publicly funded initiative that seeks to invest in public infrastructure in rural areas to attract more businesses and, as a result, more jobs for the under- and unemployed.

Clinton is also a supporter of the “ban the box” movement to get rid of the box on applications that requires job seekers to select whether or not they have a criminal past. She has proposed banning such questions on applications for federal employees and contractors. She will also require companies to only consider criminal history when it is related to the job applied for and grant the right of appeal to those who are rejected because of a criminal past.

Clinton says she will invest $25 million in small business and private investment. She wants to do that through mentorship programs and by expanding federal funding for programs that target small business development.

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Donald Trump has said he plans to relax federal regulations in order to lower the cost of doing business for major corporations in the U.S., an effort he hopes will dissuade them from moving their business (and jobs) overseas.

Trump’s plan points to energy as a source for new jobs in the future. He says will make the U.S. the world’s dominant leader in energy production by scraping programs like the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, a 2015 initiative led by President Obama to reduce carbon emissions and increase regulations on coal-powered plants. The plan has been stalled since February, when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that questions the constitutionality of the plan.

Taxes

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Clinton’s tax plan focuses on raising taxes on high-income taxpayers (the top 1%) and closing tax loopholes. Her plan also includes increasing estate and gift taxes. The majority of her proposed tax policies won’t affect the bottom 95% of taxpayers, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Part of Clinton’s plan is to raise taxes on higher-income taxpayers with a 4% “Fair Share Surcharge,” which would apply to those making $5 million or more annually. She also says she’ll close tax loopholes favored by the wealthiest earners in part by supporting the Buffett Rule, which would levy a 30% income tax on any individuals earning $1 million or more. The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research group, has warned that such a plan would provide a meager boost to tax revenue.

In addition, Clinton wants to restore the estate tax to its 2009 level. Doing so would increase taxes on multi-million dollar estates — to as much as 65% for an estate valued at more than $1 billion for a couple — and close loopholes that deflate the value of the estates.
According to the Tax Policy Center, a left-leaning think tank, which in March completed an analysis of Clinton’s tax proposal, the plan would generate an additional $1.1 trillion in tax revenue. Households earning less than $300,000 would see little to no change in their federal income taxes, according to the analysis.

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At the core of Donald Trump’s plan are tax cuts for everybody — with an emphasis on corporations and middle- and high-income Americans. Trump says he will reduce the number of tax brackets to three from the current seven.
Under his plan, the new tiers would be:

  • 12% (married filing jointly households earning less than $75,000)
  • 25% (married filing jointly households earning between $75,000 and $225,000)
  • 33% (married filing jointly households earning more than $225,000)
    *Brackets for single filers would be half of these amounts.

The Trump plan would also increase the standard deduction for joint filers to $30,000, from $12,600, and the standard deduction for single filers to $15,000. His plan would also eliminate the death tax (aka. the estate tax) and gift taxes.
Trump’s plan would reduce the nation’s income by about $4.4 trillion to as much as $9.5 trillion over the next decade, according to several independent research groups. It would also mean increased income for all income levels, with the largest gain going to the top 1%. The top bracket could see its average annual income boosted by as much as 16%, while the bottom 80% would see a 0.8% to 1.9% rise according to the Tax Foundation. The Tax Policy Center estimates that Trump’s plan could increase the national debt by as much as 80% if it isn’t counterbalanced with huge spending cuts.

Housing

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Hillary Clinton’s proposed policies include a $25 billion investment in housing. She plans to offer a federal match of up to $10,000 for savings going toward a down payment for people who earn less than the median income in their area. She also plans to increase access to “lending in underserved communities, support housing counseling programs and police abuse and discrimination in the mortgage market.”

Clinton says she will raise support for affordable rental housing and wants to motivate communities to try land-use strategies that may make it easier to build lower-cost rental housing near businesses. Clinton says she will also make efforts to expand living options for recipients of housing vouchers.

trump_final

Donald Trump doesn’t have a housing policy outlined on his campaign site.

Make sure to register to vote by Oct. 14.

Illustrations by Kelsey Wroten.

The post TRUMP VS. CLINTON: Where the Candidates Stand on Job Growth, Taxes, and Housing appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

MagnifyMoney: 2016 Housing Affordability Study

Housing Affordability StudyAs the cost of housing soars ever higher and household earnings remain stubbornly stagnant, how realistic is homeownership for young people today?

Saving up for a new home can feel like an endless slog for young working Americans. The upfront costs alone — the down payment, closing costs, property taxes, etc. — are enough to scare off prospective buyers who are struggling to make ends meet.

Just over one-third of Americans under age 35 owned homes as of mid-2016, down 12% from 2010, according to U.S. Census data. While homeownership rates fell across all age groups during that same period, none experienced a steeper drop-off than the under-35s.

MagnifyMoney wanted to figure out how realistic homeownership is for young Americans today — that is, how long it would take them to save up for a new home in their area if they started saving now.

Calculating Home Affordability

Our analysis revealed two different sets of buyers — those who can afford the cost of a new home in their area and those who cannot. Affordability was largely driven by a worker’s ability to qualify for a mortgage loan large enough to cover the cost of a median-priced home in their metro area. Given these two different cases, we used two methods to determine how long it would take these groups to save for a home.

For buyers who can’t afford a large enough mortgage:

We assumed that the borrower can spare 35% of their monthly income toward mortgage-related payments. Based on this amount and the current interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, we calculated the total mortgage that the borrower can afford to take.

We then took the mortgage amount they would qualify for and subtracted it from the cost of a median-priced home in their area to find the mortgage gap they need to fill. Then, we added other necessary upfront costs: 4.5% closing costs and a standard emergency cash reserve equal to one month’s mortgage payment.

We determined, based on the median income for their age, how long it would take to save that amount, assuming a 20% savings rate.

Example:

We estimate a 25 to 44 year-old homebuyer in Salinas, Calif., would reasonably qualify for a $275,385 mortgage. A median-priced home in Salinas, Calif., costs $750,000. So, she would have to save at least $474,615 to fill the mortgage gap. On top of that, she would pay another $33,750 in closing costs (assuming an estimate of 4.5%) and need to set aside a $1,274 emergency cash reserve.

In total, she would need to come up with $509,612 to be able to buy a home in her area. If she saved 20% of her income toward that goal, it would take her 46.75 years.

For buyers who can afford a large enough mortgage:

Once again, we assumed that the borrower can spare 35% of their monthly income toward mortgage-related payments. Based on this amount and the current interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, we calculated the total mortgage the borrower can afford to take.

We then determined how much they’d need to save for a 20% down payment. We added to that the cost of closing costs and a one-month mortgage reserve.

For example:

A median-priced home in Johnstown, Penn., costs $74,900. So this buyer would have to save at least $14,980 to cover a 20% down payment. On top of that, he would pay another $3,370 in closing costs (assuming an estimate of 4.5%) and set aside $1,370 in an emergency cash reserve.

In total, he’d need to save $19,720. Saving 20% of his income toward this goal, it would take him 1.85 years.

Key Findings

  • Get ready for the long haul: Of the 380 metro areas we analyzed, we found no place in America where a worker of any age group could realistically save up for a new home in less than a year.Across all 380 metro areas analyzed…
    • 45 to 65 year-olds would need an average of 4.69 years to save for a home.
    • 25 to 44 year-olds would need an average of 5.63 years to save for a home.
    • 15 to 24 year-olds would an average of 27.2 years to save for a home.
  • Where homeownership is completely out of reach:
    • In 79% of metros (79 out of 380), workers of all age groups wouldn’t be able to qualify for a mortgage loan large enough to cover the cost of a median-priced home.
    • 15 to 24 year-olds wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage loan large enough to cover the cost of a median priced home in 357 out of 380 metros analyzed (93.95%).
    • 25 to 44 year-olds wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage loan large enough to cover the cost of a median-priced home in 68 out of 380 metros analyzed (17.89%).
    • 45 to 65 year-olds wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage loan large enough to cover the cost of a median-priced home in 29 out of 380 metros analyzed (7.63%).

The least and most affordable metros for 25 to 44-year-olds

25-44-The-Most-Easiest-Places
25-44-The-Most-Difficult-Places

A closer look at the housing market for 25 to 44-year-olds:

  • The most affordable metro area: Johnstown, Penn., is the easiest place for 25 to 44 year-olds to save for a home. The key: Affordable housing is in abundance. A median-priced home in Johnstown is $74,900. With a goal of saving enough to cover a 20% down payment, closing costs, and a one-month mortgage payment reserve, the total amount workers would need to save is $19,720. Earning the median annual income for that area of $53,164, they would need just 1.85 years to save.
  • The least affordable metro area: Salinas, Calif., is the most difficult metro area for 25 to 44 year-olds dreaming of homeownership. Earning the median annual salary of $54,499 and looking at a median-priced home listed at $750,000, they would need a staggering 46.75 years to save up enough. The reason? On an annual household income of $54,499, a homebuyer would only realistically be able to qualify for a $271,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan, leaving a half-million-dollar gap to fill.
  • Midwest is best: 9 out of the 10 most affordable metro areas are located in the Midwest, where housing prices are significantly lower compared to other regions. On average, it would take just 2.28 years for a 25 to 44 year-old to save for a home in the 10 most affordable metros.
  • California is where homeownership dreams go to die: 9 out of the top 10 most expensive metro areas for 25 to 44 year-old homebuyers are in California.
    • The average time needed to save for a home in the top 10 most expensive metro areas is a whopping 29.15 years.
    • It would take 25 to 44 year-olds at least three years to save for a home in 7.37% of metro areas.
    • It would take 25 to 44 year-olds between three and five years to save for a home in 53.16% of metro areas.
    • It would take 25 to 44 year-olds between five and 10 years to save for a home in 34.47% of metro areas.
    • It would take 25 to 44 year-olds more than 10 years to save for a home in 5.00% of metro areas.

The least and most affordable metros for 45 to 65-year-olds

45-65-The-Most-Easiest-Places
45-65-The-Most-Difficult-Places

A closer look at the housing market for 45 to 65-year-olds:

  • The most affordable metro area: Danville, Ill., is the easiest place for 45 to 65 year-olds to save for a home today. A median-priced home in Danville is $68,200. With goal of saving enough to cover a 20% down payment, closing costs, and a one-month mortgage payment reserve, the total amount workers would need to save is $18,012. Earning the median annual income for their age group in that area ($51,975), they would need just 1.73 years to save.
  • The least affordable metro area: Homeownership dreams don’t get any more realistic with age in Salinas, Calif. It is also the most difficult metro area for 45 to 65 year-olds dreaming of homeownership. Even though this age group earns a median income 22% higher than 25 to 44 year-olds in this area, it would still take them nearly three decades (28.98 years) to save up for a median-priced home of $750,000. On an annual household income of $70,368, a 45 to 65 year-old homebuyer would only realistically be able to qualify for a $377,567 30-year fixed-rate loan, leaving a massive gap to fill — even without including closing costs and a one-month mortgage reserve.
    • It would take 45 to 65 year-olds at least three years to save for a home in 16.32% of metro areas.
    • It would take 45 to 65 year-olds between three and five years to save for a home in 57.37% of metro areas.
    • It would take 45 to 65 year-olds between five and 10 years to save for a home in 23.16% of metro areas.
    • It would take 45 to 65 year-olds more than 10 years to save for a home in 3.16% of metro areas.
  • Midwest is best: 9 out of the 10 most affordable metro areas for 45 to 65 year-olds are also located in the Midwest, where housing prices are significantly lower compared to other regions.
    • On average, it would take just under three years (2.08) to save for a home in the 10 most affordable metros.
  • The California struggle: 9 out of the top 10 most expensive metro areas for 45 to 65 year-old homebuyers also are in California.
    • The average time needed to save for a home in the top 10 most expensive metro areas for this age group is a whopping 19.72 years.

The least and most affordable metros for 15 to 24-year-olds

15-24-The-Easiest-Places
15-24-The-Most-Difficult-Places

A closer look at the housing market for 15 to 24-year olds:

Of course, we don’t know many 15-year-olds who are shopping around for a single-family home these days, but U.S. Census Bureau data limited us to this age range. However, our findings still shine a light into the challenges facing the youngest homebuyers.

  • It would take 15 to 24 year-olds at least three years to save for a home in 0% of metro areas.
  • It would take 15 to 24 year-olds between three and five years to save for a home in 1.58% of metro areas.
  • It would take 15 to 24 year-olds between five and 10 years to save for a home in 23.42% of metro areas.
  • It would take 15 to 24 year-olds more than 10 years to save for a home in 75.00% of metro areas.
  • The most affordable metro area: Sheboygan, Wisc., is the easiest place for 15 to 24 year-olds to save for a home today. Although median-priced homes are relatively more expensive in Sheboygan ($134,900) than other inexpensive metro areas on this list, young workers there earn relatively higher salaries, which enables them to save more toward future home costs. With a goal of saving enough to cover a 20% down payment, closing costs, and a one-month mortgage payment reserve, the total amount workers would need to save is $33,877. Earning the median annual income for their age group in that area ($38,510), they would need just 4.40 years to save.
  • The least affordable metro area: Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif., isn’t simply a difficult place for young workers to save for a home — it’s pretty much impossible. On an annual household income of $21,178, a 15 to 24 year-old homebuyer would only realistically be able to qualify for a $36,506 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan. With a median-priced home listed at $769,500, their mortgage loan would hardly make a dent. They would need 181.27 years to save enough to fill in that gap.
    • In the 10 most expensive metros, it would take 15 to 24 year-olds an average of 129.53 years to save for a home.
  • Things look much better in the South and Midwest: The 10 most affordable metro areas for 15 to 24 year-olds are also located in the Midwest and the South, where housing prices are significantly lower compared to other regions.
    • On average, it would take just under five years (4.79) to save for a home in the 10 most affordable metros.
  • Surprisingly expensive metros for 15 to 24 year-olds:
    • While 6 out of the 10 most expensive metro areas are located in California, there were some surprising findings in other states.
      • The 4th most expensive metro is Corvallis, Ore. Home prices are half as high as the most expensive metros on this list, but median incomes for this age group are among the lowest: $12,369.
      • Morgantown, W.Va., is the 6th most unaffordable metro for the youngest workers. 15 to 24 year-old workers in Morgantown earn among the lowest median incomes in the 380 metros we analyzed: $8,805.

Housing Affordability Calculator

Find out how long it would take you to save up for a home in your area.

Download the data behind this report:

Data analysis was conducted by Naveen Agarwal, MagnifyMoney Senior Data Analyst.

Metro Rankings for Ages 15 to 25

Metro Rankings for Ages 25 to 44

Metro Rankings for Ages 45 to 65

Metro Rankings for Ages 65 and Up

Metros by State: Searchable Database

Full Study Data

Appendix/Data Sources

Home prices: June 2016 median listing prices data provided by Zillow

Median income: Annual household income by age group and metropolitan area for 2014: U.S. Census Bureau.

Real Estate/Property Taxes: Real estate taxes for owner occupied units for metropolitan areas: U.S. Census Bureau

Mortgage interest rate: Bankrate.com National average on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 3.57% as of Sept. 1, 2016.

Downpayment: We assume a downpayment of 20%.

Savings rate: We assume homebuyers would save 20% of their annual take-home pay.

Closing costs: We assume closing costs of 4.5%.

Home Insurance rates by metro area: National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)

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10 States With the Biggest Foreclosure Problems

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Image: iStock

The post 10 States With the Biggest Foreclosure Problems appeared first on Credit.com.

The True Cost of Living in America: Columbus, Ohio

When you think Ohio, you probably think Cleveland, and you might think Cincinnati. Almost certainly, you don’t think Columbus, but here’s a secret: Ohio’s capital city is larger than its more famous neighbors to the north and south. In fact, it’s the largest U.S. city to make Credit.com’s top 10 most affordable cities list. By some measures, it’s larger than Denver, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. And yet, it doesn’t feel crowded, said native Stu Stull.

“Best thing about Columbus is the ease of getting around and not having to waste time waiting for everything like Chicago, Washington, LA and other cities,” said Stull, 58. “There are no hour-and-a-half waits for dinner, no looking for 10 to 15 minutes for a parking space or waiting in traffic for way too long.” Except for college football Saturdays, of course.

stu stull

Stull was born and raised in the central Ohio city. He left briefly for Texas, but returned years ago and never looked back. A city employee, his mortgage on a small 3-bedroom house with a garden and screened-in patio eats up only 20% of his income.

“I can get downtown in half an hour and I am 10-plus miles away. Pro football, basketball, and baseball are within a two- or three-hour drive,” he said. The NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets are right in town. “Concerts, like the Rolling Stones last year, and other entertainment comes here often.”

The Columbus economy weathered the recession better than many Midwest towns, thanks to its status as home of The Ohio State University and state government. But Columbus has a thriving private sector, too. Plenty of financial firms are located there — inexpensive housing helps keep labor costs down — like JPMorgan Chase, PNC Financial and Nationwide Mutual Insurance. It’s also a haven for fashion, and home to firms that operate Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, and other well-known brands.

The Columbus economy was recently projected to possibly overtake Cleveland by 2018, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Stull, who is a graphic designer and a part-time musician, said Columbus is still a place with a strong middle class.

“My experience when traveling to other cities is that life is easier here,” he said. “Most people are not living like a Kardashian no matter where they are.”

Columbus also has both old-world charm and hip hangouts. The historic district, German Village, makes drivers slow down with cobblestone streets. They should slow down anyway to see the gingerbread-like homes built by German immigrants who settled the area. The neighborhood is also home to one of America’s best independent book stores, Book Loft. Meanwhile, the Short North, near the city center, is a busy strip full of high-end restaurants and local pubs; it has the feel of an outdoor festival during every football weekend.

Columbus has its critics, of course. The winters are gray, and some residents lament that it’s a bit boring compared to coastal cities like New York. But with a median home sales price of around $117,000, perhaps there’s enough money left over for frequent trips to the Big Apple.

Stull might be a bit biased, but he said the music scene is surprisingly robust.

“It is a place without the extremes of other places,” Stull says. “To quote native James Thurber, ‘Columbus is a town in which almost anything is likely to happen, and in which almost everything has.'”

Life in Columbus, Ohio, by the Numbers

  • Affordable Cities Ranking: 9th
  • Housing Poor Residents: 30.4%
  • Median Home Sales Price: $117,475
  • Median Household Income: $46,481

Remember, a good credit score can help make housing more affordable in any area since it generally entitles you to better rates on a mortgage. Landlords also often look at a version of your credit report when considering tenants. As such, it can be a good idea to check your credit before you apply for a new place of residence. You can do so by pulling your credit reports for free each month at AnnualCreditReport.com and viewing your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.

More on Mortgages & Homebuying:

Main Image: aceshot; Inset Image Courtesy of Stu Stull

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