How The Simple Act of Negotiating Helped Us Save $40,000

iStock

You don’t have to be an expert negotiator to leverage the power of persuasion — and ultimately save big. Alison Fragale, negotiation expert and professor of organizational behavior at the University of North Carolina, tells MagnifyMoney that a little preparation can go a long way.

“Any time you have goals you need to achieve, and you need someone else’s cooperation to make those goals happen, that’s a negotiation,” she said, adding that coming to the conversation prepared is often a game changer.

We caught up with a handful of folks who did just that. From talking down debt, to negotiating salary increases, these everyday people successfully haggled their way to some big financial wins — to the tune of $40,000 worth of savings.

Here’s how they did it.

I shaved $7,400+ off my student loan balance.

As of 2014, the average college graduate wrapped up their studies with nearly $29,000 in student loan debt, according to The Institute for College Access & Success. But your balances aren’t always set in stone.

Danielle Scott, a 30-year-old public relations professional in New York City, used some persuasive bargaining skills to save thousands on her private loans. The inspiration? After several years of just paying the minimum monthly payment and calling it a day, she was discouraged to see that her principal balance was relatively unchanged, thanks to super high interest rates.

“One was as high as 15 percent, and my total loan balance was about $80,000,” Scott told MagnifyMoney.

She called her loan provider, Navient, and cut a deal — if they agreed to lower the interest rate on her loans, she’d up her monthly payments from $400 to $1,500. They agreed, lowering her rate to 1% on one of her two loans, and Scott put everything she had into paying down the debt over the next five years. She paid much more in the short term, but she saved big over the long haul since she was shortening the life of the debt and putting way more toward the principal balance.

Earlier this year, when her balance had gone down to $15,000, her loan servicer reached out to her with a deal of their own. They were willing to reduce her balance to $9,000 if she could pay it off in two lump payments. Scott countered.

“I asked them how low they could go if I agreed to pay it all off in one payment,” she recalls. “At first, they said no, but after pushing back a little, and being put on hold for 20 minutes, they came back with $7,600 as their final offer, but I had to make the payment that day.”

Scott dipped into her savings to pay it and, just like that, was debt-free.

While you might have some wiggle room negotiating private student loan debt, federal student loans are a different story. If you’ve defaulted on federal loans and they’ve been sent to collections, you can use one of the following standard settlements to make good with the U.S. Department of Education, according to student loan expert Mark Kantrowitz:

  • Pay off the current principal balance plus any unpaid interest; collection fees are waived.
  • Pay off the current principal balance plus 50 percent of any unpaid interest.
  • Pay off a minimum of 90 percent of the current principal balance and interest.

Just keep in mind that settlements are generally due in full within 90 days. (FYI: There’s also a chance you’ll have to pay taxes on whatever is forgiven.)

I talked my way out of $20,000 of medical debt.

In 2010, Robin, a Tampa, Fla., lawyer, was involved in a major car accident that almost cost her her life. The road to recovery was a long one and included multiple surgeries and hospital stays. Despite having health insurance, her bills eventually reached a whopping $197,000. But it wasn’t until she really pored over the statements that she noticed some major errors.

“A mix of in-network and out-of-network medical providers were billing me for whatever my insurance company wasn’t paying, even after I’d met my deductible,” Robin, 57, told MagnifyMoney.  She requested that we not use her full name because she’s still negotiating down her debts.

In many cases, she was getting treated by in-network hospitals, but by medical providers who, she later learned, were out of network. This led to tons of surprise bills; a phenomenon known as balance billing, which isn’t always legal in her home state.

“I called each and every medical provider, in some cases threatening to report them to the attorney general,” she recalled. “Some bills were forgiven more easily than others; some took years to resolve, but nothing was ever sent to collections.”

All in all, Robin has wiped out about $20,000 of her medical debt by directly challenging providers — a wise move considering that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported that medical bills make up over half of all debt on credit reports.

I negotiated a $15,000 raise and promotion.

When it comes to nailing down a raise, getting a pay bump of 2 percent per year is the average, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. But you might be able to get more if you’re willing to negotiate.

Ariel Gonzalez, a 33-year-old front end development engineer in Orlando, Fla., has successfully negotiated multiple pay raises over the years. The latest got him a $15,000 pay bump and promotion after a year of working in a junior position.

“My demeanor is typically calm and confident, but firm,” he told MagnifyMoney. “I hate talking about money, but I know what I bring to the table as an employee.”

Gonzalez is a big believer in coming to salary negotiations as prepared as possible, researching comparable salaries on sites like Salary.com and Glassdoor. Referencing positive client testimonials in past negotiations has also proved fruitful. He landed his last raise in 2016 by showing up to the meeting with an air of respect and transparency.

“I came to my boss with my number, hat in hand, and said that it was what I needed to be comfortable and that I didn’t want to do the whole back-and-forth thing,” Gonzalez said, adding that the promotion and raise he was asking for were in line with his performance and proven results as an employee.

The preparation and confidence paid off; his boss had no problem granting his request. The takeaway? Do your homework ahead of time and ask for what you deserve.

Some expert negotiation tips to follow

Whether you’re looking to score a raise or buy a new car, Fragale suggests pinpointing the following three terms before beginning any negotiation:

1) What are you trying to achieve? This should be a clear aspiration that’s grounded in reality, given your circumstances.

2) What’s your walk-away point? Before going in, clarify the point at which you’ll abandon the deal. Fragale said knowing this beforehand is empowering because it discourages an “I’ll take what I can get” mentality.

3) What’s the alternative? In other words, if you don’t get what you want out of this deal, what’s going to happen? If the stakes are high and your alternative is terrible, you’ll be more inclined to settle for less than what you want. (Case in point: You’re more likely to settle for a low salary if your alternative is unemployment.)

“If you have the luxury, try and make your alternative as good as possible before negotiating,” says Fragale. “That tends to lift the whole boat.”

The post How The Simple Act of Negotiating Helped Us Save $40,000 appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

10 Places Where Home Ownership is On the Rise

Dallas, Texas cityscape with blue sky at sunset, Texas

For a significant number of Americans, home ownership remains an all too distant dream.

Between record levels of student loan debt, the challenges of squirreling away a down payment and skyrocketing housing prices in many parts of the country, it can be daunting at best to shift from renter to owner.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported in October that as of the third quarter of 2017 about 63.9 percent of Americans own a home. For those 35 and under, the figure is far bleaker, just 35.6 percent.

Home ownership has been on the decline in this country for several years, having peaked in 2004 at 69.2 percent.

A new report from Realtor.com, however, found that there are at least 10 cities around the country witnessing huge increases in ownership – places where the American dream appears to be alive and well.

Realtor.com’s data team discovered that ownership is on the rise in the Rust Belt (think Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana); small cities just outside of major metropolitan areas and also in some bustling southern hubs.

“What’s interesting about this is most of these places are relatively affordable,” said Realtor.com’s Clare Trapasso.

More than half of the cities on the list offer median prices under the national median of $274,492. Here are the cities to keep in mind if homeownership is on your 2018 agenda.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

A city most famous for its breweries, Milwaukee has experienced decades of economic challenges. However, it is now witnessing a resurgence, Realtor.com reports and that includes the housing market. The current homeownership rate in the city is 68.7 percent, an 11 percent increase over the past three years. The median home price is $224,950.

Charlotte, North Carolina

A bustling southern financial hub, Charlotte’s homeownership rate has increased 10.5 percent over the past three years to its current 62.8 percent. At $327,050, the median home price here however is substantially more than the national median.

Memphis, Tennessee

A city made famous by Elvis Presley, Memphis is affordable by nearly any standard. The median home price $195,050. Over the past three years, homeownership has increased about 9.3 percent to the current 61 percent.

Baltimore, Maryland

Buyers getting priced out of nearby Washington D.C are finding a more affordable alternative in Baltimore, says Trapasso. The homeownership rate is a significant 68.4 percent. That’s an increase of 7.3 percent over the past three years. The median home price meanwhile hovers around $300,000 (30.2% less than in the D.C. metro area.)

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Singer Billy Joel made Allentown forever famous with his song about the city’s economic hardships. Fast forward to 2017 and it seems the city, which is not all that far from New York City or Philadelphia, is experiencing something of rebirth, says Trapasso. The upswing is due in large part to companies like Amazon, Walmart and Nestle moving in. Homeownership has increased 7.3 percent in recent years to an impressive 74.8 percent, far above national rates. The median home price is about $225,000.

Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh is becoming the right coast’s version of Silicon Valley, according to Realtor.com (minus the sky high home prices). Local university grads are being snatched up by tech companies ranging from Google to Uber and Intel, all of which have local outposts. The homeownership rate, now at 74 percent, represents a 7.2 percent increase since 2014. And shockingly, the median home price is well below the national average at just $174,950.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Think mild climate, affordable homes and an Old Town filled with historic adobe buildings. Those are just some of the attractions in Albuquerque, which has seen a 5.7 percent rise in home ownership in recent years to 66 percent. The median home price here is about $239,950.

Nashville, Tennessee

This legendary music city has also become one of the culinary hotspots in the south. That the city has so much to offer has not gone unnoticed. Home prices have increased a whopping 89 percent since 2012. Still, it remains a place that’s both comparatively affordable and where homeownership continues on its upward path. The average home price is $359,050 and there’s a 68.8 percent home ownership rate, an increase of 4.9 percent over the past three years.

Dallas, Texas

Texas has long been one of the more affordable places to live in the country (There is no state income tax for starters). That affordability has attracted a lot of big businesses. In Dallas, companies have been both moving to the area and expanding. The city’s desirability is leading to increased prices but for the time being the median is $339,950. The current homeownership rate is 60.7 percent, a 4.8 percent increase over the past three years.

Syracuse, New York

One last city to consider for those determined to become home owners, Syracuse’s median home price is the lowest on the list at $149,950. Buyers can even find single-family homes for between $80,000 to $100,000, says Realtor.com. All of which is translating into a homeownership rate of 66.5 percent, a 4.6 percent increase since 2014.

If you’re wanting to buy a home and are concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated each month.

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

 

Image: f11photo

The post 10 Places Where Home Ownership is On the Rise appeared first on Credit.com.

Cities to Consider When Renting and Buying

low-housing-inventory

January is a natural time to take stock of your financial life, and to dream big dreams about 2018. Could this be the year you make the leap to homeownership? Or, will you make a big change and trade in your mortgage payment for a landlord?

In the complex calculus that’s required for the renting vs. buying decision, one variable stands out: Which is cheaper? If that seems like a hard question to answer, there’s a good reason: crunch the data from America’s largest cities, and you’ll learn it’s a perfectly split decision. According to an Urban Institute analysis, among 33 top metropolitan areas in the U.S., there are 17 places where buying is cheaper, and 16 where renting is cheaper. We’ll get to that list in a moment, but here’s a hint: renters in high-flying West coast cities might want to sit tight for a bit longer.

Renting vs Buying

Fewer life decisions carry more weight than the renting vs. buying dilemma. And that choice is getting harder. A generation ago, buying a home was seen as a rite of passage, a natural (and necessary) step towards adulthood. It was also a solid path to wealth. A $25,000 home purchased in 1970 was worth almost $100,000 by 1990, and about $200,000 today, using national average appreciation. Plenty of baby boomers who bought average-priced homes as young adults find themselves living in a nice nest egg now.

All that changed when the housing bubble burst. Millions lost their homes to foreclosure. Millions more found themselves “under water,” meaning their homes worth less than their mortgage balance. At the height of the housing recession, 23 percent of mortgage holders — nearly 1 in 4 — were under water. They’d lost money on their investment. The myth that housing prices can only go up has been busted. Many of those bubble-era buyers wished they were renting.

While the housing market has slowly recovered, blind faith in housing gains has not. Homeownership rates hit a 50-year low in 2015, and first-time home buyers are now waiting a record 6 years to move from renting to buying. In fact, young adults looking to upgrade out of their 1-bedroom apartments are increasingly renting single-family homes rather than buying. Single-family rentals – either detached homes or townhomes – make up the fastest-growing segment of the housing market, according to the Urban Institute.

But renting is no picnic either. With all these new renters, markets are reacting accordingly, and costs are now skyrocketing at about four times the rate of inflation. In some places, rents are up much higher. Seattle saw an average of 6.3 percent rent increases last year.

Such volatility in housing and rental prices isn’t the only reason the renting vs. buying equation bas become more complicated. Thanks to structural changes in employment — led by the various form of the gig economy and the contingent workforce — flexibility is key for workers. Gone are the days where a worker could buy a house with a 30-year mortgage and count on a consistent commute for the next three decades. People change jobs much more frequently now. Millennials experience four job changes by age 32, according to a LinkedIn study; they’ll move 6 times by age 30, according to 538.com

While it’s possible to sell a condo or house and move, it’s much easier for a renter to relocate for that great opportunity on the other coast.

Income Driven Decisions 

For most people, however, it comes down to money. You might think renting is always cheaper than buying, but that’s incorrect. A long list of variables must be considered when running the numbers, like these: How long will you stay in the place? How much are property taxes? How much investment opportunity cost will you pay when putting a large down payment into a home? How much will you spend on house repairs or condo fees? How much might your landlord raise the rent?

The Urban Institute provides an interesting answer to these questions by comparing the percent of monthly income a buyer or renter would have to spend to own or rent an average home in cities around the country. To ease the comparison, the constants are pretty simple. The report assumes median income, then calculates how of that monthly paycheck would be eaten up by owning – including mortgage payments, interest, taxes, and insurance payments on a median-priced home – or by renting a median-priced 3-bedroom home.

Ordinarily, these costs have to move relatively in sync. When rents get too high, consumers are pushed into buying. The opposite is true, too — when homes/monthly mortgage payments are too high, people are nudged to rent. So these costs tend to move together, or at least like two balloons tied together by a string, floating up into the sky: One pulls ahead for a short while, then the other, and so on. After all, people have to live somewhere.

Cities Good for Renting

But in some cities, these rules don’t seem to apply at the moment, and either renting or buying has sprinted ahead. In those places, you might say the market is broken. The Urban Institute calls this the “rent gap.” In eight large cities in the US — all on the West Coast — the rent gap is higher than 4 percent, meaning it’s considerably cheaper to rent than buy. But on the other hand, there are six major cities spread throughout the East and the Midwest where buying is cheaper, using this monthly costs test. In between are 19 cities where rental and buying costs are basically running neck-and-neck.

The rent gap is most pronounced in places where housing prices have soared. San Francisco is the clear “winner” in the places where renting is cheaper than buying; there, the gap is more than 42 percent. San Jose comes in second at 19%. Seattle, San Diego, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Portland round out the list of places where the gap is higher than 5 percent.

Cities Good for Home Buying

On the other side of the list — places where buying is cheaper than renting — begins with the winner, Miami.

It would be a stretch to call Miami a bargain, however. A median-priced home still consumes 32 percent of a median earner’s income, above the recommended 30 percent. Still, renting devours even more.

“Because Miami is the second-most-expensive city for rental housing, however, the median rent consumes 42 percent of the median income. So even at this high cost, homeownership is still the better bet,” the report says.

Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Tampa, and Pittsburgh round out the list of places where the rent gap is 5% or more towards buying.

There are buying “bargains” in other cities, too. Cleveland, Cincinnati, Orlando, Houston, and San Antonio all enjoy rent gaps that are more than two percent.

What to Consider

This list comes loaded with caveats, however. The biggest one: Purchasing a home brings the potential of appreciation, and renting does not. That means buyers can “profit” over time and see the value of their investment rise. The longer the time living in the purchased home, the higher the odds that significant appreciation will occur. But don’t forget, transaction costs are significant. Not all those gains are “profit.” Closing costs when buying, and then later when selling, can easily eat up 10% of those gains. Then, there’s always the chance the value of the home will go down, re-creating the situation from the early part of this decade, when buyers lose money. And of course, there’s the variable every homeowner loves to hate, surprise repair costs. Renters generally don’t face that risk.

In the end, the renting vs. buying choice is intensely personal, and always depends on your family’s very specific situation. It’s unwise to ignore macro trends, however. Even if you live in a city where housing costs seem high, it’s worth considering a purchase if rental costs are soaring, too. On the other hand, don’t simply assuming that buying is better. That’s 20th Century logic which no longer applies to the U.S. housing market.

 

If you’re wondering if your credit it good enough to buy or rent, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated each month.

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

 

Image: iStock

The post Cities to Consider When Renting and Buying appeared first on Credit.com.

10 Tips to Secure the Best Interest Rate on your Mortgage

guarantee-a-mortgage

The process of buying a home is a very involved one, and can be daunting, especially for first-time buyers. It’s often a whirlwind of paperwork, credit reports, and scrambling to tie up loose ends.

One of the biggest factors that goes into calculating your monthly mortgage payment (other than the size of the loan itself) is your interest rate. Some of this is determined by the Federal Reserve, but it is mostly determined by you and where you stand financially, and many factors are considered. Here are ten tips on securing the best interest rate on your new mortgage.

Choose between a fixed or adjustable rate mortgage

While many people might be wary of an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), it can be a better option for those who plan to pay off their mortgage in a short amount of time. For the introductory period of an ARM loan, the interest rate will be lower than that of a fixed rate mortgage. Just make sure you’re prepared to see an increase in your monthly mortgage payment after the introductory period is over.

Make the biggest possible down payment

The larger your down payment, the less money the lender will have to give you, and the lower your interest rate can be. Your interest rate is partially based on your home’s loan-to-value (LTV). For example, if a home is worth $200,000, and the loan is for $199,000, that would be considered a high LTV and is more risky for a lender. If this ratio is lower, however, you might be rewarded with a lower interest rate.

Make sure your credit is in excellent shape

While there is no one credit score needed to buy a house, those with higher credit scores have usually demonstrated good financial competency, and those are the types of consumers to whom lenders can offer lower interest rates.

Pay for points 

It it possible to pay extra directly to your lender in order to lower your interest rate. For every one percent of your loan amount you are willing to pay extra, it could amount to as much as half a percent off your interest rate. Essentially, you are just paying a larger amount of interest up-front.

Have a long employment history

Even if you haven’t been at the same job for several decades, demonstrating that you have no (or minimal) periods of unemployment shows lenders they can count on you to pay your mortgage in full every month. This can help lower your interest rate.

Prove income stability

If you can prove that your line of work is in high demand with no sign of slowing down, or if you work for a large, profitable company, your lender may take this into account when processing your paperwork. Income stability will help show that you won’t be likely to miss any mortgage payments.

Lower your debt-to-income ratio

Even with a high credit score, it’s possible to accumulate a lot of debt. Lenders don’t want you using more than roughly 40 percent of your monthly income on your mortgage, car payments, and credit card bills. The lower your debt-to-income ratio, the lower your interest rate will be.

Build up cash reserves

Most people know they should have enough savings to cover about six months worth of bills. Proving to your lender that you can still pay your mortgage in the event of a job loss will help you score a lower interest rate.

Shop around

Different lenders have different criteria for their loans. Finding the one that suits you best can help ensure you get the best possible interest rate for your financial situation.

Close on your loan as quickly as possible

Some buyers need 30 days to close; others might need as much as 60 days. If you can close within the initial 30 day window, however, you might pay as much as a half a percent point less than those who need 60 days to close.

 

Image: iStock

The post 10 Tips to Secure the Best Interest Rate on your Mortgage appeared first on Credit.com.

10 Tips to Secure the Best Interest Rate on your Mortgage

guarantee-a-mortgage

The process of buying a home is a very involved one, and can be daunting, especially for first-time buyers. It’s often a whirlwind of paperwork, credit reports, and scrambling to tie up loose ends.

One of the biggest factors that goes into calculating your monthly mortgage payment (other than the size of the loan itself) is your interest rate. Some of this is determined by the Federal Reserve, but it is mostly determined by you and where you stand financially, and many factors are considered. Here are ten tips on securing the best interest rate on your new mortgage.

Choose between a fixed or adjustable rate mortgage

While many people might be wary of an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), it can be a better option for those who plan to pay off their mortgage in a short amount of time. For the introductory period of an ARM loan, the interest rate will be lower than that of a fixed rate mortgage. Just make sure you’re prepared to see an increase in your monthly mortgage payment after the introductory period is over.

Make the biggest possible down payment

The larger your down payment, the less money the lender will have to give you, and the lower your interest rate can be. Your interest rate is partially based on your home’s loan-to-value (LTV). For example, if a home is worth $200,000, and the loan is for $199,000, that would be considered a high LTV and is more risky for a lender. If this ratio is lower, however, you might be rewarded with a lower interest rate.

Make sure your credit is in excellent shape

While there is no one credit score needed to buy a house, those with higher credit scores have usually demonstrated good financial competency, and those are the types of consumers to whom lenders can offer lower interest rates.

Pay for points 

It it possible to pay extra directly to your lender in order to lower your interest rate. For every one percent of your loan amount you are willing to pay extra, it could amount to as much as half a percent off your interest rate. Essentially, you are just paying a larger amount of interest up-front.

Have a long employment history

Even if you haven’t been at the same job for several decades, demonstrating that you have no (or minimal) periods of unemployment shows lenders they can count on you to pay your mortgage in full every month. This can help lower your interest rate.

Prove income stability

If you can prove that your line of work is in high demand with no sign of slowing down, or if you work for a large, profitable company, your lender may take this into account when processing your paperwork. Income stability will help show that you won’t be likely to miss any mortgage payments.

Lower your debt-to-income ratio

Even with a high credit score, it’s possible to accumulate a lot of debt. Lenders don’t want you using more than roughly 40 percent of your monthly income on your mortgage, car payments, and credit card bills. The lower your debt-to-income ratio, the lower your interest rate will be.

Build up cash reserves

Most people know they should have enough savings to cover about six months worth of bills. Proving to your lender that you can still pay your mortgage in the event of a job loss will help you score a lower interest rate.

Shop around

Different lenders have different criteria for their loans. Finding the one that suits you best can help ensure you get the best possible interest rate for your financial situation.

Close on your loan as quickly as possible

Some buyers need 30 days to close; others might need as much as 60 days. If you can close within the initial 30 day window, however, you might pay as much as a half a percent point less than those who need 60 days to close.

 

Image: iStock

The post 10 Tips to Secure the Best Interest Rate on your Mortgage appeared first on Credit.com.

Condo, House or Townhouse: Which Is Best for You?

iStock

The decision to buy a home can be complicated whether you are a first-time homebuyer or are looking for a second home, especially if you are shopping for property in an urban area. What kind of residence can you afford? Should you buy a house in a suburb or a historic downtown? What about a condo within walking distance of a train station? Or a townhouse in a new urban infill community?

Choosing between a townhouse, condominium or house involves questions of location, maintenance, lifestyle and price. These housing styles also have a lot of overlap, so choosing one over the others may involve less sacrifice than you might expect.

What is a condominium?

A condominium, called a “condo” for short, is actually a kind of ownership, while the terms “townhouse” and “house” (a standalone structure most people would think of as a traditional single-family home) refer to physical structure styles.

As such, condos can come in a variety of shapes in sizes, though they are often similar in size and appearance to an apartment. At the same time, some condos can be quite expansive. Condos typically are private residences that are part of a building or multiple-unit communities, although some detached condominiums are available. They are privately owned and occupied by an individual or a family.

Condos comes in many configurations beyond apartment-style buildings, said Mark Swets, executive director of the Association of Condominium, Townhouse, and Homeowners Associations. “Condos have less restrictions,” he said. “They can be converted from old office buildings or loft space.”

Regardless of their location or size, condo owners all share in the ownership of common areas and facilities that are maintained by a board that is comprised of members elected from the condo community. The board collects dues from the community’s condo owners and uses the money to maintain and operate common areas and amenities such a community pool, gym, and landscaping.

Condos often are found in urban areas where land for construction is scarce.

What is a townhouse?

A townhouse typically is a vertical, single-family structure that has at least two floors and shares at least one ground-to-roof wall with a residence next door.

Townhouses, which are individually owned, can be lined up on a row or arranged in a different configuration. Owners buy both the structure, including its interior and exterior, and the piece of land that the townhome is built on, which may include a small yard.

“A townhome is not a kind of ownership, but refers more to the physical structure,” Swets said, referring to the vertical design. “From an ownership perspective, some townhomes are classified as condos while others aren’t. It all depends upon what’s listed in the declaration and bylaws for each association.”

Should I buy a house, townhouse or condo?

Here are some factors to consider when deciding what kind of residence to buy:

Maintenance

Are you good at home repairs, or do you prefer to have a handyman on speed dial? While a single-family house gives you freedom to fix up or renovate as you please, you also are responsible for all repairs and maintenance. The monthly fee you pay to a board or association if you own a condo may take care of maintenance such as mowing, exterior repairs and snow shoveling. Townhouse homeowners association fees may care of maintenance of the community’s common areas, such as a shared backyard or playground, but it’s not guaranteed.

“If I were to look at a condo, it would be because I didn’t want to worry about the maintenance outside,” said Lori Doerfler, the 2018 president of the Arizona Association of Realtors. “If I wanted to have a piece of land but not a lot of yard, a townhome would be a good choice.”

Location and lifestyle

Condos, townhomes and standalone houses can offer a wide range of lifestyles and locations. Homebuyers should think through whether they’re interested in an urban, walkable lifestyle, a suburban neighborhood, or something in between. Where you live also will determine your commute to work and proximity to family and friends.

Restrictions on ownership

While condos can offer convenience and amenities, they also come with monthly dues, occasional assessment fees for special community projects and property rules, which can be strict. Single-family homes, especially those in neighborhoods without a homeowners association, have few or no restrictions.

Buyers should always check the community’s bylaws to understand the rules.

“I always want to get the covenants, conditions and restrictions to the buyer,” Doerfler said. “They describe the requirements and limitations of what you can do with your home as well as the grounds.”

Monthly fees

Any type of dwelling may come with a monthly fee to help pay for upkeep of the community’s amenities. Owners of a standalone single-family house in a neighborhood with a homeowners association will pay monthly or annual HOA fees, and condo and townhouse owners will pay fees every month to the community board or association.

When factoring your monthly mortgage payment, be sure to add in the HOA or condo association fees to determine how much you’ll pay to live in the dwelling. Fees could significantly increase your cost, putting a seemingly affordable dwelling out of reach.

Lending and price

Where you live will determine the price that you’ll pay for your home. Homes in desirable areas, such as downtowns and good school districts, can cost significantly more that homes with a long commute to a city.

Interest rates also vary by state and by lender, so it’s important to research loan terms from several lenders before making a decision.

Condo vs. townhouse

Benefits: Again, condos and townhouses aren’t mutually exclusive, but their potentially different physical attributes and homeownership structures make them worth comparing in some ways. Both offer less maintenance than a house, the opportunity to get to know neighbors and build a strong community, and walkable amenities such as a pool or community gathering space. Condos may offer a variety of amenities, and with new developments providing over-the-top extras such as rooftop bars, doormen and catering kitchens.

Risks: Condo and HOA fees can be expensive, and you are trusting the HOA or condo association to provide satisfactory upkeep to the property. Condo fees tend to be higher than townhouse HOA fees because condo associations typically provide more maintenance and amenities, and condo associations can enact special assessments to pay for one-time facilities expenses.

House vs. condo

Benefits: While condos offer a range of amenities and maintenance for exterior property, owning a single-family home provides owners with freedom from the rules and restrictions of condominium ownership. Buyers looking for privacy, a rural or suburban lifestyle or a larger property also will have more options with a single-family house.

Risks: Owning a single-family home means that the homeowner must pay for damage and upkeep to the interior and exterior property that isn’t covered by insurance. Condo associations are liable for exterior property and, if stated in the bylaws, “common elements” such as the roof and windows.

Townhouse vs. house

Benefits: Single-family house and townhouse owners both own their entire units, giving them freedom to renovate and change them as they see fit within any guidelines for exterior changes set by HOAs.

Risks: Single-family homeowners assume responsibility for the entirety of their property, which townhome owners may not be liable for repairs, upkeep, or incidents that occur outside of their unit and the land it sits on, depending on their homeowner’s association.

Which is best for you?

Your decision in buying a home vs. a condo vs. a townhouse should depend on what you can afford, how much maintenance you want to do, where you want to live and the type of community you want to live in. Young families, for example, may want a yard and a house near a good school, while a single professional may be more interested in a downtown condo that is within walking distance to nightlife and the office.

As you consider what kind of dwelling to buy, be sure to include the costs of condo or HOA fees into your budget to be sure that your new home fits your lifestyle and your budget.

The post Condo, House or Townhouse: Which Is Best for You? appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

A 15-Year Mortgage Can Save You $190K … But Can You Get One?

Sure, it will keep your monthly payments low, but it will end up costing you a lot in the long run. Here are the pros and cons of a 50-year mortgage.

You may wonder, Is a 15-year fixed mortgage worth it? Our answer: absolutely. It’s one of the best ways to eliminate your mortgage debt, and you can save thousands on interest payments.

For instance, consider the staggering difference between a 30-year mortgage and 15-year mortgage, both for $400,000. At an average of 4% interest on a 30-year mortgage, you’ll pay an extra $287,487 over the life of the loan. But with a shorter 15-year mortgage, you’ll pay only $97,218 of interest. That’s a shattering savings of $190,269!

We’ve listed a handful of pros and cons for getting a 15-year mortgage instead of a 30-year mortgage, and we’ll also discuss how to determine if a 15-year home loan is a smart move for you.

Pros and Cons of 15-Year Mortgages over 30-Year Mortgages

Pros

+ Faster to pay off

+ Less accumulated interest

 

Cons

– Higher monthly payments

– Decreased mortgage interest tax deduction

 

Should I Get a 15-Year Mortgage?

The concept of the 15-year mortgage for most is I’m going to bite, chew, and claw my way through a short-term, higher mortgage payment to get to a brighter future.

In today’s interest rate environment, a 15-year mortgage has undeniable mass appeal. We’ve already discussed the difference in interest costs between 30-year and 15-year mortgages. But you should also consider what being mortgage-free will mean for your future.

Consumers who are in a financial position to handle a higher loan payment—while continuing to grow their savings—are well-suited for a 15-year mortgage. Some people whose income is poised to rise or whose debt will soon decrease are also good candidates for a 15-year loan.

A specific demographic that can benefit significantly from a 15-year mortgage is those who will retire in under 30 years. Carrying a mortgage into retirement isn’t ideal. So these consumers might opt to pay off a mortgage faster than someone buying a house for the first time.

To sum it up, consider a 15-year mortgage if any of the following apply to you:

  • You don’t want this debt hanging over you in the future.
  • You have a strong income.
  • You will soon see an increase in income.
  • Your debt will soon decrease.
  • You’re planning to retire in less than 30 years.

How Do I Know I’m Financially Ready for a 15-Year Mortgage?

In most cases, you’ll need a strong income for an approval. When you switch from a 30-year mortgage to a 15-year fixed-rate loan, you’ll pay down the loan in half the amount of time. But doing so can also double your monthly payments during the 180-month term—and it can also lower your mortgage interest tax deduction.

So how much income are we talking? Well, your income will have to support the larger carrying costs of a home. And if you have other debts with a monthly payment, like cars, installment loans, or credit obligations, you should factor those in as well.

If you’re interested in a 15-year mortgage but don’t feel financially stable enough to take on the higher monthly premiums, don’t give up hope. There are things you can do to improve your finances to take on a 15-year mortgage.

How Can I Improve My Financial Stability for a 15-Year Mortgage?

There are at least three ways to improve your capacity to take on a 15-year mortgage: pay off your debts, borrow less, and generate extra cash.

1. Pay Off Your Debts

When your lender looks at your monthly income to qualify you for a 15-year fixed-rate loan, part of the equation is your debt load.

For a preview on how they’ll see your application, take your proposed total monthly payment for a 15-year mortgage payment and add that to the minimum monthly payments for all your other consumer obligations. Divide the sum by 0.45.

(total monthly mortgage payment + consumer obligations) ÷ 0.45 = minimum income

This formula will give you the minimum monthly income you’ll need to offset a 15-year mortgage. If you make anything less than that, you probably won’t qualify for a 15-year home loan.

But because your current debt factors into this formula, paying off debt can easily reduce the amount of income necessary to qualify. And getting rid of debt can also cut down how much you need to borrow because you can save up a larger down payment at a faster rate.

2. Borrow Less

Borrowing a smaller home loan is a guaranteed way to keep a lid on your monthly outflow. You’ll maintain a healthy alignment with your income, housing, and living expenses.

Got extra cash in the bank? If you don’t have an immediate purpose for the money in your bank account beyond your savings reserves, use the funds to put down a larger down payment and reduce your mortgage amount.

With a bigger down payment, your monthly payments will be more manageable, so you’ll pay less in interest expenses over the life of the loan. Borrowing less and putting down a larger down payment are great ways to make your money work for you.

3. Generate Extra Cash

Accessing additional cash can improve your financial situation. Do you have assets like stocks you can sell or a money-market fund you can trade out of? With extra money, you can pay off debts or apply for a smaller mortgage—as we discussed above.

You can also get additional funds from selling another property. If you have a property you’ve been planning to sell, like a previous home, any additional cash generated from selling that property could put you in a better position when moving into a 15-year mortgage.

What Alternative Options Are There?

Borrowing a 15-year home loan isn’t realistic for everyone. You may want to consider a 25-year or 20-year mortgage as an alternative option.

Another school of thought is to simply make larger payments on a 30-year mortgage every month. This is a fantastic way to save substantial interest over the term of the loan, since larger-than-anticipated monthly payments will go to your principal payments, so you’ll owe less in interest in the end. You can even start with a 15-year mortgage and refinance your home at a later date to a 30-year home loan should your finances change.

Keep in mind that to qualify for the best interest rates on a mortgage (which will have a big impact on your monthly payment), you need a great credit score as well. You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com every month, and you can get your credit report at no cost to you.

Image: StockRocket

The post A 15-Year Mortgage Can Save You $190K … But Can You Get One? appeared first on Credit.com.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a House?

Factors that dictate cost

While the average costs to build a house can give you a general idea of how much you’ll pay for a new build, it’s important to note that the costs of building any home can vary dramatically. Where you live, for example, can play a huge role in not only the costs of land but the price of the permits and fees you’ll need to cover.

Of course, there are other factors that will dictate how much you pay, from the type of home you select to what you choose to do inside. Other factors that can dictate the costs of your home include:

  • Your lot: The NAHB reports that the average price for a lot of land worked out to $4.20 per square foot in 2015 (the most recent data available), bringing the total for an average size lot (20,129 square feet) to $84,541.80. However, this cost can vary depending on the lot you buy, the size of the lot and the local real estate market where you buy.
  • Home size: The larger the home, the more construction costs you’ll encounter, says Frank Nieuwkoop, sales and marketing director of new-home builder Valecraft Homes Ltd. Larger homes also require more materials (more flooring, more lighting, more fixtures, etc.), he says, which can lead to higher costs in a hurry.
  • Upgrades: If you opt for fancy upgrades, you’ll pay more for a new home, says Nieuwkoop. Granite or marble, upgraded fixtures, and custom woodwork can make any home considerably more expensive. This is one area where you can also save on the costs of building, however. Where laminate countertops may cost just $10 per square foot installed, you’ll pay more like $60 to $120 per square foot for concrete or recycled glass, according to Consumer Reports. If you multiply those savings across all the rooms that need counters in your home (kitchen and baths), it’s easy to see how you could pay more or less depending on what you choose.
  • Home design: The design of the home can also play a factor in cost, says Nieuwkoop. If you build a home that is standard in design, you may pay less than if you build a custom home with unique design or special features. If you design a truly custom home, you may also need to hire an architect to draft a design. Hiring an architect can add another 15 or even 20 percent of costs to your total project.
  • Siding: What you choose to cover the exterior of your home can play a big role in your total price. If you choose a custom stone exterior, you may pay more than you would if you choose vinyl siding instead.
  • Landscaping: Will you opt for an elaborate outdoor landscaping scheme or some simple greenery? Your landscaping choices will play a role in the costs of your home as well as ongoing outdoor maintenance. You’ll also pay more for a fenced yard.

Building vs. buying

Building a home comes with pros and cons that are entirely different from the factors that lead people to purchase an existing home. Before you choose to build or shop among homes already in your area, make sure to consider the advantages and disadvantages of both scenarios.

Pros of building your own home

  • Less competition: According to the National Association of Realtors, existing homes stayed on the market for an average of 34 days nationwide before being sold in October 2017. In “hot areas” of the country such as San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, and San Jose, however, houses — especially those in an affordable price range — tend to go under contract in less than a week, it notes. By selecting your own lot and building a home, you can avoid stiff competition for existing properties and still get the home you want.
  • Everything is new: “Many people love the idea that everything in their house will be brand new when they build,” says Nieuwkoop. Having new fixtures, a new roof, new appliances and a new HVAC system may also mean you’ll have fewer repair bills during the first few years of homeownership.
  • Choose the location of your home: Building a new home on a lot you choose puts you in the unique position of selecting exactly where you’ll live. This can be advantageous if you hope to live near work or near public transportation, or if you want a lot with a certain type of view. “Do you want to back up to a lake or woods?” asks Nieuwkoop. “When you build, you get to decide.”
  • Select your own floor plan and finishes: Whether you build a custom home or select a floor plan through a builder, you get to choose how your new home is set up — including your floor plan. You may even be able to select your own finishes including your paint color, countertops, flooring and cabinets.

Cons of building your own house

  • Moving delays: Building a home often means longer delays when it comes to moving, says Nieuwkoop. “Building a home can take as little as two months all the way up to a year,” he says. If you want to move quickly, this can be a deal-breaker.
  • Building surprises: Especially if you design a custom home, you may not know exactly how the floor plan flows until your home is already built, notes the expert. “With a custom home especially, you may end up with something different than you envisioned.” Fortunately, this isn’t typically a problem with larger builders and developers since they often have model homes you can walk through, he says.
  • Pricing surprises: With custom homes especially, pricing can easily surge — especially if you make changes as the plan moves along, says Nieuwkoop. Plus, there are added costs that come with building that many people forget. Adding window blinds and treatments can add up, as can new décor, shelving and other interior fixtures that don’t come in the home price. Builders rarely put a fence in the yard, so that’s another expense to consider if you want one.
  • Less negotiation power: You may be able to negotiate the price on an existing home if a buyer is motivated to sell, but there may be less wiggle room on the price of a new home.
  • Construction traffic: If you’re building in a new neighborhood, you may deal with ongoing construction traffic for months or even years.

Pros of buying an existing home

  • Save money with existing features: Existing homes tend to have a lot of additions and upgrades made already, says Nieuwkoop. You may already have mini blinds, a privacy fence and appliances, for example, which can help you save money.
  • Move in quicker: “Although it can take a few months to close on an existing home and be able to move in, the timeline until move day is still faster with an existing home,” says Nieuwkoop. If you need to move quickly, you can typically do so faster if you buy instead of build.
  • Property maturity: Existing homes tend to have more mature trees and landscaping, which could be advantageous if you don’t like the idea of growing new grass on your own.
  • No construction zone: If you’re buying a home in a mature neighborhood, you may not have to deal with ongoing construction issues like you would with a new build in a new neighborhood.

Cons of buying an existing home

  • Lack of customization: You don’t get to pick out the floor plan or fixtures when you buy an existing home. You get exactly what is there already, which may or may not be what you want.
  • Costs to upgrade: If you buy an existing home that is out-of-date, you may need to spend considerable sums of money to make important updates or replace out-of-date fixtures.
  • Hidden problems: Existing homes may have problems you don’t see, says Nieuwkoop, adding that home inspectors don’t always find every issue. “If there was a water leak in the home and the seller replaced the drywall without actually fixing the issue, you may not find out you need costly repairs until after you move in.”

Who it’s best for

According to Nieuwkoop, building is best for individuals and couples who are very detailed and know exactly what they want. Building is also ideal for people who don’t care as much about cost as long as they get a brand-new home and the ability to pick and choose every finish and feature.

“Building is also best for buyers who are patient and willing to endure some bumps along the road,” says the builder. “If you’re high stress and don’t want to deal with any issues, you may be better off buying a newer existing home.”

5 steps to building a house

While the process of building a house can vary slightly depending on whether you design your own custom home or work with a developer, the main steps to completing the process are the same. Fortunately, Nieuwkoop helped us outline the five steps to building a house from beginning to end.

Step 1: Create a budget.

Before you decide to build or buy a home, it’s crucial to know how much you can afford to spend. The best way to come up with a housing budget is to see a mortgage broker or apply for a mortgage online, to see how much you can afford to borrow. You should also get pre-approved for a mortgage, says Nieuwkoop. That way, you’ll be ready to work with a builder when you decide what you want. You can compare mortgage offers online with LendingTree, MagnifyMoney’s parent company.

Step 2: Purchase land or select a lot.

Once you know what you can afford (house and land included), it’s time to find a lot in an existing community or buy land you plan to build on. Keep in mind that the price of the land you buy will need to be included in your mortgage amount unless you plan to buy the land in cash separately. If you’re choosing a piece of land that hasn’t been developed, you should also ask your builder about the costs of adding utilities to the property, cutting down trees, or leveling the land.

If you’re buying from a developer or builder who is overseeing the construction of a new neighborhood, it’s possible the price of your chosen lot will be built into the price of the floor plan and home you select, says Nieuwkoop. Either way, now is the time to talk through land costs with a builder and decide where you want your new home to be.

Step 3: Develop floor plans and designs.

If you’re working with a builder, chances are good they’ll offer a range of floor plans and new home designs you can choose from. If you’re building a custom home, on the other hand, you’ll likely need to hire an architect to create a realistic housing design that encompasses all the features you want.

Either way, you need to nail down your ideal floor plan and design at this stage. Decide how many bedrooms and bathrooms you want, along with the general layout of your home. From there, you can select or design a housing plan that fits your budget and style.

Step 4: Select finishes, features, and appliances.

Once you’ve chosen the layout of your home, you still need to choose what goes inside. Work with your builder to decide on the interior finishes in your home, from the cabinets in your kitchen to your light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, flooring, and paint colors.

Step 5: Watch your home being built.

Once your home is commissioned and ready to be built, you can watch as the process takes place over the weeks and months. Nieuwkoop says that, ideally, your builder will let you walk through the home during various stages of the process. By walking through, you may be able to discover and point out issues that need to be fixed, such as incorrect fixtures or design problems.

How to finance the build

According to mortgage advisor Jeremy Schachter of Pinnacle Capital Mortgage, the process for financing a new build is similar to the process of buying an existing home.

When you build a home, it’s crucial to get pre-qualified with a bank or lender. During this process, the lender will take a look at your credit score, income, assets and debts, then use those factors to determine how much you can borrow.

The biggest difference with a new build, says Schachter, is that you’ll likely need to get pre-approved for a mortgage once and then start a portion of the process over again. “You’ll need to submit financial statements, a credit report, and pay stubs to get approved to build a house, but you’ll likely need to resubmit all this information again if the process takes several months,” he says. Schachter was clear that the final home closing doesn’t take place until the house is completed, and that this is when you’ll start making mortgage payments.

Fortunately, Schachter says, many lenders will let you lock in the interest rate on your home loan for up to a year when you’re building a home. But you should always check and ask about your APR to make sure you’re not stuck with a higher interest rate if your new build takes several months and rates surge during that time, he says.

What type of home loans can you use?

Schachter notes that consumers can use any type of home loan to build a property that they could use to buy a traditional home. For example:

  • VA loans: To qualify for a VA loan, you must have satisfactory credit, sufficient income, and a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE) based on your level of service. You must also plan to live in the home full-time.
  • FHA loans: You can apply for an FHA construction loan to finance a new build. To qualify for an FHA loan, you’ll need at least 3.5 percent as a down payment, a credit score of 580 or higher, and proof of income. You may qualify for an FHA loan with a credit score lower than 580, but you’ll need to make a larger down payment. Lenders will also look at your debt-to-income ratio — a figure determined by taking all your debt payments and dividing them by your gross monthly income. If you have $3,000 in bills each month and your gross monthly income is $5,000, your debt-to-income ratio is 60 percent. Generally speaking, lenders want you to keep your debt-to-income ratio under 43 percent, including all housing payments.
  • Conventional home loan: Requirements for a conventional mortgage can vary, although you typically need a good credit score (FICO score of about 740 or higher) to qualify for a loan with the best APR. Lenders also look at your employment history, income and debt-to-income ratio.
  • Construction loans: Schachter notes that individuals building a custom home may need to get a special “construction loan from a lender or bank.” These loans cover the initial costs of building a house, including the lot, building materials and architect fees. Schachter notes that construction loans are typically short-term loans with variable interest rates that are good for less than a year. Ultimately, construction loans are converted to permanent home loans once the construction process is complete.

The post How Much Does It Cost to Build a House? appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Should You Get an FHA Loan or a Conventional Mortgage?

which-mortgage-is-right-for-me

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans and conventional loans remain the most popular financing types for today’s mortgage borrowers. But which program makes the most financial sense for you?

FHA Loans vs. Conventional Loans

The key to deciding which loan you should get is understanding the characteristics of both programs and how they relate to your financial picture. You could be a good candidate for either program, so select the loan that aligns with your payment and cash flow expectations.

  FHA Loans Conventional Loans
Credit Score Usually requires 500+ credit score Usually requires 620+ credit score
Credit History Shorter wait times after derogatory credit events like foreclosure, short sale, bankruptcy, and divorce Longer wait times after derogatory credit events, though some lenders may be flexible depending on circumstances
Down Payment As low as 3.5% As low as 3%, though there are advantages for a larger payment
Mortgage Insurance Requires both a 1.75% upfront premium and 0.45%–1.05% annual premiums Either a one-time payment or monthly fees from 0.55%–2.25% depending on credit, though these could be waived with a 20% down payment
Interest rate Tends to have lower interest rates than conventional loans Tends to have higher interest rates than FHA loans
Debt Ratio Allows higher debt ratios than conventional loans Allows lower debt ratios than FHA loans
Time for Approval Often takes longer to process Often takes less time to process

The Nuts and Bolts of FHA Loans

FHA loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration, and borrowers must pay for mortgage insurance. The program requires two mortgage insurance payments: an up-front premium calculated at 1.75% of the loan amount and an annual premium that’s somewhere between 0.45% and 1.05% of the loan amount—depending on the length of the loan.

These mortgage insurance payments make FHA loans pricey. However, the program is flexible for homebuyers with credit scores as low as 500. Additionally, cosigners are permitted, and the wait time requirements for approval after short sale and bankruptcy tend to be shorter than they are for conventional loans.

Should You Get an FHA Loan?

The FHA program makes sense when you have little equity to work with or a unique financial situation. You’ll need at least a 3.5% down payment to purchase a home using an FHA Loan.

The program will go as high as the maximum loan limit for the county where the home is located. For example, in Sonoma County, California, you can get a loan of up to $554,300 for a single-family home.

The Nuts and Bolts of Conventional Loans

Conventional loans represent the lion’s share of the mortgage market. These loans, while the most popular, also contain tighter qualifying guidelines than FHA loans, including a minimum credit score of 620. And with a conventional loan, wait times after short sales and bankruptcy tend to be longer than those for FHA loans.

The trade-off for these strict guidelines is you don’t have to pay for private mortgage insurance if you have a high enough down payment. So even though conventional loans tend to have higher interest rates, you’ll save more over the life of the loan.

Should You Get a Conventional Loan?

If you have a credit score over 620 and a 5% down payment, you have the bare minimum required to apply for a conventional loan. Combine those with a strong employment history and payment-to-income ratio, and you’re a good candidate for the loan.

Remember, if you’re considering applying for a mortgage, it helps to know not only how much house you can afford but also where your credit stands before you begin the process. That’s because your credit scores help determine what types of rates and terms you may qualify for. You can get two free credit scores, which are updated every 30 days, on Credit.com.

Image: Ridofranz

The post Should You Get an FHA Loan or a Conventional Mortgage? appeared first on Credit.com.

4 Reasons to Buy Your First Home in Your 30s

There are a few ways to expedite that down payment.

There was a time in my life when I thought I’d never own a home. As someone who had preferred life in big cities and prioritized travel above homeownership, the idea of settling somewhere permanently never really appealed to me.

Then I got married, then I got pregnant, and suddenly the idea of living in an actual home to call my own (with a little more space, to boot) became very appealing. By the time my husband and I closed on our first-ever home, I was 32 years old, and I’m so glad I waited until then to buy. Here’s why.

1. I Had Saved Enough for a 20% Down Payment

My husband and I were married almost three years before we bought our first house, which gave us plenty of time to start putting cash aside in a separate savings account—specifically for a down payment. That meant that we were able to put down 20% of our home’s overall value (the recommended amount), putting us in a good position for a low-interest mortgage loan.

You may not be able to sock away that much in cash by the time you’re ready to buy, but at least when you’re solidly in your 30s, you’re likely making much more than you were in your mid-20s. So you should be able to put down more than you could when you were younger. It should also be easier to refill your savings after spending that money.

2. I Knew Where I Wanted to Settle Down

Places I’ve called home include New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado, along with a few others. In other words, I had been around the block enough to know what I was looking for in a long-term home and a place to raise my family. As it turned out, Colorado was that place, and so far, it’s all I could have wanted and more.

3. I Was Secure Enough in My Career to Make Big Financial Moves

Because I’ve been freelancing successfully for the past few years, I’ve built up enough of a steady client base to feel financially safe as I took the plunge into homeownership. Buying a house is a lot more than forking over a down payment and paying a mortgage—utilities, homeowners association fees and insurance, and general maintenance and upkeep all add more weight on the monthly budget. By waiting until we were more settled in our careers, though, my husband and I felt more prepared for whatever our new house might throw our way.

4. I Could Afford a House that Didn’t Need Much Work

While I can certainly tackle the occasional DIY project, I’m never going to be someone who wants to place hardwood or redo a bathroom. As such, waiting until I was in my 30s to buy my first house meant that I had the money to buy a home that didn’t need a lot of work. It was essentially move-in ready, which was exactly what I was looking for.

When’s the Right Time to Buy a Home?

Buying a home before you’re in your 30s certainly isn’t a bad thing, as long as you’re financially prepared to put down a sizeable down payment and to pay for the added expense that comes with it. For me, though, waiting just a couple more years until I was in my 30s proved to be invaluable, since I now feel as prepared as possible for whatever new financial responsibilities head my way.

Also, no matter how old you are, make sure you’ve had a chance to build your credit before you buy. Credit plays a big role in buying a home, so make sure yours is as good as possible before you start shopping for a loan and check it frequently.

Image: monkeybusinessimages 

The post 4 Reasons to Buy Your First Home in Your 30s appeared first on Credit.com.