Maybe you’re blindsided with an expensive medical procedure. Or your spouse loses her job, putting an incredible strain on your household finances. Hundreds of scenarios exist that could put you in a once-unthinkable position: in danger of missing a mortgage payment.
First off, you’re not alone. Mortgage delinquency rates in the United States have declined from their 2009 peak, but the 2014 delinquency rate remained close to 6 percent. That’s not to say delinquency is your only move. Lenders are willing to discuss options — especially if you reach out to them before you miss a payment.
Consider modifying your loan, either by changing your interest rate or paying back the principal over a longer term — both changes can help your bottom line. For example, extending the term of your loan may increase your total cost, but it will reduce the amount you owe every month. You might also save money by refinancing to a lower interest rate. You’ll have to pay fees and other loan costs to make these changes, but the short-term gain might be worth the long-term costs.
The Federal Trade Commission’s Making Home Affordable Modification Program can help if you meet the following criteria:
However you decide to handle your mortgage shortfall, be on the lookout for scams. Companies claim that they can lower your payments by changing your loan terms, but nearly all their promises of relief are false. Unless they can prove a connection to your lender or the federal government, ignore the offers — no matter how attractive they are. Plenty of legitimate help exists for borrowers. Talk to your lender to figure out how you can stay current on your loan.
We all want to keep our personal and financial information safe from identity thieves. But are you unknowingly making it easy for thieves to get the information they need to steal your identity? Here are some easy and effective ways to safeguard your information and help prevent ID theft:
In the rush and excitement of buying a new home, dealing with the financing, going to the closing table, and celebrating the achievement, many forget to adequately plan the actual physical move of their families and belongings.
Here are a few things to consider when making a move.
• Do your homework and, along with price, check moving companies’ online reviews, references, and status with groups such as the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, or Home Advisor. A good mover can add to the fun of getting settled in your new home. You can usually count on reputable movers to be on time, to be careful with your belongings, and to honor agreements of price and service.
• Don’t neglect helping out as a way to get a lower cost from your moving company. You can probably wrap and box most of the smaller items in in preparation for moving. If you leave this for the movers, they’ll charge you for it. Consider leaving larger objects, such as furniture, to the pros, however.
• Remember to stay organized. Knowing what’s in each box and where it goes in the new house can save time and stress down the road when you’re unpacking and settling in.
• Pay attention to details. Moving is more than just the physical act of relocating your family and your things. There are service-providers to contact about stopping service at the old house and starting it up at the new one, for instance. You’ll want electricity, internet access, mail service and TV programming from day one in your new home.
Moving can be stressful, but staying organized and pitching in can make it easier, less costly, and even fun!
No matter how sincerely you promise to reimburse a lender, you probably won’t get a mortgage loan unless you have a good record of credit. But do you understand the mechanism behind the credit-reporting industry? Here are three things you may not have realized.
There are more than three credit bureaus
Most people know about the major ones — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — but there are other credit-reporting bureaus. Some of them deal with specialty areas, such as whether you’re a good or bad insurance risk, but the big three do not control all credit decisions. None of them, however, are government agencies. They’re businesses that collect and sell information.
Credit reports don’t include every debt you owe.
Different credit bureaus create different credit reports on you. They get the data for these reports from lenders, who may or may not report the debt to all of them. While your car loan and credit-card debt will likely appear on the major bureau reports, utility bills and similar smaller debts may not make it. That’s why it’s wise to check more than one report.
You still owe debts that don’t appear on your credit report.
Related to the previous section, when a debt is missing or falls off your credit report, that doesn’t mean you can ignore it. Maybe the lender didn’t report it to that credit bureau, or maybe the statute of limitations for how long that item can stay on your credit report passed. Either way, you still owe the money.
Though it may seem like your creditworthiness is computed using a magic black box, there’s actually a rhyme and reason to your score. The information reported to the bureaus offers an objective prediction of your future behavior.
If you’re denied a loan because of your credit, ask your lender how you can improve your chances in the future.
Condominium ownership is a great option for first-time buyers, empty-nesters and anyone in between who is looking for financial flexibility without the responsibility of major property maintenance. What do you need to know if you’re in the market to buy a condo? Is the condo lifestyle right for you? Read on!
What, exactly, is a condo? A condominium is one of a group of attached housing units where homeowners buy their individual unit spaces. The key difference from a single-family home is that there is no individual ownership of a plot of land. All the land in the condominium footprint is technically owned in common.
About homeowners associations. Condominiums will usually have an association that is charge of keeping everything running smoothly within the community. This includes making sure that building exteriors are in good condition, and that grounds and landscaping are maintained. They will typically have a board or governing body that oversees and enforces community rules, such as pet policies, parking rules and use of common areas, to ensure that all owners have a pleasant environment. Many condominiums outsource board responsibilities to a professional property management company, which is paid by mandatory dues from individual unit owners.
Maintenance — who’s responsible? As a condominium owner, you will be responsible for maintaining everything inside your unit. Any repairs, updates and decorating decisions will be your responsibility — and typically made at your discretion unless they directly impact your neighbor. Usually, the exterior maintenance and lawn care are paid for out of homeowner dues collected and managed under strict rules.
Is insurance needed? Just like a single-family home, condominium owners should have homeowner’s insurance. However, insuring common areas is not the responsibility of the individual owner. The exterior walls and roof are insured by the condominium association, while all interior walls and all other interior items are insured by the homeowner.
Do your homework before purchasing a condo. You may understand the rules of the community and your individual responsibility, but you’ll want to know about the community itself. For example, condominiums that cater more to empty-nesters may not be the most family-friendly. You may also want to determine whether the condo is a quiet haven, or more lively and close to shopping, dining and entertainment. There are many condos with different amenities. With a little research, you can find the one that is right for you.