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5 Signs You’re Not Ready to Own a Home, According to a CFP

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The housing market has boomed over the last year, despite a global pandemic and millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet. 

Many people are spending less on entertainment, clothing, travel, and other discretionary purchases during COVID. Federal student loan borrowers have seen temporary relief from their loan payments. These expenses will most likely rise again after the pandemic, and many people who committed to a new home with a large mortgage will struggle to keep up. 

I often speak with clients and prospective clients who want to buy a home before they have a strong financial foundation. Buying a home is not only one of the largest purchases you’ll make in your lifetime, but it’s also a huge commitment that’s extremely hard to undo if you have buyer’s remorse

It’s important to make a thoughtful, informed decision when it comes to a home purchase. Before you take the plunge into homeownership, check for these signs that you’re not quite ready to buy. 

1. You have credit card debt

Credit card debt can be a drain on your monthly budget, and when combined with student loans and a car loan, it can lead to high levels of stress. 

Generally, more debt means higher fixed expenses and little opportunity to save for long-term financial goals. Your financial situation will only get worse with the addition of a mortgage. I always recommend that clients be free of credit card or other high-interest debt before they consider buying a home. 

To rid yourself of credit card debt, take some time to get a good handle on your cash flow. Take an inventory of your spending over the last six to 12 months and see where you can cut back. From there, develop a realistic budget that includes aggressive payments to your credit cards. 

There are several strategies to help you knock out credit card debt fast. Regardless of the method you choose, stick with the plan and track your progress along the way. Once you pay off your credit cards, you can allocate your debt payments to savings, which can help you avoid this situation in the future.  

2. You have bad credit

Bad credit is not only a sign that you may not be ready to take on a mortgage, it can also signal a high risk to

mortgage lenders
. A high-risk status results in higher interest rates and more strict requirements to qualify for a loan. A mortgage is one of the largest loans you’ll take out in your lifetime, and if you get behind on payments, you could lose your home. 

Just as with credit card debt, bad credit could be a result of past financial mistakes. Dedicating the time to repair bad credit and improve your credit score will help you beyond purchasing your dream home. 

Start by pulling a recent credit report from each of the three credit bureaus so you can review it for errors. Dispute any errors, address past-due accounts, and bring your overall debt balances down. It’s helpful to learn what has a negative effect on your credit score so you can avoid these mistakes in the future. 

3. You don’t have an emergency fund (or an inadequate one)

If you’re unable to save for a rainy day, you probably don’t have enough money to buy a house. Owning a home is a big responsibility, and unexpected expenses pop up all the time. In addition, you could lose your job, have a medical emergency, or another unexpected expense unrelated to the home. Maintaining an emergency fund is a good sign that you have discipline and are prepared for the responsibility of homeownership.

Many financial experts recommend saving at least six months of living expenses in an emergency fund. If you have variable income, own a business, or own a house, you should save more. To build an emergency fund, set money aside from each paycheck and automate transfers to make the process easier. Give your emergency fund a boost when you receive lump sums such as bonuses or tax refunds. Start by saving one month of living expenses and build from there. 

4. You don’t have separate savings for your home

I always advise clients to set aside savings for a home in addition to an emergency fund. It’s a bad idea to start homeownership with no savings. Whether you have unexpected expenses related or unrelated to the home, having no emergency fund after a home purchase will lead to unnecessary stress — and possibly more debt. 

When purchasing a home, you’re responsible for a down payment and closing costs. While a 20% down payment is ideal to avoid private mortgage insurance, a down payment of at least 3.5% is typically required. Closing costs can range from 2 to 5% of the home’s value. 

Also, you will have moving costs, costs to spruce up your new place (like new furniture or light cosmetic updates), and any initial maintenance and repairs. Be sure to budget for these items to know how much to save on top of your emergency fund. It doesn’t hurt to boost your emergency fund, too, in preparation for homeownership. 

5. You have a low savings rate

It’s much easier to develop good savings habits before you have a lot of responsibilities. To get on track for financial independence, several studies show that you should save at least 15% of your income. The longer you wait, the more you’ll need to save. 

If your savings rate is low before you purchase a home, it will most likely worsen after becoming a homeowner. Even if your mortgage is similar to your rent, ongoing maintenance and repairs, higher utilities, and homeowners association fees can wreak havoc on your budget. 

Take a look at your current savings rate and see if you’re on track for financial independence. If you’re saving less than 15 to 20% of your income, work to improve your savings rate before you consider buying a home. A strong savings habit can help you build your home savings fund faster and ensure that a home purchase doesn’t impede your long-term financial goals. Finally, understand how much house you can afford so you can avoid being house poor. 

Buying a home can be rewarding, and when done the right way, it’s a way to build wealth. Before you decide to buy a home, it’s important to understand your numbers and ensure that you’re ready for the commitment. Without preparation, your dream home could be detrimental to your long-term financial goals.

Chloe A. Moore, CFP, is the founder of Financial Staples, a virtual, fee-only financial planning firm based in Atlanta, Georgia and serving clients nationwide.

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How Do I Sell My Vehicle With Joint Ownership?

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A joint auto loan is when two borrowers have rights and responsibility to the same vehicle and loan. If you have a cosigner, then you, the primary borrower, have all the rights to the vehicle. Here’s what you need to know when you need to sell your car with two people responsible for the loan.

Selling a Joint-Owned Vehicle

Joint owners are typically spouses or life partners who combine their income to meet income requirements or get a larger loan amount. Both co-borrowers are responsible for paying the car loan and have 50/50 rights to the vehicle, so both their names are listed on the title.

Since your co-borrower has the same rights and obligations to the vehicle as you, you must get their permission to sell the car. In most cases, they also need to be present for the sale to sign the title. This may not always be the case, though, so it’s important to know how to read your car’s title.

If you have it, take a look at your vehicle’s title for the names listed on the back where you sign to transfer ownership. For example: let’s say your name is Jane and your co-borrower’s name is Joe. You’re likely to see either:

  • “Jane and Joe”
  • “Jane or Joe”
  • “Jane and/or Joe”

If you see “and/or” or the connector “or”, this typically means only one person needs to be present for the sale of the car. But if you see “and” this means both of you need to be present to transfer ownership – this is usually the case with joint ownership.

In all three cases, you still need the permission of the co-borrower to sell the vehicle even if they don’t have to be physically present to sign the title. If you sell it without the co-borrowers consent, it may be considered a crime because it’s their property, too. Moving forward, discuss the sale with your co-borrower to avoid potential legal trouble.

Selling a Car With a Cosigner

How Do I Sell My Car With Joint Ownership?If you have a cosigner on your car loan, then things become easier. A cosigner doesn’t have any rights to the vehicle and their name isn’t on the title. Their purpose is to help you get approved for the auto loan with their credit score, and by promising the lender to repay the loan if you’re unable to. A cosigner can’t take your vehicle, sell it, or stop you from selling it yourself.

However, it’s nice to let them know if you do decide to sell the car because the auto loan is listed on their credit reports. If you can, reach out to them about your plans to sell the vehicle. The car loan’s status impacts them and could affect their ability to take on new credit when it’s active.

If you sell the vehicle and the lien is successfully removed from the title, then you’re both in the clear.

Removing the Lien From a Vehicle’s Title

If you still have a loan on your car, then your number one priority is paying off your lender. Your lender is the lienholder, and you can’t sell a vehicle without removing them from the title – they own the car until you complete the loan. This typically means paying off the loan balance until naturally during the loan term, or getting enough cash to pay it all off at once from a sale.

When you’re selling a car with a loan, you want to get an offer for your vehicle that’s large enough to cover your loan balance and to remove the lien. If you don’t get a large enough offer, then you need to pay that difference out of pocket before you can sell the vehicle. Or, you may be able to roll over the remaining loan balance onto your next car loan if you’re trading it in for something else.

Looking to Upgrade Your Ride?

Many borrowers ask for help to get the car they need. If you need more income on your loan application to meet requirements, asking a spouse or life partner to chip in can do the trick. If you have a lower credit score, then a cosigner with good credit could help you meet credit score requirements.

But what if you want to go it alone on your next auto loan and your credit isn’t great? A subprime lender could be the answer. Here at Auto Credit Express, we’ve been connecting credit-challenged consumers to dealerships with bad credit resources for over two decades, and we want to help you too.

Fill out our free auto loan request form and we’ll look for a dealer in your local area that’s signed up with subprime lenders. These lenders assist borrowers with many unique credit circumstances to help them get the vehicle they need. Get started today!

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Fixed-rate student loan refinancing rates sink to new record low for the second straight week

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Our goal here at Credible Operations, Inc., NMLS Number 1681276, referred to as “Credible” below, is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your finances. Although we do promote products from our partner lenders who compensate us for our services, all opinions are our own.

The latest trends in interest rates for student loan refinancing from the Credible marketplace, updated weekly. (iStock)

Rates for well-qualified borrowers using the Credible marketplace to refinance student loans into 10-year fixed-rate loans hit another new record low during the week of May 3, 2021.

For borrowers with credit scores of 720 or higher who used the Credible marketplace to select a lender, during the week of May 3:

  • Rates on 10-year fixed-rate loans averaged 3.60%, down from 3.69% the week before and 4.32% a year ago. This marks another record low for 10-year fixed rate loans, besting the previous record of 3.69%, set last week.
  • Rates on 5-year variable-rate loans averaged 3.19%, down from 3.23% the week before and up from 3.04% a year ago. Variable-rate loans recorded a record low of 2.63% during the week of June 29, 2020.

Student loan refinancing weekly rate trends

If you’re curious about what kind of student loan refinance rates you may qualify for, you can use an online tool like Credible to compare options from different private lenders. Checking your rates won’t affect your credit score.

Current student loan refinancing rates by FICO score

To provide relief from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, interest and payments on federal student loans have been suspended through at least Sept. 30, 2021. As long as that relief is in place, there’s little incentive to refinance federal student loans. But many borrowers with private student loans are taking advantage of the low interest rate environment to refinance their education debt at lower rates.

If you qualify to refinance your student loans, the interest rate you may be offered can depend on factors like your FICO score, the type of loan you’re seeking (fixed or variable rate), and the loan repayment term. 

The chart above shows that good credit can help you get a lower rate, and that rates tend to be higher on loans with fixed interest rates and longer repayment terms. Because each lender has its own method of evaluating borrowers, it’s a good idea to request rates from multiple lenders so you can compare your options. A student loan refinancing calculator can help you estimate how much you might save. 

If you want to refinance with bad credit, you may need to apply with a cosigner. Or, you can work on improving your credit before applying. Many lenders will allow children to refinance parent PLUS loans in their own name after graduation.

You can use Credible to compare rates from multiple private lenders at once without affecting your credit score.

How rates for student loan refinancing are determined

The rates private lenders charge to refinance student loans depend in part on the economy and interest rate environment, but also the loan term, the type of loan (fixed- or variable-rate), the borrower’s credit worthiness, and the lender’s operating costs and profit margin. 

About Credible

Credible is a multi-lender marketplace that empowers consumers to discover financial products that are the best fit for their unique circumstances. Credible’s integrations with leading lenders and credit bureaus allow consumers to quickly compare accurate, personalized loan options ― without putting their personal information at risk or affecting their credit score. The Credible marketplace provides an unrivaled customer experience, as reflected by over 4,300 positive Trustpilot reviews and a TrustScore of 4.7/5.

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Provident Financial calls time on doorstep lending business

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Provident Financial has confirmed plans to shut its 141-year-old doorstep lending arm, as its full-year results highlighted the strain the coronavirus pandemic and growing customer complaints have put on subprime lenders.

The Bradford-based company reported a pre-tax loss of £113.5m for 2020, compared with a £119m profit the previous year. The biggest drag was a £75m loss in its consumer credit division, which includes home credit.

Malcolm Le May, Provident chief executive, said: “In light of the changing industry and regulatory dynamics in the home credit sector, as well as shifting customer preferences, it is with deepest regret that we have decided to withdraw from the home credit market.”

Jason Wassell, chief executive of the Consumer Credit Trade Association, which represents alternative and high-cost lenders, said the decision showed that “the current regulatory framework does not work for the market, or its customers”.

“The result in this case is that access to credit will be reduced for hundreds of thousands of people.”

Provident built its name as a provider of home credit, or doorstep lending, which involves a team of local agents who regularly visit borrowers to collect repayments and discuss their products.

Proponents believed agents’ local expertise and personal relationships with borrowers allowed them to achieve better results than traditional bank lending to people with bad credit scores, but the approach has increasingly been superseded by digital models in recent years.

Provident’s business has also been affected by a series of self-inflicted and external difficulties. Its consumer credit division has been lossmaking since a botched effort to modernise the unit in 2017, which led to a pair of profit warnings and an emergency rights issue. More recently, its recovery has been hampered by an increase in customer complaints that prompted an investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority.

The complaints rise has been driven by professional claims management companies, echoing a broader trend across the subprime lending industry which has also affected companies such as Amigo, the guarantor lender. Executives also accuse the Financial Ombudsman Service, which adjudicates on customer complaints, of overstepping its mandate and encouraging huge volumes of complaints.

Provident said it would wind down or sell the consumer credit division, with either option expected to cost it about £100m. 

The move will see Provident exit the most controversial areas of high-cost credit to focus on what it describes as “mid-cost” lending through its Vanquis credit card business and Moneybarn vehicle finance arm. Vanquis and Moneybarn both remained profitable during 2020, despite more than a quarter of Moneybarn customers requesting payment holidays at the height of the pandemic.

The results were slightly better than average analyst forecasts, and the company said Vanquis and Moneybarn had both reported “improving trends” during the first quarter of 2021. Shares in Provident nonetheless dropped more than 10 per cent in early trading.

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