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7 helpful steps to take when house hunting



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The moment is here. You search for “houses near me” and watch tons of options pop up with lists of bedrooms, locations, prices, square footage and more. But each house comes with questions. Do you want city, suburban or country living? Is a home with a pool perfect for you and your family? How many bedrooms do you need?

House hunting is an exciting yet exhausting activity. We created a list of tips below to aid you in finding a forever home.

1. Make a budget

You should have an estimate of what you can offer for a down payment and monthly mortgage payment. Keep in mind the cost of hiring a mover, purchasing any new furniture or appliances and making potential construction upgrades. Some people recommend budgeting between two to six times the amount of your annual salary for a house, but it’s always smart to consider how much you can budget for your monthly mortgage payment.

2. Clean up your credit

As with most significant purchases, you receive better interest rates on your loan with a higher credit score. If your credit score is less than ideal, you can take steps to raise it to a respectable level. Working with a credit repair company may help fix incorrect reports on your credit history.

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3. Finding your loan

Start by checking your loan options. Preapproval for a loan might not mean that you have a loan secured, but it does help you decide how much you can offer on a house. Don’t be afraid to shop around for your best options — be sure to compare interest rates and examine loans from both banks and mortgage companies.

4. Prepare a down payment

Once you’ve budgeted and selected the house you love, it’s time to prepare the down payment. Typically, a 20% down payment is recommended for most soon-to-be homeowners, but there are other options. For instance, an FHA loan requires a down payment as low as 3.5% for a FICO score above 580. There are also options, including VA loans for veterans and conventional loans for first-time homebuyers that may be lower than 20%. Yet remember that a smaller down payment results in higher monthly mortgage payments.

putting coin in house
Photo (c) VichienPetchmai – Getty

5. Check for assistance programs

There are down payment assistance programs that can help you buy your house. Each state has its own plans, but the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has several programs that may help if you meet specific criteria. HUD programs often help people who make smart financial decisions but need a little help to make a significant purchase.

6. Get an inspection

Once your home is chosen, have the house inspected. Although most mortgage lenders make this a requirement, it is not mandatory. A home inspection ensures that you’re not overpaying for a home that has hidden issues. The inspector performs a thorough examination for electric, plumbing and other hard-to-spot problems. If there are more problems than you budgeted for, you can use the information to negotiate the price.

home inspector
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7. Negotiate

First-time homebuyers often make the mistake of letting their real estate agent do all the negotiating. However, if there are some things you want to try to negotiate, such as a new paint job or the cost of adding certain appliances, let your agent know! You can often negotiate the closing cost a bit, which puts a little more money back into your pocket.

family holding paper home
Photo (c) ThitareeSarmkasat – Getty

Buying a home, especially for the first time, might seem overwhelming. There are so many things to remember and so many details to be worked out! But remember that this is an exciting journey — with a little research and patience, buying a home can be a special experience that you’ll never forget. Once you buy your dream home, you may want to protect your investment with a home warranty. These warranties help mitigate the cost of repairs for several major home problems, including plumbing and HVAC issues.

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?



When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances



Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit



Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.



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