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How Much Is My House Worth? – Forbes Advisor

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Editorial Note: Forbes Advisor may earn a commission on sales made from partner links on this page, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

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Determining how much your house is worth depends on a number of factors, and can fluctuate, up or down, throughout the years. Some of those factors are in your control, like if you made home improvements to boost the value of your house. Others, like the current economy and local housing market trends, are less in your control.

Knowing the value of your home is critical when deciding if it’s a good time to sell, and negotiating a sale. But even if you’re not interested in selling, it’s important to know how much your home is worth because it impacts your ability to get financing, such as a refinance mortgage or a home equity line of credit (HELOC). It will also help you to calculate (or dispute) your property taxes when it’s time to pay your taxes.

Here is a guide to help you establish a baseline for what your house is worth.

How to Find Your Home’s Value

There are a variety of ways to get the information you need, depending on how much time and effort you are willing to put in, as well as cost if you seek professional help.

Start With Some Online Research

If you have the time and prefer researching things yourself, scouring the internet can provide a cheap and fairly quick way to determine how much your house is worth. This approach will not yield a completely accurate number, but should give you a ballpark figure to guide your decisions.

Make sure you compare like-for-like properties. The parameters for your research should include:

  • Your ZIP code
  • Size (square footage) of your property
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Age of the property
  • Condition
  • Outdoor space
  • Amenities

Some helpful sites should include:

  • Local home sales listings. Real estate brokerage websites are a great resource to check the recent sales price of similar properties in your neighborhood. If you own a condo, the price of condos recently sold in your building should be the most accurate guide, followed by condos in your vicinity with similar specifications. This will give you a sense of local housing market conditions, and whether homes are selling above or below value.
  • Online estimate tools. Many real estate brokers offer free online calculators to estimate the value of your home. But keep in mind, these are solely estimates. There are a lot of factors that will go into determining your property’s value, not all of which are accounted for by these algorithms.
  • House Price Index calculator. The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Housing Price Index Calculator leverages data on real estate transactions over time to estimate the likely value of a property based on the state, metropolitan statistical area, when it was purchased and the original sales price. It provides a general sense of how much your house has appreciated over the years, but may not be entirely accurate to your house.

Have a Realtor Conduct a Comparative Market Analysis

If your ultimate goal is to sell your property, a Realtor can help determine the value of your home and an accurate sales price. The comparative market analysis (CMA) provides you with an estimate of your home’s value based on the Realtor’s assessment of the residence and housing market trends in your area, including recent purchase prices for comparable homes.

The advantage to having a Realtor do this rather than yourself is because the Realtor:

  • Has professional expertise to provide a more precise evaluation
  • Has stronger knowledge of the local housing market (sometimes they see listings or sales before being posted online)
  • Is typically willing to prepare a CMA for free in order to land your business

Hire A Professional Appraiser

This is probably the most accurate, and sometimes expensive option. You can hire a professional appraiser to provide an evaluation of the property’s value, which in turn should help you price your home accurately. The appraisal report also can be used to identify home improvements and repairs that will increase its value, which is helpful if you do want to sell eventually.

Fees for an appraisal usually range between $300 to $500, but remember to do your due diligence when hiring an appraiser. An inaccurate appraisal could mean making important financial decisions concerning your home’s future using bad information.

Lenders and Realtors often work with property appraisers and might have a list of recommendations to help you in your search.

What if My Home Value Increases?

So you’ve done your research or had a professional give you an accurate value of your home, and you’ve discovered your home value has increased. First off, congratulations! There are also a few ways to tap that windfall, if interested:

  • Sell your home. You should consider selling if it is a seller’s market and you’d likely get a hefty payout, which can either help you get out of steep mortgage payments or upgrade to a bigger home. It’s wise to consult with a licensed real estate agent about this.
  • Get rid of mortgage insurance. If you made a down payment of less than 20% on your property, then it’s highly likely you are paying Private mortgage insurance (PMI) as part of your monthly loan payments. If your home has increased in value, you may have enough equity to get your PMI cancelled, but this will require an appraisal report as proof to your lender.
  • Borrow the equity. You can borrow money based on your home’s value and use your house as the collateral on the loan if you’d like to take out a HELOC or a cash-out refinance. If you’re looking to upgrade your home, which will help increase the value further, credit lines like a HELOC are a great way to get the needed cash faster.

What if My Home Value Goes Down?

Just like there are numerous external factors driving home values up, the same goes for when your home’s value declines. It could be because there are too many similar homes for sale with far less demand, creating a buyer’s market. Poor economic conditions, rising crime rates or nearby foreclosures also could drive down your home’s value.

Your property’s value also could be lower if it::

  • Is old and outdated
  • Is in need of major repair
  • Lacks the the amenities popular with most buyers

How to Increase My Home Value

If you want to proactively boost the value of your home, take the time to understand the latest preferences for home buyers, and specifically what buyers in your area are attracted to. For example:

  • Adding an extra bedroom, bathroom, patio or a finished basement.
  • Giving the exterior a facelift such as replacing doors, windows, fences or painting walls.
  • Updating your appliances in the kitchen, bathrooms or your AC unit.
  • Making your home more energy efficient to reduce utility bills.

Related: Our Latest Guides to Home Improvement

It is always important to remember that these are not universal suggestions and do not guarantee specific outcomes. Decisions are better taken in consultation with a real estate professional, while factoring in your unique situation like your budget and local housing market conditions.

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?

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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

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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

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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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