Consumer Real Estate News


    • Managing Credit Responsibly as a College Student

      19 February 2020

      Building good credit in college is one of the best financial moves students can make. Having good credit allows them to qualify for loans, rental applications, auto insurance, phone plans and can help them get a job.

      Being responsible with credit is the best way to establish and improve a credit score. For college students without much credit history, there are small but important steps they can take to build up their score.

      Obtaining a Student Credit Card
      Some credit cards are marketed to students and others who don’t have much borrowing history. Federal laws restrict issuing credit cards to anyone under 21 unless the applicant has the independent ability to repay debt or has an adult co-signer who accepts joint liability for the account.

      Student credit cards may have low credit limits, such as $1,000, but they are otherwise indistinguishable from other credit cards. They may even have features such as cash back, no annual fees and budget management tools.

      Using Credit Cards Wisely
      After getting a credit card, students can start using it slowly and for occasional, small purchases that can be paid for on time. This will help build credit history and help them stay out of debt.

      Students shouldn't let a new card sit in their wallet. They must use it or risk the bank closing it due to inactivity. Putting small, recurring charges on it, such as a Netflix account or other website subscription, is an easy way to maintain use at a low cost.

      Students shouldn't make any big purchases unless it’s an emergency. Having low debt levels on their credit card will allow them to have enough of a credit line available in an emergency, and will increase the credit utilization part of their credit score.

      Building Credit With Student Loans
      One of the last things college students want is to default on their student loans, as this affects credit.

      Borrowers should make at least the minimum payment each month and do it on time. They should borrow only what they need to go to school, instead of using the funds to buy a car or dine out. Once they graduate, they may want to consolidate their student loans to get a better interest rate.

      On-time payments and paying off student loans will improve the credit score over time. If students run into problems making payments, they should contact their student loan provider and ask for forbearance. Federal student loans also offer Income-Driven Repayment plans that base payments on a borrower’s income.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Title Insurance and Why You Need It

      19 February 2020

      Title insurance can be one of those things that someone says you need when you buy a home, but you don’t understand why.

      Without it, you could be left with a nagging question in the back of your mind: "Does the seller really own the property?" If the answer is no, it could be bad if you don’t have title insurance.

      Some people or companies other than the title owner may have rights to the property. For example, the property owner may have sold mineral, air or utility rights to someone else. Or a bank with a mortgage on the property may own an interest in it. The government can also have a lien on the property for unpaid taxes.

      What does title insurance do, exactly? Basically, it covers events related to the title that have already happened. It doesn’t cover future things that happen to the title after it has been issued.

      First, the title company or an attorney verifies that the seller owns the property and is free to sell it. The title search includes searching property records to make sure there haven’t been any clerical errors and that there aren’t any undisclosed heirs, spousal claims, omissions in deeds, unknown liens or fraud with the deed. If there are any errors, they’re fixed before the home purchase transaction is completed.

      Second, the title company contracts an underwriting company to issue an insurance policy, called title insurance. This protects you in court if anyone challenges you to the title of your home. If you lose any equity, you’ll be compensated.

      Two insurance policies will often have to be bought by the homeowner: one protecting them as the owner, and a lender’s policy protecting the lender. The lender requires the insurance because it is providing a loan with the property as security. A problem with the title affects the value of the lender’s security. Only the amount of the loan will be covered in the lender’s policy, and it will decrease as the homeowner pays back the loan.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 3 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

      19 February 2020

      Checking your credit report consistently for fraudulent activity may not be enough to protect your personal information and thus your credit score. What will help are three tools that are common in the credit world: fraud alerts, security freezes and credit locks.

      Fraud Alert
      This is a free alert you can place with one of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Once the alert is placed with one bureau, it will pass on to the other two.

      A fraud alert is a notice put on your credit report, warning prospective lenders that you’re the victim of identity theft. Lenders who see this warning should take extra steps to verify your identity before giving credit to someone claiming to be you. For example, a bank may try to contact you in various ways to verify your identity before approving you for new credit.

      An initial fraud alert lasts for 90 days. It can be renewed for another 90 days after the first alert expires. It can also be extended for seven years if you’ve been the victim of identity theft.

      Credit Freeze
      Also called a security freeze, a credit freeze is an extra step beyond a fraud alert that can offer more protection. It can cost $2 to $12 to start, lift or remove a credit freeze, though most states require it to be free for identity theft victims.

      A credit freeze does what the name implies—it “freezes” or locks access to a credit file against anyone trying to open a new account or get new credit in the person’s name. It’s more severe than a fraud alert. If you think your information or credit cards have been stolen and you’re at high risk of fraud, a credit freeze may be worthwhile.

      But that protection comes with a price. It also shuts out companies that you may want to do business with, such as lenders, insurers and cellular service providers that may want to check your credit report. To get around that, you have to temporarily lift the freeze with a PIN and set a date for the freeze to be reinstated automatically.

      Credit Lock
      A credit lock is similar to a credit freeze and should be easier to use. It’s offered by a credit reporting company and allows users to lock and unlock the account online easily instead of having to verify their identity each time a lift or security freeze is done.

      Credit locks usually require an annual fee, typically around $60. A credit lock lasts for as long as you pay the annual fee. The lock only works for the credit reporting company that you start it with. Credit locks must be initiated with each company if you want all of your information to be locked.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Extend the Life of Your Carpet

      18 February 2020

      Whether you adore your new carpet or can't afford to replace it every few years, below are a handful of ways to extend the life of your carpet—even if you have kids and pets.

      1. Lay down a rug in high traffic spots.  It may seem weird to lay a rug over your carpet, but in places that see a ton of foot traffic—like by the bed, couch or doorways—adding an extra layer of protection in the form of a rug or mat can seriously prolong your carpet's life.

      2. Vacuum frequently. Make sure you vacuum once a week to pull up damaging dirt and dander that can wear down your carpet overtime.

      3.  Take off your shoes. By enforcing a "no shoes inside" policy in your home, you will reduce the amount of dirt that gets tracked in. Add a shoe rack by the front door to help make it easy.

      4. Act fast with spills. If you get a splash or spill on your carpet, tackle it immediately, but don't rub it in. Instead, use a spray bottle to mist a bit of water onto the stain and then blot it up gently with a towel as many times as needed. If it needs more work, create a solution that is 1:1 white vinegar and water and repeat the process.5. Deep clean. Once a year, deep clean your carpet with a professional carpet cleaning device. Often, you can rent out these cleaners, or hire someone to do it for you.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Alternative Ways to Fund a College Education

      18 February 2020

      The average student loan debt for a college graduate in 2016 was $37,172, according to Forbes. That’s a lot of debt to be saddled with when starting a career. However, you can help your children avoid student loan debt by looking into some alternatives:

      Save Early
      This takes years of forethought, but it can be one of the best ways to pay a large chunk of college expenses. Start contributing to a 529 college savings plan as soon as your child is born. Put in only $100 a month from birth and a high school graduate will have about $40,000—enough money to fund two years of going to a public college. If your child is working part-time or during the summer, they can also contribute to the fund.

      Payment Plans
      Many colleges offer monthly installment plans that stretch out payments over the course of a year or several years instead of requiring a lump sum before classes start. Payment plans can include four years of tuition, and some can be paid years in advance at current prices. Some college costs aren’t included in payment plans, such as room and board, books, supplies, and personal items.

      Recruitment Scholarships
      If your child has been accepted to a college that they're overqualified for from an admissions perspective, they may be eligible for a recruitment scholarship from the school. These are used to recruit students who stand out the most in their applicant pool.

      Advanced High School Courses
      Some college credits can be earned in high school by taking Advanced Placement classes. Students can graduate from college a semester early or even sooner, saving you money.

      Community College
      Spending the first two years at a community college can save them a lot of money on education. They can also live at home to save money. If doing this, your kids will have to check with their academic advisor at the community college to ensure they're taking the right classes to transfer to a four-year college. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting money on classes that won’t count toward their degree.

      Employer Assistance
      Your employer may offer scholarships for your children. If your child is working part-time while attending college, their employer may also offer a tuition reimbursement program that will pay a large part of the college bill.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.