By Jennifer Calonia
Owning a home comes with its rewards — it’s an investment, a cozy haven to kick-up your feet after a long day of work, and a welcoming place to bring family and friends together. Although all of this makes homeownership fulfilling, owning a home also opens the door for unexpected (but necessary) expenses.
If you’ve suddenly been hit with a home improvement project that’s pinching your budget, like a roofing issue or heater malfunction, a personal loan might be an option to help cover the cost.
What is a personal loan?
A personal loan is an installment loan that’s typically issued by a bank, credit union or online lender. According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate on a two-year personal loan is 10.70% but varies depending on your credit score and other criteria. Some lenders offer repayment terms anywhere from 12 months to five years.
A benefit of using a personal loan for emergency home improvement projects is that the approval process is generally quick so you can address urgent home repairs sooner. Some online lenders can run a credit check, approve your application and send funds your way with a couple of days. The approval process for banks and credit unions, on the other hand, can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, if the lender needs additional information.
How to find a personal loan
If you’ve decided that a personal loan makes sense to fund your next home project, make sure you’re aware of these next steps.
1. Assess your budget
The last thing you need is taking out a personal loan only to realize after the fact that you can’t afford to repay it. Calculate how much you realistically need for your home improvement project, giving yourself a reasonable buffer for unforeseen repair expenses (e.g. permit fees, price changes for a specific material, etc.)
Then, tally your monthly income and financial obligations to ensure you still have enough cash on hand to keep the lights on and make monthly installments toward your loan. Using a spreadsheet or budgeting app can help you track these numbers easily.
2. Know your credit score
Generally, you need a good credit score to get approved for a personal loan. Your credit score is one of the key factors that lenders use to determine whether your application is approved, and a higher credit score results in a lower interest rate offer.
Check your credit score with the three credit bureaus to ensure there isn’t an error or suspicious activity that might inadvertently lower your credit score. For a free credit report, go to AnnualCreditReport.com to see where your credit stands before moving forward in the process.
3. Compare rates and terms
When you’ve confirmed that you have a good credit score that can get you competitive interest rates, it’s tempting to accept a loan from the first lender that approves you. But like other major purchases, it’s important to shop around.
Compare interest rates, annual percentage rates (APR), and term durations available, and read the fine print for any conditions or fees that might offset any benefits.
To start, try reaching out to your existing financial institution first to see what they can offer; sometimes credit unions, in particular, offer rate incentives for loyal members. Also, consider using a personal loan aggregator website to compare offers from multiple online lenders at once (just do your due diligence to ensure the site is legitimate).
4. Submit an application
If you’re ready to submit an application, you can either complete a form online or apply in-person, depending on your lender. Although all lenders require different information to process a loan application, some common information to prepare ahead of time include:
- Personal information
- Employment information
- Reason for the loan
- Amount you want to borrow
To minimize any delays on your end, it’s helpful to prepare copies of verification documents, such as a driver’s license, proof of address like a utility statement, information about your home and pay stubs. Your prospective lender will likely reach out to you if they need any other information to make a decision.
Although it’s always best to have emergency savings set aside for a sudden home improvement project, turning to a personal loan is a useful option when you’re pressed for funds and time. As urgent as your project might feel, however, always take the time to do your research to ensure you’re making the right move for your situation.
Jennifer Calonia is a native Los Angeles-based writer for Upstart whose goal is to help readers get excited about improving their financial health and lifestyle. Her work has been featured on Forbes, The Huffington Post, MSN Money, Business Insider, CNN Money, and Yahoo Finance. When she’s not wordsmithing, you can find her outdoors, exploring state and national parks.
The real estate market keeps chugging along.
Here’s news from the Mortgage Banker’s Association…
Last week, applications to purchase a home hit their highest level since April 2010. This is clearly a sign that the spring selling season is starting off in full swing.
You may remember that the reason why April 2010 was so active is because of the Home Buyer Tax Credit that was in effect. In order to get a special income tax incentive, buyers had to go under contract in April 2010 and close by June 30, 2010.
Today, purchase applications are at their highest level in 9 years and are up 14% over last year. Interest rates are roughly 0.5% lower than 6 months ago and roughly 3.0% below their long-term average.
Let the Spring Selling Season begin!
Fantastic 6 bedroom, 4 bathroom home at 1575 Edenbridge Drive in desirable Windshire Park with over 4,300 finished square feet! Main level has a formal living and dining room as well as an eat-in kitchen and family room. Upstairs has 4 large bedrooms and a loft. The finished basement has 2 additional bedrooms, full bath, huge rec room with wet bar and additional bonus room for crafts/home gym. Backyard has a big trex deck, storage shed and garden boxes. This home’s solar panels make the home net zero for electricity! Contact Aaron Pearson for your private showing at (970) 646-3035 for more information or click the link below for more details.
Photo Credit: Rawpixel via Unsplash
Few topics cause more division among economists than the age-old debate of whether you’re better off paying off your mortgage earlier, or investing that money instead. And there’s a good reason why that debate continues; both sides make compelling arguments.
For many people, their mortgage is the largest expense they will ever incur in their lives. So if given the chance, it only makes logical sense you would want to pay it off as quickly as possible. On the other hand, a mortgage is also the cheapest money you will ever borrow, and it’s generally considered good debt. Any extra money you obtain could be definitely be put to good use elsewhere.
The reality is, however, a little less cut and clear. For some homeowners, paying off their mortgage earlier is the right answer. While for others, it would be far more advantageous to invest their money.
Advantages of paying off your mortgage earlier
- You’ll pay less interest: Each time you make a mortgage payment, a portion is dedicated towards interest, and another towards principal (we’ll ignore other costs for now). Interest is calculated monthly by taking your remaining balance, the length of your amortization period, and the interest rate agreed upon with your lending institution.
If you have a $300,000 mortgage, at a 4% fixed rate over 30 years, your monthly payment would be around $1,432.25. By the time you finish paying off your mortgage, you would have paid a total of $515,609, of which $215,609 were interest.
If you wanted to lower the total amount you pay on interest, you don’t need to make a large lump sum to make a difference. If you were to increase your monthly mortgage payment to $1,632.25 (a $200 a month increase), you would be saving $50,298 in interest, and you’ll pay off your mortgage 6 years and 3 months earlier.
Though this is an oversimplified example, it shows how even a small increase in monthly payments makes a big difference in the long run.
- Every additional dollar towards your principal has a guaranteed return on investment: Every additional payment you make towards your mortgage has a direct effect in lowering the amount you pay in interest. In fact, each additional payment is, in fact, an investment. And unlike stocks, bonds, and other investment vehicles, you are guaranteed to have a return on your investment.
- Enforced discipline: It takes real commitment to invest your money wisely each month instead of spending it elsewhere.
Your monthly mortgage payments are a form of enforced discipline since you know you can’t afford to miss them. It’s far easier to set a higher monthly payment towards your mortgage and stick to it than making regular investments on your own.
Besides, once your home is completely paid off, you can dedicate a larger portion of your income towards investments, your children or grandchildren’s education, or simply cut down on your working hours.
Advantages of investing your money
- A greater return on your investment: The biggest reason why you should invest your money instead comes down to a simple, green truth: there’s more money to be made in investments.
Suppose that instead of dedicating an additional $200 towards your monthly mortgage payment, you decide to invest it in a conservative index fund which tracks S&P 500’s index. You start your investment today with $200 and add an additional $200 each month for the next 30 years. By the end of the term, if the index fund had a modest yield of 5% per year, you will have earned $91,739 in interest, and the total value of your investment would be $163,939.
If you think that 5% per year is a little too optimistic, all we have to do is see the S&P 500 performance between December 2002 and December 2012, which averaged an annual yield of 7.10%.
- A greater level of diversification: Real estate has historically been one of the safest vehicles of investment available, but it’s still subject to market forces and changes in government policies. The forces that affect the stock and bonds markets are not always the same that affect real estate, because the former are subject to their issuer’s economic performance, while property values could change due to local events.
By putting your extra money towards investments, you are diversifying your investment portfolio and spreading out your risk. If you are relying exclusively on the value of your home, you are in essence putting all your eggs in one basket.
- Greater liquidity: Homes are a great investment, but it takes time to sell a home even in the best of circumstances. So if you need emergency funds now, it’s a lot easier to sell stocks and bonds than a home.
Misael Lizarraga is a real estate writer with a passion for teaching real estate concepts to first time buyers and investors. He runs realestatecontentguy.com and is a contributing writer for several leading real estate blogs in North America.
Right before the guests ring the doorbell or give the front door an old-fashioned knock, they step on your welcome mat. This mat serves two purposes: catching debris and adding style. Here are some ideas for how to give this entry detail a refresh.
Welcome Mat 1: Caela McKeever, original photo on Houzz
A lettered mat can help you say exactly what you want to say when someone comes to your door. Obviously, nothing says hello more than the word “hello.”
The simple greeting might also draw visitors’ eyes to the ground and remind them to take off their shoes before they step inside.
If you have a colorful front door, use that as doormat inspiration. If your door lacks color, maybe it’s time to paint it.
Door paint: Scarlet Ribbons, Dulux
Welcome Mat 2: Zack | de Vito Architecture + Construction
The whole mat doesn’t need to match the door. This striped mat draws on other colors found on the home’s exterior.
Welcome Mat 3: Rustic Porch, original photo
Think Outside the Rectangle
Welcome Mat 4: Garrison Hullinger Interior Design Inc.
Roll Out a Rug
A big, bold rug in front of the door adds color and life to this home’s entry, designed by Garrison Hullinger.
A large porch rug can also make the space feel like another room of the house. If you add a few chairs, people can stop, relax, and enjoy the outdoors. Plus, more rug means more chances for it to pick up any water or dirt from the shoes of incoming guests.
Welcome Mat 5: Seattle Staged to Sell and Design LLC
Keep It Natural
If the entry is already bursting with details, such as eye-catching hardware and light fixtures, a neutral mat will help keep the attention on them. Natural doesn’t have to mean boring.
Welcome Mat 6: Grandin Road, original photo on Houzz
Personalize the Space
This contemporary monogrammed mat is hard to miss. “Don’t be afraid to choose a doormat with personality, says Kate Beebe of Grandin Road. “Work some wit and whimsy into your entrance, and choose something that will put a smile on your guests’ faces.”
She also recommends picking a mat that covers at least three-quarters of the entrance’s width and allows the door to open easily.
Change With the Seasons
While you are changing the front porch decor, swap a plain doormat for a festive option.After the holidays, clean off your seasonal doormat and store it until the following year.
Make It Feel Like Home
Doormat options are pretty much endless, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one that works for you.
Fully remodeled 2 story home at 5656 W 110th Circle in desirable Sheridan Green. New luxury vinyl tile, carpet & interior paint. The kitchen has been refreshed with new paint, new stainless-steel appliances and countertops. New roof, gutters & exterior paint done 9 months ago. This home has a large master suite on the upper level, 2 additional bedrooms upstairs and a second master bedroom suite on the main level. The main floor also has a formal dining area, living room, family room and is handicap accessible. The finished basement provides a large bonus room, craft/workout space or a fantastic game room. Outside you’ll love the location. This home sits on a quiet cul-de-sac and backs to the Big Dry Creek open space with incredible views of the 4th of July fireworks. The large lot offers RV storage and no HOA. Just a short walk or bike ride to the elementary school, movie theater or to one of the many restaurants in the Westminster Promenade. Relax on the covered back patio and enjoy the view! Contact Aaron Pearson for your private showing at (970) 646-3035 for more information or click the link below for more details.
So, which is it? A buyer’s market or a seller’s market?
Well, it depends!
First, let’s define each market. According to research, a buyer’s market exists when there is more than 4-6 months of inventory on the market.
If it would take longer than 4-6 months to sell out all of the inventory currently for sale, then it is a buyer’s market.
This calculation is obviously a function of the amount of inventory on the market and the current pace of sales.
A seller’s market exists if it would take shorter than 4-6 months.
So, which is it?
It depends very much on the price range.
Here are the numbers for Northern Colorado:
• $300,000 to $400,000 = 0.9 months
• $400,000 to $500,000 = 1.9 months
• $500,000 to $750,000 = 2.3 months
• $750,000 and over = 5.8 months
So, most price ranges are a clear seller’s market. It’s not until $750,000 and over that the market starts to approach a more balanced state.
Here’s one more thing that might help you…
You probably don’t need a reminder that this is tax season.
Not only because tax returns are due in two weeks but also because you will soon receive your property tax notification in the mail.
Every two years your County re-assesses the value of your property and then sends that new value to you.
When this happens, many of our clients:
- Don’t agree with the new assessed value
- Aren’t sure what to do
- Are confused by the process
- Want to save money on property taxes
Good news! We have a webinar that will help you. On the webinar we will show you:
- How to read the information from the County
- What it means for you
- How to protest the valuation if you want
- How to get an accurate estimate of your property’s value
You can listen to the webinar live or get the recording. In any case, you can sign up at www.WindermereWorkshop.com
The webinar is April 17th at 10:00. If you can’t join live, go ahead and register so you can automatically receive the recording.
This is a complimentary online workshop for all of our clients. We hope you can join!
When it comes to luxury home design, if you can imagine it, it can be done. In-home spas, luxe bowling alleys, and glass wine rooms are just a few examples we’re seeing out there. The same idea extends outdoors to swimming pools, which are a must for most luxury homes. But we aren’t talking about just any old backyard pool; they’re usually more masterpiece than mainstream. We consulted a few designers to get some insights into what’s trending in the world of luxury pools and here’s what we found.
Photo credit to AAA Custom Pools Inc.
- Catching the eye of all who behold it is the principal goal of a luxury pool. Since the dawn of time, nothing has delivered that reaction quite like fire.
- Accenting your backyard pool with stylish braziers emphasizes both elegance and authority.
- Such a style demands forethought, as safety is a priority. The right flame, however, sparks an ambiance unlike any other.
Custom Art Accoutrement
Photo credit to Van Kirk & Sons Pools and Spas.
- A home should represent its owners. A pool should be an extension of that.
- Styling a pool with custom art allows for expression. It can be a showcase of personal style, cultural heritage, or even personal fandom.
- Commissioning a professional artist to stylize your pool will ensure a one-of-a-kind amenity.
Photo credit to HomesOfTheRich.Net.
- Creating a man-made island with a creatively carved pool will render your yard an oasis unlike any other.
- With an integrated natural feel, you and your fellow swimmers can truly feel like you’ve discovered a secret spring in the midst of a jungle.
- Creating naturally treed islands or rocky outcroppings that serve as a waterfall in the midst of your pool can transform the feel into that of an exotic bar on the edge of the world.
For many house hunters, a dream home isn’t complete without being a good fit for the family dog. Some might see the fenced in yard, and consider the box checked. However, if you are looking for your next home, you may want to look a little deeper to be sure the fit is right before signing on the dotted line.
It’s worth taking a little extra time to consider your pooch in a little more depth. Here is a quick checklist of considerations to be sure you find the right fit for your canine companion:
What’s in a Yard?
A fenced yard is, of course, ideal for many dog owners. It gives you the ability for off-leash play, a must for meeting the exercise needs of active breeds such as Border Collies or Labradors. But not all yards are the same. Here’s a quick checklist of what to look for:
- Check the fencing to be sure it is secure. Factor in any repair costs into the cost of the home since they will need to be addressed right away.
- Are there flower beds with potentially toxic plants that will need to be moved outside of the fenced area? Examples include many spring bulb favorites such as daffodils, tulips, and crocus, as well as some bushes such as azaleas.
- Is there a nice shady spot so your pooch can find shelter from the heat on a hot summer day?
- Is there access to water for an outdoor bath?
- Will delivery people be able to access your main entrance when the dog is outside without entering the fenced part of your yard? It is easy to overlook, but this can become a major annoyance if you do a lot of online shopping.
Indoor Space Considerations
It won’t always be a beautiful sunny day, even in your dream home. Make sure your new home will have enough space for a little indoor play on rainy days and during colder winter months. A long hallway can make a great runway for a game of fetch when getting outside just isn’t practical.
Likewise, consider the needs of aging or injured dogs. Does the layout of the home require going up and down stairs to get to the most used areas of the home? This can be a major problem for some special needs dogs, and a deal breaker for some pet owners.
Finally, most dog trainers recommend that every dog has a little space to call their own during times of stress. This may be as simple as a corner of the living room with a comfy dog bed or crate. If you have a puppy, however, a space that can be puppy-proofed and cordoned off (with appropriate flooring for potential accidents during potty training) is in order.
Go for a Walk
It may be impractical to include a dog walk for every home you look at while searching for your dream house. However, once you are down to a short list, it is time to actually take your dog on what is likely to be the daily walk route. Make sure this is a walk you would feel comfortable making every day, or even letting the kids take.
Be on the lookout for hazards: A dangerous intersection, a portion of the walk that requires walking in the road, or a neighbor who lets their dog run right up to the curb with invisible fencing (a recipe for territorial fights with leashed dogs passing by). A drive through is unlikely to reveal these walk spoiling annoyances. In addition, look for evidence of good lighting for evening or early morning walks.
Nearby Canine Amenities
If you are moving to a new part of town or relocating to a new state altogether, it is worth doing some research to find out where the pet services are located. Depending on the services you tend to use, it can make a big difference in your quality of life to be able to take advantage of nearby conveniences.
Think about what services you are likely to use most, and check on Google Maps to locate:
- Dog boutiques (particularly important if you buy specialty food)
- Grooming services
- Doggy daycare and boarding
- Pet sitting and dog walking services
- Dog-friendly restaurants (BringFido.comis a great research tool for this)
- Dog parks and dog-friendly paths for long walks
Although luxurious hardwood flooring adds a great deal of ambiance to a home, it will have the opposite effect if it gets scratched up from the nails of a rambunctious canine. Large and even medium sized dogs can easily create unsightly scars in hardwood floors that can only be fixed by a professional who will need to sand away the wood then stain and refinish it. It’s a costly fix!
Modern carpets can generally hold up to doggy traffic. However, think about where you will be coming in and out of the house with your pooch to be sure you have a place to wipe muddy paws first on rainy days. A mudroom or garage entrance can easily stow a few extra towels for the job.
Tile and high-quality laminate flooring are the most durable as both will resist scratching and are easy to clean.
Consider Pet-Friendly Condos and Planned Communities
If you have a truly pampered pooch, one way to go the extra mile is to ask your realtor about dog-friendly communities in your area. Many condominium complexes, for example, have pet services right on site. Pet grooming, pet-sitting, dog walking services, and even a fenced in dog park and/or pool is available in some areas.
Work with a Knowledgeable Realtor
Make sure to let your agent know upfront that you have a canine member of your family to consider during the house hunt. If there are certain “musts” such as a fenced yard, or proximity to veterinary services, be sure to put that on the table upfront to help your realtor find a home that works for you and your furry friend.
Sharon is the lead author at wileypup.com. She received her M.S. in Science & Technology Studies from Virginia Tech and has worked as a professional dog trainer for over 10 years.
The following analysis of the Metro Denver & Northern Colorado real estate market (which now includes Clear Creek, Gilpin, and Park Counties) is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere agent.
The Colorado economy continues to grow, adding 69,100 new non-agricultural jobs over the past 12 months, which represents a solid growth rate of 2.6%. That said, we are continuing to see a modest slowdown in employment gains, but that is to be expected at this stage of the business cycle. My latest forecast suggests that Colorado will add a total of 65,000 new jobs in 2019, representing a growth rate of 2.3%.
In November, the state unemployment rate was 3.3%, up from 3% a year ago. The increase is essentially due to an increase in the labor force, which rose by 77,279 people. On an un-seasonally adjusted basis, unemployment rates in all the markets contained in this report dropped between November 2017 and November 2018. The highest rate was in Grand Junction, but that was still a very respectable 4%. Fort Collins and Boulder had the lowest unemployment rate of 2.9%. All the regions contained in this report are essentially at full employment.
HOME SALES ACTIVITY
- In the fourth quarter of 2018, 12,911 homes sold — a drop of 13.8% compared to the last quarter of 2017 and down 22% from the third quarter.
- The only market that saw growth in sales was Clear Creek, which rose by 3.8%. This is a small market, however, and is prone to rapid swings in price as well as sales. There was a significant drop in sales in the Denver market. I will be watching closely to see if this is an anomaly or a longer-term trend. At this time, I believe the former to be true.
- Interestingly, this decline in sales in Denver came as inventory levels rose by 37%. For now, I attribute this to seasonality and expect to see sales growth return in the spring.
- Inventory growth continues to give buyers more choice, allowing them to be far more selective — and patient — before making an offer on a home. That said, well-positioned and well-priced homes are selling relatively quickly.
- Despite the rapid rise in listings and slowing home sales, prices continue to trend higher, though the rate of growth is slowing. The average home price in the region rose 6% year-over-year to $454,903. Home prices were 2% higher than in the third quarter.
- In all, the data was not very surprising. As with many markets across the country, affordability is starting to become an issue. However, the recent drop in interest rates likely stimulated buyers at the end of 2018 and I expect to see good price growth in the first quarter of 2019.
- Appreciation was strongest in Park County, where prices rose 28.2%. We can attribute this rapid increase to it being a small market. Only Gilpin County saw a drop in average home price. Though this, too, is due to it being a very small market, making it more prone to significant swings.
- As mentioned, affordability is becoming an issue in many Colorado markets and I anticipate that we will see some cooling in home price appreciation as we move through late 2019.
DAYS ON MARKET
- The average number of days it took to sell a home in Colorado rose by one day compared to the final quarter of 2017.
- The amount of time it took to sell a home dropped in four counties: Boulder, Larimer, Gilpin, and Park. The rest of the counties in this report saw days on market rise relatively modestly with the exception of the small Clear Creek market, which rose by 20 days.
- In the fourth quarter of 2018, it took an average of 38 days to sell a home in the region, but it took less than a month to sell a home in five of the eleven counties contained in this report.
- Housing demand is still there, but buyers appear to have taken a little breather. I anticipate, however, that the spring will bring more activity and rising sales.
The speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.
For the fourth quarter of 2018, I continue the trend I started last summer and have moved the needle a little more in favor of buyers. I will be closely watching listing activity in the spring to see if we get any major bumps above the traditional increase because that may further slow home price growth — something that would-be buyers appear to be waiting for.
As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.
In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.