What Is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

If you’re constantly getting hassled by debt collectors, you might be left feeling helpless and anxious. Maybe you’ve thought about putting an end to these relentless phone calls but didn’t know how. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) exists to protect us from unfair and abusive debt collection practices. 

In the following sections, we will discuss the FDCPA in greater detail so that you can feel better equipped to deal with debt collectors. If your situation fits the criteria, there may be something you can do about it.

What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

The Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) places restrictions on how third-party debt collectors act to handle situations in which they are trying to collect debts owed to another person or entity. 

This federal law limits the ways that collectors are legally allowed to make contact with those who owe. These restrictions include rules surrounding what time of day debt collectors are allowed to contact debtors as well as how many times they are allowed to contact them. 

If your rights, according to the FDCPA, have been violated, you have one year to file a lawsuit against the debt collection company as well as the individual debt collector. 

How the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Protects You

The FDCPA was established to protect consumers from unfair debt collection practices such as being called at odd hours of the night, being harassed, and being wrongly accused of owing a debt. This federal law puts control back in your hands so that you can feel more confident about your interactions with debt collectors.

Here are some of the ways that this law protects you:

You are in charge of the communication: You have the power to place restrictions on when and how you are contacted by debt collectors. By law: 

  • Debt collectors are not allowed to contact you at inappropriate times such as early in the morning (before 8 a.m.) or late at night (after 9 p.m.).
  • You can request to not be contacted while at work.
  • You may choose to have an attorney represent you, in which case, the debt collectors would have to communicate with them. 
  • Debt collectors are not allowed to discuss your debts with family members, employers, family, neighbors or other third parties. 

If you have any specific demands for how you want the communication to flow between you and the debt collectors, you will need to form a written request. Under the FDCPA, any requests made over the phone will not be valid. For some guidance on what your letter should look like, take a look at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website to view some examples. 

Debt collectors can NOT harass or use abusive language/behavior towards you:  In the game of unpaid debts, things can get really ugly, really fast. No one likes to be asked to pay back money they owe over and over again, but there is a fine line between asking and harassment. It starts to become harassment once the debt collector starts to use misleading language or fear tactics in order to get you to do what they want. Some examples of this could include but are not limited to:

  • Using profanity.
  • Calling excessively and repeatedly.
  • Threats or violent language. 
  • Calling without properly identifying themselves. 

In many cases, this type of hostile behavior is indicative of a scam. The last thing you want to do is give your money to a scam debt collector. Be wary and observant of this so that you do not make this mistake. Jot down any instances where this behavior has occurred and use it to file your claim.  

Debt collectors must be honest: Debt collectors lying to you about how much you owe, what consequences you will face is something that the FDCPA does not tolerate. Debt collectors must not mislead or lie to you about:

  • How much you owe.
  • Whether or not it is past the statute of limitations.
  • Legal consequences/punishments if you do not pay. 
  • The company they are representing. 

Debt collectors are always obligated to be truthful about your debt situation, but they also have a right to say nothing at all. If you find yourself unable to get information from your debt collector, it might be in your best interest to seek out advice from a legal agency in your neighborhood.

Debt collectors have to play fair: In desperate situations, some debt collectors might resort to making threats to coerce you into paying your debts. Some examples of this type of behavior may include but are not limited to:

  • Asking you to write a postdated check to cover the debt.
  • Threatening to deposit or depositing your postdated check prior to its date. 
  • Threatening to take ownership of your assets as payment. 
  • Asking for and accepting more money than what is actually owed. 

Debt collectors are required to validate your debt: They will have to send you a validation letter to prove that you are responsible for the debt they are asking for. If you still feel like you need additional information, you may also request a verification letter. In accordance with the FDCPA, debt collectors have five days to send you a validation letter once they first make contact with you. The letter must state:

  • The amount of debt you owe.
  • The name of the creditor/entity that you owe payment to. 
  • That the collector will assume the debt is valid unless it is disputed during the allotted 30-day timeframe. 
  • That you are entitled to request additional information regarding the original creditor within 30 days of the first contact.
  • That if you choose to dispute the debt, you must submit a written request within 30 days. 

Final Thoughts

In the unfortunate circumstance that your rights are violated, you basically have two options. You can either file a complaint or sue the collection agency. Filing a complaint is pretty simple. In fact, a majority of the complaints received by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are regarding violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. 

The best thing you can do is keep a detailed record of the abusive practices to help prove your case. A lot of times, this malpractice occurs over the phone and can be hard to prove. Save evidence of all the phone calls, what time they took place, and notes about what was said. The more information you have about what happened, the better chance you have at proving your claim.

What Is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Expert Homebuying Tips for Buying in a Seller’s Market

Buying a house is a big decision, but it can feel especially overwhelming to place an offer on a home less than 24 hours after seeing it for the first time. Plus you’re under pressure to outbid several other buyers — or risk losing the house.

While these circumstances might sound extraordinary, they’re not. With housing inventory nationwide at an all time-low — down 22% from last year according to the National Association of Realtors — it’s no wonder buyers are competing for the same few houses.

I was in this exact position last fall. Here are seven key takeaways from my experience buying in a seller’s market.

Get a Pre-Approval Letter

In order to be competitive in a hot seller’s market, you will need to line up your financing in advance.

Besides all the usual suspects, like saving up for a down payment and improving your credit score, you’ll also want to get a pre-approval letter from your bank. It states that a bank would approve you for a mortgage of a certain amount, and acts as a guarantee to the seller that you can actually afford to buy their house.

This is where it helps to know your budget up front.

“It’s important to understand that the strength of financing is a key consideration a seller takes into account when selecting an offer,” said real estate developer Bill Samuel.

No seller wants to risk accepting an offer that might fall through. Aand since pre-approval letters can take some time to get, have one ready before you find your dream house.

Be Friendly With Neighbors

This might sound crazy, but making a good impression on your new neighbors can actually make a difference when it comes time for a seller to review offers.

Since you’ll likely be visiting the home at least once before making an offer, be prepared to talk to any neighbors you might run into. In close-knit neighborhoods, or ones where people share resources (like an HOA), sellers might care a bit more about the type of person they sell the house to.

If you happen to meet a neighbor when visiting the home, introduce yourself and make a good impression. You never know how much their opinion of you might factor into any final decisions.

Submit an Offer Quickly

After you’ve seen a house, and decided you love it, be prepared to submit an offer quickly— as in, ASAP.

Work with your real estate agent to determine how many other offers the seller already has (or expects to get) and then be prepared to draft something up that day. In our case, we toured our home for the very first time at 11 a.m. on a Monday — it came on the market the evening before — and made an offer by 4 p.m. that same day.

If that sounds fast, it is. But by the time we submitted our offer, the seller already had three others. This is where it helps to have a great real estate agent on your side.

“Having a realtor who can get your offer submitted quickly is crucial,” said Erik Wright, owner of New Horizon Home Buyers. “You want to get your offer in front of the seller first, and make it strong. Purchase price is the obvious factor and in a competitive market, houses often go for over asking price. However, a strong offer has several factors and it depends on what’s most important to the seller.”

Work with your real estate agent to find out what matters most to the seller — is it money, closing quickly, something else entirely? Then make sure your offer addresses their needs.

Minimize Your Contingencies (Within Reason)

Another way to win over your seller (and prevail in any bidding wars) is by keeping your contingencies to a minimum.

Contingencies are the contractual stipulations buyers and sellers must meet before the deal can close. Unsurprisingly, sellers don’t like to have too many of them to deal with. Contingencies can include such things as requesting a seller to make certain repairs, getting a home inspection, or even the fact that you’ll need to sell your old house before being able to buy the new one.

“In a really aggressive seller’s market, a home buyer who has to sell a current property should do so before placing an offer on another home,” said Jason Gelios of Community Choice Realty. “Don’t always assume that the seller will take the highest price. Other conveniences can play a factor in gaining the seller’s attention, especially things like faster closing times and less restrictions.”

While my partner and I didn’t make the highest offer on our house, we did have the fewest contingencies — mainly, we didn’t ask too much of our seller in the way of repairs, or have another house to sell in order to afford the new one.

All that said, there are certain contingencies you should never forgo, and a home inspection is one of them. Getting your home inspected is hugely important, since inspectors will often find things even the sellers weren’t aware of. No matter how much you love a house, don’t be afraid of exercising your right to an inspection.

According to buyer protection laws in most states, sellers are required to report any findings in home inspections to subsequent buyers. In other words, if an inspector finds something wrong with the house, the seller will have to deal with it one way or another— either with you, or the next buyer should you choose to drop out of the deal.

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Make a Generous Earnest Money Deposit

When trying to woo your seller in a competitive market, it helps to make a generous earnest money deposit. An earnest money deposit is a good-faith deposit requested by the seller when you enter into a contract to buy the house and typically run anywhere from 1% to 3% of the sale price of the home.

When deciding how much of an earnest money deposit to include in your offer, keep in mind that whatever amount you give comes off the price of the home (and is returned to you if the deal falls through). In other words, there’s no reason to be cheap. If you can, go slightly above the seller’s requested deposit amount. Even if it’s just a little more than what they’re asking, that gesture of good faith might just be what gets you the house.

A row of houses on a cul de sac in a suburban neighborhood.

Offer Above Asking Price

Wait. Why would anyone make an offer that’s above asking price? Because the competition did it first, and in a hot seller’s market, offering above asking price is often what it takes to even be considered.

Upping your offer may not break the bank as much as you’re fearing. “With interest rates so low these days, offering more than what the seller is asking may not make a drastic difference in your overall monthly payments,” real estate agent Pavel Khaykin of Pavel Buys Houses said.

Let’s say the listing price on your dream home is $320,000 and you’re able to put down a 6% down payment. That leaves you with a mortgage of roughly $301,000. For a 30-year fixed mortgage at an interest rate of 3%, that translates into $1,269 monthly payments. Now let’s say you decide to bid a little higher on the home and offer $10,000 over asking price. This would only bump up your monthly payment (assuming you qualify for that low interest rate) by $42.

Lace Up Your Running Shoes

In a hot seller’s market, you’ve got to be ready to move fast. Often this is more of a change in mindset than anything else. When my partner and I first started looking at homes, we considered ourselves casual buyers — that is, until our dream home came on the market late one Sunday night. From there, things moved quickly. We saw the home, made an offer, were under contract by morning, and spent the next month and a half going through the process of closing on the house.

If you’re serious about finding your dream home in the next few months, the best thing you can do is know what you want from the outset, and get your ducks in a row to make a compelling offer when you find it. Maybe this means making a list of your must-haves in a house, and working to improve your credit score. It might also mean reaching out to a real estate agent before you need one, and getting that pre-approval letter in place.

Although inventory is low, new houses come on the market all the time.

Larissa Runkle is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Credit Card Balance Transfers

Credit card balances are crippling households across the United States, giving them insurmountable debts that just keep on growing and never seem to go away. But there is some good news, as this problem has spawned a multitude of debt relief options, one of which is a credit card balance transfer.

Balance transfers are a similar and widely available option for all debtors to clear their credit card balances, reduce their interest rate, and potentially save thousands of dollars.

How Credit Card Balance Transfers Work

A balance transfer credit card allows you to transfer a balance from one or more cards to another, reducing credit card debt and all its obligations. These cards are offered by most credit card companies and come with a 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 6, 12 or 18 months.

Consumers can use this balance transfer offer to reduce interest payments, and if they continue to pay the same sum every month, all of it will go towards the principal. Without interest to eat into their monthly payment, the balance will clear quickly and cheaply.

There are a few downsides to transferring a balance, including late fees, a transfer fee and, in some cases, an annual fee.

What Happens When You Transfer a Balance on Credit Cards?

When you transfer a balance, your new lender repays your credit card debt and moves the funds onto a new card. You may incur a transfer fee and pay an annual fee, which can increase the total debt, but transferring a balance in this way allows you to take advantage of a 0% introductory APR. While this introductory period lasts, you won’t pay any interest on your debt and can focus on clearing your credit card debt step by step.

Why are Balance Transfers Beneficial?

A little later, we’ll discuss some alternatives to a balance transfer offer, all of which can help you clear your debt. However, the majority of these methods will increase your debt in the short term, prolong the time it takes to repay it or reduce your credit score. 

A balance transfer credit card does none of these things. As soon as you accept the transfer offer, you’ll have a 0% introductory APR that you can use to eliminate your debt. The balance transfer may increase your debt liabilities slightly by adding a transfer fee and an annual fee, but generally speaking, this is one of the best ways to clear your debt.

To understand why this is the case, you need to know how credit card interest works. If you have a debt of $20,000 with a variable APR rate of 20% and a minimum monthly payment of $500, you’ll repay the debt in 67 months at a cost of over $13,000 in interest.

If you move that debt to a card with a balance transfer offer of 0% APR for 12 months, and you continue to meet the $500 minimum payment, you’ll repay $5,000 and reduce the debt to $15,000. From that point on, you’ll have a smaller balance to clear, less interest to worry about, and can clear the debt completely in just a few more years.

Of course, the transfer fee will increase your balance somewhat, but this fee is minimal when compared to the money you can save. The same applies to the annual fee that these cards charge and, in many cases, you can find cards that don’t charge an annual fee at all. 

You can even find no-fee balance transfer cards, although these are rare. The BankAmericard credit card once provided a no fee transfer offer to all applicants, in addition to a $0 annual fee. However, they changed their rules in 2018 and made the card much less appealing to the average user.

Pros and Cons of Credit Card Balance Transfers

From credit score and credit limit issues to a high variable APR, late fees, and cash advance fees, there are numerous issues with these cards. However, there are just as many pros as there are cons, including the fact that they can be one of the cheapest and fastest ways to clear debt.

Pro: 0% Introductory APR

The 0% APR on balance transfers is the best thing about these credit cards and the reason they are so beneficial. However, many cards also offer 0% APR on purchases. This means that if you continue to use your card after the transfer has taken place, you won’t be charged any interest on the new credit.

With most cards, the 0% APR on purchases runs for the same length of time as the balance transfer offer. This ensures that all credit you accumulate upon opening the account will be subject to the same benefits. Of course, accumulating additional credit is not wise as it will prolong the time it takes you to repay the debt.

Pro: Can Still Get Cash Rewards

While cash rewards are rare on balance transfer cards, some of the better cards still offer them. Discover It is a great example of this. You can earn cash back every time you spend, even after initiating a balance transfer. The cash rewards scheme is one of the best in the industry and there is also a 0% APR on balance transfers during an introductory period that lasts up to 18 months.

Pro: High Credit Limit

A balance transfer card may offer you a high credit limit, one that is large enough to cover your credit card debt. You will need a good credit score to get this rate, of course, but once you do your credit card debt will clear, you can repay it, and then you’ll have a card with a high credit limit and no balance.

Throw a rewards scheme into the mix (as with the Discover It rewards card) and you’ll have turned a dire situation into a great one.

Con: Will Reduce Credit Score

A new account opening won’t impact your credit score as heavily as you may have been led to believe. In fact, the impact of a new credit card or loan is minimal at best and any effects usually disappear after just a few months. However, a balance transfer card is a different story and there are a few ways it can impact your score.

Firstly, it could reduce your credit utilization ratio. This is the amount of credit you have compared to the amount of debt you have. If you have four credit cards each with a credit limit of $20,000 and a debt of $10,000 then your score will be 50%. If you close all of these and swap them for a single card where your credit limit matches your debt, your score will be 100%.

Your credit utilization ratio points for 30% of your total FICO score and can, therefore, do some serious damage to your credit score.

Secondly, although FICO has yet to disclose specifics, a maxed-out credit card can also reduce your score. By its very nature, a balance transfer card will be maxed out or close to being maxed out, as it’s a card opened with the sole purpose of covering this debt.

Finally, if you close multiple accounts and open a new one, your account age will decrease, thus reduce your credit score further.

Con: Transfer Free

The transfer fee is a small issue, but one worth mentioning, nonetheless. This is often charged at between 3% and 5% of the total balance, but there are also minimum amounts of between $5 and $10, and you will pay the greater of the two.

This can sound like a lot. After all, for a balance transfer of $10,000, 5% will be $500. However, when you consider how much you can save over the course of the introductory period, that fee begins to look nominal.

There may also be an annual fee to consider, but if your score is high enough and you choose one of the cards listed in this guide, you can avoid this fee.

Con: Late Fees and Other Penalties

In truth, all credit cards will charge you a fee if you’re late and you will also be charged a fee every time you make a cash advance. However, the fees may be higher with balance transfer cards, especially if those cards offer generous benefits and rewards elsewhere. It’s a balancing act for the provider—an advantage here means a disadvantage there.

Con: High APR on Purchases

While many balance transfer cards offer a 0% APR on purchases for a fixed period, this rate may increase when the introductory period ends. The resulting variable APR will often be a lot larger than what you were paying before the transfer, with many credit cards charging over 25% or more on purchases.

Which Credit Cards are Best for Clearing Credit Card Debt?

Many credit card issuers have some kind of balance transfer card, but it’s worth remembering that credit card companies aren’t interested in offering these cards to current customers. You’ll need to find a new provider and if you have multiple cards with multiple providers, that can be tricky. 

Run some comparisons, check the offers against your financial situation, and pay close attention to late fees, APR on purchases, cash rewards, and the length of the 0% introductory APR rate. 

You’ll also need to find a card with a credit limit high enough to cover your current debt, and one that accepts customers with your credit score. This can be tricky, but if you shop around, you should find something. If not, focus on increasing your credit score before seeking to apply again.

Here are a few options to help you begin your search for the most suitable balance transfer card:

Discover It

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 18 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 6 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 24.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Citi Simplicity

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 21 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 12 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 26.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Bank of America Cash Rewards

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One Quicksilver

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One SavorOne

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

How to Clear Debt with a Balance Transfer Card

From the point of the account opening to the point that the introductory period ends, you need to focus on clearing as much of the balance as possible. Don’t concern yourself with a variable APR rate, annual fee or other issues and avoid additional APR on purchases by not using the card. Just put all extra cash you have towards the debt and reduce it one step at a time.

Here are a few tips to help you clear debt after you transfer a balance:

Meet the Monthly Payment

First things first, always meet your minimum payment obligations. The 0% APR on balance transfers protects you against additional interest, but it doesn’t eliminate your repayments altogether. If you fail to meet these payments, you could find yourself in some serious hot water and may negate the balance transfer offer.

Increase Payment Frequency

It may be easier for you to repay $250 every two weeks as opposed to $500 every month. This will also allow you to use any extra funds when you have them, thus preventing you from wasting cash on luxury purchases and ensuring it goes towards your debt.

Earn More

Ask for a pay rise, take on a part-time job, work as a freelancer—do whatever it takes to earn extra cash during this period. If you commit everything you have for just 12 to 18 months you can get your troublesome debt cleared and start looking forward to a future without debt and complications, one where you have more money and more freedom.

Sell Up

It has never been easier to sell your unwanted belongings. Many apps can help you with this and you can also sell on big platforms like Facebook, eBay, and Amazon. 

Sell clothes, electronics, books, games, music—anything you no longer need that could earn you a few extra dollars. It all goes towards your debt and can help you to clear it while your introductory APR is active.

Don’t Take out a Personal Loan

While you might be tempted to use a loan to cover your debt, this is never a good idea. You should avoid using low-interest debt to replace high-interest debt, even if the latter is currently under a 0% introductory APR. 

It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of swapping one debt for another, and it’s a cycle that ultimately leads to some high fees and even higher interest rates.

Focus on the Bigger Picture

Debt exists because we focus too much on the short-term. Rather than dismissing the idea of buying a brand-new computer we can’t afford, we fool ourselves into believing we can deal with it later and then pay for it with a credit card. This attitude can lead to persistent debt and trap you in an inescapable cycle and it’s one you need to shed if you’re going to transfer a balance.

Instead of focusing on the short term, take a look at the bigger picture. If you can’t afford it now, you probably can’t afford it later; if you can’t repay $10,000 worth of debt this year, you probably can’t handle $20,000 next year.

Alternatives to Credit Card Balance Transfers

If you have the cash and the commitment to pay your credit card debt, a balance transfer card is perfect. However, if you have a low credit score and use the card just to accumulate additional debt and buy yourself more time, it will do more harm than good. In that case, debt relief may be the better option.

These programs are designed to help you pay your debt through any means possible. There are several options available and all these are offered by specialist companies and providers, including banks and credit unions. As with balance transfer cards, however, you should do your research in advance and consider your options carefully before making a decision.

Pay More Than the Minimum

It’s an obvious and perhaps even redundant solution, but it’s one that needs to be mentioned, nonetheless. We live in a credit hungry society, one built on impulsive purchases and a buy-now-care-later attitude. A balance transfer card, in many ways, is part of this, as it’s a quick and easy solution to a long and difficult problem. And like all quick patches, it can burst at the seams if the problem isn’t controlled.

The best option, therefore, is to try and clear your debts without creating any new accounts. Do everything you can to increase your minimum payment every month. This will ensure that you pay more of the principal, with the minimum payment covering your interest obligations and everything else going towards the actual balance.

Only when this fails, when you genuinely can’t cover more than the minimum, should you look into opening a new card.

Debt Consolidation

Balance transfers are actually a form of debt consolidation, but ones that are specifically tailored to credit card debt. If you have multiple types of debt, including medical bills, student loans, and personal loans, you can use a consolidation loan to clear it.

This loan will pay off all of your debts and then give you a new one with a new provider. The provider will reduce your monthly payment and may even reduce your interest rate, allowing you to pay less and to feel like you’re getting a good deal. However, this is at the expense of a greatly increased loan term, which means you will pay considerably more over the duration of the loan.

As with everything else, a debt consolidation loan is dependent on you having a good credit score and the better your financial situation is, the better the loan rates will be.

Debt Management

Debt management can help if you don’t have the credit history required for debt consolidation. Debt management plans are provided by companies that work with your creditors to repay your debts in a way that suits you and them. You pay the debt management company, they pass your money on, and in return, they request that you abide by many strict terms and conditions, including not using your credit cards.

Many debt management programs will actually request that you close all but one of your credit cards and only use that one card in emergencies. This can greatly reduce your credit score by impacting your credit utilization ratio. What’s more, if you miss any payments your creditors may renege on their promises and revert back to the original monthly payments.

Debt Settlement

The more extreme and cheaper option of the three, but also the riskiest. Debt settlement works well with sizeable credit card debt and is even more effective if you have a history of missed payments, defaults or collections. A debt specialist may request that you stop making payments on your accounts and instead put your money into a secured account run by a third-party provider.

They will then contact your creditors and negotiate a settlement amount. This process can take several years as they’re not always successful on the first attempt but the longer they wait, the more desperate your creditors will become and the more likely they will be to accept a settlement.

Debt settlement is one of the few options that allows you to pay all your debt for much less than the original balance. However, it can harm your credit score while these debts are being repaid and this may impact your chances of getting a mortgage or a car loan for a few years.

Credit Card Balance Transfers is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Increased Referral Offers For Referrer On American Express Cards (Up To 35,000 Points)

Update 2/4/21: More reports of people seeing increases on some of their lower offers, e.g. 7,500 are now seeing 15,000.

Original Post:

The referral bonus on the American Express Gold card has increased for some people to 20,000 points for the referrer (ht to noahmateen). This is YMMV as some people are still seeing 10,000 or 15,000, hopefully it’ll change over for everyone. The maximum per year is still 55,000 points.

The American Express referral program allows referring from any Amex card to any Amex card. When referring, the key is to refer FROM the card that gives the highest bonus, irrespective of which new card the friend is going to sign up for.

A lot of cards offer the referrer 10,000 points or $100 per referral; some cards offer even less. The Business Gold Rewards card has offered 20,000 points (not sure if that’s still current), and some were getting 20k on the Business Platinum as well at one point.

Related Posts:

  • How To Get Higher Referrer Bonuses With American Express
  • New Universal American Express Referrals Program, Now Crosses Over to ANY Card
  • American Express Universal Referrals – Self Referrals Working & How To Maximize (E.g 30,000 Points On BBP)
  • American Express Business Card Referrals Now Have Increased Signup Bonus Offers Incognito
  • American Express Business Gold: 50,000 Points After $5,000 In Spend Via Referral
  • American Express Lowers Referrer Bonus on Green, Everyday, BCE + Why That Matters
  • Refer-a-Friend From American Express Blue Business Plus Card And Get 15,000 Bonus Points

Post history:

  • Update 1/27/21: More people targeted for these increased offers.
  • Update 11/24/20: Some people seeing increased offers today. Interestingly, there’s a report of someone seeing 35,000 points on the Gold card. We’ve never seen higher than 30,000 before, it keeps edging up. (Of course there’s still the 55,000 annual cap.)
  • Update 11/15/20: Lots of people reporting their personal Gold card showing the 30,000 referral offer now. Not sure if everyone or targeted. (ht reader JJ). Remember, there is a 55,000 annual limit per card. There’s also $125 showing again on Blue Cash Preferred for some.
  • Update 9/9/20: More people targeted for the higher bonuses.
  • Update 9/1/20: Some of the cash referral links are now up to $125 (typically $75 or $100). basefifty noticed this on their Blue Cash Everyday and I’m seeing the same. Not nearly as good as some of the points offers, but good to know.
  • Update 8/13/20: Some referral links are now showing a 30,000 points referral for referring a friend (friend gets the regular signup bonus being offered and you get 30,000). This is a new high as previously 25k was highest. Remember, there is a 55,000 annual limit per card. Hat tip to reader GL and to ThomGault
  • Update 8/6/20: Some are seeing now increased offers. Not sure if anyone is getting 25,000 now, but some who were previously only seeing 10,000 points for referrer are now seeing 15,000 or 20,000 on various cards. Hat tip to Milestalk
  • Update 5/7/20: Some people seeing up to 25,000 points per referral on select cards.
  • Update 5/1/20: More people seeing 20,000 points per referral on select cards. Also, some are seeing 15,000 on cards that were previously 10,000. Hat tip to manageroftheyear
  • Update 4/14/20: More people seeing 20,000 points per referral on select cards.
  • Update 3/1/20: agilehumor reports an increase on select cards that the referrer gets 20,000 points per referral. It’s marked as Special Offer For You with a white star. (Now that Amex keeps pushing the referral bonus up and down, I guess the referral amount will be based on the time that the new member signs up.)
  • Update#2 on 2/20/20: It seems that they changed the referral bonuses for the referrer so that different people are getting different offers on each card. For the future, keep that in mind by checking your various cards AND different people (e.g. yourself and your spouse) to find the best offer before referring. Some cards people are seeing more than prior, other cards people are seeing less than before; there’s some good and some bad here.
  • Update 2/20/20: In addition to the increased Gold card referral which some are seeing (below), there’s also a report of an increased offer for the referrer on the Green card from 5,000 to 10,000 points. Personally, I still see 5,000.

Source: doctorofcredit.com

Experian Credit Score vs. FICO Score

A young women reclines on a couch and smiles at the phone in her hand.

When you think “credit score,” you probably think “FICO.” The Fair Isaac Corporation introduced its FICO scoring system in 1989, and it has since become one of the best-known and most-used credit scoring models in the United States. But it isn’t the only model on the market.

Another popular option is called VantageScore, the product of a collaboration between the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It uses similar scoring methods to FICO but yields slightly different results.

Each scoring model has multiple versions and multiple applications—you don’t have just one FICO score or one VantageScore. Depending on which bureau creates the score and what type of agency is asking for the score, your credit score will vary, sometimes siginifcantly. One credit score isn’t more “accurate” than another, they just have different applications. Learn more about the different types of credit scores below.

When you sign up for ExtraCredit, you can see 28 of your FICO scores from all three credit bureaus. Your free Credit Report Card, on the other hand, will show you your Experian VantageScore 3.0.

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What Is a VantageScore?

VantageScore was created by the three major credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It uses similar scoring methods to FICO but yields slightly different results.

One of the primary goals of VantageScore is to provide a model that is used the same way by all three credit bureaus. That would limit some of the disparity between your three major credit scores. In contrast, FICO models provide a slightly different calculation for each credit bureau, which can create more differences in your scores.

FICO vs. VantageScore

So, what are the differences between an Experian credit score calculated using VantageScore and one calculated via the FICO model? More importantly, does the score used matter to you, the consumer? The answer is usually no. But you might want to look at different scores for different needs or goals.

Is Experian Accurate?

Credit scores from the credit bureaus are only as accurate as the information provided to the bureau. Check your credit report to ensure all the information is correct. If it is, your Experian credit scores are accurate. If your credit report is not accurate, you’ll want to look into your credit repair options.

Our free Credit Report Card offers the Experian VantageScore 3.0 so you can check it regularly. If you want to dig in deeper, you can sign up for ExtraCredit. For $24.99 per month, you can see 28 of your FICO scores from all three credit bureaus. ExtraCredit also offers rent and utility reporting, identity monitoring and theft insurance, and more.

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Understanding the Scoring Models

FICO and VantageScore aren’t the only scoring models on the market. Lenders use a multitude of scoring methods to determine your creditworthiness and make decisions about whether or not to give you credit. Despite the numerous options, FICO scores and VantageScores are likely the only scores you’ll ever see yourself.

Here’s what FICO uses to determine your credit score:

  • Payment history. Whether or not you pay your bills in a timely manner is critical, as this factor makes up around 35% of your score.
  • Credit usage. How much of your open credit you have used—which is called credit utilization—accounts for 30% of your score. Keeping your utilization below 30% can help you keep your credits core healthy.
  • Length of credit. The average age of your credit—and how long you’ve had your oldest account—is a factor. Credit age accounts for around 15% of your score.
  • Types of credit. Your credit mix, which refers to having multiple types of accounts, makes up around 10% of your score.
  • Recent inquiries. How many entities have hit your credit history with a hard inquiry for the purpose of evaluating you for credit is a factor for your score. It accounts for about 10% of your credit score.

VantageScore uses the same factors, but weighs them a little differently. Your VantageScore 4.0 will be most influenced by your credit usage, followed by your credit mix. Payment history is only “moderately influential,” while credit age and recent inquiries are less influential.

Each company also gathers its data differently. FICO bases its scoring model on credit data from millions of consumers analyzed at the same time. It gathers credit reports from the three major credit bureaus and analyzes anonymous consumer data to generate a scoring model specific to each bureau. VantageScore, on the other hand, uses a combined set of consumer credit files, also obtained from the three major credit bureaus, to come up with a single formula.

Both FICO and VantageScore issue scores ranging from 300 to 850. In the past, VantageScore used a score range of 501 to 990, but the score range was adjusted with VantageScore 3.0. Having numerical ranges that are somewhat consistent helps make the credit score process less confusing for consumers and lenders.

Your score may also differ across the credit bureaus because your creditors aren’t required to report to all three. They may report to only one or two of them, meaning each bureau likely has slightly different information about you.

Variations in Scoring Requirements

If you don’t have a long credit history, VantageScore is the score you want to monitor. To establish your credit score, FICO requires at least six months of credit history and at least one account reported to a credit bureau within the last six months. VantageScore only requires one month of history and one account reported within the past two years.

Because VantageScore uses a shorter credit history and a longer period for reported accounts, it’s able to issue credit ratings to millions of consumers who wouldn’t yet have a FICO Score. So, if you’re new to credit or haven’t been using it recently, VantageScore can help prove your trustworthiness before FICO has enough data to issue you a score.

The Significance of Late Payments

A history of late payments impacts both your FICO score and your VantageScore. Both models consider the following.

  • How recently the last late payment occurred
  • How many of your accounts have had late payments
  • How many payments you’ve missed on an account

FICO treats all late payments the same. VantageScore judges them differently. VantageScore applies a larger penalty for late mortgage payments than for other types of credit payments.

Because FICO has indicated that it factors late payments more heavily than VantageScore, late payments on any of your accounts might cause you to have lower FICO scores than your VantageScores.

Impact of Credit Inquiries

VantageScore and FICO both penalize consumers who have multiple hard inquiries in a short period of time. They both also conduct a process called deduplication.

Deduplication is the practice of allowing multiple pulls on your credit for the same loan type in a given time frame without penalizing your credit. Deduplication is important for situations such as seeking auto loans, where you may submit applications to multiple lenders as you seek the best deal. FICO and VantageScore don’t count each of these inquiries separately—they deduplicate them or consider them as one inquiry.

FICO uses a 45-day deduplication time period. That means credit inquiries of a certain type—such as auto loans or mortgages—that hit within that period are counted as one hard inquiry for the purpose of impact to your credit.

In contrast, VantageScore only has a 14-day range for deduplication. However, it deduplicates multiple hard inquiries for all types of credit, including credit cards. FICO only deduplicates inquiries related to mortgages, auto loans, and student loans.

Influence of Low-Balance Collections

VantageScore and FICO both penalize credit scores for accounts sent to collection agencies. However, FICO sometimes offers more leniency for collection accounts with low balances or limits.

FICO 8.0 also ignores all collections where the original balance was less than $100 and FICO 9.0 weighs medical collections less. It also doesn’t count collection accounts that have been paid off. VantageScore 4.0, on the other hand, ignores collection accounts that are paid off, regardless of the original balance.

What Are FAKO Scores?

FAKO is a derogatory term for scores that aren’t FICO Scores or VantageScores. Companies that provide FAKO scores don’t call them this. Instead, they refer to their scores as “educational scores” or just “credit scores.” FAKO scores can vary significantly from FICO scores and VantageScores.

These scores aren’t completely valueless, though. They can help you understand where your credit score stands or whether it’s going up or down. You probably don’t want to shell out money for such scores, though, and you do want to ensure the credit score provider is drawing on accurate information from the credit bureaus.

The post Experian Credit Score vs. FICO Score appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Jon Bon Jovi Finally Puts a Price on NJ Mansion: It’s Available for $20M

Jon Bon Jovi Jersey Homerealtor.com, Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

The rocker Jon Bon Jovi has relisted his rockin’ New Jersey estate. Now it comes with an important piece of information for potential buyers—a price.

The posh property in Red Bank, NJ, had previously been listed as “Price upon request,” when it debuted a year ago. It’s returned to the market with an asking price of $20 million.

Last year, when we asked brokers to give their best guesses on the mysterious number, estimates ranged from $14 million to $100 million.

So perhaps somewhere in the middle is about right for this cool chateau.

It was built in 1999 by the noted New York-based architect Robert A.M. Stern, former dean of the Yale School of Architecture, in a style that could be described as French chateau meets rocker-chic.

Known as High Point Estate, the Euro-inspired, six-bedroom residence is set on 15 lush acres, with 700 feet of Navesink River frontage. It’s located about an hour outside Manhattan.

The sprawling 18,000-square-foot design boasts “exceptional materials, museum quality craftsmanship and superb attention to detail,” according to the listing, which also notes that the grounds were originally designed by the influential landscape architecture firm Olmsted Brothers.

A gated entrance opens to reveal brick courtyards, French balconies, slate roofs, tall chimneys, and historic wrought-iron accents.

The expansive layout features a 50-foot living room with 12-foot ceilings, a grand fireplace, bookshelves, and parquet flooring, and includes a movie theater. The adjoining bar features river views.

The dining room was designed for a round dining table seating 18 people. The standout kitchen contains a brick barrel ceiling, with hand-painted beams, wide-plank wood floors and a large island, as well as a breakfast room that looks out to the river.

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Watch: Marc Anthony Hopes to Turn a Tidy Profit in Florida: $8 Million in 2 Years

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The family room includes beamed ceilings and a fireplace that doubles as an outdoor fireplace, with a pergola and seating area looking out to the pool and water.

The second floor includes the family wing, with a study, four en suite bedrooms, including a grand master suite with a balcony and spa bath. A second wing with a separate entrance, intended for staff or guests, includes two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen. 

In addition, the grounds have a pool and two cabanas, an original carriage house from 1910, a pub with bar and pool table called the “Shoe Inn,” as well as a dock and boat lift.

Meanwhile, a loft-style music studio is located over seven double-door garages below. Yet another building includes laundry, a workshop, and storage.

While the Jersey native is still looking for a buyer for his Garden State compound, that hasn’t stopped the superstar from making other real estate deals.

Last summer, he sold an oceanfront in Palm Beach, FL, for almost $20 million that he had purchased just two years before, for $10 million, and totally rebuilt. The brand-new contemporary featured five bedrooms, five full bathrooms, and three half-bathrooms, within a little over 5,000 square feet of living space and ocean views.

On the same day as that sale, he splashed out $43 million for another beachfront abode down the street.

The even larger, 10,232-square-foot mansion features seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms, and five powder rooms. It was built in 2007, and its interior details include coffered ceilings, hardwood and marble floors, and intricate millwork. The property’s grounds, on an oversize lot, include a courtyard pool and cabana, as well as covered dining and lounging space.

Bon Jovi, 58, is the frontman and founder of the band Bon Jovi, formed in 1983. The Grammy-winning rock group has recorded 14 studio albums and sold over 100 million records worldwide.

Gloria Nilson with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Shrewsbury holds the listing.

The post Jon Bon Jovi Finally Puts a Price on NJ Mansion: It’s Available for $20M appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

What is a credit card statement credit?

A recent trend in credit card rewards is increased flexibility in how you can redeem your cash back, points or miles. You can book travel, invest, get gift cards and more – but one of the most common ways a credit card company will issue rewards is as a statement credit.

Statement credits may seem simple, but they’re handled a little differently by each rewards program, and there’s a lot to consider when you’re trying to decide if they’re the best way to redeem cash back or other rewards.

See related: What is cash back?

What is a statement credit?

Put simply, a statement credit is money credited to your account. In its most basic form, a statement credit is not much different from a payment. Like a normal monthly payment, a statement credit is deducted from your card balance, reducing the amount of money you owe. But where cardholders are responsible for payments, credits come from either a merchant or card issuer.

rewards cards also allow you to redeem the points or miles you’ve earned as statement credits. While some cards allow you to use a statement credit to reduce your balance with no restrictions, others only apply credits to your account after you meet certain criteria or make purchases in specific spending categories.

Statement credits on cash back cards

Cash back cards usually make it easy to redeem your points as a statement credit. In most cases, all you need to do is meet the card’s minimum redemption criteria, then choose a statement credit as your redemption method. Once a credit is applied to your account, your card balance decreases accordingly.

If, for example, you were to spend $3,000 with a flat rate 1 percent cash back card, you’d earn a $30 credit; and if you were to redeem this entire credit, $30 would be deducted from your account balance.

While many cards give you the option to request your cash back in the form a check, some only allow you to redeem as a statement credit – so be sure to read your issuer’s terms carefully. After all, when you get your cash back as a check or direct deposit, the money is yours to spend or save as you’d like. With a statement credit, however, the funds are “trapped” in your account and only impact your card balance. If you stop using your card or close your account, you could lose any cash back or points you haven’t redeemed.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, for example, allows you to book travel through the rewards center at a rate of 1 cent per mile. But if you redeem your miles for cash back as a statement credit, their value is cut in half to just 0.5 cents per mile.

If you prefer to redeem your rewards as a statement credit, make sure doing so doesn’t dilute the value of your points or miles, as each rewards program grants and values statement credits a little differently.

Statement credits for an introductory bonus

Statement credits also frequently appear as part of a card introductory or annual bonus, when issuers offer to reward you if you spend a certain amount of money within a given timeframe. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for example, offers a $250 bonus after you spend $1,000 with your new card in the first 3 months. Instead of simply sending you a check for $250, however, American Express credits your account $250 after you’ve met the conditions of the offer. Once received, the credit will cover the next $250 you charge.

Statement credits for card benefits

Many cards also award extra perks in the form of a statement credit. The United Explorer Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve, for example, each offer up to a $100 credit to cover the cost of a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application.

In these cases, a statement credit is applied to your account only after you make the eligible purchase and cannot be used for anything else.

How statement credits work with the major rewards programs

Here’s how some of the major rewards programs treat statement credits:

Rewards program Can you redeem rewards as a statement credit? Minimum redemption Rewards rate when redeemed as a credit
Discover cards Cashback Bonus Yes None 1:1
Bank of America Cash Rewards Yes None ($25 for automatic redemptions) 1:1
American Express Membership Rewards Yes $25 1:0.6
Chase Ultimate Rewards Yes $20 1:1

Should I redeem my points as a statement credit?

Once you know what a statement credit is and how it’s treated by your rewards program, you’ll probably wonder if it’s smart to redeem your points or miles in this form. While the answer will depend on your spending habits, goals and financial situation, it makes more sense in certain circumstances.

If you’re trying to decide whether you should redeem your points as a credit statement, consider the following:

  • Are you going to carry a balance? If you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to pay off your balance in full by the due date, redeeming your points as a statement credit makes sense. You’ll knock a chunk off your balance and make it easier to pay in full and avoid interest charges. Keep in mind, however, that statement credits are not usually considered payments, so if you can’t help carrying a balance, you’ll still have to make a minimum out-of-pocket payment.
  • Does your card offer an incentive for redeeming points as a statement credit? Some cash back cards offer redemption bonuses when you opt for a statement credit over “true” cash back in the form of a check or direct deposit. If that’s the case, and you plan to continue using the card, go with a statement credit to get more mileage out of your cash back rewards.
  • Are your points worth less when redeemed as a statement credit? If you’re using a card with a more flexible rewards program, redeeming your rewards as a statement credit is likely possible, but not necessarily wise. Check your issuer’s terms to see if your points lose any value when redeemed as a statement credit. If 1 point is worth 1 cent when used for travel purchases, but only 0.5 cents when redeemed as a statement credit, you’re missing out on a lot of the value you’ve earned. If you have no interest in travel, see if you can get full value out of your points in a roundabout way, like redeeming points for gift cards at stores you frequent.

Other ways to redeem your credit card rewards

Many cards offer several other options for redeeming your rewards. In addition to statement credits, you may be able to redeem cash back, points, or miles for:

  • A direct deposit – You can link your bank account so that when you hit “redeem,” that money goes directly to your account. For some, this is more satisfying than receiving a statement credit.
  • A check – If you don’t mind waiting, many credit card issuers will mail a check for the value of your rewards.
  • Gift cards – Some credit cards allow you to exchange your points or cash back for gift cards. Make sure that you’re getting the same or more value before you choose this option – sometimes the dollar value of gift cards is different from what you would get redeeming for a statement credit or direct deposit.
  • Merchandise – Credit card issuers sometimes have shopping portals that give you the option to use your cash back or points to pay for merchandise. This is another option that you should approach with caution. Do the math to make sure you’re getting the same dollar value as you would with a direct deposit or statement credit.
  • Travel – Travel redemption options vary from card to card, but there are two main methods, one of which is receiving a statement credit for travel purchases you’ve already made. The other is using the issuer’s portal to book travel, such as flights or hotels, online.

Final Thoughts

A statement credit is just one way you can receive bonuses and redeem the rewards you’ve earned. If you’re using a cash back card, it could be a smart, low-maintenance way to reduce your balance and build good spending habits. If you’re using a more flexible rewards or travel card, though, make sure redeeming as a statement credit still gets you fair value for your points or miles.

Source: creditcards.com

5 Myths About Transitioning From Renter to Homeowner

Cavan Images/Getty Images

Making the leap from being a renter to becoming a homeowner is a process that includes taking stock of your financial situation and determining whether you’re ready for such a massive responsibility. For most people, the primary question is affordability. Do you have enough cash in the bank to fund a down payment, or do you have a credit score high enough to qualify you for a home loan? But there are other considerations, too—and plenty of misconceptions and myths that could keep you from making that first step.

Below, our experts weigh in on why some situations that may seem like roadblocks are actually not as daunting as they appear.

1. Buying a home means heavy debt

Some may argue that continuing to rent can spare you from taking on heavy debt. But owning a house offers advantages.

“Buying a home and using a typical loan would be spread out over 20 to 30 years. But if you can make one extra payment a year or make bimonthly payments instead, you can shed up to seven years from that long-term loan,” says Jesse McManus, a real estate agent for Big Block Realty in San Diego, CA.

Plus, as you pay your mortgage, you gain equity in the home and create an asset that can be used when needed, such as paying off debt or even buying a second home.

“Currently, mortgage interests rates are at their lowest point in history, so … it’s a great time to borrow money,” McManus says.

2. At least a 20% down payment is needed to buy a home

“Contrary to popular belief, a 20% down payment is not required to purchase a home,” says Natalie Klinefelter, broker/owner of the Legacy Real Estate Co. in San Diego, CA. “There are several low down payment options available to all types of buyers.”

These are as low as 0% down for Veterans Affairs loans to 5% for conventional loans.

One of the main reasons buyers assume they must put down 20% is that without a 20% down payment, buyers typically face private mortgage insurance payments that add to the monthly loan payment.

“The good news is once 20% equity is reached in a home, the buyer can eliminate PMI. This is usually accomplished by refinancing their loan, ultimately lowering their original payment that included PMI,” says Klinefelter. “Selecting the right loan type for a buyer’s needs and the property condition is essential before purchasing a home.”

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Watch: 5 Things First-Time Home Buyers Must Know

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3. Your credit score needs to be perfect

Having a credit score at or above 660 looks great to mortgage lenders, but if yours is lagging, there’s still hope.

“Credit score and history play a significant role in a buyer’s ability to obtain a home loan, but it doesn’t mean a buyer needs squeaky-clean credit. There are many loan solutions for buyers who have a lower than the ideal credit score,” says Klinefelter.

She says government-backed loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration have lower credit and income requirements than most conventional loans.

“A lower down payment is also a benefit of FHA loans. Lenders often work with home buyers upfront to discuss how to improve their credit to obtain a loan most suitable for their needs and financial situation,” says Klinefelter.

McManus says buyers building credit can also use a home loan to bolster their scores and create a foundation for future borrowing and creditworthiness.

4. Now is a bad time to buy

Buying a home at the right time—during a buyer’s market or when interest rates are low—is considered a smart money move. But don’t let the fear of buying at the “wrong time” stop you from moving forward. If you feel like you’ve found a good deal, experts say there is truly no bad time to buy a home.

“The famous saying in real estate is ‘I don’t have a crystal ball,’ meaning no one can predict exactly where the market will be at a given time. If a buyer stays within their means and has a financial contingency plan in place if the market adjusts over time, it is the right time to buy,” says Klinefelter.

5. You’ll be stuck and can’t relocate

Some people may be hesitant to buy because it means staying put in the same location.

“I always advise my clients that they should plan to stay in a newly purchased home for a minimum of three years,” says McManus. “You can ride out most market swings if they happen, and it also gives you a sense of connection to your new space.”

In a healthy market, McManus says homeowners will likely be able to sell the home within a year or two if they need to move, or they can consider renting out the property.

“There is always a way out of a real estate asset; knowing how and when to exit is the key,” says Klinefelter.

The post 5 Myths About Transitioning From Renter to Homeowner appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

How to Change the Executor of a Will

A last will and testamentDrafting a last will and testament can help to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you pass away. You can also use your will to name a legal guardian for minor children or choose an executor for your estate. It’s possible to make changes to your will after it’s written, including removing or adding an executor if necessary. If you’re wondering how to change the executor of a will after the fact, the process is easier than you might think. As you go about the process, it may behoove you to find a trusted financial advisor in your area for hands-on guidance.

Executor of a Will, Explained

The executor of a will is the person responsible for carrying out the terms of a will. When you name someone as executor, you’re giving him or her authority to handle certain tasks related to the distribution of your estate.

Generally, an executor can be any person you name. For example, that might include siblings, your spouse, adult children or your estate planning attorney. Minor children can’t serve as executors and some states prohibit convicted felons from doing so as well.

There’s no rule preventing a beneficiary of a will from also serving as executor. While beneficiaries can’t witness a will in which they have a direct interest, they can be charged with executing the terms of the will once you pass away.

What Does the Executor of a Will Do?

Being executor to a will means there are certain duties you’re obligated to carry out. Those include:

  • Obtaining death certificates after the will-maker passes away
  • Initiating the probate process
  • Creating an inventory of the will-maker’s assets
  • Notifying the will-maker’s creditors of the death
  • Paying off any outstanding debts owed by the will-maker
  • Closing bank accounts if necessary
  • Reading the will to the deceased person’s heirs
  • Distributing assets to the persons named in the will

Executors can’t change the terms of the will; they can only see that its terms are carried out. An executor can collect a fee for their services, which is typically a percentage of the value of the estate they’re finalizing.

Reasons to Change the Executor of a Will

While you may draft a will assuming that your choice of executor won’t change, there are different reasons why making a switch may be necessary. For example, you may need to choose a new executor if:

  • Your original executor passes away or becomes seriously ill and can’t fulfill his or her duties
  • You named your spouse as executor but you’ve since gotten a divorce
  • The person you originally named decides he or she no longer wants the responsibility
  • You’ve had a personal falling out with your executor
  • You believe that a different person is better equipped to execute your will

You don’t need to provide a specific reason to change the executor of a will. Once you’re ready to do so there are two options to choose from: add a codicil to an existing will or draft a brand-new will.

Using a Codicil 
to Change the Executor of a Will

Woman changes her will

A codicil is a written amendment that you can use to change the terms of your will without having to write a new one. Codicils can be used to change the executor of a will or revise any other terms as needed. If you want to change your will’s executor using a codicil, the first step is choosing a new executor. Remember, this can be almost anyone who’s an adult of sound mind, excluding felons.

Next, you’d write the codicil. In it, you’d specify the changes you’re making to your will (i.e. naming a new executor), the name of the person who should serve as executor going forward and the date the change should take effect. You’d also need to validate the codicil the same way you did your original will.

This means signing and dating the codicil in the presence of at least two witnesses. Witnesses must be legal adults of sound mind and they can’t have an interest in the will. So, a beneficiary to the will couldn’t witness your codicil but a neighbor or coworker could if they don’t stand to benefit from the will directly or indirectly.

Once the codicil is completed and signed by yourself and the witnesses, you can attach it to your existing will. It’s helpful to keep a copy of your will and the codicil in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box. You may also want to give a copy to your estate planning attorney if you have one.

Writing a New Will to 
Change the Executor of a Will

If you need to change more than just the executor of your will, you might consider drafting a new will document. The process for drafting a new will is similar to the one you followed for making your original one.

You’d need to specify who your beneficiaries will be, how you want your assets to be distributed and who should serve as executor. The new will would also need to be signed and properly witnessed.

But you’d have to take the added step of destroying all copies of the original will. This is necessary to avoid confusion and potential challenges to the terms of the will after you pass away. If you’re not sure how to draft a new will to replace an existing one, you may want to talk to an estate planning attorney to make sure you’re doing so legally.

What Happens If You Don’t Name an Executor?

Probate court hearing form

If, for any reason, you choose not to name an executor in your will the probate court can assign one. After you pass away, eligible persons can apply to become the executor of your estate. The person the court chooses would then be able to carry out the terms of your will. If you don’t have a will at all, then your assets would be distributed according to your state’s inheritance laws.

That’s why it’s important to take the time to at least write a simple will. This way, there’s no question of your estate being divided among your heirs the way that you want it to be.

The Bottom Line

Making a will can be a good starting point for shaping your estate plan. Naming an executor means you don’t have to rely on the probate court to do it. But if you need to change the executor of your will later, it’s possible to do so with minimal headaches.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about creating an estate plan and what you might need. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect with an advisor in your local area. It takes just a few minutes to get your personalized recommendations online. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • A will is just one document you may need as part of your estate plan. You may also consider setting up a trust, for example, if you have extensive assets or own a business. Life insurance is something you may also need to have, along with an advance health care directive and/or power of attorney.

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