10 Proven Ways to Lower Your Car Insurance

A woman wearing a yellow shirt drives a silver car.

We’ve heard the insurance tagline over and over: “Switch and save money today.” Every insurance company claims to have the best deal. But, how can you get a good deal while maintaining the appropriate amount of coverage? We’ve got you covered—literally, and with no extra cost to you. Check out these ten ways to help lower your car insurance. 

1. Get Quotes Annually 

Insurance rates are increasing every year, so your insurance premiums will naturally increase over time. However, a huge spike in your insurance bill might mean it’s time to switch providers. Every year or two, use a car insurance quote finder to compare your current insurance rate to competitors. You can also sign up for Jerry.Ai, a tool that automatically checks for the lowest insurance rates before your policy renewal. Requesting quotes annually will ensure that your rates remain low and competitive. 

2. Bundle Your Insurance Plans

Insurance companies often offer discounts when you bundle home, auto, or life insurance. Plus, you have the added convenience of paying all your insurance on one bill. If you’re satisfied with your insurance rates, you can stay with the same company to build up discount opportunities. Some insurance companies will give discounts to their long-term customers, also known as a customer loyalty discount. Bundling and customer loyalty can help you lower your overall insurance costs. 

3. Get Rid of Insurance You Don’t Need 

Older vehicles require less insurance depending on their overall value. For example, you may not need collision and comprehensive coverage on a vehicle if its value is less than your deductible combined with your insurance premium. If you have a car that’s only worth $1,000–$3,000, you might decide to get rid of some of your insurance and purchase a replacement vehicle out of pocket in the case of an accident. If you don’t drop unneeded insurance, you can end up spending more on your premiums than what the total car is worth. 

4. Increase Your Deductible 

A deductible is the amount of money you pay out of pocket as a result of an accident. An increased deductible means lower premium rates. This is a great option for individuals who can keep enough cash savings to cover their deductible in the event of any emergency. Ask your insurance agent about raising your deductible to see how your premiums will fluctuate. 

5. Drive Safely  

This one might seem kind of obvious, but driving safely is the best way to keep your insurance rates low. Insurance providers record your driving history, including any accident reports or traffic tickets. These instances accrue points that eventually lead to increased insurance rates. Even if you switch insurance providers, companies will be able to access your driving history. Try your best to avoid speeding, running red lights, and driving recklessly. Be smart, and drive smart. 

If you do get a ticket, take a defensive driving class to get the points taken off your record. A defensive driving class is an online or in-person course created by individual states to teach drivers how to anticipate dangerous situations and make educated driving decisions. In some states, taking this class can reduce your insurance by 10 percent.

The defensive driving course may seem expensive for a single ticket, but it will end up saving you money on your insurance premiums. You can usually take driving school once a year. If you keep a clean driving record for three to five years, you could save on your insurance rates. 

6. Improve Your Credit Score

Studies show that drivers with a higher credit score are more responsible behind the wheel. Drivers with higher credit scores cost the insurance company less than individuals with a low credit score. A credit score is just another way for insurance companies to measure risk—the very thing insurance companies seek to avoid. Improving your credit score can also help you qualify for auto and home loans. Study your credit report and find ways to improve your overall credit score.

Are you looking for a way to monitor your credit needs? Check out ExtraCredit by Credit.com. It has five killer features, each specifically designed to help you out—no matter what shape your credit is in. 

Sign up for ExtraCredit today!

7. Pick the Right Vehicle 

Insurance rates fluctuate based on the make and model of a car. This is something to consider when purchasing a new or used car. A car such as a Toyota or Chevy will be significantly cheaper to insure than a Porsche. That’s because it’s less risk for insurance companies. Remember, getting a cheaper insurance premium is dependent on your ability to minimize risk for the insurance company. Picking a car brand with an affordable initial price and reasonable upkeep costs can help you save money on insurance and your vehicle in general. You can also save on car insurance by selecting a smaller car with installed safety features.

8. Choose a Group Insurance Plan 

People under the same household can create a group policy to save money. The plan will be more expensive as you add individuals to your group policy, but cheaper than if everyone was on their own insurance plan. Members of the insurance plan either need to be related or have joint ownership of the car. Each of the drivers will be insured for all the cars your family owns. Younger drivers will be more expensive to insure because of their added risk. Look for additional discounts to minimize your total group rate. 

9. Ask Your Insurance Provider About Other Discounts 

Car insurance companies often have additional discounts for specific groups of people. For example, if you are a member of the military, you can get a discount at some insurance companies. You can also lower the insurance premium for your teenage driver through a good student discount. Some other car insurance discounts include the following: 

  • Government employees and retirees discount
  • Multiple vehicle discount 
  • Homeowners discount (separate from the bundling discount) 
  • Paperless billing discount 
  • Hybrid or green vehicle discount 
  • Driver education discount for people under 21
  • Automatic payments or paid-in-full discount 

Ask your insurance provider about additional discounts to see if you qualify. 

10. Find Out About Pay-as-You-Go or Usage-Based Insurance 

If you don’t use your car often, you may be able to save on your insurance. Some companies offer a discount for driving under 10,000 miles in a single year. Other companies offer a pay as you go plan that allows you to pay a base rate and then pay per mile. These discounts could save you money if you do not have a long work commute or if you rarely use your car. This may also be a good incentive to use public transportation when possible. 

Final Thoughts

We all want to save money on car insurance, but that’s not the only factor in becoming a smart insurance customer. Before diving into savings, first determine your insurance needs and goals. Do your research to find out the difference between liability and full coverage insurance. Once you have the right coverage, you can start chipping away at your rates by following these ten tips to lower your car insurance. 

The post 10 Proven Ways to Lower Your Car Insurance appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

What Is a Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF)?

Underwriters' meetingNew insurance agents can get a grounding in the basic skills, such as underwriting, needed to succeed in the field by becoming a Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF). After completing the required training, agents will have greater expertise in prospecting, selling, practice management as well as insight into practice specialties including life and health insurance, employee benefits and annuities. Having a LUTCF also can aid new agents in acquiring a job with an agency and in marketing themselves to prospective clients.

The LUTCF is overseen by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA). The training and testing are provided by education company Kaplan through its College for Financial Planning division.

LUTCF Certification Requirements

The core of the certification requirements for the LUTCF is a set of three courses. Each course consists of eight weeks of instruction followed by a week for review and testing.

The first course is an introduction to life insurance and managing a life insurance practice. It covers business planning, ethics, life insurance product basics, risk management, prospecting, selling skills and financial planning.

The second course goes deeper into life insurance as well as annuities, mutual funds and insurance for health, disability, long-term care, group coverage and property and casualty. Risk management, retirement and estate planning are among the subjects covered in the third course.

The third course deals with risk management applications. It covers retirement and estate planning as well as special situations.

The courses are available as self-paced prerecorded lectures. They are also taught live and via interactive online classes. After completing each of the three courses, students must pass a two-hour test. To pass, they must correctly answer 70% of the 50 questions on each test.

The training costs $950 per course for a total of $2,850. The only prerequisite for the LUTCF is to belong to NAIFA, which has a sliding membership fee scale. People in their first year in financial services pay $10 to belong to NAIFA. The fee increases annually until it reaches $56 a year after a member has five years of experience in the field.

After receiving the designation, LUTCF designees can renew it by paying a $50 renewal fee every two years. As part of the renewal process, they also have to demonstrate that they have completed three hours of ethics continuing education every two years. In addition, LUTCF holders must agree to follow standards of professional conduct and be subject to a disciplinary process.

LUTCF Holder Jobs

Insurance worksheetsLUTCF seekers are usually insurance agents at the start of their careers. They may be interested in obtaining the designation as a way to convince potential employers of their commitment and knowledge about the life insurance industry. Having the LUTCF initials on a business card is also seen as an aid in marketing to prospects. The LUTCF is an optional certification and does not confer any specific powers or privileges on holders.

The designation has been around since 1984 and approximately 70,000 people have earned an LUTCF during that time.

Comparable Certifications

There are only a few entry-level certificates available to life insurance agents. In addition to the LUTCF, new agents can choose from:

Financial Services Certified Professional (FSCP) is offered by the American College of Financial Services, which originally co-sponsored the LUTCF with NAIFA. In 2013 the organizations ended their association and the American College of Financial Service began offering the FSCP. It requires passing seven courses on financial services and ethics topics at a combined cost of $3,230.

Registered Financial Associate (RFA) is a designation from the International Association of Registered Financial Consultants. It is offered to agents and other financial professionals who have already received a life insurance license, Series 65 securities license, bachelor degree in a related field or any of a number of professional designations, including a LUTCF. RFAs also have to pay a $250 fee. The only requirement other than that is to pass an examination on the organization’s code of ethics for financial professionals.

Bottom Line

Business meeting

The Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF) certification is one of the first designations sought by beginning life insurance agents. To get one, students have to learn about life and other forms of insurance, mutual funds, annuities, employee benefits and financial advising, in addition to managing a life insurance business, prospecting and selling.

Tips on Insurance

  • A consumer considering purchasing life insurance can increase the chances of making a good decision by having a relationship with a trusted and experienced financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Entry-level designations for financial services professionals like the LUTCF indicate that an advisor is interested in learning about the field and following best practices. More advanced certifications such as Chartered Life Underwriter and Certified Financial Planner are likely to indicate that a professional is a more experienced and well-informed source for financial advice.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/FangXiaNuo, ©iStock.com/hfng, ©iStock.com/jhorrocks

 

The post What Is a Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF)? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

100 Birthday Freebies ~~ Celebrate WIth Free Stuff in 2021!

Hooray! It’s your birthday!

The last thing you should do is pay for stuff. So we’ve put together a list of 100 places where you can get birthday freebies, updated for 2021.

Most of these places require you to sign up for their email list or join their rewards club at least seven days before your birthday.

So get busy now and enjoy the free birthday stuff as it rolls in on your big day.

100 Places to Get Birthday Freebies

These restaurants and retailers will provide you with free treats for your birthday. Be sure to sign up in advance.

A&W All American Food

Get a free root beer float on your birthday by joining the Mug Club.

ABC Liquor

Sign up for ABC Liquor Access to get a “birthday gift.”

AMC Theatres

Become an AMC Stubs Insider to get a free large popcorn during your birthday month. If you’re a Premiere or A-List member, you’ll also get a free large fountain drink.

Anthropologie

As a member of the Anthro Loyalty program, you will get a “special treat to celebrate your birthday.”

Applebee’s

Sign up for the email club, and get $5 off when you spend at least $25. You’ll also get a free appetizer when you sign up.

Arby’s

Sign up for Arby’s emails and get a free milkshake and curly fries on your birthday when you buy any sandwich. You’ll also get a free small fries and small soft drink when you sign up.

Au Bon Pain

Join the Eclub, and get a free coffee and pastry on your birthday. You’ll also get a travel mug and daily discounts on coffee just for signing up.

Auntie Anne’s

Download the Pretzel Perks app, and get a free pretzel on your birthday.

Aveda

You need to spend $10 to join Aveda’s loyalty rewards program, but you’ll receive a birthday gift valued at $23, as well as double points for your next Aveda purchase.

Baja Fresh

Sign up for Club Baja to get a “special offer” on your birthday.

bareMinerals

Sign up for the Friends and Benefits loyalty program to get “birthday gifts.”

Baskin Robbins

Create an account, join the Birthday Club, and get a free scoop of ice cream on your birthday.

Banana Republic

When you sign up to receive Banana Republic’s emails, you can opt to also get a “birthday gift.”

bd’s Mongolian Grill

Get a free meal on your birthday when you join the bd’s Rewards eClub, plus get a $5 coupon just for signing up.

Benihana’s

Register for the Chef’s Table, and you’ll get a $30 birthday certificate.

Best Buy

My Best Buy members get a “birthday gift.”

Big Boy

Joining the I Love Big Boy email club gets you a free meal on your birthday.

BJ’s Brewhouse

Join Premier Rewards Plus and get a free Pizookie for your birthday. What’s that? It’s a big, warm cookie smothered in ice cream… yum. What’s even better is you don’t have to wait for your birthday – you’ll also get a free Pizookie just for signing up.

Black Angus Steakhouse

Join the Prime Club to get a free steak dinner on your first birthday as a member.

Bojangles’

Get a free Bo-Berry Biscuit with a purchase on your birthday as a member of the Bojangles’ eClub.

Bruegger’s Bagels

Members of the Bruegger’s Bagels eClub will enjoy a “free treat” on their birthday, as well as a free bagel and cream cheese just for signing up.

Buca di Beppo

You’ll receive a free pasta after signing up, as well as a $20 birthday gift for joining the eClub.

The sign of Buffalo Wild Wings is photographed.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Sign up for Blazin’ Rewards to get free birthday wings during your birth month.

Carvel

Join Fudgie Fanatics to receive a free treat for your birthday. You can get a small soft serve birthday cone, take $2 off any cake (except for a small square) or take $3 off any sheet cake.

Chevys Fresh Mex

Members of the eClub get a free entree on their birthday, as well as a free appetizer for signing up.

Chick-fil-A

Join Chick-fil-A One to get a “birthday reward.”

Chili’s

Get a free dessert for your birthday when you join My Chili’s Rewards Club, plus get free chips and salsa or a non-alcoholic beverage with every visit!

Chipotle

Join the Chipotle rewards program to get free chips and guacamole on your birthday when you make a purchase of $5 or more. When you sign up and make your first purchase, you’ll also get free chips and a choice of guacamole, queso blanco or salsa.

Cinnabon

Subscribe to Club Cinnabon to get a free iced coffee on your birthday and a free order of BonBites for signing up.

Cold Stone Creamery

Get a BOGO coupon for your birthday by signing up for the My Cold Stone Club. You’ll also get a BOGO coupon just for signing up!

Columbia

Members of the Greater Rewards program get a “birthday gift” in addition to a welcome gift from the sportswear and outdoor gear retailer.

Container Store

Join the POP! (Perfectly Organized Perks) program to get a birthday gift.

Culver’s

Enjoy a free sundae on your birthday when you sign up for MyCulver’s. You’ll also get a BOGO value basket when you sign up.

The exterior of a CVS is photographed in Florida.

CVS Pharmacy

As a member of the ExtraCare Beauty Club, you’ll get “birthday gifts with beauty surprises,” as well as 10% off for joining.

Del Taco

If you’re a Raving Fan eClub member, you can enjoy a regular-size premium shake for your birthday, plus you’ll get two free grilled chicken tacos when you sign up.

Denny’s

Sign up for Denny’s Rewards program online or via the mobile app. You’ll get 20% off your next visit, plus a free stack of buttermilk pancakes on your birthday when you order online at Dennys.com.

Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW)

Join the free DSW VIP Club to get a $5 birthday reward. You’ll also get $5 on your birthday if you spend $200 annually as a VIP Gold member, and you’ll get $10 if you spend $500 annually as a VIP Elite member.

Dippin’ Dots

Get free Dippin’ Dots for your birthday when you join the Dot Crazy! Email Club.

Dunkin’ Donuts

Get a free beverage on your birthday by signing up for the DD Perks Rewards Program.

Edible Arrangements

Join Edible Rewards and receive a free 12-count chocolate dipped fruit box (valued at $29.99) during your birthday month. You’ll also get a $5 coupon for signing up (valid for 30 days).

Einstein Bros. Bagels

Get a free egg sandwich with a purchase on your birthday when you join the Shmear Society — not totally free, but hey, you’ll need something to help wash that sandwich down. You’ll have 14 days to claim your reward.

Famous Dave’s

Join the Famous Nation and get a free dessert with a value of up to $9.00 for your birthday.

Famous Footwear

Famously You Rewards members get a $5 birthday cash reward.

Firehouse Subs

Sign up for Firehouse Rewards for a free medium sub on your birthday or in the six days that follow it.

First Watch

Get a BOGO breakfast, brunch or lunch for your birthday as a member of the Sun EClub.

Friendly’s

When you become a BFF Club member, you’ll receive a free birthday sundae.

Godiva

As a member of the Godiva Rewards Club, you’ll get a free birthday chocolate offer every year.

Habit Burger Grill

Be sure to join Habit Burger Grill’s CharClub to enjoy a free Charburger on your birthday.

Harkins Theatres

Sign up for My Harkins Rewards and receive a $5 birthday coupon to use at the concessions.

Hard Rock

Sign up for Hard Rock Rewards to get an “annual birthday offer” from the cafe and shops.

Hooters

Get 10 free boneless birthday wings when you sign up for Hootclub. You’ll also get $5 off your first purchase of $25 or more when you sign up.

Houlihan’s Restaurant and Bar

Email club members get a free birthday entree, plus $10 off just for joining.

IHOP

Sign up for MyHop and get free pancakes on your birthday. You’ll also get free pancakes on the anniversary of your sign-up.

Challenge yourself to score as many birthday freebies as possible and make the celebration — and savings — last all month!

J. Crew Factory

When you sign up for Factory First, you’ll get an extra 20% off and free shipping on your birthday. You’ll also get an extra 15% off your first purchase after signing up.

JCPenney

Receive a birthday gift when you sign up for JCPenney Rewards. If you are not a JCPenney credit card member, you must have earned points within the last 21 months.

A woman smiles as she holds up a drink and a sub she got for free from Jersey Mike's Subs.

Jersey Mike’s Subs

Get a free birthday sub when you sign up for the email club.

Kendra Scott

Kendra Scott offers a 50% birthday discount on one fashion jewelry or color bar item. It also offers a 25% discount on fine jewelry, sterling silver jewelry or gold vermeil jewelry. You can also get 25% off a home goods item. Find out more information here.

Kohl’s

Members of the Kohl’s Rewards program get a “special birthday gift.”

Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme Rewards members receive a free Original Glazed Dozen. You’ll also get a free doughnut when you sign up.

Longhorn Steakhouse

As a member of the Longhorn Steakhouse’s eClub, you’ll get “special offers and coupons” on your birthday. You’ll also get a free appetizer when you sign up.

Marie Callender’s

Join the eClub, and get $5 off the purchase of two entrees, plus two free slices of pie, the choice of a free “Marie’s Magnificent Six” or a free slice of pie with the purchase of an entree on your birthday. You’ll also get a special dine-in offer for signing up. The company also sends special offers for your wedding anniversary and allows you to add family members so they can get birthday rewards.

Moe’s Southwest Grill

Sign up for Rockin’ Rewards and get a coupon for a free birthday burrito, plus a free cup of queso just for signing up.

Nothing Bundt Cakes

Join the Nothing Bundt Cakes eClub and get a free Bundtlet on your birthday.

Old Navy

Opt into the Birthday Club when you subscribe to Old Navy’s emails to get a “free birthday gift.”

Olive Garden

Get a complimentary dessert on your birthday by signing up for the eClub. You’ll get a free dessert or appetizer when you sign up.

On the Border

Join Club Cantina and get free queso on your birthday, and just for signing up.

Pandora

Members of the Pandora Club get a 15% discount during their birthday month. This offer can only be used one time and is valid on regular-priced jewelry only.

Pei Wei

Sign up for My Wei Rewards and choose from these birthday freebies: crab wontons, traditional edamame, vegetable spring rolls or pork egg roll. The reward will automatically appear in your app seven days prior to your birthday.

Perkins

Members of the MyPerkins Club receive a free Magnificent Seven meal on their birthdays. The meal includes two eggs, any way you like, plus two smoked bacon strips and three buttermilk pancakes. Plus you’ll get a 20% off coupon for signing up. You will also be able to add your children ages 12 and under so they can get birthday rewards, too.

Pinkberry

Sign up for a Pinkcard or download the app, and receive a free yogurt on your birthday.

Pita Pit

Sign up for the Pita Pit Rewards Club and receive a free pita on your birthday.

Pizza Hut

Join the Hut Rewards program to get a “birthday reward.”

Planet Smoothie

Join the Planet Smoothie Club and receive a free smoothie for your birthday.

A person selects a movie from a red box.

Redbox

Sign up for Redbox Perks and receive a free birthday rental (it must be used within 60 days). You’ll also get a free one-night rental for signing up (that offer is valid for two weeks).

Red Lobster

Enjoy a “birthday surprise” when you sign up for the My Red Lobster Rewards program.

Red Robin

Register for the Red Robin Royalty Program, and get a free birthday burger.

Rita’s

Get a free Italian ice on your birthday when you download Rita’s Ice App.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Sign up for the email club, and get a free dessert on your birthday.

Ruby Tuesday

As a member of So Connected, you’ll get a choice of a free burger or a free garden bar entree on your birthday. You’ll also get a free appetizer for signing up.

Sephora

Beauty Insiders are eligible to choose a free makeup or skin care gift for their birthday.

Sbarro

Become a member of the Slice Society to get a birthday surprise. You’ll also get a free New York slice when you buy a beverage after signing up.

Sonny’s BBQ

Get a free Big Deal Combo meal on your big day by joining the ‘Q Crew, plus a $5 coupon just for joining.

Sprinkles

Receive a free cupcake (make that a baker’s dozen if you’re a Red Velvet tier member) for your birthday when you join Sprinkles Perks.

Iced coffees from Starbucks sit on a table outside.

Starbucks

Get a birthday beverage or food item as a member of Starbucks Rewards.

Subway

Sign up for the Subway MyWay Rewards program and the sandwich-making company will give you “something special” on your birthday.

Swagbucks

As a birthday reward, “you’ll receive a Swag Up for a 55 SB credit when you redeem your next gift card.”

Pro Tip

Be sure to check out our Swagbucks review for how to get the most out of Swagbucks.

TCBY

Sign up for TCBY emails, and receive your first 3 ounces free on your birthday.

Texas Roadhouse

Sign up for the email club and you’ll get a free appetizer or a sidekick of ribs on your birthday.

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The Melting Pot

Members of Club Fondue will get a “birthday voucher.”

The Spaghetti Warehouse

Join the Warehouse Club, and get a free meal on your birthday, plus a free appetizer with an entree purchase for becoming a member of the club.

Tijuana Flats

Become a Flathead and receive a free dessert for your birthday. You’ll also get a free Tijuana Trio when you sign up.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Download the Tropical Smoothie Cafe app to be eligible for a birthday reward. What you get depends on your loyalty tier, but it ranges from a $2 reward to a free menu item.

Ulta Beauty

As an Ultamate Rewards member, you’ll get an offer for extra bonus points on all purchases during your birthday month.

Uniqlo

Download the Uniqlo app to get a birthday coupon during your birthday month.

Uno Pizzeria & Grill

Join the Uno Insider’s Club, and receive a free dessert on your birthday, as well as a free appetizer with an entree purchase when you join.

Waffle House

Make sure you’re a member of the Waffle House Regulars Club to receive a free waffle on your birthday. You’ll also get free hashbrowns when you sign up.

Wienerschnitzel

Join the Wiener Lovers’ Club, and get a free coupon each year on your birthday, plus a free chili dog for joining.

World Market

Members of World Market Rewards get a “surprise offer” on their birthday, plus a 15% coupon for signing up.

Yogurt Mountain

Join the YOMO Club, and get free yogurt on your birthday.

Zaxby’s

Sign up for the Zax Club and get a free Big Zax Snak on your birthday, plus a free sandwich meal for signing up.

Who doesn’t love getting something for nothing? Visit The Penny Hoarder Shop to see what freebies are available.

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

Equifax Data Breach: Settlement Options

In the fall of 2017, Equifax experienced a massive data breach. Approximately 147 million people were victims of this data breach. Recently a federal court has purposed a class action settlement. If you are part of this data breach, you are able to file a claim today.

Was I Part of The Equifax Data Breach?

You can check if you are part of the Equifax data breach by going to Equifax’s data breach settlement website. You will need to enter your last name and last six digits of your social security number. After entering in this information on the settlement site, it will say if you were or were not a victim of the Equifax data breach.

Can I File a Claim?

You can file a claim if you if you are a victim of the Equifax data breach. To file a claim go to the Equifax data breach settlement site mentioned above to verify your eligibility. If you were a victim, the website will take you to a screen where you can file a claim.

What are My Claim Settlement Options?

Victims of the Equifax data breach, you can select from the following options:

  • A one-time cash payment up to $125 (if you already have credit monitoring)
  • Free credit monitoring service for 10 years. Which includes $1 million in identity theft insurance, identity restoration services (for seven years), and options to add more monitoring from Equifax.
  • Exclude yourself from the Equifax settlement

You can file a claim for eligible for reimbursement for time spent recovering from this incident if you were a victim of the Equifax data breach. You can also request compensation for reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses if you spent or lost money recovering from this incident.

Which Settlement Option Should I Pick?

A one-time cash payment of $125 sounds great, right? But the actual cash payment amount is expected to be much less. Equifax set aside $31 million for cash payouts. This means that if only 248,000 people select a cash payment, they will get the full $125. Don’t forget, there were 147 million affected by the Equifax data breach.

If you do the math and estimate 10% of the affected victims select the one-time cash payment, that is approximately $2.10 per claim. If 1 million people select the one-time cash payment, that is about $31 per claim.

Credit monitoring cost about $9 to $40 per month depending on the company you select and the credit-monitoring package. Estimating $15 a month for 10 years, this equals $1,800 – far more than a one-time cash payment of $125.

There has been a lot of publicity about the Equifax settlement. They are expecting a high rate of people filing claims. The FTC is warning victims not to expect the full one-time cash payment of $125.

What do you do if you have already selected the one-time cash payment but want to change to the credit monitoring option? You can contact Equifax to change your settlement option.

Changing Your Equifax Settlement Option

The Credit.com Editorial Team called the Settlement Administrator to find out. Settlement members can email Info@EquifaxBreachSettlement.com to change their settlement option. In the email to Equifax include the following information: your claim number, full name, and details about changing the settlement option. You only need to do this if you want to change your claim option.

Whichever selection you decide, make sure to do it before time runs out. You have until January 22, 2020 to file.

 Preventing Identity Theft

It may seem impossible to prevent your personal data, but there are steps you can take to be proactive. Here are some ideas:

  • Be mindful of what your share on social media. A data thief can find out a lot of information about a person on social media. Limit your exposure by limiting what you share and whom you share it with. Don’t give away your address, date of birth and mother’s maiden name on social media. Are you already doing this? It’s a good idea to check your security settings every so often.
  • Take outgoing mail to the post office or a collection box. When you mail your mortgage payment and put the flag up on your mailbox, it is an open invitation to thieves to come check your mailbox to see what they can find. You can put a stop payment on a stolen check but the thief now has your bank account and routing number, which is a much bigger issue. Go for online bill payments or dropping off at a secure location.
  • Keep your Wi-Fi secure. Make sure your home Wi-Fi is password protected. If you are using public Wi-Fi, be careful what information you enter and view while on a public browser as others could see this information.
  • Opt out of prescreened credit card offers. You can opt out for five years or permanently. If you go with the permanent option, you have to mail something in. The five-year option allows you to complete the request online. To opt out, go to optoutprescreen.com. This will also eliminate waste since you will not receive offers you are not interested in. Next time you are in the market for a new credit card, visit Credit.com’s Credit Card Marketplace to review top offers instead. It is a much easier way to compare various credit card offers.
  • Freeze your credit if you have been a victim of identity theft. Freezing your credit report makes it harder for a data thief to open an account in your name. You can place a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Final Thoughts

If you have been a victim of the Equifax data breach, or any other data breach, there are things you can to do to help prevent identity theft. Monitoring your credit report and credit scores are a very important part of preventing identity theft.

Make sure to review your personal data (bank accounts and other sensitive info), credit report and credit scores from the credit bureaus on a regular basis to help prevent identity theft. Consumers are entitled to a free credit every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also sign up with Credit.com to view your credit score. With Credit.com you get two credit scores every 14 days and a credit report card for free.

The post Equifax Data Breach: Settlement Options appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Greystone Mansion: the Most Familiar House You’ve Never Visited

There’s this mansion in Beverly Hills that a large part of the world’s population has already seen, even though they might not realize it.

It’s a historic house that’s been used in endless Hollywood movies, TV series, and music videos. After you finish reading this article, you might just realize that you’ve seen this house before, too. Well, now you will also know its history, and when you see it again on your TV screen (and more than likely, you will), you’ll recognize it. 

The place we’re referring to is known as Greystone Mansion or Doheny Mansion, and it’s located at 905 Loma Vista Drive in Beverly Hills. The Tudor Revival mansion was originally completed in 1928, after three years’ worth of construction and a total cost of over $4 million — an insane amount at the time. 

aerial view of Greystone Mansion
Greystone Mansion aerial view. Image credit: Luxury Architecture

The inception of Doheny Mansion

The 55-room, 46,000-square-foot mansion lies on a 16-acre site within Trousdale Estates. It was designed by architect Gordon Kaufmann and built by the P.J. Walker Company. The land was actually a wedding gift from oil tycoon Edward Doheny to his son, Edward ‘Ned’ Doheny, and his new wife, Lucy Smith. 

Edward Doheny was an American oil tycoon who drilled the first oil well in Los Angeles in 1892. His story was depicted in the Academy Award-winning movie There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Interestingly enough, the movie was actually filmed at Doheny Mansion. 

Ned Doheny’s house became known as Greystone because it was built mainly of stone, and has a grey, stone-cold appearance. The house took roughly three years to build, and included stables, kennels, tennis courts, a gatehouse, a swimming pool and pavilion, a lake with babbling brooks and waterfalls, and even a fire station. 

old photo of the Greystone Mansion driveway
Greystone Mansion driveway. Image credit: Friends of Greystone Mansion

A bittersweet move-in for the Dohenys

Unfortunately, Ned Doheny didn’t get to enjoy his new home for too long. Just four months after moving into Greystone Mansion, Doheny was found dead in the house, alongside his secretary and friend, Hugh Plunkett. The case was ruled a murder-suicide, however, some claim that there’s more to that story.

Doheny was killed by his own gun, and he was not buried with the rest of his family, but in a different cemetery, just a few yards away from where Plunkett was laid to rest. This has led some to believe that Doheny might have committed suicide, however, this is just a theory that certainly adds a bit of mystery to Greystone Mansion. 

Greystone Mansion exterior
Greystone Mansion exterior. Image credit: The City of Beverly Hills

Following Ned Doheny’s death, his wife Lucy remarried and lived in the house with her children until 1955. Greystone Mansion was later sold to Paul Trousdale, the developer of Trousdale Estates, who then sold it to Henry Crown of Chicago. The businessman never actually lived in the house, but leased it out to film studios — and that’s how Greystone’s prolific movie career started. 

Greystone Mansion, Hollywood’s favorite filming location

Over the decades, Greystone Mansion has been featured in numerous Hollywood movies and TV series, including classics like The Big Lebowski, Eraserhead, The Witches of Eastwick, Death Becomes Her, Batman & Robin, The Bodyguard, Dark Shadows, The Prestige, The Social Network, and X-Men.

The mansion has also made appearances in TV series, including Alias and The Young and the Restless, and it also played the part of Chilton Academy in Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls scene filmed at Greystone Mansion
Gilmore Girls scene filmed at Greystone Mansion, featuring the home’s famous staircase

Last but not least, Greystone Mansion has been featured in commercials and even music videos. You might have already toured the house alongside Robert Downey Jr., in the music video for Elton John’s single I Want Love. Let us refresh your memory:

In 1965, the City of Beverly Hills purchased Greystone Mansion, and a few years later, the property became a public city park. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, as Doheny Estate/Greystone.

The mansion continues to be used as a filming location and a destination for special events such as music festivals, fundraisers, and even weddings. Greystone Mansion houses the Beverly Hills Flower & Garden Festival, the yearly Catskills West drama camp, and The Annual Hollywood Ball, among others. 

Greystone Mansion public gardens
Greystone Mansion public gardens. Image credit: Love Beverly Hills

A carefully preserved slice of L.A. history

Greystone Mansion is a remarkable feat of architecture, and most of its original features have been carefully preserved over the years. The property features hand-carved oak banisters, balustrades and rafters, seven chimneys, each designed by a different artist, a movie theater room, a billiard room, a hidden bar, and a two-lane original Brunswick bowling alley. The alley was renovated so that it could be used by the filming crew for There Will Be Blood. 

The bowling alley at Greystone Mansion
The bowling alley at Greystone Mansion. Image credit: The City of Beverly Hills

There’s a grand hall with distinctive, black-and-white marble floors and a very famous staircase. In fact, the staircase at Greystone Mansion has been featured in numerous productions, due to its majestic appearance. 

The grand hall and staircase at Greystone Mansion
The grand hall and staircase at Greystone Mansion. Image credit: Love Beverly Hills

Greystone Mansion also included a servant’s quarters that took up two entire floors on the east wing and was built to accommodate a live-in staff of 15.

Greystone Mansion plan. Image credit: The City of Beverly Hills

There was also a living room with a balcony where musicians performed at special events, and a kitchen pantry with a secret wall safe that held the family’s silver and gold kitchenware.

Greystone Mansion interior
Greystone Mansion interior. Image credit: The City of Beverly Hills

This stunning, stone-clad Beverly Hills mansion continues to attract filming crews, and we’re definitely going to be seeing it again on the big screen. At the same time, its beautiful, lush gardens and its rich history will continue to attract visitors from around the world.

Here’s a further glimpse into the mansion’s history, to keep you occupied until you get a chance to visit in person:

Featured image courtesy of The City of Beverly Hills

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The Beverly House, where Jackie O & JFK Honeymooned and where Coppola Shot “The Godfather”
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Where to Find the Real Carrington Manor from ‘Dynasty’

The post Greystone Mansion: the Most Familiar House You’ve Never Visited appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

The Property Brothers’ Best Small-Space Renovations for 2021

Property BrothersHGTV

Drew and Jonathan Scott of “Property Brothers” know that nearly all of us could use more space (particularly as the pandemic drags on and on). Now that the new year’s first episode of “Celebrity IOU” has arrived, they’ve broken out their top tricks for opening up a small house without breaking the bank.

In the Season 2 episode, “Rainn Wilson’s Surprise,” the Scotts meet the actor Rainn Wilson, of “The Office,” who wants to give his beloved nanny, Leslie, a living-room makeover.

Leslie’s Los Angeles home could definitely use it, given that the space is seriously dated and undeniably cramped. With her kids (and nieces and nephews) often running around the house, Wilson knows that this living space needs to be more kid-friendly, too.

Read on to find out how Drew and Jonathan open up this small living space, which might inspire some upgrades around your own home, too.

Remove kitchen cabinets to open up more space

Rainn Wilson
Rainn Wilson shows Drew and Jonathan Scott how much work needs to be done in the kitchen.

HGTV

When Wilson brings Drew and Jonathan to Leslie’s home, one of the first things the brothers notice is the kitchen’s cabinets.

The row of cabinets blocks sightlines to the living space and makes the kitchen feel separated from the rest of the house. Jonathan explains that the style is typical of the era the home was built in, but says it’s not a great feature for those who are making the meals.

“Whoever’s in there, all of a sudden, it feels like a cave,” Jonathan says.

kitchen
This kitchen was so closed off that it wasn’t functional for a house with kids.

HGTV

So, the brothers remove some cabinets and, to make up for the missing cabinet space, add smarter storage to the rest of the kitchen (like adding lots of drawers to the island).

In the end, the kitchen is beautiful, functional, and flows with the rest of the living space. Leslie will never miss those cabinets!

kitchen
With the floating shelves out of the way, this kitchen is much more open.

HGTV

Create more storage with built-in benches and hutches

storage
The brothers know that a house with kids needs plenty of storage.

HGTV

Wilson knows that Leslie and her children could always use more storage.

“One thing is, there’s a lot of kids bouncin’ around in here,” Wilson tells the Scott brothers when they first tour the house.

Luckily, the brothers have a solution to help this family organize its stuff: stylish built-ins.

hutch
This hutch created convenient storage, but it was too small.

HGTV

Drew and Jonathan add some built-in benches under the living room window, providing plenty of storage space under the seats. Then, they expand on the built-in dining room hutch, making it twice as big, for holding twice as much.

These two built-in storage solutions are perfect, because they don’t take up space, as a bulky piece of furniture would, and they leave the whole room open as a kids’ play space. It’s a great workaround for this family’s storage issue.

hutch
This larger hutch is much more convenient.

HGTV

Brighten beams to make a room seem taller

ceiling
These beams were beautiful, but the brothers felt that they were too dark.

HGTV

Jonathan and Drew like the wood beams in Leslie’s living room, but they worry that the dark color makes the room feel more closed in.

“From the moment we walked in, we noticed the dark beams and that high, recessed, rough-ridged ceiling. It was sucking the light out of the space,” Drew says.

But the color isn’t the only problem. The brothers notice that this room doesn’t have any ceiling lights, which makes this room even darker.

ceiling
Painted white, the beams brighten the space.

HGTV

So Jonathan and Drew paint the beams white and add white shiplap-style ceiling panels.

“Not only do they add brightness,” Jonathan says of the panels, “but they’re also going to be dropped down to accommodate new recessed lighting.”

In the end, not only does the new color make the space feel brighter, but the added lights literally light up the room.

Large doors make a small house feel bigger

Rainn Wilson
Wilson discusses new doors with Drew and Jonathan.

HGTV

While Leslie’s living room is laid out well, the space is relatively small. Although the brothers can’t add to the square footage of the house, Jonathan has the idea to expand the living space by improving the flow into the back patio.

“We could do something really cool with these sliders,” Jonathan says of the existing doors. “We could swap them out for, like, collapsible glass panels. They could flow in and out. It would be great.”

door
All that natural light really brightens up the living room.

HGTV

The brothers open up the walls and install large, collapsible window doors from two sides, making both the family room and dining space open onto the backyard.

To complete the effect, they update the patio by adding new flooring and new furniture. In the end, the living space feels twice as big!

patio
Two doors open up to the patio, making the living room seem far more open.

HGTV

Don’t go overboard with too much white

fireplace
This fireplace needed a new look.

HGTV

While the Scotts know that it’s important to brighten up a space, they also know that with the walls, ceiling, and kitchen all in white, the space could use some contrast. So they redo the white fireplace with a unique brown finish.

“This is just made out of marble powder, lime, and sand,” Jonathan says, as he applies a clay mixture to the fireplace face.

Some techniques, he says, come from Italy, and from different regions of Europe, but this one, from Morocco, is called tadelakt.

fireplace
With unique materials, the brothers turn this old fireplace into a modern feature.

HGTV

The light-brown color looks perfect in the space. The finish adds dimension without darkening the area, and the modern fireplace shape is much better suited to children, because there’s no mantel to climb on or base to trip over.

Best of all, this modern fireplace looks clean and elegant.

“I love that it looks like a five-star hotel,” Drew says of the new finish. “That’s the kind of feature you want to have.”

When Wilson finally brings Leslie and her family back to the house, she’s amazed by how spacious and elegant her living room looks. Let this serve as a reminder that just a few small changes can make even small spaces feel huge.

The post The Property Brothers’ Best Small-Space Renovations for 2021 appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

How to Buy a HUD Home at the Hudhomestore Website?

Using the Hudhomestore to buy a HUD home is easy.

If you’re looking to buy a HUD home, the Hudhomestore website is the best place to do it. It can be found here at hudhomestore.com. HUD homes are listed for sale at the site.

While anyone can buy a HUD home, you will need to get approved for a loan first.

Just like buying a house through the conventional route, all financing options are available for HUD homes. That includes conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans, etc.

However, most people used an FHA loan to buy a HUD home due to its low down payment and credit score requirements.

If you have questions beyond buying a HUD home at the hudhomestore website, consult a financial advisor.

What is the Hudhomestore?

The hudhomestore is a website operated by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The website can be found here at hudhomestore.com.

Homes are listed there for sale after they have gone through foreclosures. Real estate agents and/or brokers can place bids on your behalf to buy a house.

What is a HUD home?

A HUD home (usually a 1 to 4 unit) is a property owned by HUD. Before a home became a HUD home, it was owned by a homebuyer who had purchased the home with an FHA loan.

Once the borrower stopped paying his or her FHA loan, the home went to foreclosures. Then the home goes to HUD and becomes a HUD home.

Why you should buy a HUD home at the Hudhomestore?

The benefits of buying a HUD home are huge. The main benefit is that most of these homes are priced below market value.

In addition, if you’re an EMS personnel, police officer, firefighter, or teachers, and live in revitalized areas and plan to live there for at least 36 months, HUD’s Good Neighbor Program offers HUD homes at a 50% discount.

This program is listed at the hudhomestore website.

In addition, HUD offers other perks such as low down payment and sales allowances you can use to pay for moving, repair and closing costs. The low down payment, that is on top of the FHA financing that you may be qualified for.

Another huge benefit of buying a HUD home is that HUD gives preferences to buyers who intend to live in the home for at least one year. So this puts you ahead of investors.

Are you qualified to finance a HUD Home?

All financing options, including conventional loans, VA, and FHA loans, are available when it comes to buying a HUD home.

But FHA loans are very popular among first time home buyers, due to its low requirements. But before you start searching for HUD homes through the Hudhomestore website, you should compare multiple loan offers so you can the best mortgage rates.

FHA loan requirements:

  • 580 Minimum score
  • 3.5% down payment

If your credit score is below 580, you can still be qualified but you’ll have to pay at least 10% down. Or, you can always take time to raise your credit score.

Don’t know what your credit score is, visit CreditSesame.

Our Review of Credit Sesame.

Steps to buy a HUD Home at the HUDhomestore website:

HUD homes can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look. In other words, they are not listed on conventional real estate websites such as Zillow or Redfin.

Instead, they are listed at the HUDhomestore webiste, which can be found at hudhomestore.com. They also have HUD Homestore Mobile Apps.

Knowing these steps is important to mastering one of the best strategies to buy a house at below market or wholesale prices.

Step 1: Shop and compare home loans

Before you start searching your house through the hudhomestore site, it’s a good idea to

The worst thing that can happen is to find a house that you like to then realize that you cannot secure a home loan.

To get the best mortgage rates, you need to compare multiple loan offers. Buying a home is major expense, and getting the best rates could save you a lot of money. I can spend a lot of time talking about why it is a bad idea to only speak with one mortgage lender.

But when it comes to having multiple loan offers, I highly suggest LendingTree.

LendingTree is an online platform that connects you to several mortgage lenders without visiting a dozen bank branches.

LendingTree will provide you up to 5 loan offers from multiple lenders for free, so you can compare and make sure you get the best deal.

So if you’re at this step right now, go and compare current mortgage rates for free at LendingTree, and come back to this article.

Our LendingTree Review.

Step 2: Finding a HUD Home at the HUDhomestore website.

To find a HUD home, simply go to the hudhomestore website. It can be found at hudhomestore.com.

There are three ways to find HUD homes on the hudhomestore website. The first way is through a map.

Once you on the website, you will see a map to the right with all of the states listed there. You simply look for your state and click on it to see all of the available HUD homes.

The hudhomestore site will show you a list of all of the HUD homes available for that particular state. It will include the photo of the HUD home, the address, the asking price, etc.

If you click on the photo of the house, you will be able to see more information of the property, including more photos, street views and information of the property.

Another way to find a house through the hudhomestore website is by clicking on the HUD Special program links.

The hudhomestore site specifically lists three HUD Special Programs: Good Neighbor Next Door; Nonprofits; $1 Homes-Government Sales. It specifically states on the hudhomestore website that if you click on any of these special programs, you will see available properties.

The third way to find a HUD home via the hudhomestore site is through the Search Properties. At the middle of the homepage, you will see a Search Properties where you can enter more detailed criteria.

Step 3: Buy your HUD home

Once you have found your desired HUD Home at the hudhomestore, it’s time to buy your HUD home.

But note that HUD homes are sold through an auction process. When you’re searching for the property through the hudhomestore site, it will tell you a deadline by which to submit your offer.

So if the deadline has not passed, submit your bid. Once it has passed, HUD reviews all offers. Just like any auction, the highest bid wins. If all of the offers are too low, HUD will extend the offer period and/or lower the asking price.

Note that you will not be able to place the bid yourself. Only real estate agents need to register to place bids on the hudhomestore website. You will need to find a real estate agent or you can specifically search for HUD registered agents at hudhomestore.com.

For more information on buying a home through the hudhomestore website, visit www.hudhomestore.com.

More on Buying a Home:

  • How to Buy a House: A Complete Guide
  • How Long Does It Take To Buy A House?
  • Buying a Home for the First Time? Avoid These Mistakes.
  • 10 First Time Home Buyer Mistakes to Avoid.

Work with the Right Financial Advisor

If you have additional questions beyond buying a HUD home at the Hudhomestore, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).

So, find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

The post How to Buy a HUD Home at the Hudhomestore Website? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

Student Loan Administrative Forbearance Extends Until October

If you have federally held student loans, you’re getting a break on making payments — again.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing the Education Department to extend its freeze on interest rates and payments for federally held student loans through Sept. 30, 2021.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Student Loan Administrative Forbearance?

The pause on payments and interest accrual is an extension of the administrative forbearance that originated with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — aka the CARES Act — passed in March 2020 to address economic issues due to COVID-19.

Directed by emergency legislation designed, the Department of Education announced that all federally held student loans would be placed in administrative forbearance through Sept. 30, 2020. Interest rates were automatically set to 0% and all payments were suspended.

Then-President Donald Trump later signed an executive order to extend the administrative forbearance period until December 31, 2020, and the Secretary of Education extended those measures until Jan. 31, 2021.

Biden directed the extension yesterday amid a flurry of executive orders he signed on his first day in office.

What Loans Does This Legislation Cover?

The interest waiver covers all loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education, which includes Direct Loans, subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans, Parent and Graduate Plus loans and consolidation loans.

If you happen to have Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) and Perkins loans held by the federal government, they’re covered, too. But the vast majority of those loans are commercially held, which makes them ineligible for the benefit.

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What Does This Legislation Mean for My Student Loans?

There are four things to know about how administrative forbearance affects student loans through Sept. 30, 2021:

  • It suspends loan payments.
  • It stops collections on defaulted loans.
  • It sets the interest rates to 0%.
  • Each month of the suspension will count as a payment for the purpose of a loan forgiveness program.

Note that the suspension does not mean that the federal government is making your student loan payments for you — you’ll just be free of making loan payments for eight months without accruing interest or incurring late fees during that period.

Biden did not, despite some hopes, forgive thousands of dollars in student loans in his initial executive orders. That request will need to go through Congress and faces opposition — which means if student loan balances are wiped out permanently, it won’t be for a while.

Here are five ways to know if you can benefit from the forbearance period.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.

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

Why Refinance Rates Are Higher Than Purchase Loan Rates

Mortgage interest rates dropped dramatically over the summer, to the point where home loans have never been cheaper in most of our adult lifetimes. With rates at historic lows, you might’ve considered taking advantage of them, either by purchasing a new home or refinancing your current mortgage.

Recent figures from Freddie Mac show that mortgage refinances surged in the first quarter of 2020, with nearly $400 billion first home loans refinanced. However, as it turns out, refinancing your mortgage might actually be more expensive than purchasing a new home. 

This surprised us, too — why would there be a difference at all? 

We investigated how refinancing rates and new purchase home loan rates are set, and found several reasons for this rate disparity. On top of the rate difference, mortgage refinancing is even more difficult to qualify for, given the current economy.

Before rushing to refinance your home, read on to gather the information you need to make the right financial decision for your situation.

Pandemic Effects on Home Lending

Just as mortgage rates have stumbled, banks and lenders have tightened the screws on borrowers due to COVID-19, requiring higher credit scores and down payment amounts. Chase, for example, raised its minimum FICO score requirements for home purchases and refinances to 700 with a down payment requirement of at least 20%. 

Low rates have also driven a massive move to mortgage refinances. According to the same Freddie Mac report, 42% of homeowners who refinanced did so at a higher loan amount so they could “cash out.”

Unfortunately, homeowners who want to refinance might face the same stringent loan requirements as those who are taking out a purchase loan. Mortgage refinance rates are also generally higher than home purchase rates for a handful of reasons, all of which can make refinancing considerably less appealing. 

How Refinance Rates Are Priced

Although some lenders might not make it obvious that their refinance rates are higher, others make the higher prices for a home refinance clear. When you head to the mortgage section on the Wells Fargo website, for example, it lists rates for home purchases and refinances separately, with a .625 difference in rates for a thirty-year home loan. 

There are a few reasons why big banks might charge higher rates to refinance, including:

Added Refinance Fees

In August of 2020, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced it was tacking on a .5% fee on refinance mortgages starting on September 1. This fee will be assessed on cash-out refinances and no cash-out refinances. According to Freddie Mac, the new fee was introduced “as a result of risk management and loss forecasting precipitated by COVID-19 related economic and market uncertainty.”

By making refinancing more costly, lenders can taper the number of refinance loans they have to process, giving them more time to focus on purchase loans and other business.

Lenders Restraining New Application Volume

Demand for mortgage refinancing has been so high that some lenders are unable to handle all requests. Reluctant to add more employees to handle a surge that won’t last forever, many lenders are simply limiting the number of refinance applications they process, or setting additional terms that limit the number of loans that might qualify.

Also note that some lenders are prioritizing new purchase loans over mortgage refinance applications since new home buyers have deadlines to meet. With the housing market also on an upswing in many parts of the country, many major banks and lenders simply can’t keep up.

Rate Locks Cost Money

Generally speaking, it costs lenders more to lock the rate for refinance loans when compared to purchase loans. This is leaving lenders disinterested in allocating resources on the recent surge in mortgage refinance applications.

This is especially true since many refinancers might lock in a rate with one provider but switch lenders and lock in a rate again if interest rates go down. Lenders exist to turn a profit, after all, and it makes sense they would spend their time on loans that provide the greatest return.

Tighter Requirements Due to COVID-19

According to the Brookings Institute, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been asking lenders to make sure any disruption to a borrower’s employment or income due to COVID-19 won’t impact their ability to repay their loan. 

Many lenders are also increasing the minimum credit score borrowers must have while making other requirements harder to meet. As an example, U.S. Bank increased its minimum credit score requirement to 680 for mortgage customers, and it also implemented a maximum debt-to-income ratio of 50 percent.

This combination of factors can make it difficult to save as much money with a refinance, or to even find a lender that’s willing to process your application. With this in mind, run the math and to see if refinancing is right for your situation before contacting a mortgage lender.

How Mortgage Purchase Rates Are Priced

Mortgage purchase rates are priced using a similar method as refinance rates. When you apply for a home mortgage, the lender looks at factors like your credit score, your income, your down payment and your other debt to determine your eligibility.

The overall economy also plays a giant role in mortgage rates for home loans, including purchase loans and refinance loans. Mortgage rates tend to go up during periods of speedy economic growth, and they tend to drop during periods of slower economic growth. Meanwhile, inflation can also play a role. Low levels of inflation contribute to lower interest rates on mortgage loans and other financial products.

Mortgage lenders can also price their loans based on the amount of business they have coming in, and whether they have the capacity to process more loans. They might lower rates to drum up business or raise rates when they’re at or nearing capacity. This is part of the reason rates can vary among lenders, and why it always makes sense to shop around for a home loan.

Many people believe that the Federal Reserve sets mortgage rates, but this is not exactly true. The Federal Reserve sets the federal funds rate, which lenders use to ensure they meet mandated cash reserve requirements. When the Fed raises this rate, banks have to pay more to borrow from one another, and these costs are often passed on to consumers. Likewise, costs can go down when the Fed lowers the federal funds rate, which can mean lower costs and interest rates for borrowers.

The Bottom Line

Refinancing your existing mortgage can absolutely make sense in terms of interest savings, but don’t rule out buying a new home instead. Buying a new home could help you save money on interest and get the space and the features you really want. 

Remember, there are steps you can take to become a more attractive borrower whether you choose to refinance or invest in a new place. You can’t control the economy or the Federal Reserve, but you have control over your personal finances.

Improving your credit score right away, and paying down debt to lower your debt-to-income ratio are just a couple of strategies to start. And if you’re planning on buying a new home, make sure you save a hefty down payment amount. These steps help you improve your chances at getting the best rates and terms whether you choose to move or stick with the home you have. 

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Source: goodfinancialcents.com