When we bought our first home in 2013 we thought it would be our forever home. We planned on renovating once we were in a better place financially, but 6 years later we found ourselves struggling with the decision to renovate or sell.Â
I have five years until I retire. I have a nest egg of $1 million and will also have a monthly military pension of approximately $6,000, and Social Security on top of that.
I like cycling 60 miles a day and want to retire in a place that is known for good, safe cycling. I hate hot humid weather and donât want a lot of snow. I love craft beer. And I would prefer a place with limited or no income tax on a military pension.
Where should I retire? Fort Collins, Colorado, and Asheville, N.C., seem like good places, but the cost of living in Fort Collins seems above average, and I am told Asheville has a lack of housing.
What other places should I consider and how do they compare with the two locations already mentioned? My wife likes the sound of âthe Hill County in Texas,â but she knows the heat is bad.
The Fort Collins and Asheville areas sound lovely. And popular places tend to be more expensive â thatâs just the reality of supply and demand. If thatâs where you want to be, the trade-off might be as simple as a smaller house/condo/rental.
You also could seek cheaper housing a bit further from these two cities â Greeley, Colo. (donât believe everything about the smell), or Hendersonville, N.C. (recommended here), for example. Or what aboutÂ Raleigh-Durham, with the American Tobacco Trail as theÂ trail networkâs spine? Youâd have to accept more humidity with that one, however.
I started my search by looking at theÂ League of American Bicyclistsâ bicycle-friendly communities. Five, including Fort Collins, are platinum. Housing in only one is cheaper than Fort Collins, but I donât think youâll appreciate the snow in Madison, Wis. I ruled out Davis, Calif., because the state isÂ one of seven that taxes military retirement pay in full. (It doesnât tax Social Security checks, though.)
So I looked further down the list while taking weather and taxes into consideration. You can estimate your state taxesÂ using this calculator, but you may want to verify that with a tax professional.
Iâve described three suggestions for you below. Boise (a silver-level BFC) and Corvallis, Ore. (a gold BFC), recommendedÂ hereÂ andÂ here, may be other places to consider.
As always, taxes, housing costs, the number of craft brewers and even bike-friendliness can change over the next five years. And some of these places may not mesh with whatever your wifeâs wish list includes.
Another piece of advice: Be sure to experience a place in all weather, or at least the worst season, to make sure itâs a fit. Data can only tell you so much. Consider renting, at least at first. Your pension and Social Security may cover your regular expenses, but donât make yourself house-poor.
Equally, state income taxes arenât always everything. Virginia, which does tax retirement pay, is rated the best state for military retireesÂ according to this surveyÂ and scores second-highest for the âeconomic environment,â behind Alabama.
Why not check out your shortlist on a bike tour?
Instead of Asheville â¦ Knoxville, TN
Asheville is one of Americaâs premier craft beer destinations, but Knoxville hasÂ an above-average number of breweriesÂ too. By moving here, youâd get a city twice the size (nearly 190,000 people) and the stateâs flagship university (33,000 students andÂ the potential for practically free classes starting at age 65). Youâd be in a valley with the Smoky Mountains visible to the east; Ashevilleâs elevation is more than 1,000 feet higher. Average July highs would be a couple of degrees warmer than in Asheville, and January highs would be a couple of degrees cooler, but a little less snow.
Knoxville is a bronze-level bike-friendly community, as is Asheville. Check outÂ bike rides that tour the breweries. You can also joinÂ BikeWalk KnoxvilleÂ onÂ one of its ridesÂ toÂ explore the city.
Tennessee has been reducing its state income tax and will abolish it at the end of 2020. North Carolina will give you a more modest break on your pension and tax your Social Security check.
Housing is much cheaper in Knoxville than in Asheville, whether buying or renting. HereâsÂ whatâs for sale in Knoxville now, using listings from Realtor.com (which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp.
AndÂ hereâs Asheville.
You can flip to the rental market for both.
Instead of Fort Collins â¦ Wenatchee Valley, WA
The Wenatchee Valley is a bronze-level bicycle-friendly area of 67,000 people in central Washington, so far from Fort Collinsâ platinum status and even smaller than Asheville. The city ofÂ WenatcheeÂ has nearly 35,000 residents, and the narrow, 50-mile-longÂ Lake ChelanÂ is an hour away. This is an agricultural area â fruit is a big crop, andÂ thereâs wine, tooÂ â so you should have plenty of rural roads to pedal on. Yes,Â youâll also find craft brewers
Washington state doesnât have an income tax, so Wenatchee checks that box. Colorado offers some tax breaks on both military pensions and Social Security.
The Wenatchee area is more affordable and less busy than Fort Collins, which you should think of as a cheaper(!) version of Boulder. Fort Collins has 170,000 people, plus there are almost another 80,00 in neighboring Loveland and 110,000 in Greeley. The plus side is that it gives you a broad range of neighborhoods and prices.
Average summer highs in Wenatchee are in the mid-80s; average highs in the winter are just above freezing. Fort Collins is a touch cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Youâd get little rain, unlike cities on the other side of the Cascade Mountains, but expect 7 to 9 inches of snow on average in December and January. Despite its higher average temperatures, the snow starts earlier in Fort Collins, lasts longer and you get more of it.
You will find plenty of retirees around Wenatchee. Nearly 20% of Chelan Countyâs 77,000 residents are 65 or older, according to the Census Bureau. Fort Collins comes with Colorado State University.
If Wenatchee looks too pricey, check out Spokane, another bronze-level BFC. Itâs far bigger, with about 225,000 people (and 525,000 in the county), and has more craft brewers. The drawback is more snow. If you want to go smaller, Ellensburg, about 90 minutes south of Wenatchee, is a silver-level BFC and a touch cheaper than Wenatchee.
Hereâs whatâs on the market inÂ Chelan County.
This is what the housing market looks like inÂ Fort Collins,Â LovelandÂ andÂ Greeley.
Wild card: Bloomington, IN
If you like older biking movies, you know this town of 85,000 people from âBreaking Awayâ and theÂ Little 500 bike race. But did you know the home of Indiana University is a gold-level bike-friendly community?
And weâre not talking about just biking past miles and miles of corn fields on those 60-mile rides. (That would be retiring near rival Purdue University in West Lafayette, a bronze-level community.) Southern Indiana is hilly â test yourself on theÂ brutal Hilly Hundred weekend rideÂ outside of town during peak foliage. Others might prefer the all-terrainÂ Gravel GrovelÂ through the Hoosier National Forest. To chill, take the 9.2-mile trail that runs from the north end of town to the limestone quarry on the south side.
For beer, check out Upland Brewing, which won aÂ gold medal at the Great American Beer FestivalÂ in 2019. Six more gold-medal winners are in Indianapolis an hour to the north.
Indiana isÂ changing how it taxes military retirement pay; your pension should be exempt as of 2021. The state also doesnât tax Social Security income.
Temperatures in Bloomington reach an average of 86 in July, while January means an average high of 37 and about 5 inches of snow. If you want to hang out on campus,Â seniors get 50% off tuition, and the break starts at age 60.
Here areÂ homes on the market now.
The post Iâll Retire With a Military Pension and Want to Move to a Bicycle-Friendly, Beer-Loving PlaceâSo Where Should I Go? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
When I got my first apartment after college, I needed my mom to co-sign my lease.
The landlord required proof that I made three times the rent, but since I wasnât making nearly enough, I called Mom to sign on that second dotted line.
Then, in my mid-20s, when I bought my first condo, I needed a co-signer again. Once again, my mom was there for me.
Now I’m almost 30, married, and expecting our first child. Both my husband and I are gainfully employed and have good credit histories, so you’d think we wouldn’t need any parent co-signing for us to rent a home! But alas, we’d recently moved to New York City, where rents were so high, snagging a half-way decent apartment would require Mom to co-sign once again.
What’s going on? Would I need my mother to co-sign forever?
Of course, I feel lucky to have a parent whoâs so supportive. But I canât help but think that thereâs something wrong with me, where I was choosing to live, or perhaps the housing system in general.
So, I started looking into why co-signing is so often required, even in cases where it seems unnecessary. Hereâs what I learned, and some words of wisdom from experts that could help you get through the inconvenient (and embarrassing) cycle.
Why co-signers are required
What bothered me most about needing a co-signer was that I felt like I wasnât being taken seriously as a tenant. I had a good job and a college degree, why couldnât I be trusted to pay my rent?
As it turns out, many people face this problem.
While landlords may have differing requirements, the industry standard is that your take-home income must be three times what you pay in rent. So if you make $3,000 a month, your monthly rent should not exceed $1,000.
But is this realistic with today’s runaway rent prices?
For instance, in 2013, as a fresh college graduate, I paid $1,600 a month for a one-bedroom, third-floor walk-up in Los Angeles. So based on the three-times rule, I should have been earning $4,800 a month, or $57,600 a year.
A salary that size was an unattainable dream for me right out of college. Even though I had a great sales job and a minimum-wage side hustle, I was making only about twice the annual rent, or $40,000.
And I was one of the lucky ones. The minimum wage in California is $12 an hour, but in 2013 it was $8. To afford a monthly rent of $1,600 in 2013, a minimum-wage worker would have needed to put in 150 hours a week.
Is the three-times rent rule realistic?
Because I needed a co-signer, I couldn’t help but wonder about the three-times rent rule, and the reason for it. Did this mean I’d overextended myself?
As it turns out, I had no reason for worry. With a monthly rent of $1,600, I had another $1,600 left for other expenses, and it was more than enough.
So I started wondering: If twice my income worked just fine for my bills, why do landlords want proof that renters make three times their rent?
âThe exact origins of the three-times rule is unknown,â says Michael Dinich of Your Money Geek. Nonetheless, this rule has remained the industry standardâfor renters and home buyers alike.
âMortgage lenders have often used the guideline that housing costs should be no more than 30% of income,” Dinich says. “The three-times rule is likely a handy approximation based on those old guidelines.â
This guideline may even contribute to younger generations’ low rates of homeownership.
âThe income of many people, particularly younger adults, has not kept up with home prices in many areas,â says Andrew Latham, managing editor of SuperMoney. “This is why millennials have lower homeownership rates than previous generations.â
Plus, experts say that most landlords (even the nice ones) donât necessarily care if people arenât making as much money as they used to. They care more about finding a renter who will be able to pay their rent on time. And if that means sticking to the tried-and-true method of renting to those who can prove they have plenty of income to spare, or can at least get a co-signer, theyâll do it.
How I pay my rent without a co-signer today
While it’s tough for young renters and home buyers almost everywhere to cover their housing costs, it’s even worse inÂ New York City.
Sure, my mom agreed to co-sign the lease, as always. Yet with a baby on the way, my husband and I decided that, rather than taking my mom up on her kind offer, I’d try to find an apartment with a rent that fell comfortably within the three-times rule.
We started crossing things off our wish list. We moved our search from Manhattan to Brooklyn. We stopped looking at homes near subway stations and cute cafes and started touring apartments that were a bit farther out. In the end, we found a studio we liked, and the low rent didn’t require a co-signer.
The post Why I’m Grown-Up and Employed, but Still Need Mom to Co-Sign on My Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
Love it or hate it, many Americans are spending more time at home. The coronavirus pandemic not only accelerated the work-from-home trend to warp speed, but it also shuttered schools and summer camps, scratched travel plans and canceled brunch and dinner reservations across the country.
Jen Dawson, a certified financial planner and managing director in Chicago, found that the uncertainty and stay-at-home lifestyle created by the pandemic prompted her clients to look at their financial situations in a new light.
âI think it just gives opportunities for people and families to reflect,â Dawson says. ââWhat do we want out of life? What do we want from our money?â Those conversations are really valuable.â
As Dawsonâs clients reflect on their goals, they (and many others) are also wondering, âHow should I adjust my household budget if weâre spending more time at home?â
How to optimize your budget for the stay-at-home economy in 4 steps
Ellen Rogin, a former wealth advisor and now a speaker, author and entrepreneur, notes that people across the country were affected by the pandemic in very different ways. While many workers were able to keep their jobs as they transitioned to working from home, many were not.
âThere are people who have lost their jobs and are being forced to make difficult decisions,â Rogin says. âAnd there are people who are still employed and earning the same income they did before, who have more options as they decide how they’re spending their money now.â
Even if youâve been spared serious financial challenges, you should still consider updating or creating a household budget or spending plan. This will allow you to determine how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy.
Rogin and Dawson encourage you to use this opportunity to ensure youâre at least staying on track to meet your savings goalsâand at best, shortening your savings timelines. Itâs also a chance to make sure that your spending habits, which have likely changed as youâve spent more time at home, are maximizing your happiness.
Below, we break down insights from Rogin and Dawson into four actionable steps you can take to save money in quarantine while living the best life possible. It all starts with taking an objective look at how your spending habits changed as you transitioned to a more domestic lifestyle.
Read on to see how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy by creating a new household budget:
1. Compare your spending trends before and during quarantine
As you set about creating a household budget for an at-home lifestyle and determining how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy, start by reviewing your spending.
âMost people donât really know how much money theyâre spending, whether times are good or bad. But it can really make you feel calmer to know what it takes to run your lifestyle.â
Dawson encourages you to refer to your debit and credit card statements to analyze the differences between your spending before staying home became the norm, and after. âYou can compare it and contrast and have observations and discussions around what changed,â she says. âWhat do you like that you want to keep going, and what do you not like about it?”
All you need, Dawson says, is a spreadsheet to total up your major expenses, such as housing, utilities, transportation, food and dining, travel, shopping and entertainment. Then, subtract the sum of those costs from the money you earned (aka income) over the same timeframe.
Do this exercise for three months of spending before quarantine and then again for three months of spending during quarantine. Youâll be able to compare the data to see whether you have more or less disposable income as a member of the stay-at-home economy.
Rogin notes that it can be a little scary to examine your finances like this, but thereâs no reason to feel anxious.
âMost people donât really know how much money theyâre spending, whether times are good or bad,â she says. âBut it can really make you feel calmer to know what it takes to run your lifestyle.â
If you see that your disposable income decreased while in quarantine (or that you no longer have disposable income at all), then youâll need to find ways to cut back on spending if you want to keep your savings goals on track. If your extra cash increased and youâre actually saving more money in quarantine, then you can start to consider how you might hit some or all of your savings goals more quickly.
Either way, you still have work to do as you consider how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy. Rather than focusing on external factors that are out of your control, Rogin and Dawson recommend that, as a next step, you ask yourself what matters most to you.
2. Ask yourself how your spending habits impact your happiness
Rogin considers the distanced, more remote way of life as a chance to reflect on whatâs really important in order to create your household budget. One example she points to is how many people have been cooking at home far more often than they once did.
âMaybe youâre spending more on groceries, but thatâs less than you were spending on eating outâand you enjoy it,â she says. âYouâre spending more time with your family. Youâre eating more healthily. So it gives you the opportunity to really assess your budget in a different way.â
Another example is travel. Rogin says that some people have told her that they really miss it, but others have been surprised to find how happy they are to pump the brakes on their jet-setting ways. In addition to saving money in quarantine from reimbursed travel and no more expensive trips, itâs allowed them to slow down and enjoy their time at home with family.
For her part, Rogin found that she wore the same two pairs of shoes during quarantine because theyâre comfortable, and no one can see them when sheâs video conferencing during work. As a result, Rogin cut this expense from her stay-at-home budget.
Whether youâre facing a cash shortage or surplus from more time spent at home, Rogin says that extending this line of thinking into a âvalues-based spending planâ for the stay-at-home economy will allow you to direct your money to what matters most to you, while diverting funds away from what doesnât.
Once you add up the expenses that are no longer necessary in your stay-at-home budget, itâs time to put that money to work.
Tip: When looking at quarantine spending, donât get too granular
Dawson underscores that evaluating spending patterns can be an emotional exercise. If youâre reviewing your finances with a family member, partner or spouse, try to resist the urge to nitpick every purchase. The trends should be easy enough to spot from a birdâs-eye view.
3. Put your stay-at-home savings toward your financial goals
Dawson and Rogin recommend having a plan when youâre trying to figure out how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy. That plan should include what youâre saving for, as well as where youâll keep the funds as they add up.
Rogin recommends framing your financial goals from a positive angle. For example, when you create a household budget, instead of focusing on cutting spending, you can set a goal for how much extra money you want to save.
If you have children or live with a partner or spouse, Dawson notes that this goal-oriented approach can help get them involved. The objective might be to start an emergency fund to ride out unexpected headwinds. Or, the focus could be on saving up for a big vacation to look forward to when travel restrictions ease.
When deciding where to keep your savings, a standard checking account wonât allow your money to grow like a high-yield online savings account will. Rather than pooling the money youâve saved in quarantine into one account, Dawson suggests opening multiple savings accounts, one for each of your savings goals.
âBe really clear about what each savings account is for,â she says. âThen youâre more likely to fund it.â
Of course, luxury savings goals like a vacation should not take priority over your long-term savings goals, such as retirement or college funds.
4. When saving money in quarantine, remember to support those in need if you can
If you are saving money in quarantine, Rogin suggests considering all the benefits of earmarking extra cash for philanthropic causes. It could go directly to the local small businesses you love that are hurting for revenue. Or it could go to any number of nonprofit organizations that are doing good in the world.
âSo many people are in need now,â Rogin says. âThere are so many beautiful ways that can help you feel like youâre making a difference for people by reallocating some of that money towards causes and people that you want to support.â
How will you start saving money in quarantine?
The stay-at home lifestyle may not have been in your plans, but you have the opportunity to gain control of your finances inside your home by creating a household budget that works for you in this new reality.
When you analyze, assess and optimize your spending and consider how to save money in quarantine, youâll be in as strong a financial position as possible when life gets back to normal.
If youâve been fortunate enough to save money in quarantine, consider starting or adding to your emergency fund. Not sure where to store your savings? Check out the four best places to keep your emergency fund.
Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.
The post How to Save More Money in the Stay-at-Home Economy by Focusing on What Matters Most appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
How long does it take to buy a house? The answer is: it depends. You can buy a house in a matter of weeks or it can take you anywhere from 4 to 6 months. The question is how ready are you? It can take a long time, and that’s just learning about various mortgage options or improving your credit score.
So understanding the various factors involved in buying a house can give you an estimate of how long it will take you to buy the house
Check out now: 5 Signs You Are Not Ready To Buy A House
How long does it take to buy a house? A step-by-step guide.
It can take a homebuyer a few weeks to several months to complete the home buying process. But when determining how long it will take you to buy a house, you first have to find out if you will be pre-approved for a mortgage. There is no sense of shopping for a house to then realize you can’t afford it.
If you are interested inÂ comparing the best mortgage rates through LendingTree click here. Itâs completely free.
I. How long does it take to get a pre-approved mortgage letter in order to buy a house?
If you’re serious about buying a house, it’s important to get pre-approved for a mortgage. So when it’s time to make an offer, the seller will know you’re serious. If you don’t have one handy, the seller will likely move to the next buyer.
Getting pre-approved for a mortgage in order to buy a house can take longer. That is because you have to make sure your financial situation is in shape. For example, your income-to-debt ratio, your down payment, and your credit score must be good. That’s exactly what a mortgage lender will look at.
Even when these things are in order, shopping and comparing mortgage rates and fees can take several weeks.
Let’s take a look on how long it will take you to get these things in shape before buying a house.
Click here to compare mortgage rates through LendingTree. Itâs completely FREE.
A. How good is your credit score?
A low credit score can make buying a house take longer, because it can take months to a year to improve a bad credit score.
A conventional loan will usually require a 640+ credit score.
In fact, your credit score is the number 1 item mortgage lenders look at to decide whether to offer you a mortgage. And if it is not where it’s supposed to be, you might get rejected.
Luckily for you there are other ways to get a loan with much lower credit score: FHA loans.
FHA loans only require a credit score of 580 with 3.5% down payment. You may get qualified with a 500 credit score, but you’ll have to come with a 10% down payment.
So before you get into the fun part of shopping for a mortgage or visiting homes, it’s best to know what your credit score is and take steps to improve it.
You can get a free credit score at Credit Sesame.
B. Fix errors on your credit report.
Fixing errors on your credit report in order to get pre-approved for a loan in order to buy a house can take 30 days.
According to Transunion, “most investigations are completed within 2 weeks, but some may take up 30 days.”
Again, we recommend you get a free credit report at Credit Sesame. A credit report will give you a detail analysis of your credit history, how much debt you owe, and how creditworthy you are, etc. If there are any errors or inaccuracies, fix them immediately so there’s no surprise when you’re actually applying for a mortgage.
The best way to do that is by filing a Transunion dispute or Equifax dispute.
C. Do you have a down payment for the house?
How long it will take you to buy a house will also depend on whether or not you already have money saved up for a down payment.
Unless you’re going to buy the house with outright cash, you’ll need a down payment. And saving for a down payment can take a long time. Depending on your income and expenses, saving for a down payment on a house can take years.
Assuming, for example, you want to buy a house that will cost you $450,000, and you’re using a conventional loan to finance the house. With a 20% down payment, you will need to come up with $90,000.
Let’s say again, because of other monthly expenses, you can only save $1500 a month for the down payment.
You see how long it will take you to save for a down payment to buy the house? 5 years. And that doesn’t even take into account other upfront costs of buying a house, such as closing cost.
While it’s possible to get a mortgage with a down payment as low as 3.5% of the home purchase price, it’s advisable to put at least 20% down. The reason is because you will avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which protects the lenders in case you default on your mortgage.
Home buyers with a down payment below 20% are usually charged with PMI.
Another reason for a larger down payment is that it reduces the cost of the mortgage, grows equity much faster, and saves you on interest over the life of the loan.
As you can see, it can take you as much as 5 years from the time you’re thinking about buying the house to the time you’re actually ready to start the process.
But once you have taken care the things above, buying a house can go a lot faster.
II. How long does it take to find a real estate agent?
Average time: 1 day to a month
Once you have been pre-approved for a mortgage, the next step is to find an experienced real estate agent. Finding a good real estate agent can take a day to a month. Websites such as Zillow and Redfin list real estate agents you can use.
III. Shopping for a home.
Average time: a few weeks to a few months
With the help of a real estate agent and your own due diligence, finding a home can can go faster or take longer depending on available homes, the season and your desired location.
But experts say on average it can take a minimum of three weeks to a few months.
IV. Making an offer, negotiation, and inspection.
Average time: 1 to 10 days
Once you have found the home of your dream, the next step is to make an offer. You and the seller can go back and forth negotiating the price.
Once your offer has been accepted, you and the seller sign something called a purchase agreement. Then, the next step is to hire a professional to inspect the home for defects. Depending on your state, a home inspection must be completed within 10 days. And if the inspection finds some defects in the house, that could delay the process.
V. How long does it take to close on a house?
Average time: 30 to 45 days.
Once the inspection is done, your lender will need to officially approve you for the loan. And depending on the lender, it can also affect how long it takes to buy a house. You may need to provide additional documents. But the lender will need to assess the home for its value. And depending on the program (whether it’s conventional loan or FHA loan) it can take anywhere from 30 to 45 days to close on a home.
When asking yourself this question: “how long does it take to buy a house?” The answer is : it depends. If you have your credit score, your down payment, your other finances under control, you can buy your house in two months or less. But if you have to save for a down payment, fix errors on your credit report, raise your credit score, the whole home buying process can take years.
Click here to compare mortgage rates through LendingTree. Itâs completely FREE
Still wondering how long it takes to buy a house? Read the following articles:
5 Signs You’re Not Ready To Buy A House
10 First Time Home Buyer Mistakes To Avoid
3 Signs You’re Not Ready to Refinance Your Mortgage
The Biggest Mistakes Millennials Make When Buying a House
7 Signs You’re Ready To Buy A House
Work with the Right Financial Advisor
You can talk to aÂ financial advisorÂ 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 withÂ SmartAssetâs 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,Â get started now.
The post How Long Does It Take To Buy A House? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.
Editorâs note:Â This post was originally published in February 2020.
Whatâs in a name? A lot actually.
We often default to certain brands when shopping simply because of the name on the package â and the reputation that comes along with it, thanks to clever advertising.
We buy Bounty paper towels because theyâre the âquicker picker-upperâ and Frosted Flakes because âtheyâre gr-r-reat.â
But on the shelves next to those items you can often find a comparable store-brand version that costs less â sometimes significantly less. We often refer to these as generic products. Sometimes these rival versions are even made in the same manufacturing facilities and have little to no noticeable differences.
Ultimately, the decision to buy a store-brand product or your favorite name brand is a subjective one. Thereâs trial and error involved, and in some cases you might land right back on the premium paper towels because you find that they really do pick more up, and quicker.
But before your next shopping trip, itâs worth considering how much money you could save if you take a few name brand items off your list.
Comparing the Cost of Store Brand Vs. Name Brand
I visited two stores â Publix (a southeastern grocery store chain) and Walmart â to do a little price comparison.
(Note: Prices were sourced on Feb. 19, 2020 at stores located in St. Petersburg, Florida. Sales tax was not factored into this example.)
Store Brand at Publix
Name Brand at Publix
Store Brand at Walmart
Name Brand at Walmart
Jif peanut butter
Kraft cheddar cheese
Diet Coke, 2-liter
Dove body wash
Adult extra-strength Tylenol
A shopper at Publix would save $12.72 or about 35% by buying the store-brand version of these eight items over their name-brand alternatives. A shopper at Walmart would save $13.10 or nearly 45%.
Consider that I only used eight items in this example. Whenâs the last time you went to the grocery store and walked away with just eight things?
The greater the grocery haul, the greater the savings by choosing the cheaper alternative. And since you likely go shopping more than once a month, you could see a significant difference in your monthly budget by swapping out name-brand items.
Store Brand Vs. Name Brand: How to Decide
Since store-brand merchandise costs less money than name-brand counterparts, a common perception is that theyâre of lesser quality.
But thatâs not always true.
One reason name-brand items are more expensive is because it costs money to market those products to the public. Consumers pay the price for those commercial jingles that stick in their heads.
Most store-brand products are made to closely compare to their name-brand products. If you check the ingredients, sometimes youâll find theyâre made of the exact same stuff â though the recipes may differ slightly. What the decision really comes down to is preference.
We asked The Penny Hoarder community members about buying store-brand items over name brand. Respondents said they often choose store-brand products to save money but still have name-brand preferences when it comes to certain items, despite any cost savings.
âI will use generic for anything but my hair products,â said community member KellyFromKeene.âOtherwise, [with] food, clothes [and] household supplies, I will get the generic if the ingredients are the same.â
Community member Jobelle Collie said sheâs partial to Dove bar soap, Olay moisturizer and Palmolive green dishwashing liquid but buys generic trash bags, office supplies and kitchen staples like salt, pepper and sugar.
Sometimes going with the store brand is a matter of trial and error.
âI definitely try to choose store brand, at least initially. Sometimes, I can tell the difference,â said community member Sthom. âFor example, I tried my storeâs brand of filters for my Brita: I could tell the difference immediately, so I switched back. That happens sometimes.
âRecently, I tried my storeâs brand of peanut butter,â Sthom continued. âIâm partial to smooth [Jif] but the storeâs organic smooth brand was less than $2.00 â around $1.18, unbelievably â and was just as good if not better.â
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Tips for Weighing Store Brand vs. Name Brand Products
When deciding between store brand and name brand, keep these things in mind:
Try swapping out the name-brand version of single-ingredient items â like flour, rice, milk and eggs â for the store-brand version. You may find thereâs less variation in taste or quality than multi-ingredient items like cookies or soup.
Use spices or other ingredients you have at home to dress up a store-brand product â for example, adding basil and garlic to a jar of pasta sauce.
All store brands arenât created equal. You may dislike the taste of store-brand cereal or the quality of store-brand toilet paper at one grocer, but another storeâs products could be more on par with the name brands.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires generic medications (over-the-counter and prescription) to have the same active ingredient, strength and dosage form as the name-brand equivalent. Both products should be medically equal.
Store sales and coupons can cause name-brand products to cost less than the store version. Store brands arenât always the cheapest option. This is a great time to indulge in your preferred brand and save money.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at 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.
Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that home sales were up more than 17% in June 2020 from the month before, and up more than 13% compared to the year prior. Those who have the means to buy a second home are wise to take on mortgage debt (or reorganize their current debt) in todayâs low interest environment.
Those who have the means to buy a second home are wise to take on mortgage debt in todayâs low interest environment.
With low 30-year mortgage rates, owning a rental property that âpays for itselfâ through monthly rental income is especially lucrative with a significantly lower mortgage payment. If youâre curious about buying a second home and renting it out, keep reading to find out about the major issues you should be aware of, the hidden costs of becoming a landlord, and more.
Important Factors When Buying a Short-Term Rental
The issues involved in buying a rental home varies dramatically depending on where you plan to purchase. After all, buying a ski lodge in an area with seasonal tourism and attractions might require different considerations than buying a home in a major metropolitan area where tourists visit all year long.
But there are some factors every potential landlord should consider regardless of location. Here are a few of the most important considerations:
Location. Consumers rent vacation homes almost anywhere, but youâll want to make sure youâre looking at homes in an area where short-term rentals are popular and viable. You can do some basic research on AirDNA.co, a short-term rental data and analytics service, or check competing rentals in the area youâre considering.
Property Management Fees. If you plan to use a property management company to manage your short-term rental instead of managing it yourself, you should find out how much other owners pay for management. Also, compare listing fees for your second home with a platform like Airbnb or VRBO.
Taxes. Property taxes can be higher on second homes since you donât qualify for a homestead exemption. This means higher fixed costs each month, which could make it more difficult to cover your mortgage with rental income.
Competition. Check whether a rental area youâre considering is full of competing rentals that are never full. You can find this information on VRBO or Airbnb by looking at various rentals and checking their booking calendars.
Potential Rental Fees. Check rental sites to see how much you might be able to charge for your second home on a nightly, weekly, or monthly basis.
5 Steps to Rent Your Second Home
Before purchasing a second home, take time to run different scenarios using realistic numbers based on the rental market youâre targeting. From there, the following steps can guide you through preparing your property for the short-term rental market.
1. Research the Market
First, youâll want to have a general understanding of the rental market youâre entering. How much does the average short-term rental go for each night or each week? What is the average vacancy rate for rentals on an annual basis?
Research your local rental market, the average price of rentals in your area, various features offered by competing rentals, and more.
Action Item: Dig into these figures by using AirDNA.co. Just enter a zip code or town, and youâll find out the average nightly rate, occupancy rate, revenue, and more. Although some of the siteâs features require a monthly subscription, you can find out basic information about your rental market for free.
2. Know Your Numbers
You need to know an array of real numbers before renting your second home, including the following:
Average nightly rate
Average occupancy rate
Fixed costs, such as your mortgage payment, taxes, and insurance for the rental
Property management fees and costs for cleaning between tenants
Additional fixed costs for things like trash pickup, internet access, and cable television
Costs for marketing your space on a platform like VRBO or Airbnb, which could be a flat fee or 3% of your rental fee depending on the platform
Youâll use these numbers to figure out the average monthly operating cost for your second home, and the potential income you might be able to bring in. Without running these numbers first, you wind up in a situation where your short-term rental doesnât pay for itself, and where youâre having to supplement operating expenses every month.
Action Item: Gather every cost involved in operating your specific short-term rental, and then tally everything up with monthly and annual figures that you can plan for.
3. Buy the Right Insurance
If you plan on using your second home as a short-term rental, youâll need to buy vacation rental insurance. This type of homeowners insurance is different from the type youâd buy for your primary residence. Itâs even unique from landlord insurance coverage since you need to have insurance in place for your second home and its contents.
Some vacation rental policies let you pay per use, and they provide the benefits of homeowners insurance (like property coverage, liability, and more) plus special protection when your property is rented to a third party.
Action Item: Shop around for a homeowners insurance plan thatâs geared specifically to vacation rentals. See our top picks for the best homeowners insurance companies out there.
4. Create a Property Management Plan
If you live near your second home, you might want to manage it yourself. Thereâs nothing wrong with this option, but you should plan on receiving calls and dealing with problems at all hours of the day.
Many short-term rental owners pay a property management company to communicate with their tenants, manage each rental period, and handle any issues that pop up. Property managers can also set up cleanings between each rental and help with marketing your property.
Action Item: Create a property management plan and account for any costs. Most property managers charge 25% to 30% of the rental cost on an ongoing basis, so you canât ignore this component of owning a short-term rental.
5. Market Your Space
Make sure you appropriately market your space, which typically means paying for professional photos and creating an accurate, inviting listing on your chosen platforms. Your property manager might help you create a marketing plan for your vacation rental, but you can DIY this component of your side business if youâre tech- and media-savvy.
Action Item: Hire a photographer to take professional photos of your rental, and craft your rental description and listing.
Risks of Purchasing a Short-Term Rental
Becoming a landlord isnât for the faint of heart. Thereâs plenty that can go wrong, but here are the main risks to plan for:
Government roadblocks. In destinations from New York City to Barcelona, government officials have been cracking down on short-term rentals and trying to limit their ability to operate. New rules could make running your business more costly, difficult, or even impossible.
Your home could be damaged beyond repair. If you read the Airbnb message boards and other landlord forums, youâll find an endless supply of nightmare rental stories of houses getting trashed and rentals enduring thousands of dollars in damage.
Housing market crash. If the housing market crashes again like it did in 2008, you might find you owe more than your second home is worth at a time when itâs increasingly difficult to find renters.
Reliance on tourism. As weâve seen during the pandemic, circumstances beyond our control can bring travel and tourism to a screeching halt. Since short-term rentals typically rely on tourism to stay afloat, decreases in travel can affect the viability of your business, quickly.
High ongoing costs and fees. Higher property taxes, property management fees, cleaning fees and maintenance costs can make operating a short-term rental costly in the long-term. If you donât account for all costs and fees involved, you might wind up losing money on your vacation home instead of having the property âpay for itselfâ.
The Bottom Line
A short-term rental can be a viable business opportunity, depending on where you want to buy and the specifics of the local rental market. But there are a lot of factors to consider before taking the leap.
Before investing hundreds of thousands of dollars, think over all of the potential costs and risks involved. Youâll want to ensure that youâve done comprehensive research and have run the numbers for every possible scenario to make an informed decision.
Related: How to Invest in Real Estate
The post How to Buy a Second Home that Pays for Itself appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
So it’s the middle of a pandemic and you find yourself having to move soon, how do you do it appropriately and safely? There are a few routes to take, whether it’s professional help or just family and friends, but you still need to practice social distancing. Here’s how.