How To Fight an Eviction During the Coronavirus Pandemic

EvictionPeter Dazeley / Getty Images

Eviction may soon become a reality for millions of American renters.

In March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act prohibited landlords from evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent in homes with federally backed mortgages. But this program ended on July 24.

As a result, an estimated 20% of the 110 million Americans who rent their homes are at risk for eviction by Sept. 30, according to a report by the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, a group of economic researchers and legal experts working to better understand the housing, homeless, and community recovery during the pandemic.

“We anticipate a flood of evictions because many tenants won’t be able to pay the back rent, and it will be due,” says Deborah Thrope, deputy director at the National Housing Law Project, a housing and legal advocacy nonprofit.

“The eviction moratorium is simply a pause. It’s not rent cancelation,” Thrope says.

But even if you’re struggling to pay rent, this doesn’t mean an eviction is your only choice. Here’s an overview of some of the steps you can take to fight an eviction.

Talk to your landlord ASAP

“The best advice I can give tenants when their financial situation starts to deteriorate is to communicate with your landlord,” says Marina Vaamonde, a real estate investor in Houston and founder of HouseCashin. “Their willingness to have a discussion is the only way tenants can come to a resolution without going to court.”

According to a recent survey of landlords by the American Apartment Owners Association, 67% said they would be willing to offer tenants a rent deferment if they needed it.

So if you know you can’t make your next rent payment, reach out to your landlord as soon as possible. Waiting until after you get an eviction notice may be too late, and your landlord may be less likely to work with you. Your landlord could also already be in the process of filing the eviction with the court, and have paid fees to do so, which may make him more likely to follow through.

“There are a number of things you can negotiate with your landlord,” Thrope says. Some options to consider include a rent repayment agreement, shortening the terms of your lease, or possibly getting out of your lease altogether.

Learn how COVID-19 moratoriums apply to you

Eviction laws vary drastically across the country at the state and even city level, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it all even more complicated. Along with the CARES Act eviction moratorium, states and municipalities issued their own mandates to pause evictions. So make sure to read up on the eviction laws in your area specifically to better understand what your landlord is legally allowed and not allowed to do.

“Once you understand your legal rights, you’ll know your options,” Thrope says. “We have this patchwork of policy all across the country right now, so it’s important to know the local law and tenant protections.”

One resource for finding out the statutes of local eviction laws is the Eviction Lab at Princeton University, which created a nationwide database. The group has also developed a state-by-state COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard, tracking states’ responses to evictions and during the pandemic.

NHLP also has local and national online resources for renters and homeowners during the pandemic.

Make sure your landlord gives you adequate notice

Landlords usually have the legal right to evict tenants for not paying rent, violating a lease, causing damage to the property, or engaging in illegal activity at the home.

Most states require landlords to give an adequate notice of eviction with a deadline to pay rent or move out and the amount owed. If you don’t meet the deadline, the landlord can file a lawsuit to evict you.

But if landlords don’t provide adequate notice of eviction, Vaamonde says a judge will often throw out the case.

In Texas, for example, landlords must provide an official three-day notice to vacate the property with the reason for the eviction, and can file an eviction hearing with the court if the tenant doesn’t respond or move out.

Landlords are also prohibited from taking extreme actions during the eviction process, like changing the locks or cutting off utilities.

Attend your eviction hearing

After being closed because of the pandemic, eviction courts are beginning to reopen across the country, and are moving cases through quickly to clear up the backlog of evictions.

If your landlord files for an eviction in court, you will receive a notice to appear for the hearing. It’s important to show up, especially if you hope to fight the case. You have the right to examine and present evidence and bring witnesses, Thrope says.

“Showing up to the eviction hearing at the courthouse is the only way to receive some form of leniency,” Vaamonde says. “If the landlord wants you out of his property, the judge is the only one with the authority to defer your eviction.”

Since the pandemic has made showing up to court more difficult and dangerous, many proceedings are being held virtually, with tenants expected to appear by phone or videoconference. This may be easier for some tenants, but Thrope says in other cases, it can interfere with due process for some tenants who may not have access to the technology. It also makes it more difficult to look over evidence or converse with attorneys. Make sure you know when, where, and how you’re supposed to show up in court to make sure you do what you can to present your case.

“We hope that courts understand that this is a public health crisis, and that people sheltering in their homes is one of the remedies,” Thrope says. “To put people on the street right now is only going to exacerbate this crisis, so we hope courts will do the right thing.”

Consult an attorney

Fighting an eviction alone is overwhelming for many tenants since the process is so complex. Thrope urges tenants facing eviction to hire an attorney or contact local legal aid organizations.

“Reach out for legal assistance,” she says. “That’s really important because you need to understand what protections you can avail yourself locally.”

A lawyer can help explain whether you’re protected by the CARES Act or other local mandate, as well as how regular eviction laws apply in your situation and what exactly you need to do to fight an eviction.

A lawyer will also help you gather documentation to use as evidence, such as proof of past rent payments or that you lost your job, and any communication that you had with your landlord.

“Most tenants are not represented,” she says. “Some tenants may be savvy enough to [represent themselves], but it’s a legal process. We have the right to counsel, and it’s really critical here.”

The post How To Fight an Eviction During the Coronavirus Pandemic appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Remote-Work Boom During Covid-19 Pandemic Draws Real-Estate Startups

Park in San Francisco social distancingDavid Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A group of real-estate startups is aiming to cash in on the remote-work phenomenon.

With many corporate offices closed because of the pandemic, many young professionals have left cities like New York and San Francisco for warmer, cheaper places. A number still plan to return after their offices reopen, leaving them reluctant to buy homes or sign long-term apartment leases.

That situation is creating fresh demand for furnished housing on a short-term basis, a fast-growing niche that many property startups and their venture-capital backers are rushing to fill.

One of them is Landing, which runs a network of furnished apartments across the U.S. When it launched in 2019, the Birmingham, Ala., and San Francisco-based company initially planned to operate in about 30 cities last year. Instead, it expanded to 75, largely because demand grew much faster than expected, said Landing Chief Executive Bill Smith.

“Covid has taken a decade of change that I was thinking was going to happen between now and 2030 and kind of compressed it into a year,” he said.

Legions of remote workers also offer these firms a chance to make up for reduced tourist and corporate business. San Francisco-based Sonder, which rents out furnished apartments by the night, ramped up its marketing of extended stays during the pandemic, according to Chief Executive Francis Davidson. Stays of longer than 14 days now account for about 60% of the company’s business, up from less than a quarter before the pandemic, he said.

Kulveer Taggar, CEO of corporate-housing operator Zeus Living, said his firm experienced a steep drop in demand as companies hit the pause button on employee travel and relocations. But he was able to make up some ground by renting apartments to individuals. People working from home now account for about a quarter of the company’s business, Mr. Taggar said, up from virtually nothing before the pandemic.

Unlike Sonder and Zeus, remote workers were a key part of Landing’s business before the pandemic. Its customers pay an annual membership fee, which gives them the right to rent furnished apartments in any city. The minimum length of stay varies from 30 to 60 days, and the company asks for a month’s notice before a customer moves out.

The company is popular with college-educated young professionals who don’t want to be tied to a single location. Since the start of the pandemic, it has seen a growing number of customers leave New York and San Francisco and move to cities like St. Petersburg, Fla., and Denver, Mr. Smith said.

In November, Landing raised $45 million in venture funding from a group of investors led by Foundry Group and including Greycroft and Maveron, along with $55 million in debt. Mr. Smith said he hopes to expand to 25,000 apartments by the end of this year, up from around 10,000 today.

That growth carries risk if demand from remote workers were to disappear again after the pandemic is over. Still, Chris Moody, a partner at Foundry Group, said the number of furnished apartments available under flexible terms is still so small that he doesn’t worry about a lack of customers.

“Even at the end of 2021, we won’t really have scratched the surface,” he said.

The post Remote-Work Boom During Covid-19 Pandemic Draws Real-Estate Startups appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

The Commercial Space Post-COVID – With Cove CEO Adam Segal

A recent Q & A we had with Adam Segal, CEO + Founder of Washington D.C. based Cove offers a picture window into the future of business. What was intended to be a real estate technology informative, turned out to be a glimpse of what the post-COVID world of real estate may look like. Initially focused on creating a network of co-working spaces to foster efficiency and productivity in the digital age, Segal’s company’s ship may have just arrived in the form of a world cataclysm. 

Cove logo

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing a paradigm shift for every business and institution on Earth. The world is turned upsidedown, and the only sure thing people can cling to, for the moment, is uncertainty. The daily grind, the 9-5, in contrast to the homogenization of the digital and the physical world, is creating catastrophes and vast opportunities for the future. And Cove sits smack in the middle of what most experts think will be the transition of transitions not just in real estate, but for business in general. I exchanged emails with the Cove CEO this past week, since catching up with him via phone proved impossible. Here’s the brief interview, followed by some takeaway points. 

RealtyBiz: How do you see commercial property marketing shaping up in the post-COVID era?

Adam Segal: At Cove, we believe commercial real estate will still have a place in a post-COVID era. In fact, it will transform from a place for your dedicated desk into an absolute key business resource to define culture and engagement. Traditionally, there has been a strong emphasis on your everyday desk or office. Moving forward, companies will consider where and how people are most productive, thereby enabling employees greater flexibility to choose when and where they work. The office will morph into a place to come together as opposed to being the required 9-5, everyday solution. For employees, this is an incredibly exciting future — as soon as you are no longer tied to a single desk or office, you have the freedom to design your life without your employer’s office location and long commutes as the deciding factor. At Cove, we provide the technology and service to support that future world for companies, while empowering office building owners a partner to create modern experiences integral to the future of work.

RealtyBiz: Some experts see the negative pricing trend for commercial property continuing to spiral downward. What is your view on this trend, and how can owners/developers prepare?

Adam Segal: When there is an increase in demand, differentiation becomes the absolute key. For those assets that are able to capture the future of work and unlock a differentiated experience, there will not be a downward spiral — in fact, just the opposite.

RealtyBiz: How do you see your business at Cove changing to address this new landscape? 

Adam Segal: Cove implements a modern consumer approach to the future of work for companies and owners of office buildings. Our focus is on building an experience around the office by building robust tools to bring everything online — from scheduling and coordinating your team to reduce capacity, unlocking onsite services and delivery, real-time updates — really a gateway to a modern work experience. The post-pandemic office will look nothing like the office of yesterday. In the future, the office will no longer be a home for your desk. Instead, the office will be a resource to bring people together for meaningful engagement. As a result, every company will need more intentional and coordinated office days for collaboration. The future of work for any company will include a mix of working remotely, in office, on travel — but now a real focus on productivity as opposed to a default 9-5, Monday through Friday culture. 

The Takeaway

According to Crunchbase, Cove is funded by Early Light Ventures. My takeaway on their investment, given the current state of transformation in business, is that those investors are smiling great big about now. $8.4 million in total funding could well turn into 100 times that figure. Here’s why.

Whatever benefits the remote office had before COVID-19, those benefits have been multiplied by 10,000 now. Furthermore, whichever businesses chose to optimize their buildings using Cove services before the pandemic, those clients are the leading edge of what physical office space will be in the future. Think about the whole situation like this. Once corporations and smaller entities make the adjustments for distancing, access assurance, safety measures, and added efficiency, how many do you think will switch back to business as usual? I should not have to spell out Cove’s potential here. From custom virtual events to building access management, Cove had a finger on the pulse of office buildings to start with. The next generation of office space will be all about remote work and managing a new kind of physical space. Who better to help transform the work at home corporate synergy? So, Cove has one of those rare opportunities brought about by the cosmos.

The post The Commercial Space Post-COVID – With Cove CEO Adam Segal appeared first on RealtyBizNews: Real Estate News.

Source: realtybiznews.com

Orchard expands to Houston, East Coast

Orchard announced Tuesday its immediate availability to consumers in Houston, as well as future expansion into Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, and the Washington, D.C. suburbs in the upcoming months.

Court Cunningham, chief executive officer and co-founder, said he’s excited for Orchard to help consumers in the new markets, where demand has outpaced inventory.

“We’ll make it easier for home buyers in these markets to secure their dream home as soon as they see it, while still selling their old home for top dollar,” he said.

Cunningham added that the Move First initiative, Orchard’s program allowing homeowners to buy their next home before selling their old one, proved popular during the COVID-19 pandemic because it let consumers avoid living in their old home while potential homebuyers toured it.

“Buying and selling homes the traditional way isn’t sufficient in today’s hyper-competitive market,” he said. “With demand at an all-time high, people need to make offers – ideally in cash – without contingencies.”

Houston, according to multiple listing service data, is selling homes above price at triple the rate of 2019, and Cunningham added that the number of homes going under contract within 30 days of listing has increased by 50%.

Orchard adds Houston to a service area that includes Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Denver, and Atlanta.

Originally called Perch, Orchard branched into the lending business in July. This followed the creation of a title and escrow unit, dubbed Orchard Title, in the fall of 2018. It also closed on a $69 million Series C round led by Revolution Growth in September.

In October, Orchard announced the launch of a digital platform that enables homeowners to manage the entire real estate transaction in one place.

The post Orchard expands to Houston, East Coast appeared first on HousingWire.

Source: housingwire.com

How is Working from Home Affecting the Office Sector

The office sector is experiencing unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19. As shelter-in-place orders rolled out earlier this year and companies allowed their employees to work from home, the need for physical office space declined. So, what will happen to the office sector?  

CoreNet Global, a nonprofit that represents over 11,000 corporate real estate executives, recently released a survey on the effects of the pandemic. Here are some key findings about the future of the office.

  • One-half of the survey respondents said it will be at least June 2021 before 50% of their workers return to work onsite.
  • Once workers do return, the office will be a place for collaboration and teamwork, rather than individual work, according to 86% of respondents.
  • 64% said that the typical 9-5 workday is a thing of the past.
  • Survey respondents expect their company’s employees to spend about half their time in a traditional office, 42% in a home-based office and 7% in a co-working space.
  • 70% of survey respondents say their corporate real estate footprint will shrink over the next two years.
  • 71% report that their company will not shy away from densely packed urban areas, but 66% say that pandemic readiness on the part of cities will be a factor in their company’s site-selection plans going forward.

The post How is Working from Home Affecting the Office Sector first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com

7 Pros and Cons of Investing in a 401(k) Retirement Plan at Work

A 401(k) retirement plan is one of the most powerful savings vehicles on the planet. If you’re fortunate enough to work for a company that offers one (or its sister for non-profits, a 403(b)), it’s a valuable benefit that you should take advantage of.

But many people ignore their retirement plan at work because they don’t understand the rules, which may seem confusing at first. Or they worry about what happens to their account after they leave the company or mistakenly believe you must be an investing expert to use a retirement plan.

Let's talk about seven primary pros and cons of using a 401(k). You’ll learn some lesser-known benefits and get tips to save quickly so you have plenty of money when you’re ready to kick back and enjoy retirement.

What is a 401(k) retirement plan?

Traditional retirement accounts give you an immediate benefit by making contributions on a pre-tax basis.

A 401(k) is a type of retirement plan that can be offered by an employer. And if you’re self-employed with no employees, you can have a similar account called a solo 401(k). These accounts allow you to contribute a portion of your paycheck or self-employment income and choose various savings and investment options such as CDs, stock funds, bond funds, and money market funds, to accelerate your account growth.

Traditional retirement accounts give you an immediate benefit by making contributions on a pre-tax basis, which reduces your annual taxable income and your tax liability. You defer paying income tax on contributions and account earnings until you take withdrawals in the future.

Roth retirement accounts require you to pay tax upfront on your contributions. However, your future withdrawals of contributions and investment earnings are entirely tax-free. A Roth 401(k) or 403(b) is similar to a Roth IRA; however, unlike a Roth IRA there isn’t an income limit to qualify. That means even high earners can participate in a Roth at work and reap the benefits.

RELATED: How the COVID-19 CARES Act Affects Your Retirement

Pros of investing in a 401(k) retirement plan at work

When I was in my 20s and started my first job that offered a 401(k), I didn’t enroll in it. I was nervous about having investments with an employer because I didn’t understand what would happen if I left the company, or it went out of business.

I want to put your mind at ease about using a 401(k) because there are many more advantages than disadvantages.

I want to put your mind at ease about using a 401(k) because there are many more advantages than disadvantages. Here are four primary pros for using a retirement plan at work.

1. Having federal legal protection

Qualified workplace retirement plans are protected by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), a federal law. It sets minimum standards for employers that offer retirement plans, and the administrators who manage them.

ERISA offers workplace retirement plans a powerful but lesser-known benefit—protection from creditors.

ERISA was enacted to protect your and your beneficiaries’ interests in workplace retirement plans. Here are some of the protections they give you:

  • Disclosure of important facts about your plan features and funding 
  • A claims and appeals process to get your benefits from a plan 
  • Right to sue for benefits and breaches of fiduciary duty if the plan is mismanaged 
  • Payment of certain benefits if you lose your job or a plan gets terminated

Additionally, ERISA offers workplace retirement plans a powerful but lesser-known benefit—protection from creditors. Let’s say you have money in a qualified account but lose your job and can’t pay your car loan. If the car lender gets a judgment against you, they can attempt to get repayment from you in various ways, but not by tapping your 401(k) or 403(b). There are exceptions when an ERISA plan is at risk, such as when you owe federal tax debts, criminal penalties, or an ex-spouse under a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. 

When you leave an employer, you have the option to take your vested retirement funds with you. You can do a tax-free rollover to a new employer's retirement plan or into your own IRA. However, be aware that depending on your home state, assets in an IRA may not have the same legal protections as a workplace plan.

RELATED: 5 Options for Your Retirement Account When Leaving a Job

2. Getting matching funds

Many employers that offer a retirement plan also pay matching contributions. Those are additional funds that boost your account value.

Always set your 401(k) contributions to maximize an employer’s match so you never leave easy money on the table.

For example, your company might match 100% of what you contribute to your retirement plan up to 3% of your income. If you earn $50,000 per year and contribute 3% or $1,500, your employer would also contribute $1,500 on your behalf. You’d have $3,000 in total contributions and receive a 100% return on your $1,500 investment, which is fantastic!

Always set your 401(k) contributions to maximize an employer’s match, so you never leave easy money on the table.

3. Having a high annual contribution limit

Once you contribute enough to take advantage of any 401(k) matching, consider setting your sights higher by raising your savings rate every year. For 2021, the allowable limit remains $19,500, or $26,000 if you’re over age 50. A good rule of thumb is to save at least 10% to 15% of your gross income for retirement.

Most retirement plans have an automatic escalation feature that kicks up your contribution percentage at the beginning of each year. You might set it to increase your contributions by 1% per year until you reach 15%. That’s a simple way to set yourself up for a happy and secure retirement.

4. Getting free investing advice

After you enroll in a workplace retirement plan, you must choose from a menu of savings and investment options. Most plan providers are major brokerages (such as Fidelity or Vanguard) and have helpful resources, such as online assessments and free advisors. Take advantage of the opportunity to get customized advice for choosing the best investments for your financial situation, age, and risk tolerance.

In general, the more time you have until retirement, or the higher your risk tolerance, the more stock funds you should own. Likewise, having less time or a low tolerance for risk means you should own more conservative and stable investments, such as bonds or money market funds.

RELATED: A Beginner's Guide to Investing in Stocks

Cons of investing in a 401(k) retirement plan at work

While there are terrific advantages of investing in a retirement plan at work, here are three cons to consider.

1. You may have limited investment options

Compared to other types of retirement accounts, such as an IRA, or a taxable brokerage account, your 401(k) or 403 (b) may have fewer investment options. You won’t find any exotic choices, just basic asset classes, including stock, bond, and cash funds.

However, having a limited investment menu streamlines your investment choices and minimizes complexity.

2. You may have higher account fees

Due to the administrative responsibilities required by employer-sponsored retirement plans, they may charge high fees. And as a plan participant, you have little control over the fees you must pay.

One way to keep your workplace retirement account fees as low as possible is selecting low-cost index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) when possible.

One way to keep your workplace retirement account fees as low as possible is selecting low-cost index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) when possible.

3.  You must pay fees on early withdrawals

One of the inherent disadvantages of putting money in a retirement account is that you’re typically penalized 10% for early withdrawals before the official retirement age of 59½. Plus, you typically can’t tap a 401(k) or 403(b) unless you have a qualifying hardship. That discourages participants from tapping accounts, so they keep growing.

The takeaway is that you should only contribute funds to a retirement account that you won’t need for everyday living expenses. If you avoid expensive early withdrawals, the advantages of using a workplace retirement account far outweigh the downsides.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Mortgage rates remain at record-low levels

After falling to the lowest rate in Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey’s near 50-year-history last week, the average U.S. mortgage rate for a 30-year fixed loan remained at a survey-low 2.67% this week.

Last week’s announcement of a 2.67% rate broke the previous record set on Dec. 3, and was the first time the survey reported rates below 2.7%.

The average fixed rate for a 15-year mortgage also fell this week to 2.17% from 2.19%. One year ago, 15-year average fixed rates were reported at 3.16%.

“All eyes have been on mortgage rates this year, especially the 30-year fixed-rate, which has dropped more than one percentage point over the last twelve months, driving housing market activity in 2020,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Heading into 2021 we expect rates to remain flat, potentially rising modestly off their record low, but solid purchase demand and tight inventory will continue to put pressure on housing markets as well as house price growth.”

Freddie Mac has reported survey-low rates 16 times in 2020, proving beneficial to borrowers looking to buy or refinance a home amid economic turmoil outside of the industry.

Mortgage spreads continue to compress, per Freddie Mac officials, with the 10-year Treasury yield remaining at or above 90 basis points through the beginning of December.

This week’s 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 2.71%, down from last week when it averaged 2.79%. That’s another sharp drop-off from this time last year, when the 5-year ARM averaged 3.46%.

The Federal Open Market Committee revealed earlier this month that the Federal Reserve plans to keep interest rates low until labor market conditions and inflation meet the committee’s standards. Overall, Fed purchases have helped to drive mortgage rates and other loan interest rates to the lowest level on record by boosting competition for bonds.

Higher rates may be around the corner, as the calendar flips to 2021 and the promise of a second COVID-19 stimulus check along with a vaccine reaches consumers. The Mortgage Bankers Association has forecasted rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans rising to an average of 3.2% by the end of 2021.

But if the virus is not controlled in the new year, investors may remain cautious and consumer confidence could wane – keeping rates low, according to the MBA.

The post Mortgage rates remain at record-low levels appeared first on HousingWire.

Source: housingwire.com

How COVID-19 is Affecting Mortgages

Coronavirus cases are increasing at a phenomenal rate and sending the economy into free-fall. Every industry will be affected in some way, but the housing market could be one of the hardest hit. Borrowers are struggling to pay their mortgages, lenders are seeing far fewer applications, and we could be just around the corner from a housing crisis akin to the decline of 2008.

So, what’s happening here, how is COVID-19 affecting mortgages and are we likely to see any major issues on the horizon?

How Will COVID-19 Impact Mortgages?

In early March, mortgage rates dropped to an all-time low, hinting at things to come. The rate for a 30-year fixed-term mortgage fell to 3.29%, compared to March of 2019 when rates were 4.14%. That may not seem like much of a difference, but the difference between 3.29% and 4.14% on a $200,000 30-year mortgage is around $35,000.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg; the start of the problem.

Experts predict that rates will continue to fall as we progress through 2020 and COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the US economy.

As noted in our recent guide to Coronavirus Mortgage Relief, lenders are already providing lenders with debt relief options to help them manage their mortgage in this difficult time. Foreclosure is expensive and it’s an expense that banks and credit unions can’t afford right now. They want homeowners to pay their bills and keep their homes and they will do everything they can to make that happen.

The federal government is also lending a helping hand by way of the CARES act, and we could see more significant moves on behalf of lenders and the government before the year draws to a close.

In other words, although big moves have been made and huge changes have taken place, all of this could pale in comparison to what happens when the pandemic is eradicated and the rebuilding process begins.

Can You Benefit from this?

If you’re a homeowner tied to a high-interest rate, you could benefit from the current reduced interest rates by refinancing your mortgage. You could do that now and capitalize on the all-time low rates mentioned above or wait to see what happens in the next few months.

In any case, you can get a much lower rate than what you already have and potentially save thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

It’s not about profiting from a bad situation, it’s about making life easier for yourself so you can navigate through this chaos. If your monthly mortgage payment is reduced, you’ll have more money in your pocket every month, which means you can put more cash towards unsecured debts and your monthly grocery bill.

It also reduces your chances of defaulting and being foreclosed upon in the future.

COVID-19 and the Housing Market

In the spring of 2019, the housing market was booming. It was a good time to invest in bricks and mortar and it seemed like there were some bright years ahead for homeowners and investors. 

In 2020, the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic fell on the country and now, a year on from that boom, the housing market has ground to a screeching halt. No one is selling because no one is buying. The market hasn’t necessarily crashed, but it has paused, and that could cause some huge problems in the near future.

What happens to all the homeowners who were selling their homes before this crisis and wanted to sell during? As soon as the pandemic fades away, they’ll all list their homes at the same time, and they’ll no doubt be joined by countless other homeowners who are selling because of the pandemic.

Once the market reopens, it will be flooded with homes for sale. At the same time, homeowners once ready to buy will now be struggling to deal with the consequences of the pandemic, while others will be hesitant of buying and will want to bide their time. Sellers will get desperate, prices will drop, and it will be a buyer’s market.

It’s hard to predict just how far house prices will fall or even if they will fall at all, but if the last few months are anything to go by, it’s fair to assume that the damage will be considerable.

Could it be a Seller’s Market?

While it seems most likely that post-pandemic USA will be a buyer’s market, it could also go the other way. Millions of Americans could be looking to purchase homes in 2020. If all of them are waiting for the end of the pandemic in the hope that the prices will be lower and the interest rates more favorable, they could overload the market.

Buyers may also be desperate to sink their money into bricks and mortar, believing it to be a safe investment and protection against any future economic issues. After all, when you rent, you’re always at the mercy of the landlord and have few guarantees that your home will still be your home months down the line.

That’s a scary thought in the middle of a pandemic, where it may be difficult, and in some cases impossible, to move into another property on short notice.

To remedy this, renters may be desperate to buy and may jump into the housing market as soon as the chaos dies down. A sudden rush of buyers will send the market in the opposite direction, allowing sellers to jack up their prices. 

COVID-19, Mortgages, and the Future of the Housing Market

Most of which we discussed above is speculation. We can predict the likelihood of it being a buyer’s market and of interest rates falling based on everything that has happened thus far, but we can’t say that it will happen for certain.

COVID-19 has made life very unpredictable. In December 2019, when word of the first Chinese cases began to filter to our shores, few could have guessed that just 3 months later, the world would be in lockdown, everyone would be going crazy for toilet paper, and people would be dying in their droves. 

At the beginning of the outbreak, when Europe was on its knees, President Trump was dismissive of the risks and suggested that everything would be okay, the US would be safe, and the virus would be fleeting. A few weeks later, the United States became the worst affected country and fatalities entered double figures.

It’s a novel pandemic that few predicted, and no one was prepared for, and as things stand it’s less about fighting the disease and more about avoiding it. 

As a result, we can’t be certain that the housing market will decline or that mortgage rates will drop. We just have to wait and see and hope that we all get through this with our lives, properties, and professions intact.

How COVID-19 is Affecting Mortgages is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Best States for Veterans – 2020 Edition

Image shows an advisor sitting across from a member of military personnel; there are official papers and a computer on the desk between them. In this study, SmartAsset analyzed various data points to find the best states for veterans.

How easily veterans adjust to their lives after service depends on many factors, not the least of which is their ability to maintain adequate finances to cover their home payments and daily needs. There’s good news for vets on that front, though: While about 37,000 veterans still experienced homelessness in January 2019, the homelessness rate among veterans declined more than 2% in 2019 and had decreased 50% since 2010, according to a 2019 report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Despite that marked improvement, not all places are equally suited to help veterans thrive. That’s why SmartAsset crunched the numbers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to find the best places for veterans.

To do so, we looked at data across nine metrics: veterans as a percentage of population, veteran unemployment rate, overall unemployment rate, percentage of veterans living below the poverty line, housing costs as a percentage of median income for veterans, percentage of a state’s businesses owned by veterans, number of VA health centers per 100,000 veterans, number of VA benefits administration facilities per 100,000 residents and taxes on military pensions. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Veterans are less likely than the general population to live below the poverty line. Nationally, 11.1% of the U.S. population is living in poverty, according to 2019 figures from the Census Bureau. The average for this metric across this study is 6.7%, possibly because military benefits help keep some veterans afloat when they might otherwise face financial challenges.
  • More populous states may not be as suitable to veterans. The bottom three states in the study are California, New York and Illinois, which have the largest, fourth-largest and sixth-largest state populations, respectively. These states struggle in two metrics: the unemployment rate for veterans and housing costs as a percentage of median income for veterans. This may be due, in part, to their high populations, which increase both competition for available jobs and demand for housing.
  • Pension taxes vary. Each state chooses how to tax military pensions. All in all, 30 states don’t tax military pensions at all, including eight out of the top 10 states (Nebraska and Montana are the exceptions). Military pensions are partially taxed in 13 states, along with the District of Columbia, and they are fully taxed in seven states.

1. South Dakota

South Dakota, home of the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, is the best state in the U.S. for veterans. South Dakota has 21.04 Veterans Administration health facilities per 100,000 veterans, which is the second-highest rate for this metric overall, meaning veterans in South Dakota should have relatively good access to health services. There are also 3.51 VA benefits administration facilities per 100,000 residents, ranking 10th. In addition, South Dakota does not tax military pensions.

2. Wyoming

Wyoming takes the runner-up spot. Wyoming has the highest number of VA health facilities in the country, at 28.99 per 100,000 veterans. It also does not tax military pensions. Wyoming finishes in the bottom half of the study in terms of the percentage of veterans who are living below the poverty line (coming in at 38th, with a percentage of 7.1%). However, the veteran unemployment rate in the state is 1.0% – second-lowest in the study – so veterans looking for work could do worse than thinking about the Cowboy State.

3. North Dakota

North Dakota is one of the least populous states in the nation, but it does well by its veterans. The Rough Rider State has the lowest unemployment rate for veterans in the nation, at 0.9%. Its overall September 2020 unemployment rate is also low, coming in at 4.4% – fourth-lowest in the nation. Housing costs make up 19.90% of the median income for a veteran, the second-best rate for this metric in the study.

4. West Virginia

West Virginia has housing costs that make up just 18.95% of the median veteran income, the best rate for this metric in the study. The Mountain State has the sixth-highest concentration of VA health facilities in the study, at 12.39 per 100,000 veterans, and the third-highest number of VA benefits administration facilities, at 5.78 per 100,000 residents. Military pensions are not taxed in this state. See more about retirement tax friendliness in West Virginia here.

5. Maine

Maine is one of two Northeastern states to be ranked in the top 10, and it gets there partially on the strength of its 1.3% veteran unemployment rate, ranking fourth-lowest in the country. Maine’s population is made up of 8.89% veterans, the eighth-highest percentage for this metric. Maine also has 5.13 VA benefits administration centers per 100,000 residents, ranking sixth-best. There are no taxes on military pensions in the Pine Tree State.

6. Alaska

Also known as The Last Frontier State, Alaska has a relatively small population, but one that is 10.74% veterans, the highest percentage for this metric across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Alaska also comes in first for the metric measuring the percentage of businesses owned by veterans, at 11.60%. The state doesn’t do nearly as well, though, when it comes to employing veterans, as the unemployment rate among veterans is 6.3%, near the very bottom of the study. On the plus side, the state does not tax military retirement pay.

7. Nebraska

Nebraska had an overall unemployment rate of just 3.5% in September 2020, the lowest in the country, and that rate is particularly impressive amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Nebraska also has the fifth-best unemployment rate for veterans, at just 1.4%. Nebraska taxes some portion of military pensions, making it one of two states in the top 10 of the study where military pensions are not completely tax-free.

8. New Hampshire

Veterans in New Hampshire own 9.42% of the state’s businesses, placing the Granite State at 12th overall for this metric. The entire population of the state is 8.52% veterans, the 14th-highest rate for this metric across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. New Hampshire performs relatively poorly in terms of housing affordability: The average housing cost represents 36.25% of the median veteran income, sixth-highest in the study. However, Military pensions are tax-free in the state. Those who are seeking assistance with balancing all of these financial factors may wish to consult our roundup of the top 10 financial advisors in New Hampshire.

9. Montana

Veterans will find a built-in community in Big Sky Country, where the population is 10.28% veterans, second-highest in the study. That said, Montana taxes military pensions fully – the only state in our top 10 to do so and one of just seven to do so nationwide. Still, Montana ranks ninth for both of the unemployment metrics we measured, with a veteran unemployment rate of 2.3% and an overall September 2020 unemployment rate of 5.3%.

10. Hawaii

Hawaii places first in this study in terms of number of VA benefits administration facilities, at 6.64 per 100,000 veterans. It is important to note, though, that the Aloha State had an unemployment rate of 15.1% in September 2020, ranking last for this metric in the study. Furthermore, housing costs make up 39.41% of median veteran income, second-worst overall. However, only 5.8% of veterans are living below the poverty line, good for 12th overall. The state also has top-20 rankings for veterans as a percentage of the population, veteran-owned businesses as a percentage of all businesses and VA health facilities per 100,000 veterans.

Data and Methodology

To conduct the 2020 version of our study on the best states for veterans, we compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia across the following metrics:

  • Veterans as a percentage of the population. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-Year American Community Survey.
  • Veteran unemployment rate. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-Year American Community Survey.
  • Unemployment rate. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is for September 2020.
  • Percentage of veterans living below the poverty line. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-Year American Community Survey.
  • Housing costs as a percentage of median income for veterans. This is annual median housing costs divided by median income for veterans. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-Year American Community Survey.
  • Share of veteran-owned businesses. This is the percentage of all businesses in a state that are owned by veterans. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 Annual Business Survey.
  • VA health facilities per 100,000 veterans. Data come from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • VA benefits administration facilities per 100,000 veterans. Data come from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Taxes on military pension. States were assigned a 1 if the state does not tax military retirement pay, a 2 if there are special provisions or other considerations for military pension taxes and a 3 if the state fully taxes military retirement pay. Data comes from militarybenefits.info.

First we ranked each state in each metric. From there, we found the average ranking for each state, giving all metrics a full weight except for the two metrics measuring unemployment, which each received a half weight. We used this average ranking to create our final score. The state with the best average ranking received a score of 100, and the state with the worst average ranking received score of 0.

Money Tips for Veterans

  • Financial help from someone who’s always got your six. Veterans, like everybody else, sometimes need help with financial matters. A financial advisor can provide that help and bring in reinforcements to set you on the right path. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool connects you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors, get started now.
  • Don’t sacrifice continuing education because of costs. If you want to go to college after you serve, the GI Bill will help — but you may still end up with student loans. To discover how much you’ll need to pay, use SmartAsset’s student loan calculator.
  • Create a strong strategy for your budget. Use SmartAsset’s budget calculator to figure out how much you should be spending on different areas and you’ll make sure you have enough money for everything.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/SDI Productions

The post Best States for Veterans – 2020 Edition appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Holiday Spending Statistics for 2021

Rather than shopping in department stores and visiting Santa at the mall, this year’s holiday season is going to look a little different. You’ll likely be spending more time with your closest loved ones and exchanging gifts you ordered online. With the events of 2020, many have experienced unexpected changes in employment, income, and even health so the holiday budget is top of mind. To figure out what gifting budgets may look like this year, we ran our own holiday survey and collected 26 holiday spending statistics.

In 2019, roughly 729 billion dollars was spent during the holidays. This topped the charts, making it the biggest holiday season. This number may come as no surprise when you account for everyone on your shopping list. From your coworkers to family, holiday budgets can stretch thin to accommodate for everyone.

Wondering what others are spending on holiday gifts? Keep reading for our holiday spending statistics roundup, or jump to our infographic for our budget-friendly gifting etiquette for the workplace.

Average Christmas Spending

Average Christmas Spending

  • The average American planned to spend $942 on holiday gifts in 2019. (Gallup)
  • Last year, Americans spent $227.26 on non-holiday gift purchases such as decorations. (Alliant Credit Union)
  • Americans decide their holiday gift spending based on how close they are to the gift recipient (58 percent) and whether or not they’re family (28 percent). (Mint 2020 Holiday Survey)
  • Over 50 percent of holiday spending goes towards clothing and accessories. (Avant)
  • In 2019, holiday retail sales soared past $700 billion, making it the biggest holiday shopping season. (Statista)

Holiday Spending Statistics and Trends

  • Americans were holiday shopping early in 2019, with 43 percent starting in November. (Black Friday)
  • On average, 64 percent of holiday shoppers waited for a sale before making a purchase in 2019. (American Research Group)
  • In 2019, 59 percent of wish lists included gift cards. (National Retail Federation)
  • More than half of Americans would rather have cash over a gift. (Mint)
  • In 2019, 67 percent of shoppers were spending the most on holiday gifts for their children. (Black Friday)
  • Pet lovers are also big shoppers. In 2019, 77 percent of pet owners planned for their pets to be part of their holiday festivities. (The Dog People)

Holiday Spending 2019 vs. 2020

Holiday Spending 2019 vs. 2020

  • Fifty-one percent of Americans plan to spend the same on holiday gifts in 2020 as they did in 2019. (Mint 2020 Holiday Survey)
  • Roughly 40 percent of holiday shoppers plan to spend less this year, and 8 percent plan to spend more. (Mint 2020 Holiday Survey)
  • Over half of consumers are opting out of retail shopping due to health risks. (Accenture)
  • Seventy-four percent of people agree that events will only include a small get-together. (Morning Consult)
  • In addition, 47 percent of adults agree that holiday events will be canceled. (Morning Consult)

Holiday Retail Sales

  • In 2019, 38 percent of shoppers planned to browse in-store displays for inspiration. (Black Friday)
  • In 2019, holiday ecommerce sales increased by 13 percent with roughly $142 billion dollars spent. (Adobe)
  • Cyber Monday, a special day for holiday ecommerce discounts, totaled $7.4 billion spent in 2019. (Adobe)
  • Sixty-one percent of holiday shoppers in 2019 used a smartphone to complete an online order. (Thinking With Google)
  • On Black Friday in 2019, more than two-thirds of holiday shoppers made impulse purchases. (Bluecore)

Holiday Budget Statistics

  • Ten percent of Americans budget for gifts based on how much the gift receiver spends on them. (Mint: Holiday Survey 2020)
  • Eighteen percent of Americans are trying to pay down debt this holiday season. (Morning Consult)
  • Twenty-one percent of customers say they will be giving out fewer gifts this holiday. (Morning Consult)
  • Thirty-three percent of adults are trying to spend less and save more due to COVID-19. (Morning Consult)
  • People’s 2019 holiday budgets fluctuated based on where they lived. Urban shoppers planned to spend roughly $200 more than rural shoppers last year. (NPD)

Whether you’re planning to spend more or less this holiday season, check in on your budget as you go. Using our app, you can set a specific budget and get notifications when you go over. You can also check in on your financial goals each week using our weekly summary updates.

Planning to shop for your coworkers this season? Check out our visual guide on office gift-giving etiquette below.Download Gift-Giving Etiquette Guide

Sources: GlobeSmart

Methodology: This study was conducted for Mint using Google Surveys. The sample consisted of no fewer than 1,500 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. Responses were collected October 23 – 27, 2020.

The post Holiday Spending Statistics for 2021 appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com