Different Types of Debt

Debt comes in all shapes and sizes. You can owe money to utility companies, banks, credit card providers, and the government. There’s student loan debt, credit card debt, mortgage debt, and much more. But what are the official categories of debt and how do the payoff strategies for these debts differ?

Categories of Debt

Debt is generally categorized into two simple forms: Secured and Unsecured. The former is secured against an asset, such as a car or loan, and means the lender can seize the asset if you fail to meet your obligations. Unsecured is not secured against anything, reducing the creditor’s control and limiting their options if the repayment terms are not met.

A secured debt provides the lender with some assurances and collateral, which means they are often prepared to provide better interest rates and terms. This is one of the reasons you’re charged astronomical rates for credit cards and short-term loans but are generally offered very favorable rates for home loans and car loans.

If the debtor fails to make payments on an unsecured debt, such as a credit card, then the debtor may file a judgment with the courts or sell it to a collection agency. In the first instance, it’s a lot of hassle without any guarantee. In the second, they’re selling the debts for cents on the dollar and losing a lot of money. In either case, it’s not ideal, and to offset this they charge much higher interest rates and these rates climb for debtors with a poorer track record.

There is also something known as revolving debt, which can be both unsecured and secured. Revolving debt is anything that offers a continuous cycle of credit and repayment, such as a credit card or a home equity line of credit. 

Mortgages and federal student loans may also be grouped into separate debts. In the case of mortgages, these are substantial secured loans that use the purchase as collateral. As for federal student loans, they are provided by the government to fund education. They are unsecured and there are many forgiveness programs and options to clear them before the repayment date.

What is a Collection Account?

As discussed above, if payments are missed for several months then the account may be sold to a debt collection agency. This agency will then assume control of the debt, contacting the debtor to try and settle for as much as they can. At this point, the debt can often be settled for a fraction of the amount, as the collection agency likely bought it very cheaply and will make a profit even if it is sold for 30% of its original balance.

Debt collectors are persistent as that’s their job. They will do everything in their power to collect, whether that means contacting you at work or contacting your family. There are cases when they are not allowed to do this, but in the first instance, they can, especially if they’re using these methods to track you down and they don’t discuss your debts with anyone else.

No one wants the debt collectors after them, but generally, you have more power than they do and unless they sue you, there’s very little they can do. If this happens to you, we recommend discussing the debts with them and trying to come to an arrangement. Assuming, that is, the debt has not passed the statute of limitations. If it has, then negotiating with them could invalidate that and make you legally responsible for the debt all over again.

Take a look at our guide to the statute of limitations in your state to learn more.

As scary as it can be to have an account in collections, it’s also common. A few years ago, a study found that there are over 70 million accounts in collections, with an average balance of just over $5,000.

Can Bankruptcy Discharge all Debts?

Bankruptcy can help you if you have more debts than you can repay. But it’s not as all-encompassing as many debtors believe.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy will discharge most of your debts, but it won’t touch child support, alimony or tax debt. It also won’t help you with secured debts as the lender will simply repossess or foreclose, taking back their money by cashing in the collateral. Chapter 13 bankruptcy works a little differently and is geared towards repayment as opposed to discharge. You get to keep more of your assets and in exchange you agree to a payment plan that repays your creditors over 3 to 5 years.

However, as with Chapter 7, you can’t clear tax debts and you will still need to pay child support and alimony. Most debts, including private student loans, credit card debt, and unsecured loan debt will be discharged with bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy can seriously reduce your credit score in the short term and can remain on your credit report for up to 10 years, so it’s not something to be taken lightly. Your case will also be dismissed if you can’t show that you have exhausted all other options.

Differences in Reducing Each Type of Debt

The United States has some of the highest consumer debt in the world. It has become a common part of modern life, but at the same time, we have better options for credit and debt relief, which helps to balance things out a little. Some of the debt relief options at your disposal have been discussed below in relation to each particular type of long-term debt.

The Best Methods for Reducing Loans

If you’re struggling with high-interest loans, debt consolidation can help. A debt consolidation company will provide you with a loan large enough to cover all your debts and in return, they will give you a single long-term debt. This will often have a smaller interest rate and a lower monthly payment, but the term will be much longer, which means you’ll pay much more interest overall.

Debt management works in a similar way, only you work directly with a credit union or credit counseling agency and they do all the work for you, before accepting your money and then distributing it to your creditors.

Both forms of debt relief can also help with other unsecured debts. They bring down your debt-to-income ratio, leave you with more disposable income, and allow you to restructure your finances and get your life back on track.

The Best Methods for Reducing Credit Cards

Debt settlement is the ultimate debt relief option and can help you clear all unsecured debt, with many companies specializing in credit card debt. 

Debt settlement works best when you have lots of derogatory marks and collections, as this is when creditors are more likely to settle. They can negotiate with your creditors for you and clear your debts by an average of 40% to 60%. You just need to pay the full settlement amount and the debt will clear, with the debt settlement company not taking their cut until the entire process has been finalized.

A balance transfer can also help with credit card debt. A balance transfer credit card gives you a 0% APR on all transfers for between 6 and 18 months. Simply move all of your credit card balances into a new balance transfer card and then every cent of your monthly payment will go towards the principal.

The Best Methods for Reducing Secured Debts

Secured debt is a different beast, as your lender can seize the asset if they want to. This makes them much less susceptible to settlement offers and refinancing. However, they will still be keen to avoid the costly foreclosure/repossession process, so contact them as soon as you’re struggling and see if they can offer you anything by way of a grace period or reduced payment.

Most lenders have some form of hardship program and are willing to be flexible if it increases their chances of being repaid in full.

Different Types of Debt is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

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Expert Homebuying Tips for Buying in a Seller’s Market

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

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

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

Get a Pre-Approval Letter

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

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

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

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

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

Be Friendly With Neighbors

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

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

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

Submit an Offer Quickly

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

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

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

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

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

Minimize Your Contingencies (Within Reason)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Make a Generous Earnest Money Deposit

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

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

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

Offer Above Asking Price

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

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

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

Lace Up Your Running Shoes

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

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

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

Larissa Runkle is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

10 At-Home Date Night Ideas, Whether You’re Together or Apart

The coronavirus pandemic put a halt on a whole lot of awesome things, including date night. If you’ve been with your sweetie for years, it can be tough to find something special to do when you’re spending most of your time at home together. And if you were just getting started dating, it’s hard to establish a connection when you’re apart.

But there are still free and low-cost ways to keep up the date night tradition.

Although they’ve been married for over a decade, Kenny and Celina Beaumont have always realized the importance of romance — especially after having kids.

“If we’re not happy and having fun,” Celina told us in an interview, “our household’s not going to be happy and having fun.”

So they’ve kept their long-standing date night tradition alive through the pandemic with some pretty adorable dates — one of which you may even have seen a glimpse of on John Krasinski’s “Some Good News.” (Look for the fine dining experience around 7:55!)

But dinner dates are just the beginning. Here are some of our favorite at-home date night ideas.

A couple hold hands as they enjoy dinner in their backyard.

Date Nights if You’re at Home Together

If you were already cohabitating, there are plenty of ways to set aside some special time for each other.

1. Fine Dining

You can definitely recreate the restaurant experience at home, complete with dressing up for the occasion and actually sitting down and being waited on. That’s exactly what the Beaumonts did. According to Celina, Kenny and the kids had been conspiring about the idea for several days before surprising her.

They printed real menus, got dressed up and dined al fresco on a three-course meal at “Jack & Olivia’s” — so named for their kids. Kenny cooked up the steaks, while the kids made the salad and dessert.

2. Ballroom (or Any Other Kind of) Dancing

You might not make it out to your local Arthur Murray studio, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to dance. Some couples’ counselors suggest that a tango or two can be as good for your relationship as it is fun.

Crank up a YouTube video, clear out a spot on the living room floor, and give it a whirl. After all, nobody except your SO — and maybe the cat — is watching.

3. Game Night

It might not sound like the peak of romance to some, but sitting down to a game of Scrabble or Chess together is a great way to spend some quality time while also giving your brain a workout. If you’re really geeky, you might even take on a match or four of Magic: The Gathering.

We recommend adding fancy duds to the equation to make it feel even more date-y.

4. Virtual Hometown Tours

If you didn’t grow up in the same place as your SO, and you’ve yet to show them around in person, Google Earth offers a great date night opportunity: a virtual tour of your hometown, complete with stops at all the most important places.

Even if you hail from the same place (or have already gone home to meet the parents), you could use Google Earth or Google Maps to show your sweetheart around your college campus — or explore a city you’re hoping to visit together someday.

5. At-Home Spa Services

Treat yourself — and your beau — to some DIY indulgence. Whether you give each other manicures, facials, or massages, it’s bound to be a whole lot more affordable (and considerably more fun) than it would be in a salon. Check out this list of spa treatments you can do at home.

Tips for Successful At-Home Date Nights

Even with the best of intentions and lots of planning, it’s easy for an at-home date night to feel like … well, just another night at home.

Here are some tips to keep it feeling romantic.

  • Put away your phone. Celina and Kenny say they make a point of putting their screens down during dates.
  • Wait until after bedtime. It’s fun to get the kids in on the action — but if they go to bed earlier than you do, those couple hours of quiet can be a great time to rekindle your connection.
  • Look for the silver linings. Although staying home is hard in a whole lot of ways, it also offers a lot of opportunity for closeness, especially in a world where we’re usually running all over the place.

“We never get to spend this much time with each other,” Celina said of her family. Try to look at your at-home dates as an opportunity to slow down and enjoy yourselves.

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Date Night Ideas if You’re Apart

Thanks to technology, there are some ways to recreate a date experience even if you’re miles apart.

6. Virtual Coffee (or Cocktails)

Video call applications like Zoom and FaceTime make it easy to recreate classic low-stakes, first-date ideas like grabbing a drink or a cup of coffee.

7. Reading to Each Other

This one’s super romantic whether you’re at home together or apart. If you’re not in the same place, you can read to each other over video chat or over the plain-old phone.

The options are endless: You could pick a book neither of you have read before or revisit an old favorite.

8. Live Streaming Concerts and Events

From superstars to local up-and-comers, lots of entertainers have transferred their live shows to streaming services. Many are free, though it’s nice to drop a tip for these struggling artists.

Re-create the concert experience at home with a cocktail and maybe a band T-shirt, and enjoy unlimited bathroom breaks without having to snake through a pushy crowd.

9. Virtual Movie Nights

There’s nothing quite as cozy as snuggling up with your sweetheart for a movie, whether at the theater or on the couch at home. But even if you’re stuck apart, you can spend time in front of the silver screen together.

A browser extension called Teleparty easily syncs Netflix, Disney, Hulu and HBO videos for multiple parties while also providing a scrolling text chat along the right side of the screen.

If your movie or TV show is on another service — or if, quaintly and adorably enough, you’re going to watch the same DVD in separate houses at the same time — you can always hop on the phone and queue up the video. Don’t forget the popcorn!

10. Art Therapy

A seriously romantic idea for the bold: re-create each other’s likenesses while on a video chatting application like FaceTime.

If that’s a little too intimate, you could simply spend time together being creative, whether that means knitting, cross-stitching, painting or something else entirely. You could even make plans to gift each other the products of your art therapy session.

Tips for Successful Date Nights Spent Apart

A woman FaceTimes with her boyfriend.

Here are some tips to make it feel more like you’re actually together.

  • Get dressed. It’s all too easy to lie around the house in pajamas all day… and even attend your dates that way. Wearing real clothes can make you feel more like you’re on a real date.
  • Connect often. If you can’t be with each other in person, spending digital time together is extra important. Maybe try to move your date night tradition from one night a week to two or three.
  • Remember: It’s only temporary. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and although we don’t know when this pandemic is going to end, end it shall.

Jamie Cattanach’s work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Post, The Motley Fool and other outlets. Learn more at www.jamiecattanach.com.

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

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Dear Penny: My Rich Boyfriend Worries I’ll Burden Him if We Marry

Dear Penny,
Discussing how you’ll split the bills is a vital conversation if you’re merging lives. Some couples choose to keep their finances completely separate, and that’s OK.
It’s been a wonderful two years. You’re talking about growing old together. Then the conversation turns to how little money you make and how you might be a burden to your boyfriend later on.
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.
Life can also change. What if the two of you married and he got sick, so you had to become his caregiver? Would you think of him as a burden then?
-R

He makes significantly more than I do (between four to five times as much), and he worries that my low income means I’ll be a burden on him when we get older if we decide to marry. The way I see it, I am very responsible with the money I do make. I don’t have any debt, and I pay all my own bills. 
This may be a painful discussion. You may not like the answer you hear. But I suspect a likelier outcome is no answer at all — just a bunch of hemming and hawing. If that’s what you get, then you have your answer.
Do you have any advice for us? This is one neither of us knows how to navigate.
One thing I have to wonder about based on what you told me is whether this is about money at all. Imagine your salary were to quadruple tomorrow. Do you think your boyfriend would be enthusiastic about your future together? Or do you think he’d find another hang-up?
I’m a 35-year-old female who’s divorced, and my boyfriend is 38 and never married. We’ve been dating for two years, and it’s been wonderful. Recently, we’ve been having talks about our future, but money is a bit of a hang-up for him. 
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
That doesn’t sound wonderful to me. That sounds cruel.
Your value goes way beyond your salary. Please don’t waste your time trying to build a future with anyone who doesn’t recognize that.
Paychecks change. There’s no guarantee your boyfriend will always be a high earner. And just because you have a low income at 35 in the midst of a pandemic doesn’t mean you’ll always have a low income. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with not having a high salary. But I don’t want you defining your potential by what you earn right now.
Dear R.,
Most couples encounter this situation to at least a degree. Few people will marry someone whose salary is identical to theirs for their entire careers. You’re marrying a person, not a paycheck.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.
It sounds like this is a topic the two of you have been dancing around for some time. This is going to require a brutally honest conversation. Your boyfriend needs to decide whether he  can treat someone who makes way less than he does as an equal partner and back it up with action. Until then, any discussions about how to handle finances are premature.
I’m not asking him for anything, although I do understand that at this rate my retirement savings will be meager while his will be substantial. That could lead to problems if he wants to travel and not feel bitter about having to pay for me for everything later on. 
Ultimately, this is your boyfriend’s hang-up. You’re living within your means. There’s nothing wrong with you just because you can’t afford to live within his means.
But you’re not ready to have that conversation yet. That’s because of a problem that, at least as you’ve described to me, exists entirely in your boyfriend’s head. It doesn’t sound like there’s a concern about whether you can afford a life together. He has no reason to worry that you’ll run up debt or drain his bank account. Is he seriously worried that the bitterness he’d feel over money would overshadow his happiness should he build a life with you? You really need to establish that now so that you can move on if the answer is yes.
Is he willing to shoulder a greater share of the bills for the privilege of building a life with you? Or is he willing to adapt to your more frugal lifestyle so he can have the peace of mind of knowing he never contributed an extra cent? His call.
For some people, money is very much a dealbreaker. But other people get really antsy when they start talking about the future. So they look for a dealbreaker — any dealbreaker — to make you think that you’re the one with the problem, not them. I’m not saying that’s necessarily the case here, but it’s fodder for you to consider. You need to know if you’re dealing with a cheapskate or a commitment-phobe dressed in a cheapskate’s clothes.
But the control factor also worries me here. If you got married and he paid most of the bills, could he still approach this as a true partnership of equals? Or would he make you feel like a child asking a parent for allowance money?

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

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

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

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

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

The inception of Doheny Mansion

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

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

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

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

A bittersweet move-in for the Dohenys

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

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

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

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

Greystone Mansion, Hollywood’s favorite filming location

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A carefully preserved slice of L.A. history

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image courtesy of The City of Beverly Hills

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

Source: fancypantshomes.com

Chip and Joanna Gaines Are Back (With Friends) in ‘First-Time Fixer’

Chip and Joanna GainesRob Kim / Contributor / Getty Images

“Fixer Upper” fans will be in a tizzy to hear that Chip and Joanna Gaines have returned to TV—this time to help friends renovate their first house on the premiere episode of the new Discovery+ show “First-Time Fixer.”

In the premiere episode “Salt Lake City Condo,” Chip and Jo head to Salt Lake City to give old-time pals Brittany Baker and Annie Hawkins tips on their first flip: a $305,000 midcentury condo. Baker and Hawkins have a renovation budget of only $50,000, so they’ll need a lot of help from the Gaineses to get this project done right.

Read on to find out Chip and Joanna’s best tips for these first-time flippers, which might inspire some changes around your own abode, too.

Polished concrete floors are beautiful—and easy on the budget

floors
Chip Gaines suggested using concrete floors.

Discovery+

Baker and Hawkins need to stick to a strict budget, so they’re excited when Chip suggests they rip up the carpet and simply use the concrete floors underneath.

They remove the carpet and repair the cracks in the concrete themselves (which saves a lot of money), then they hire a professional to polish the floors.

“We’re actually going to save a lot of money doing concrete, because it’s only going to be 2,000 bucks,” Baker says.

Once the floors are finished, the concrete looks amazing, giving the condo a cool industrial look. Who knew you could get that for cheap?

Save as many original features as possible

bathroom
Chip thought this vanity could be saved, but some mold meant it didn’t work in the end.

Discovery+

Chip has another money-saving tip for Baker and Hawkins: Save the bathroom vanity.

“I would keep this,” Chip says when he sees the wood vanity. “This is great quality stuff, y’all. And this is something you could do in a kind of DIY sense and save a little money.”

Hawkins and Baker are willing to fix it up, but don’t end up keeping the vanity—and for a good reason.

“Brittany discovered so much mold that we did not want to salvage it,” Hawkins explains.

bathroom
With a new vanity, this guest bathroom is complete.

Discovery+

They’re forced to spend money on a new vanity, but they find a new piece with similar charm and style.

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Watch: This Gorgeous New Farmhouse by Chip and Jo Gaines Is No ‘Fixer Upper’

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When the bathroom is finished, Chip and Jo approve of the choice. It proves that while saving an old piece can save money, sometimes it’s simply not worth it.

Call in the professionals for a polished look

shower
This shower definitely needed some new tile.

Discovery+

With all of Chip’s talk of DIY projects, Baker and Hawkins want to do as much as they can themselves. They even cut their own baseboards and do all the painting. But after some debating, they decide to hire a professional to do the bathroom tile.

“We decided not to tile as first-timers,” Hawkins says. “We felt like it was advanced for what we wanted to do, so the money that we saved from carpet, [we] put it toward tile.”

shower
Sometimes it’s best to bring in the professionals.

Discovery+

The modern gray tile they choose fits the condo’s midcentury style and, in the end, Hawkins and Baker are happy they hired someone to make it look so good. And Baker’s learned an important lesson.

“Know your limits,” Baker says. “And maybe next time we’ll try tiling.”

Sometimes the right materials cost only a little more

kitchen
This kitchen was closed off from the rest of the house.

Discovery+

Sometimes the biggest renovation challenge is simply choosing the right materials, a lesson Baker and Hawkins learn when trying to design the kitchen.

The condo was built in 1964, so they want to lean into the midcentury aesthetic by using walnut in the kitchen. Right away, Joanna loves the idea.

“I love walnut,” she says. “If I walk in and see your kitchen with walnut wood, I don’t think ‘oh they did this on the cheap.’”

kitchen
The walnut cabinets make the kitchen look sophisticated.

Discovery+

Hawkins and Baker know that walnut won’t be too pricy, but it will require taking some money out of the budget elsewhere.

They build a beautiful kitchen out of this medium-tone wood and, in the end, it pays off. These cabinets give the whole condo a midcentury look.

An open walkway can save money

door
This doorway to the den has midcentury style.

Discovery+

Throughout the renovation, Baker and Hawkins realize they’re really cutting it close with their budget—and it doesn’t help when they keep finding unexpected costs.

One big expense they weren’t expecting is the door to the den.

“So guess how much a freaking door costs?” Baker asks. “A freaking door costs five to six thousand dollars!”

While they want to create a private den space, they know they can’t afford to put a door there. So they get creative with glass windows and a midcentury-inspired opening. This doorway ends up working even better than a traditional door because it keeps the den open, improving the flow into the living room.

It’s a great solution to the budget issue, and it ends up being one of the more beautiful features of the home.

When Baker and Hawkins are finally finished with the renovation, they know that they’ve gone way over their timeline. While they expected the project to take only nine weeks, it ends up taking four months. Still, they don’t go too far over their budget, spending $56,000 instead of their originally planned $50,000.

In the end, these novice flippers are proud of their work—and so are Chip and Jo!

The post Chip and Joanna Gaines Are Back (With Friends) in ‘First-Time Fixer’ appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

7 Key Home-Buying Numbers to Know When Shopping for a House

There’s a lot that goes into buying a new home, starting with finding the right one all the way down to finalizing the paperwork. Somewhere in that process, you’ll likely find yourself trying to decipher myriad new terms and figuring out what they mean for you.

We’ve compiled this list of seven key numbers you’ll need to know when buying a home — plus the details on how understanding these terms can help you land your dream home.

Here are seven all-important home-buying numbers to know.

1. Cost per Square Foot

One of the first numbers you’ll encounter when shopping for homes is cost per square foot. While this number is based on a relatively simple calculation, it’s an important one to understand since ultimately it helps you determine how much house you’re getting for your money.

“Cost per square foot is simply the list price divided by the number of livable square feet,” said Tyler Forte, founder & CEO of Felix Homes. “This number is important because it allows a homeowner to compare the relative price of homes that are different sizes.”

But there’s more to consider, he said. “While cost per square foot is an important metric, you should also consider the layout of the home. In many cases, a home with an open floor-plan may seem larger even if it has a smaller livable square footage.”

Forte defines livable square footage as any interior space that’s heated and cooled, which is why a garage wouldn’t necessarily fit the bill. One of the best ways to understand how much home you can afford is to break it down by cost per square foot, which will vary from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood.

Work with your real estate agent to understand the differences in cost for various properties to map out what areas and homes are within budget.

2. Earnest Money Deposit

Once you’ve found a home you like enough to bid on, you’ll quickly start hearing about something called an earnest money deposit (EMD). This is a type of security deposit made from the buyer to the seller as a gesture of good faith.

The amount of the EMD is set by the seller, typically running anywhere from 1% to 2% of the home’s purchase price. The key thing to keep in mind about EMDs is that they represent your commitment to buying the home, and can be useful in making a compelling offer in a competitive sellers’ market.

“An earnest money deposit is very important because it’s the skin in the game from the home buyer,” said Realtor Jason Gelios of Community Choice Realty. “If a home buyer is up against other offers, the EMD can make or break them getting the home.”

“I’ve seen lower offers won due to a higher EMD amount, because sellers view the higher EMD as a more serious buyer,” he added.

The money you put toward your EMD comes off the purchase price for the home, so there’s no reason to be stingy. If you really love the house and have the available cash, you might even consider offering more than the deposit amount your seller is asking. Either way, be sure to start saving up for your EMD early and factor it into any other cash you set aside for your down payment.

3. Interest Rates

Since most home purchases involve a mortgage, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with current interest rates. Interest rates dictate how much you’ll pay your lender every year to borrow the amount of your mortgage, so you’ll want to shop around for the best deal.

“Your interest rate is the annual percentage rate you will be charged by the lender, and the lower the rate you receive, the lower your monthly payment,” said real estate developer Bill Samuel of Blue Ladder Development. “You should speak with a handful of lenders when starting the process and get a rate quote from each one.”

While interest rates are mostly determined by your creditworthiness (aka credit score) and the type of loan you’re getting, they’ll still vary between lenders. Even a half-point difference in rates can amount to a big difference in your monthly mortgage payment — as well as the grand total you pay for your house.

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4. Credit Score

Speaking of credit scores, you’ll want to know yours before you get serious about buying a home. Since your credit score helps determine the type of mortgage (and mortgage rate) you qualify for, you need to meet the basic minimum credit score requirements before diving headlong into buying a home.

Forte broke down the term a little more: “A credit score is the numerical grade a rating agency assigns to you,” he says. “Commonly referred to as a FICO score, this grade is made up of many factors such as credit utilization, and the length of your credit history.”

If your credit score is low (under 600), spend some time figuring out why and how you can boost it. Just remember, the better your credit score, the better your interest rate — and the more money you’ll save in the long run.

5. Debt-to-Income Ratio

Another personal finance term that comes into play when buying a home is your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). Much like creditworthiness, this number is used by lenders to determine how much of a loan you qualify for and at what rate.

“When looking to get approved for a mortgage, a buyer should know what their debt-to-income ratio is,” said Gelios. “This is the amount of debt you owe per month as compared to your gross monthly income.”

For example, if you earn $6,000 per month but have to pay $3,000 in bills, this would be a debt-to-income ratio of 50%. Gelios says lenders typically view any DTI above 40% as high risk, and with good reason. If over half of your income is accounted for in bills, that would make it significantly harder to make a big mortgage payment every month.

Understanding your DTI isn’t just good for lenders, it also helps put your personal finances in perspective when deciding how much house you can afford.

6. Down Payment

The all-important down payment: Many homebuyers use this number to help them determine when they’re actually “ready” to buy a home — based on how much of a down payment they have saved up.

“A down payment is the amount you contribute to the transaction in cash,” said Forte. “Most home purchases are a combination of cash in the form of a down payment and a loan from a mortgage company.”

The old rule of thumb on home purchases was to put down 20%. If that sounds like a lot of money, it is. (Home price $250,000, time 20% = $50,000. Ouch.) For many buyers, a 20% down payment just isn’t feasible — and that’s okay. Forte said the down payment can be as low as 3% of the sales price with a conventional loan, although 10% is more typical.

Remember that any amount you pay up front will ultimately save you money in interest on your mortgage — and putting more money down will lower your monthly payment. Take some time to calculate what your monthly mortgage payment will be based on various down payments. That way you’ll know exactly what to expect and how much of a down payment you should aim to save up.

Pro Tip

Keep in mind that for any down payment of less than 20%, you may be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), another expense that adds to your monthly payment. 

7. Property Taxes & Other Expenses

Long before you close on a home, you need to be ready for ongoing expenses such as property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and any potential HOA fees. These expenses tend to slip through the cracks, but it’s important to know about them before you become a homeowner.

“One of the most overlooked and underestimated numbers when buyers actually locate a home and win an offer on it is the tax amount,” said Gelios. “Too many times, I’ve seen real estate agents list what the seller is paying in taxes at that time. If time allows, a home buyer should contact the municipality and ask for a rough estimate as to what the taxes will be if they closed on the home in X month.”

Since taxes almost always increase when homes change ownership, it’s good to get an updated quote before those payments become your responsibility.

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

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How and When to Talk to a Credit Bureau

Two women wearing pink smile at a phone while drinking coffee in a cafe against a gray wall.

Your credit score can have a huge impact on your life—for better or worse. In many ways, the three major credit bureaus are the keepers of your credit score. They’re responsible for maintaining credit reports, which means you may need to contact them about the information included on yours. While this may seem daunting, it’s really not complicated.

Read on to learn about when to contact a credit bureau and how to do it. Contact information and tips have been provided for each of the three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—to make it as simple as possible.

When to Contact a Credit Bureau

Anytime you notice inaccuracies on your credit report, you should immediately contact the credit bureau. This can include misspelled names, incorrect address information, unreported salary changes or erroneous employment information.

Here are some other reasons why you might need to contact a credit bureau:

  • There are credit cards, collections missed payments or anything else on your report that you don’t recognize.
  • You’re in credit disputes with your credit card issuer or financial institution. You can address this with the credit bureaus, which are required to investigate.

For help talking to the credit bureaus and starting a credit repair plan, you can work with a professional credit repair agency. They offer credit monitoring, credit repair services and text alerts so you don’t miss a thing.

Get Credit Repair Help
  • You want to get a hard inquiry removed from your history, especially if it’s an unauthorized inquiry.
  • An account is missing from your report.
  • You want to remove inaccurate or unfair collection accounts from your report. Keep in mind that if you can’t dispute them successfully, these accounts can stay on your account for a number of years.
  • You want to request a free annual credit report.
  • You want to put a temporary freeze or lock on your credit file.
  • You notice any sign of fraud on your credit report.

Information to Gather before You Call

You want to have the right information on hand when you call a credit bureau. Prepare yourself by collecting the following information in advance, just in case:

  • Your name, address, Social Security number and date of birth
  • A copy of your annual credit report
  • Evidence of the inaccuracies or errors, if relevant
  • Personal financial information, such as your mortgage information, depending on the reported issue
  • Any other supporting documentation

Credit Bureau Contact Information

Because there are so many potential reasons to contact a credit bureau—general inquiries, disputes and credit freezes, for example—there are many different phone numbers and online contact forms to wade through. If you call the wrong number, you may simply be told they cannot help you and directed to call a different number, wasting precious time and energy.

To help you avoid that frustration, we’ve gathered several ways you can contact the credit bureaus for common inquiries here.

Equifax Phone Numbers

Reason to Contact

Phone Number

Availability

General inquiries

866-640-2273

 

Service cancellation

866-243-8181

8 a.m. to 3 a.m. (ET)
7 days a week

Request a copy of your credit report

866-349-5191

8 a.m. to midnight (ET)
7 days a week

Fraud alert

800-525-6285

8 a.m. to midnight (ET)
7 days a week

Credit dispute

866-349-5191

8 a.m. to midnight (ET)
7 days a week

Credit freeze

888-298-0045

8 a.m. to midnight (ET)
7 days a week

2017 data breach

888-548-7878

8 a.m. to midnight (ET)
7 days a week

Opt out of mailing lists

888-567-8688

 

 

If you don’t like talking on the phone, Equifax also offers live chat support. You can chat with a member of their customer support team between 8 a.m. and midnight (ET), Monday through Friday.


TransUnion Phone Numbers

Reason to Contact

Phone Number

Availability

General inquiries

833-395-6938

8 a.m. to 11 p.m. (ET)
Monday–Friday

Credit dispute

833-395-6941

8 a.m to 11:00 p.m. (ET)

Monday–Friday

Credit freeze

888-909-8872

8 a.m. to 11 p.m. (ET)

Fraud alert

800-680-7289

8 a.m.to 11 p.m. (ET)

Free annual report

877-322-8228

 

Haven’t received your report

800-888-4213
800-916-8800 (to speak to a representative)

 

Manage your subscription

833-806-1626

8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (ET)

Monday–Friday

 

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET)
Saturday–Sunday

Technical support

833-806-1626

8 a.m. to 9 pm. (ET)

Monday–Friday

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET)
Saturday–Sunday


Experian Phone Numbers

Reason to Contact

 Phone Number

Availability

Experian membership

479-343-6239

6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (PT)
Monday–Friday

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT)
Saturday–Sunday

Free credit report

888-397-3742

 

Credit dispute

866-200-6020

 

Fraud alert

888-397-3742

 

Credit freeze

888-397-3742

 

Cancel membership

479-343-6239

 

ProtectMyID subscription

866-960-6943

 

Opt out of prescreened offers

888-567-8688

 


Alternatives to Calling Credit Bureaus

Not all experts think calling a credit bureau is the best approach. Don Petersen, an attorney at Howard Lewis & Peterson, PC, in Utah, recommends calling a bureau for only basic administrative questions—such as updating an address or asking if a recent data breach has affected you.

For most other issues, Petersen advises his clients to write to credit bureaus or submit disputes online. This provides you with an official record of your request.

If you do prefer to call a credit bureau, take notes during the call and follow up in writing after the telephone conversation. In your follow-up letter, you should include the name of the representative you spoke with as well as details of what transpired in your conversation.

Send important requests—especially disputes—through certified mail. This allows you to track the letter and ensure that the credit bureau responds in a timely manner. Never send original copies of documents, as the bureaus may not return anything you send.

Equifax Mailing Addresses

Reason for Contact

Address

Credit dispute

Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256

Request a copy of your credit report

Equifax Disclosure Department
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Fraud alert

Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348-5069

Credit freeze

Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348-5788


TransUnion Mailing Addresses

Reason to Contact

Address

Credit freeze

TransUnion
P.O. Box 160
Woodlyn, PA 19094

Credit dispute

TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016-2000

Fraud alert

TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016

Request credit report

TransUnion LLC
Consumer Disclosure Center
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19016


Experian Mailing Addresses

Reason to Contact

Address

Credit dispute

Experian Dispute Department
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013

Credit freeze

Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013

Privacy

Chief Privacy Officer
Compliance Department
Experian
475 Anton Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Report a relative’s death

Experian
P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013


Track Your Credit

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to obtain a free copy of all three reports once each year. These free reports can be accessed on the government-mandated site operated by the big three credit bureaus, AnnualCreditReport.com.

You can also sign up for the free credit report card offered by Credit.com, which provides a snapshot of your credit as well as the ability to dig deeper into the elements that affect your credit score. When you sign up, you’ll also get regular emails with tips and tricks for keeping your credit healthy.

Sign Up Now

The post How and When to Talk to a Credit Bureau appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com