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Considering Homeownership? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Buying a home can be an exciting and emotional process. Before starting your home search, you’ll want to understand the ins and outs of the homebuying process. This will empower you to make decisions that are the best for your family — and your wallet.

When shopping for a home, cost is a big factor. It helps to know the upfront and ongoing costs of homeownership and how they fit in with your other expenses. Upfront costs will likely include a down payment, closing costs and additional funds for various required inspections. Ongoing costs may include: mortgage payments, maintenance and repairs, utilities and homeowners association or condo fees.

The majority of buyers afford their home with the help of a mortgage. Your mortgage payment typically includes: principal (the amount you borrow), interest, property taxes and insurance. Along with your homeowner’s insurance, you generally pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) until you have 20% equity in the home. PMI protects the lender if you stop making payments on your mortgage.

As you prepare to apply for a mortgage, you’ll want to first prequalification and preapproval. These may help  guide your home search and help you focus on homes you can afford. When the time comes, they can also help you decide how much to offer and show the seller that you’re a serious buyer.

A prequalification generally means that a lender, just like AllCom, collects some basic financial information from you to estimate how much house you can afford. It’s common for a prequalification to rely on self-reported information, instead of verifying by pulling your credit report or reviewing financial documents. This means a prequalification is typically a ballpark estimate.

As you begin searching for a home, real estate agents and sellers want to see you’ve been working with a mortgage lender so they know you can afford to buy a home. After you’ve been prequalified, you’ll usually receive a prequalification letter you can show to an agent or seller as proof you’re working with a lender. This is a good first step, but it typically won’t carry as much weight as a preapproval because a lender hasn’t yet verified your information. Going beyond a prequalification and getting preapproved is a critical step to showing you’re serious about buying a home.

For many people, the biggest obstacles to homeownership are low credit scores and paying off current debts.

To prepare for future homeownership, you should:

Improve your credit score
Check your credit report for free at  www.annualcreditreport.com and make sure it’s accurate. Make on-time payments for all bills and make at least the minimum payments on your debts (but the more you can allocate toward debt payments, the more quickly your credit score may improve over time).

Don’t get into further debt.
Examine your current spending and create a sensible budget. Pay down your debts to improve your debt-to-income ratio. Save up for a down payment and other up-front costs. Your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI, equals your monthly debt payments divided by your gross income and is expressed as a percentage. Lenders use this number to determine your ability to afford your debt payments.

Creating a “future homeowner” cash cushion
When you’re ready to buy a home, you’ll need a big cash cushion for the down payment, closing costs, and an emergency fund to cover unexpected home repairs. If you plan to pay property taxes separately from your mortgage, you’ll need enough cash to cover one or two lump sum tax payments per year as well.

When considering homeownership, be sure to think about your reasons for wanting to buy a home, your current and future lifestyle and your budget, available savings and current debts. While there are many benefits, homeownership is not for everyone at every stage of their life. By evaluating your specific needs,  you’ll be better able to identify an ideal time to buy a home.

AllCom Credit Union’s knowledgeable staff is ready to answer any questions regarding your home buying journey, now or in the future. Visit a branch, call 508.754.9980 or go to www.allcomcu.org/lending-solutions/mortgage for more information.

Protecting Your Data from Third-Party Finance Services

Are you using a personal finance app to help manage your money? If you are, you aren’t alone.

Consumers across the country are increasingly turning to apps like Dave.com, RobinHood.com, CashApp, and countless others to monitor their spending. While these apps may provide a platform for viewing and working with multiple accounts, they also increase the risk of having financial information breached. In fact, a recent breach at Waydev affected 7.5M consumers.

If you are leveraging any of these tools, there are some important steps you can take to protect your personal information.

  1. 1. Examine the terms of service for apps you are using.
    • Review the app’s data retention policies and determine whether the app resells your information.

  2. 2. Find out what security features the app offers to ensure your personal information remains safe.
    • Look for things like two-factor authentication.

  3. 3. Always confirm the validity of the app.
    • Don’t provide your account numbers or any personal or financial information on the phone or online unless you initiate the conversation and you know the organization.

  4. 4. Change your passwords and security settings often and use a highly secure password for your financial accounts.
    • Secure passwords often contain letters, numbers, and special characters.
    • Avoid using the same username and password on multiple sites.
    • Guard your pins and passwords. Don’t store them on your phone or write them down in a location where others might be able to access them.

  5. 5. Change your credit union and other account passwords if you want to remove an app’s access to your accounts.

  6. 6. Contact us at 888-754- 9980 right away if you feel your information has been compromised!

Always use extreme care when using third party apps. The more services you sign up for and the more devices you use provides criminals additional opportunities to steal your information for their personal gain.

8 Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking or expensive. You just need to know what you should be asking throughout the process. These eight questions can help you find an affordable used car that will keep you on the road for years to come.

Questions to ask yourself
Before you even start debating the relative merits of a sedan versus an SUV, you need to ask yourself some important questions. 

  1. How much work am I willing to do to get a deal?
    When you buy a used car, you can spend money and save time by making a purchase from a reputable local dealer — or you can spend time and save money by buying direct from a local private seller. Whether you purchase from a dealer or a private seller, you can often find better deals if you broaden your search to include nearby cities.

  2. What is my budget?
    Whether you plan to pay cash for your used car or you expect to take on an auto loan, you need to start with a good look at how much car you can afford. If you don’t have the full cost of your new-to-you car saved up, make sure you have calculated the monthly cost of financing the vehicle.

    Of course, your monthly car payment is not the only cost associated with buying a car. You will also need to calculate your insurance costs. Different vehicle models can have different insurance premiums. In addition, different vehicles can require varying levels of maintenance and the cost of parts, labor, and repairs can be higher or lower depending on which car you choose.

  3. How will I finance this purchase?
    If you are planning to finance, don’t wait until after you’ve found the car you want to get your financing in place. Whether you are purchasing a car from a dealer or a private seller, having your financing secured ahead of time gives you an important bargaining chip. You will be empowered to negotiate with the seller in the same way that a cash buyer could. You will not be stuck with the terms offered by the dealer’s financing options, and you will make it clear to a private seller that you are a motivated buyer. Get approved today!

Questions to ask the internet
Now we get to the fun part. You’ve figured out your budget, so you can start looking online at local (or not-so-local, if you’re willing to travel for a deal) used cars for sale. But rather than just make a list of possibilities in your price range, don’t forget to do a little research on the particular makes and models that you are planning to test drive.

  1. What are common problems with this make and model?
    Automotive engineers and manufacturers are not perfect, which means there can be common problems with certain models that are predictable if you know a little about the brand. While not all common problems are costly, it is always a good idea to know as much as possible about the known complaints about your potential purchase before you even go for a test drive.

Questions to ask the seller over the phone
At this point, it’s tempting to just go test drive the cars on your finalist list. But before you do this, you should pick up the phone and have a conversation with the dealer or seller. Here are some questions you can ask to help you narrow down your search before committing to a test drive:

  1. Can you tell me about any recent maintenance or repair?
    A used car has a history, which means there must have been some maintenance, and possibly some repair. You want to find a seller who is able to tell you what kinds of maintenance and repairs were recently done. If the seller claims that the 10-year-old vehicle you’re interested in has needed nothing but oil changes, that could be a red flag, particularly if you know what common problems crop up on that make and model.
  1. Can my mechanic look at the vehicle before I make my final decision?
    If the answer is anything other than yes, hang up the phone and move on.

Questions to ask your mechanic
Once you’ve narrowed down the options, it’s time to let your trusted mechanic give it a once-over. Since your mechanic may not feel comfortable just giving you a thumbs up or thumbs down, here are two questions to ask to help you decide if the car is right for you:

  1. Did the owner do a good job of maintaining this vehicle?
    A well-made car that was poorly maintained may be a worse bet than a mediocre car that was lovingly maintained. Your mechanic will be able to tell you if the previous owner stayed on top of necessary regular and irregular maintenance.

  2. Did the previous owner use cheap parts or good parts?
    Not all car parts are created equal. A previous owner who did repairs with low-quality, cheap parts may have done a disservice to the car (and the next owner). Other than taking the car completely apart, there will be no way to know if all replacement parts were high-quality — but asking if the easy-to-check parts are good quality can be a decent indicator that the previous owner took good care of the vehicle.

Source: Wisebread

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