Second-time Homebuying Experience: Lessons I’ve Learned and Buying During COVID-19

Hi there! My name is Lindsay Aratari and I have a lifestyle blog called Aratari At Home where I share everything from home to motherhood to recipes to style to wellness and more! I’m so honored to be sharing about our second time home buying experience and lessons learned on Homes.com today!

If you followed our journey last year, you may have known that we tried selling our house so that we could move closer to family. You can read all about my adventure listing my home andthe lessons I learned selling it on Homes.com’s Blog. From there, our second-time home buying adventure began and it sure was a wild ride!

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Placing Offers

Back in March, when we sold our house, as we know, the world entered into the global pandemic so it wasn’t the most ideal time to be buying a new house. We held off on looking at any houses or even browsing Homes.com because we wanted to be 100% sure our house would actually go through to closing. We were slightly jaded that this would even go through because of the three failed offers we had had the year before.

Come April, we had gotten through many of the selling steps and figured this one was the real deal so we should start looking at houses. Homes.com was such a great resource for us while searching for homes. The listings were always up to date and current thanks to their Multiple Listing Service partnerships. They always had contingent/pending offers on listings so we didn’t waste our time asking our agent for more information. We could narrow down our search so easily with our new must-have items too. Homes.com made it SO easy to look for new houses!

Since we were in the beginning of the pandemic, it made things quite difficult to actually go into any houses to see them. We had to go off of zoom walkthroughs, virtual tours, and/or photos of the properties we were interested in. We never could have imagined that we would be placing offers without stepping foot in the door of the house. It was a bit scary and nerve wracking to be making such a huge life decision without being able to go into the house first.

homes.com website on computerhomes.com website on computer

Read: A Quick Guide to Virtual Tours for Buyers and Renters

We submitted six offers before we had 1 that was accepted. Even though we were living through the pandemic, houses were going like crazy in the areas that we wanted!  We were competing against tons of other offers. In fact, one offer we submitted was up against 21 other offers!

Read: How to Make an Offer Stand Out in a Seller’s Market

Lucky number seven finally worked out! Again, sight unseen, we placed the offer and it was accepted! This was mid May at this point and we were set to close on our old house at the end of May. After we had an accepted offer, we were able to view the house, however no touching anything, no opening doors, drawers, or cabinets. Still a crazy experience, but at least we got to see if we actually liked the house that we submitted an offer on! Luckily, we loved it and could see all the potential it had for our family.

If there is anything we learned from our first time buying a house it’s that location is EVERYTHING! We now have two young children and we wanted to live in a nice neighborhood setting in a great school district. What this meant is that we would be paying more and/or having a much smaller house than our first one. Our first home was beautiful and amazing, but the school district wasn’t our favorite and we didn’t have a great neighborhood setting that we wanted our kiddos to have.

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Road to Closing

Let me start by saying the road to closing was not easy! This was a very drawn out process and we are so glad it’s over! So when we placed our offer, the sellers needed to find suitable housing and requested a 30-day window to do so. We were ok with that because we were planning to live with my in-laws until closing on our new house and since we had so many offers not accepted, we didn’t want to lose this house. This 30-day window kind of kept us at a stand still since we couldn’t look at any other houses or place other offers. We also had to wait for the home inspection and starting the mortgage application since we didn’t know if they would find suitable housing within the 30 days.

We were coming up to the end of the 30 days and the sellers requested an extension of 10 days because they had found a house, but needed the extra days to ensure their home inspection came back ok. Luckily, it did and that contingency was dropped so that we could start the mortgage application process!

Read: FICO’s® New Credit Scoring Method and the Effects on Mortgages

lindsay aratari on the computer with sonlindsay aratari on the computer with son

The mortgage application started out perfectly fine and normal. We sent in all the paperwork, signed all the documents, answered all the questions, etc. Again, the pandemic made this a challenge because everything was being done virtually so we were relying on emails and phone calls to make this all happen rather than seeing anyone in person.

Over the course of the next couple of months, there was a lot of back and forth with the bank and getting everything that they needed. It seemed to take a very long time and lots of items were requested multiple times. Our agent and attorney were amazing throughout this experience and were huge advocates for us in getting the bank to speed things along.

We were told closing would be August 7th as the sellers wanted a simultaneous close with their old house and new house. That worked perfectly for us and we were getting so excited! Well, come to find out, the bank was not prepared and we wouldn’t be able to close then, but were told August 10th would be our close date. That date came and went and the bank still needed more information from us. It was quite a whirlwind. We sort of felt like chickens with our heads cut off running around getting things signed, printing things out, and doing a lot of paperwork which we had already thought was done.

We were finally told we would be closing August 14th at 9am. We had everything ready to go from the utilities being set up, our home insurance being set live, our POD being delivered, ending our storage unit, getting childcare for our babies, and taking vacation days from work. After working hours on the 13th of the month, our attorney had received an email requesting that we close later. It was very frustrating and stressful. 

The day we closed was wild! We didn’t think we would be able to close that day. I bet you could imagine our frustration and how upset we were! Our agent and attorney worked so hard for us on that day and after lots of back and forth emails with the bank, we finally got clear to close at 4pm. It was the best news ever!

family outside of home they just boughtfamily outside of home they just bought

Lessons Learned

We definitely learned some new things this time around compared to our first time buying a home. 

  • Make sure you love your agent and attorney. I don’t think we could have closed on 8/14 if we didn’t have both of them advocating and pushing to get this done. They were true rock stars!!!!
  • Research the bank that you will be using for your mortgage. Do some shopping around to get a bank that will work best for your family. You don’t have to go with the first bank that you research or know
  • Patience is truly a virtue. Our patience was tested so many times over these past few months. Try to stay calm and clear minded… you will eventually find a home and close
  • Place strong offers. It’s hard to test the waters in the market so be sure you have a strong offer that will stand out
  • Focus on items that are true must haves. Location, a backyard, and 3 bedrooms were some of our top 3 must haves. We didn’t settle for anything less than that. Our nice to have list we knew we could make work (open concept kitchen area, a 4th bedroom, finished basement)
  • Be sure the bones of the house are solid. This house is so different from our last one, however the bones are great! Over time, we will be able to make it our own and change a lot of it to make it feel like ours.

I’m so thankful that we are now in our new home and our kiddos can grow up living near grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. This whole process was intense and stressful at times, but 1000% worth it! I know our family will make many new memories in this home and I can’t wait to watch our babies grow up here. We are so excited to make this little house our home! I hope you will follow along and watch us transform this mid century split level house into a bit more of our style!


Lindsay Aratari

My name is Lindsay Aratari and I blog over at Aratari At Home! I live in Buffalo, NY with my husband, John Paul, our son, Dominic, & puppy, Freddy.  We live in a house built in 1900 & have slowly transformed it into our dream home. Other than being a mom; fashion, antiques, & a good DIY project are some of my favorite things.

Source: homes.com

Paying Taxes as a Freelancer

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Paying taxes as a freelancer can be a bit more involved—and expensive—than paying taxes as a W-2 employee. When you’re a freelancer, you’re the boss. That’s great if you want some flexibility, but it also means you’re self-employed, so you are responsible for both the employer and employee parts of employment taxes.

When you work for someone else, your paycheck amount is your pay minus all appropriate deductions. That includes deductions for federal and state income taxes as well as Medicare and Social Security contributions.

But what you might not realize is that your employer covers part of the Medicare and Social Security amounts. As a self-employed individual, you have to pay the total amount yourself. That’s 12.4 percent for Social Security and 2.9 percent for Medicare—a total of 15.3 percent of your taxable earnings, not including federal and other income taxes.

When Do I Have to Start Paying Taxes as a Freelancer?

According to the Internal Revenue Service, if you earn $400 or more in a year via self-employment or contract work, you must claim the income and pay taxes on it. The threshold is even lower if you earn the money for church work. If you earn more than $108.28 as a church employee and the church employer doesn’t withhold and pay employment taxes, you must do so.

What Tax Forms Should I Know About?

Freelancers report their income to the IRS using a Form 1040, but they may need to include a variety of Schedule attachments, including:

  • Schedule A, which lists itemized deductions
  • Schedule C, which reports profits or losses from their freelancer business
  • Schedule SE, which calculates self-employment tax

These are only some of the forms that might be relevant to a freelancer filing federal taxes. Freelancers must also file a tax form for the state in which they live as well as with any local governments that require income tax payments.

If you’re planning to do your taxes on your own as a freelancer, it might be helpful to invest in DIY tax software. Look for options that cater specifically to home and business or self-employment situations. These software programs typically walk you through a series of questions designed to determine which forms you need to file and help you complete those forms correctly.

Six Tips for Doing Your Taxes as a Freelancer

As a freelancer, chances are you spend a lot of your time attending to clients and getting production work done. You may not have a lot of time for business organization tasks such as accounting. But a proactive approach to paying taxes as a freelancer can help you prepare to do your taxes and pay what can be a surprisingly big bill each year.

Here are six tips for handling taxes as a freelancer.

1. Keep Track of Your Income

Track your income so you know how much you may need to pay in taxes every year. Keeping track of your numbers also helps you understand whether your business is profitable and how you’re doing with income compared to past years.

You can track your income in a number of ways. Apps and software programs such as QuickBooks and Wave let you manage your freelance invoices and track income and expenses. Some also help you generate financial reports that might be helpful come tax time.

Alternatively, you can track your income in an Excel spreadsheet or even a notebook, as long as you’re consistent with writing everything down.

2. Set Money Aside in Advance

It’s tempting to count every dollar that comes in as money you can use. But it’s wiser to set money aside for taxes in advance. Depending on how much you earn as a freelancer, you could owe thousands in federal and state taxes by the end of the year, and if you didn’t plan ahead, you might not have the money to cover the tax bill.

That can lead to tax debt that comes with pretty stiff penalties and interest—and the potential for a tax lien if you can’t pay the bill.

3. Determine Your Business Structure

Make sure you know what your business structure is. Many freelancers operate as sole proprietorships. But you might be able to get a tax break if you operate as an LLC or a corporation. Talk to legal and tax professionals as you set up your business to find out about the pros and cons of each type of organization.

4. Know About Relevant Deductions

As a freelancer, you may be able to take certain federal tax deductions to save yourself some money. Tax deductions reduce how much of your income is considered taxable, which, in turn, reduces how much you owe in taxes. Here are a few common deductions that might be relevant to you as a freelancer.

Home Office

You can take the home office deduction if you’ve set aside a certain area of your home for use by the business. The IRS does have a couple of stipulations.

First, you have to regularly use the space for your business, and it can’t be something you use regularly for other purposes. For example, you can’t claim your dining room as a home office just because you sometimes work from that location.

Second, the home has to be your principal place of business, which means it’s where you do most business activity. You can’t claim the deduction if you normally work outside the home but sometimes answer work emails while you’re in the living room.

Equipment and Supplies

You can also deduct the cost of equipment and supplies that you buy for your business. That includes software purchases and relevant subscriptions, such as if you pay monthly for Microsoft 365 or annually for a domain name.

Make sure you have backup documentation for any business expenses you deduct. That means keeping receipts that show what you purchased so you can prove that the expenses were for business. You also have to be careful to keep business and personal expenses separate—art supplies for your child’s school project, for example, wouldn’t typically be considered valid business expenses.

Travel and Meals

Meals and travel expenses that are related to your business may be tax deductible. If you stay in a hotel, book a flight or incur other travel expenses that are necessary for the running of your business, you can claim them as a deduction. The same is true for 50 percent of the value of meals and beverages that you pay for as a necessity when doing business.

The IRS does set an “ordinary and necessary” rule here. For example, if you’re traveling to meet with a client and you need to eat lunch, that is likely to be considered necessary. But if you opt for a very lavish meal for no other purpose than to do so, it might not be allowed under the “ordinary” part of the rule.

Business Insurance

If you carry liability or similar insurance for your business, you can deduct it as a cost of doing business. You may also be able to deduct the cost of other insurance policies if they are necessary for your trade.

5. Estimate Your Taxes Quarterly

The IRS offers provisions for estimating your employment taxes on a quarterly basis. Self-employed individuals, including freelancers, can make these estimated tax payments, too. Paying as you go means you won’t owe a large sum every April, and if you overestimate, you may get a tax refund.

Quarterly payments are due in April, June, September and January. They can be mailed or made online. Depending on how much you earn, you may need to make quarterly estimated tax payments to avoid a penalty at the end of the year.

6. Consult a Tax Professional

As you can see just from the basic information and tips above, paying taxes as a freelancer can get complicated quickly. Consider talking to a tax professional to understand what all your obligations are and how best to reduce your tax burden using legal deductions. You might be missing a major deduction every year that could save you a lot of money.

And remember that as a freelancer, you’re running your own small business. That means paying attention to all your finances, including your credit report. If you ever want to take out a business loan or seek other funding to grow your business, you might need to rely on your good credit score.

Check your credit score, and if you find inaccurate negative information making an impact on your score, contact Lexington Law to find out how to get help disputing it.


Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.

Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

Acronyms of Real Estate: What Homebuyers Need to Know

Real estate is a regular smorgasbord of acronyms – everything from APR to REO. Here’s a list of the ones you’re likely to run into and what they mean when you’re buying or selling a house:

Acronyms You’ll Hear Associated with Real Estate Professionals

Real estate agents, builders and most other realty-related professions have numerous professional designations, all designed to set them apart from those who haven’t taken advanced courses in their fields. These designations don’t mean that professionals without letters after their names are not as experienced or skilled, but rather only that they haven’t taken the time to further their educations.

Read: How to Build Your Real Estate Team

Let’s start with the letter “R,” which stands for Realtor. A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors, the nation’s largest trade group. NAR says it speaks for homeowners, and it usually does. But in that rare occasion when the interests of its members and owners don’t align, it sides with those who pay their dues.

Read: A Timeline of the History of Real Estate

NAR embraces a strict code of ethics. There are about 2 million active and licensed real estate agents nationwide, and 1.34 million can call themselves Realtors.

NAR members sometimes have the letters GRI or CRS after their names. The Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation signifies the successful completion of 90 hours of classroom instruction beyond the continuing education courses required by many states for agents to maintain their licenses. After the GRI, an agent may become a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) by advancing his or her education even further.

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Builders can obtain the GBI – Graduate Builder Institute – designation by completing nine one-day classes sponsored by the educational arm of the National Association of Home Builders. Those who pass more advanced courses become Graduate Master Builders, or GMBs. Remodeling specialists with at least five years of experience can be Certified Graduate Remodelers, or CGRs. And, salespeople can be CSPs, or Certified New Home Sales Professionals.

In the mortgage profession, the Mortgage Bankers Association awards the Certified Mortgage Banker (CMB) and Accredited Residential Originator (ARO) designations, but only after completing a training program that may take up to five years to finish. To start the process, CMB and ARO candidates must have at least three years’ experience and be recommended by a senior officer in their companies.

Acronyms Associated with Mortgage Lending

When obtaining a mortgage, you will be quoted an interest rate; however, perhaps the more important rate is the annual percentage rate, or APR, which is the total cost of the loan per year over the loan’s term. It measures the interest rate plus other fees and charges.

An FRM is a fixed-rate mortgage, the terms of which never change. Conversely, an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) allows rates to increase or decrease at certain intervals over the life of the loan, depending on rates at the time of the adjustment.

Female client consulting with a agent in the officeFemale client consulting with a agent in the office

A conventional loan is one with an amount at or less than the conforming loan limit set by federal regulators on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two major suppliers of funds for home loans. These two quasi-government outfits replenish the coffers of main street lenders by buying their loans and packing them into securities for sale to investors worldwide.

Other key agencies you should be familiar with are the FHA and the VA. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures mortgages up to an amount which changes annually, as does the conforming loan ceiling. The Veterans Administration (VA) guarantees loans made to veterans and active duty servicemen and women.

LTV stands for loan-to-value. This important ratio measures what your are borrowing against the value of the home. Some lenders want as much as 20% down, meaning the LTV would be 80%. But in many cases, the LTV can be as great as 97%.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI), is a fee you’ll have to pay if you make less than a 20% down payment. PMI covers the lender should you default, but you have to pay the freight. Fortunately, you can cancel coverage once your LTV dips below 80%.

Your monthly payment likely will include more than just principal and interest. Many lenders also want borrowers to include one-twelfth of their property tax and insurance bills every month, as well. That way, lenders will have enough money on hand to pay these annual bills when they come due. Thus, the acronym PITI (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance).

Real-estate owned (REO) properties are foreclosed upon by lenders when borrowers fail to make their payments. When you buy a foreclosure, you buy REO. Short sales are not REO because, while they are in danger of being repossessed, they are still owned by the borrower.

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Acronyms You’ll Hear During an Appraisal

There is no acronym for an appraisal, which is an opinion of value prepared by a certified or licensed appraiser (though sometimes other types of valuation methods are used in the buying and selling process).

A Certified Market Analysis (CMA) is prepared by a real estate agent or broker to help determine a home’s listing price. A Broker Price Opinion (BPO) is a more advanced estimate of the probable future selling price of a property, and an automated valuation model (AVM) is a software program that provides valuations based on mathematical modeling.

AVMs are currently used by some lenders and investors to confirm an appraiser’s valuation, but they are becoming increasingly popular as replacements of appraisals, especially in lower price ranges.

Other Terms to Know

If you hear the term MLS, you should know it stands for multiple listing service. An MLS is a database that allows real estate brokers to share data on properties for sale, making the buying and selling process more efficient. There are many benefits to both homebuyers and sellers utilizing an MLS, for more information on how to get your home available through an MLS, work with a real estate professional when selling.

Read: What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know About Multiple Listing Services

Did you know? Homes.com has some serious MLS partnerships, no joke! When you start your home search on Homes.com, you’ll see accurate property information quickly so you’ll never have to wonder if a home is actually available.

House tourHouse tour

However, not all properties for sale are listed on the MLS. A home may be a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO), if the owner is selling his or her property without an agent and bypassing an MLS listing. In addition, some agents fail to enter their listings in the MLS for days or weeks at a time in hopes of selling to a list of preferred clients.

Read: Advantages of Buying With or Without an Agent

Finally, you may find yourself buying into a homeowners association (HOA) when you purchase a house or condominium apartment. HOAs are legal governing bodies that establish requirements everyone must adhere to in order to keep the community it oversees running smoothly and ensure property values are maintained.


Lew Sichelman

Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

Source: homes.com

Why the Racial Homeownership Gap Exists and How to Combat It

Homeownership is more than a mortgage. For a child, it also shapes their access to education, affects health, establishes a sense of community, enhances the chance of going to college, and promotes a happier family life. For adults, homeownership is one of the strongest tools American households use to build their wealth. Today, the average American homeowner has amassed $119,000 worth of equity in their home and that equity is increasing at a rate of about 4.8% a year. 

Read: Is a Home Equity Line of Credit the Right Choice?

As a wealth-builder, homeownership plays a more critical role for minorities than whites. During the last quarter-century, homeownership equity accounted for nearly half of all Black and Latino wealth, compared to about a quarter for white families’ wealth.

More than three-quarters of white households, 77.3%, own their own homes, and less than half, 44% of Black households own their own homes. The Black-white homeownership gap is 29.70 percentage points, 6.2 points greater than it was 52 years ago when the Fair Housing Act was signed.

black family touring a house to buy racial homeownership gap discriminationblack family touring a house to buy racial homeownership gap discrimination

Why Racial Homeownership Gaps Exist?

Outside factors such as affordable housing, gentrification, decreases in federal funding and programs for minorities, and discrimination in mortgage lending all directly affect the homeownership gaps amongst white, Black, and other minority households. Recent research by the Urban Institute found three correlating causes for the racial homeownership gap:

Black households are more likely to buy homes later in life than white households. The result is a lower level of equity when owners reach retirement age. Eighty-seven percent of white homeowners bought their first homes before age 35, compared with only 53% of Black homeowners. Not only are Black households less likely to buy their homes young, 18% of them never own a home before turning 60.

Black homeowners are less likely to sustain their homeownership. Among a sample of households that purchased their first home after age 44, 34% of Black homeowner households switched to rental housing, while only 9% of white households did so. Black families who sustained their homeownership carried more than $23,500 higher housing wealth into their 60s than Black households who moved from owning to renting during their lives.

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Black homebuyers purchase less expensive first homes while using more debt. The average first home purchased by Black homebuyers is valued at $127,000, compared with $139,000 for white homebuyers, yet Black homebuyers, on average, have higher mortgage debt ($90,000) than white homebuyers ($75,000). Higher mortgage debt not only lowers current and future wealth, but could make it harder to financially maintain homeownership long term.

How to Combat the Racial Homeownership Gap and Identify Discrimination in Homebuying

In order to lessen the racial homeownership gaps we see today, programs and guidance need to be created and readily available to minority communities. For example, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers created the Two Million New Black Homeowners Program with the intent of helping minimize the gap and protect against homeownership discrimination. And, the NAACP provides a Fair Lending Program to help Black homebuyers receive fair distribution of credit.

stylish Black man sitting in armchair and looking at camerastylish Black man sitting in armchair and looking at camera

Another way to combat the racial homeownership gap is to provide guidance to minorities looking to purchase the home and help them recognize the signs of potential discrimination in their homebuying journey. ConsumerAction, a website that helps consumers make informed decisions, created a downloadable document highlighting the different ways you can identify these discriminatory practices. In short, these are some things you can look for:

  • A developer or agent refuses to sell to someone based on their race. This also includes if the developer or agent doesn’t return your phone calls or ignores offers you put in on the home.
  • Lying about sale terms to place minority buyers out of the market. To protect yourself, always work with an agent you trust who can understand the terms and what the seller is ideally looking for before putting in an offer on the home.
  • An agent who steers clients to or from certain neighborhoods because of race. If you’re a white homebuyer and an agent tells you minorities live in the neighborhood as a way to deter you, then the proper reporting should be made to the Fair Housing Equal Opportunity office.
  • An agent failing to inform and show buyers all available listings in their desired area and price range. As a buyer, it’s your right to be able to view all the available properties that fall under your desired specifications. If an agent refuses to do so, discriminatory practices may be at play.
Portrait Of Couple Looking Over Back Yard FencePortrait Of Couple Looking Over Back Yard Fence

Discrimination can also come from mortgage lending and coverage practices, not just agents, landlords and developers. If you’ve found a home you love and you want to make an offer, or you’re in the process of getting pre-approved, then be sure you’re lender or insurance agent isn’t following the below practices:

  • Denial of a loan or insurance due to location of the home. Lenders and agents are not allowed to deny approval due to the location or neighborhood of your home.
  • Creating different terms and conditions on a loan because of race. Changes in the fees, points, and rates could all be identified as a change in the terms of a loan.
  • Receiving an artificially low appraisal on your property. If you’re a minority looking to sell your home, then make sure you’re not given an artificially low appraisal, get second opinions and compare the appraisal to your home’s current value.

Education is how buyers, sellers and renters can protect themselves from racial discrimination in the housing industry. For a full list of rights and obligations from the Fair Housing Act, you can visit the Fair Housing Equal Opportunity website. If you’ve experienced discriminatory practices during your buying, selling or renting journey, then you can file an official complaint online as well

Looking to Buy a Home?

If you’re looking to buy a home– or sell your current home in order to buy– then you can visit Homes.com’s How To section which includes free, step-by-step guides on the entire buying, selling, or renting process.


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report and provides public relations consulting services to leading companies and non-profits in residential real estate and housing finance. He has been vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors, senior vice president of Edelman Worldwide and press secretary to two members of Congress.

Source: homes.com

How Much Does Medicare Cost? – Parts A, B, D, Advantage & Medigap

Americans are used to paying high costs for health care. Even for those who have health insurance — and as of 2019, there are still millions who don’t — it doesn’t cover everything. However, many people assume that once they reach age 65 and start receiving Medicare benefits, it will cover all their costs. After all, we’ve already paid into the program through payroll taxes, so we should have no costs beyond that, right?

Wrong. In fact, the Medicare taxes you pay during your working years only cover the premium costs for Medicare Part A, or hospital insurance. However, you still have to pay a part of the costs for hospital stays and other inpatient care out of your own pocket. And on top of that, several other parts of Medicare have their own costs.

How Much Does Medicare Cost?

There are two primary forms of Medicare coverage. Original Medicare includes Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B, or medical insurance, which covers doctor visits and other outpatient care. You can also add Medicare Part D to cover prescription drug costs. Alternatively, you can choose a Medicare Advantage plan from a private insurer, which includes Medicare Parts A and B and usually adds coverage for drugs and some other types of care.

Put it all together, and your Medicare costs can add up to thousands of dollars. A 2020 analysis by AARP found that in 2017, people on Original Medicare spent an average of $5,801 on health care and that about 1 in 10 people spent $10,268 or more. (The analysis did not include people on Medicare Advantage plans because there was no reliable data available about their expenses.) These expenses fall into three primary categories: premiums, cost sharing, and expenses Medicare doesn’t cover.

Premiums

Most health insurance comes with a monthly premium — an amount you pay to the insurer each month for coverage. According to AARP, the average Medicare beneficiary paid $2,728 in premiums in 2017. However, this cost varied widely by age. People under 65 paid an average of $1,810, while those over 65 paid an average of $2,810.

How Much Does Medicare Part A Cost?

Most people don’t pay a premium for Medicare Part A because they have already paid for it through payroll taxes. However, if you have paid Medicare taxes for fewer than 10 full years (40 quarters), you must pay a fee to buy into Part A.

For the year 2021, the monthly premium is $458 if you’ve paid Medicare taxes for fewer than 30 quarters. If you have paid them for 30 to 39 quarters, the premium is $259. That adds up to either $3,108 or $5,496 per year.

Additionally, if you don’t sign up for Medicare Part A when you first become eligible for it, you must pay a late enrollment penalty. That causes your premiums to go up by 10%. You continue to pay the higher premium for twice the number of years you delayed signing up for Part A.

How Much Does Medicare Part B Cost?

All Medicare recipients pay a premium for Part B coverage. The standard premium for 2021 is $148.50 per month, or $1,782 per year.

If you have already started collecting Social Security benefits or retirement benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board, this premium is automatically deducted from your benefits check. Otherwise, you receive a bill for your coverage.

If you neglect to sign up for Medicare Part B when you first become eligible, you pay a late enrollment penalty for this as well. This penalty is even steeper than the one for Part A. It increases your monthly premium by 10% for each 12-month period you delayed enrollment — so if you sign up three years late, your premiums go up by 30%. Moreover, this higher rate lasts for the rest of your life.

How Much Does Medicare Part D Cost?

If you choose to add Medicare Part D to your coverage, you must pay an additional premium for it. The cost per month varies based on the plan you choose. However, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates the average premium for basic Part D coverage at $30.50 per month ($366 per year) for 2021.

On top of that, there’s a late enrollment penalty for Medicare Part D. You pay this penalty if you go at least 63 days without having either a Medicare prescription drug plan or a Medicare Advantage plan that provides drug coverage. The penalty is equal to 1% of the “national base beneficiary premium” ($33.06 for 2021) times the full number of months you went without coverage, rounded up to the nearest $0.10.

This amount gets added to your Part D premium for life once you sign up. For instance, if you went 30 months without drug coverage, you would pay an extra $10 per month. Additionally, this penalty rises whenever the national base beneficiary premium increases.

Medicare also tacks on a monthly income adjustment for all beneficiaries whose income is above a certain level. For 2021, this adjustment ranges from $12.30 per month if your income is over $87,000 to $77.10 per month if it’s over $500,000.

How Much Do Medicare Advantage Programs Cost?

Medicare Advantage plans are sometimes called Medicare Part C, but they’re actually not part of the federal Medicare program. Instead, private insurance companies offer them. However, they must provide all the same coverage as Original Medicare, and many plans provide more.

When you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you continue to pay your Part B premium to the federal government. The government then pays a fixed amount each month to the insurer to help cover your care costs.

Some Medicare Advantage plans charge an additional monthly premium on top of your regular Part B premium. According to CMS, the average expected premium for the year 2021 is $21 per month. Since that’s less than the average cost for a separate Part D plan, Medicare Advantage is a cheaper way to get prescription drug coverage for the average Medicare user. However, specific prices and coverages vary from plan to plan.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), Medicare Advantage premiums are typically lowest for health maintenance organizations (HMOs), which require you to get your care from doctors within a specific network. They’re somewhat more expensive for preferred provider organizations (PPOs), which allow you to see an out-of-network doctor for an additional cost. The KFF does not evaluate old-fashioned fee-for-service plans, which let you see any doctor you choose, but in general, these plans are expensive.

How Much Does Medigap Cost?

Original Medicare has relatively low premiums, but there are also many costs it doesn’t cover. Many people buy Medicare supplement insurance, commonly known as Medigap, to fill the “gaps” in their Medicare coverage. These plans, sold by private insurers, cover your deductibles and coinsurance. Some of them also cover costs Original Medicare doesn’t, such as care received when traveling outside the United States.

If you buy a Medigap policy as an add-on to Original Medicare, you pay an additional monthly premium to the insurer. How much it costs depends on the specific plan you choose. Under state laws, Medigap plans are sorted into several standard categories, which most states identify by the letters A through N. A chart on Medicare.gov outlines each plan’s benefits. (Three states — Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin — use different standard categories for Medigap policies. See each state’s specific rules.)

Insurance companies aren’t required to offer every type of Medigap policy. However, any insurer that sells Medigap policies is required to offer Plans A, C, and F.

According to eHealth Medicare, the monthly premium for a Medigap policy ranges from around $70 to $270 per month, depending on the plan type and where you live. According to Business Insider, Plan F — the most popular type of Medigap plan —  cost an average of $1,712 per year, or about $143 per month, in 2018. However, this cost varied by state, ranging from $1,310 per year in Hawaii to $1,947 per year in Massachusetts. You can find cost estimates for Medigap policies in your area by entering your zip code on the eHealth Medicare site.


Cost Sharing

On top of your Medicare premiums, you must pay a portion of the cost for all the health care services you receive. The AARP study found that Medicare recipients paid an average of $1,522 for their share of covered care in 2017. This cost came to $1,441 for beneficiaries under age 65 and $1,536 for those 65 and older.

How Much Are Medicare Deductibles?

Medicare requires you to pay a certain amount of your medical bills out of your own pocket before your Medicare coverage kicks in. This portion is called your deductible.

As of 2021, Medicare Part A charges a deductible of $1,484 for each benefit period. A benefit period starts when you enter a hospital or skilled nursing facility as an inpatient. It ends once you haven’t received any inpatient hospital care for 60 days in a row. That means you may have to pay your Medicare Part A deductible more than once in a single year.

For instance, suppose you go to the hospital for a knee operation in January, and they discharge you later that month. During that time, you pay all your care costs up to the $1,484 deductible. Then, in June — more than 60 days later — they admit you again after a fall. That starts a new benefit period, so you must once again pay all your care costs up to the deductible. There’s no limit to the number of benefit periods you can have in a single year.

Medicare Part B also has a deductible, but you only have to pay it once per year. For 2021, the Part B deductible is $203.

Medicare Part D plans usually have a deductible as well. The cost varies from plan to plan, but Medicare sets limits on how high it can be. As of 2021, your Part D deductible cannot exceed $445. According to eHealth, the average Part D deductible was $308 in 2019.

As for Medicare Advantage plans, some have deductibles and some don’t. According to eHealth, the average deductible for a Part C plan that includes prescription drug coverage was $292 in 2019. A plan can charge one deductible for all your care or have separate deductibles for medical care and prescription drugs. You have to look at the details of a specific plan to find out how much the deductible is and how often you need to pay it.

How Much Is Part A Coinsurance?

Even after you meet your deductible for Medicare, you must continue to pay a portion of your medical bills out of pocket. This amount is called coinsurance.

For Medicare Part A, the cost of coinsurance varies based on how long you spend in the hospital. You pay $0 for the first 60 days and $352 per day for the next 30. These numbers reset at the beginning of each benefit period. In other words, if you stay in the hospital for 60 days, then leave and return three months later, you’re back to Day 1 and your cost is $0.

If you stay in the hospital for more than 90 days at a stretch, you start using up your lifetime reserve days. You pay $704 per day, and Medicare pays the rest — but only for a maximum of 60 days over your entire lifetime. If you spend any more time in the hospital than that, you must pay the full cost.

That doesn’t mean you have to pay all your hospital bills in full for the rest of your life. Once you leave the hospital, your benefit period resets after 60 days. If you go back in, you start over again at Day 1, with 60 days for free and another 30 days at $352. But if you’re still in the hospital on Day 91 and you have no lifetime reserve days left, you’re responsible for the full cost.

How Much Is Part B Coinsurance?

Coinsurance costs for Part B are more straightforward than for Part A. After meeting your deductible, you pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for all covered medical expenses. The Medicare-approved amount is the standard amount Medicare agrees to pay all doctors and other health care providers.

You pay this 20% coinsurance for all services covered by Part B, including doctor visits, outpatient therapy, and durable medical equipment. However, if your doctor or provider charges more than the Medicare-approved amount, you must pay all the additional cost on top of your coinsurance.

How Much Are Prescription Drug Costs?

Costs for Medicare Part D vary. Some Part D plans require you to pay coinsurance — a percentage of the cost of each prescription. Others charge copayments — a flat fee for each prescription.

Many Medicare prescription drug plans sort covered drugs into different tiers. For instance, some drugs are “preferred” and have a lower copayment. According to the KFF, average costs for different tiers in 2020 were:

  • Preferred generic drugs: $0
  • Other generic drugs: $3
  • Preferred brand-name drugs: $42
  • Other brand-name drugs: 38% coinsurance
  • Specialty drugs: 25% coinsurance

Under Medicare rules, once your total prescription drug costs for the year — including the amounts paid by you and your insurer — have reached a certain amount, your coverage changes. This limit, which includes your deductible, is $4,130 for the year 2021. Once you hit this limit, you pay up to 25% of your medications’ total cost. The manufacturer of the drug pays 70% of the cost, and your insurer pays the rest.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to keep paying 25% for the rest of the year. Once your out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions hit a second limit — $6,550 in 2021 — your share of your prescription costs drops to only 5%.

To help you get out of this coverage gap (called the “doughnut hole”) faster, Medicare allows you to count the discount received from the drug manufacturer as part of your out-of-pocket costs. For instance, if you have a drug that costs $100, your insurer pays $5 for it, you pay $25, and the manufacturer pays $70. However, you can count a full $95 — your share and the manufacturer’s — toward your out-of-pocket costs. That pushes you closer to the $6,550 upper limit at which your payment falls.

How Much Are Medicare Advantage Costs?

Most Medicare Advantage plans charge you a copayment for doctor visits and other services rather than the 20% coinsurance you pay with Original Medicare Part B. However, the exact cost varies by plan. Factors that affect your copay costs include where you live, the type of plan you buy, and the company that issues it.


Costs Not Covered by Medicare

There are certain services Original Medicare simply doesn’t cover. In general, you must pay all your own costs for:

  • Dental care, including checkups, fillings, root canals, and dentures
  • Vision care, including eye exams, eyeglasses, and contact lenses
  • Hearing exams or hearing aids
  • Routine foot care, such as callus removal (according to AARP, Medicare does cover costs for foot injuries and ailments, such as heel spurs and problems related to nerve damage caused by diabetes)
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Acupuncture
  • Long-term care in a nursing home or assisted living facility
  • Any medical care received outside the U.S.

You can get some of these expenses, such as dental and vision care, covered under a Medicare Advantage plan. However, it depends on the plan you choose. Neither Original Medicare nor Medicare Advantage ever covers costs for care received outside the country. However, some Medigap policies provide this coverage.

According to the 2020 AARP analysis, the average Medicare recipient in 2017 spent $1,551 on health care costs not covered by Medicare. This amount was $932 for beneficiaries under 65 and $1,662 for those 65 and up.


Limits on Total Costs

The $5,801 AARP says the average person on Medicare spends each year is a significant chunk of money. However, some Medicare beneficiaries have much higher costs. The 2020 study found that people at the 90th percentile for spending — those who had health care costs higher than all but 10% of the population — spent a total of $10,268 on their care in 2017. That includes $5,218 for premiums, $3,740 for cost sharing, and $2,537 for expenses not covered under Medicare.

In fact, under Original Medicare, there’s no limit on how much you can pay each year for health care. Although the program covers a large share of your costs, it doesn’t protect you from the kinds of sky-high medical bills that can drive people into bankruptcy. A 2010 paper from the University of Michigan found that more than 1 in 3 seniors who file for bankruptcy cite medical expenses as a reason.

There are two ways to put a cap on your out-of-pocket costs under Medicare. One is to choose Medicare Advantage. According to CMS, all Medicare Advantage policies are required to limit out-of-pocket spending for in-network care, which can be no higher than $7,550 in 2021. However, this out-of-pocket limit does not include the amount you spend on premiums.

If you prefer Original Medicare, you can cap your costs by adding a Medigap policy that comes with an out-of-pocket limit. Medigap Plan K policies limit your out-of-pocket costs to $6,220 for 2021, and Plan L caps them at $3,110.

You can estimate how much your total out-of-pocket costs are likely to be under different Medicare plans using the out-of-pocket cost calculator on Medicare.gov. It lets you compare Original Medicare, with or without Part D and Medigap, with a Medicare Advantage plan that includes drug coverage. The calculator factors in all your costs, including premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance. You can look at typical costs for plans with high, medium, or low premiums.


Final Word

If you’ve been thinking of Medicare as a permanent fix for high health care bills, it can come as a shock to learn how much the average beneficiary pays. However, the average cost cited in the AARP report is just that — an average. You can reduce your costs for Medicare the same way you would with any other significant expense: by shopping around.

Medicare makes it easy to comparison-shop for plans. On the Plan Compare page at Medicare.gov, you can review your Medicare coverage options and compare specific Part D and Medicare Advantage plans available in your area.

The site asks you for details about where you live and what type of plan you want, then lists available plans with their premiums, deductibles, copays, and out-of-pocket limits. With a little more information, it can also show you how much you’ll pay out of pocket for prescription drug costs on each plan. The site even includes star ratings for each plan just like you might use to find the best products when shopping online.

To learn more about comparing Medicare plans and signing up, check out our Medicare enrollment guide.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Documents You Need to Apply for a Mortgage

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Any application for credit should be taken as a serious matter. Simply applying and allowing the lender to pull your credit report has an impact on your credit score, so it’s not a good idea to apply for things on a whim. But mortgage applications tend to be more serious than most other apps because they’re for such large amounts of money and longer terms.

When you’re borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars for 15 to 30 years, the lender wants to ensure you’re a sound investment. They actually have an obligation to their shareholders, employees and other customers to try to take on mortgage accounts that are likely to result in a return instead of a loss.

For these reasons, you usually have to show up to the mortgage application process with a lot of documentation. Here’s a rundown of the documents needed for a mortgage application.

Mortgage Application

The first document is the mortgage application itself. Whether you complete it online or as a physical piece of paper at a broker’s office or bank, this is the document that launches the process.

Typically, mortgage applications require the same type of information. That includes:

  • What type of loan you want. You may need to check or click boxes to indicate whether you want a conventional loan, VA loan, FHA loan or other type of loan.
  • Why you need the loan. Is it a refinance or new purchase, and are you purchasing a single-unit home you plan to live in, a rental property or a business property?
  • The property itself. You must fill in the address and some other basic information about the property you want to buy.
  • Demographic information about the person or people borrowing the money, including name, address, phone number and Social Security number.
  • Employment history for all borrowers.
  • Income and assets for all borrowers.
  • Debts and other liabilities for all borrowers.

You’ll also need to sign various agreements and disclosures. That includes whether you have a bankruptcy or other issue in your financial history and an agreement that the creditor can pull your reports.

Assets

You can’t just list items like assets on your mortgage application, though. You also have to prove your statements with documents. Documents that prove your assets can include bank statements showing current cash balances, investment statements showing current values and life insurance policies. If you’re including gift funds in your assets, you’ll need letters or other documents demonstrating where the money came from.

Debts and Expenses

Most of the time, the mortgage company can see evidence of your debts and expenses on your credit report. If the underwriter has any questions or concerns during the approval process, they may reach out for additional information such as copies of credit card statements. This is especially true if you’ve recently paid down debt and that isn’t yet reflected on your credit report.

When it comes to debts, one of the major concerns is your debt-to-income ratio. If it’s too high, the lender is less likely to approve you. Calculate this ratio by adding up all your monthly debt payments along with the estimated mortgage payment and dividing it by your total monthly income.

For example, if you have a car payment of $400, credit card bills with monthly minimums of $200 and student loans of $500 a month, that’s $1,100 in debt. Add a $1,500 mortgage and you would have $2,600 in debt. If you make $7,000 a month, your debt-to-income ratio is 37 percent.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes that the preferred debt-to-income ratio for mortgage approval is 43 percent or less. This is because you can’t use all your income up on debt—you still need money for utilities, food, fuel, savings and other critical expenditures.

Income and Employment Verification

You do have to prove the income amounts you put on a mortgage application. Common ways of doing so are summarized below.

Tax Returns

Tax returns from the past few years can demonstrate that you make a certain amount per year and have done so consistently. If you’re planning to apply for a mortgage soon and don’t have copies of your tax returns, consider proactively ordering a free transcript from the IRS.

W-2s and Pay Stubs

Copies of W-2 forms or a handful of pay stubs from your employer are also good ways to demonstrate your income. Start saving your paycheck stubs if you think you’ll apply for a mortgage soon.

Additional Information (Self-Employed)

If you’re self-employed or have forms of income that aren’t from an employer, you’ll need documentation. Some options can include statements from checking accounts or payment systems that show money you received. You could also provide a profit and loss statement if you’re self-employed.

Credit History

While the lender can get most of what they need from your credit report, you may need to be available to answer questions. Specifically, be ready to explain any negative items on the report. It’s a good idea to get a copy of your credit report for yourself before you apply for a mortgage so you know what might come up.

Other Documents

  • Photo IDs, such as a driver’s license or passport
  • Your rental history if you don’t already own a home, especially if you want to use it as demonstration of your payment history
  • Divorce records to prove that certain debts are no longer yours or that you don’t have access to funds from a previous spouse
  • Foreclosure or bankruptcy records, if applicable
  • Documentation of residency status if you’re applying as a noncitizen

Who Do You Give These Documents to?

You give the documents as requested to a mortgage broker you’re working with or to an underwriter with the mortgage company. You might be asked more than once for some documents, especially if you go through a preapproval process.

During preapproval, the mortgage company evaluates you as a borrower in general and lets you know what amount, terms and interest you can qualify for. Once you move to buy a home, the mortgage must go through a final approval process, and someone may need to look at your documents again or request additional documents.

Start Preparing for a Mortgage Early

A lender might ask for documents and require that you respond in a certain amount of time or it will deny the application automatically. So, you don’t want to get caught searching for documents during the process. Prepare for a mortgage app early by gathering everything that you anticipate that you might need. Another way to boost your chances for mortgage approval is to check your credit and resolve any negative items you can.

You might also be able to take actions to positively impact your credit before you apply for a mortgage—especially if your report has mistakes on it. If you want to repair your credit before making a big financial move, contact Lexington Law to find out how we can help.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com