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Study: Credit Card Spend Rises Before Mortgage Closing

August 5, 2016 12:46 am


Altering credit habits in the time leading up to the closing of a mortgage can affect the outcome of the loan. Despite this, many mortgage borrowers—movers and refinancers—charge more to their credit cards before a loan closes, found a study by TransUnion, one of the three credit reporting bureaus.

“A long-held assumption among lenders is that new mortgage applicants spend less on their credit cards prior to their mortgage closing event—either to ensure their credit picture does not change or simply because they anticipate spending more once they move into their new home,” said Charlie Wise, co-author of the study and vice president of TransUnion’s Innovative Solutions Group, in a statement. “Our research indicates that millions of consumers actually increase their card spending in the months before the new mortgage origination. Whether it’s to purchase furnishings or make updates to their existing property, many consumers who move increase their spending before moving into their new residence.”

Results of the study show borrowers charge two to three times more to their credit cards in the months prior to the mortgage closing.

“Card spending increases are even greater for mortgage borrowers who refinance,” Wise continued. “These consumers may be anticipating lower mortgage payments, and take advantage of the greater available cash flow by increasing card spending in the months before their refinancing.”

The study analyzed the behaviors of more than 16 million prime or better-risk borrowers over two years.

Source: TransUnion
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Summer Boredom Setting In? 5 Ideas for Stay-at-Home Kids

August 5, 2016 12:46 am


Nothing strikes dread into a mother’s heart like kids home for the summer wailing, “We have nothing to do!”

Busy moms can keep little ones occupied with some shrewd pre-planning. WorkAtHomeMoms.com, an online resource for mothers on a schedule, suggests stockpiling a grab bag full of books, coloring books, puzzles and other inexpensive toys to draw from when boredom sets in.

The website also offers five ideas for keeping stay-at-home kids in the 6-12 age range involved:

Create a Comic – Provide materials for a comic book: paper, markers, colored pencils and a stapler. Ask each child to dream up an original comic book character—a bratty kid, a superhero, or a favorite animal—and star him or her in a homemade comic book.

Have Some Retro Fun – Teach your children a few of the old-fashioned games you played when you were a kid: jacks, hopscotch, marbles, jump rope or lawn croquet. You can even plan an Olympics-type competition, moving from one to the next.

Let ‘Em Make Lunch – Divide lunchtime chores according to age. Children can make simple sandwiches and no-bake cookies and pack them into a picnic basket, along with plates, napkins and plastic forks. At lunchtime, the whole family can picnic in the backyard or at a local park.

Plan a Game Day Marathon – Start with age-appropriate puzzles, followed by a series of card games like Crazy Eights, Go Fish, and Old Maid. Finish with a favorite board game or two. Keep track of the time, and the child or team who finishes first gets to choose what’s for dinner.

Put on a Show – Discuss ideas in advance—perhaps a fairy tale—then let the children do it all: write the script, put together the costumes and stage set, and rehearse and act out the parts. Parents become the audience (friends and neighbors optional!), with dessert for all after the show.

For more ideas for summer and beyond, visit WorkAtHomeMoms.com.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Swim Season: 5 Tips to 'Pool Safely'

August 5, 2016 12:46 am


Pools, though a pastime at home, present a danger to children with limited swimming abilities.

Though the number of fatal child pool drownings has dropped significantly in the years since the inception of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Pool Safely campaign (PoolSafely.gov), parents and caregivers must continue to remain vigilant when children are in or near a pool at home.

To do so, the CPSC recommends:

• Learning how to swim, and teaching your child how to swim;

• Learning CPR, for both children and adults;

• Installing a four-sided fence around the pool, with a self-closing, self-latching gate;

• Installing federally-compliant drain covers; and

• Assigning supervisory duties to a “Water Watcher,” or a person who will remain alert and on guard while children are swimming.

For more pool safety tips, visit PoolSafely.gov.

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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20 Must-See International Destinations

August 4, 2016 12:46 am


After the recession left many without the means to take a trip, a lot of us have found the wherewithal to travel again—and most of us are turning our eyes to must-see destinations abroad, according to a recent survey by Travel Leaders Group.

“Overall, we can confidently say that the demand for leisure travel is still very strong,” said Ninan Chacko, CEO of Travel Leaders Group, in a statement. “Our survey also revealed that more than nine out of 10 will take the same number, or more, leisure trips in 2016.”

Travel Leaders Group ranked the top 20 international destinations, based on ratings by those surveyed. These must-see stops are:

1. Venice, Italy
2. Florence, Italy
3. Rome, Italy
4. London, England
5. Dublin, Ireland
6. Paris, France
7. Europe (River Cruise)
8. Barcelona, Spain
9. Europe (Mediterranean Cruise)
10. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
11. Caribbean (Cruise)
12. Europe (Baltic Cruise)
13. Aruba
14. Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos, Mexico
15. Playa del Carmen/Riviera Maya, Mexico
16. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
17. Montego Bay, Jamaica
18. Cancun, Mexico
19. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
20. Mexico (Cruise)

Source: Travel Leaders Group
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Credit-Confused? What to Know About Your Score

August 4, 2016 12:46 am

 
Credit-confused? You’re not alone. Most of us have trouble understanding the impact some actions may have on our credit scores, though many of us do know the basics.

Just half of those surveyed recently by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and VantageScore Solutions know that their lender must inform them about the lender’s use of a credit score in the mortgage application process, for instance, and less than half of those surveyed wrongly believe that marital status is a factor in the calculation of credit scores.

Many of us also underestimate the consequences of a low credit score, the survey found: only one-fifth of those surveyed know a low score can increase the cost of a loan.

Some of us are even in the dark when it comes to non-creditor use of our credit scores. Half of those surveyed did not know that utility companies may factor scores into the decision on the initial deposit for service, and one-third did not know that home insurance providers and landlords might also factor scores into their decisions.

“The good news is that consumers understand the basics of credit scores, such as the importance of making loan payments on time,” said Stephen Brobeck, CFA’s executive director, in a statement. “The bad news is that this knowledge is limited and, each year, can cost them hundreds of dollars in fees on services and additional interest on consumer loans.”

In addition to making loan payments consistently and on time, checking credit report(s), keeping credit card balances low and refraining from opening new credit accounts are all credit-wise actions, according to CFA.

Source: Consumer Federation of America (CFA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Survey: Owners, Renters Say Housing Solid

August 4, 2016 12:46 am


Homeowners and renters feel positive about homeownership, expressing confidence in a market that has made encouraging strides so far this year.

The majority of households, according to the recently released SCE Housing Survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, perceive housing as a “good financial investment.” Of the renters surveyed, approximately three-quarters (74.1 percent) would rather own than rent, and close to one-fifth (17.5 percent) believe obtaining a mortgage would be “easy.” Both renters and homeowners perceive mortgage rates lower than they did last year, at an average 4.7 percent.

Most homeowners and renters surveyed expect home prices to rise in the next year, but to a declining degree: 3.3 percent. Rent raises are expected to remain steady during that same period.

Of the homeowners surveyed, the probability that they’ll purchase a home within the next three years rose to 63 percent; the probability that the renters surveyed will purchase a home grew to nearly 50 percent.

If you are a homeowner planning to purchase a new home, or a renter planning to purchase a home for the first time, contact a real estate professional for more information.

Source: New York Federal Reserve
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are You Guilty of 'Phubbing?'

August 2, 2016 12:46 am


“Phubbing,” or choosing to interact with a smartphone instead of a person, is all but accepted. Millennials “phub” more often than most—though it may not be intentional.

“Compared to older generations, millennials feel much more pressure to respond immediately to text messages and instant messages,” said Felice Gabriel Miller, founder and president of Delvv®, a mobile app developer, in a release. “In the space between true smartphone addicts and regular users, there are probably a lot of people who use their smartphone excessively just to avoid the social consequences of disconnecting. This helps explain why people 'phub' (i.e., phone snub) in social settings where they know they shouldn't.”

Seventy-nine percent of millennials recently surveyed by Delvv respond to text messages within 15 minutes, compared to 56 percent of Gen X-ers and 46 percent of baby boomers. Forty-nine percent of the millennials surveyed respond to instant messages within 15 minutes—a contrast to baby boomers, 29 percent of whom respond to instant messages within 24 hours.

Most survey respondents (68 percent) believe that someone who is eating dinner with company should not look at a text message—“phub”—until after the meal.

The “phub” phenomenon speaks to the attachment most have to their smartphones—49 percent of those surveyed would rather give up sweets for one month than switch to a dumbphone.

When was the last time you “phubbed?”

Source: Delvv®
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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It's High Time for High-Tech Homes

August 2, 2016 12:46 am


More houses are turning into high-tech hubs of connectivity and convenience. Technology, in fact, has become one of the improvements most requested by homeowners, reports the Remodelers Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA).

According to Matt Sneller, owner of Sneller Custom Homes and Remodeling in Spring, Texas, a low-voltage cabling and wiring infrastructure is the core of a connected home. The infrastructure supports everything from the alarm and audio systems to the HVAC and telephone.

Cameras are also a component in the connected home, says Bill Riley, owner of Bicycle Bungalows in Houston, Texas. Riley reports more of his clients are replacing costly security systems and monitoring services with self-controlled cameras.

LED lights are another sought-after, high-tech feature, due to their energy efficiency. Sneller recommends consulting with a cool lighting system company that offers products with geo-fencing technology, as well as smartphone control capability.

Appliance manufacturers have also joined the connected home club, now producing apps that allow homeowners to wirelessly control their appliances, and even take stock of the items within them, adds Riley.

According to Rob Douglass, owner of Texas Custom Patios, no high-tech home is complete without a connection to the outside. Douglass suggests installing a universal system that controls both indoor and outdoor features, such as a flat-screen television or surround-sound.

Source: Remodelers Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Sales by the Seashore: 10 Affordable Markets for Vacation Homebuyers

August 2, 2016 12:46 am


Location, location, location…an adage vacation homebuyers know all too well.

Turns out, there are beach towns that are not only in a prime location, but with homes at prime prices, too. According to a recent ranking by HomeUnion, the top 10 are:

1. Two Rivers, Wis.
Median Home Price: $85,300
Average Rent: $835

2. Angola, N.Y.
Median Home Price: $107,400
Average Rent: $1,180

3. Bayonet Point, Fla.
Median Home Price: $122,100
Average Rent: $1,193

4. Dexter, N.Y.
Median Home Price: $137,800
Average Rent: $1,294

5. Mastic Beach, N.Y.
Median Home Price: $138,200
Average Rent: $1,333

6. Oak Hill, Fla.
Median Home Price: $152,800
Average Rent: $1,126

7. Baltimore, Md.
Median Home Price: $184,600
Average Rent: $1,479

8. Jensen Beach, Fla.
Median Home Price: $213,900
Average Rent: $2,137

9. Cobb Island, Md.
Median Home Price: $222,000
Average Rent: $1,583

10. Berlin, Md.
Median Home Price: $236,200
Average Rent: 1,558

“Since home prices have remained low across the Midwest for the past few years, it's no surprise that Two Rivers, Wis., on the shores of Lake Michigan, tops our list,” says HomeUnion Director of Research Steve Hovland. “But there are still plenty of seaside bargains to be found throughout Florida, along the Atlantic Ocean, in expensive housing markets like suburban New York City, and even on the Pacific Ocean in California.”

HomeUnion compiled the ranking based on factors such as crime rate, inventory and proximity to specific bodies of water.

Source: HomeUnion
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Most Common Mistakes Job Seekers Make—and How to Avoid Them

August 2, 2016 12:46 am


Anyone who’s braved the job market knows how difficult the application process can be. One mistake, and the effort is wasted.

CareerBuilder®’s Chief Human Resources Officer Rosemary Haefner says most mistakes are avoidable.

“Workers realize that the job market is stronger than it has been over the last eight years, and technology is allowing them to pursue new opportunities faster and more efficiently than ever,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder, in a statement. “But, just because they are able to submit an application easier, doesn't mean candidates can skip basic steps—or requirements—like submitting a cover letter or customizing their résumés. These items get the attention of recruiters and hiring managers, and leaving them out of the process can hurt a job seeker's chances of securing a new job.”

One common mistake, according to Haefner, is not customizing a résumé for each prospective employer. Employers can spot all-purpose résumés a mile away—tailoring your résumé to match key words in the job description can make all the difference.

Another mistake job seekers regularly make is not personalizing the application. Haefner says applying directly to the hiring manager not only increases your chances of being noticed, but also shows you’ve gone the extra step and invested time getting to know the company.

Job seekers are also often caught not including cover letter with the application. Cover letters are an opportunity that should not be squandered, Haefner says. A letter allows you to introduce yourself, as well as sell your experience and skills beyond what’s presented in your résumé.

Many job seekers are guilty of not following up with an employer after applying, Haefner adds. This mistake can be significant—often, a hiring manager is overwhelmed by applications, and following up is the only way to ensure they’ve received and considered yours.

One of the most egregious mistakes, Haefner says, is not sending a thank-you note after an interview. Most hiring managers expect a thank-you in some form or another—forgoing this action will not go unnoticed.

Job seekers must take extra care when it comes to all aspects of the hiring process, Haefner concludes. Begin by avoiding the most common mistakes!

Source: CareerBuilder®
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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