Tag: Moving


Should You Move Back in With Your Parents?

By Melanie Lockert
June 13, 2019

When you’re a young adult, there’s nothing quite like living on your own to give you a taste of freedom. No more living under mom and dad’s roof or obeying their rules.

It can be exhilarating, but let’s face it — it’s also expensive. Rent is likely your biggest expense and you may realize it’s taking too big of a bite out of your paycheck and affecting your financial life. At this point, you may be thinking: “Should I move back home with my parents?”

Your decision is personal and something that you should carefully consider. Yet, know this: You are not alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2015, one in three young adults ages 18 to 34 lived at home with their parents.

Here are some things to consider before flying back to the nest.

Review your situation

Sometimes life throws you a curveball that can affect your finances. You might lose your job and feel unprepared to pay for rent. In this case, moving home makes sense. Or, maybe you have a job but you want to make more headway on paying off your six-figure student loan and save up for a down payment on a house. This is another instance where moving back into your parents’ house can help you save money.

The bottom line: Review your financial situation and the reasons behind wanting to move back home.

Know the numbers

Moving back home with your parents when you’re an adult can mean going back to the typical parent-child roles. Even if you’re technically a grown-up, you’re under their roof. That lack of freedom comes at a cost, so make sure the move is financially lucrative for you.

Look at the numbers. How much will you be saving each month? Will you be able to live at your parents’ house rent-free or will they charge a discounted rate?

Have a financial goal in mind and this way you’ll have an exit plan. So for example, maybe you have $40,000 in student loan debt that you want to pay off quickly. If you free up your $1,500 rent payment and live with your parents, you could pay off your debt in a little over two years.

Review the pros and cons

There’s no doubt that moving back home can have an immediate benefit on your financial life. But there are other things you’ll want to consider. Take a look at the pros and cons of moving back home.


  • You can live rent-free or pay much lower rent
  • You can save money on utilities
  • You may be able to save money on food if you share meals with your parents
  • You can reach goals like paying off debt or saving for a down payment faster
  • You can spend more quality time with your family


  • You will have less personal space
  • Living under someone else’s roof means you typically live by their rules
  • This may have an impact on your personal life, such as romantic relationships or having friends over
  • There may be more conflict between you and your parents
  • You’ll have a lack of privacy
  • You may lose motivation

Before making the move, carefully consider all sides. When I was paying off $81,000 in student loan debt, my parents said I could move back home and save money on rent. On the surface, it seemed like a good idea. But for me, it would have affected my job opportunities. I would have also needed to buy a car or borrow a vehicle from my parents. Lastly, I would have had to pay to move out-of-state.

Also, I knew that moving back home ultimately wouldn’t be good for my motivation, career, or relationship with my family. At the time, I was splitting a studio and paying around $450 in rent, so for me the gain was not worth it.

Beyond the financials, make sure you consider how moving back home will affect your personal relationship with your family, as well as your mental health. If you and your parents have good boundaries and agree on rules, it could work out in your favor. Here are some questions to ask your parents:

  • Will I pay rent? If so, how much?
  • What is my responsibility when it comes to utilities?
  • What chores are expected of me?
  • Will there be a curfew?
  • What is the policy for having people over?
  • Is there a timeline or cut off to this new living arrangement? For example, after one or two years, do you have to move out?
  • Are there any expectations? (such as having dinner with the family once a week)
  • What are the communication expectations? For example, if you’re out late, do your parents expect a text or call?
  • How much notice do you need if I plan to move out? For example, two weeks? One month?

Asking these questions can help get you all on the same page.

Other options to consider

Before moving back home to save money on rent, you may be able to consider other options to cut down on your costs before giving up your freedom.

Can you find cheaper rent somewhere else? Can you rent out your apartment on AirBnB? Can you rent out a parking space? Can you negotiate a raise so that your rent takes up less of your take-home pay?

If you do ultimately decide to move back in with your parents to save money, communication is key and having a financial plan in place is required.


8 Creative Ways to Save Money When You Move

By Chonce Maddox
May 30, 2019

Let’s face it: Moving can be exciting but it can also be a hassle. Sometimes you’re on a strict timeline when you move and other times, you can spend months planning for the big day.

Either way, you’ll likely have to deal with a slew of out-of-pocket costs, including paying for movers, renting a truck, purchasing packing materials, and even paying for hidden expenses like food or tips for the moving crew.

We’re here to tell you that you don’t have to overspend. Here are eight creative ways to save money when you move.

1. Declutter Your Home First

Minimizing what you own can make the move much smoother.

If you’re overwhelmed with packing, it may be because you have a ton of stuff. So, take some time to declutter your home during the weeks leading up to your move.

Instead of just throwing everything in a box, actually go through each section of your home and sort through items to see what you need to keep and what you can get rid of. If you find an item you haven’t seen in a while as you’re cleaning up, you may not need to take it with you unless, of course, it’s valuable to you.

2. Get Boxes From Local Businesses

This is one of my favorite ways to save money on moving. Why pay for boxes when there are so many ways to get them for free?

If a store tries to charge you for empty boxes, move on. There are plenty of grocery stores and restaurants that will give you boxes for free. They receive a ton of inventory each day and once everything is unpacked, the boxes are usually just thrown away or recycled.

Be sure to coordinate with the store to see what time of day you can come by to pick up boxes so they have them ready for you.

3. Sell Items Online First

Once you declutter your home, you may find that you have quite a few items that can be sold to help you pay for your move. While you may not have time to set up a garage sale before you move, you can list some things on Facebook Marketplace or OfferUp.

4. Use What You Have on Hand to Pack Delicate Items

Keep your spending on packing materials to a minimum. Once you have your free boxes, you probably won’t need special protective moving blankets and stretch wrapper.

Instead, wrap dishes in old newspaper. Disassemble large furniture and place the screws and bolts in plastic bags. Use clean trash bags to transport clothing. Wrap your mirrors and glass items in spare blankets. You get the point.

Also, be sure to mark fragile boxes or transport them yourself in your car to ensure everything remains in good shape.

5. Track Your Spending

Preparing for a move can make your life super busy. And, when you’re busy, it’s easy to overspend.

While tracking your spending isn’t the most creative idea, it’s necessary if you want to control your moving costs and stick to a budget.

For starters, track every moving-related purchase you make and figure out how much you’re spending. This can help you determine when you’re nearing your spending limit so you can plan your cash flow more efficiently.

If you use Chime, you can take advantage of daily bank account balance notifications and you’ll receive an alert each time your debit card is used to make a transaction.

6. Avoid Moving on Weekends

Believe it or not, the timing of your move can play a big role in how much you spend on truck rentals, moving companies, and other related purchases. So, try to avoid moving on peak days and during busy times when costs are inflated.

If you have the availability, it’s definitely worth it to schedule your move on a random weekday and just request time off from work. You’ll avoid traffic and unnecessary costs.

7. Incentivize Friends and Family to Help You Move

If you’re moving locally, you can expect to spend around $450 or more. If you’re hiring movers for a relocation, your costs could run you well over $1,000.

Why not save the money and ask friends and family to help you move? Offer to provide drinks and meals in exchange for their help. Or, consider paying them a small fee. You can send money easily and quickly with Chime Bank’s Pay Friends app feature.

8. Plan Meals and Snacks

It’s common to get overwhelmed with the whole moving process and either forget to eat or splurge on a ton of bad takeout food. So, plan out your meals and snacks in advance so you don’t overspend on food when moving.

Brainstorm some easy meals that you can prep and store in your fridge or freezer. Even if you’ve packed up most of your cooking supplies and utensils, you can keep a single pan out and prepare a few one-pan meals in bulk.

Or, consider buying snacks at your local warehouse club just in case you or your movers get hungry throughout the day. And, if you’re going to order food, make sure you compare different options and save up in advance.

Lastly, create a moving budget that includes food, and set up automatic transfers to your savings account to make sure you can comfortably cover all your expenses when moving day arrives.

Plan Your Move Without Overspending

While things may seem hectic when you plan a move, your budget doesn’t have to go out the window.

If you follow these guidelines, you can control your spending, track your transactions, and use some of our other suggestion to save money on your move.


A Point for Buying in the Buy vs. Rent Debate

By Due.com
September 11, 2018

Buyers and renters have long argued about which housing strategy is best. Buyers love building equity in their homes and the idea of owning an asset, even if that asset comes with a big heap of mortgage debt. Renters, on the other hand, love the freedom that comes with no mortgage, no responsibility (or cost) for repairs, and an option to move without selling. But which really comes out on top when it comes to the dollars and cents? A new report gives us insights into the better financial option when deciding whether to buy or rent your next home. Let’s dive in with a detailed look at when buying makes the most sense and when you might prefer to rent.

The cheapest option: buying a home

A new report from Trulia, the results found that nationwide you are better off buying if you plan to keep a home for at least six years. The July 2018 result found that buyers save 26.3% on average compared to renters. The result actually dropped from the previous period in renting’s favor due to flattening or lower rents in over 80% of the biggest real estate markets.

The savings from renting only vanish in the two most expensive housing markets, San Francisco and San Jose. In The City By the Bay, you save a narrow 5.8% from renting over six years. In Silicon Valley hub San Jose, the savings from renting came in at 12.2% on average. But in those expensive markets, many would-be buyers can’t afford the million dollar price tags Bay Area homes demand anyway. But in the low-cost cities like Detroit, you can save a whopping 48.9% over six years if you choose to buy!

Advantages of buying over renting

Buyers have some compelling reasons to pick ownership over renting. Here are some of the major benefits of buying a home instead of renting:

  • Build equity – While renting, you just pay an expense each month for a place to live. When you buy, a portion of your mortgage payment goes to growing your ownership value in the home. When you move out of an apartment, you get nothing back outside of a deposit return if you are lucky. When you sell a home you own, you get to pull that equity out for a future home purchase or any other use you choose.
  • Control of your home – Do you want to paint a wall red? Do you want to replace an ugly light fixture? If you rent, you might be stuck. If you own, you can do any upgrades you want. And even better, you can build the value of your home when you choose the right upgrades.
  • Capture value from the market – Home prices go up and down, but the general tide takes up them over time. You just might have to wait a while if a bubble bursts for your home value to recover, as we saw in the years following the 2007-2008 housing bubble. But if you own a property and the neighborhood improves, you won’t face eviction. You’ll face a more valuable home.

Of course, there are downsides to buying a home as well. But if you plan to keep the home long enough, the dollars and cents should come out in your favor.

Renting still makes sense for many

If you live in the Bay Area, you may be financially better off renting. Elsewhere, the benefits of renting are more focused on the lifestyle freedoms and low responsibility over a property when you rent. As a renter, you don’t have to budget for repairs or maintenance. That’s all taken care of for you. Further, you are not tied down to the location for the long-run. While you can sell a house at any time, there are real estate agent fees and closing costs, and it takes some time to sell and close.

As a renter, you can just move when your lease ends or as allowed by your rental agreement. You are not tied down to anything, and the only major costs when moving are the moving expenses you would have anyway and a new deposit and first/last month rents. Closing costs for a home can easily reach into the tens of thousands of dollars, so if you plan on moving within a few years renting is the way to go!

Choose the housing option that makes the most sense for you

When it comes to buying versus renting, there is no absolute right or wrong. Like all things in personal finance, the answer is personal. Choose the housing option that makes the most sense for your unique needs. If you do, you should end up with the best long-term results.


America’s Most Expensive Cities: How to Save on Rent in Boston

By Jeanne Lee
September 6, 2018

Welcome to Expensive Cities, a new series designed to help renters find affordable apartments in the nation’s most unaffordable metros.

A post-recession boom has put Boston’s rents among the priciest in the country. With a thriving biotech industry and dozens of premier colleges and universities, Boston is currently the fifth most expensive big city for renters, according to apartment listings site Zumper. With rents in central Boston up nearly 55% since 2009, “affordability is a greater problem than ever,” according to Northeastern University’s Greater Boston Housing Report Card 2017.

Consider the South Boston waterfront. Once a bleak collection of warehouses and shipping docks, the are has been entirely redeveloped, at a cost of billions, into the hip and trendy Seaport district.

“There’s a Warby Parker, an Equinox and seasonal farmers markets. Even the barbershops are expensive,” says Wade Vaughn, a spokesperson for Zumper. One-bedroom apartments there now? A cool $3,200 a month.

How much does renting cost in Boston?

Across Boston, median rents are up to $2,300 for one-bedroom units. In posh Beacon Hill, with its Federal-style row houses, one-bedroom apartments cost $2,550 a month.

Renters in Back Bay, near the Eataly food hall in the Prudential Center and the art galleries of Newberry Street, can expect to pay $2,675. No wonder one in four Boston renters spends half their income on rent, far more than the 30% of income experts consider prudent, according to Boston Magazine.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Boston renters don’t rate among the nation’s savviest tenants. For more on why, check our the Policygenius Renters Index.

Why is the rent in Boston so high?

In all fairness to Bostonians, they face some unique challenges that renters in other pricy cities, like Los Angeles and Chicago, are less apt to face.

If you’re apartment-hunting in Beantown, you might know some of these quirks. For one thing, there’s intense competition: About 70,000 off-campus college students badly skew the supply-demand equation, keeping rental prices inflated.

Plus, to accommodate the academic calendar, “about 70% of the apartment leases start on September 1, which means you have to sign leases, hire movers and get moving permits from the city, all extraordinarily early,” says Vaughn. To get a jump on the competition, some renters start their apartment searches as much as four months in advance. (We can help you quickly compare and buy renters insurance quotes here.)

Worst of all, it’s tough to find a no-fee apartment.

“Some 90% of the privately-owned apartments require you to pay an agent. That’s another month’s rent,” says Vaughn.

How to find affordable rent in Boston

Fortunately, there are some wallet-friendly neighborhoods that offer value and fun. If you’re on a limited budget, check out some of these expert-recommended affordable neighborhoods in Boston.

1. Cross the river to East Cambridge

If your job is in Cambridge, consider rentals in the neighborhood of East Cambridge, where a typical one-bedroom goes for about $2,000.

“For that side of the river and south of Somerville, East Cambridge is your best bet,” says Vaughn. “Great restaurants are popping up and a lot of the bars have a warm vibe in an industrial setting.”

Close to Kendall Square and the multitude of eateries along Cambridge Street, East Cambridge has deals as low as $1,800 a month if you’re willing to take a basement unit. For ground-level apartments, expect to pay a minimum of $1,930, Vaughn says. Act quickly, though, as he predicts rents will increase to $2,150 by September 1.

2. For near-beach living, head to Telegraph Hill

Telegraph Hill is another affordable option. Located in South Boston, or “Southie,” this neighborhood is extremely walkable, with a mix of low-rise apartment buildings and condos near the water. You’ll have access to authentic Italian food, without being swarmed by tourists in the North End.

“For the four or five months out of the year that it’s not snowing, you can go to the beach!” Vaughn says.

Typical one-bedrooms rent for around $2,100, though a recent search turned up a listing for a sunny one-bedroom, with in-unit laundry, for $1,800, including heat and hot water.

3. Consider the Streetcar Suburb Jamaica Plain

“JP,” as everyone calls Jamaica Plain, is a progressive, family-friendly part of town with lots of green space, including portions of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 19th century. The neighborhood was one of the U.S.’s first streetcar suburbs to develop after the Civil War.

Many of the units are in former single-family-houses that have been converted into three-unit apartments, says Vaughn.

“While JP feels more suburban than other neighborhoods in Boston, it’s still relatively close to downtown,” says Joshua Clark, an economist at HotPads, a map-based apartment search website that is part of Zillow Group. One-bedroom units rent for around $1,750.

4. The best neighborhoods for students? Allston & Brighton

The adjacent neighborhoods of Brighton and Allston are popular with millennials and students alike. Median rents for one-bedrooms range from $1,835 to $1,920.

“These areas are affordable, with great nightlife and public transit access to downtown, which can appeal to younger professionals and recent graduates as well,” says Clark.

With excellent walk and bike scores, easy access to transit and plenty of entertainment options, Allston-Brighton jointly ranked as one of the 20 hottest urban neighborhoods in the country, according to study from Chicago-based Hotspot Rentals.

5. Bonus tip: Arrive prepared

Whichever neighborhood suits your needs, one thing is certain. With the Boston apartment market so competitive, you’ll want to move decisively once you find an affordable place that you like. Be sure to bring along your essential documents — credit score, paystubs, references and checkbook — so you’re prepared to secure the apartment of your dreams.

Wondering what neighborhood in Beantown pays the most? Check out our list of the highest-paying ZIP codes in each state.

This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com.


20 Questions About Homeowners Insurance You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask

By Jeanine Skowronski
August 30, 2018

I got homeowners insurance in a blur. My mortgage lender told me a policy was the last thing needed to fully approve our home loan and in a (totally unnecessary) panic, I called my car insurer, gave them my soon-to-be address and got coverage. Shortly after closing, a giant packet came in the mail, detailing a policy I had already paid for.

This isn’t the best way to buy insurance — one of the many lessons I learned as a first-time homebuyer — but closing on a home is stressful. I’m probably not the only person to purchase a homeowners policy without a plan. To help you and future shoppers out, here are 20 questions about homeowners insurance you might be too embarrassed to ask.

1. What is homeowners insurance?

Homeowners insurance is a form of property and casualty insurance. It covers your home and the stuff inside of it in the event of theft or some disasters.

2. Wait … some disasters?

Yes. Homeowners insurance commonly covers these perils: fire, windstorm, hail, lightning, smoke, explosion, theft, vandalism, riot and vehicle collision. It commonly excludes — i.e. doesn’t cover earthquakes, flood, power failure, war, nuclear explosion, neglect, ordinance of law (locally forced repairs) or intentional damage.

3. But that list includes some of the worst natural disasters, no?

Well, if you live in an area that’s susceptible to the perils most likely to occur — namely, earthquakes and floods — you can get coverage for them, usually separately. (In fact, if you live in a flood zone, you need to buy flood insurance to get a mortgage. Federally regulated lenders are legally required to make people living in high-risk flood areas buy a policy.)

4. Fair enough. Is homeowners insurance required by law?

No. Unlike car insurance, states don’t mandate you insure your home. But, if you’re financing a house, your mortgage lender will likely require you to get some. They don’t want to lose money on their investment. And, honestly, neither will you.

5. Why do I need homeowners insurance?

Because houses are expensive and disasters don’t discriminate or only do damage. In 2017, a series of wildfires destroyed thousands of California homes, while Hurricane Harvey forced 30,000 people into temporary homes.

6. So homeowners insurance will replace my house if it’s destroyed?

Here’s the short answer: If your house is destroyed by a covered peril, a standard homeowners policy will go a long way toward repairing or rebuilding your home.

7. What’s the long version?

A homeowners insurance payout is dictated by the fine print of your policy. For starters, you’ll have coverage limits. If your house itself (or “dwelling”) is insured for up to, say, $350,000, you won’t get more than that to replace it. And you could get less, depending on the type of homeowners insurance you have.

8. What types of homeowners insurance policies are there?

There are two big ones we’re referencing here: A replacement cost homeowners insurance policy pays claims based on the cost of rebuilding or repairing your home at the time it is damaged or destroyed. An actual cash value homeowners insurance policy pays claims after accounting for any depreciation in your home’s value.

9. Which one is better?

Replacement cost homeowners insurance will cover more damage to your property and possessions. Actual cash value homeowners insurance is cheaper, but it usually won’t pay out enough to fully repair or rebuild a damaged home.

10. How much homeowners insurance do I need?

That depends on how much home you’re buying, where you’re buying it, the condition of your property and how much stuff you have …

11. How much stuff I have?

Yes, because homeowners insurance provides coverage for your possessions, too, just like renters insurance. You’ll have a total coverage limit for personal belongings and individual limits for high-priced items, like jewelry. The rule of replacement cost vs. actual cash value insurance also applies.

12. Huh. What else does homeowners insurance cover?

In addition to property and personal belongings damage, standard homeowners insurance covers liability in the event someone injures themselves at your house and loss of use, which is a fancy way of saying it’ll pay for for temporary housing while your house is in repair. Separate coverage limits apply to each category.

13. OK, but, really, how much homeowners insurance do I need?

Ideally, you should base your property coverage limits on how much it would cost to rebuild your home. That’s sometimes the house’s current market price, but it could climb higher. You should consider insuring over market price if your house is older, you’ve got other structures on your property (like a shed or four-car garage), or construction costs in your area run high, for example.

14. What about my personal belonging limits?

Coverage for your stuff and temporary relocations are generally based on a percentage of your property’s coverage limits. Standard policies usually cover personal belongings at about 50% of your dwelling limit and loss-of-use at about 20%, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. You might need more coverage if you have pricey possessions.

15. What about my liability limits?

Liability limits start at $100,000, but most homeowners should have between $300,000 and $500,000 worth of liability coverage to protects their assets in the event of a lawsuit.

16. Can you explain liability coverage some more?

Sure. The liability portion of your homeowners insurance kicks in if someone is accidentally injured on or around your property. Say they slip while hanging out by your pool or your dog bites them. So long as there are no exclusions (which is possible, particularly with certain dog breeds), liability insurance will pay for that person’s medical expenses and any court costs you incur if they sue. Liability insurance also covers property damage caused unintentionally by you or your family members, like if your kid breaks a neighbor’s window while playing catch in your yard.

17. Got it. How much does all this homeowners insurance cost?

Again, it’ll vary, depending on how much coverage you need. (We can help you compare homeowners insurance quotes here.) However, a standard policy costs homeowners about $1,100 a year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

18. How can I lower the cost of homeowners insurance?

You can opt for a higher deductible — that’s the amount of money you’ll have to pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in. But less risky ways to save include bundling your homeowners insurance, usually with your car insuranceor asking if you qualify for any discounts.

19. What homeowners insurance discounts are there?

Sometimes homeowners insurance companies offer lower rates to first-time homeowners or first-time customers. You might also score a more affordable policy by adding certain security features to your home, like an alarm system. You can learn about more obscure homeowners insurance discounts here.

20. One more thing: What’s an umbrella policy — & why?

Umbrella policies offer extra liability coverage on top of what’s already covered by your standard homeowners insurance or car insurance policy. Umbrella coverage starts at $1 million. Our agents generally recommend an umbrella policy to people who have more than $500,000 in assets since that’s typically where your standard homeowners policy will cap coverage. But you should also consider umbrella coverage if you’re at risk of multiple lawsuits, like if you have a few teen drivers in the house or you own multiple properties, especially rentals. You can learn more about umbrella insurance here.

Equally confused about life insurance? No worries. We have 20 questions about that coverage you’re too embarrassed to ask right here.

This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com.


America’s Most Expensive Cities: How to Save on Rent in San Francisco

By Jeanne Lee
August 16, 2018

Welcome to Expensive Cities, a new series designed to help renters find affordable apartments in the nation’s most unaffordable metros.

If you’re hunting for an apartment in San Francisco, the city with the highest rents in the nation, congratulations on bucking at least three trends. First, you’re not joining the mass exodus from the Bay Area to cheaper cities like Las Vegas, Portland or Nashville. Second, you’re not squeezing into a dorm-for-adults where the building mom — er, building manager — keeps the laundry detergent stocked. Third, you’re not moving in with your parents, like one-in-three Bay Area millennials these days.

How much does it cost to rent in San Francisco?

Median rent in San Francisco rose to $3,490 for a one-bedroom apartment, up 3.6% from a year ago, according to apartment listing site Zumper. In iconic Pacific Heights, with its Victorian mansions and stunning views, one-bedroom units go for $3,695. In fashionable Hayes Valley, hip young professionals pay $4,025 for pads near the boutiques and restaurants. Renters insurance is San Francisco costs between $7 and $17 a month. (We’ve got a roundup of the best renters insurance companies in San Francisco here.)

Per Zillow, renters in San Francisco spend nearly 40% of income on rent. That’s slightly lower than the 47% of income renters pay in Los Angeles, where median rents are actually lower, but still well above the 30% most experts suggest you spend on housing.

Why are the rents in San Francisco so high?

San Francisco has a severe housing shortage that is driving many residents to seek extreme solutions. Generous tech wages draw hordes of workers to the Bay Area, but high costs soon drive many away.

Nearly half — 46% — of Bay Area residents plan to move from the area soon, according to a survey from Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored advocacy group. Their top reasons: expensive cost of living and rising housing costs. (Case in point: Even with rents climbing toward $4,000, it’s still more prudent to rent vs. buy in San Francisco.)

The city’s post-recession boom created this housing crisis.

“From 2010 to 2015, San Francisco created eight jobs for every home we built…and rents have skyrocketed as a result,” the city’s mayor-elect, London Breed, wrote in a essay on Medium.

How to find affordable rent in San Francisco

Keeping in mind that affordability is relative when it comes to the Bay Area (even New York City has areas where you can find studios for under $2,000), here are some neighborhoods in the area to search if you’re looking for cheaper digs.

1. Western Addition

Adjacent to Pacific Heights and Hayes Valley, Western Addition is an ethnically- and economically-diverse neighborhood that includes the small sub-neighborhood of NoPa (North of the Panhandle). There are no convenient train stations, but you can get around easily on a bike or use the multiple MUNI bus lines connecting the neighborhood to employment nodes in the Financial District, SoMa and Mission Bay.

“The western part of the city has smaller, older buildings and is less connected via public transportation than other sub-markets in the city, which keeps rents more affordable,” Katerina Cheok, market analyst at Costar Group, the parent company of Apartments.com, says.

Median rent is $3,300, though a recent online search turned up a bright NoPa one-bedroom — with hardwood floors and a decorative fireplace — listed for $3,095 with parking available for an extra $250 a month.

“Renters can get the nice amenities — shopping, trendy restaurants and bars — available in the neighboring areas, with more affordability,” Crystal Chen, a spokesperson for Zumper, says.

2. Inner Sunset

Another affordable option is the neighborhood of Inner Sunset, just three miles from the Pacific Ocean.

“It used to be like the suburbs of the city, quiet and family-oriented. But within the past few years, a lot of new restaurants and shops have been popping up in the area,” Chen says.

Young professionals looking for a laid-back neighborhood with a small-town feel have been moving there in droves. Though Inner Sunset is on the outskirts of the San Francisco, it’s easily accessible to downtown by the MUNI trains.

It’s important to note that Inner Sunset sits within the fog zone, which means mornings and evenings tend to be foggy year round. The median rent is $2,700 for a one-bedroom.

3. Downtown Oakland

About 20 minutes from downtown San Francisco via BART, Oakland has a variety of relatively affordable alternatives.

Rents in Downtown Oakland are currently hovering around $2,170, per Zumper. With many new residential projects under construction, it’s expected that 5,700 new apartments will be added in the next few years.

“These units will be close to, if not the same quality, as new units in South of Market and Mission Bay — but at much more affordable rates,” says Cheok.

4. North Oakland

North Oakland is one of the most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods in the U.S — even inspiring a web series, “The North Pole,” that explores the changing racial and class dynamics when new residents and trendy businesses settle in a neighborhood.

North Oakland is next to downtown Oakland and also bordered by Berkeley, Emeryville and Piedmont. Renters can expect to pay $2,600 for a one-bedroom apartment, per Zumper.

5. Jack London

South of Interstate 880, the Jack London neighborhood is right on Oakland’s waterfront in a former warehouse and industrial zone. Also known as the Loft District, the area has been transformed by the arrival of live jazz bars and salsa dancing clubs. One-bedroom apartments in the neighborhood go for $2,750, according to Zumper.

6. Bonus tip: Moving in the off-season can pay off

In a quirk of the San Francisco rental market, new apartment buildings with many units to fill tend to offer some type of financial incentive to renters during the slow months. If you’re able take a lease that starts in the late fall or winter, when fewer people are moving, you may be able to bargain for a month or two of free rent or at least free parking, Chen says.

We can’t curb burgeoning rents in big cities, but we can help you save on coverage for your stuff. You can quickly compare renters insurance quotes here.

This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com


How to Determine the Budget for Your House

By Ben Luthi
July 27, 2018

Saving up for a down payment on a house is one of the most important things you can do before starting your house hunt. But even a 20% down payment won’t help you much if your monthly payments on a new house stretch your budget too thin.

This is what is often referred to as house poor and it’s a wise idea to avoid this. So, how do you really know how much house you can comfortably afford to buy? You can start by estimating all of your eventual monthly housing costs, including your mortgage, insurance, taxes, repairs and more.

Read on to learn about the costs involved in buying a house. From there you can best determine what you’ll actually be spending every month.

Principal and interest

This is the basic monthly cost of your mortgage loan, which you pay directly to the lender. This includes your monthly principal as well as any interest that you pay on the life of your loan.

Keep in mind that if you’re making a down payment or have closing costs, the loan amount will be different than the sales price of the home. As an example, let’s say you have your eye on a home with a sales price of $250,000 and can afford a $25,000 down payment.

The closing costs, which are fees and expenses you pay to complete the sale of the home, will be three percent of the sales price or $7,500. You’ll be expected to pay this amount when you close on the sale of your house.

Getting back to the actual mortgage, in this scenario your total loan amount is $225,000. Let’s say you choose a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a 4.5% interest rate. Using a simple loan calculator, your monthly principal and interest payment would be $1,140.04.

Mortgage insurance

Depending on the type of loan you apply for and the size of your down payment, you may be required to pay mortgage insurance. The beneficiary of the insurance policy is the mortgage lender and this coverage protects the lender if you default on your loan.

To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s how much mortgage insurance typically costs by loan type and your loan-to-value ratio, which is calculated by taking your total loan amount and dividing it by the value of the home.


Loan type Loan to value Mortgage insurance cost
Conventional loan 0% to 19.99% $30 to $70 per month for every $100,000 borrowed
FHA loan All loans Upfront cost at closing of 1.75%; annual cost of 0.45% to 1.05%
USDA loan All loans Upfront cost at closing of 1%; annual cost of 0.35%
VA loan All loans Upfront cost of 1.25% to 3.3%; no annual cost

So, let’s take our previous example to calculate your monthly mortgage insurance costs. You opt for a conventional mortgage, and your loan-to-value ratio is 90%, so you’ll need to pay what’s called private mortgage insurance (PMI). The lender’s insurance company charges $50 per $100,000 borrowed. So, with a $225,000 loan, your monthly PMI bill would be $112.50. This premium will be added to your monthly mortgage payment.

With conventional loans, your PMI requirement will “fall off” your loan automatically once your loan-to-value ratio reaches 78%. That said, you can request to have it removed once your loan to value is 80%.

Homeowners insurance

Once you buy a house, it will likely be the most valuable asset you’ve ever had. As such, you’ll want to insure it against damage, loss and other hazards.

In addition, if you have a mortgage, the lender will require an adequate homeowners insurance policy because it technically owns the property until you pay off the loan. Homeowners insurance costs can vary depending on where you live and other factors. But the average annual premium in the U.S. is $1,083 or $90.25 per month.

Depending on your mortgage lender and situation, you will either pay this directly to the insurance company or to the mortgage company into an escrow account. In an escrow account, your lender collects your monthly insurance premiums and then pays for the insurance on your behalf. By tacking your homeowners insurance premium onto your monthly mortgage payment, it ensures that you don’t accidentally miss a payment and lose your coverage.

Property taxes

State and local government agencies collect property taxes every year based on the value of your home and the property upon which it stands.

Property tax rates not only depend on the state where you live but also your county, township or school district. So, let’s say you live in Arizona, where the average property tax rate is 0.77%. With a home value of $250,000, your property tax bill would be $1,925 annually or $160.42 per month.

Maintenance and repairs

Whether your home is brand new or 100 years old, you can expect to pay for regular maintenance and unexpected repairs. The worst part about this is that there’s no way to know for sure how much these expenses will cost.

For this reason, it’s wise to have an emergency fund with enough money in reserves. Consider opening a separate bank account to keep the money away from your everyday spending. As for how much you should have saved up, experts recommend that you save between one to three percent of the home’s purchase price. If you split the difference and save two percent on a home worth $250,000, that’s $5,000 a year or $416.67 per month.

Calculating your monthly payment

Once you determine the budget for your new home, you’ll have an idea of whether or not you can afford the house you’ve got your eye on.

For that $250,000 home, here’s how the costs add up:

  • Principal and interest: $1,140.04
  • Mortgage insurance: $112.50
  • Homeowners insurance: $90.25
  • Property taxes: $160.42
  • Maintenance and repairs: $416.67

All told, the total monthly budget to afford that house is $1,919.88 — or $1,503.21 if you already have the $400 plus a month saved up in your emergency fund.

So, take a look at your budget before you decide whether you can comfortably afford to buy a particular house – without becoming house poor. If you discover that it’s just too expensive, no worries. You can either keep looking for another other house that fits your budget or continue to save more money for a bigger down payment.


5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Buying My First House

By Ben Luthi
July 22, 2018

When my wife and I bought our first home in September 2017, we made our fair share of mistakes. In hindsight, we should have done some things differently.

The good news: I won’t make the same mistakes again and am grateful that we did make the right choices in some instances. To help you learn from my mistakes as well as my smart money moves, here are 5 things I wish I had known before I started house hunting.

1. A mortgage broker won’t necessarily get you the lowest rate

A mortgage broker acts as a middleman between you and lenders. These brokers compare loan deals with several lenders to find you the best package. They charge a small fee for their efforts.

Since we were new to the game and didn’t feel comfortable doing everything on our own, we found a mortgage broker. He came highly recommended, and we were excited to work with him. Yet, when we were under contract for a house, I wasn’t impressed by the interest rate the broker was offering from one lender. I figured that this was a result of our low down payment —  just three percent at the time.

But when that deal fell through, we decided to build a house and had time to build up a 10% down payment in our savings account. Even better: the home builder told us that if we got our mortgage through one of their partner lenders, the builder would pay our closing costs. When we told our broker about the offer, he told us that was a common tactic by home builders and that we’d end up with a higher interest rate.

Not the case. In fact, the builder’s partner lender offered us a better interest rate than the broker. We gave the broker an opportunity to match or beat the rate, but he was unable to do so.

The bottom line: a mortgage broker won’t always get you the best interest rate. Do your research and explore all options before settling upon a mortgage.

2. Your emotions can work against your best interests

Once we signed an initial contract on the first home we fell in love with, we hired a home inspector to see if there were any major problems with the house.

The results of the inspection were overwhelming:

  • We would need to replace half of the roof.
  • We needed a new water heater.
  • The water pipes were cracking and the entire system needed to be replaced.
  • There was water damage in one of the bedrooms from a window leak.

To fix all of the issues, we were looking at $20,000 out of pocket, and the seller offered just $500. Yet, I loved the house and I wanted to make the repairs. I had to step back and detach emotionally. From that point, I realized this house was looking like a money pit.

The bottom line: don’t let your emotions rule as you may end up regretting your choice. Luckily, we got out before it was too late.

3. Your monthly payment is a lot more than your mortgage

Your monthly housing payment is a lot higher than your mortgage payment alone. Here are the main elements of a monthly housing payment:

  • Principal and interest: This amount goes toward paying off the mortgage loan.
  • Private mortgage insurance: You will pay this if your down payment is less than 20% on a conventional loan. You can, however, request to have it removed once your loan amount is 80% of the value of the house.
  • Homeowners insurance: This coverage protects you against damage and theft. We pay monthly into an escrow account, and the lender makes our premium payment for us annually.
  • Property taxes: These are due annually, but your lender may require you to pay a monthly portion into an escrow account.
  • Maintenance and repairs: Our home is only nine months old, and we’ve already spent money out of pocket for maintenance and repairs. To avoid any nasty surprises, real estate experts recommend saving between one percent and three percent of the home’s value each year. This way, you’ll be able to pay for those unexpected home repairs. .

When we received the final disclosure that broke down our monthly payment, it was higher than I anticipated. Yet, if we knew what the house would cost us each month from the beginning, we may have lowered our house budget even more to make more room for other things in our budget.

The bottom line: make sure you factor in the total monthly cost of owning that house. This will give you a true sense of what you can afford.

4. Your first home is never going to be perfect

After months of checking out existing homes, my wife and I were disappointed that we couldn’t find one without problems. Ultimately, we decided to build a new home.

Brand new homes, however, are not perfect and you may still have to pay for repairs or deal with issues – even in your first year in the house. For example, the insulation subcontractor didn’t blow any insulation above my kids’ rooms in the attic, and the builder made some major blunders with the landscaping that took months to fix.

Because we thought we were avoiding all of these problems by building a home from scratch, it’s been a frustrating experience.

The bottom line: be realistic and save your pennies. No house is problem-free.

5. Get everything in writing

During the building process, the construction manager for our home promised us some things that he didn’t deliver on. When we tried to get the builder to make good on the promises, he refused.

The bottom line: get everything in writing, even minor things. This will help keep the builder, seller and others accountable. After all, buying your first home is likely the biggest financial decision you’ll ever make, so take as much control of the process as you can.

The final word

While we made some mistakes buying our first home, we also learned from our experience.

When it comes time for you to buy a house, make sure you take the time to set realistic expectations and budget wisely. This will help you enjoy your new home without second-guessing yourself at every turn.


How We Saved BIG Buying Our First Home

By Chonce Maddox
July 20, 2018

Buying a house is a symbol of the American Dream, but it can also easily become the American Nightmare if you’re not financially prepared.

My husband and I bought our first home in May and we took all the steps needed to make this an enjoyable experience. We also didn’t want to go broke in the process. It was our goal to buy a house with a  mortgage payment we can afford. More importantly, we still wanted to enjoy our lives, travel, and continue to save money.

Here are a few ways we saved big as first-time home buyers. Better yet, we’re not house poor.

We Got a Fixed-Rate Conventional Loan

There are many different types of mortgages. We went for a conventional loan with a fixed interest rate.

Why? As mortgage interest rates are now low, we wanted to lock in the best rate possible to ensure that we have fixed payments every month.

Another reason why we chose a conventional loan was because we wanted to make a sizeable down payment and knew we would not have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) if we could pony up 20% of the cost of the house. A general rule of thumb is to put at least 20% down to avoid paying PMI. But, if you can’t do this, a conventional loan allows you to get rid of your PMI payment once you have 20% equity in your home – even if you couldn’t initially afford a hefty down payment.

We Improved Our Credit

My husband and I started working on improving our credit two years before we applied for a mortgage. We paid off debt, used credit cards wisely, and corrected any errors on our credit reports.

We focused on developing better spending habits and paying bills on time. By the time we got pre-approved and started looking for houses, both of our credit scores were over 750.

Because lenders look at credit scores for co-borrowers, they will often take the lowest score into account. Yet, neither of us wanted to be the weakest link. Plus, since both of us had such strong credit scores, we secured the best interest rate for our mortgage. This will save us thousands of dollars over time.

Our House Was Move-in Ready

Buying a move-in ready house was super important to me. My husband and I are not handy and we wanted something we would not have to completely renovate.

Our home was the perfect compromise. It was listed at a price that was at least $15,000 less than other homes in the area, was moderately maintained and had some good bones. The kitchen was updated along with one of the bathrooms. The roof was new, the HVAC system was in good shape and there was even a new deck in the backyard. Another bonus: a sprinkler system was recently installed. We definitely didn’t need to invest anywhere near $15,000 into the house. The only thing I really wanted to do immediately was hire a cleaning service and replace all the carpeting with laminate flooring. No big deal.

The best part: we didn’t have to spend extra money on hotels or stay with family while having major work done to the house.

We Bought Almost Everything Used

To save a ton of money when buying our house, we purchased used furniture. We also budgeted to buy stuff for the new house – using only the cash we had available in our bank account.

I found most of what I needed on the Facebook Marketplace. Among my bargain buys: a glass table with six chairs, a sectional sofa, an indoor storage bench, a patio table, and a wicker loveseat for the patio. Total cost: under $1,000. Can’t beat that price.

Our Sellers Purchased a Warranty

The sellers of our new house were kind enough to purchase a 13-month warranty that we can use if certain things in the home need repair. Because our house was built in the 60s, something is bound to need fixing.

Among other things, the warranty covers electrical work, plumbing and HVAC repairs. All we need to do is pay a service fee for a contractor to come out to either fix the issue or replace the item.

We’re DIYing like Crazy

Finally, we DIYed a lot to save money. As first time home buyers, we enjoy working on projects together and learning new skills. For example, I installed a backsplash and my husband sanded drywall in our second bathroom.

We’re even getting the family involved. My dad installed our flooring and window treatments, saving us the cost of hiring contractors to do this.

Final Word

Buying a home is a huge financial commitment. But, if you plan ahead you don’t have to go completely broke in order to achieve the American Dream. By taking a page from my book, you too can take steps to save money, pay down debt and become a homeowner.


America’s Most Expensive Cities: How to Save on Rent in Atlanta

By Jeanne Lee
July 19, 2018

Welcome to Expensive Cities, a new series designed to help renters find affordable apartments in the nation’s most unaffordable metros.

If you’re mulling a move to the Atlanta, you might find a quick perusal of its apartment listings disheartening. Luxury-priced listings abound, thanks to the hordes of construction crews putting up new complexes all over the city. But where are the reasonably-priced apartments for average working Joes and Janes?

The sad fact is, there is indeed a dearth of affordable apartments in booming Atlanta.

“Atlanta’s rents are quickly on the rise,” Joshua Clark, an economist at HotPads, an apartment search site that is part of Zillow Group, says. “While the area is still more affordable than San Francisco or San Jose, rents are appreciating faster in Atlanta right now than in either of those notoriously competitive, expensive markets.”

How much does renting cost in Atlanta?

Median rent in Atlanta climbed 8.1% in the past year to $1,460 for a one-bedroom apartment, and the city ranks No. 15 among the most expensive U.S. markets for renters, according to Zumper, an apartment search site.

In Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood, where large swaths of Peachtree Street have been transformed by large residential and office developments in the past three years, apartments rent for substantially more, around $1,800 to $2,200 a month. Old Fourth Ward in the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic District — where you can sample South African-style beef jerky and 1960s craft cocktails in the food hall at Ponce City Market — costs renters about $1,500 to $1,800 per month for a one-bedroom unit, according to Danny Sirikoun, Zumper’s Atlanta market specialist.

Why is the rent in Atlanta so high?

Rapid job growth in the nation’s third-fastest growing metro helped attract nearly 90,000 new people to Atlanta, causing furious demand for apartments. Many came for entertainment industry jobs. Atlanta has become the third-biggest hub for the film industry, after Los Angeles and New York, producing blockbusters like “Avengers: Infinity War” and Netflix’s “Stranger Things”.

“Given that so many new rental listings have become available in the past year, and rent growth still hasn’t let up, it’s clear that the city is still seeing high demand,” Clark says.

How to find affordable rent in Atlanta

Despite the general upward price trend, budget-minded renters can still find some relatively well-priced apartments, both inside the perimeter (ITP) of Interstate-285 and outside (OTP). Check out these up-and-coming neighborhoods with lots of exposure to the ATL’s most exciting offerings that still tout affordable rents.

1. For proximity to everything, look at West Midtown

Love the museums and fancy shops of Midtown, but found the area too pricey? Consider bustling West Midtown, the neighborhood right next door to Georgia Tech. Average rents around there are $200 to $300 dollars cheaper than rents for comparable apartments in Midtown proper. You can find a studio for around $1,100 and for a one-bedroom you’ll pay around $1,300 to $1,500.

“That’s pretty cheap, considering its proximity to everything,” says Sirikoun.

In recent years, this former industrial neighborhood has seen its old warehouses rapidly converted to trendy urban lofts, galleries and live music venues. It is also easily accessible to the Westside BeltLine, a new walking and biking trail that showcases public art exhibits and links intown neighborhoods.

“People are starting to flock to Westside Provisions and Marietta Street for nightlife, restaurants and boutiques,” Sirikoun says.

2. An alternative booming area? Smyrna

An OTP alternative that offers a good lifestyle on a budget is Smyrna, or “Jonquil City,” which is about ten miles northwest of Atlanta and considered an integral part to its metro area. Smyrna is best for those who want a family-friendly community with a village-within-a-city feeling, along with easy access to downtown Atlanta.

Smyrna has boomed recently after the Atlanta Braves built their new stadium, SunTrust Park, in the area. The project included the development of a new entertainment district The Battery Atlanta, with shopping, restaurants and bars.

“It’s only a ten-minute drive into the city, which makes it popular with out-of-towners looking for a place that is affordable,” says Sirikoun.

One-bedroom apartments in older buildings start at around $900 a month, while those in new developments go all the way up to $1,500.

“The average is more on the low end of the spectrum, around $1,000 to $1,100 for a one-bedroom,” says Sirikoun.

3. Bonus tip: Budget for higher rents if you own a pet

Atlanta is famously dog-friendly. You’re fine to bring your animal companion along on your Home Depot errands or to brunch al fresco at many Atlanta restaurants. When it comes to renting an apartment, most Atlanta landlords happily welcome your furry friends — albeit for a price. (Note: You might pay more renters insurance, too. We can help you compare renters insurance quotes here.)

“Most, if not all, landlords allow dogs, with a certain pet fee, plus ‘pet rent’ per month,” Sirikoun says. “Aggressive breeds are not allowed in most, and weight restrictions are imposed as well. As a financially-responsible mom or dad, you’d be wise to budget an additional $300 to $500 per pet at move-in time, plus about $10 to $15 a month extra in pet rent.”

What cities have the savviest renters? Check out the Policygenius Renters Index to find out.

This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com

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