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Home Listings And Real Estate Ads Are Full Of These Misleading Words

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“The glass is always half full.” “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” “I have not yet begun to fight.”

When it comes to little pep talks, we humans are an optimistic bunch. But maybe never more so than when it comes to selling a home.

Few people ever put out a listing that says something like, “This is a house with three small bedrooms, bad plumbing and an unremarkable yard.”

No, sellers and their agents accentuate the positive. Small rooms are cozy. A boring yard may be described as lush merely because the grass is green. A home with bad plumbing may be pitched as offering indoor swimming.

Not that you can blame a seller for pointing out the positives. Still, if you’re a buyer who doesn’t want to be disappointed when touring a home, you’ll want to think carefully about adjectives, and why they are placed in an ad, the next time you’re looking at listings. In fact, some words are so known to be weasel words that many real estate agents won’t use them in an ad.

“Cozy is universally known to be small, so even if a place is really cozy, we won’t use the word in our listing description,” said Samantha Rose Frith, a real estate agent at Warburg Realty in New York.

In general, she added, a home buyer should be suspicious of any phrase that seems out of place in a description. The phrase may be trying to distract you from something that’s negative.

“For instance,” Frith said, “if a broker describes an apartment as ‘pin-drop quiet,’ I become immediately suspicious. Why do we need to know it’s quiet? Is it because it faces a Sixth Avenue bus stop and has noise dampening windows? Or is it because it’s on the first floor, faces the back of a building and being quiet is its best feature?”

So if you’re looking for a new home and reading a lot of listings, watch out for some of these possibly not-what-they-seem descriptions.

Handyman special. “This should mean it needs carpet, paint, patchwork, landscaping, and new fixtures,” said Cedric Stewart of Entourage Residential Group at Keller Williams in Rockville, Maryland.

In other words, when you read “handyman special,” don’t expect much. But Stewart said that maybe you shouldn’t expect anything.

“What it typically means is $20,000 or more in renovations are needed on a home the seller knows future homeowners won’t be interested in, but they aren’t willing to sell it at the price investors ― the only people that would buy it ― are willing to pay,” he said.

He added that a hint that a handyman special probably isn’t worth checking out is when the listing only shows a home’s exterior photos.

Vibrant neighborhood. This is another phrase that should give you pause, Stewart said. “This could mean anything. Heavy foot traffic, a bus stop directly in front of the house, activity from a large apartment building next door, high crime… We often recommend visiting these homes at night, just in case.”

Developing neighborhood. It may well mean that the area is still underdeveloped, and that there’s a lot of construction projects that will be coming in the short and medium term, according to Daniela Andreevska, the content marketing director at Mashvisor, a real estate data analytics company.

“Even if you don’t see construction machinery today, it might just as well be there in a couple of weeks or months,” she said.

Quiet neighborhood. Good grief, what’s wrong with that? It describes the neighborhood, right? It’s not even a curious phrase, like “pin-drop quiet.” The issue is that everyone has a different definition of quiet, said Michael Pacheco, a real estate agent based out of Nashville, Tennessee.

“Even the quietest of neighborhoods have noise issues from time to time, and noise levels are relative to experience and person,” Pacheco said. While the neighborhood may indeed be quiet, “buyers should always take caution when reading that the property is located in a ‘quiet neighborhood’ and take those words with a large grain of salt.”

Good neighborhood. Actually, nothing is wrong with this phrase, but like “quiet neighborhood,” it tells you very little, Andreevska said.

“This term is so vague,” she said. “It can mean one of the best neighborhoods in town, and it can also mean a neighborhood that’s all right.”

Backs up to a green belt. This sounds terrific. Who wouldn’t want to live next to a green belt? As you probably know, that’s not just an interesting wardrobe choice ― it’s also a term that describes an open area of land, and often it means that construction is prohibited or limited in that area so wildlife can have some space to live.

Go check out the house, for sure, but keep your expectations in check. Cassie Villela, a property manager and realtor in San Antonio, Texas, said, “I cannot count the number of times I’ve taken clients on a showing who are looking for the beauty and peace of nature behind their home, only to find out that the reason for the green belt is gigantic, ugly, buzzing power lines. It is a frustrating experience for everyone, including the sellers.”

Updated. It may be a good home. Just recognize what you may be getting. “In my experience, the word ‘updated’ in listing descriptions often misleads buyers. They often think ‘updated’ means newly renovated,” said Carol Breitman, a licensed real estate salesperson with Citi Habitats, a real estate brokerage in New York.

So what does updated often really mean?

“Instead it means that some updates have been made to the home over time, such as new appliances in the kitchen, but they could have been completed a few years ago,” Breitman said. “When showing these properties, clients are often disappointed when they see this hodgepodge of some new and some old.”

Comfy. Who wouldn’t want a comfy home? True enough, but it usually means “worn out,” said Julie Upton, an entrepreneur with a California real estate license who has written copy for real estate listings.

Partial views or peek-a-boo views. You’ll be straining your neck to see the view, according to Upton.

Generous-sized rooms. Average-sized rooms, according to Upton.

Old world charm. It just means “old,” Upton said.

Vintage. “Old and dated,” Upton said.

Lots of potential, or great bones. “Needs a complete rehab or renovation,” Upton said.

Fanciful. That’s often a synonym for “bizarre and ‘way out there,’” said Elizabeth O’Neill, an agent with Warburg Realty.

One of a kind. That could mean trouble, O’Neill said. “One of a kind should really beg the question, ‘If it was really a compelling design, wouldn’t others have followed?’” In other words, maybe there’s a reason this home is one of a kind?

Dramatic. “It’s most often meant to convey bold design elements and approach,” O’Neill said, but the word in a real estate context more often means that “this is way different than you could imagine.” She also said that she suspects most homebuyers will feel that they have enough drama in their lives and can pass on looking at a home that describes itself as dramatic.

Transports you. “Another watchword,” O’Neill said. “While the words hold so much promise, it typically means, ‘Takes you somewhere you don’t want to go,’ and, ‘You’ll definitely want to leave this place soon.’”

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4 things kids need to know about money

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(NC) Responsible spending includes knowing the difference between wants and needs. Back-to-school season, with added expenses and expectations around spending, is the perfect time to not only build your own budget for the year ahead, but also to introduce your own children to the concept of budgeting.

The experts at Capital One break down four basic things that every child should know about money, along with tips for bringing real-life examples into the conversation.

What money is. There’s no need for a full economic lesson,but knowing that money can be exchanged for goods and services, and that the government backs its value, is a great start.
How to earn money. Once your child understands what money is, use this foundational knowledge to connect the concepts of money and work. Start with the simple concept that people go to work in exchange for an income, and explain how it may take time (and work) to save for that new pair of sneakers or backpack. This can help kids develop patience and alleviate the pressure to purchase new items right away that might not be in your budget.
The many ways to pay. While there is a myriad of methods to pay for something in today’s digital age, you can start by explaining the difference between cash, debit and credit. When teaching your kids about credit, real examples help. For instance, if your child insists on a grocery store treat, offer to buy it for them as long as they pay you back from their allowance in a timely manner. If you need a refresher, tools like Capital One’s Credit Keeper can help you better understand your own credit score and the importance of that score to overall financial health.
How to build and follow a budget. This is where earning, spending, saving and sharing all come together. Build a budget that is realistic based on your income and spending needs and take advantage of banking apps to keep tabs on your spending in real-time. Have your kids think about how they might split their allowance into saving, spending and giving back to help them better understand money management.

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20 Percent Of Americans In Relationships Are Committing Financial Infidelity

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Nearly 30 million Americans are hiding a checking, savings, or credit card account from their spouse or live in partner, according to a new survey from CreditCards.com. That’s roughly 1 in 5 that currently have a live in partner or a spouse.

Around 5 million people — or 3 percent — used to commit “financial infidelity,” but no longer do.

Of all the respondents, millennials were more likely than other age groups to hide financial information from their partner. While 15 percent of older generations hid accounts from their partner, 28 percent of millennials were financially dishonest.

Regionally, Americans living in the South and the West were more likely to financially “cheat” than those living in the Northeast and Midwest.

Insecurity about earning and spending could drive some of this infidelity, according to CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman.

When it comes to millennials, witnessing divorce could have caused those aged 18-37 to try and squirrel away from Rossman calls a “freedom fund”.

“They’ve got this safety net,” Rossman said. They’re asking: “What if this relationship doesn’t work out?”

As bad as physical infidelity

More than half (55 percent) of those surveyed believed that financial infidelity was just as bad as physically cheating. That’s including some 20 percent who believed that financially cheating was worse.

But despite this, most didn’t find this to be a deal breaker.

Over 80 percent surveyed said they would be upset, but wouldn’t end the relationship. Only 2 percent of those asked would end the relationship if they discovered their spouse or partner was hiding $5,000 or more in credit card debt. That number however is highest among those lower middle class households ($30,000-$49,999 income bracket): Nearly 10 percent would break things off as a result.

Roughly 15 percent said they wouldn’t care at all. Studies do show however that money troubles is the leading cause of stress in a relationship.

That’s why, Rossman says, it’s important to share that information with your partner.

“Talking about money with your spouse isn’t always easy, but it has to be done,” he said. “You can still maintain some privacy over your finances, and even keep separate accounts if you and your spouse agree, but you need to get on the same page regarding your general direction, otherwise your financial union is doomed to fail.”

With credit card rates hovering at an average of 19.24 percent APR, hiding financial information from a partner could be financially devastating.

But, Rossman adds, it’s not just about the economic impact but also the erosion of trust.

“More than the dollars and cents is that trust factor,” he said. “I think losing that trust is so hard to regain. That could be a long lasting wedge.”

Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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7 Examples Of Terrible Financial Advice We’ve Heard

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Between television, radio, the internet and well-meaning but presumptuous friends and family, we’re inundated with unsolicited advice on a daily basis. And when it comes to money, there’s a ton of terrible advice out there. Even so-called experts can lead us astray sometimes.

Have you been duped? Here are a few examples of the worst money advice advisers, bloggers and other personal finance pros have heard.

1. Carry a balance to increase your credit score.

Ben Luthi, a money and travel writer, said that a friend once told him that his mortgage loan officer advised him to carry a balance on his credit card in order to improve his credit score. In fact, the loan officer recommended keeping the balance at around 50 percent of his credit limit.

“This is the absolute worst financial advice I’ve ever heard for several reasons,” Luthi said. For one, carrying a credit card balance doesn’t have any effect on your credit at all. “What it does do is ensure that you pay a high interest rate on your balance every month, neutralizing any other benefits you might get from the card,” Luthi explained. “Also, keeping a 50 percent credit utilization is a surefire way to hurt your credit score, not help it.”

Some credit experts recommend keeping your balance below 30 percent of the card limit, but even that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Keeping your balance as low as possible and paying the bill on time each month is how you improve your score.

2. Avoid credit cards ― period.

Credit cards can be a slippery slope for some people; overspending can lead to a cycle of debt that’s tough to escape.

But avoiding credit cards on principle, something personal finance gurus like Dave Ramsey push hard, robs you of all their potential benefits.

“Credit cards are a good tool for building credit and earning rewards,” explained personal finance writer Kim Porter. “Plus, there are lots of ways to avoid debt, like using the card only for monthly bills, paying off the card every month and tracking your spending.”

If you struggle with debt, a credit card is probably not for you. At least not right now. But if you are on top of your finances and want to leverage debt in a strategic way, a credit card can help you do just that.

3. The mortgage you’re approved for is what you can afford.

“The worst financial advice I hear is to buy as much house as you can afford,” said R.J. Weiss, a certified financial planner who founded the blog The Ways to Wealth. He explained that most lenders use the 28/36 rule to determine how much you can afford to borrow: Up to 28 percent of your monthly gross income can go toward your home, as long as the payments don’t exceed 36 percent of your total monthly debt payments. For example, if you had a credit card, student loan and car loan payment that together totaled $640 a month, your mortgage payment should be no more than $360 (36 percent of $1,000 in total debt payments).

“What homeowners don’t realize is this rule was invented by banks to maximize their bottom line ― not the homeowner’s financial well-being,” Weiss said. “Banks have figured out that this is the largest amount of debt one can take on with a reasonable chance of paying it back, even if that means you have to forego saving for retirement, college or short-term goals.”

4. An expensive house is worth it because of the tax write-off.

Scott Vance, owner of taxvanta.com, said a real estate agent told him when he was younger that it made sense to buy a more expensive house because he had the advantage of writing off the mortgage interest on his taxes.

But let’s stop and think about that for a moment. A deduction simply decreases your taxable income ― it’s not a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your tax bill. So committing to a larger mortgage payment to take a bigger tax deduction still means paying more in the long run. And if that high mortgage payment compromises your ability to keep up on other bills or save money, it’s definitely not worth it.

“Now, as a financial planner focusing on taxes, I see the folly in such advice,” he said, noting that he always advises his client to consider the source of advice before following it. ”Taking tax advice from a Realtor is … like taking medical procedure advice from your hairdresser.”

5. You need a six-month emergency fund.

One thing is true: You need an emergency fund. But when it comes to how much you should save in that fund, it’s different for each person. There’s no cookie-cutter answer that applies to everyone. And yet many experts claim that six months’ worth of expenses is exactly how much you should have socked away in a savings account.

“I work with a lot of Hollywood actors, and six months won’t cut it for these folks,” said Eric D. Matthews, CEO and wealth adviser at EDM Capital. “I also work with executives in the same industry where six months is overkill. You need to strike a balance for your work, industry and craft.”

If you have too little saved, a major financial blow can leave you in debt regardless. And if you set aside too much, you lose returns by leaving the money in a liquid, low-interest savings account. “The generic six months is a nice catch-all, but nowhere near the specific need of the individual’s unique situation… and aren’t we all unique?”

6. You should accept your entire student loan package.

Aside from a house, a college education is often one of the biggest purchases people make in their lifetimes. Often loans are needed to bridge the gap between college savings and that final tuition bill. But just because you’re offered a certain amount doesn’t mean you need to take it all.

“The worst financial advice I received was that I had to accept my entire student loan package and that I had no other options,” said Gina Zakaria, founder of The Frugal Convert. “It cost me a lot in student loan debt. Now I tell everyone that you never have to accept any part of a college financial package that you don’t want to accept.” There are always other options, she said.

7. Only invest in what you know.

Even the great Warren Buffett, considered by many to be the best investor of all time, gets it wrong sometimes. One of his most famous pieces of advice is to only invest in what you know, but that might not be the right guidance for the average investor.

In theory, it makes sense. After all, you don’t want to tie up your money in overly complicated investments you don’t understand. The problem is, most of us are not business experts, and it’s nearly impossible to have deep knowledge of hundreds of securities. “Diversification is key to a good portfolio, and investing in what you know leads to a very un-diversified portfolio,” said Britton Gregory, a certified financial planner and principal of Seaborn Financial. “Instead, invest in a well-diversified portfolio that includes many companies, even ones you’ve never heard of.”

That might mean enlisting the help of a professional, so make sure it’s one who has your best interests at heart.

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