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How Unemployment Can Affect Your Plans To Buy a Home—Now and Later

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The coronavirus pandemic has led to record-high unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression. And this is particularly worrisome for would-be home buyers.

If you were among the 23.1 million Americans who were laid off or furloughed, you might be worried about your financial future. And if you were hoping to buy a house—either now or in the next few years—you might also wonder how your current jobless status might affect those plans.

While the situation might seem dire, unemployment does not mean that home-buying plans have to be put on hold for long. Here’s how to navigate a period of unemployment so that it doesn’t derail your hopes to buy a home.

Can you buy a home if you’re unemployed?

For starters: If you lose your job while in the midst of home shopping or after you’ve even made an offer, you might have to put the purchase on hold.

The reason: Given your reduced income, the odds of lenders loaning you money for a property purchase are slim, unless your spouse or partner has a sizable income that can carry the mortgage alone.

And even if you’re getting unemployment checks every week, that money is considered temporary income, so it can’t be used to qualify for a mortgage, says Jackie Boies, senior director of housing and bankruptcy services at Money Management International, a nonprofit providing financial education and counseling.

In short, “unemployment could have an effect on your ability to purchase a home in the short term,” Boies says.

But the good news is that once you find a new job, you can likely resume home shopping without trouble, Boies adds. “Unemployment shouldn’t have a long-term effect on being able to buy a home.”

How long after unemployment can you buy a home?

But even once you do find a new job, that doesn’t mean you can easily buy a house just yet. That’s because lenders like to see a steady history of employment before loaning someone money.

“Regular employment must be reestablished as stable, reliable, and dependable,” says Karma Herzfeld, mortgage loan originator at Motto Mortgage Alliance in Little Rock, AR.

So how long is enough? Lenders typically require borrowers to have six months of employment at their current job, and two years of continuous employment. Breaks in employment older than two years shouldn’t affect getting a mortgage.

How unemployment affects your credit score

While unemployment doesn’t jeopardize future home-buying hopes per se, financial experts warn that what can put those plans at risk is how you handle your finances while jobless. Unemployment, after all, can stress your budget in ways that can damage your credit history and credit score.

Lenders check your credit score to assess how well you’ve managed past debts. Scores between 650 and 700 range from fair to good; scores below 650 are considered subpar, which could limit which lenders are willing to loan you money for a house. (You can check your score for free on sites like Credit Karma.)

Credit scores can be damaged in a variety of ways during unemployment. For one, if you get behind on paying bills, this will put some blemishes on your credit history and drag your score down.

Unemployment can also lower your credit score by negatively affecting your debt-to-income ratio, a calculation used by mortgage lenders to compare how much you make against how much you owe.

If you’re unemployed, you may face a double whammy as your income is lower and you’re charging more to your credit cards, thus increasing your debt. Both moves can negatively affect your debt-to-income ratio, which may make lenders leery of loaning you money.

“Any factor that affects income or debt may affect the debt-to-income ratio,” Herzfeld explains.

In sum, hopeful home buyers should be careful not to take on too much debt, even while unemployed. You need to preserve cash as best you can.

“I recommend, if on unemployment, [you] cut back on all discretionary spending and make every effort to keep bills current so that the credit score may not get negatively impacted,” Herzfeld says.

Debt-to-income ratio will likely rebalance once you return to work, as long as you haven’t racked up too much debt during the period of unemployment, Boies says.

How to handle your finances while unemployed

“My recommendation is to always try as best as you can to pay at least the minimum required payment on all monthly debt obligations, otherwise credit may be negatively affected,” Herzfeld says.

Boies suggests reaching out to landlords, credit card companies, utilities, auto lenders, and others to find out what options you have, such as payment plans, deferments, or forbearance. You might also be able to reduce some bills, such as insurance, by reviewing your policy.

“Don’t think that if you can’t pay that bill, you just can’t do anything about it,” Boies says. “You need to reach out to see what options they have available to you.”

How to bounce back from unemployment

If your credit score is negatively affected while you’re unemployed, it’s not the end of the world—but it will take time to repair.

Six months to a year or more of positive credit rebuilding could get you on track to buy a home, Herzfeld says.

“The sooner past-due debts can be remedied, the sooner the score may begin to improve,” she says.

The post How Unemployment Can Affect Your Plans To Buy a Home—Now and Later appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

How to Increase Your Earning Potential

Every year presents new lessons we should incorporate on this life journey, and this one, in particular, is no exception. In a world that is ever-changing one thing that has to remain the same is our ability to pivot when necessary. Whenever life challenges arise, we often make changes and shift out of force rather than free choice. While this logic can be applied to every aspect of our lives it’s an especially crucial concept as it relates to our finances. There’s no need to wait until your employer needs to decrease headcount or reduce work hours to jumpstart your rediscovery process. Make the decision today that no matter what happens within the economy, you are making the strides to guarantee your earning power doesn’t rest in the hands of someone else.

Set yourself apart and strengthen your skills

Often times, the number one thing you can do before executing plans of any kind is focus on strengthening your skills. Are others able to depend on you?  If you desire to run your own business or be a high-performing, contributing employee – are you reliable? Being able to breakdown complex situations and produce viable solutions, paying special attention to detail, and asking the right questions at the right time are skills that many often have, but have yet to master. Focusing on any skills that may come naturally to you while achieving mastery, in the long run, will absolutely contribute to the opportunities you are afforded over other candidates. It’s not about competition, because what’s for you won’t pass you by. It’s about actively showcasing you are indeed the best candidate with the physical results to prove it.

Seek out new opportunities and expand your skillset

People believe there are only a few ways to bring in additional income – one being a side hustle. This isn’t necessarily the case. Seeking out opportunities within your current or new place of employment can be just what you need to make substantial strides in increasing your earnings as well as visibility. Make yourself familiar with the Human Resources policies for promotions and role transitions. Look into if there are side projects you can add to your workload that can increase your skillset while being introduced to a new audience of people; consider exploring that. Be sure to document the pros and cons of the newly added responsibilities while making sure it aligns with where you ultimately want to be. Don’t shy away from having a conversation with your manager and making your goals known.

Ask for more (and quantify it)

Employers have mid-year and end of year reviews to go over performance goals and ensure the work you’ve done over time aligns with the responsibilities of the team as well as the company. While this is protocol, as an employee you don’t have to wait until this designated time to discuss career goals. Not only does this conversation create awareness between you and your manager – it allows them to understand your desire for more. I’m sure we’ve all had less than desirable bosses, coworkers, and teams. We’ve also been in situations where we know that the work required of us was so much more than the actual amount of money we were taking home. To avoid the unfortunate cycle of being overworked and underpaid that many fall into, have an open and candid conversation with management. Be sure to quantify every task and tie a metric to it if possible. This helps to build your professional story while also making sure your resume stays current for all new opportunities as they arise.

Start a side hustle

When your friends, family, or peers often ask you to complete something and you enjoy doing it; what is that ‘thing’? What talents do you innately have that seem as if it doesn’t require a huge amount of effort? The answers to these questions should birth the idea of your new side hustle. As daunting as it may sound, take the time to loosely create a plan. Remember, this is scalable! Go at the pace that is most comfortable for you and can transition well into your lifestyle. Solicit the help of family and friends while using your larger network to advertise your talent. Social media and word of mouth can go a very long way – use all outlets to promote yourself and your services.

Never underestimate the power of networking

We all have a comfort zone and typically stay within those walls on a regular basis unless probed. However, do you consider the opportunities that could be available to you by adding several new people to your network? Utilize employee resource groups at your place of employment, various professional networks in your local cities, and other organizations that have a virtual platform. Do a quick Google search based on your preferred industry and start the journey of expanding your network. There’s a very familiar phrase we’ve all heard at some point, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” LinkedIn is a great social media platform to engage with professionals all over the world on various subject matters and topics. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and make the connections that could lead you to new opportunities.

Become a lifelong learner

Make a commitment to yourself that no matter what happens, you will always seek knowledge, no matter the method. Explore personal and professional learning opportunities. This may be pursuing an advanced degree to expand opportunities. For others, it can be obtaining a certification within your desired field to land a better position – resulting in a salary increase. If either of those doesn’t sound appealing or fit within your current life circumstances, you can always attend conferences, listen to webinars, podcasts, and so many other cost-effective (or free) learning channels to keep your skills in top shape. This could be listening to an audible book while driving in your car or reading a new article every day related to your industry before getting your day started – learning is limitless!

The post How to Increase Your Earning Potential appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com