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Why I’m Grown-Up and Employed, but Still Need Mom to Co-Sign on My Home

August 20, 2020

cosign lease

Jillian Pretzel

When I got my first apartment after college, I needed my mom to co-sign my lease.

The landlord required proof that I made three times the rent, but since I wasn’t making nearly enough, I called Mom to sign on that second dotted line.

Then, in my mid-20s, when I bought my first condo, I needed a co-signer again. Once again, my mom was there for me.

Now I’m almost 30, married, and expecting our first child. Both my husband and I are gainfully employed and have good credit histories, so you’d think we wouldn’t need any parent co-signing for us to rent a home! But alas, we’d recently moved to New York City, where rents were so high, snagging a half-way decent apartment would require Mom to co-sign once again.

What’s going on? Would I need my mother to co-sign forever?

Of course, I feel lucky to have a parent who’s so supportive. But I can’t help but think that there’s something wrong with me, where I was choosing to live, or perhaps the housing system in general.

So, I started looking into why co-signing is so often required, even in cases where it seems unnecessary. Here’s what I learned, and some words of wisdom from experts that could help you get through the inconvenient (and embarrassing) cycle.

Why co-signers are required

What bothered me most about needing a co-signer was that I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously as a tenant. I had a good job and a college degree, why couldn’t I be trusted to pay my rent?

As it turns out, many people face this problem.

While landlords may have differing requirements, the industry standard is that your take-home income must be three times what you pay in rent. So if you make $3,000 a month, your monthly rent should not exceed $1,000.

But is this realistic with today’s runaway rent prices?

For instance, in 2013, as a fresh college graduate, I paid $1,600 a month for a one-bedroom, third-floor walk-up in Los Angeles. So based on the three-times rule, I should have been earning $4,800 a month, or $57,600 a year.

A salary that size was an unattainable dream for me right out of college. Even though I had a great sales job and a minimum-wage side hustle, I was making only about twice the annual rent, or $40,000.

And I was one of the lucky ones. The minimum wage in California is $12 an hour, but in 2013 it was $8. To afford a monthly rent of $1,600 in 2013, a minimum-wage worker would have needed to put in 150 hours a week.

Is the three-times rent rule realistic?

Because I needed a co-signer, I couldn’t help but wonder about the three-times rent rule, and the reason for it. Did this mean I’d overextended myself?

As it turns out, I had no reason for worry. With a monthly rent of $1,600, I had another $1,600 left for other expenses, and it was more than enough.

So I started wondering: If twice my income worked just fine for my bills, why do landlords want proof that renters make three times their rent?

“The exact origins of the three-times rule is unknown,” says Michael Dinich of Your Money Geek. Nonetheless, this rule has remained the industry standard—for renters and home buyers alike.

“Mortgage lenders have often used the guideline that housing costs should be no more than 30% of income,” Dinich says. “The three-times rule is likely a handy approximation based on those old guidelines.”

This guideline may even contribute to younger generations’ low rates of homeownership.

“The income of many people, particularly younger adults, has not kept up with home prices in many areas,” says Andrew Lantham, managing editor of Super Money. “This is why millennials have lower homeownership rates than previous generations.”

Plus, experts say that most landlords (even the nice ones) don’t necessarily care if people aren’t making as much money as they used to. They care more about finding a renter who will be able to pay their rent on time. And if that means sticking to the tried-and-true method of renting to those who can prove they have plenty of income to spare, or can at least get a co-signer, they’ll do it.

How I pay my rent without a co-signer today

While it’s tough for young renters and home buyers almost everywhere to cover their housing costs, it’s even worse in New York City.

Sure, my mom agreed to co-sign the lease, as always. Yet with a baby on the way, my husband and I decided that, rather than taking my mom up on her kind offer, I’d try to find an apartment with a rent that fell comfortably within the three-times rule.

We started crossing things off our wish list. We moved our search from Manhattan to Brooklyn. We stopped looking at homes near subway stations and cute cafes and started touring apartments that were a bit farther out. In the end, we found a studio we liked, and the low rent didn’t require a co-signer.

The post Why I’m Grown-Up and Employed, but Still Need Mom to Co-Sign on My Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

5 Surprising Reasons This Empty Nester Ditched the Burbs for the Big City

August 12, 2019

m-gucci/iStock

The empty-nest drill used to go something like this: As your kids move up the rungs of the educational system, you and your partner wonder whether to move to a condo in Boca, a bungalow in the Carolinas, or another relaxed-living locale. (Let’s overlook the fact that most of us can’t afford to retire.)

But times are changing. More and more 50-plus Americans are going the urban route. Stats from the National Association of Realtors® indicate that the percentage of 50-something home buyers purchasing property in cities is edging upward. And another study found that boomers are seeing a massive uptick in renting versus owning—which makes sense if they’re moving to a big city.

About those renters of over age 50: I’m one of them! When we were in our 30s, my husband and I fled the city and bought a house in the suburbs. The main reason was that our two sons had hit school age in an overcrowded public school system, and were quickly outgrowing the small bedroom they shared. So we headed to a tree-shaded town in a well-regarded school district, where our kids could enjoy separate bedrooms and a yard where they could get their ya-yas out (Stones fans, am I using that correctly?).

And so it went—and went well—until the kids grew up and skedaddled, leaving me and my husband alone in a lovely house with shriveled social connections (the days of blabbing with neighbors about that overly tough AP History teacher were over) and feeling way isolated. We both worked in the city, and without the school system anchoring us, why were we commuting, we wondered? And why were we paying that hefty school tax bill now that our kids had flown the coop?

So we decided to sell our family home (sorry, boys!) and move. For us, it was a great decision. Here’s why:

1. Boosting our bank account

At least for the moment, my husband and I are happy not to have money tied up in real estate. As you may know, the current tax laws don’t incentivize having a mortgage the way they used to. We don’t feel the imperative to own a home in order to get that deduction come April 15, so why not feel a little unencumbered and mobile for a while?

2. Getting off the train schedule grid

Now that we are not running home after work to make dinner and supervise algebra homework (as if I could be of any use on that), my husband and I can reclaim our evenings, which feels a lot more fun in the city. We can take a walk by the river, try a new rooftop bar, or stop by a gallery opening without doing commuter math, which goes something like, “If the train is at 10:30 p.m., that means I need to leave here by 10. … Then, let’s see, I should get to the station at home at 11:30, drive for 15 minutes, and be in bed by midnight.” For a couple trying to reinvent our life after two decades of kid focus, freedom from the commuting schedule is a very good thing.

3. Jettisoning all that home maintenance

Praise the Lord, I no longer need a contact list full of electricians, roofers, masons, tree-stump grinders, landscapers, the highway department (responsible for pickup of garbage over a certain size), pest-control specialists (wasp nests, gah!), HVAC folk, etc. All of the homeownership stuff, so long! And the winter drama of nor’easters, tree limbs flying down, power going out, and frantic efforts to find somewhere—anywhere—to do a load of laundry are over.

4. Enforced downsizing

City life is apartment life, and it’s forcing me to go minimalist. There’s no basement, attic, or other place to hide the accumulated stuff of life, so I need to get rid of it. Or at least I’m trying to. I have a storage unit holding the contents of my former attic, having been unable to Marie Kondo my way to lean-and-mean status pre-move. But our lack of storage is making us think twice about accumulating any more crap.

5. Urban adventuring

In the city, quirk and culture abound. While I miss the sound of the wind whispering through the pine trees and the squirrels and birds darting around my yard, the city has a seductive pulse of discovery. There’s an aura of possibility that makes life feel more exciting, even if I just sit on my butt at home. Knowing that a midnight cheese-tasting event or a mermaid parade are just a quick subway ride away brightens my day in a big way. Yes, I’ve forsaken space, fresh air, peace and quiet. But I feel as if I’m sharing an amazing and varied human experience with fellow urban explorers.

The post 5 Surprising Reasons This Empty Nester Ditched the Burbs for the Big City appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

The Most Common Rent-to-Own Scams—and How to Not Get Taken for a Fool

August 3, 2018

Rent to Own Scams

iStock

On the surface, rent-to-own deals can seem like a great idea. If you have shaky credit or lack sufficient financing, a rent-to-own plan can allow you to work toward homeownership.

The premise is simple: You pay monthly rent toward the purchase of the home, and at the end of the set term, you’ll own the property. Sounds perfect, right? But beware: The rent-to-own landscape can be a minefield of scams and deceptions designed to take your money—and leave you in the dust.

Common rent-to-own scams

There are several ways you can be swindled. One of the most common is scammers trying to sell property that they don’t actually own.

“People advertise a house that isn’t theirs, and pretend to be the owners and collect upfront fees from the tenant,” says Martin Orefice, the founder of renttoownlabs.com. To pull off the ruse, scammers find a vacant house that’s for rent and list it online with their own contact info.

“Then they meet the tenant at the home, pretending to be the owner, and ask for an upfront fee or nonrefundable deposit to hold the home,” Orefice says. “Once they collect the money, they disappear.” Shady, right?

Amy Hebert, a consumer education specialist at the Federal Trade Commission, says unsuspecting people can also be scammed by finding out the following:

  • The house is in way rougher shape than they were told (e.g., asbestos or lead is present).
  • The house is being foreclosed on.

 

How to protect yourself from rent-to-own scams

Sure, legitimate rent-to-own opportunities exist—you just have to know what to look for. Here are some simple tips to help you avoid being taken by a rent-to-own scam.

  • Find out who really owns the property. Before turning over any money, ask for documentation showing that the person owns the house—a tax bill, for example. In many cases, the owner information is available online, so you can even check it out yourself. Before you enter into a formal contract, you should also get a title report from a title company. This will ensure that the seller owns the property and can legally sell it to you.
  • Know every detail of your contract. Make sure you understand every detail of any contract before signing. Many rent-to-own contracts allow for stiff penalties if the buyer is late or misses a payment, and some contracts may even become void. That means you forfeit any claim to the property and the money you’ve invested. “Consumers should review—or have an attorney review—the agreement before they sign,” says Frank Dorman of the Office of Public Affairs for the Federal Trade Commission. “It can be very difficult to extricate yourself afterward.”
  • Know what could be wrong with your property. Just as an attorney can help you understand contract wording, a home inspector can help shed light on any potential physical problems and health hazards in your home. Most rent-to-own agreements will include some type of contingency for a professional evaluation. Consider it money well-spent: A professional home inspector can uncover all sorts of needed repairs that are not out in the open. This can give you leverage to negotiate a better price or terms, or even just alert you to possible repairs down the road.

 

What to do if you suspect a scam

If you suspect someone has scammed you—or is attempting to scam you—you should immediately contact your local police department, Orefice says. You can also notify your state’s Consumer Protection Office.

The post The Most Common Rent-to-Own Scams—and How to Not Get Taken for a Fool appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.