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How to Plan for the Hidden Costs of Buying a Home

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Buying a home requires more than just a down payment. There are plenty of costs associated with buying real estate that you might not expect while you’re scrolling through listings. To know how much you can spend on a home, you’ll need to plan for not only your mortgage payment but closing costs, monthly charges like homeowners association or co-op maintenance fees, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and utilities.

These extras can tack on a significant amount to your monthly housing costs, making them important to take into account before you set your sights on a particular property—it might look affordable at the outset, but be located in a place with high property taxes or come with a hefty HOA fee.

RealEstate.com, a new site from Zillow, is designed to help you search for homes based on what you can afford when all of those hidden costs are factored in. It crunches the numbers to tell you what your total monthly costs would be.

a table of data analyzing the hidden costs of buying a home, such as monthly HOA fees, taxes, etc.
Estimated monthly cost per month for a home for sale in Nashville, broken down by mortgage payments, HOA fees, and other costs.
Screenshot via RealEstate.com

Being able to see at a glance how much property taxes and HOA fees for a particular home might cost could make you rethink whether or not you can afford to live there. For instance, looking at a $400,000 home for sale in Nashville, you could expect to pay around $1500 a month in mortgage payments with an $80,000 down payment. But your actual monthly costs would be around $2100, accounting for $80 in insurance, $377 in property taxes, and $172 in utilities per month. And that doesn’t count the $5000 you’d need to plan to pay in closing costs just to buy the home.

Other real estate markets might cause you even more sticker shock. Looking at a $359,000 listing in Brooklyn, the monthly mortgage payment would only be $1337 with a $71,800 down payment, according to RealEstate.com. But between $300 for estimated property taxes, $100 for homeowners insurance, $400 for HOA fees, and $200 for utilities, the actual cost for the home would be around $2300 a month. Plus there is the one-time closing cost: an estimated $13,550.

Remember to factor in these hidden costs when you’re looking for a home:

CLOSING COSTS

Closing costs include your broker's payment, appraisal and inspection fees, escrow costs, legal fees, application processing fees, and more. Those pest inspections aren't free, after all. Closing costs differ from state to state, but they typically run around 2 to 5 percent of the purchase price of a house or apartment.

HOA FEES

If you’re buying a condo, an apartment in a co-op, or a home in a gated community, chances are you’ll have to join the homeowners’ association. The monthly fees you pay to the HOA go toward maintenance and upkeep of the building or common areas, like elevators, sidewalks, parking garages, and landscaping. If the roof of your condo building starts leaking, your homeowners’ association fees will cover it, for instance.

PROPERTY TAXES

Property taxes can cost you quite a bit, depending on where you live. In Los Angeles County, for instance, all property owners pay at least 1 percent of the assessed value of their home, plus taxes levied by specific cities within the county. In Illinois’s Cook County, you’d be paying an average tax rate of just over 2 percent—about $5000 a year on a $250,000 property.

HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE

You'll definitely want to get homeowners insurance, which will typically cover you if your roof gets destroyed by a tornado, if your plumbing breaks and floods your basement, or if someone breaks into your house. Insurance quotes depend on multiple factors, including the value of your home, your insurance claim history, and the deductible you choose. And like other aspects of buying a home, this can vary a lot by geography, especially since some homes are naturally more likely to fall victim to hurricanes or earthquakes. According to the financial website ValuePenguin, the average cost of homeowners’ insurance in 2017 is around $166 a month in Florida, for instance, while Nevada homeowners pay an average of $60 per month for insurance.

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7 Science-Backed Ways to Improve Your Memory
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Being cursed with a bad memory can yield snafus big and small, from forgetting your gym locker combination to routinely blowing deadlines. If your New Year's resolution was to be less forgetful in 2018, it's time to start training your brain. The infographic below, created by financial website Quid Corner and spotted by Lifehacker Australia, lists seven easy ways to boost memory retention.

Different techniques can be applied to different scenarios, whether you're preparing for a speech or simply trying to recall someone's phone number. For example, if you're trying to learn a language, try writing down words and phrases, as this activates your brain into paying more attention. "Chunking," or separating long digit strings into shorter units, is a helpful hack for memorizing number sequences. And those with a poetic bent can translate information into rhymes, as this helps our brains break down and retain sound structures.

Learn more tips by checking out the infographic below.

[h/t Lifehacker.com.au]

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The Only Way to Answer ‘What Is Your Greatest Weakness?’ In a Job Interview
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Thanks in part to the influence of Silicon Valley and its focus on the psychological probing of job applicants, interview questions have been steadily getting more and more abstract. As part of the interview process, today's job seekers might be asked to describe a vending machine to someone who’s never seen one before, or plan a fantasy date with a famous historical figure.

Even if the company you’re approaching isn’t fully on board with prodding your brain, at some point you may still come up against one of the most common queries applicants face: "What is your greatest weakness?"

"Some 'experts' will tell you to try and turn a strength into a 'weakness,' to make yourself look good," writes Inc. contributor Justin Bariso. "That advice is garbage."

"Think about it," Bariso continues. "Interviewers are asking the same question to countless candidates. Just try and guess how many times they hear the answers 'being a perfectionist' or 'working too much.' (Hint: way too often.)"

While responding that you work too hard might seem like a reliable method of moving the conversation along, there’s a better way. And it involves being sincere.

"The fact is, it's not easy to identify one's own weaknesses," Bariso writes. "Doing so takes intense self-reflection, critical thinking, and the ability to accept negative feedback—qualities that have gone severely missing in a world that promotes instant gratification and demands quick (often thoughtless) replies to serious issues."

Bariso believes the question is an effective way to reveal an applicant’s self-awareness, which is why companies often use it in their vetting process. By being self-aware, people (and employees) can correct behavior that might be affecting job performance. So the key is to give this question some actual thought before it’s ever posed to you.

What is your actual greatest weakness? It could be that, in a desire to please everyone, you wind up making decisions based on the urge to avoid disappointing others. That’s a weakness that sounds authentic.

Pondering the question also has another benefit: It prompts you to think of areas in your life that could use some course-correcting. Even if you don’t land that job—or even if the question is never posed to you—you’ve still made time for self-reflection. The result could mean a more confident and capable presence for that next interview.

[h/t Inc.]

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