How to Win in a Red-Hot Housing Market

Laura Gross knew that she’d be facing fierce competition this spring when she was getting ready to bid on a four-bedroom house in Troy, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. So she pulled out all the stops: She waived an appraisal contingency, offered $30,000 above the home’s $285,000 list price, wrote a letter expressing why she loved the home (it reminded her of the house she grew up in a mile away), and offered the seller a free 60-day rent-back.

The seller chose Gross’s offer over seven others. “I knew I had to offer above list price and waive con­tingencies to even have my offer considered in this market,” says Gross, an accounting manager at a manufacturing company.

Gross is just one in a tsunami of house hunters who have flooded the housing market since the coronavirus pandemic began. She experienced firsthand how tough today’s housing market is for buyers.

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Get a Good Deal on Car Rentals

Last spring, airport rental counters were eerily quiet as pandemic-wary Americans canceled their vacations and stayed close to home. But as spring turned to summer and fall, customers started returning, looking for vehicles for road trips as well as longer-term rentals at home to avoid using public trans­portation and ride-hailing apps. Business travelers also increasingly turned to rental cars. This summer, as more people receive a vaccine and the economy reopens, air travel is likely to pick up, too. That means customers will again be lining up at airport rental car counters—and navigating a maze of prices, fees and insurance coverages.

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Home Buyers Loving the Suburbs Again

For years, buyers have been flocking to cities and close-in suburbs, seeking a boost in quality of life by shortening their commutes and gaining easy access to restaurants and cultural events. The pandemic turned that trend on its head.

Last year, a number of city dwellers migrated to the suburbs and exurbs to get more space, both indoors and outdoors. Gaining the freedom to telecommute gave more buyers the ability to move from urban centers. A survey from the American Institute of CPAs found that 42% of employed Americans worked remotely at some point during the pandemic. Companies such as Twitter, REI and Square have announced plans to let employees work remotely indefinitely.

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Smart Strategies to Tackle Your Debt

When the pandemic hit and the restaurant that Eric S. managed in Brighton, Mich., closed its doors temporarily, Eric filed for unemployment insurance benefits. When the business reopened a couple of months later and Eric returned to work, his hours were cut in half.

Although Eric and his wife managed to keep up with their mortgage payments, the couple found themselves strapped for cash and began to fall behind on their credit card bills. By September, they had accrued about $13,000 in credit card debt, and Eric’s credit score had dropped nearly 75 points, to the low 600s. “I felt like I was losing control,” he says. “It also put a lot of stress on our marriage.”

The couple sought out a credit counselor, who helped them retool their budget—getting rid of their Hulu and Netflix subscriptions alone saved them $70 a month—and begin paying down their debt. Just two months later they had shaved $3,000 off their total balance. “We’ve learned how to manage our money a lot better from this whole experience,” Eric says.

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Time for an Insurance Review

The coronavirus has made one thing abundantly clear: We all need to be prepared for an emergency. Which prompts the question: When did you last review your insurance policies?

You may want to make some changes to your auto, homeowners and life in­surance policies in light of COVID-19. “You could be paying for coverage that you don’t need anymore, or you could be lacking coverage in some areas because of the pandemic,” says Carmen Balber, executive director at Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit consumer-advocacy organization.

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You Can Still Buy and Sell a Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Spring is usually the busiest time of year for real estate. It’s when house hunters and home sellers come out of hibernation mode and descend on the market in droves. But this year—in the era of COVID-19—is different.

The coronavirus outbreak has rocked the economy and upended many industries, including real estate. As Americans across the country are sheltering at home, many home buyers are left wondering: Should I buy a home now, or wait until quarantine measures loosen and the economy picks up again? The same goes for sellers wondering when they should list their home.

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Reshop Your Car Insurance

Average auto insurance costs can vary widely depending on who’s calculating them, but a 2019 Insure.com study of rates from major car insurance com­panies in every state found that the average policy in the U.S. is $146 a month, or $1,758 per year. However, factors such age, gender, marital status, driving record, credit score and the vehicle you drive can greatly affect policy prices.

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Home Prices on the Rise

Kaushik Mukerjee and Preeti Vasishtha faced stiff competition when they set out to buy a home last spring. The couple, who live in Northern Virginia and have an 8-year-old son, were looking for a home in a good school district, but they lost out to other bidders on two houses before their offer on a townhouse stuck. “In one case we competed against 10 other offers, and the home sold for $20,000 above list price,” Mukerjee says. Ultimately, the couple paid $502,000—slightly above list price—for a 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom townhouse in Burke, Va.

Kody Henderson, a 26-year-old first-time home buyer, also grappled with a hyper­active market when he looked for a home in the Seattle area. He struck out on three before he snagged a three-bedroom single-family house for $465,000 in Burien, Wash., last November. “I kept getting beat by cash offers that were usually above list price,” says Henderson. “It was frustrating.”

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