If you’ve experienced financial hardships in light of COVID-19, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment and others have been furloughed or had their hours significantly reduced. As we’ve shared before, we’re in the beginning stages of understanding what effects COVID-19 will have on housing, but we know that many of you needed to miss payments because of financial hardship. 

We want to make sure you’re in the best place possible to navigate the repayment process. There are a number of factors to consider, and there are terms associated that can be confusing or unclear. Here are a few terms you should know as you start to build your repayment plan:

  • Compounding interest may still accrue depending upon your debts. If additional payments are added on to the back end of your loan, your interest may compound and extend beyond your original payment plan. Talk with your lender about your interest rate and how deferment or forbearance might impact how much interest you pay on the life of your loan. 
  • Deferment is simply the process of pushing something back or moving it to a later time. If your bills or loans are deferred, like many individuals’ student loans are now, this means that they will be due at a later time. Check with your lender to learn what your repayment plan will look like. 
  • Forgiveness, when it’s associated with a loan, means that you are not expected to make repayments. This is rare for things like mortgages, utilities or rent payments. You may have heard this term in conversations about COVID-19 relief loans for businesses. Always check with your lender before you assume a debt is forgiven. 
  • Forbearance is an immediate relief program where one’s debts payments are no longer due on a regular basis. Forbearances usually have terms that you’ll know up front (usually listed as a number of days) and after the terms have expired you’ll be expected to resume payments. If your loan is in forbearance, you need to talk with your lender about the repayment process. 
  • Hardship is any circumstance that has made it difficult for you to make loan payments. Many deferment and forbearance programs require proof of hardship before you can miss payments. Hardship examples could include a termination letter, proof of reduced hours, or other documentation that demonstrates a loss in income related to COVID-19.

We know that this can be a complicated process to navigate. If you need help understanding your loan standing and determining a repayment plan, United Housing can help.

Staying in can cause even the best of us to go a little stir-crazy, especially when you have kids in the house who are even more bored than you. No matter the reason for your home stay, it’s important that you find activities to keep your mind moving. Why not do a fun, fixer-upper project and let your children help? It’ll cross something off of your list and keep them busy! Here are a few ideas:

 

Garden

Grab a few seeds and see what you can do! Gardening is a great activity that builds fine motor skills, teaches responsibility and is fun for the whole family. Planting some pretty flowers in your front yard increases your curb appeal, and can lift the spirits of your neighbors. Planting a vegetable garden is also a great idea – in a few months you’ll have fresh and healthy foods right at the tip of your green thumb! Not ready for a full garden yet? Purchase a few house plants and enlist your kids to help take care of them. Indoor plants are a great decorative piece that will spruce up your home and you’ll have extra sets of hands when it comes to daily watering!

 

Make a birdhouse

What better to go with your new garden than a birdhouse? With a little bit of wood and a pretty paint color, you have all you need to make one. A bird house is an adorable addition to your porch or yard and something you can always keep. For a little extra fun, use an old bottle and buy some seeds to create a bird feeder! Once your birdhouse is complete, you can watch from the window to see what types of birds make your birdhouse their home! This is a great activity to teach your children about nature and animals.

 

Paint something

Is there a room that desperately needs a fresh coat of paint? How about a wooden chair that would make your lawn look a lot brighter if it were painted yellow? Grab an inexpensive bucket of paint from your local hardware store, or maybe an old paint can stored in your shed, and get to painting! This is an activity that’s more fun the more people you get involved. There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment you feel once you’ve completed painting something. If painting sounds fun to you and your children but you don’t have any pressing paint needs at the moment, get creative! Paint the inside of a small closet or maybe a bathroom cabinet, something that won’t drastically change your home’s appearance but will be fun nonetheless!

 

Show your kids that home improvement can be fun! Who knows, you may have a future builder, architect or designer on your hands.

Many people across the country were in varying stages of the homebuying process when COVID-19 hit. If you’re considering starting the process, we encourage you to do so. Still, the viral outbreak has led to several developments that could impact the homebuying process. Here are some things to consider:

 

Safer at home orders

While we are all doing the right thing by staying home and social distancing, it could influence homebuying ability simply because many don’t feel safe venturing outside of their homes right now. Sellers are understandably wary of welcoming strangers into their homes and buyers are similarly cautious when it comes to the typical “looking” process of walking through multiple homes per week.

 

Lenders

According to Forbes, many lenders are reassessing their risks, meaning those not applying for a more traditional mortgage might be less likely to get approved. Additionally, lenders have also recently found themselves overwhelmed by the high volume of refinancing requests, making the line for a loan approval even longer.

 

Market uncertainty 

Although you may feel that despite the circumstances, you are still able to buy a home — that does not mean you will be able to find one. Many homebuilders have halted construction due to lockdown orders, while many potential sellers have experienced hesitation with putting their house on the market. 

However, external changes aside, it’s important that you reevaluate your own ability to purchase a home. Ask not only how COVID-19 has affected home availability, etc., but also how COVID-19 has affected your own financial standing. 

 

Job stability 

COVID-19 has caused financial insecurity for many members of our communities. Many people have been moved to part-time, furloughed or laid off entirely. Job security is a must for owning a home, as it allows for better budgeting and more opportunities to save, and is especially important when it comes to being approved for a loan now or in the future.

 

Down payment funds

Money that was previously set aside to make a down payment might have to be used for something unexpected or to cover losses acquired due to the pandemic. Many families have also realized their need for an emergency fund, should this happen again, meaning nest eggs like down payments might need to be stored away for later, not spent today. If you have questions about making a down payment, contact one of our housing counselors. We can help you navigate down payment programs available in your area. 

 

Uncertainty can have a devastating effect on even the best-laid plans. We must be realistic about how crises can affect our lives, as well as the lives of others. However, we can still hope for the best, that maybe the long-term consequences of this economic shutdown will spare the real estate industry, sending you on your way to buy a home as soon as this is all over. 

As we’re all spending more time at home, there are things that you can do around the house to make your situation more comfortable and to improve the value of your home! These simple, inexpensive projects are great things to take on while staying at home. 

1. Replace the hardware on your cabinets.

Is the hardware on your kitchen or bathroom cabinets outdated? You can easily replace those fixtures to add a fresh look to your space! There are many online retailers and hardware stores that have stylish options available for online purchase and home delivery. Make sure you’re ordering the appropriate size, and we recommend you purchase a few extra in case you need to replace a knob in the future – you never know when that style will go out of stock! This is an inexpensive change you can easily make on your own. 

2. Create a statement wall! 

Want to take a room you love up a notch? Consider creating a statement wall! A statement wall is simply one wall in a room that you cover with stylish wallpaper or different color of paint. Wallpaper is on-trend right now, and you can purchase inexpensive and nonpermanent peel-and-stick wallpaper from online retailers. Or, you can order a bucket of paint from your local hardware store and pick it up easily. It’s amazing what a fun pattern or a pop of color can add to your space. 

3. Invest in outdoor lights. 

Love to spend time outdoors? Adding outdoor lighting is a great way to liven up an outdoor patio, carport or deck. Retailers like Walmart and Target have outdoor lighting options at various price points that will fit within your family’s budget. Once you add outdoor lighting, your family can enjoy evening meals or time outdoors while still practicing social distancing! 

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