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Life Events

A Survival Kit for the Gig Economy

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Survival kit for the gig economy man with bike makes food delivery service
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Long gone are the days when working a single 9-to-5 job was the standard for most people in the U.S. Today, a growing percentage of the workforce needs to have multiple jobs and several sources of income to make ends meet.

According to a Gallup poll, 36% of U.S. workers participated in the gig economy in some capacity in 2018. Gallup’s sample here includes people holding either a primary or secondary freelance job, including both part-timers and workers holding multiple jobs. That’s roughly 57 million people.

Some see the rise of gig economy jobs as a negative development that hurts workers, while others praise the flexibility they offer. Whichever way you feel, we’d like to offer you some sound advice on how to succeed in this type of economy.

What is the gig economy?

The gig economy is that part of the labor market where people find temporary jobs or work with flexible hours to replace — or even add alongside — a traditional full-time job. In the gig economy, hourly and even salaried workers are replaced by freelancers and independent contractors.

Gig economy jobs range from adjunct college professors, to Lyft drivers, to freelance writers. Finding a gig doesn’t always have to be in your professional wheelhouse, either. Many gig economy workers turn their hobbies into money-making activities.

Why do people take gig economy jobs?

A 2017 LinkedIn survey found that the top reason cited for taking gig economy jobs was to make more money, while the second most common reason was respondents’ desire to control their own schedules. Other responses included work/life flexibility, being one’s own boss, trying something new and financial hardship.

Interestingly, nearly as many (40%) expressed other reasons related to money: 21% said they were motivated by financial hardship, while 19% responded that they turned to gig work to have some sort of income while between jobs. A number of respondents — 41% — indicated that they freelance in addition to their full-time or part-time job.

How to survive the gig economy

Your reason for entering the gig economy might be different from your neighbor’s rationale. Nevertheless, there are common tips and tricks that can help you navigate this brave new world.

Stay organized

In the gig economy, you can end up with many sources of income. Develop a reliable system to keep track of job opportunities, clients, sent and unpaid invoices and other gig-related stuff. Organize your invoices in a spreadsheet to keep on top of which ones are filled and which remain unpaid, and get a filing cabinet to keep on top of paperwork. If your paperwork is digital, maintain well-organized file folders on your computer so everything has its own place.

Track your earnings

Staying on track in the gig economy means understanding your income. Sure, organizing your invoices is part of it, but more importantly you need to record and analyze your earnings every month. Income can be unpredictable, and rigorously tracking on a spreadsheet can create a more manageable view of your month-to-month budget. Check out Tiller, which helps you build Excel and Google spreadsheets that are automatically updated with your freelance earnings and expenses.

Think of yourself as a business

In the gig economy, you are your own boss and your own PR department. When you take jobs or communicate with potential clients, pay plenty of attention about how you represent yourself and your business.

According to a representative of TaskRabbit, a service for finding gig economy jobs, the best freelancers are those who build strong ratings and reviews, which helps to increase the number of jobs they’re able to book. The representative advises freelancers to highlight their precise experience and abilities, as it provides a strong impression of competence. Most importantly, clients appreciate freelancers who provide prompt responses.

Shelli Fitzgerald, who works with TaskRabbit, echoed these keys to success. “Always remember to be kind, trustworthy; make your client comfortable. Be creative, market yourself, ask for referrals from clients and friends.”

Watch out for taxes

Employers don’t automatically withdraw taxes from your gig economy paychecks, leaving you responsible for figuring out your estimated tax payments on IRS Form 1099 each quarter and paying the amount to the IRS yourself. The IRS also assesses a self-employment tax to collect Social Security and Medicare taxes, at a rate of 15.3%. If you’re working for multiple employers in a year, you’ll have several 1099 forms to track and file.

Save as much as you can

Without a steady paycheck every two weeks, it can be hard to save regularly. Closely tracking your income can help you focus on savings, especially to prepare for those quarterly tax filings and for retirement, not to mention an emergency fund to help you through lean months.

Trying setting up automatic and recurring deposits into your savings account. That can be $25, $100 or as little as $5. As long as you save something — and stash it in a high-yield savings account — you’ll have a financial cushion to fall back on. This can also help you avoid taking on debt from loans or credit cards to cover even the smallest expenses.

“Money is not always steady, so you need to keep a cushion,” Fitzgerald advised. “You also have to save money for the slow times. Never depend on one stream of income.”

Don’t forget about retirement

Just because you don’t have an employer-sponsored 401(k), you can still save for retirement while you’re self-employed in the gig economy — check out individual retirement accounts (IRAs). Traditional IRAs allow you to deposit pre-tax money, then pay taxes on your withdrawals in retirement. With a Roth IRA, contributions are made from after-tax income, and withdrawals are tax-free. Keep in mind that your deposits, whether Roth or traditional, must fall within the annual IRA contribution limits set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Gig economy workers should check out simplified employee pension (SEP) IRAs to see if they’d be a good choice for them. SEP IRAs are simple to administer and can augment your retirement strategy, but they’re not always the right choice. Check out our explainer on SEP IRAs for more details.

You may also open a solo 401(k). Like an employer-sponsored 401(k), you contribute a portion of your income to the account, which will then grow tax-free. A solo 401(k) is a good option if your income exceeds IRA limits.

Get ready for the health insurance bill

When you enter the gig economy, you’ll most likely have to fund health insurance yourself or hop onto your spouse’s plan, if available.

Natasha Ishak, a freelance writer in New York City, cited being on her partner’s health plan as a big factor in her ability to freelance full time: “Without that, I am not sure I would have survived solely on freelancing full-time, even though I was hustling 24/7.”

Additionally, check out the healthcare marketplace at healthcare.gov, where you can compare insurance plans from private insurance companies.

Take mental health breaks

In the gig economy, there will be times when it can seem like you should be giving 110% at all times, but that kind of lifestyle isn’t sustainable for everyone. Allowing some time to yourself in a busy schedule can help you stay sane and able to organize your projects.

“One of the biggest things that enabled me to keep on juggling all my different assignments was making sure that I didn’t reach the point of over-exhausting myself,” Ishak shared.

Cut yourself some slack and ease up on the grind for a day or two if you ever start to feel overwhelmed by the work. Even better, breaks like that can help you refresh and overcome any mental blocks.

Tools and apps for the gig economy

Technology is a major enabler of this type of economy. A wide variety of apps and tools give you access to a potentially vast range of job opportunities.

TaskRabbit features gig economy jobs like handyman work, deliveries, and cleaning. It allows you to set your own prices for jobs, too. Plus, freelancers can access educational resources from other people who use the site, as well as perks like discounts on phone bills, financial planning, and rental cars.

“TaskRabbit’s platform acts as [our users’] marketing team, payment facilitator and scheduler,” said a company representative, as well as helping users with fraud prevention and providing them with educational resources and other perks.

Upwork helps you find work that is done online, from animation to customer service to criminal law jobs. It provides both freelancers and clients the ability for easy collaboration through chat, video call and file shares.

The Steady app takes this model a bit further. It helps you find jobs, and also track your gigs so you can continue to find the best opportunities. Steady also includes features to help you keep track of your payments.

Time to join the gig economy

If you’re just starting out in the gig economy, identify what you like to do and what you’re good at. Good with tools? Browse TaskRabbit for repair jobs in your neighborhood. Just browsing gig economy apps can help you find jobs you connect with. There’s a ton of opportunity out there, just waiting for you to grab it.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Lauren Perez
Lauren Perez |

Lauren Perez is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lauren here

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Life Events, Mortgage

The Risks and Rewards of an Out-of-State Investment Property

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Mortgage

They say real estate is all about “location, location, location.” That’s especially true when it comes to buying a rental. Where you choose to buy an out-of-state investment property can have a significant impact on your return on investment.

For example, in a state like New York, where the median mortgage exceeds the median rent by nearly $250, buying a property to rent out doesn’t make much financial sense. If you consider buying rental property in a different state, such as North Carolina where rents in the city of Charlotte top mortgages by $84 per month, you’ll net a profit instead of a loss every month your tenant pays rent.

Before you start the interstate home search process, you should know the risks and rewards of out-of-state investment properties.

Potential rewards of buying an out-of-state investment property

Very often, the primary reason to buy an out-of-state investment property is rental properties where you live are too expensive. In some cases, you may decide to hold onto an existing home when moving to another state. There are some other more strategic reasons that we’ll cover next.

Diversify your real estate assets

Real estate markets rise and fall. During the housing boom of 2003 to 2007, many of the “sand” states, such as California, Arizona, Florida and Nevada, experienced home price appreciation at rates well above historic levels.

Investors learned a painful lesson in the danger of not diversifying when the housing markets in those states crashed during the housing crisis. Investors who had investment real estate concentrated only in these states lost big, while those who spread their portfolios out to other states fared better.

Purchase future vacation or retirement residences

If prices and rents are competitive in a state you’ve always wanted to vacation in, you may want to purchase the property first as a rental and allow tenants to build some equity for you while you generate income. After a few years, you may decide you want to spend a few months a year vacationing in the home and rent it out seasonally with a rental plan from a service such as Airbnb or VRBO.

Alternatively, you may live in a cold-weather state, such as Massachusetts, and want to retire to the warm winters of Arizona. You could put the wheels in motion on your retirement plans by buying a rental property there first that has the amenities you would want in a home for retirement.

Once you’ve pocketed some rental income and equity from renters, you can pack up for the cross-country move into the rental, throw out the snow shovel and enjoy wearing shorts instead of parkas during the holiday season.

Buy where the laws suit your rental strategy

Short-term rentals have become very popular for real estate investors, but they face legal challenges in some places. For example, New York City subways are covered with signs warning riders to avoid short-term rentals.

If you are interested in renting out your investment property through a service like Airbnb, buying in a state that has more flexible laws about short-term tenants is your best bet.

Net more income monthly with lower property taxes

According to a recent LendingTree study, homeowners in San Jose, California, paid on average $9,626 in property taxes each year. In Salt Lake City, homeowners pay only $2,765 per year — which means you’d have to get an additional $567 per month in rent in California just to cover the property tax expense before you could make any profit.

Risks of buying an out-of-state investment property

Like any investment, there are risks associated with buying out-of-state rental properties. We’ll discuss those next.

Long-distance property management problems

If you have a rental in the city you live in, you can deal with an unexpected tenant move-out or a late-night plumbing problem by driving over to the property and taking care of the issue yourself. But you’ll need to make some decisions about how to manage an out-of-state rental.

If you hire a property management company, they’ll take 8% to 12% of your monthly rent as a fee, eating into your monthly rent profit. If you self-manage, you’ll need to make sure you build relationships with local handymen, roofers, plumbers and pest control professionals so you have their numbers handy if a tenant emergency comes up.

State laws that restrict how you rent your property

Short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, may be a great way to generate a higher monthly income than you would get with a 12-month lease, but some cities and neighborhoods aren’t too keen on having a lot of different people coming and going through a nearby house. If the laws prohibit short-term rentals in an area you’re interested in, you’ll have to crunch the numbers to see if market rents for long-term leases provide you with a good return on your rental investment.

What to look for when considering an out-of-state investment property

When you’re buying in another state, take extra precautions to make sure you understand everything about the local housing market, building standards and how the local economy is doing before you start making offers. The last thing you want to do is end up with an out-of-state money pit.

Get a thorough home inspection

No matter how nice the home may look in pictures or at an open house, there can always be problems beyond the smell of new paint and carpet. Building standards and practices may vary from state to state and city to city, and you don’t want to be caught by surprise because you didn’t know polybutylene pipes behind the walls of homes built in Tucson, Arizona, have been known to burst without warning.

A good local home inspector will also help you understand whether a property has been built and maintained according to local building standards and identify any issues, such as an unpermitted room addition, that could cause you trouble with local housing inspectors down the road.

Interview several property management companies

Depending on the town, you may find very high-tech, organized property management shops with decades of experience or small mom-and-pop shops that offer real estate property management services. Either way, you want to know what they do for their fee. The graphic below provides a list of questions you should ask to make sure the property manager is a good fit for your out-of-state rental.

  • How many rental units do you manage? Ideally, you want a manager who has between 200 and 600 rental units. This indicates that the management company has a solid enough client base to understand the local market but not so extensive that they won’t be able to handle managing yours.
  • What experience does your company owner have managing rentals? When the long-distance plumbing hits the fan you don’t want to be dealing with a company that’s never managed rentals. There is no college of rental property management, and you don’t want to have your rental managed by someone who’s still learning the ropes.
  • Are you actively investing in real estate in your market? If you are buying in a housing market you’ve never purchased in, you may want to have a property manager who understands the nuances of the local rental market. This is especially important intel when you’re dealing with an out-of-state investment property in a neighborhood that may be going through changes that only an experienced local investor would know about.
  • How do you collect rent? In order to track cash-flow of a rental property, you should be able to easily track payments. The best method is through an online payment system that gives you real-time information about any late payments. If you took out a mortgage to purchase the rental property, you want to know as early as possible if a tenant is going to miss rent, so you can move money to cover the mortgage payment.
  • What is your average vacancy time on rentals? The correct answer should be two to four weeks. An experienced property management company should have the marketing and rental pricing know-how to make sure your property is not vacant for more than a month. It’s bad enough having a rental vacant, but when it’s out-of-state, you want to know the company managing the property has a track record of getting renters quickly to minimize the expenses you incur when a rental is without a renter.On the other hand, a property manager that rents out your place in less than two weeks may be pricing it too low.
  • How do you handle maintenance and repairs? It’s not uncommon for a property manager to have “preferred” vendors to help with the inevitable issues that come up with maintaining and repairing a rental. You’ll want to get a list of these preferred providers and keep track of their expenses.Also be sure to put a cap on the cost of repairs that can be done without your authorization. You should trust the company to handle a $100 fee, but you may want to cap them on anything more than $200 so you can have a chance to see if you need a second opinion with a different vendor.

Track property tax trends in the neighborhood

Property taxes are a fixed expense you can’t get around paying, so be sure to track the last five years of property taxes to see what the average increase has been. If you’re seeing an acceleration in the tax rate, figure that into your return-on-investment analysis, so you don’t end up in a situation where your monthly expenses are more than the rent you’re taking in.

Make sure you understand the rental market in the area

Rental markets ebb and flow as new homes are built, new employers set up shop nearby or new schools are built in the area. A good property manager or experienced real estate agent should be able to give you a good idea of where the market is headed with a comparable rental analysis.

When you bought your first home, you may have gotten a comparable market analysis (CMA), which analyzes what homes are selling for in the area you’re thinking of buying. A comparable rental analysis looks at rentals nearby to give you an idea of what your monthly income is going to be.

If you finance the property with a mortgage, you’ll likely need a rental analysis form 1007, which is an additional report in a residential home appraisal that provides an opinion of the market rent for the home you’re buying. In some cases, the appraiser’s projected market rent can be used to help you qualify for the new mortgage, even if you don’t have a lease on the property you’re buying.

Special mortgage considerations for out-of-state investment properties

If you’ve been buying investment property in your hometown, you already know financing a rental property comes with higher down payments and interest rates. There are a few more factors to consider.

Are transfer taxes due and who pays them?

Depending on what state you are buying property, transfer taxes may be charged for you to take ownership of the property you are buying. Unlike property taxes, these are a set lump sum percentage of your sales price, added to your closing costs.

Transfer taxes are often paid by the seller, but in some cases they may be payable when buying a home, adding to your total closing costs. It’s also good to at least know how much they are so they don’t end up being one of those hidden costs of selling a home. In places like New York City, that could mean an extra 1% to 2.625% of your sales price subtracted from your profit, in addition to real estate fees that usually run between 5% and 6%.

Are you buying in an attorney or escrow state?

Depending on where you purchase your rental property, you may need an attorney to handle your contract negotiations. That means higher costs than you’ll find in an escrow state, where an escrow offer can handle the signing usually at a much lower cost.

Are you buying in a community property state?

If you’re currently married or have a domestic partner, the community property laws could affect what happens to the property in the event of a divorce. Community property states require a split of equity down the middle, whereas the equity can be split up in negotiable amounts in a non-community-property state.

Final considerations

A little due diligence and research will help you avoid unpleasant surprises if you’re considering buying an out-of-state investment property. While many real estate companies offer “virtual tours” of homes, there’s nothing like an in-person tour to soak up the light, views, smells and feel of a home before you buy it.

If you can, budget enough time to take a trip to the state you’re considering buying in to inspect the top contenders before you start making offers on an out-of-state investment property.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Denny Ceizyk
Denny Ceizyk |

Denny Ceizyk is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Denny here

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Life Events, Mortgage

The Hidden Costs of Selling A Home

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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When you decide to sell your home, you may dream of receiving an offer well above your asking price. But putting your home on the market requires you to open your wallet, which could cut into your potential profit.

While some line items probably won’t come as a surprise, you may find that there are a handful of hidden costs.

Below, we highlight those unexpected expenses and everything else you need to know about the cost of selling a house.

The hidden costs of selling a home

It’s easy to fixate on the money you expect to make as a home seller, but don’t forget the money you’ll need to cover the cost to sell your home.

A joint analysis by Thumbtack, a marketplace that connects consumers with local professional services, and real estate marketplace Zillow, found that homeowners spend nearly $21,000 on average for extra or hidden costs associated with a home sale.

Many of these expenses come before homeowners see any returns on their home sale. Money is spent in three main categories: location, home preparation and location.

Location

Your ZIP code can influence how much you pay to sell your home. Many extra costs are influenced by regional differences — like whether sellers are required to pay state or transfer taxes.

For example, if you’re in a major California metropolitan area like Los Angeles, you may pay more than double the national average in hidden costs when selling your home.

Below, we highlight 10 of the metros analyzed in the Thumbtack/Zillow study, their median home price and their average total hidden costs.

Metro Area

Median Home Price*

Average Total Hidden Costs of Selling

New York, NY

$438,900

$33,510

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA

$652,700

$46,060

Chicago, IL

$224,800

$18,625

Dallas-Fort Worth, TX

$243,000

$19,350

Philadelphia, PA

$232,800

$21,496

Houston, TX

$205,700

$17,477

Washington, D.C.

$405,900

$34,640

Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL

$283,900

$24,241

Atlanta, GA

$217,800

$18,056

Boston, MA

$ 466,000

$35,580

Source: Thumbtack and Zillow analysis, April 2019.


*As of February 2019.

Generally, selling costs correlate with the home price, so expect to pay a little more if you live in an area with a higher-than-average cost of living or one that has a lot of land to groom for sale.

Home preparation

Thumbtack’s analysis shows home sellers may spend $6,570 on average to prepare for their home sale. These costs can include staging, repairs and cleaning.

Buyers are generally expected to pay their own inspection costs; however, if you’ve lived in the home for a number of years and want to avoid any surprises, you might also consider paying for a home inspection before listing the property for sale. Inspection fees typically range from $300 to $500.

Staging is often another unavoidable expense for sellers and can cost about $1,000 on average, according to HomeAdvisor. Staging, which involves giving your home’s interior design a face-lift and removing clutter and personal items from the home, is often encouraged because it can help make the property more appealing to interested buyers.

It also helps to have great photos and vivid descriptions of the property online to help maximize exposure of the property to potential buyers. If your agent is handling the staging and online listing, keep an eye on the “wow” factors they include. Yes, a virtual tour of your house looks really cool, but it might place extra pressure on your budget.

You could potentially save hundreds on home preparation costs if you take the do-it-yourself route (DYI), but expect a bill if you outsource.

Closing costs

Closing costs are the single largest added expense of the home selling process, coming in at a median cost of $14,,281, according to Thumbtack. Closing costs include real estate agent commissions and local transfer taxes. There may be other closing costs, such as title insurance and attorney fees.

Real estate agent commissions range from 5-6% of the home price, according to Redfin. That amount is further broken down by 2.5-3% being paid to the seller’s agent and the other 2.5-3% being paid to the buyer’s agent.

The taxes you’ll pay to transfer ownership of your home to the buyer vary by state.

Other closing costs include title search and title insurance to verify that you currently own the home free and clear and there are no claims against it that can derail the sale. The cost of title insurance varies by loan amount, location and title company, but can go as high as $2,000.

If you live in a state that requires an attorney to be present at the mortgage closing, the fee for their services can range from $100 to $1,500.

There are also escrow fees to factor in if you’re in a state that doesn’t require an attorney. The cost varies and is usually split the homebuyer and seller.

If you have time to invest, you could try listing the home for sale by owner to eliminate commission fees. One caveat: Selling your home on your own is a more complicated approach to home selling and can be more difficult for those with little or no experience.

Other home selling costs to consider

Now that you have an understanding of the costs that may get overlooked, remember to budget for the below expenses as you prepare to sell your home.

Utilities

It’s important that you make room in your budget to keep the utilities — electricity and water — on until the property is sold. (This is in addition to budgeting for utilities in your new home.) Keeping these services active can help you sell your home since potential buyers won’t bother fumbling through a cold, dark property to look around. It may also prevent your home from facing other issues like mold during the humid summertime or trespassers.

Be sure to have all of your utilities running on the buyer’s final walk-through of the home, then turn everything off on closing day and pay any remaining account balances.

Homeowners insurance

Budget to pay for homeowners insurance on the home you’re selling as well as your new home. You’ll still need to ensure coverage of your old property until the sale is finalized. Check the terms first, as your homeowners insurance policy might not apply to a vacant home. If that’s the case, you can ask to pay for a rider — an add-on to your insurance policy — for the vacancy period.

Capital gains tax

If you could make more than $250,000 on the home’s sale (or $500,000 if you’re married and filing jointly), take a look at the rules on capital gains tax. If your proceeds are less than the applicable amount after subtracting selling costs, you’ll avoid the tax. However, if you don’t qualify for any of the exceptions, the gains above those thresholds could be subject to a 15% capital gains tax, or higher. Consult your tax professional for more information.

How to save money when selling your home

Keep the following tips in mind when you decide to put your home on the market:

  • Shop around and negotiate. Don’t settle on the first companies and professionals you come across. Comparison shop for your real estate agent, home inspector, closing attorney, photographer, etc. It could also work in your favor to try negotiating on the fees they charge to save even more.
  • Choose your selling time carefully. The best time to sell your home is during the spring and summer months. If you wait until the colder months to sell, there may not be as much competition for your home.
  • DIY as much as possible. Anything you can do on your own to spruce up your home — landscaping, painting, minor repairs, staging — can help you cut back on the money you’ll need to spend to get your home sold.

The bottom line

There are several upfront costs to consider when selling your home, but planning ahead can help you possibly reduce some of those costs and not feel as financially strained.

List each cost you’re expecting to pay and calculate how they might affect the profit you’d make on the home sale and your household’s overall financial picture. If you’re unsure of your costs, try using a sale proceeds calculator to get a ballpark estimate of your potential selling costs. Be sure to also consult a real estate agent.

If you’re starting from scratch on your next home, here’s what you need to know about the cost to build a house.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Crissinda Ponder
Crissinda Ponder |

Crissinda Ponder is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Crissinda here

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