6 Tips for Buying or Selling in Zillow’s Hottest Real Estate Markets

The hot real estate market of 2021 shows no signs of slowing down in 2022, according to a recent study released by Zillow. 

That’s especially true in the South. Nine of the top 10 forecasted hot markets are in the southern U.S., with Tampa leading the way. Jacksonville, Raleigh, San Antonio and Charlotte rounded out the top 5.

Zillow's Top 10 Markets

Rank City Typical Home Value in 2021 Home Values Growth 2022 Days to Pending Sale in 2021

1

Tampa, FL

$323,040

25%

6

2

Jacksonville, FL

$314,569

22%

9

3

Raleigh, NC

$391,444

24%

5

4

San Antonio, TX

$269,724

19%

12

5

Charlotte, NC

$329,961

21%

6

6

Nashville, TN

$384,321

20%

7

7

Atlanta, GA

$330,218

22%

9

8

Phoenix, AZ

$422,463

20%

13

9

Orlando, FL

$332,633

15%

8

10

Austin, TX

$534,443

21%

19

Note: All data displayed in the table are from Zillow. Typical home values and median days from listing to pending sale are from November 2021. Expected growth in home values is between November 2021 and November 2022.

Zillow’s rankings took into account a variety of factors, including strong forecasted home value growth, high job growth, fast-moving inventory and a high volume of interested buyers. Zillow also said these top 10 markets have historically been unaffected by rising interest rates and a slowing stock market – risk factors in both the economy and real estate market.

Zillow predicts the growth in home prices will jump 14% through November 2022, meaning another year of real estate madness across the United States.

So if you plan to buy or sell a house this year in one of these hot seller’s markets, what does this mean for you?

Here are six suggestions.

6 Tips for Buying or Selling in One of Zillow’s Hot Markets

Get a Pre-Approval Letter

Financing matters, especially when a seller is dealing with multiple offers.

A pre-approval letter is simply a notice from your bank that they would approve you for a mortgage, and it tells the seller that you actually have the funds to back up your offer. This takes a little more work on the front end, because these letters can take a little time to get, but it’s well worth it.

Simply hand that letter over to the seller’s agent, and they’ll have immediate confidence in you as a buyer. For sellers, you’ll know that an offer isn’t going to fall through.

Don’t Go At It Alone

We highly recommend using a real estate agent, whether you’re buying or selling.

In a seller’s market, it’s really easy to get wrapped up in the moment and cave in to a bad deal. A good real estate agent will keep you grounded in reality. They’ll also save you a lot of time and money. They’ll take care of all the heavy paperwork, and they’ll be your spokesperson in negotiations.

Not only that, good real estate agents have plenty of connections within their local market. Many will know of houses that are coming on the market before they’re featured online. This could give you a great advantage in putting in offers. Some agents might even know about housing only being marketed by word of mouth – houses that will never appear in listings.

Keep all these things and mind when you’re buying or selling. A good real estate agent is well worth the commission they’ll charge.

Don’t Waive the Inspection

If you’re a buyer, making sure you get the house you think you’re getting is, well, really important. That’s where a home inspector comes in.

For just a few hundred dollars, the inspector will examine the structure of the house, as well as the major systems, to make sure they’re up to standards. They’ll give you a report detailing their discoveries. So if the roof needs repairs, you’ll know it. If the hot water heater is on its last leg, you’ll know that too.

The seller will get a copy of the report, which you then can use for negotiation purposes. If you know you’ll need to replace the HVAC within the next year – a minimum cost of around $5,000 – you can factor that into your final offer.

Just like a real estate agent, a home inspector will make your life much easier. They are experts in their fields and know to look for issues the common homebuyer won’t think about.

In a hot seller’s market, buyers might be asked to waive the inspection to speed things up – or simply because other buyers are lined up behind them. For a buyer, that should be a red flag.

All that said, current market conditions means buyers will have to keep contingencies to a minimum. Contingencies are the contractual stipulations buyers and sellers must meet before the deal can close. As you might guess, sellers don’t like to have too many of them to deal with.

Contingencies can include such things as requesting a seller to make certain repairs or even a buyer needing to sell their current old house before being able to close on the new one.

In a hot seller’s market, those demands generally won’t fly.

Brush Up on Negotiation

While it’s true your agent will be negotiating price for you, it’s also important that you understand the basics.

Your real estate agent will help set your asking prices using relevant data. They’ll have comparative costs for similarly sized homes in similar neighborhoods to provide your negotiation with a starting point. For buyers, that same data will factor into any offer you make on a house.

Once you begin negotiations, you may be asked to make concessions that include: move-in date, closing date, or even throwing a few appliances or furniture into the deal.

Your agent should have a good sense, right away, as to whether the buyer is legit. Lean in to them as you negotiate what could be the biggest purchase or sale of your life.

Remember: Asking Price Is Just a Starting Point

In a seller’s market, rarely will a house go for the asking price.

If you’re the seller, you know that’s just the number a buyer needs to get in the door – the “cover fee” so to speak. If you’re the buyer, you should know that the house you’re interested in will likely go above asking, and be prepared for that.

It might just be a few thousand dollars over, or it could be 1 to 3 percent higher than the actual price. Your agent (noticing a theme, here?) will know the situation and should know you well enough to make sure you stay within your comfort level.

The bottom line: The seller will always have the advantage in a seller’s market. Whether you are buying or selling, keep this in mind throughout the entire process.

Homes and apartments are shown in this aerial view of Ybor City in Tampa, Florida, where home values are expected to go up 29%.

Make a Strategy

When buying or selling something as expensive as a home, you need to have a solid plan going in. And, in a seller’s market, your strategy should be even more foolproof.

As the buyer, you absolutely need to be realistic about how much house you can afford. Know your budget going in and be clear with your agent about it. If you know that a $250,000 home is your absolute ceiling, then you can’t afford to get in a bidding war that pushes the price to $275,000.

In a hot seller’s market, it’s easy to allow emotion to take over and let the adrenaline of negotiations lead to questionable decisions.

Be patient and trust your agent to guide you through the process that will help you find that perfect home.

Robert Bruce is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Navient Settlement: 66K Borrowers Get $1.7 Billion Student Debt Canceled

A major student loan servicing company has reached a settlement that will cancel $1.7 billion in student loan debt for around 66,000 borrowers, as well as provide $95 million in restitution – around $260 each – to 350,000 borrowers.

“Today’s settlement corrects Navient’s past behavior . . . and puts in place safeguards to ensure this company never preys on student loan borrowers again,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in a statement. 

Navient’s settlement with attorneys general in 39 states is over two primary accusations:

  • Redirecting borrowers into forbearance instead of pushing them toward more sensible income-based repayment options.
  • Through its predecessor, Sallie Mae, directing borrowers to subprime loans that they knew would likely default.

“Navient repeatedly and deliberately put profits ahead of its borrowers – it engaged in deceptive and abusive practices, targeted students who it knew would struggle to pay loans back, and placed an unfair burden on people trying to improve their lives through education,” said Shapiro.

Here’s what you need to know about the settlement.

How to Find Out if the Navient Settlement Affects You

If you’re unsure who your loan servicer is, you can easily find out by logging into your account at studentaid.gov.

You should be able to identify the types of loans you have as well as your servicer through your account dashboard. Or you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-433-3243.

According to the settlement statement, borrowers who qualify don’t need to take any further action other than to make sure the U.S. Department of Education has their current address through their studentaid.gov account.

Borrowers who qualify for private loan debt cancellation will receive a notice from Navient by July 2022 and will be refunded any payments made on canceled private loans after June 30, 2021.

Federal loan borrowers receiving the approximate $260 restitution payment will receive a postcard from the settlement administrator in the spring of 2022.

Tips for Anyone Struggling With Student Loan Debt

Nationally, some 43 million borrowers owe a total of $1.6 trillion in student loan debt. More than 5 million of them are in default.

While wholesale student loan forgiveness remains a distant possibility, it’s best to use the extended forbearance period to your advantage and make a debt payoff plan.

Here are some strategies for paying down your student debt — fast and forever — including checking into whether you qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

If you’re nearing retirement and still owe on student loans, here are six ways to cope.

Robert Bruce is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder. 

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

U.S. Army Paying Signing Bonuses Up to $50,000 for Enlisting

Uncle Sam wants you, and he’s willing to pay you a good chunk of cash.

The U.S. Army announced that it will pay up to $50,000 – its largest bonus ever – to recruits who qualify and sign on for a six-year active-duty enlistment. The bonus package is based on a number of factors that include the selected career field, individual qualifications, length of the contract and the ship date for training.

“This is an opportunity to entice folks to consider the Army,” said Brig. Gen. John Cushing in a press release.

Since 2020, the Army has struggled, just like the private sector, in attracting talent, and officials hope the incentives coupled with some other changes will begin to draw qualified young people.

“We are still living the implications of 2020 and the onset of COVID, when the school systems basically shut down,” Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, head of Army Recruiting Command, told the Associated Press. “We lost a full class of young men and women that we didn’t have contact with, face-to-face.”

Here’s how the new incentives work.

How to Score Up to $50K in Army Signing Bonuses

The career-based incentives range from $1,000 to $40,000 depending on the field. The more difficult-to-hire positions will offer a higher bonus. Occupations can range from well-known careers, like infantry and Special Forces, to lesser known, such as radar repairers, signal support systems specialists and motor transport operators.

The Army is also offering “quick ship” bonuses – from $2,000 to $9,000 – for recruits who can go to Basic Training within 90 days. The sooner the recruit can leave, the more cash he or she will receive.

Going to Airborne Training can bring $10,000 and Ranger Training can bring up to $20,000. Foreign language skills can bring in as much as $40,000 in specific career paths.

A combination of all these incentives will bring the largest bonuses into play.

“For example, a six-year enlistment as an air and missile defense crewmember starts with $40,000. Right now, that occupation also qualifies for a $9,000 critical accession bonus,” the Army said in its press release. “If the individual decides to ship to training within the next 90 days, the addition of a quick-ship bonus would get the recruit to the maximum amount.”

The Army is also promoting other new changes to attract talent: shorter, two-year enlistments for 84 different career fields and the opportunity for recruits to pick their duty station.

“We know this generation likes to have the opportunity to make their own decisions, so now they can choose where they want to be assigned after training,” Vereen said. “…Many people are apprehensive about long-term commitments right now, so we think having a shorter option will help give them some time to see if the Army fits their life and goals.”

Robert Bruce is a Senior Writer for The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

4 Gig Economy Trends to Watch in 2022

If 2021 proved anything, it’s that the gig economy is alive and well.

From ride-sharing to food delivery to at-home businesses and freelance gigs, Americans got creative in how they earned their income over the last year. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 16% of Americans have earned income from an online gig platform at some point.

Looking ahead, the gig economy will likely continue to grow in 2022 and employers will continue to look for more ways to collaborate with gig workers.

So what are some of the ongoing gig economy trends to look out for in the coming year? Here’s what we’ll be watching.

4 Things Gig Workers Should Look For in 2022

1. Side Gigs Are Becoming Permanent (For Now)

Side gig jobs are becoming more like main gigs for many Americans. Forty-one percent of gig workers relied on their gig jobs to cover monthly expenses in 2021. That’s up from 27% in 2020, according to Dollar Sprout’s 2021 Side Hustle Report.

The percentage of people spending more than 15 hours per week on gig work more than doubled in 2021, increasing from 12% to 27%. The share of gig workers who earned more than $1,500 per month increased from around 4% in 2020 to more than 14% in 2021.

All that to say that, for a lot of gig economy workers, gig work is no longer a temporary hobby. The pandemic gave American workers a lot of time to reflect, and many are no longer content working in uninspired traditional jobs in uninspiring office settings.

The freedom to set their own hours, be their own boss, have more work/life balance, and feeling more fulfilled in what they do has certainly driven the uptick in gig work, as well as contributed to what’s known as The Great Resignation.

That said, even though workers are making more money and spending more time than ever on side gig work, many still don’t view the side hustle as a great long-term option. In the Pew Research survey, only 31% believed these jobs are a good way to build a career. In fact, 68% said the gig job is not a good career building option.

Need a banking service that's built for gig workers and freelancers, helping you save for taxes and keep track of expenses? Check out Lili. (It's free!)

2. The Employee Vs. Independent Contractor Debate Continues

In late 2020, a measure known as Proposition 22 was passed by California voters. The debate centered on whether ride-share drivers could be considered employees or independent contractors while working for companies like Uber or Lyft.

If gig workers were classified as employees, rideshare companies would take on the financial burden of employer-sponsored health insurance, workers compensation for on-the-job injuries, contributions into Social Security and Unemployment Insurance, and would have to offer sick or caregiver leave. If gig workers remain classified as independent contractors — as the vast majority are — companies would not have to provide those benefits.

Prop 22 was largely seen as a compromise between the two sides. Rideshare companies in California are still exempt from labor laws and can keep their drivers classified as independent contractors. However, drivers are receiving new benefits which include an earnings guarantee based on local minimum wage laws, a health care subsidy for drivers who log more than 25 hours per week, and occupational accident insurance.

But while the debate in California is settled for now, it rages on in other states. And much to the dismay of rideshare companies, the federal government has entered the chat. 

In late December, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced it will reconsider its 2019 employment classification decision and asked for a public briefing on the issue from unions, employers, and any other interested parties, who have until February 10, 2022 to offer input.

Needless to say, 2022 could see major changes for gig economy workers and employers in the rideshare industry.

3. Some Gig Workers Are Facing Safety Issues

In April of 2020, NPR interviewed Candy Roberts, an Instacart shopper. She described some of the frightening aspects of having to grocery shop during the outset of the pandemic.

In addition to simply being a frequent visitor to the public stores at a time when no vaccine was available, Roberts talked about some of the craziness she encountered. “People steal stuff out of your cart. You know, you might’ve grabbed the last milk. Well, don’t look away from your cart because somebody’s going to take it out of your cart,” she told NPR.

At the time, Instacart hadn’t supplied Roberts with any hand sanitizer or other items to provide protection from Covid. She used Listerine to clean her hands. For Roberts, the sole provider for her grandson, the early part of 2020 was an incredibly stressful time.

Though the conditions have changed since then, safety issues continue to be a part of the deal in the gig workforce. More than half (51%) of the American gig workers surveyed by Pew reported being very or somewhat concerned about getting Covid while completing their jobs over the past year.

Safety issues went beyond Covid, however. Thirty-seven percent said they had often or sometimes been treated rudely while doing gig work, and 35% said they had felt unsafe.

Most unsettling of all the statistics: 19% said they had experienced an unwanted sexual advance on the job. Nearly a quarter of female respondents said they had this type of advance before.

4. Gig Work Isn’t Confined to One Generation

The gig economy is open to all generations, and all generations are taking advantage of it.

“In the midst of a historic labor shortage, we’re seeing a steady increase in eager workers seeking flexible opportunities to increase their earning potential. Across all generations from Baby Boomers to Gen Z, the data shows us workers are re-evaluating what they want from work,” said Monica Plaza, with online staffing company Wonolo, in a press release. “The implications for businesses are clear and present: workers want flexible work that pays a living wage.”

According to Wonolo, Baby Boomers (ages 57-75) and Generation X (41-56) are spending the most time as gig economy workers on the Wonolo platform, with Gen Xers making the most money per month.

Don’t count Generation Z (18-25) or Millennials (25-40) out though. In the study, Gen Z saw the largest increase (11%) in hourly earnings out of all the generations between 2019 and 2021.

In 2019, Gen Z comprised only 8% of the total jobs completed on Wonolo. That number jumped to 22% this past year and is expected to continue to grow as more Gen Zers enter the labor force.

Gig work obviously appeals to all generations, with its flexibility and ability to make a side income. In 2022, it will be interesting to see how much more involved Generation Z becomes and whether Boomers continue to take on gig work as they approach retirement.

Robert Bruce is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

How to Make the Transition to Remote Work

One of the most significant workplace changes that came from the pandemic has been the economy-spanning shift to remote work away from the traditional office environment.

Many companies that never offered it now have a remote work option. Some companies that were thinking about going partially remote pulled the trigger and have moved their workforce into working remotely full time.

And unless you work in an industry that really can’t do remote work ( e.g. restaurant server or retail associate) or are employed by a company stuck in 1998, then remote work may be your new reality.

For many people, that’s awesome news. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be adjustments in your transition to remote work.

If working remotely is or could be part of your new routine, we have some suggestions.

8 Things We’ve Learned about the Transition to Permanent Remote Work

1. Make Sure You Actually Want to Work Remotely

It’s not for everyone.

As much as it’s a growing trend, some people still aren’t into remote work. Only 54% of people whose jobs can be done at home said they would want to work remotely after COVID subsides, according to the Pew Research Center. That is a majority, but not by much.

Working remotely has several benefits. So spend a lot of time thinking through the pros – no commute, more focus time and productivity, more efficient meetings, more family time, among others. And then think through the cons – less serendipity, no water cooler conversations, the potential to feel isolated, and so on.

Depending on your personality type, you may thrive or really struggle working remotely. Know yourself and how you might respond before making the permanent jump. 

2. Approach Your Employer About Working Remotely

So you got a taste of remote work during the last year, loved it, then your employer decided it was time to bring all the team members back together. What should you do?

If you really want to work remotely, there’s nothing wrong with asking. Your boss might not be on the same page, but it never hurts to ask, right?

The key is to be prepared before the conversation. Prove that you’ve been more productive in a remote environment, and bring the data to show it. Know what your employer’s reasoning is and be prepared to counter it. And be sure to explain all the ways they will benefit, not just you.

3. Know the Remote Work Basics

Here’s a quick checklist of all the tools to think about related to remote work:

  • Computer setup (with video call accessibility)
  • High-speed internet
  • Phone (landline if in an industry like sales)
  • Headset and microphone
  • Desk
  • Comfortable office chair
  • Dual monitors
  • Office supplies
  • Power strip
  • Good lighting (for Zoom calls)
  • Shelving or organizational system

You might only need some of those things. But make sure you have at least a few of these home office essentials in place before making the jump to remote work.

4. Get Reimbursed for Initial Expenses

Whether it’s a new laptop, faster internet, a decent desk or a rental space for in-person meetings, make sure you aren’t taking those financial loads on yourself.

Most employers will know to take care of these for their remote workers, but some who are smaller or just transitioning to a remote workforce may let these slip through the cracks. Whether it’s an initial stipend, a reimbursement, or paid through an expense account, your employer should be footing the bill.

Don’t hesitate to bring up these expenses yourself. After all, your employer would be paying for it all in a traditional office environment. That shouldn’t change with the transition to remote work.

5. Your Internet Speed is Going to be Important

Between email and regular internet browsing, plus streaming and all those video calls, your internet connection will matter more than ever. You not only want it to be fast, you also want it to be stable.

Start by testing your internet speed. Then use our guidelines for the speeds you’ll need to use different applications. If you’re lacking in the speed department, talk with your employer about getting an upgrade.

If your provider’s speeds are lacking, or if you live in a part of the country without access to higher speeds, we have ideas on some alternative ways to stay in touch with other team members.

6. Know if You Qualify for Tax Deductions

Yes, you could qualify for tax deductions if you work from home. But, as expected with tax laws, there are quite a few regulations.

If you’re a regular employee, you won’t qualify, unless you also have self-employment income. In other words, the income you make from your full-time job isn’t deductible. Anything you made as a freelancer is.

The space where you work also needs to be your principal place of business, but you don’t need an entirely separate room set up for your work.

Those are just a couple of the qualifiers, however. If you’ve already met those, go check out the others to see if you can get the remote work tax deduction.

7. Consider Job Hunting if Your Job Isn’t Going Remote

Just how important is it to you to be able to work remotely?

If you’re set on making the jump to remote work, weigh the pros and cons of staying at your current job or leaving. Everything from income, work/life balance, flexibility, stability, family time, and more should factor into your decision.

If, after thinking through everything, you’re ready to make the move, get prepared to start interviewing with these 9 remote interview questions.

8. Get in Touch With Companies That Offer Remote Work

Once you’re on the market, it will be helpful to know your options for remote work.

While some companies might be new at managing remote employees post-pandemic, many have been doing remote work for a while now. Here are 31 companies with remote work jobs.

Finally, if you’ve made the jump, just enjoy the transition. For many people, working remotely is a life changer. If it works for you and fits your personality, you’ll likely never want to go back to a traditional office.

Robert Bruce is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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