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Credit cards exceptional financial instruments. They allow you to buy without any cash and earn rewards while at it. Another interesting feature is the option of adding another person as an authorized user to your card. However, credit card usage does have a huge impact on your creditworthiness. So, does removing your name from a […]
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Buying a home sight unseen might seem like a massive gamble: plunking down hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of dollars on a property you’ve never set foot in, your fingers crossed it looks just like the photos and doesn’t have major issues! So how lucky do you feel, anyway?
But during the pandemicâwhen stay-at-home restrictions made touring a property difficult and folks were eager to get out of densely populated citiesâgreater numbers of buyers than ever before were more game to buy sight unseen.
One of those buyers was Jenny Haiar of Sioux Falls, SD, who recently went through the virtual process of purchasing a new condominium in Scottsdale, AZ. She purchased a one-bedroom, one-bathroom with a view of the mountains.
How have Haiar and other buyers like her successfully bought a home sight unseen? Sure, the process comes with risks and challenges, but, if done right, it’s possible to land a property that checks all your boxes. Just be sure to avoid the following mistakes.
1. Not asking the right questions
Zach Combs at Northrop Realty in Maryland says asking questions is the No. 1 tool in purchasing a home. The simple equation: the more you ask, the more comfortable you will be when it comes time to sign the paperworkâso let the queries fly.
âI ultimately compiled a list of everything I thought of regarding my day-to-day and work-life needs, goals, and expectations,” says Haiar. âThis was about eight months of questions and answers to gain a full understanding of the homeowners association, rules, policies, buying process, and more.â
Combs says you can never ask your real estate agent or potential new HOA too many questions, so jot down each and every one.
2. Not hiring the best local agent for the job
A local real estate agent can serve as your eyes and ears when buying a home sight unseen.
Haiar knew exactly what she was looking for, but she didn’t live in Arizona.
âI felt a local agent based in Scottsdale could give me the best overall birdâs-eye view of properties. I never felt pressured to look at anything that didn’t fit my criteria,â says Haiar.
Vet agents by looking at personal testimonies, and don’t be afraid to ask them for a list of references. You canÂ use a real estate site (such asÂ this one!) to uncover more info about how long the agents have been at the job, their sales volume, the areas they specialize in, andÂ client reviews.
3. Not fully using all technology
FaceTime tours, Google Street View, and online property listings are all useful tools you need to take advantage of when buying a house sight unseen.
âUse every bit of technology available for the listings you are interested in,” says Combs. “Not all listing agents or sellers pay for a 3D tour, but if they have one, use it to understand the flow of the house.”
He says at the very least, buyers should always video-chat with their agent to see the house and get a feel of the space.
4. Not demanding a floor plan
While a floor plan may not always be available, it is an important detail buyers should not overlook.
âIf you have an open space in your current dwelling, either outside or inside, where you can tape off the actual room sizes, then you can make a mock layout with your furniture. This will help you truly understand if the space really can work for you and your family,â says Combs.Â
If a floor plan is unavailable, ask if your agent can measure the rooms and give a crude layout of the space. If an agent can get the measurements, Combs recommends buyers use Floorplanner.com, a free tool that can help you visualize your potential new home.
Understanding the floor plan was crucial for Haiar. When coordinating furniture delivery, she says, it was important to know the items fit in her space.
5. Not getting an appraisal and a home inspection
Giving a home a good walk-through is important with any home purchase, but buying sight unseen means calling in the experts.
âIf you are purchasing the home with a loan, your lender will require an appraisal for them to be able to close the loan,â says Combs. âIf you’re buying with cash, then it would be up to you.”
But regardless of how you’re financing the purchase, Combs says buyers should get a home inspection when buying sight unseen, âso you know exactly how much work the house needs and if you are comfortable handling those repairs.â
Haiar says itâs also important to have an insurance broker review insurance requirements and your HOA policy and coverage (if applicable).
The post Avoid These 5 Mistakes When Buying a Home Sight Unseen appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
While COVID-19 has affected all parts of daily life, the travel industry has certainly been put on hold as people have had to cancel plans and stay at home. Since most travelers plan many months in advance, this also leaves many holding tickets they can no longer use. Frequent flyers and hotel loyalty members are left wondering what recourse they have, if any, when it comes to their member status and points or miles.
We researched the major players in the hotel and airline industry to find out how these companies plan to accommodate their valued members â by extending points, status levels and more â in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Coronavirus relief measures by loyalty or travel program
- Hilton Honors
- Marriott Bonvoy
- IHG Rewards Club
- World of Hyatt
- Wyndham Rewards
- Choice Privileges
- United MileagePlus
- Delta SkyMiles
- American Airlines AAdvantage
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Southwest Rapid Rewards
- Virgin Atlantic
- British Airways
- TSA Precheck
- Global Entry
In addition to donating up to one million rooms to medical professionals, Hilton has promised to compensate its Hilton Honors loyalty program members in a number of ways.
Lower status requirements
Hilton has cut status qualification requirements by half.
|Elite status||Previous status requirements||New status requirements|
|Silver status||4 stays, 10 nights or 25,000 base points||2 stays, 5 nights or 12,500 base points|
|Gold status||20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 base points||10 stays, 30 nights or 37,500 base points|
|Diamond status||30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 base points||15 stays, 30 nights or 60,000 base points|
For any Silver, Gold or Diamond members that were due to downgrade in 2020 or 2021, statuses will be extended through March 31, 2022.
Weekend night rewards on eligible Hilton credit cards that were not expired by May 1, 2020, will now be valid through August 31, 2021, and certificates issued from May 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, are valid for 24 months from the date of issuance. All free weekend night certificates issued in 2021 can be used any night of the week and expiration is extended until Dec. 31, 2022.
Additionally, bonus points will continue to count as base points on eligible purchases through Dec. 31, 2021, and toward elite status tier qualification, including Lifetime Diamond Status.
All 2020 elite qualifying nights will be rolled over to the 2021 status year. This applies to all nights members have already completed or will complete this calendar year.
On top of that, Hilton has lowered the requirements to earn Milestone Bonuses for 2021. Previously, you could earn 10,000 bonus points every 10 nights after completing 40 nights in a calendar year. Starting in January, that requirement has been changed to 20 nights stayed to align with the new Gold qualification level. However, 60 nights will still earn you 30,000 points.
Diamond members will be able to gift Gold status for staying 30 nights in 2021 instead of 60 nights which was the previous requirement. The requirement to gift Diamond status is lowered to 60 nights instead of 100.
To ensure member safety, Hilton is providing flexible cancellations and full points refunds for all Hilton Honors experiences booked through May 31, 2021.
You can follow further updates for Hilton Honors members on the loyalty program website.
Marriott plans to compensate its Marriott Bonvoy members, although benefits may vary depending on membersâ location.
See related: Marriott data breach involves 5.2 million hotel guests
Bonvoy members who earned elite status for 2020 can now enjoy their benefits through February 2022.
Points set to expire by February 2021 will be paused, and no points will expire until after that time period.Â
Active free night awards (as part of Marriott credit cards or packages) set to expire beginning March 1, 2020, will be extended through Aug. 1, 2021. Additionally, more recent certificates set to expire before July 31, 2021, will be extended through that date as well. Suite night awards set to expire by Dec. 31, 2020, will be extended another year through Dec. 31, 2021.
Additionally, Marriott will depositÂ Elite Night Credits into Bonvoy elite membersâ accounts in the amount of 50% of the nights required for the status they earned in 2019. This can make it easier for the members to reach the next tier.
Elite Night Credits deposit breakdown
|Elite status||Annual tier requirements||Extra elite night credits|
|Ambassador Elite||100 Qualifying Nights and $20,000 stay spend||50 Elite Night Credits|
|Titanium Elite||75 Qualifying Nights||38 Elite Night Credits|
|Platinum Elite||50 Qualifying Nights||25 Elite Night Credits|
|Gold Elite||25 Qualifying Nights||13 Elite Night Credits|
|Silver Elite||10 Qualifying Nights||5 Elite Night Credits|
Stay up to date on relief measures for Bonvoy members on the companyâs COVID-19 page.
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IHG Rewards Club
Due to travel constraints and shortened travel periods, IHG has lowered its requirements for elite status membership by 25% or more, as well as extended statuses and points for all members (since elite membersâ points never expire).Â
Lower status requirements
|Status||Previous qualification requirements||New qualification requirements|
See related: The benefits of IHG Rewards Club elite status
Program statuses will be extended through January 2022 for all members. Spire elite members will also retain their Choice benefit of 25,000 bonus points or gifting of Platinum Elite status to someone each year.
Anniversary night certificates (U.S. and U.K. only) set to expire before March 1, 2020, will be extended through the end of the year. All 2020 certificates will be redeemable for 18 months, instead of the usual 12. Some members have also reported that free night certificates expiring before Dec. 31, 2020, will be extended until August 2021.
Follow updates to IHG Rewards Club benefits on the programâs travel advisory page.
World of Hyatt
The World of Hyatt loyalty program will extend all statuses and rewards to compensate valued members.
All active elite statuses, as of March 31, 2020, will be extended through Feb. 28, 2022.Â
Forfeiting points due to inactivity will be suspended through June 30, 2021. No points will expire until that date.
Any earned rewards, such as free nights or upgrades, set to expire between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021.
Check the updates to Hyatt relief measures on the programâs COVID-19 page.
Keep an eye on Wyndhamâs COVID-19 statement page for updates.
It took Choice some time to follow suit and join other hotel chains in extending elite statuses and offering other promotions amid the outbreak. On May 21, 2020, the company announced a series of offers to expand the benefits of its Choice Privileges loyalty program.
“Even during this crisis, our members found a number of ways to engage with us and make a difference,” saidÂ Jamie Russo, vice president, loyalty programs and customer engagement, Choice Hotels. “Some of them are essential and frontline workers who chose to stay in our small-business hotels, and others showed their generosity by donating their Choice Privileges points to aid recovery efforts. Our latest loyalty program changes tell our members that we appreciate their continued support and our hotels are here to welcome them whenever they feel safe traveling again.”
All membersâ current elite statuses will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021.
Lower status requirements
Choice is also easing requirements to qualify for elite status in 2021.
|Elite status||Previous status requirements||2021 status requirements|
|Gold status||10 nights||7 nights|
|Platinum status||20 nights||15 nights|
|Diamond status||40 nights||25 nights|
Additionally, Choice is giving current elite members a limited-time upgrade to the next tier. Gold members will be upgraded to Platinum status and Platinum members will be upgraded to Diamond. Additionally, members who stayed at least five nights by Dec. 31, 2020, will be able to keep their upgraded tier through 2021.
United has said it would compensate their MileagePlus members by extending all annual memberships, subscriptions and checked bag benefits for six months. United also plans to make status membership requirements easier and will release information later in 2020.
All MileagePlus Premier members will get to retain their 2020 status through Jan. 31, 2022.
Lower status requirements
MileagePlus Premier membership now has easier requirements, reduced 50% for each status level.
|2021 status||Premier qualifying flights||and PQP||â¦ or PQP|
All valid travel certificates issued on or after April 1, 2020, will be extended to be valid for two years for booking, as well as up to an additional 11 months to travel. All redeposit fees for flights booked through May 31, 2020, will be waived, as well as all fees for members who cancel within at least 30 days of departure.
Follow more updates to United MileagePlus on the programâs travel notice page.
Delta has stepped up to say they will compensate their Medallion members by extending their Member status.
2020 Medallion Member status will be extended through Jan. 31, 2022, and this change should be reflected on the memberâs SkyMiles account by Feb. 1, 2021. Additionally, all 2020 Medallion Qualification Miles will roll over into 2021.
Follow updates to the Delta SkyMiles program on the coronavirus travel update page.
American Airlines AAdvantage
As AAdvantage members experience reduced travel opportunities due to the coronavirus, American Airlines is offering elite status extension, lowering elite status requirements and allowing eligible cardholders to earn miles toward Million Miler status with credit card spend.
Members whose elite status expires on Jan. 31, 2021, will automatically get an extension until Jan. 31, 2022.
Lower status requirements
Members will be able to qualify for a higher elite status in 2021 with lower requirements, including Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD), Elite Qualifying Mile (EQM) and Elite Qualifying Segment (EQS).
|Gold oneworld Ruby||Platinum oneworld Sapphire||Platinum Pro oneworld Sapphire||Executive Platinum oneworld Emerald|
The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® cardholders who hold a companion certificate expiring Dec. 31, 2020, will receive a six-month extension as well, bringing the expiration date to June 30, 2021.
Learn more about AAdvantage program updates on aa.com.
JetBlue took a bit longer to join other airlines in taking measures to support loyal customers. On May 14, 2020, JetBlue announced it’s extending Mosaic elite statuses, as well as making it easier to earn one.
All currently valid Mosaic elite statuses will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021.
Lower status requirements
JetBlue is reducing the qualifying thresholds for Mosaic status by 50% for 2021. To earn the status this year, you’ll need to earn 7,500 qualifying TrueBlue base points or 6,000 qualifying TrueBlue base points and 15 flight segments.
Alternatively, you can get the elite status by spending $50,000 in annual net purchases on the JetBlue Plus card â this spending requirement hasn’t changed for 2020.
Virgin Atlantic has also made it easier for customers to earn and maintain elite status amid the pandemic.
In March 2020, Virgin Atlantic extended status for Gold and Silver members, allowing them an additional six months to meet the requirements.
On Aug. 20, 2020, the airline added another six months to the extension, making it one year in total.
Starting Sept. 1, 2020, the Flying Club program members will be able to earn tier points on award flights, meaning they’ll be able to earn elite-qualifying points on flights where they used Flying Club miles to redeem for travel.
On top of that, Virgin Atlantic makes it easier for members to earn and redeem Companion Vouchers, Upgrade Vouchers and Clubhouse Vouchers.
Members can now use Companion Vouchers with any ticket in any booking class, regardless of status. Gold and Silver members can book their companion into any cabin for zero miles, and Red members can book their companion into Economy and Premium for zero miles or upper class at a 50% discount.
Upgrade Vouchers can also be used with any ticket in any booking class, excluding Economy Light, for a one-cabin upgrade on a return flight.
Clubhouse Vouchers can be used for one entry to any clubhouse when booked on a Virgin flight or with Air France, Delta or KLM when flying internationally. Gold members will continue to receive two vouchers.
Southwest Rapid Rewards
On April 16, Southwest announced a status extension for A-List and A-List Preferred members and companion passes. The company is also giving a points “boost” to all Rapid Rewards members.
“As we continue to navigate our way through this unprecedented time and deal with extraordinary challenges, we are committed to keeping you informed and updated on the steps we are taking to manage through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Southwest said in a message to Rapid Rewards members.
Companion Pass Members who received an extension of their earned Companion Pass benefits through June 30, 2021, will have their benefits extended for another six months. Members will be able to keep their status through Dec. 31, 2021.
Southwest is giving all Rapid Rewards members with an account opened by Dec. 31, 2020, a âboostâ of 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 flight credits toward Companion Pass status, as well as 15,000 tier qualifying points and 10 qualifying flight credits toward A-List and A-List Preferred.
Southwest cardholders can also spend their way all the way to A-List status, with no cap on tier qualifying points (TQPs) earned through card spend. Previously, cardholders could only earn up to 15,000 TQPs per year via card spend.
Additionally, travel funds created or expiring between March 1, 2020, and Sep. 7, 2020, will now expire on Sep. 7, 2022. Alternatively, Rapid Rewards members can convert those funds into Rapid Rewards points. According to Southwest, the conversion ratio is âthe same rate you would be able to purchase a ticket with points today.â
On June 11, British Airways finally joined other airlines in extending the elite status for its members. Additionally, the carrier is reducing the number of tier points needed to reach a higher membership tier.
British Airways is extending tier status by 12 months for members who have a tier point collection end date of July 2020, through to June 2021.
Lower status requirements
The carrier has also reduced the number of points needed to retain and upgrade a membership status by 25%.
Here are the new tier qualification thresholds:
- Bronze: 225 Tier Points or 18 eligible flights
- Silver: 450 Tier Points or 37 eligible flights
- Gold: 1125 Tier Points
Members who have earned heir Gold Upgrade Vouchers, Companion Vouchers and Travel Together Tickets with a British Airways credit card will get a 6-month expiration extension to any current vouchers.
CLEAR is a program that makes it quicker for travelers to get through airport security lanes by using biometrics for ID verification. Since many people are currently avoiding traveling due to the coronavirus outbreak, a CLEAR membership might not be useful at the moment.
Originally, CLEAR offered customers to pause their membership for three months. Now CLEAR is allowing members to request a three-month extension to their membership, which can be done by contacting the company directly. With customer service channels such as phone lines overloaded by requests, the fastest way to do so is via CLEARâs online chat. However, some users have reported experiencing difficulties finding the chat box on the website. Alternatively, you can reach CLEAR by text, email or phone.
TSA Precheck is a five-year membership that provides expedited security checks at select domestic airports in the U.S. At this time, TSA is planning to keep enrollment centers open while working to determine if any temporary closures are required. Some centers have been closed or changed hours.
If youâre planning to visit an enrollment center, itâs recommended that you schedule an appointment â as walk-ins may be deferred.
Visit TSAâs enrollment questions page for more information.
Global Entry, a program run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that allows travelers to get expedited clearance through automatic kiosks when arriving in the U.S, has reopened its enrollment centers on Sept. 8, 2020. After a six-month hiatus, the program will finally allow conditionally approved Global Entry applicants to complete in-person interviews at most Trusted Traveler Programs enrollment centers in the U.S. The interviews must be scheduled in advance online, and their availability will vary by location.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak has also affected processing times for Global Entry renewals, CPB has increased the renewal grace period to 18 months. This means that if you apply for your Global Entry renewal before its expiration date, you’ll be able to use Global Entry for another 18 months.
As the coronavirus situation is unprecedented and changing rapidly every day, hotels and airlines continue to make updates to their travel policies, including their loyalty programs. Travelers should continue to check airline and hotel websites as the situation evolves. If they cannot find the information they need online, they should contact their hotel, airline or travel agencyâs customer service number.