What Is Airfare Hacking?

Some of you know that I just got back from a short trip to see the sites in Warsaw, Poland.  Whether it is a good idea to lose and gain 7 hours in the span of 5 days is debatable, the trip was a great success.  The best part is that the whole trip cost about $1,000, including airfare.  It all starts with something called “flight hacking.”

This is not a complicated as it sounds.  There are a few tools that are easy to use, which can have you traveling the world for dirt cheap.

Scott’s Cheap Flights

The best flight hacking tool I have encountered is Scott’s Cheap Flights.  Click on the link and sign up to be on his email list.  It’s free to use, and 3-4 times per week, you will receive emails with relatively inexpensive airfares he has found, with instructions on how to book.  There is a premium option, but I use the free one.  I have used SCF to book a flight to London for $505, Warsaw for $351 and Vietnam/Thailand for $430 this year alone.  I would say that Scott should start paying me for the number of times I have endorsed him, but he is responsible for me taking 3 vacations abroad this year.  I should still be thanking him.  Follow him on Facebook and Twitter as well, because he typically releases the deals on social media several hours before emails go out.

Fly Almost Free

Another tool that is similar to Scott’s Cheap Flights is Fly Almost Free.  The concept is the same, except this site claims to have automated the cheap flight finding process.  I have not yet used FAF, but it appears to be legit.  I will have to expand on this once I have used it to book travel.

Google Flights

If you don’t want to wait around for an email, you can always head over to Google Flights and use its calendar tool to quickly find the lowest fares for any trip you want to take.  You can also set up alerts where Google shoots you an email when a particular airfare changes.  With a little patience and creativity, you might find the vacation of your dreams is much cheaper than expected.

There is more out there, but I think you get the gist.  Now is a fantastic time to travel!  Airfares are low, and the dollar is strong.  If you manage to book a trip using these tools please leave a comment below!  I would love to see where everyone is going!

Although this topic isn’t law or real estate related, as always, please do not hesitate to contact me at 773-632-8330 or patrick@loftus-law.com.  And finally, as always, I am honored by your referrals.  To learn more about my practice, please contact me!  And if you are looking to buy or sell property, I would love to set you up with one of my fantastic real estate brokers.

Financial Planning In The Era of Marriage Equality

Everyone should have some kind of financial plan.  For many people, this does not become clear until they get married and start a family.  Once there is more than one person to think about supporting, it becomes fairly obvious that a plan must be in place in order to avoid bad consequences for spouses and kids.

Most financial planning instruments were devised before America embraced marriage equality.  As a result, these devices and mechanisms make assumptions about families that, in many cases, no longer suit the real world.  As a result, it is a good idea to make sure that you have a financial plan in place that will fully protect your family.

I borrowed the above graphic from Prudential, because I think it gives a good jumping off point to see where some of the issues may exist.  It is worth noting that the graphic is from a piece of advertising, so take it with a grain of salt, because there may be certain biases.

If you would like to know more about this sort of thing, I would be happy to speak with you!  An attorney is a great resource for estate planning and other protections you can put in place for your family!

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me at 773-632-8330 or patrick@loftus-law.com.  And finally, as always, I am honored by your referrals.  To learn more about my practice, please contact me!  And if you are looking to buy or sell property, I would love to set you up with one of my fantastic real estate brokers.

6 Myths About Homebuying — Translated

I came across an interesting article on Yahoo about “Homebuying Myths” (click here to see the article).  The article has some interesting information, but there are some things that I think could be added to make the article more helpful.  Here is what I would add —

Myth 1 – You don’t need a 20% down payment to buy a home.

This is true.  In fact, most of my clients do not put down 20% of the purchase price when they buy a home.  FHA insured loans require only a 3.5% downpayment, and there are other loan products that require as little as 5% down.  However, when you borrow more than 80% of the purchase price, your lender will require that you pay for mortgage insurance.  The details vary, but I generally see payments in the neighborhood of $100 per month paid for about the first 10 years of the loan.  This is in addition to principal, interest and escrow items.  Although this should not necessarily deter you from buying a home, it is worth taking into consideration when determining how much to put down up front.

Myth 2 – Your credit score is good enough.

Another fair point.  I would add that one easy way to increase your credit score is to ask your credit card companies for a credit limit increase.  You may even be able to do it in a few minutes online.  By increasing your available credit, you reduce your credit usage as a percentage of the available credit.  This, in turn, should increase your credit score.  Just don’t go and use all that new credit!

Myth 3 – Loan pre-approval determines your price range.

This is an excellent point.  Lenders make money based on how much you borrow.  They don’t care that you won’t be able to take a vacation for the next 5 years, because your mortgage payment has you tapped out every month.  Reality check that monthly payment before you start looking at that 4 bedroom McMansion.

Myth 4 – Once I make the offer, the hard work is done.

I may be off base, but I don’t think people really believe this.  But if you were under that misconception, just know that the contract is only the beginning of a long process.  One great way to make the process easier is to have a great attorney at your side to guide you (Hint hint!).

Myth 5 – Your home purchase is non-negotiable.

Well, duh!  But let’s put this one in proper perspective.  Yes, everything is negotiable.  However, sellers aren’t dumb.  When you ask for closing costs to be paid, in the seller’s mind, it’s a deduction from the price offered.  There’s no free money, so the Seller will take that into account when they counter.  Some people will gross up the price in order to include a closing cost credit.  This is fine, but it is important to understand that you are really just wrapping the closing costs into the amount borrowed and paying interest on it over 30 years.  While that may work for you if you don’t have a lot of cash in your pocket to bring to closing, you’ll save interest in the long run by paying the costs up front.  Closing costs are a fact of life when you buy real estate.  The better strategy is to make sure your lender isn’t gouging you on their closing costs, regardless of who is paying them.

Myth 6 – You bought the perfect home.

Of course, there is no such thing as perfect.  The best way to prevent regret is to do try to avoid a case of “oneitis” once you zero in on a home to buy.  Believe me that there is always another property out there for you.  If you keep that in the back of your mind, it will be easier to make the decision cut loose from a home that is increasingly looking like a lemon.

What do you think?  Anything else to add?

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me at 773-632-8330 or patrick@loftus-law.com.  And finally, as always, I am honored by your referrals.  To learn more about my practice, please contact me!  And if you are looking to buy or sell property, I would love to set you up with one of my fantastic real estate brokers.