Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Improve Your Credit Score Before Searching for a Home

I have people who ask me all the time, "What is the first step in buying a home?" I have found a great article that touches that subject. Credit! Rebuild your credit before trying to buy a home.

By Paige Tepping

RISMEDIA, October 16, 2010--Many prospective homeowners find out the hard way the importance of a good credit score when they apply for a home mortgage, especially after the subprime loan crisis. If you are considering buying a home in the near future, it is a good idea to give your credit score a check-up and then take positive steps to improve your credit score if you find problems. Ideally, it is best to begin working on improving your credit score at least six months before you plan to start shopping for a home.

According to the experts at, the following tips will help you improve your credit and should be taken before you begin your home search.

The first critical step in taking care of your credit is to check your credit report. Unfortunately, many people fail to take this all important first step. Instead, they wait until they have applied for a mortgage loan to find out from the lender that there are problems with their credit scores.

By checking your credit score before you apply for a mortgage loan, you gain the opportunity to find out if there are problems which you can correct and discrepancies that need to be removed. When you check your credit report, make sure you check all three of the national credit reporting agencies: Experian, Trans-Union and EquiFax.

Review your credit report carefully for items that may be erroneous. If you believe that an item on your credit report is reported in error, you have the right to contest it. To do so, you will need to contact the credit reporting agency and explain why you believe the item is inaccurate. Supporting documentation such as receipts and cancelled checks can help your claim. Alternatively, you can engage a credit report repair services firm to fix your credit report.

If there are derogatory items on your credit report that are accurate but which could cause problems in your loan application, you cannot have them removed; however, you can take positive steps to counteract them. In the event that you have missed payments in the past, take steps now to get your bills current. Even if it means tapping into money that you might be planning to use for a down payment, it is essential that you get your accounts current and keep them that way. Begin by immediately making your payments on time. There is nothing which can lower your credit score more quickly than late payments. Ideally, make an attempt to begin sending in your payments a few days ahead of time to make sure they arrive on time and you do not have any more late payments on your record. If necessary, begin taking advantage of electronic payments in order to make sure your payments are made on time. Over time, this can make significant difference.

Keep in mind that eradicating all of your credit balances is really not the solution. In fact, credit can be your friend when you are looking to make a big purchase such as a home. The key is to make sure your credit is positive, not negative. Toward that end, avoid actually closing out your accounts. Instead, make an effort to pay down your balances and keep them paid down well below the minimum or completely paid off, but do not close the account. When your lender runs your credit to make a decision on your mortgage application, he or she will want to see that you have had a long credit management history.

After reviewing your credit history, if you see that most, if not all of your credit cards are maxed out or nearly maxed out, it is time to sit down and plan an aggressive strategy for paying some of them down. One of the critical factors that often determine your ability to be approved for a mortgage loan is your debt to income ratio. In addition, high credit card balances can drag down your credit score. Therefore, it is important to look at paying off some of your balances.

It is generally better to begin with your highest-rate balances first. Many consumers are tempted to move around balances when they receive an offer from another bank that is good; however, before you do this, remember that the worst thing you can do when you are trying to make a major purchase is to open new accounts.

By following these guidelines, you can improve your credit score and improve your chances of being approved for your home mortgage loan.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Be Market Smart: Do's and Don'ts for Buyers and Sellers

RISMEDIA, October 13, 2010—It would be unrealistic to say that the real estate market is utterly rosy right now, but neither is it thorn-filled by any means. In fact, things are decidedly looking up: July got some good news, when the National Association of Realtors reported that pending home sales rose 5.2% from downwardly revised June levels, beating economists’ expectations. This is good news for both buyers and sellers.
While challenges still exist—for instance, getting the best price when selling, or securing financing when buying—there are some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities out there, and plenty of happy results can be had for both buyers and sellers. The key for both groups is to remain flexible, adaptable and diligent. To that end, here are some dos and don’ts for today’s buyers and sellers:

For Sellers:

Be flexible. Often it’s the little things that push a buyer into the “yes” zone. If the buyer goes on and on about how much they love your icemaker, throw it in. If the closing has to be pushed ahead more than you expected, try to be as flexible as possible and pack the moving van a little quicker.

Clean up. One person’s prize doll collection is another person’s cluttered nightmare. Similarly, a living room filled with Beanie Babies could elicit a reaction of fear, rather than “Aw, how cute!” from a buyer. Put away any personal collections that not only cause clutter, but also make it hard for a buyer to see the home as his or hers, rather than yours.

Don’t be greedy. The market—not your emotions—dictates your home’s price. If comparables in the area, and several trusted real estate agents tell you your home is worth $400,000, you’re not fooling anyone by pricing it at $500,000—and you’re only doing yourself a disservice. Pricing it at market, even a little below, could generate a bidding war, and ultimately get you more money.

Don’t get personal. If you’re selling your house for a certain amount, and someone offers something much lower, don’t take this as a personal affront and refuse to counteroffer. Letting your emotions get in the way can potentially ruin the deal. What’s the harm in making a counteroffer?

Don’t procrastinate. In the current climate, you might be scared to try to sell your home, as you may have to face a lower selling price than you may have gotten before the recession. But remember, the house you buy might be even lower, commensurately. It’s all relative. So if you’re serious about selling, consider doing it now. Also, acting before the cold months come is a good idea, as the winter months are historically harder for home sales.

For Buyers:

Get a home inspection. It’s important to hire a trusted home inspector to check out the house’s potential issues and problems. Don’t skip a home inspection because you’re afraid of what you might hear—many issues sound more serious than they actually are, and can be fixed easily. And if something deal-breakingly serious is turned up, as disappointing as that is, it can save years of heartache and financial outlay. Better to walk away from a clunker.

List your place before you look for another. If you’re truly serious about looking for a home, list your place first. In the current economy, banks want to make sales as uncomplicated as possible—and contingency sales, which can be very complicated, are often rejected.

Talk before you act. Don’t ever start a home search without a firm budget not only in mind, but literally written down. Mutually agree with yourself—or with your partner, if you’re buying with someone else—long before you start seriously searching. Going out of that zone because of a place you just “gotta have,” or are emotional about, could put you in dire financial straits later. You don’t want to buy a house that isn’t affordable for you, and then be worried about paying for dinner and a movie on Saturday night.

Don’t be a design snob. If someone’s enormous bathroom has wallpaper border containing frolicking kittens and pastel flowers, or a wall that’s a nuclear shade of green, we understand this can send you into style shock. But stand fast and ignore bad d├ęcor. Instead, try to envision the space raw. Besides, you can always redecorate once the home is yours.

Don’t make a silly offer. There’s nothing wrong with making an offer below asking price—it’s no secret that today, many homes are selling for under the asking price. But going 40% below the asking price may anger the seller. Some sellers, especially more emotional ones, won’t even bother counter offering an outrageously low offer. Feel free to make a deal—just don’t make an offer so low that you’ll be kicked off the table.

For more information, visit

Dan Steward is the president of Pillar To Post Home Inspections.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

10 Helpful Tips for an (Almost) Stress-Free Moving Day!

Oh, moving day is exciting, isn’t it? And, sometimes, it’s too darned exciting! After all, you have so many things to remember…worry that the mover will show up on time…fret that things may be lost or get broken…and on and on. But, really, that day doesn’t need to be so stressful! 

If you follow the tips below, you can make the day as painless and as enjoyable as possible. The key underlying each of these tips is, of course, proper planning!

 Tip 1: Start early!

There are two reasons for starting early. One is psychological. When you start early, you can break the moving task down into smaller steps; that is, you can pack a little at a time. Psychologically, this gives you a great boost because you’re not overwhelming yourself by trying to do everything at once. The second reason relates to the first:packing is harder and more difficult than you think! So, by starting early, you have time to think things through and pack logically and economically! 

Tip 2: Weed Out the Unused or Useless! 

As I'm sure you know, you’ll be amazed at how much stuff you’ve accumulated that’s either never used or seldom used. So, why take it with you? Sort through everything and get rid of any item you haven’t used for a year or so. Donate it to a charity organization or, if appropriate, throw it into the trash or recycling. Remember, movers charge by weight! So, the equation is simple: less weight = less money out of your bank account! Plan on making a couple of passes through your belongings. If possible, take a break of a day or more between passes. That allows you to take a more objective look at everything. 

Tip 3: Label Everything in Sight! 

This is a real time-saver and stress-reducer. On each box, write down the contents as specifically as possible. At the same time, avoid overdoing the “Miscellaneous” label. If you end up with several boxes with that label, you won’t have a clue as to what they contain! 

Tip 4: Do One Room at a Time! 

There’s always the temptation to take items from several rooms and put them in one box. This is a good way to end up with too many “miscellaneous” boxes. Instead, pack one room fully at a time and then move to the next room. 

Tip 5: Consolidate! 

Since it’s easy for small boxes to get lost or damaged, place smaller items in small boxes and then put those put small boxes into a bigger box. 

Tip 6: Take Important Documents with You! 

Never pack any personal financial information and important papers and put them on a moving truck. Identify theft is possible, but, equally important, if those documents are lost, it could take you many, many hours to replace such important items as bank statements, passports. 

Tip 7: Take Your Valuables with You! 

Use common sense and take jewelry, artwork, rare book collections, etc. with you. You don’t want it on a moving truck, and, to be blunt, most moving companies don’t want to ship it for obvious liability reasons. If you absolutely have to ship valuables, get expanded moving insurance through the carrier or a third party. 

Tip 8: Plan for Essentials! 

Keep a box separate for all the essentials you’ll need in your new home and make sure it’s loaded last onto the truck so you can get at it easily upon arrival. Depending on your needs, “essentials” could include: soap, towels, toilet paper, sheets, coffee maker, drinking cups, paper plates, eating utensils, pencils and paper, etc. 

Tip 9: Inventory Everything That Goes on the Van! 

List every box or item that goes on the moving van and take the list with you. Once you arrive at your new home, have a family member tick off the boxes and items as they come off the truck. This is vitally important if your belongings are transferred from the truck to storage before being delivered. If a box is missing, lost or left behind, it could be months before you realize it’s gone. 

Tip 10: Save Money! 

Packing boxes can be expensive. If there are items that will go into plastic storage bins and/or large trash bags (stuffed animals, towels, etc.), then buy the inexpensive bins or bags. This will also save you the time and trouble of unpacking the boxes in your new home. Hope you enjoyed this list! 

To talk about more packing tips or anything related to real estate, contact me today.