5 Factors That Decide Your Credit Score

Credit scores range between 300 and 850, with scores above 620 considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage. The following factors affect your score:

  1. Your payment history. Did you pay your credit card obligations on time? If they were late, then how late? Bankruptcy filing, liens, and collection activity also impact your history.
  2. How much you owe. If you owe a great deal of money on numerous accounts, it can indicate that you are overextended. However, it’s a good thing if you have a good proportion of balances to total credit limits.
  3. The length of your credit history. In general, the longer you have had accounts opened, the better. The average consumer’s oldest obligation is 14 years old, indicating that he or she has been managing credit for some time, according to Fair Isaac Corp., and only one in 20 consumers have credit histories shorter than 2 years.
  4. How much new credit you have. New credit, either installment payments or new credit cards, are considered more risky, even if you pay them promptly.
  5. The types of credit you use. Generally, it’s desirable to have more than one type of credit — installment loans, credit cards, and a mortgage, for example.

For more on evaluating and understanding your credit score, visit www.myfico.com.

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5 Feng Shui Concepts to Help a Home Sell

To put the best face on a listing and appeal to buyers who follow feng shui principles, keep these tips in mind.

  1. Pay special attention to the front door, which is considered the “mouth of chi” (chi is the “life force” of all things) and one of the most powerful aspects of the entire property. Abundance, blessings, opportunities, and good fortune enter through the front door. It’s also the first impression buyers have of how well the sellers have taken care of the rest of the property. Make sure the area around the front door is swept clean, free of cobwebs and clutter. Make sure all lighting is straight and properly hung. Better yet, light the path leading up to the front door to create an inviting atmosphere.
  2. Chi energy can be flushed away wherever there are drains in the home. To keep the good forces of a home in, always keep the toilet seats down and close the doors to bathrooms.
  3. The master bed should be in a place of honor, power, and protection, which is farthest from and facing toward the entryway of the room. It’s even better if you can place the bed diagonally in the farthest corner. Paint the room in colors that promote serenity, relaxation, and romance, such as soft tones of green, blue, and lavender.
  4. The dining room symbolizes the energy and power of family togetherness. Make sure the table is clear and uncluttered during showings. Use an attractive tablecloth to enhance the look of the table while also softening sharp corners.
  5. The windows are considered to be the eyes of the home. Getting the windows professionally cleaned will make the home sparkle and ensure that the view will be optimally displayed.

Source: Sell Your Home Faster With Feng Shui, by Holly Ziegler (Dragon Chi Publications, 2001)

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Pros and Cons of Going Condo

Condominiums and townhouses offer an affordable option to single-family homes in many markets, and they’re ideal for those who appreciate a maintenance-free lifestyle. But before you buy, make sure you do your legwork. These are some of the important elements to consider:

  • Storage. Some condos have storage lockers, but usually there are no attics or basements to hold extra belongings.
  • Outdoor space. Yards and outdoor areas are usually smaller in condos, so if you like to garden or entertain outdoors, this may not be a good fit. However, if you dread yard work, this may be the perfect option for you.
  • Amenities. Many condo properties have swimming pools, fitness centers, and other facilities that would be very expensive in a single-family home.
  • Maintenance. Many condos have onsite maintenance personnel to care for common areas, do repairs in your unit, and let in workers when you’re not home — good news if you like to travel.
  • Security. Keyed entries and even doormen are common in many condos. You’re also closer to other people in case of an emergency.
  • Reserve funds and association fees. Although fees generally help pay for amenities and provide savings for future repairs, you will have to pay the fees decided by the condo board, whether or not you’re interested in the amenity.
  • Resale. The ease of selling your unit may be dependent on what else is for sale in your building, since units are usually fairly similar.
  • Condo rules. Although you have a vote, the rules of the condo association can affect your ability to use your property. For example, some condos prohibit home-based businesses. Others prohibit pets, or don’t allow owners to rent out their units. Read the covenants, restrictions, and bylaws of the condo carefully before you make an offer.
  • Neighbors. You’re much closer to your neighbors in a condo or town home. If possible, try to meet your closest prospective neighbors.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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Tips for Pricing Your Home

  • Consider comparables. What have other homes in your neighborhood sold for recently? How do they compare to yours in terms of size, upkeep, and amenities?
  • Consider competition. How many other houses are for sale in your area? Are you competing against new homes?
  • Consider your contingencies. Do you have special concerns that would affect the price you’ll receive? For example, do you want to be able to move in four months?
  • Get an appraisal. For a few hundred dollars, a qualified appraiser can give you an estimate of your home’s value. Be sure to ask for a market-value appraisal. To locate appraisers in your area, contact The Appraisal Institute or ask your REALTOR® for some recommendations.
  • Ask a lender. Since most buyers will need a mortgage, it’s important that a home’s sale price be in line with a lender’s estimate of its value.
  • Be accurate. Studies show that homes priced more than 3 percent over the correct price take longer to sell.
  • Know what you’ll take. It’s critical to know what price you’ll accept before beginning a negotiation with a buyer.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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Things You Might Not Know About Title Insurance

  1. Your mortgage lender is going to require it. Title insurance protects the lender and the secondary markets to which they sell the loans from defects in the title to your home and property. It ensures the validity and enforceability of the mortgage document. Title defects could include mistakes made in the local property office, forged documents and claims from unknown parties. The amount of the policy is equal to the amount of your mortgage at its inception. You pay a one-time fee as part of your closing costs. If you are purchasing a home, you should also purchase an owner’s policy which provides coverage up to the purchase price of the home you are buying. In some states it is customary for the seller to purchase the owner’s policy on your behalf.
  2. You have the right to choose! And it’s now it’s easier than ever. You can shop around for a lower insurance premium rate on line at sites including Closing.com, EasyTitleQuote.com and FreeTitleQuote.com.  You can also ask your lender or real estate professional for help in getting quotes.
  3. Check the companies out before you select one. Make sure the title insurance company you choose has a favorable Financial Stability Rating® with Demotech, Inc., the leading title insurance rating company (www.demotech.com).
  4. It’s easy to save money on title insurance. Request quotes from a few companies and then reach out and speak to them. Ask about hidden fees and charges which could make one quote seem more attractive than another. Ask about discounts. There are often discounts available if you are refinancing and sometimes even when you are purchasing if the current policy issued to the seller on the property isn’t too old.
  5. Even new construction needs coverage. Even though the home is new, the land isn’t. There may be claims to the land or liens placed during the construction which could negatively impact your home.

Source: ENTITLE DIRECT, Direct-to-Consumer Title Insurance, www.EntitleDirect.com

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8 Tips to Guide Your Home Search

  1. Research before you look. Decide what features you most want to have in a home, what neighborhoods you prefer, and how much you’d be willing to spend each month for housing.
  2. Be realistic. It’s OK to be picky, but don’t be unrealistic with your expectations. There’s no such thing as a perfect home. Use your list of priorities as a guide to evaluate each property.
  3. Get your finances in order. Review your credit report and be sure you have enough money to cover your down payment and closing costs. Then, talk to a lender and get prequalified for a mortgage. This will save you the heartache later of falling in love with a house you can’t afford.<
  4. Don’t ask too many people for opinions. It will drive you crazy. Select one or two people to turn to if you feel you need a second opinion, but be ready to make the final decision on your own.
  5. Decide your moving timeline. When is your lease up? Are you allowed to sublet? How tight is the rental market in your area? All of these factors will help you determine when you should move.
  6. Think long term. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in this home for a longer period? This decision may dictate what type of home you’ll buy as well as the type of mortgage terms that will best suit you.
  7. Insist on a home inspection. If possible, get a warranty from the seller to cover defects for one year.
  8. Get help from a REALTOR®. Hire a real estate professional who specializes in buyer representation. Unlike a listing agent, whose first duty is to the seller, a buyer’s representative is working only for you. Buyer’s reps are usually paid out of the seller’s commission payment.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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6 Creative Ways to Afford a Home

  1. Investigate local, state, and national down payment assistance programs. These programs give qualified applicants loans or grants to cover all or part of your required down payment. National programs include the Nehemiah program, www.getdownpayment.com, and the American Dream Down Payment Fund from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, www.hud.gov.
  2. Explore seller financing. In some cases, sellers may be willing to finance all or part of the purchase price of the home and let you repay them gradually, just as you would do with a mortgage.
  3. Consider a shared-appreciation or shared-equity arrangement. Under this arrangement, your family, friends, or even a third-party may buy a portion of the home and share in any appreciation when the home is sold. The owner/occupant usually pays the mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance costs, but all the investors’ names are usually on the mortgage. Companies are available that can help you find such an investor, if your family can’t participate.
  4. Ask your family for help. Perhaps a family member will loan you money for the down payment or act as a co-signer for the mortgage. Lenders often like to have a co-signer if you have little credit history.
  5. Lease with the option to buy. Renting the home for a year or more will give you the chance to save more toward your down payment. And in many cases, owners will apply some of the rental amount toward the purchase price. You usually have to pay a small, nonrefundable option fee to the owner.
  6. Consider a short-term second mortgage. If you can qualify for a short-term second mortgage, this would give you money to make a larger down payment. This may be possible if you’re in good financial standing, with a strong income and little other debt.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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