Date Archives: April 2016

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April
28

Credit scores factor into the majority of lending decisions, including those for mortgage and rental applications. In most of these scenarios, lenders determine an applicant's eligibility by weighing his or her FICO® Score. Credit Score FICO recently rolled out an enhanced version of their Score Simulator that helps prospective homebuyers and renters understand the impact their actions have on their credit scores. The tool simulates actual FICO Scores, allowing users to enter multi-action simulations and providing side-by-side comparisons with data from the three major credit bureaus. The what-if simulations include over 20 distinct actions, such as: • Forgetting to Pay a Bill • Increasing a Credit Account Limit • Maxing Out a Credit Card • Paying Down a Credit Card Balance • Refinancing a Mortgage • Taking Out a Car Loan "Because FICO Scores are used in more than 90 percent of U.S. lending decisions, consumers want to better understand how their actions might affect FICO Scores," says Geoff Smith, vice president of Consumer Scores at FICO. "The newly enhanced FICO Score Simulator enables consumers to run simulations using the actual FICO Score 8 formula, as well as data from all major credit bureaus. This is an extremely easy-to-use and valuable tool for anyone who wants to understand how their financial behavior could impact their FICO Scores." The Score Simulator can be found at myFICO.com. Source: FICO® Published with permission from RISMedia.
April
28

Quality materials matter in any remodel—and when renovating the kitchen, no material matters more than the cabinets.   "One of the most critical times in a remodel or new construction is when customers order their kitchen cabinets," says Greg Truex, senior director of the at-home practice at J.D. Power. J.D. Power recently released their annual report of the kitchen cabinetmakers ranked highest in customer satisfaction, rated by factors including design, operational performance and price. The top five are: 1. Thomasville 2. SEKTION (IKEA) 3. American Woodmark 4. KraftMaid 5. Hampton Bay Also included in the report are the purchasing behaviors of kitchen remodelers. Notably, 66 percent are first-time kitchen cabinet buyers, and 34 percent have not purchased a kitchen cabinet in nine years—possibly signaling a correlation between the rankings and the preferences of newer homeowners. Source: J.D. Power Published with permission from RISMedia.
April
21

Whether you're moving across town or across the country, getting ready takes lots of pre-planning. From Real Simple magazine, a moving checklist: Two Months Before • Sort and Purge – Go through every room in your home and decide what you will take and what you will get rid of. Plan a garage sale and/or gather up your charitable donations now. • Get Estimates – Get a few onsite moving estimates—not over the phone—in writing. Keep all estimates, receipts and notes in a binder. • Transfer School Records – Arrange for all school records to be transferred to the new school district. Six Weeks Before • Gather Supplies – Start stockpiling moving boxes, tape and markers. • Pare Down – Begin using up stuff you don't want to move, like frozen foods and cleaning supplies. One Month Before • Choose a Mover – Get written confirmation of the date, costs and details. • Start Packing – Begin with things you use least often, like extra dishes, out-of-season clothing and recreational items. Label boxes in terms of content, and where in the new house they should go. • Separate What You Will Carry – Stow away any valuables, like jewelry or important papers, that you will be transporting yourself in a safe box. • Change Your Address – Do it online or at your local post office. Alert your bank, credit card issuer, utility company and any magazine providers to the change. Ask a neighbor to check your mailbox for a few weeks after your move. • Forward Medical Records – Arrange to have them sent to your new medical provider. Two Weeks Before • Withdraw Your Safety Deposit Box – Store valuables in your safe box at home. • Confirm Moving Arrangements – Call the moving company to confirm the date and time. One Week Before • Refill Prescriptions – Be sure you have enough for several weeks. • Get Serious about Packing – Pack suitcases for each family member with enough to wear for a few days. Two Days Before • Defrost the Fridge/Freezer – Give away any perishables. Moving Day • Sign Mover Inventory List – Keep a copy for your records. Published with permission from RISMedia.
April
17

Selling your home can be exciting, but unfortunately, it can also heighten the risk of crime when showing the home. A recent blog from realtor.com® outlined the following points to remember—all of which will be practiced by your real estate agent.
  • Schedule an appointment for showings.
  • Keep records of every guest's identity.
  • Watch for unexpected guests.
  • Do not show your house without your real estate agent, or if you are otherwise alone.
Most importantly, the blog advised: trust your instincts. Instinct is generally the best self-protection tool. If a visitor makes you feel uncomfortable, be alert. Warning signs include:
  • He or she spends too much time in one room, checking windows, doors or even security devices;
  • A couple separates during the showing (Professional burglars usually have one person talking to the agent or seller as a distraction, while the other wanders around, planning an act);
  • He or she asks questions in an effort to make you reveal habits or schedules, such as what time everybody goes to work and/or school, what you do on the weekend, etc.
After the showing, be sure to lock your doors and windows—a recent article noted one case in which a rogue visitor unlocked a window at an open house and returned later to burglarize the property. Published with permission from RISMedia.
April
15

In a seller's market, home buyers need to be willing and able to act fast to snag the home they want. This spring, areas across the country are facing a limited number of homes for sale. Realtor.com® offers up a cheat sheet for surviving a seller's market. cheat sheet o\  
  • Be on call. "If you're only looking now and then when it's convenient, you're probably wasting your time," says James Malmberg, a real estate professional in Sherman Oaks, Calif. He suggests treating house hunting like job hunting. If someone calls with a lead, follow up promptly to gauge whether it could be a good fit and don't linger.
  • Bring the paperwork. To be taken seriously, buyers would be wise to get a mortgage pre-approval letter as well as a "proof of funds" form from their bank to show they have enough to cover a down payment. They'll be able to act quicker when they do find the right house.
  • Limit the contingencies. In a seller's market, buyers may need to drop some of the contingencies to score the house. Sellers prefer the fewest number of hurdles to closing as possible. If your buyers come in with several contingencies — such as "if" they secure financing — the sellers are more inclined to bypass their offer and take another with less hassle. Also, "don't waste your time lowballing a seller," advises Sean Kelley, a real estate professional with Howard Hannah in Pittsburgh, Pa. "Always put in an aggressive offer."
  • Cast a wide net. Search for homes outside prime locations if faced with limited or high-priced choices. Buyers need to carefully consider what they're willing to compromise on. "Sometimes properties sit, even in a seller's market, because of a problem that is scaring other buyers away," such as some renovation work that may need to be done, Malmberg says. Those "flaws," however, might not be a big deal to your buyers. "Finding a house this way can also cut down on the amount of competition you will face," Malmberg adds.
  Source: "Surviving a Seller's Market: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet," realtor.com® (April 7, 2016)
April
13

Break out those hammers, folks! Millions of homeowners are planning to renovate their homes in the next year—36 million, to be exact, according to a recent Bankrate.com survey. The majority of renovations will take place outside of the home, the survey found, including improvements to:
  • Driveways
  • Decks
  • Fencing
  • Landscaping
  • Patios
  • Pools
  • Roofing
  • Siding
"With more homeowners deciding to make upgrades to their homes this year, it's a sure sign that they're generally feeling more secure about the economy and in the housing market, as well," says Mike Cetera, Bankrate.com's personal loans and credit analyst. Millennial homeowners are more likely than others to renovate in the next year, according to the survey—and interestingly, homeowners with lower incomes are just as likely to renovate in the next year as those more flexible budgets. For homeowners planning to finance a renovation, Cetera recommends considering a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). These charge lower interest rates than personal loans, but do require the home as collateral. Cetera also suggests applying for a zero-percent balance transfer credit card, if the homeowner exhibits creditworthiness. Source: Bankrate.com Published with permission from RISMedia.
April
8

(BPT) - In pop culture, myths can sometimes be mistaken for truth. Common ones, like, "don't swim for a half hour after eating," or "we only use 10 percent of our brain," are false even though they're widely taken for fact. Adjustable rate mortgage The adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) earned a bad rap after the 2006 housing crisis. The problem was, before the crisis, many borrowers were able to qualify for more home than they could actually afford by using interest-only, No Income Verification or No Ratio ARM products. When the housing market tanked and many houses lost value, some homeowners with rising mortgage payments either foreclosed or walked away from their properties. Fast forward 10 years to today. The ARM is back to show potential homebuyers it's not the villain of the housing market. It's time to debunk the myths that give ARMs the "bad guy" reputation it doesn't deserve. MYTH: ARMs are unstable and aren't a good option while the Feds are raising rates. This myth stems back to the days of the 2008 recession. It's like saying, "dial-up is the fastest way to access the Internet," it's just not true anymore. All ARM loans have annual and lifetime caps, so there's built in protection. If stability is what you're concerned with, consider an ARM with a longer adjustment period. For example, Navy Federal Credit Union's 5/5 ARM adjusts only once over the initial 10-year period. Interest rates rise and fall in cycles. Even if rates are increasing now, that doesn't mean they won't be on the downturn when you arrive at your potential adjustment point. Many ARM mortgage holders never refinance to a fixed rate because the many ups and downs of the market happen in-between their adjustment points. Refinancing is always an option for those with ARMs. Just remember to calculate closing costs on your refinance to make sure you're actually improving your situation. Research and the guidance of a trusted lender will be the winning combo for saving money over the life of your mortgage. MYTH: ARMs are only for people who want to be in a home for a few years. Not true. ARMs have fixed intro periods that can vary from one to even 15 years. If you think you'll own that home for five or six years, a fixed mortgage rate may have a higher interest rate over that span. So why spend the extra money associated for the added security of a fixed rate? "The potential savings on an ARM, can range from $10,000 to $20,000, compared to a 30-year, fixed rate jumbo mortgage," said Katie Miller, Navy Federal vice president of Mortgage Lending. "That's enough money for a down-payment on a car, or part of your child's college tuition." Again, it pays to plan for various scenarios based on how long you plan to own the home. MYTH: Rates only rise when you have an ARM. The term "adjustable" gives the misconception ARMs are unstable. The ARM is very similar to a fixed-rate mortgage; both offer a 30-year term with no prepayment penalty and early payoff options, among other similarities. The intro rate period (usually a lower rate) and potential rate changes (up or down) over the life of the loan is what makes an ARM unique. Knowing your cap and what the difference in payments are over the life of the loan protects you, even if rates are on a roller coaster. Knowledge is power as an ARM holder. That "power" helps you make necessary calculations to figure out a yearly breakeven point should your interest rate increase and your introductory rate savings begin to decrease. Check out an ARM vs. Fixed-rate Mortgage Calculator to see if this type of mortgage works for you Like any myth, do your research before accepting it at face value. If you add up the ARM's initial savings plus the cost to refinance, an ARM is hard to beat from a financial standpoint, and that, is the truth.
April
1

(BPT) - Spring is here! This season of new beginnings also marks the start of the year's busiest real estate period. According to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, the housing market in 2016 is set to be quite active with a 3 percent increase in total home sales compared to the previous year. If you're planning to enter the housing market this year, buying or selling a home is a big decision and you can count on plenty of competition. To ensure you make the correct home buying or selling decisions, it's important to do your research and arm yourself with valuable information.     'Selling or purchasing a home is one of the biggest and most important transactions many consumers will make in their lifetime,' says Tim Haynes, president of American Home Shield (AHS). 'It's important for everyone involved to make smart decisions that will help a home stand out in a competitive real estate market, and at the same time, protect against costly breakdowns.'   For both home buyers and sellers, AHS recommends preparing for what will happen vs. what might happen. A home warranty not only helps protect a home's systems while it's on the market, but also helps provide buyers with additional confidence in their purchase. For an already financially stretched homebuyer, it's important to know that a home warranty covers what homeowners insurance doesn't - the repair/replacement of home system appliances.   To help you make the most of the spring home season American Home Shield offers these tips.   * Sellers: improve curb appeal. First impressions matter. Take your home's exterior from drab to fab. Trim shrubs, mow the lawn and remove all dirt/debris from around the outside. Make sure the house numbers, mailbox and lighting fixtures near the front door look inviting. Add plants and comfy furniture to the porch for a welcoming touch.   * Sellers: optimize the space. Add the illusion of extra square footage by using the same paint in a lighter shade across rooms to create a seamless transition. Remove family photos and any customized decorations so the buyer can picture living in the home. Be sure to keep the master bedroom gender neutral. Lastly, have a professional cleaner shine the home, especially often-neglected areas like carpets, ceiling fans and baseboards to make a bigger impact.   * Buyers: do your homework. Narrow your home search to particular areas and neighborhoods that appeal to you with regard to housing prices, school districts and work commuting times. Determine your budget and stick to it. Familiarize yourself with the real estate market and your rights as a homebuyer. Know your credit score and take steps to improve it, if necessary.   * Buyers: ask the right questions. Don't be afraid to directly ask the seller 'what's wrong with the house?' Ask to see disclosure forms around any issues with the house and check the age/condition of major home systems, like heating, plumbing, electrical and air conditioning - this can cut your costs in the long run. Additionally, an independent professional home inspection is highly recommended. This is an investment that can pay for itself many times over, especially if hidden defects are found.   American Home Shield is the nation's largest home warranty company, servicing homes for over 45 years offers tips to arm and has a trustworthy network of over 3,000 contractors. For more information and helpful home buying and selling tips from American Home Shield, visit www.ahs.com or the Home Matters Blog and YouTube Channel, which have hundreds of maintenance tips, videos and content for homeowners to help protect homes from the inside out.

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