Archive for July, 2010

7 Tips for Improving Your Credit

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Here’s how to clean up your credit so you get the least-expensive home loan possible.

Getting the loan that suits your situation at the best possible price and terms makes home buying easier and more affordable. Here are seven ways to boost your credit score so you can do just that.

1. Know your credit score

Credit scores range from 300 to 850, and the higher, the better. They’re based on whether you’ve paid personal loans, car loans, credit cards, and other debt in full and on time in the past. You’ll need a score of at least 620 to qualify for a home loan and 740 to get the best interest rates and terms. 

You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the major credit-reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Access all three versions of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. Review them to ensure the information is accurate.

2. Correct errors on your credit report

If you find mistakes on your credit report, write a letter to the credit-reporting agency explaining why you believe there’s an error. Send documents that support your case, and ask that the error be corrected or removed. Also write to the company, or debt collector, that reported the incorrect information to dispute the information, and ask to be copied on any materials sent to credit-reporting agencies.

3. Pay every bill on time

You may be surprised at the damage even a few late payments will have on your credit score. The easiest way to make a big difference in your credit score without altering your spending habits is to diligently pay all your bills on time. You’ll also save money because you’ll keep the money you’ve been spending on late fees. Credit card or mortgage companies probably won’t report minor late payments, those less than 30 days overdue, but you’ll still have to pay late fees.

4. Use credit carefully

Another good way to boost your credit score is to pay your credit card bills in full every month. If you can’t do that, pay as much over your required minimum payment as possible to begin whittling away the debt. Stop using your credit cards to keep your balances from increasing, and transfer balances from high-interest credit cards to lower-interest cards.

5. Take care with the length of your credit

Credit rating agencies also consider the length of your credit history. If you’ve had a credit card for a long time and managed it responsibly, that works in your favor. However, opening several new credit cards at once can lower the average age of your accounts, which pushes down your score. Likewise, closing credit card accounts lowers your available credit, so keep credit cards open even if you’re not using them.

6. Don’t use all the credit you’re offered

Credit scores are also based on how much credit you use compared with how much you’re offered. Using $1,000 of available credit will give you a lower score than having $1,000 of available credit and using $100 of it. Occasionally opening new lines of credit can boost your available credit, which also affects your score positively.

7. Be patient

It can take time for your credit score to climb once you’ve begun working to improve it. Keep at it because the more distance you put between your spotty payment history and your current good payment record, the less damage you’ll do to your credit score.

By: G. M. Filisko

Published 2010-02-25 13:35:12

Make Your House FHA-Loan Friendly

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Know the basics of FHA loan rules and you stand a better chance of selling your house or condo.

Make your house FHA-friendly, and it will appeal to more homebuyers. Why? Because the Federal Housing Administration is insuring the mortgage loans used by about 30% of today’s homebuyers.

If your house passes the FHA rules, it will appeal to buyers who plan to use an FHA-insured mortgage. If your house doesn’t qualify for an FHA loan, you’re cutting out 30% of potential buyers.

FHA is especially important to first-time homebuyers and those with small downpayments because it allows borrowers with good credit to make a downpayment as low as 3.5% of the purchase price.

Here’s how to make your home appealing to FHA borrowers:

Know the FHA loan limits in your area

Start by checking to see if your home’s listed price falls within FHA lending limits for your area. FHA mortgage limits vary a lot. In San Francisco, FHA will insure a mortgage of up to $729,750 on a single-family home. In the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the loan limit is $271,050.

Home inspections

Most buyers will ask for a home inspection, whether or not they’re using an FHA loan to buy the home. You must give FHA buyers a form explaining what home inspections can reveal, and how inspections differ from appraisals.

How much do you have to repair?

If the home inspection reveals problems, FHA will not give the okay to buy the home until you repair serious defects like roof leaks, mold, structural damage, and pre-1978 interior or exterior paint that could contain lead.

Dealing with FHA appraisers

Help the lender’s appraiser by providing easy access to attics and crawl spaces, which usually must be photographed, says appraiser Frank Gregoire in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Your buyer can hire his own appraiser to evaluate your home. But FHA only relies on reports by its approved appraisers. If the two appraisals conflict, the FHA appraisal preempts the buyer’s appraisal.

Help with FHA closing costs

Most FHA buyers need help with closing costs, says mortgage banker Susan Herman of First Equity Mortgage Bankers in Miami. So a prime way to make your house FHA-friendly is to help with those costs.

FHA currently allows sellers to pay up to 6% of the sales price to help cover closing costs, but is considering lowering that limit to 3% in the fall of 2010. 

If you’re selling a condo

FHA also has to approve your condo before a buyer uses an FHA loan to purchase your unit. Be sure your condo is FHA-approved for mortgages. The list has been updated, so if your association was approved a year ago, check again to make sure it’s still on the approved list.

FHA generally won’t insure loans in condo associations if more than 15% percent of the unit owners are late on association fees. Ask your property manager or board of directors for your association’s delinquency rate.

Other rules cover insurances, cash reserves and how many units are owner-occupied and the types of condos that can be purchased with an FHA mortgage.

FHA sometimes issues waivers for healthy condominiums that don’t meet the regular rules. If your condo isn’t FHA-approved, it doesn’t necessarily have to meet every single rule to gain approval. Ask your REALTOR® to consult with local lenders about getting an FHA waiver for your condo if it doesn’t meet all the requirements.

FHA also limits its mortgage exposure in homeowners associations. With some limited exceptions, no more than 50% of the units in an association can be FHA-insured.

By: Terry Sheridan

Published 2010-06-02 08:37:43

4 Tips to Determine How Much Mortgage You Can Afford

Friday, July 16th, 2010
By: G. M. Filisko 
Published 2010-03-11 16:55:18

           By knowing how much mortgage you can handle, you can ensure that home ownership will fit in your budget.

          Instead of just taking out the biggest mortgage a lender qualifies you to borrow, consider how much you want to pay each month for housing based on your financial and personal goals.

          Think ahead to major life events and consider how those might influence your budget. Do you want to return to school for an advanced degree? Will a new child add day care to your monthly expenses? Does a relative plan to eventually live with you and contribute to the mortgage?

          Still not sure how much you can afford? You can use the same formulas that most lenders use, or try another of these traditional methods for estimating the amount of mortgage you can afford.

 

1. The general rule of mortgage affordability

         As a rule of thumb, you can typically afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. If you earn $100,000, you can typically afford a home between $200,000 and $300,000.

         To understand how that rule applies to your particular financial situation, prepare a family budget and list all the costs of homeownership, like property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable, as well as costs specific to your family, such as day care costs. 

2. Factor in your downpayment

          How much money do you have for a downpayment? The higher your downpayment, the lower your monthly payments will be. If you put down at least 20% of the home’s cost, you may not have to get private mortgage insurance, which costs hundreds each month. That leaves more money for your mortgage payment.          The lower your downpayment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for and the higher your monthly mortgage payment.

3. Consider your overall debt

          Lenders generally follow the 28/41 rule. Your monthly mortgage payments covering your home loan principal, interest, taxes, and insurance shouldn’t total more than 28% of your gross annual income. Your overall monthly payments for your mortgage plus all your other bills, like car loans, utilities, and credit cards, shouldn’t exceed 41% of your gross annual income.

         Here’s how that works. If your gross annual income is $100,000, multiply by 28% and then divide by 12 months to arrive at a monthly mortgage payment of $2,333 or less. Next, check the total of all your monthly bills including your potential mortgage and make sure they don’t top 41%, or $3,416 in our example. 

4. Use your rent as a mortgage guide

          The tax benefits of homeownership generally allow you to afford a mortgage payment—including taxes and insurance—of about one-third more than your current rent payment without changing your lifestyle. So you can multiply your current rent by 1.33 to arrive at a rough estimate of a mortgage payment.

          Here’s an example. If you currently pay $1,500 per month in rent, you should be able to comfortably afford a $2,000 monthly mortgage payment after factoring in the tax benefits of homeownership.

         However, if you’re struggling to keep up with your rent, consider what amount would be comfortable and use that for the calcuation instead.

          Also consider whether or not you’ll itemize your deductions. If you take the standard deduction, you can’t also deduct mortgage interest payments. Talking to a tax adviser, or using a tax software program to do a “what if” tax return, can help you see your tax situation more clearly.

Richard & Judy Tompkins

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

After my retirement, my wife and I began searching for a home to purchase which would fit our needs for the foreseeable future.  We did not engage a real estate agent during our search as we did not want to have someone spend an inordinate amount of time with us as we knew it would probably be a long process.  We did meet quite a few agents representing sellers of various properties.  On one occasion while viewing a property, we met Amy Willis who was representing the seller.  We did not purchase this property, but during the exchange with Amy, it became obvious that she was very knowledgeable, knew the property, and could answer pertinent questions without saying she didn’t know, but would find out.  There was no attempt at hard sell or pressure to view any other properties and she displayed a sense of humor.  After this experience, we decided if we did find a property to purchase, we would get Amy to represent us.  Approximately six months later, we found our home.  I called Amy and she agreed to represent us during the purchase process.  All of our expectations were met or exceeded.  No question  went unanswered, no details were overlooked and the entire process went very smoothly.  In my opinion (from what I have heard from others), Amy went beyond the scope of a standard real estate agent’s responsibilities including follow up after the sale.  We appreciate all of Amy’s knowledge, efforts, and dedication and highly recommend her services to any buyer or seller of real estate.

Negotiate Your Best House Buy

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Keep your emotions in check and your eyes on the goal, and you’ll pay less when purchasing a home.

Buying a home can be emotional, but negotiating the price shouldn’t be. The key to saving money when purchasing a home is sticking to a plan during the turbulence of high-stakes negotiations. A real estate agent who represents you can guide you and offer you advice, but you are the one who must make the final decision during each round of offers and counter offers.

Here are six tips for negotiating the best price on a home.

1. Get prequalified for a mortgage

Getting prequalified for a mortgage proves to sellers that you’re serious about buying and capable of affording their home. That will push you to the head of the pack when sellers choose among offers; they’ll go with buyers who are a sure financial bet, not those whose financing could flop.

2. Ask questions

Ask your agent for information to help you understand the sellers’ financial position and motivation. Are they facing foreclosure or a short sale? Have they already purchased a home or relocated, which may make them eager to accept a lower price to avoid paying two mortgages? Has the home been on the market for a long time, or was it just listed? Have there been other offers? If so, why did they fall through? The more signs that sellers are eager to sell, the lower your offer can reasonably go.

3. Work back from a final price to determine your initial offer

Know in advance the most you’re willing to pay, and with your agent work back from that number to determine your initial offer, which can set the tone for the entire negotiation. A too-low bid may offend sellers emotionally invested in the sales price; a too-high bid may lead you to spend more than necessary to close the sale.

Work with your agent to evaluate the sellers’ motivation and comparable home sales to arrive at an initial offer that engages the sellers yet keeps money in your wallet.

4. Avoid contingencies

Sellers favor offers that leave little to chance. Keep your bid free of complicated contingencies, such as making the purchase conditional on the sale of your current home. Do keep contingencies for mortgage approval, home inspection, and environmental checks typical in your area, like radon.

5. Remain unemotional

Buying a home is a business transaction, and treating it that way helps you save money. Consider any movement by the sellers, however slight, a sign of interest, and keep negotiating.

Each time you make a concession, ask for one in return. If the sellers ask you to boost your price, ask them to contribute to closing costs or pay for a home warranty. If sellers won’t budge, make it clear you’re willing to walk away; they may get nervous and accept your offer.

6. Don’t let competition change your plan

Great homes and those competitively priced can draw multiple offers in any market. Don’t let competition propel you to go beyond your predetermined price or agree to concessions—such as waiving an inspection—that aren’t in your best interest.

By: G. M. Filisko

Published 2010-06-04 12:29:54

House Passed an Extension for Federal Flood Insurance

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

The United States Senate has passed the National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act of 2010 (H.R. 5569) an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program until September 30, 2010. This will allow pending transactions to move forward.  For those homeowners that have not been able to renew or get new flood insurance, check with your local insurance provider for information.  If you are worrided about the lapse in time that you haven’t had coverage, the bill is retroactive and covers the lapse period from June 1, 2010 to the date of enactment of the extension.