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7 Easy Ways to Watch Your Credit Scores Soar

On the widely used FICO credit score scale, only one in 200 consumers reaches the pinnacle: a score of 850 – a score that has lenders fighting for your business and nets you the best possible interest rates on everything from automobiles  to mortgage loans.

In fact, according to Fair Isaac, the company behind the FICO score ratings, consumers who achieve a score of 750 or more are excellent candidates for favorable treatment.

But paying your bills on time and carrying no balances may not be enough to catapult your score to desired levels. Consumer finance experts at The Motley Fool offer simple tips that can help boost your scores into the stratosphere:

Ask for increased credit limits – Not because you plan to use them, but because the higher your credit limits, the less likely you are to use more than 30 percent of your aggregate credit, which is what lenders look for when they judge credit-worthiness.

Ask for lower interest rates – If you are carrying a balance, a lower interest rate can save you big bucks and help you pay it off faster – and if you pay on time each month, a request for a lower rate is granted more often than not by lenders who want to keep your business.

Keep 0-balance accounts open – Some consumers think that closing paid-off accounts will help your credit score. In fact, accounts in good standing that are left open for an extended period can help your overall score. Use them once or twice a year to ensure they stay open and aren’t closed by your lender for lack of use.

Open new accounts only when it makes sense – People with good credit are constantly offered more credit. Open a new account only for a large purchase you expect to pay off quickly. Don’t open a store account to save a few bucks on a small purchase.

Focus on revolving debt first – If you carry balances, remember that revolving debt, such as department store credit cards, charge the highest interest rates – and FICO notes what kind of debt you carry.

 Check your FICO score annually – You can do so for free from each of the three credit reporting bureaus. Failing to check them annually risks not discovering errors before your scores are adversely affected.

By Barbara Pronin

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

How to Find a House Today

This year may be the most difficult in a decade to buy a home, especially for a first-time homebuyer. Prices are soaring in most markets, and for affordable starter homes, the price is rising faster than larger homes.* Supplies are suffering from a three-year inventory drought that also is hitting starter homes hardest. The number of starter and trade-up homes fell 8.7 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively, during the past year, while the inventory of premium homes has fallen by just 1.7 percent, according to Ralph McLaughlin, Trulia’s chief economist.*

There’s little leeway for mistakes in today’s marketplace. Discipline is essential, and the learning curve is stepped. Buying a home is serious business, and in most markets today, it is the most difficult step in the process for move-up buyers, as well as first-timers.

Here are five tips on house-hunting in today’s marketplace that will put you ahead of the competition and may spell the difference between success and failure.

Hire a specialist. If you had a serious medical condition, you would seek advice and treatment from a medical specialist. Real estate is also a large and complex field. Many brokers and agents specialize in delivering better service to their clients and customers. If you’re serious about finding a home today, hire a REALTOR® who specializes in serving buyers. Look for one with the designation ABR after their name. It stands for Accredited Buyer’s Representative and means that they are REALTORS® who have received specialized training from the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC) and have experience representing buyers. Even if you don’t hire a specialist, you should hire a REALTOR®. Not all agents are REALTORS®; REALTORS® are members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) who are licensed and abide by NAR’s Code of Ethics. Hiring a REALTOR® with an ABR designation won’t cost you anything, and a professional’s assistance could make all the difference. Above all, don’t try to go it alone today. Last year nearly 90 percent of successful buyers used an agent.**

Don’t start your search until you are ready. It’s a good idea to spend some time online surfing real estate sites and learning about real estate and checking out what’s available; however, you aren’t a serious buyer until you have done all you can to improve your credit, raised the money you need for a down payment, been pre-approved for a mortgage from at least one lender and hired an agent

Make a budget and stick to it. The amount for which your lender pre-approves you is not your budget. Your pre-approved amount is conditional and can change when you apply for a mortgage. Moreover, it does not include many of the other costs of homeownership, like taxes, home insurance and maintenance. Sit down with your agent, make your budget and stick to it. As a rule of thumb, economists recommend you spend no more than 30 percent of your gross income on housing costs. Make a pledge to yourself to stick to your budget. There are few heartaches worse than falling in love with a house you can’t afford or stretching yourself so thin that you are “house poor” for years to come.

House hunt every day. Looking for a house in today’s market is like having a second job. Financially, finding the right home may be even more important to you than a second job. The outcome of your search will determine where you live and how much you spend on housing for years to come. Be proactive with your agent to learn as much as you can about the home-buying process and conditions in your market. Spend time every day reviewing listings and learning about neighborhoods. Drive the neighborhoods in which you are interested and go to open houses to get a feel for the market and to meet listing agents who may have a home that meets your criteria. Check out “coming soon” listings to get a head start on the competition.

Use a selection of sites. Most buyers start their house search on one of the major national real estate sites like realtor.com®, Zillow or Homes.com. These sites have great features, research and how-to material. As you get more serious about finding a house, increase your selection of sites to include your local multiple listing services, if yours has a consumer site with listings (not all do). Also, bookmark several of the leading local brokerages in your market. Listings may appear earlier on a local brokerage site than a national site, and often updated information like contracts or price changes are posted first on the site of the listing broker who represents the property. Sign up for email updates of listings that fit your criteria.

Be flexible. You may find that you cannot afford to live where you would like, or you can’t afford the size or amenities you want. If those are deal-breakers for you, you may not be ready to buy in your market today—or you might revisit your plans and decide to live a little farther out from the city, buying an older house that you can improve over time. Starting out in a condo might be an acceptable alternative. Chances are prices in your market are not going to decline, and by buying now, you will begin to accumulate equity. Though mortgage rates have risen over the past year, they are still very reasonable by historical standards, which means that the odds are they will continue to rise, rather than fall, in the future. Expand the geography and price ranges on the websites you are using and see what you find.

Sweeten your offer. When you find a house on which you want to make an offer, ask your agent for a comparative market analysis (CMA) to determine its value. Don’t rely on the estimated values provided by valuation tools on real estate sites. Knowing the value is important not just for deciding how much to offer, but also to anticipate how much the house will appraise for. CMAs are based on recent sales of comparable properties, similar to appraisals. Chances are you will be competing with other buyers, including investors who pay all cash. Sellers are not only looking for the best price; they also want an offer that will close on time from a buyer whose financing won’t fall through. Consider sweetening your offer by increasing your down payment and getting more than one pre-approval. Be flexible on considerations like renting back if the owner is a move-up buyer who may need time to find a new home. If you are a move-up buyer, sell your current home before you buy a new one. Most sellers react negatively to offers that are contingent upon a buyer first selling his current home.

Don’t lose your deal. About 23 percent of contracts on homes today have a delayed settlement, and 7 percent of contracts fail to close and are terminated. The leading causes for delayed settlements are issues related to obtaining financing and appraisal issues. Among contracts that were terminated, 25 percent faced issues related to home inspections, and 20 percent had issues related to the buyer’s ability to obtain financing.*** One way to improve your odds for financing is to get more than one pre-approval so that you are ready to talk to a second lender if your first application fails. Most appraisal issues result from appraisals that come in lower than the contract price and buyers must come up with more cash. One way to protect against a low appraisal is to know the value of the house before you make an offer and make a larger down payment than you have to.

Persistence pays off. Don’t despair if a seller selects another offer over yours. Learn from your experiences. A better home may come on the market tomorrow. Last year buyers searched for an average of 10 weeks and looked at a median of 10 homes**, but that’s just a national average for all buyers. If you are a first-time buyer in a hot market, expect your hunt to take longer. Don’t quit when the weather turns cold. Fall and winter can be good times to find a home. There are fewer listings than in the spring or summer, but there’s also less competition, and sellers are usually more motivated.

* McLaughlin, Ralph. (2017, May 22) Don’t Call It a Comeback: How Rising Home Values May Be Stifling Inventory. Retrieved from www.trulia.com/blog/trends/inventory-q117/

** 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. National Association of REALTORS®.

*** REALTORS® Confidence Index: Report on March 2017 Survey. National Association of REALTORS®. Retrieved from www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/reports/2017/2017-03-realtors-confidence-index-04-21-2017.pdf.

By Steve Cook, Real Estate Economy Watch

 

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

Larry Theodore

Century 21 American Homes would like to congratulate Larry Theodore – Licensed broker associate – Farmingdale.

Larry Theodore

Larry was recently honored at the Century 21 Awards Banquet for being the top-producing Century 21 real estate agent in the New York metro region for 2016, as well as one of the top 21 agents in Century 21 Worldwide.

Source: Newsday.com

Larry was also featured recently in Top Agent Magazine. The article captures Larry’s early days as an entrepreneur at the age of 13 with his very own landscaping business. Larry learned the value of hard work from his grandfather, he gives his all in each of his 100+ transactions done every year.

Source: TopAgentMagazine.com

Larry was again featured in Newsday’s Hometown Shopper as Merchant of The Week.

Larry’s hard work and dedication to his clients inspires all of us.

To learn more about Larry Theodore, visit LarryTheodore.com, e-mail ltheodore@c21amhomes.com, or call 516-859-8738.

For Your To-Do List: Buy a Home

If you’re not planning on buying a home any time soon, perhaps you should be. Just over half (54 percent) of Americans say they are likely to buy a home in the next five years – up 12 percent from last year – according to the 2017 BMO Harris Bank Homebuyers Report. In addition, Americans surveyed will average a 32 percent down payment.

The report, conducted by Pollara, also found that:

– Among likely first-time buyers, 80 percent plan to get preapproved for a mortgage before making an offer and 10 percent are already preapproved.

– Around four-in-five will set a budget before looking for a home.

– The majority (65 percent) of those looking to buy a new home will consult a real estate agent, while 61 percent said they will visit online real estate websites and 38 percent will seek recommendations from friends and family.

The benefits of homeownership are many, but among the most significant are:

– Owning a home is a secure long-term investment.

– Tax deductions make homeownership a much smarter financial path than renting.

– When you own a home, you are free to do with it as you see fit – paint, remodel, add-on and personalize to your heart’s content.

According to the report, 70 percent of American homeowners spent six months or less looking for a new home before they made a purchase. In addition, 10 percent bought their home without participating in an active real estate search – or even any plan to buy at all – because a specific property caught their attention.

The report also found that Millennials (the generation born between 1982 and 2004) are more likely to use a mobile device as a resource to help in their home search (37 percent). In addition, Millennials are more likely than older age groups to rely on recommendations from friends and family (45 percent) when conducting a home search.

Source: BMO Harris Bank

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

Mortgage Rates Bottom to New Low

Mortgage rates this week bottomed to a new low for the year, with the 30-year, fixed rate averaging 3.94 percent, according to Freddie Mac’s recently released Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®). The 15-year, fixed rate, at the same time, averaged 3.19 percent, while the 5-year, Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable rate averaged 3.11 percent.

modern yellow detached house in the suburbs

modern yellow detached house in the suburbs

“In a short week following Memorial Day, the 10-year Treasury yield fell four basis points,” says Sean Beckett, chief economist at Freddie Mac. “The 30-year mortgage rate remained relatively flat, falling one basis point to 3.94 percent and once again hitting a new 2017 low.”

Source: Freddie Mac

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Mortgage Rates Bottom to New Low appeared first on RISMedia.

The Best Is Yet to Come for Homebuyers

It’s a seller’s market out there, and for homebuyers, the struggle this spring is real: few affordable options, and price growth that just won’t quit.

Another issue’s working against them, too: timing.

According to a recent analysis by Zillow, the best time for buyers isn’t spring, but summer—the end of summer, that is. Why? There’s more supply as the season winds down, specifically in August, and sellers who weren’t so lucky earlier on become anxious to unload, cutting prices before the weather changes and the school year starts.

In the analysis, August had more listings than any other month (8,000 more in L.A., for instance), and saw the highest share of listings with lowered prices. Comparing reductions over the spring and summer months:

Zillow_Buy_Reductions

“In such a competitive housing market, it’s easy for buyers to get frustrated when they are putting in multiple offers without success,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “Buyers who start their home search in the spring may still be looking months later—but for those who can wait it out, the end of summer will bring more favorable conditions. Homes that may have been overpriced earlier in the year are more likely to have a price reduction, and those listings passed over in earlier months may look better with a fresh perspective.”

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

The No. 1 Obstacle for Would-Be Homeowners

For all the hurdles to homeownership, one obstacle is stubbornly more insurmountable than the rest: the down payment.

Renters are having trouble stacking up the savings to place a down payment on a home, according to the recently released Zillow® Housing Aspirations Report (ZHAR). Seventy percent of renters surveyed in the report say the down payment is more of a hindrance than debt (cited by 50 percent of those surveyed), job security (38.5 percent) and qualifying for a mortgage (53.2 percent)—though those aspects are barriers, as well. Low supply was a roadblock for just 11.2 percent of those surveyed.

“With home values close to record highs, it’s no surprise renters are concerned about coming up with enough money to buy a home,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “Rising rents are also a factor—it’s extremely difficult to save when you’re paying record-high rents.”

The irony? The difficulty of coming up with a down payment is keeping most renters from saving money as a homeowner. In 33 of the 35 major metropolitan areas, a monthly mortgage is less expensive than monthly rent.

Though renters have low down payment options, the long-term savings gained with 20 percent down—a general standard—often outweigh those earned upfront.

“While it is possible to put down as little as 3 percent on a home, the trade-off is a higher interest rate and costly private mortgage insurance—a financial trade-off that may make sense for some buyers,” Gudell says.

Renters, still, have not lost sight of their homeownership goals. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed are “confident” in their ability to afford a home “someday;” 25 percent have a more definitive timeline, planning to buy a home in the next three to five years. Twenty-two percent of millennial renters, markedly, plan to buy a home in the next one to two years. Only 2 percent of millennial renters plan on never buying a home.

Importantly, 66 percent of those surveyed equate owning a home with the American Dream.

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

5 Things to Check Before Moving In

Buying a new house is an exciting process that marks a new chapter in life. For many people, it’s fun to shop around and tour different properties. When you’re serious about purchasing a home, there are a few important parts of the property to check before you move in.

The Neighborhood
You should feel comfortable with the quality of the neighborhood, which will influence the value of your home. Look at the condition of the other homes and check to see if people are loitering at different times of the day. The house should also be in proximity to your job, or nearby schools if you have children. Some individuals who don’t have a family may want to purchase a home in a good school district due to the impact that it’ll have on the value of the property.

Storage Space
The storage space that is available in the home influences how much clutter will be left out in the open. Look for plenty of storage space that is available in the bedroom closets or in the kitchen to ensure that you can comfortably fit everything that you own without feeling cramped.

Plumbing System
Run the faucets to inspect the water pressure and ask the owners if the pipes are insulated. Hire professionals to check if the radiators are working and if the hot water tank needs to be replaced soon.

The Roof
The roof is one of the more costly features of the home and protects the interior setting from damage due to environmental elements. Hire a professional roofer to determine the lifespan of the roofing material and if it needs any repairs. The tiles or shingles should be secure on the roof deck, and there shouldn’t be any leaks present.

Sufficient Drainage
Many buyers make the mistake of overlooking the drainage on the property, but it can cause issues if not in good shape. Insufficient drainage can lead to severe structural problems in the home.

Although it can be easy to fall in love with a house, there are several areas to check before making an offer to ensure that you won’t run into problems down the road. By taking the time to inspect each part of the property, you can have peace of mind knowing you’re making a good investment.

By Kara Masterson

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

Navigating the Home-Buying Process: 5 Tips

Buying a home for the first time can be complex and daunting, especially in a competitive housing market. A new book, “My First Home: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving the Ultimate American Dream,” aims to help first-time buyers navigate the process.

Below are five tips from author Shashank Shekhar, a blogger, media source and radio and television personality:

1. Move Quickly
In this kind of market, if you see a home you like, you’d better be prepared to jump on it. Don’t hem and haw—make the offer.

2. Understand the Seller’s Needs
The best deal is not always the most money. The seller might be in escrow on their new home. They need their current residence—the one you’re wanting to buy—to close before they can move, so you need to move from contract to closing quickly. Sometimes, it could be the opposite: The seller wants to stay in the home longer than the typical 30-45 days for closing. In that case, offering rent back to the seller might be a clincher.

It’s your real estate agent’s job to find out the real motivations and needs of the seller and craft your offer accordingly. Sometimes it’s obvious; other times, it’s not.

3. Get Your Loan Officer to Call the Listing Agent
When you make an offer, the loan officer should explain to the listing agent that you are well qualified and that the transaction will close on time. Sellers and listing agents feel more comfortable working with loan officers who are proactive in their communication. They also feel more assured that the loan won’t fall through.

4. Be Aggressive on the Terms and/or Price
In most cases, you need to be ready to be aggressive with terms like quick closing, no appraisal/loan/inspection contingencies, etc. Be sure to discuss these with your loan officer and real estate agent. You need to be qualified to take such risks with your earnest money deposit—or else, don’t do it!

5. Hire a Real Estate Agent
Work with a real estate agent that understands the market. Agents who truly understand market dynamics and are well connected can get their clients’ offers accepted even when it’s not the highest. Work with people actively closing real estate transactions—your nephew’s girlfriend is only a good option if she’s legitimately qualified.

Source: Shashank Shekhar, Arcus Lending

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

Getting Ready to Rent? Buying Might be a Smarter Choice

Between down payments and closing costs, buying a home is a big financial commitment that may seem out of reach for those who ultimately choose to rent instead. However, in today’s market environment of rising rents, the difference in cost between renting and owning is actually narrowing, making this a favorable time to buy a home in most U.S. cities.

According to the Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent (BH&J) Index, 15 of the 23 cities covered are solidly in buy territory, while another five are only marginally in rent territory.

Want to know if buying is a better than renting for you? Ask yourself the following questions:

How stable is my employment situation? Lenders will take the length of time you’ve spent at your current job into consideration, so if you’ve jumped around a lot or just started a new position, that may work against you.

Are you ready to settle down for awhile? Buying a home is an excellent long-term investment, not usually a quick flip. So if you’re still testing out different cities or interested in seeing the world, renting may be a better option.

What shape is your credit in? Your credit score weighs heavily in securing a favorable mortgage loan. If yours is not in the best shape, it may be better to rent while you work at building a better credit profile.

What’s your true financial picture? While your salary may seem more than sufficient to make your projected mortgage payments, keep in mind that homeownership involves many different costs, from property taxes to repairs. So run the numbers carefully before deciding to buy.

The best way to decide whether to rent or buy is to consult a real estate professional in your area. If you’d like more real estate information, please contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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