10 ways to improve your credit score

10 credit 2Last Tuesday, we wrote about how important it is to have high credit scores to purchase a home. Today, we’ll outline a summary of the main points from this list of 10 ways to improve your credit score from Inman.com.

If your score is lower than you’d like, these are good suggestions for how to help hike it back up, especially if you’re thinking about buying a new home:

1. Always pay on time

No lender likes to lend money to an individual who has a repeated record of missing his or her payments. Not to mention it will end up with a lower FICO score.

2. Keep your credit owed within limits

A good ratio is not having your unsecured credit outstanding above 50 percent of your annual salary. If you have $10,000 as your limit, then it is wise to restrict your statement amount to $5,000.

3. Always pay your bills on time, in full

This is one of the most important tips to improve credit score: On-time payments improve your credit score tremendously.

10 credit 34. Use two credit cards if you are a definite credit card spender

This is good and bad advice at the same time. FICO does not consider spending money on two credit cards as one. But if you have two credit cards, you can keep your usage percentage in control.

5. Maintain a good mix of good and bad loans — AKA, a healthy credit mix

Home loans and business loans are considered good loans. Personal loans and credit are considered bad loans.

6. Pay high-interest loans and small loans first

It is a prudent decision to pay your home loans over longer periods. Pay off your personal loans, credit cards and private loans first, as they tend to have a higher interest. Home loans, on the other hand, are just 9 percent to 11 percent, but they build an asset.

7. Close your unwanted savings accounts

Many people tend to abandon their savings accounts without closing them. If you have less than your Minimum Average Balance (MAB), it will start to affect your credit score. Also, when you finish a loan, it’s imperative to get the loan closure certificate.

10 credit 18. Check your credit reports regularly

Credit reports can be availed for a minimal cost. You can obtain them from the official FICO site. Just pay online and check your credit score at least once in a year, so that you can seek clarification on any mistake and have it sorted.

9. Monitor your co-signed joint accounts properly

In instances of co-signing a loan or maintaining a joint credit account, be careful when dealing with someone outside your close family.

10. Negotiate if you cannot pay on time

People often know that they would not be able to pay their bills in advance. If you know you will not be able to pay on time, negotiate with your bank. Banks will be willing to extend your loan period and reduce the EMI if they see a genuine customer.

Why your credit score is important to your home purchase

Did you know your credit score can affect your home purchase? In Keith Loria’s BHG story recently, he discussed this idea.

credit score 2As he points out, “having a good credit score can be the difference between obtaining the mortgage you need to buy your dream home—or settling for less because you didn’t qualify for the money you need.”

This is important as many buyers don’t consider their credit score until they’re already involved in the process. At that point, it’s usually too late to fix anything that might be wrong with your score. So think ahead and monitor your credit score!

Don’t like your credit score?   Paying off debts is the fastest way to up your score, but if you are in the process of applying for a loan, check with the lender first. Missing deadlines on your credit payments are huge hits to your credit score!

credit score 1
Image by www.CafeCredit.com: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cafecredit/27321078025/

I also spoke with my local lender, Jay Vorhees of JVM Lending, about this, and he gave me a few benefits to having a high credit score :

  1. Borrowers with higher credit scores usually get lower interest rates (especially when loan-to-value ratios are higher)
  2. Borrowers are allowed to make smaller down payments, if necessary
  3. Underwriting requirements become less onerous because there are fewer conditions and requirements
  4. Second mortgage financing is easier to obtain, if necessary

If you have any questions about credit scores, purchasing a home, or the market in general, please feel free to reach out. I’m happy to help or guide you to the right person!

Open House this weekend: 131 Appalachian Dr. in Martinez


Appalachian 3 You can’t beat the beauty of this home! 
Come check out this 4-bedroom, 2-bath, single-story home nestled in the Martinez hills.
The backyard has a deck with a hot tub, a fire pit, and an awesome fort for backyard adventures. Not to mention that breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside!
The home is 1,609 square feet of pure comfort. The kitchen has all updated, stainless-steel appliances and flows nicely into the living room, complete with a cozy fireplace.

A spacious master bedroom with plantation shutters and hardwood floorsAppalachian 1 put the finishing touch on this gorgeous house. We’ll be holding two Open Houses this weekend for your viewing pleasure.
Come by, say hi and check it out this weekend. I’ll be there and am happy to talk about the market and what it takes to get a home sold for top dollar in this market.
Visit our Open House this weekend from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday (8/20) and 1-4 p.m. on Sunday (8/21)!

You can see the virtual tour of 131 Appalachian Dr. here.

How to Ensure a Smooth Home Purchase

5 steps 3If you’re planning on purchasing a home this year, you’ll will want a transaction as smooth as possible. That’s what us agents are for! We want to help you find the perfect home and then ensure the process becomes as pain-free as possible.  You don’t realize how important this is until you have the transaction from Hell!

Taken from a Better Homes and Garden’s article and repurposed with some of my insights, here are five tips for a smooth home purchase:

Tip 1: Communicate with Your Agent

You spend a lot of time with your agent in a finite window, so, you should work with a real estate agent you are comfortable with. They should be straight up and express everything you want and need in your new home. By communicating your desires from the beginning, your agent won’t waste time showing you homes that don’t fit your criteria. If you know you want an updated kitchen or two baths, make that clear. It is also a process; sometimes what you want and what your budget can afford creates a discovery process, but when it comes to finding that perfect home, clear communication is key. And if you run into any problems along the way, be sure to speak with your agent to iron out any issues.

Tip 2: Be Reasonable with Expectations

If you’re searching for a three-bedroom home located in a certain neighborhood that has the right schools, and your agent shows you a property with a color you don’t like that only has 1.5 baths, don’t simply write off the home. When searching for the home of your dreams, you may have to give something up or make some changes once you move in. No home will be perfect and, again, it is a process to find that out.

Tip 3: Don’t be Discouraged

Don’t expect to find your dream home overnight. Buyers often get frustrated because nothing pops up in their price range for two weeks or they have written five offers and none of them were accepted, but remember, it is a process. And, this is the Bay Area! 5 steps 2Buyers usually course correct, change their expectations, get a quick education on the market and – voila! – the universe unfolds, the right house pops up and your offer is accepted! Woo-hoo! Now the rubber hits the road and you are in contract!

Tip 4: Play the Money Game

If you offer $375,000 on a home that’s listed at $400,000 and the seller refuses to budge, be prepared to negotiate. Wait!!! This is the Bay Area! When you offer $650,000 on a home listed for $620,000 and you are one of nine offers, you need to have some wiggle room for a counter offer. Before making an offer, discuss your strategy with your agent as he or she will be able to tell you whether your offer is fair or not. It’s also important to check out comps in the neighborhood so that you can make a reasonable offer from the get-go. Don’t forget how important a good lender is and the reputation they have with other agents. This may make the difference in your offer getting accepted over the other eight.

Tip 5: Get Your Mortgage Pre-Approved

This could be the smartest thing you do all year. By having a mortgage approved before you even begin looking at houses, you’ll be ready to make an offer as soon as you find the home of your dreams. Not all lenders are equal, and a good lender may give you the upper hand over other buyers who may be interested in the same house. Can they closer faster than 30 days? Do they get all the paperwork upfront and desktop underwrite you so there are no surprises? Are they responsive to your calls?

If you have any interest in purchasing a home this summer, and are looking for an agent who can guide you through the process smoothly, I am at your service and I have a great lender or two to refer!

Broker Tour Today! Open House This Weekend!

madeira 3Join us for a broker tour today from 10:30 a.m .to 1:00 p.m. at both 2899 Madeira Way in Pleasant Hill and 1655 Endriss Dr. in Martinez. We’ll have some goodies to share at these beautiful properties!

Also, at the home on Madeira Way, we’ll have an Open House both Saturday and Sunday (June 25th and 26th) from 1:00-4:00 p.m. The updated 4-bedroom homemadeira 2 has new hardwood floors, plantation shutters in every bedroom and a large backyard with a patio perfect for entertaining.

The master bedroom is downstairs, just off the living room and dining room, which buttresses a nice kitchen with granite countertops. Upstairs, there are three bedrooms with one currently being utilized as a spacious personal office.

Come wander through this lovely home in a great neighborhood with us this weekend. Hope to see you there!

You can see a virtual tour of 2899 Madeira Way right here.

 

Hot Housing Market This Summer

It is unlikely the Federal Reserve will be increasing interest rates this month after a weak May job report (only 38,000 jobs created, 117,000 less than expected and the worst month for job creation in nearly six years). According to experts, the likelihood of a rate hike is down to a measly 4 percent, and that trend may carry over into July.

Thus, this summer could prove to be the hot time to buy or sell a home. In California – specifically the East Bay – selling season tends to be in the spring. Once we move into the middle of May, buyers and sellers become distracted with graduations, weddings, etc.

And once school is out everyone moves into vacation mode through mid-August, before families start getting ready for going back to school. Usually, we see an uptick in the number of homes that are on the market in the summer compared to the  the spring. With continued low rates, this summer might buck that trend with buyers out to purchase.Beautiful white, blue and beige living room.

To prepare, buyers should be pre-qualified for a mortgage before they start shopping and, ideally, desktop underwritten. It is best if buyers don’t make an offer contingent on the sale of their own home. For sellers, they should be ready to make themselves and their homes available for show. At minimum, have a staging consult done. Try to have your home staged before a showing.

 

Statistics show clean and pristine homes that are staged properly sell faster and for more money than ones that are not. Necessary improvements, such as new painting, replaced fixtures and refreshed house plants are huge for staging.

It is about getting it show and picture-worthy and keeping it neutral, not spending a lot of money on upgrades. As is the case with personal preferences, “What you think is a nice improvement is another man’s gold shag carpeting.”

The State of Convenience

The California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) report that 69 percent of Americans are looking for ways to simplify their lives. Furthermore, they say, 74 percent of Americans will walk out of a store – even if they have exactly what that person is looking for – if the service is poor. And 45 percent of U.S. consumers say they are likely to pay for a service that provides extra convenience in their lives. See their graphic below:

StateofConvenience.jpg

So, what’s the conclusion here? Consumers value time, and therefore convenience. This also translates to buying a home. Home buyers these days, especially millennials, want updated and move-in ready homes. They want properties conveniently located nearby public transportation or in an area with a high walking score.

As a seller, taking care of deferred maintenance, updates or remodeling will appeal to these convenience consumers.  Though you can’t change the location, you can highlight positive conveniences. As a buyer, know that living without some of these things may either get you a home or a better deal.

Celebration of Closing on a Home!!!

One of the greatest joys of my job is presenting my clients with the key to their new home or telling a seller their home is SOLD.  Below are  some pictures of celebrating with my happy clients as they receive those keys, sign their loan documents and enjoy their congratulatory “let’s celebrate” baskets after closing!

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Top 5 Must-Do’s for First-Time Home Buyers

first time home buyer featuredSo you’ve finally made the big decision. You’re going to buy a house!

You are aware of the long road ahead, but excited to take on the challenge and have a home you can call your own.

It’s a stressful process, however there are a few things you can do to help prepare for your first time through the home-buying process:

Determine your budget.

There are many online calculators available that can help you to get an idea of what your monthly mortgage payments should be, based on how much money you are looking to borrow. Don’t forget to include property taxes, though – estimate 1.25 percent of the purchase price for a yearly property tax estimate. If you are looking at a condo or a townhouse, then you most likely will have to consider a monthly HOA fee. Also, look at what your income, debts and assets are; this is where I strongly recommend you speak with a lender. The good ones break that all out for you and can help you work up a budget.

Examine your credit and credit score.

You want to get yourself in the best position to qualify for the lowest interest rates and best mortgage terms and one way to do that is to beef up your credit score. If your score is less than perfect, look for ways to increase your score. If you have limited credit history, look for ways to build positive credit before you apply for a mortgage loan. This is another area that a good mortgage broker can give some suggestions to improve your credit. No matter what your score is, review your credit report to ensure that there are no errors on your report which ay impact your ability to qualify for the mortgage you want.

Where will your down payment come from? And how much will you need?

Buying a home is a big financial commitment, which can often require a big cash down payment. Where will you be getting your down payment from – savings, a 401(k) or IRA withdrawal? As a gift from family? Although FHA loans are often an attractive option for first-time homebuyers because they only require you put 3.5 percent down, you’ll still need to roughly determine how much 3.5 percent will be and where you’ll be getting those funds from, while still saving enough for closing costs. All the while, you must keep your debt-to-income ratios in line with guidelines.

Begin to gather up all the documents you’ll need to qualify for a mortgage.

When you apply for a mortgage you’re likely going to need to show your lender proof of your identity (passport, driver’s license or similar) as well as recent pay stubs from your employer and copies of your past year (or two years) of tax returns. Each lender will have their own requirements, but gathering together these basic pieces of information can help make the mortgage application process go smoothly. Again, a good lender will send out an introduction email with a list of the things that are required.

Get preapproved for a mortgage before you begin house hunting! 

This is a MUST! Home sellers want to know that you’re serious about buying, and one of the best ways to show them that is by submitting an offer that comes with mortgage pre-qualification. In some hot housing markets, sellers won’t even accept offers without a pre-qualification or DU Approval. A good real estate agent will also help guide you through this process, which can include an informative face-to-face about the whole process or a good lender recommendation.

Excerpts of this blog generously borrowed from The Orland Group Realtor Coaching.

Tips Before You List – Economical, DIY Home Improvements

remodelWhen preparing your home for sale, statistics show staged homes sell faster and for more money than non-staged homes.

However, if your house is already a picture from Architectural Digest or your budget is limited, I am sharing a few tips from BuzzFeed about how you can make a few inexpensive, DIY upgrades to your house to increase the value and improve its aesthetics before listing.

Adding paint in certain parts of the house, evaluating house plants, replacing light bulbs, landscaping and giving your home a good, deep clean are examples of a few things you can do to improve the look of your home before listing.  You, the homeowner, can do quite a bit to significantly raise the value of your home and increase interest among prospective buyers.gardening

For the most part, these projects can be easily completed by you or a handyman and the materials are relatively inexpensive. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, it may pay big dividends in the end.

Selling your home is an investment in your financial future, and the more TLC you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Should you need some recommendations for a handyman, gardener or painter, give me a call. I also provide a free consultation on things you can do to help spruce up the home and get it market-ready.

Check out BuzzFeed’s list for some ideas here.