5 Things to Do Before You Go House Hunting

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Looking for your first home to buy is an exciting time in anybody’s life.  It’s also a very daunting process, after all this is likely to be the biggest purchasing decision you’ll make in your entire life (no pressure). Avoid the most common mistakes made by first-home buyers with these five steps.     1. Get a copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus and check for errors You can get a free copy of your report from TransUnion, Equifax and Experian once per year for free from the government endorsed site annualcreditreport.com. Before you start looking for houses it's vital you check all three of these reports for any errors. An error on your credit report could affect your chances for being approved for a loan or the rate of interest a … [Read more...]

Do you know if your HELOC is about to reset?

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If you don’t, you should look into this sooner rather than later.     During the housing boom of the mid 2000s many people took out home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) for greater financial flexibility, to have as a safety net, or as a means to avoid property mortgage insurance (PMI) by enabling them to make a 20% down payment on a home purchase.     And why not? Interest rates were very low and the process for getting approved was fairly easy for many consumers.     Many of the HELOCs opened at this time featured an interest-only period of 5,7 or 10 years followed by either a balloon payment at maturity or an amortization period requiring monthly payments of principal and interest.     What this means “in plain … [Read more...]

Mortgage Tips: 9 Ways to Lower Your Monthly Payment

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We often hear information on how homeowners can use tactics like refinancing to lower their mortgage payments. But what about homebuyers? What tactics can you use to ensure you start out with the lowest possible mortgage payment?     Luckily, there’s quite a bit you can do as a homebuyer to keep your mortgage payments low. Here are just 9 ideas to get you started:     1. Boost your credit score     Your credit score is a big determining factor in your mortgage’s APR. And even a tiny difference in APR has a big impact on monthly payments (as well as interest paid over the life of your loan).     According to this FICO chart, average interest rates on a 30-year fixed mortgage range from 4.004% to 5.593% right now, … [Read more...]

Breached, Bothered and Bewildered?

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The LA Times recently published an article featuring mortgage credit experts who warned “that the recent massive data breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers could have significant effects on some real estate transactions in the coming months as damaged credit files depress scores and jeopardize loan applications and home sales”.   Is it possible that your innocent purchase of toothpaste and a few groceries could indeed jeopardize your ability to achieve a significant milestone like purchasing your first home? It could be more than a distant dilemma for consumers to ponder if they discover too late that routine purchases made at recently compromised merchants resulted in fraudulent charges to their payment cards. Erroneous fraud charges that remain undetected or … [Read more...]

Standards, Shutdowns, and Mortgage Applications

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Late last month, the Washington Post published that in August there was an increase in the percentage of successful home mortgages for applicants with FICO® Scores less than 700 – up almost double 2012 percentage. Some were taking that as a sign of hope, as some lenders may have focused equally on employment and savings. But not everything was getting easier with mortgage insurance premiums increasing in certain cases. Regardless, with average FICO Scores down, lower might have been the new norm.   Unfortunately, as we entered October, the country is in a government furlough. If the shutdown is short, there hopefully will not be long-term effects. But if there is no compromise over the shutdown and it extends to weeks, this could directly impact mortgage applications. Remember, … [Read more...]

Be Prepared – A Motto for Prospective Refinancers or Home Buyers

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Thinking of refinancing or buying a house this spring to take advantage of record low interest rates?  If so, you are not alone.  In particular, home buying activity has reportedly picked up in most U.S. markets at a time when the inventory of homes for sale is very low.   This is creating a competitive environment in many communities. In turn, home prices are increasing and bidding wars are again becoming commonplace. The more qualified you are as a buyer, the better chance you will have of getting the house you want.  By qualified, I mean that you are pre-approved with excellent credit ratings, and you have the ability to make a sizable down payment.   Don’t make the mistake of getting so caught up in house hunting, you wait until the last minute to do your … [Read more...]

10 Tips for Real Estate Auctions

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This article originally appeared on HSH.com.   The traditional idea that real estate auctions are only for bargain-basement foreclosures or million-dollar mansions has changed in recent years. These days, all types of homes are sold at auctions.   No matter what type of property you buy at an auction, you need to be aware that you're purchasing "as-is, where-is," without the option of asking the seller to make repairs or wait while you sell your current home, says Fontana Fitzwilson, executive vice president of Williams, Williams and McKissick in Tulsa, Okla.   "Buyers may not always get a bargain at an auction, but auction sellers are often willing to sell at or below market price in exchange for a non-negotiable, non-contingent contract from a highly … [Read more...]

Unscheduled Home Repairs: Are You Financially Prepared?

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By Michele Lerner   No matter how well you maintain your home, it's inevitable that eventually either age or a manmade or natural disaster will damage some part of your property. Whether you need to pay for something as simple as replacing your water heater or as a monumental as installing an entirely new roof, your wallet will be impacted. Developing a plan to be prepared for these financial disasters can minimize the damage.   Financial experts recommend that homeowners set aside from one to three percent of their home value every year to pay for routine maintenance and as a reserve fund for an emergency repair. For a $300,000 home, that means you should have savings of $3,000 to $9,000 that you can access for home projects. You can estimate how much you may need … [Read more...]

Homebuyer 2.0: New market, new rules

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By Michele Lerner   In the ever changing world of real estate, many housing markets have subtly shifted from a buyer's market to a seller's market. Homebuyers who once had the upper hand are now competing for properties in many markets.   Increased competition means homebuyers need to be more prepared than ever. Today's homebuyers also need to know exactly what they want and need in a home before they start looking. Experts say this is a return to the traditional way of judging a home's value.   According to the National Association of Realtors, national housing inventory declined again in November to 2.03 million existing homes for sale, which represents a 4.8 month supply of homes at the current sales pace. This is the lowest housing supply since … [Read more...]

Fannie Mae Wants You to Know Your Options

Fannie Mae Wants You to Know Your Options

If you're looking for help on your current mortgage, you probably wouldn’t think of turning to Fannie Mae. Although it’s a giant in the real estate industry, Fannie Mae has always focused more on lenders and securities, and less on individual homeowners.  So I was thrilled to learn that Fannie Mae just launched a new website for people struggling to pay their mortgage. The site helps visitors clearly understand their options so they know what to do to stay in their homes. I highly recommend it.   In their website’s resources , Fannie Mae emphasizes the importance that FICO credit scores have in loan decisions. They address the impact that foreclosure and related actions can have to a person’s FICO score. And they link visitors back here to myFICO if they want a better … [Read more...]

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