Julie Gross' Blog
Before you even start looking for a home, you should know what your credit score is. You can pull your own credit score from the three major bureaus without having points deducted from your credit score. You should know your score since it will affect how high your mortgage payments will be, and it will also determine if a lender will lend to you. Certain types of loans have a minimum credit score — if your credit is below the minimum, you won’t be able to qualify for that type of loan.
Credit Score Minimums
Many programs require you to have a minimum credit score. Most lenders will require these scores for these types of loans:
620 for a conventional loan;
580 for an FHA loan if you want your down payment to be as low as 3.5 percent;
500 to 579 for an FHA loan with a down payment of 10 percent;
620 for a VA loan;
640 for a USDA loan; and
720 or higher for a jumbo loan.
Credit Scores and Interest Rates
The lower your interest rate is, the less you have to pay to the lender for allowing you to borrow money. This also means a lower monthly payment for you. Even a half-point could make a large difference in how much you have to repay. While a half-point might equal $50 or $60 per month on your loan, when you pay that over 360 months, that is $18,000 to $21,600 over the life of the loan.
Creditors use your credit score to see how careful you are with credit – how you will pay it back, and if you will pay it back. The higher the score, the less risk you are to the lender.
Increase Your Credit Score
Sometimes, you can’t help having a low score. You might have lost a job, or you might have had high medical expenses after an accident. Before you buy a house, you should get your score up as high as possible. While it seems like it will drop overnight, it definitely takes some time to increase your credit score. While you are working on your credit score, you can start putting some money aside for a larger down payment. To help increase your credit score:
Get a copy of your credit report and scores from all three major bureaus.
Go through your report. Make note of anything that is incorrect, including accounts you have and your personal information.
Dispute anything that is wrong with each of the credit bureaus. If you have an account that is not yours that is listed on TransUnion, dispute it on TransUnion. If it shows up on TransUnion and Equifax, dispute it on both.
Determine how much revolving credit you have. This is the amount you are allowed to spend on credit cards and some types of home equity loans. Divide the total of your balances by the total amount of credit you have. That number needs to be below 35 percent for a better interest rate. In some cases, a lender will not give you a mortgage if that number is too high.
Showing more credit with a lower debt to credit percentage increases your score. Don’t close out any accounts, but make sure they are all paid on time, and get the highest balances as low as possible. During the months before you buy a house, you should try to avoid using credit cards if possible.
Pay off as much debt as possible.
Remember, every time someone, other than you, pulls your credit, your score gets dinged. Don’t shop for a mortgage until you are ready to buy, and try to keep all inquiries within 30 days.
Keeping good credit is more than paying on time. You also have to responsibly manage your credit.
Have you received your 401K packet? It probably had some selections to make, such as a list of investment options to choose from. A small choice like this makes a big difference down the road. Whether you own a 401K, need to fund your own retirement, are putting a down payment on a home, or have some money left to you by a relative, there are some basic investment principles.
Stocks Are Still Your Best Bet
Every decade or two, the stock market tanks, everyone panics and some people say stocks are just a gamble. And if you get excited and buy in heavily while the Dow is nearing its peak, you will have a problem when the inevitable downturn comes. But consider this: since 1957, when the S&P 500 (an index of the top 500 stocks, a more accurate all-around market measure than the Dow) was established, its issues have returned around 9 percent a year. That’s despite a decade-long slump in the 70’s, the dot.com bust of 2000, and the “Great Recession” that started in 2008. If you’re in the market for another 20, 30 or 40 years, these setbacks are merely a dip in your long-term, upward progression.
Some other pointers:
Dollar cost average by buying small amounts regularly over time. If you’re in a 401K, this is automatically done for you. Don’t “buy high” by jumping on board when the market’s hot.
If you have a 401K, try to make the maximum contribution. If your employer matches, you’re turning down free money if you don’t.
Don’t get excited about what’s hot today. When stocks are low, some people say gold is a no-lose choice. It’s not. It will come down. In the late 90s, day traders were bragging constantly about their latest coup, investing in startups that had never made money and never would. It came to a screaming halt in 2000.
Be careful of picking individual stocks. Few people beat the market average. Even professionals who manage funds don’t do well. Favor index funds. An S&P 500 index fund buys every stock in the S&P 500. It doesn't try to outguess the market.
Financial advisers may come to you suggesting their favored investment. Be leery of anyone who presents a solution before understanding your situation.
Stick to a sound, steady plan and don’t get rattled by the noise around you, and you can build a comfortable nest egg over a lifetime.
The good news about selling your home is that everything does not have to be absolutely perfect to attract buyers!
Although some prospective buyers may be sticklers for things like cleanliness, the condition of appliances, and the amount of available storage space, perfection is rarely a requirement.
Since most house hunters are primarily focused on finding a house that offers them value, practicality, and affordability, a few minor flaws here and there are usually not going to be deal breakers.
One of your primary objectives as a house seller is to present your home in its best possible light -- both literally and figuratively. All things being equal, the home that looks the most inviting, well cared for, and tastefully decorated will have a decided edge in the real estate market. Fortunately, there are a lot of inexpensive, relatively easy things you can do to make your home more appealing to prospective buyers.
Keeping your kitchen and bathrooms immaculately clean almost always gives you an advantage when your house is on the market. The only way cleanliness can potentially work against you is when your home reeks of harsh cleaning chemicals and artificial room deodorizers. One solution is to use cleansers with a mild citrus fragrance that will create a clean, fresh-smelling environment that won't be offensive to people's sense of smell.
Since kitchens are a focal point for many house hunters, it pays to devote some extra attention to preparing that part of your home for showings. In addition to making sure all counter tops, appliances, and floors are spotless, crystal clear windows and natural light can go a long way toward enhancing the look and feel of your kitchen.
Other key elements of an appealing kitchen could include a simple, but colorful flower arrangement and the placement of a multi-colored bowl of fresh fruit on a table, island, or counter top. While fragrances such as freshly baked bread, muffins, or coffee can also add to the ambiance of your home, it may sometimes come across to buyers as a little too contrived. There's a thin line between effective home staging and trying too hard to make a favorable impression. Ideally, your efforts at home staging should be subtle, rather than obvious. (When in doubt, ask your real estate agent!)
Creating a checklist of tasks and preparations that need to be done before house showings is an essential aspect of selling your house. Although there are dozens of details your real estate agent will handle, only you can make sure your home is clean, well organized, and ready to be shown.
Enlisting the help of all family members to keep your home tidy and uncluttered will assist you in countless ways, including stress reduction, increased efficiency, and enabling you to sell your home within the shortest possible period of time. When everyone understands that it's a team effort, the process is sure to move ahead smoothly and successfully!
When it comes to moving, how do you pack up food and ensure it will safely make it from Point A to Point B? There are many challenges associated with packing and storing food while you move. Fortunately, we're here to help you take the guesswork out of packing up food so that you can enjoy it once you reach your new home.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to ensure you can quickly and effortlessly pack your food and transport it to a new address.
1. Get Rid of Any Expired Food Items
Go through your pantry and remove any expired or soon-to-expire food items. That way, you won't have to worry about transporting these items to your new address on moving day.
In addition, you should try to eliminate food waste. For soon-to-expire foods, consume them before it's too late. Or, you can always offer these items to friends or family members.
2. Pack Fragile Food Items Carefully
Flour, sugar and other fragile food items likely require extra attention when you pack. If you dedicate the necessary time and resources to pack fragile food items carefully, you can eliminate the risk that these items could leak or spill while you're moving.
Heavy-duty, sealable containers are ideal for storing fragile food items. These containers usually are easy to find at supermarkets and retail outlets and will ensure your food items will remain safe and secure at all times.
Furthermore, don't forget to cover salt and pepper shakers. Place a piece of masking tape over the top of these shakers, and you can prevent the shakers from spilling out.
3. Use Appropriate Moving Boxes
Moving boxes come in many sizes, and when you're packing food items, you'll want to use the right-sized boxes. By doing so, you may be able to store various food items in the same box – something that may help you unpack quickly once you reach your final destination.
In most instances, small and medium-sized moving boxes are perfect for food items. These boxes offer plenty of space. Plus, with the right-sized moving boxes in hand, you may be able to avoid the temptation to stuff too many heavy food items into a single box.
If you need additional support with packing food items or other belongings, you may want to discuss your options with a professional moving company. This business employs friendly, knowledgeable staff members who can help you prepare for moving day.
Lastly, it never hurts to collaborate with a real estate agent, either. In addition to helping you buy or sell a house, a real estate agent can offer recommendations about moving companies in your area. Therefore, a real estate agent can provide extra help as you search for ways to streamline the moving process.
Simplify the process of moving your food items from one location to the next – use the aforementioned tips, and you can ensure all of your food items will arrive intact at your new address.
On the basic level of supply and demand, a housing shortage leads to higher home prices. But let's look beyond the obvious at a few other considerations a homeowner might want to make in response to a housing shortage, as well as a few tips for the prospective homebuyer.
More Housing, Same Space
Wondering what the best investment you can make to raise the property value is? Creating extra housing within the existing footprint of the property is one of the best ways to go. Creating an attic or basement apartment in the existing home is one way to go, so is building an entirely new structure to house a granny flat. You could look into garage conversions, see if there are changes that could be made to any existing outbuildings, or break ground and start from scratch. In response to the housing shortage there are many laws being passed to make it easier for homeowners to receive approval for adding additional residences to their property, including simplifying licensing procedures and even overriding some HOAs, including one that just went into effect statewide in California.
A Great Time to Sell the As-Is Home
A housing shortage doesn't just drive prices up, it can cause buyers to quickly snap up houses with cosmetic flaws that would normally linger on the market. If the thought of doing needed house painting or landscaping feels like it defeats the purpose of selling the home, then now might be the right time to put your home on the market. Additionally, if you'd already been planning to sell your home, but have continually been adding to a never ending list of projects to complete before selling, then now is the time to list, while the market is hot, even if you're DIY home improvements are still a far cry from perfect.
Getting Into the Rental Market Is a Strong Income Source
If you're planning to purchase and move to a new home, you may want to re-think selling your current one. Although it may be a strong market for selling a home, the rental market could be robust. If you can afford to keep your current home, you may have an ideal income-producing investment on your hands.
3 Tips for the Homebuyer During a Housing Shortage
If you're looking to buy a home during a housing shortage, don't despair of the shortage. You'll have luck, just expect it to take a bit longer and follow this advice: