6 Good Credit Habits for Buyers and Renters

Your credit score has a critical impact on your housing options, and healthy credit is essential to buying a home or renting one. “An important step to finding a home, whether you’re renting or buying, is ensuring that you have a good credit history,” says Frank Keating, president and CEO of the American Bankers Association (ABA). “A strong credit score can open doors to better homes and lower mortgage rates.”

To build a good credit history, the ABA recommends adopting these habits.

1. Request a copy of your credit report–and make sure it is correct. Your credit report illustrates your credit performance, and it needs to be accurate so that you can apply for other loans, such as a mortgage. Everyone is entitled to receive a free copy of his or her credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies, but you must go through the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-82281-877-322-8228 FREE. Note that you may have to pay for the numerical score itself.

2. Set up automatic bill pay.Payment history makes up 32 percent of your VantageScore credit score and 35 percent of your FICO credit score. The more you pay your bills on time, the better your score. Avoid missed payments by setting as many of your bills to automatic pay as possible.

3. Keep balances low on credit cards and ‘revolving credit.’ Racking up big balances can hurt your scores, regardless of whether you pay your bills in full each month. You often can increase your scores by limiting your charges to 30 percent or less of a card’s limit.

4. Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed. Keep this in mind the next time a retailer offers you 10 percent off if you open an account. If you need a new line of credit, don’t jump at the first appealing offer; compare rates and fees offered through mail solicitation, on the Internet or at your local bank.

5. Don’t close old paid off accounts.According to FICO, closing accounts can never help your score and can in fact damage it.

6. Talk to credit counselors if you’re in trouble. Using legitimate, non-profit credit counseling can help you manage your debt and won’t hurt your credit score. For more information on debt management, contact the National Foundation for Consumer Credit by visiting www.NFCC.org.

Source: ABA.com

This post has been authored by Eric Slifkin, REALTOR® serving South Florida’s Treasure Coast. You can reach me at 888-288-1765, or visit my Web site. As your resource for information on new or resale homes throughout the Treasure Coast, please be sure to contact me about any home you may find on the Web, yard sign or ad and I will research the property, arrange showings and handle all the details.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Top 8 Things to Know about a Mortgage


Real Estate Web ReportTop 8 Things to Know about a Mortgage

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist
Deciding what kind of home loan is best for your needs is an integral part of the home buying process. But it’s not always easy, according to California mortgage broker Ken Go.

Go notes the eight most important factors to compare when shopping for a mortgage:
• Principal – The principal is the amount you are borrowing—or the price of the home you are buying minus the down payment. Lenders will tell you how much they are prepared to lend you based on your income and credit score. That will help you determine how much house you can afford.
• Mortgage type – Mortgages fall into two categories; fixed rate or adjustable. With a fixed rate mortgage, you pay the same amount each month for as long as you have the loan. The interest rate is slightly higher than some adjustable rate mortgages, but adjustable rates change with the market and will likely rise over time.
• Interest rate – A loan with the lowest posted rate may have higher closing costs. Consider the Annual Percentage Rate (APR), which takes into account the interest rate and the loan’s other costs.
• Monthly payment – A mortgage loan should help you build equity in your home. The best one may or may not be the one that carries the lowest monthly payment. Consult a mortgage broker for details.
• Term – The term is the number of years your loan will remain active. Mortgages with shorter terms generally carry a higher monthly payment but they can save you a lot of interest over the years.
• Discount points – A point is equal to one percent of the principal. Lenders may offer you the chance to pay points in order to lower the interest rate of your mortgage. If you plan to stay in the home a long time, it may make sense to pay points.
• Lock-ins – When you apply for a loan, the lender will quote you the rates. But rates can go up while you shopping for a home, so it’s a good idea to lock in the quoted rates. There may or may not be a fee to do so.
• Closing costs – Origination fees, appraisal fees, and other costs will be added to your loan. Ask your lender for a good faith estimate of the costs, and an explanation of any charges you don’t understand.

This post has been authored by Eric Slifkin, REALTOR® serving South Florida’s Treasure Coast. You can reach me at 888-288-1765, or visit my Web site. As your resource for information on new or resale homes throughout the Treasure Coast, please be sure to contact me about any home you may find on the Web, yard sign or ad and I will research the property, arrange showings and handle all the details.

Tips to Get Financially Fit In the New Year

With 2012 just around the corner, SavvyMoney.com, a comprehensive resource for information, education and “do-it-yourself” tools for people coping with personal debt, is providing tips to help consumers reach a better financial future in the New Year. Written by industry expert and author Jean Chatzky, Director of Education for SavvyMoney.com, these tips are geared to consumers looking to set realistic, achievable financial goals.

Chatzky’s five tips for getting financially fit in the New Year include:

1. Make a plan for the year. Determine your overarching goal and write it down, whether it is paying down debt, putting more in retirement savings, or paying for a vacation in cash. Then, set some benchmarks by breaking that goal down into manageable pieces. If you’d like to save $5,000 by the end of the year, recognize that that’s $400 a month, $100 a week. If you focus on that weekly amount, you’re more likely to get there. And in all cases, it will help to track your spending for the first month by saving your receipts and recording them regularly or using an online program. Once you do, it will be easier to cut back.

2. Automate – but pay attention. Most people benefit from a relatively hands off approach to their savings. Set it up so your employer pulls money out of every paycheck and deposits it in your 401(k), or allow your IRA provider to deduct a set amount from your checking account. That way, you don’t have to make the decision to save. But that’s where the automation should end. You need to look at those investments once in a while and see that you’re on track. Make part of this year’s resolution about rebalancing your investments, either right now or on your birthday.

3. Put a windfall to work. Right now through the first few months of the New Year are ripe for windfalls. You might receive an end-of-year bonus, raise, or a tax refund. The best thing you can do with this money is pretend you never received it. Funnel a bonus or tax refund directly into savings, without giving yourself a chance to spend it (if you’re carrying credit card debt, use this cash to pay it off or make a solid dent in your balance). When you get a raise, bump up your retirement contribution to match the increase in salary – research shows that otherwise, you’ll adjust spending to the new amount and hardly feel like you’re earning more.

4. Spend smart. Start the year with a bill audit. Look over every bill that comes in this month, paying particular attention to the ones you pay automatically with a draft from your bank account or bill pay through your bank. You’ll likely find you’re paying for things you don’t need or didn’t even know you had – extra cell phone minutes, HBO when your favorite show is in the off-season, an equipment protection program from your satellite TV provider. Call your insurance providers and see if they’re willing offer you a better rate. Then make a commitment to save money every day, by clipping coupons, shopping around for the best deals, using energy efficient light bulbs and making sure your doors and windows are sealed for winter to conserve electricity.

5. Earn more. If you’re truly not going overboard with the discretionary spending and you still can’t get ahead, you may not be earning enough money to support yourself. If you haven’t gotten a raise in a while, it’s okay to ask for one now, but approach the situation lightly in this still-shaky economy. Go to your boss’s office prepared with ammunition – lay out how you save (or earn) the company money and how much competitors are paying people in your position. If you work for yourself, the New Year is the perfect time to raise your rates slightly.

For more information, visit http://www.savvymoney.com.

This post has been authored by Eric Slifkin, REALTOR® serving South Florida’s Treasure Coast. You can reach me at 888-288-1765, or visit my Web site. As your resource for information on new or resale homes throughout the Treasure Coast, please be sure to contact me about any home you may find on the Web, yard sign or ad and I will research the property, arrange showings and handle all the details.

5 Factors That Decide Your Credit Score

5 Factors That Decide Your Credit Score

Credit scores range between 200 and 800, with scores above 620 considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage. The following factors affect your score:

1. Your payment history. Did you pay your credit card obligations on time? If they were late, then how late? Bankruptcy filing, liens, and collection activity also impact your history.
2. How much you owe. If you owe a great deal of money on numerous accounts, it can indicate that you are overextended. However, it’s a good thing if you have a good proportion of balances to total credit limits.

3. The length of your credit history. In general, the longer you have had accounts opened, the better. The average consumer’s oldest obligation is 14 years old, indicating that he or she has been managing credit for some time, according to Fair Isaac Corp., and only one in 20 consumers have credit histories shorter than 2 years.
4. How much new credit you have. New credit, either installment payments or new credit cards, are considered more risky, even if you pay them promptly.

5. The types of credit you use. Generally, it’s desirable to have more than one type of credit — installment loans, credit cards, and a mortgage, for example.

For more on evaluating and understanding your credit score, visit www.myfico.com

Reprinted from REALTOR® magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.