Is your agent a Charming Charlie or a Debbie Downer?

There is no personal charm so great as the charm of a cheerful temperament. - Henry Van Dyke
Personality and charm are two things that you should be aware of when hiring an agent. Of course the agent needs to be knowledgable and experienced, but he/she must also have excellent communication skills and overall, they must be likable. Chances are, if you like the agent then you have found a winner! If the agent that you are looking to hire is charismatic, pleasant, fun to be around, dresses professionally, and has a positive attitude then other people (buyers, other agents with prospective buyers, etc) will want to connect with them, thereby giving the agent more contacts and the seller more possible buyers. In other words, whatever attracted you to the agent will attract others as well. Personality is the ‘it’ factor in the real estate industry. Take a look at the agents in your area, and analyze their personalities. Chances are the most successful agents are the ones with that extra pep in their step.

How’s the Market?

“How’s the market?” I get that question almost daily from clients, family, and friends. I am proud to say that our market in Tuscaloosa, Alabama is alive and well! Bucking national real estate trends, our market has witnessed periods of growth over the course of the past year. Mortgage rates have been at record lows, making it the perfect opportunity to buy! Tuscaloosa’s economy and job market, coupled with low mortgage rates, have been crucial elements for the stabilization and growth of our real estate market. The top employers in the Tuscaloosa area have played a huge role in keeping our economy stable. The “big 3″ include: The University of Alabama, DCH Regional Hospitals, and Mercedes Benz. The University of Alabama, along with Shelton State Community College and Stillman College, have also provided a substantial increase in our population, resulting in an increase in revenue and home sales, due to the students who are enrolled. As you can see, our market is doing great in Tuscaloosa, thanks in large part to interest rates, major employers, and the higher education system in the area. All of these factors make Tuscaloosa a truly great place to live!

Credit Repair: Tips for Increasing Your Credit Score

Credit. Such a small word, but it has a huge impact on every financial transaction in your life. I have touched on the basics and the importance of credit in an earlier post, but let’s talk about good credit, bad credit, and some things that you can do to improve your score. Good credit can grant you the ability to live in the home of your dreams with a payment that fits your budget. Bad credit, on the other hand, can hinder you from even buying a home at all. If you have a low credit score then all hope is not lost. Here are five tips to help you increase your score and get your credit back on the right track.
  1. Obtain a copy of your credit report. Make sure you have a report from ALL THREE CREDIT BUREAUS:  Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian.  (Note:  all consumers are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the credit bureaus.)  To access your free report, go to: www.annualcreditreport.com.
  2. Scan the report for errors. Many reports have erroneous information reported.  If you find an error, contact the credit bureau immediately to dispute the account.  You will find the website, address, and phone number of the bureaus on your credit report.  Also, I recommend contacting the actual creditor (preferably by certified mail) that is reporting the false information.  Ask them to remove the errors immediately.
  3. Pay past due accounts ASAP. If you have an account that is currently past due, but not yet charged off, it is best to pay it as soon as you can.  You should see an immediate increase in your scores.
  4. Do not pay old collections or charge offs. Paying old charge off or collection accounts will actually bring your score down as opposed to helping your situation.  If the charge off is more than a couple of months old, leave it alone until after you obtain your loan.
  5. Make Sure Your Balance to Credit Limit Ratio on your Revolving Accounts (Credit Cards, etc.) is below 10%. To do this, simply divide your credit card balance by your total available credit limit.  This one area will allow you to gain the most points on your credit score.  If you do not have any revolving credit, or if you have very little, you will want to open up a new credit card.  Perhaps you will need to obtain a secured credit card which is a credit card secured with a savings account with the issuing bank. Be sure to pay all of your credit card balances down as much as possible, but DO NOT PAY THEM OFF OR CLOSE THE ACCOUNTS.  Ideally, you’d like to have two or three credit cards with at least limits of $300 and current balances of $10.
Tips taken from Brent Sute‘s blog. Brent is a Certified Mortgage Planner and the Tuscaloosa Branch Manager of Mortgage America. For more credit repair information, please visit his blog: http://mortgagefox.org/?p=181.  The post has information on secured credit cards and a video that goes into greater detail about credit.

Wait! Are You Buying the Right House?

Anyone who has ever bought a home remembers the wonderful feeling of finding the right property and falling in love with it. It’s an indescribable mixture of comfort, excitement, and dreams about to come true. Buyers ask questions like, “Can we afford it? Will the sellers accept our offer? How soon can we pick up the keys?” Great vibes are undoubtedly a good sign in deciding to purchase a home, but you shouldn’t let your emotions overrule a reasonable assessment of whether a particular home really meets your needs. Here are a few rational questions to ask before rushing into a commitment to purchase a home.
  • Price – Your lender says you can afford to buy the home you adore, but are you comfortable with the monthly payments you’ll be obligated to make? Is the down payment within your means? Will you have enough cash to pay transaction costs and moving expenses? If the house needs major repairs, remodeling, or redecorating can you save the necessary funds within a reasonable time period?
  • Condition – Along with price, the condition of the home should be a top consideration. Does the home need a new roof? Extensive upgrading of the electrical wiring? New plumbing? Is the home disaster-ready (e.g., bolted to the foundation in earthquake country)? A fixer-upper home with lots of potential can be a great find or a money pit. Will you be able to meet the financial challenges and live with the mess and inconvenience while the home is being brought up to your expectations?
  • Size and Configuration – Is the house the right size for your needs, and does it have the right combination of bedrooms, bathrooms, and other living areas? Is that small closet-less space really big enough for your child’s bedroom? Is one bathroom adequate and if not, what are the real costs and headaches of adding a second one? Does the kitchen have enough cupboard and countertop space? Is the garage wide enough and deep enough for your vehicles? Will your piano really fit in that alcove near the staircase?
  • Comfort – Does the house have a central heating system? A central air-conditioning system? Are those climate controls important to you? Are the windows large enough and positioned to create cross ventilation? If the house has two stories, are you comfortable with the idea of walking up and down stairs every day? Is there a downstairs bathroom (and bedroom, if needed) for guests who can’t navigate the stairs?
  • Style – Is the design and architecture of the house too modern or too traditional for your preferences in furniture and home furnishings?
  • Resale Potential – People move to a new home every seven years, on average. If you wanted to sell your home or were forced by unexpected circumstances to sell it, how easy would it be to find a ready, willing and able buyer?
  • Features – Some buyers fall in love with pricey home amenities that seem attractive and desirable at the time, but later prove to be more headache and less pleasure than the buyers anticipated. Do you really want a swimming pool? High-maintenance ornamental trees? Commercial-grade built-in kitchen appliances? Expensive hardwood floors? Some homes are easier to visit than they are to own.

Home Buying for Young People: Plan Ahead

If you are a member of Generation X, Y, or even Z then chances are you probably aren’t day-dreaming about the purchase of your first home. For many of you, this may be a step that is many years in the future. On the other hand, some of you may have already purchased your first home. The decision to purchase a home will quite possibly be one of the largest financial decisions of your lifetime; therefore, you should approach this decision with careful planning. It is never too early to start learning about the costs associated with buying a home and the responsibilities of home ownership. For example, a college student’s misuse of credit cards can prevent him/her from buying a home in the future.. For those of you who want to position yourselves for homeownership, here are 5 recommendations to consider.
  1. Establish good credit habits and a favorable credit history. Get a credit card and use it responsibly. Apply for an automobile loan and make your monthly payments on time. If you’re renting, put your name on the lease and the utility bills, and make sure that the bills are paid each month. If you are struggling from credit card debt or a considerable amount of student loan debt then consider discussing this matter with a financial advisor or a credit counseling service. Take a free workshop from Consumer Credit Counseling Service; call them toll-free at (800) 388-2227.
  2. Start saving for a downpayment and closing costs. It is possible in many areas of the country to purchase a home without much in the way of savings. In high-cost areas, however, starting to save early can be extremely beneficial. If you choose to start saving then you’ll get the advantage of compounding interest and have a longer period of time to grow your investments. Start by opening a savings account or a stock brokerage investment account and make regular deposits.
  3. Read some books. Books on financial management, planning, and even books on buying your first home can be very beneficial. Take notes while reading, either in the margin for easy access or on notecards and place them in the book for reference. Start creating a budget for yourself, and eventually work up to a financial plan that includes savings and investments for your future.
  4. Research where you’d like to live. Many young people assume that they will live in their hometown when they get older. Now, however, people are more mobile than ever, and chances are highly favorable that you’ll one day live in another city or even another state. Check the library, bookstore, or even the internet for information about housing costs and homeownership opportunities across the country.
  5. Tap into your real estate agent reserves. More than likely you know someone, a friend or a relative, who is a real estate agent or has experience in the real estate industry. These people can give you excellent information about housing costs in the area where you want to live and what it takes to buy a home. Questions to ask: Is housing affordable in this area? How much money would I need to save in order to buy a home? What advice would you give me about planning my financial future? Would you recommend some books that I might like to read about buying a home? Don’t be shy! If you have a question, ask someone in a position to know the answer.

Historically Low Mortgage Rates

Mortgages rates hit near record lows this week! A 30-year fixed mortgage saw a rate of 4.80%, a 15-year fixed mortgage saw a rate of 4.16%, and a 30-year FHA mortgage saw a rate of 4.78%, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. These are historically low rates, and it’s the perfect opportunity for you to get into that new home that you have been dreaming about. Call a REALTOR® or a mortgage lender today for more information. When opportunity knocks, open the door because the next door that you open could very well be the door to your new home!

Understand Your Credit

Thinking about buying a house, or even buying a car? Then think about your credit history because the people who lend money do! How well you have handled your credit obligations in the past is of utmost importance to lenders today. The good news is that this information, for the most part, is available to you.
Your credit history is maintained by three different private companies called credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You can order your report by phone from each agency, or you can order it online. You should obtain a copy of your report from all three agencies because if an error exists on even one of the reports then it could negatively affect your chances of getting a loan.
Your credit report basically lists all of the consumer credit that has been extended to you over the past seven years. It will show what your highest balance has been and what your current balance was on the date last reported by the creditor. It will also show how many payments you made on time and how many payments were late. Late payments are generally grouped into categories identifying how late the payments were. For example, if your credit card payment was over 30 days late one time, it might not be considered too serious. However, if payments were over 60 days late four times, over 120 days late two times, and over 180 days late one time then you have had a serious problem. Such a large problem will impact your ability to borrow money.
It just makes sense to check your credit report and correct any errors now. Regardless of how many credit problems that you have had in the past, there are two good points to remember:
  1. Negative credit information can be reported in your credit file for only seven years. After that, it drops out and cannot even be considered. The only exception is bankruptcy, which can be reported for 10 years. After that then you essentially start with a clean slate.
  2. Lenders are much more concerned about how you have handled your credit recently than with what happened several years ago. Even if you have had a bankruptcy, as long as you have kept your nose clean and paid your bills on time since then it is possible you could qualify for a loan after as little as two to three years.
Again, be sure to order your credit report from each of the three agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, Experian. You are allowed one “free” credit report per year without it penalizing you. Be the boss of your own credit…it can make or break you.

Mortgage Pre-Approval

Writing a contract on a home that you cannot afford, or simply viewing homes that are out of your price range, can be quite the nightmare. A great way to avoid this type of situation and to produce positive results is by seeking out mortgage pre-approval before the search begins. There are many reasons why consulting your mortgage lender can work out to your advantage.
  • Save time by knowing your purchase power
    • Realizing and understanding your purchase power will save you time and disappointment by zoning in on the properties you can actually afford.
  • Spend More Time Viewing The Right Homes
    • Decreasing the amount of available homes to view allows yourself time to devote to the things that each home has to offer in order to determine which one is a better fit for your lifestyle.
  • Gain Purchase Confidence and Avoid Anxiety
    • Mortgage pre-approval reduces anxiety by giving you the confidence of knowing when you view that perfect home that it is indeed within your purchasing power.
  • Negotiating Power
    • Mortgage pre-approval acts as a wonderful negotiating tool. Sellers are more likely to accept your offer when they understand that you are pre-approved prior to viewing their home.
As you can see, it is to your advantage as a purchaser to obtain a pre-approval letter before viewing homes with your real estate agent. It will, without a doubt, eliminate time, stress, and heartache for you during this process. Pre-approval could very well be the catalyst that puts you in the home of your dreams.
Notes taken from “Mortgage Loan Pre-Approval: Afterthought or Common Sense?” This article was written by lender Daniel Pate of Capstone Bank, and was published in the Capstone Chronicle.
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