Is Now a Good Time to Buy or Sell Real Estate?

Is Now a Good Time to Buy or Sell Real Estate

Traditionally, spring is one of the busiest times of the year for real estate. However, the coronavirus outbreak—and subsequent stay-at-home orders—led many buyers and sellers to put their moving plans on hold. In April, new listings fell nearly 45%, and sales volume fell 15% compared to last year.1

Fortunately, as restrictions have eased, we’ve seen an uptick in market activity. And economists at Realtor.com expect a rebound in July, August, and September, as fears about the pandemic subside, and buyers return to the market with pent-up demand from a lost spring season.2

But given safety concerns and the current economic climate, is it prudent to jump back into the real estate market?

Before you decide, it’s important to consider where the housing market is headed, how it could impact your timeline and ability to buy a home, and your own individual needs and circumstances.

WHAT’S AHEAD FOR THE HOUSING MARKET?

The economic aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak has been severe. We’ve seen record  unemployment numbers, and economists believe the country is headed toward a recession. But people still need a place to live. So what effect will these factors have on the housing market?

Home Values Projected to Remain Stable

Many Americans recall our last recession and assume we will see another drop in home values. But the 2008 real estate market crash was the cause—not the result—of that downturn. In fact, ATTOM Data Solutions analyzed real estate prices during the last five recessions and found that home prices actually went up in most cases. Only twice (in 1990 and 2008) did prices fall, and in 1990 it was by less than one percent.3

Many economists expect home values to remain relatively steady this time around. And so far, that’s been the case. As of mid-May, the median listing price in the U.S. was up 1.4% from the same period last year.4 

Demand for Homes Will Exceed Available Supply

There’s been a shortage of affordable homes on the market for years, and the pandemic has further hindered supply. In addition to sellers pulling back, new home starts fell 22% in March.5 In fact, Fannie Mae doesn’t foresee a return to pre-pandemic construction levels before the end of 2021.6

This supply shortage is expected to prop up home prices, despite recessionary pressures. Fannie Mae and the National Association of Realtors predict housing prices will rise slightly this year7, while Zillow expects them to fall between 2-3%.8 Still, that would be a far cry from the double-digit declines that occurred during the last recession.9 

Government Intervention Will Help Stabilize the Market 

Policymakers have been quick to pass legislation aimed at preventing a surge in foreclosures like we saw in 2008. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress gives government-backed mortgage holders who were impacted by the pandemic up to a year of reduced or delayed payments.10

The Federal Reserve has also taken measures to help stabilize the housing market, lower borrowing costs, and inject liquidity into the mortgage industry. These steps have led to record-low mortgage rates that should help drive buyer demand and make homeownership more affordable for millions of Americans.11

HOW HAS THE REAL ESTATE PROCESS CHANGED?

As the pandemic hit, real estate and mortgage professionals across the country revised their processes to adapt to shifting safety standards and economic realities. While these new ways of conducting business may seem strange at first, keep in mind, military clients, international buyers, and others have utilized many of these methods to buy and sell homes for years.

New Safety Procedures

The safety of our clients and our team members is our top priority. That’s why we’ve developed a process for buyers and sellers that utilizes technology to minimize personal contact.

For our listings, we’re holding online open houses, offering virtual viewings, and conducting walk-through video tours. We’re also using video chat to qualify interested buyers before we book in-person showings. This enables us to promote your property to a broad audience while limiting physical foot traffic to only serious buyers.

Likewise, our buyer clients can view properties online and take virtual video tours to minimize the number of homes they step inside. Ready to visit a property in person? We can decrease surface contact by asking the seller to turn on all the lights and open doors and cabinets before your scheduled showing.

The majority of our “paperwork” is also digital. In fact, many of the legal and financial documents involved in buying and selling a home went online years ago. You can safely view and eSign contracts from your smartphone or computer. 

Longer Timelines and Higher Mortgage Standards

The real estate process is taking a little longer these days. Both buyers and sellers are more cautious when it comes to viewing and showing homes. And with fewer house hunters and less available inventory, it can take more time to match a buyer with the right property.

In a recent survey, 67% of Realtors also reported delays in the closing process. The top reasons were financing and buyer job loss, but appraisals and home inspections are also taking more time due to shifting safety protocol.12

Securing a mortgage may take longer, too. With forbearance requests rising, lenders are getting increasingly conservative when it comes to issuing new loans. Many are raising their standards—requiring higher credit scores and larger down payments. Prepare for greater scrutiny, and build in some extra time to shop around.13 

IS IT THE RIGHT TIME FOR ME TO MAKE A MOVE?

The reality is, there’s no “one size fits all” answer as to whether it’s a good time to buy or sell a home because everyone’s circumstances are unique. But now that you know the state of the market and what you can expect as you shop for real estate, consider the following questions:

Why do you want or need to move?

It’s important to consider why you want to move and if your needs may shift over the next year. For example, if you need a larger home for your growing family, your space constraints aren’t likely to go away. In fact, they could be amplified as you spend more time at home.

However, if you’re planning a move to be closer to your office, consider whether your commute could change. Some companies are rethinking their office dynamics and may encourage their employees to work remotely on a permanent basis. 

How urgently do you need to complete your move? 

If you have a new baby on the way or want to be settled before schools open in the fall, we recommend that you begin aggressively searching as soon as possible. With fewer homes on the market and a lengthier closing process, it’s taking longer than usual for clients to find and purchase a home.

However, if your timeline is flexible, you may be well-positioned to score a deal. We’re seeing more highly-incentivized sellers who are willing to negotiate on terms and price. Talk to us about setting up a search so we can keep an eye out for any bargains that pop up. And get pre-qualified for a mortgage now so you’ll be ready to act quickly.

If you’re eager to sell this year, now is the time to begin prepping your home for the market. A second wave of infections is predicted for the winter, which could mean another lockdown.14 If you wait, you might miss your window of opportunity. 

How long do you plan to stay in your new home?

The U.S. real estate market has enjoyed steady appreciation since 2012, which made it fairly easy for owners and investors to buy and sell properties for a profit in a short period of time. However, with home values expected to remain relatively flat over the next year, your best bet is to buy a home you can envision yourself keeping for several years. Fortunately, at today’s rock-bottom mortgage rates, you can lock in a low interest rate and start building equity right away.

Can you meet today’s higher standards for securing a mortgage?

Mortgage lenders are tightening their standards in response to the growing number of mortgage forbearance requests. Many have raised their minimum credit score and downpayment requirements for applicants. Even if you’ve been pre-qualified in the past, you should contact your lender to find out if you meet their new, more stringent standards.

Is your income stable?

If there’s a good chance you could lose your job, you may be better off waiting to buy a home. The exception would be if you’re planning to downsize. Moving to a less expensive home could allow you to tap into your home equity or cut down on your monthly expenses.

WHEN YOU’RE READY TO MOVE
WE’RE READY TO HELP

While uncertain market conditions may give pause to some buyers and sellers, they can actually present an opportunity for those who are willing, able, and motivated to make a move.

Your average spring season would be flooded with real estate activity. But right now, only motivated players are out in the market. That means that if you’re looking to buy, you’re in a better position to negotiate a great price. And today’s record-low mortgage rates could give a big boost to your purchasing power. In fact, if you’ve been priced out of the market before, this may be the perfect time to look.

If you’re hoping to sell this year, you’ll have fewer listings to compete against in your neighborhood and price range. But you’ll want to act quickly. Economists expect a surge of eager buyers to enter the market in July—so you should start prepping your home now. And keep in mind, a second wave of coronavirus cases could be coming in this winter. Ask yourself how you will feel if you have to face another lockdown in your current home.

Let’s schedule a free virtual consultation to discuss your individual needs and circumstances. We can help you assess your options and create a plan that makes you feel both comfortable and confident during these unprecedented times. 

If you want to have a FREE Consultation click here and visit our home page to fill out our contact form. Or call/text anytime Jeff Ragan (mobile) 850.273.2520 Broker/Owner Friendly Real Estate Group LLC.

by Jeff Ragan 6/4/2020

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

  1. Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/sites/ellenparis/2020/05/08/latest-housing-market-update-from-realtorcom/#20bf7829113e
  2. HousingWire – https://www.housingwire.com/articles/realtor-com-housing-market-will-bounce-back-this-year-but-the-rebound-will-be-short-lived/
  3. Curbed – https://www.curbed.com/2019/1/10/18139601/recession-impact-housing-market-interest-rates
  4. com – https://www.realtor.com/research/weekly-housing-trends-view-data-week-may-9-2020/
  5. com – https://money.com/coronavirus-real-estate-home-prices/
  6. Fannie Mae – https://www.fanniemae.com/resources/file/research/emma/pdf/Housing_Forecast_051320.pdf
  7. HousingWire – https://www.housingwire.com/articles/pending-home-sales-tumble-on-covid-19-shock/
  8. HousingWire – https://www.housingwire.com/articles/zillow-predicts-small-home-price-drop-through-rest-of-2020/
  9. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis – https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CSUSHPINSA
  10. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – https://www.consumerfinance.gov/coronavirus/cares-act-mortgage-forbearance-what-you-need-know/
  11. Bankrate – https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/federal-reserve-and-mortgage-rates
  12. National Association of Realtors – https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2020-05-11-nar-flash-survey-economic-pulse-05-14-2020.pdf
  13. Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyyale/2020/04/17/buying-a-home-during-the-pandemic-dont-expect-your-everyday-home-purchase/#fadad3d33b0c
  14. Washington Post – https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/04/21/coronavirus-secondwave-cdcdirector/

 

5 Steps to Make Your Home the Best on the Block

5 Steps to Make Your Home the Best on the Block

Serious About Selling? 5 Steps to Make Your Home
the Best on the Block

We all want to be good neighbors. But when it comes to selling your home, it’s not just about “keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s about outshining them at every opportunity!

If you’re looking to sell your home fast and for the most money possible, you’ll need a strategy to set it apart from all the other listings competing for buyers in your area. That’s why we’ve outlined our proven, five-step plan for serious sellers.

Use these five tactics to help your listing get noticed, win over buyers, and net a higher sales price than your neighbors!

STEP 1: Stage Your Home to Show Its Full Potential

The average seller will do the minimum to prepare their home for market: clean and declutter, fix anything that’s broken, mow the lawn. And while those tasks are essential, today’s buyers want more than just a clean house and tidy yard. When they dream of buying a new home, they envision a designer house with modern finishes. Help them see your property’s full potential by staging it.

Home staging is one of the hottest trends in real estate—because it works! According to the Real Estate Staging Association, homes that are professionally staged spend 73% less time on the market.1

So what exactly is staging? In a broad sense, staging is the act of preparing your home for market. The goal is to highlight your home’s strengths, minimize any deficiencies, and help buyers envision themselves living in the space. When staging a home, you might rearrange the furniture to make a room feel larger or remove heavy curtains to make it appear brighter.

Some sellers choose to hire a professional home stager, who has specialized training and experience, to maximize the appeal of their home to the largest number of potential buyers. Others may opt to do it themselves, using guidance from their agent.

We can help you determine the appropriate budget and effort required to push your home ahead of the competition in your neighborhood. The good news is, an investment in staging pays off. A 2018 survey found that 85% of staged homes sold for 6-25% more than their unstaged neighbors homes.2

STEP 2: Draw Buyers in with High-Quality Listing Photos

You only have one chance to make a first impression with potential buyers. And many buyers will view photos of a listing before they decide whether or not to visit it in person. In fact, 87% of buyers find photos “very useful” in their home search.3 Poor-quality or amateur-looking listing photos could keep buyers from ever stepping through your door.

Since good photography plays such an important role in getting your property noticed, we only work with the top local professionals to photograph our listings. But we don’t just rely on their photography skills when it comes to showcasing your home.

We go the extra mile to ensure your listing photos showcase the true essence of your home. We’re always on site during the photo shoot to help the photographer capture the best angles and lighting, and to let them know about unique or compelling selling features that they should photograph. The extra effort pays off in the end. In fact, listings with high-quality photography sell 32% faster than the competition … and often for more money!4

STEP 3: Price It Properly From the Start

Even in a strong real estate market, there are homes that will sit unsold for months on end. This can be the “kiss of death” in real estate, as buyers tend to imagine that there must be something wrong with the property, even if it’s not the case.

But why are those houses still on the market in the first place? It’s because they are often priced too high.

Every buyer has a budget. And most will be viewing listings within a particular price range. If your property is overpriced, it can’t properly compete with the other houses they’re viewing that are priced correctly. Which means it’ll sit on the market until you’re eventually forced to drop the price.

Alternatively, if you price your home aggressively, it can be among the nicest homes that buyers have seen within their budget. This can lead to emotionally-attached buyers, who are often willing to pay a premium or settle for fewer seller concessions. And in certain markets, it can lead to a multiple-offer situation, or bidding war. The end result? More money in your pocket.

We can help you determine the ideal listing price for your home in the current market. Pricing it properly in the beginning is the best way to ensure a fast and profitable sale.

STEP 4: Put on a Good Show at Each Showing

Once buyers are interested enough to schedule a visit, it’s crucial that you put on a good show at each showing.

The first step is to make your home readily available—and often on short notice—for buyers to see it. A missed showing is a missed opportunity to sell your home. If you set too many restrictions on when it’s available to view, busy buyers will simply skip over your listing and move on to the next one.

Part of making your home available means keeping it relatively show-ready as long as it’s on the market. Most of us don’t live picture-perfect lives, and our homes reflect the day-to-day reality of our busy (and sometimes messy) families. But a little extra effort spent keeping your home clean, fresh-smelling, and ready for buyers will help it sell faster … which means you can get back to your regular routine as quickly as possible!

STEP 5: Use a Proven Promotion Plan

Most agents are still marketing their listings like they did 20 years ago  … put a sign in the yard, put the listing in the MLS, and pray that it sells. Yet, we know that 93% of buyers search for real estate listings online.3

That’s why we invest in the latest training and technology—to ensure your listing appears in the places where buyers are most likely to look. Our dual-level promotion strategy includes both pre-launch activities designed to seed the marketplace and post-listing activities to ensure your home stays top-of-mind with potential buyers.

By utilizing online and social marketing platforms to connect with consumers and offline channels to connect with local real estate agents, your property gets maximum exposure to prospective buyers.


LET’S GET MOVING

Are you thinking about listing your home? Get a head start on your competition! Contact us for a copy of our Home Seller’s Guide, which offers a complete guide to the home selling process. Or call us to schedule a free no-commitment consultation. We’d love to put together a custom plan to maximize the sales potential of your property!

Sources:

  1. Real Estate Staging Association – https://www.realestatestagingassociation.com/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=304550&module_id=164548
  2. Home Staging Resources –
    https://www.homestagingresources.com/2018-home-staging-statistics/
  3. National Association of Realtors –
    https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2018-real-estate-in-a-digital-world-12-12-2018.pdf
  4. RIS Media –
    https://rismedia.com/2018/12/12/shocking-stats-importance-photography-real-estate/

The Secret To Marketing Your FSBO Home For Sale

The Secret To Marketing Your FSBO Home For SaleYou’re ready to put your home or land (house, townhouse, condo, apartment, farm, ranch, finished lot, raw land, etc.) on the market as a FSBO (for sale by owner). You’ve priced your property appropriately and gotten it ready to show. How are you going to market it so that it gets exposure to enough potential buyers to actually sell?

Signs

In some parts of the county, the real estate market is so hot that you need do little more than buy a “for sale by owner” sign at the nearest hardware store. Simply put it in a prominent position on the front of your house and stand back.

In other areas, a great deal more marketing is needed, but a “for sale by owner” sign is a good place to start. Directional signs (“home for sale” with an arrow) at intersections leading the way to your property are useful, too, if your location lends itself to that.

Classified Ads

A classified ad in your local newspaper is a good idea and is generally not expensive. A short ad repeated a number of times is apt to be more effective than a long ad run once, or only a few, times.

Bulletin Boards/Posters

Are there bulletin boards where you work? In neighborhood shops and restaurants? At your church? Any place you, or members of your family, frequent that has something like a bulletin board is a good place to post notices of your property’s availability. If you have the use of a digital camera and a computer, you might want to do a one-page poster with several photos of your house, a description and contact information. Consider having tear-off strips at the bottom with your phone number repeated on each strip.

Magazines & Community Publications

You may want to check the cost of putting an ad in “For Sale By Owner” type magazines. Most communities have such magazines and you don’t have to be a realtor to buy an ad.

Brochures

Brochures or one-page flyers can also be a useful method for marketing your home. You can use the same one you made for bulletin boards or you can expand on it a bit. Use more photos, have captions under them identifying the rooms, garden areas, tennis court, community club, pool and other benefits to buying your home.

There are several things you can do to get your brochures in front of the public. You can buy a brochure holder (typically, a plastic box with a hinged lid on a stick which gets “planted” in the ground near the curb in front of your home) from the hardware store. Plant it in a prominent place in front of your home and keep it stocked with brochures.

Don’t get annoyed when “noisy neighbors” pick up your brochures. Your neighbors can afford homes priced similarly to yours. They probably have family and friends whom they’d enjoy as neighbors who can afford this price range, too. Smile when you see a neighbor picking up a brochure; another marketing ambassador is on its way.

Also keep a supply of brochures in your home to give to prospective buyers who come to look at it. People looking for a new home usually look at a more than one property, and can get overwhelmed with too many properties. “Is this the one with the built-in book cases or was it the one across town?” The house whose best features go with them via a brochure with color photos and salient information is memorable. Buyers tend to write contract offers on properties they remember and can visualize.

Consider taking your brochures to your peers at work. After all, you find it convenient to live in your home and work there; might your associates know someone who’d find it a similarly pleasant arrangement? Ask them.

Internet

There are several Internet sites on which FSBOs may list their properties for sale. Some of these permit sellers to include photos, information about “Open Houses” they’re holding, etc. Prices for this service varies. Try fsboamerica.org or go to your favorite search engine and check out a few.

Open Houses

That brings up the notion of “Open Houses.” In many areas, sales frequently take place because of an Open House attended by potential buyers. If you are in a location with good traffic, an open house can be an excellent tool. You can promote your Open House in any, or all, of the venues we’ve discussed above. It’s also often effective to install an Open House sign with helium balloons tied on with bright ribbons on the day of the Open House.

Whether you use a realtor or sell your home on your own, marketing it is going to be the key to getting a quick sale. It takes some time and access to a few tools, but most sellers can put together a successful marketing program.

We hope you find this information helpful, if you would like to use professional services, I would be happy to help you. Call Jeff Ragan Owner/Broker at Friendly Real Estate Group, 850-273-2520 for a FREE home analysis. Or simply fill out our contact form below.

Real Estate 2018: What To Expect

Real Estate 2018: What To Expect

As we head into a new year, the most common question we receive is, “What’s the outlook for real estate in 2018?”

It’s not just potential buyers and sellers who are curious; homeowners also want reassurance their home’s value is going up. The good news is that a strong U.S. economy, coupled with low unemployment rates, is expected to drive continued real estate growth in 2018. However, changes on the horizon could significantly impact you if you plan to buy, sell or refinance this year.

Home Values Will Continue To Rise

Get ready for another strong year! U.S. home values and sales volume will continue to rise in 2018.

Experts agree that home prices will increase this year, but predict a slower rate of appreciation than 2017, which clocked in at nearly 7 percent nationwide. National Association of Realtors (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun predicts a growth rate this year of 5.5 percent, while Freddie Mac’s September Outlook Report forecasts a rate of 4.9 percent. Either way, all indicators point towards continued growth in 2018.

What does it mean for you? If you’re a current homeowner, real estate proves once again to be a solid investment over the long term. If you’re in the market to buy this year, don’t wait any longer. Prices will continue to go up, so you’ll pay more six months from now than you would today.

New Construction Will Make Real Estate More Accessible

Lack of inventory in the housing market has been a primary impediment to homeownership for many Americans. “Ten years ago, the problem in the housing market was lack of buyers,” says Yun. “Today, the problem is lack of sellers. Inventory levels are near historic lows.” And this lack of inventory has pushed prices up beyond levels affordable for many first-time buyers.

The good news? Yun expects a 9.4 percentage point increase in single-family new home construction starts.

Economists predict that builders will focus more on entry-level homes this year, due to increasingly high demand. Robert Dietz, of the National Association of Home Builders, agrees. “The markets that are going to grow are ones where builders can add that entry level product.”

The new entry-level construction will come with a catch though … it will be located in the suburbs, where the availability of land and fewer zoning requirements make it more cost-effective to build. Economists predict that’s where millennials and first-time buyers will flock for the greater variety of homes at affordable prices. In fact, the National Association of Realtors’ 2017 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends found that 57 percent of millennial buyers opted for a suburban location.

Interest Rates Will Rise

No one knows exactly what will happen with mortgage rates this year, but the Mortgage Bankers Association anticipates the Federal Reserve will raise rates three times in 2018, with Freddie Mac’s 30-year fixed rate mortgage reaching 4.8 percent by the end of Q4, up from around 4 percent at the end of 2017.

Kiplinger.com Economist David Payne also predicts interests rates will rise this year, with short-term rates outpacing long-term rates as the Fed aims to curb inflation in a tightening job market. He predicts the bank prime rate that home equity loans are based on will increase from 4.25 percent to 5 percent by the end of 2018.

What does it mean for you? If you’re in the market to buy, act now before interest rates go up! And if you’re a current homeowner who is considering refinancing or a home equity loan, don’t wait.

Is It Better to Buy a New or Existing Home?

Is It Better to Buy a New or Existing Home

The complete guide to choosing between new and lived-in homes

Maybe your dream home is older, with intricate details like wainscoting, crown molding, and a front porch with a swing. Or maybe it’s modern, with an open floor living room plan, connected, “smart” appliances, and minimalist design. Whether you decide to buy new construction or an existing home will depend on which factors are most important for your lifestyle.

What you need to do to make a smart new home purchase

Before you put in your offer, do some research on the builder. Do they have a good reputation? Have their other construction projects finished on time? Because there are so many construction tasks that are dependent on the completion of prior tasks, schedules tend to slip, so you may need to be flexible with your move-in date.

Another consideration is that brand new communities usually attract similar types of buyers—urban professionals, couples, or young families, for example. These will be your neighbors, so you’ll want to make sure that you want to be part of this type of homogeneous community.

Get more variety with an existing home

There are many more resale homes available than there are new homes — according to the National Association of Homebuilders, about 10 times as many. Since the market for resales can be more competitive, there may be room for price negotiation. Another benefit is that, since there are so many existing homes, you will find more variety in home styles. Within one neighborhood, there could be a mix of different styles like Victorian, modern Tudor cottages, tract style, ranch or split-ranch, or contemporary homes. More variety means you will have more flexibility to choose a home that fits your unique aesthetic.

Existing homes are in established neighborhoods, which may have more amenities like restaurants, cafes, and boutiques within walking distance. They also may have more greenery and features such as parks, running paths, or playgrounds for the kids to enjoy.

Finally, because existing homes have already been inspected at least once, you’ll know about any potential structural problems or repairs that have been made on the home. You’re less likely to end up with a property that has hidden issues like a rotting roof or crumbling foundation.

What you need to do to make a good resale purchase

Protect your purchase by first having the home inspected. If the inspector finds problems like foundation cracks or leaky roofs, you may be able to counter offer and get the seller to either fix it or reduce the selling price.

Even if there are no major issues, you should still try to expect the unexpected. Older homes will eventually need replacement appliances, a new air conditioning unit, or plumbing repairs, for example.

With an older home, you may want to eventually remodel parts of it. Will you be happy living in your house while you’re doing major work on the living room or the kitchen? If you know that it would disrupt your lifestyle too much, you may want to reconsider whether you really want to buy an older property.

7 Great Tips to Improve Your Credit Score

7 Great Tips to Improve Your Credit Score(1) Watch those credit card balances

One major factor in your credit score is how much revolving credit you have versus how much you’re actually using. The smaller that percentage is, the better it is for your credit rating.

The optimum: 30 percent or lower.

To boost your score, pay down your balances, and keep those balances low.

If you have multiple credit card balances, consolidating them with a personal loan could help your score.

What you might not know: Even if you pay balances in full every month, you still could have a higher utilization ratio than you’d expect. That’s because some issuers use the balance on your statement as the one reported to the bureau. Even if you’re paying balances in full every month, your credit score will still weigh your monthly balances.

One strategy: See if the credit card issuer will accept multiple payments throughout the month.

(2)  Eliminate credit card balances

“A good way to improve your credit score is to eliminate nuisance balances. Those are the small balances you have on a number of credit cards.

The reason this strategy can boost your score: One of the items your score considers is just how many of your cards have balances. That’s why charging $50 on one card and $30 on another instead of using the same card (preferably one with a good interest rate), can hurt your credit score.

The solution to improve your credit score is to gather up all those credit cards on which you have small balances and pay them off. Then select one or two go-to cards that you can use for everything.

That way, you’re not polluting your credit report with a lot of balances.

If you can’t afford to pay these small balances off at once, moving them to a balance transfer credit card might help.

(3) Leave old debt on your report

Some people erroneously believe that old debt on their credit report is bad,

The minute they get their home or car paid off, they’re on the phone trying to get it removed from their credit report.

Negative items are bad for your credit score, and most of them will disappear from your report after seven years. However, arguing to get old accounts off your credit report just because they’re paid is a bad idea.

Good debt — debt that you’ve handled well and paid as agreed — is good for your credit. The longer your history of good debt is, the better it is for your score.

One of the ways to improve your credit score: Leave old debt and good accounts on as long as possible. This is also a good reason not to close old accounts where you’ve had a solid repayment record.

Trying to get rid of old good debt “is like making straight A’s in high school and trying to expunge the record 20 years later,” “You never want that stuff to come off your history.”

(4) Use your calendar

If you’re shopping for a home, car or student loan, it pays to do your rate shopping within a short time period.

Every time you apply for credit, it can cause a small dip in your credit score that lasts a year. That’s because if someone is making multiple applications for credit, it usually means he or she wants to use more credit.

However, with three kinds of loans — mortgage, auto and more recently, student loans — scoring formulas allow for the fact that you’ll make multiple applications but take out only one loan.

The FICO score, a credit score commonly used by lenders, ignores any such inquiries made in the 30 days prior to scoring. If it finds some that are older than 30 days, it will count those made within a typical shopping period as just one inquiry.

The length of that shopping period depends on the credit score used.

If lenders are using the newest forms of scoring software, then you have 45 days. With older forms, you need to keep it to 14 days.

Older forms of the software won’t count multiple student loan inquiries as one, no matter how close together you make applications.

The takeaway is, don’t dillydally.

(5) Pay bills on time

If you’re planning a major purchase (like a home or a car), you might be scrambling to assemble one big chunk of cash.

While you’re juggling bills, you don’t want to start paying bills late. Even if you’re sitting on a pile of savings, a drop in your score could scuttle that dream deal.

One of the biggest ingredients in a good credit score is simply month after month of plain-vanilla, on-time payments.

Credit scores are determined by what’s in your credit report, If you’re bad about paying your bills — or paying them on time — it damages your credit and hurts your credit score.

That can even extend to items that aren’t normally associated with credit reporting, such as library books. That’s because even if the original “creditor,” such as the library, doesn’t report to the bureaus, they may eventually call in a collections agency for an unpaid bill. That agency could very well list the item on your credit report.

Putting cash into a for a major purchase is smart. Just don’t slight the regular bills to do it.

(6) Don’t hint at risk

Sometimes, one of the best ways to improve your credit score is to not do something that could sink it.

Two of the biggies are missing payments and suddenly paying less (or charging more) than you normally do.

Other changes that could scare your card issuer (but not necessarily hurt your credit score): taking cash advances or even using your cards at businesses that could indicate current or future money stress, such as a pawnshop or a divorce attorney.

You just don’t want to do anything that would indicate risk.

(7) Don’t obsess

You should be laser-focused on your credit score when you know you’ll soon need credit. In the interim, pay your bills and use credit responsibly. Your score will reflect these smart spending behaviors.

Are you getting ready to make a big purchase, such as a home or car? At least a few months in advance, have a look at your credit score.

While the score that you get through your bank or a service may not be the exact same one your lender uses, it will grade you on many of the same criteria and give you a good indication of how well you’re managing your credit. It will provide you with specific ways to improve your credit score — in the form of several codes or factors that kept your score from being higher.

If you are denied credit (or don’t qualify for the lender’s best rate), the lender has to show you the credit score it used, thanks to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Another smart move is to regularly check your credit reports.

You’re entitled to one of each of your three credit bureau reports (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) for free every 12 months through AnnualCreditReport.com.

It’s smart to stagger them. Send for one every four months, and you can monitor your credit for free.

Four Mistakes Home Buyers Make

Buying a home is part of the American dream – and for millions of Americans, that dream becomes a reality every year.  Unfortunately, for every dream that comes true there are those that silently fade out.  Home buyers, especially those buying their first house, can make a lot of mistakes in the process if they aren’t careful or don’t have a good resource (such as a knowledgeable friend) to go to for advice.

We all would like to think the realtor is going to steer us straight, or that our mortgage company would warn us if something doesn’t seems right – but the fact of the matter is they are both there to make money off you and so they usually don’t have a vested interest in steering you clear of anything.  With that said, let’s take a look at four of the most common mistakes home buyers make.

First, they buy a home they simply cannot afford or do not need.  Have you heard the term McMansions being used?  It refers to all the huge houses that seem to pop up everywhere nowadays.  Just how many square feet does a family need?  All too often new homeowners, and even seasoned veterans, can fall into the trap of buying way more house than they will ever need.  Most real estate agents want to push the most expensive property they can on you because, guess what, they earn a commission based on how much you spend!  Our advice?  Go home shopping with some of the smartest people out there – your parents!  They have been through this before and can be a great source of information that is coming from a (hopefully) unbiased source.

Second, home buyers fail to lock in their interest rates when buying a home.  Interest rates change on an almost daily basis it seems.  Some home buyers like to “test the waters” and see how long they can go before locking in a rate – it works sometimes, but it can bite you if the interest rates suddenly jump.  Shop around for the best deal on a mortgage, and when you find one you want ask them to pre-lock the interest rate in.  They can usually do this for a period of 15-30 days – which doesn’t give you much time, but hopefully you will already know which house you want to pursue and can start the paperwork soon afterwards.

Third, a lot of new home buyers don’t understand the complicated mortgage process and all the terms and rules of the loan.  You are getting ready to sign off on one the biggest purchases you will probably ever make – do you realize what you are signing?  Have an attorney, or family friend who is into real estate, go over the mortgage paperwork with you.  Ask lots of questions of your mortgage lender about the loan.  Don’t be afraid to shop around and check different lenders out to see who can give you the best deal.

Most importantly, realize that you are signing a long-term commitment with serious financial complications if you don’t hold up your end of the bargain!

Finally, many homeowners both old and new don’t truly understand all the insurance options available to them.

How many of you reading this believe that your house is covered if a torrential rainfall hits and you get flooded?  Unless you’ve purchased Federal flood insurance then you are out of luck – our homeowners insurance doesn’t cover floods!  You shopped around for a mortgage, but did you shop around for homeowners insurance?

Do you understand your policy limits and deductible?  Are you covered for a place to stay if a fire strikes your house?  All these questions should be asked of your insurance agent before you buy a house.  Make sure that you are covered for the unknown before you set foot in your new house.

Buying a new home can be a fun, exhilarating process.  Nothing in the world can quite beat the feeling of owning your own home.  Take a few minutes to understand the responsibilities of owning a home and you will be better prepared to have your own piece of the American dream.

10 Ideas For a Quicker and Easier Sale When Selling Your House

Here’s 10 ideas of what to do to maximize your chances of a quick sale when selling your house.

1. NO CLUTTER. Throw out old newspapers and magazines. Pack away most of your small items like figurines and other trinkets. Store clothing that won’t be used in the near future to make closets seem roomier. Clean out the garage. Buyers like to visualize their possessions in the house and that is hard to do when the home is full of clutter.

2. Wash your windows and screens. This lets more light into the interior and dirty windows are a turn off.

3. Keep everything extra clean. Wash fingerprints and dirt from light switch plates. Clean the floors, stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer. A clean house makes a better first impression and tells buyers that the home has been well cared for.

4. Put brighter bulbs in light sockets to make rooms appear brighter, especially dark rooms. Replace any burnt-out bulbs. Turn all lights on before buyers come to view the home.

5. Make all minor repairs that you can find. Everything you don’t repair now will be revealed in the home inspection and can create a bad impression. Small problems such as sticky doors, torn screens, cracked caulking, cracked receptacle covers or a dripping faucet may seem trivial, but they’ll give buyers the impression that the house isn’t well maintained.

6. Shoot for good curb appeal. Cut the grass, rake any leaves, trim the bushes, and edge the walks. Put a couple of bright potted flowers near the entryway to cheer things up and get the buyers attention.

7. Patch holes in your driveway and reapply sealant, if applicable.

8. Clean dirty gutters.

9. Polish or replace your front doorknob and door numbers.

10. Get rid of smells. Clean carpeting and drapes to eliminate cooking odors, smoke, and pet smells. If carpets are old and need replacing, it is worth while to replace them. The additional price you receive for your house will most likely outweigh the expense. Open the windows. The number one turn off to a potential buyer is an unpleasant odor.

For more helpful information including seller and buyer tips, please call Jeff Ragan Broker/Owner for additional personal coaching to sell your home fast and for more money.

7 Tips for Establishing Credit

7 Tips for Establishing CreditAccording to Experian, a credit score is a number lenders use to help them decide: “If I give this person a loan or credit card, how likely is it I will get paid back on time?” The information from your credit reports is used to create your credit score.

Before getting a line of credit, get your free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs): Experian, Equifax, TransUnion. Under federal law, you are entitled to one every year. Order online at www.annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228. Check to make sure someone else’s information isn’t mixed into your report. If so, contact the CRA immediately and have them delete it.

Then, follow these tips to help you establish credit and build your credit score:

  1. Establish checking and savings accounts and maintain them responsibly.
  2. Piggyback on someone else’s good credit by being added to a credit card as an “authorized” (joint) user.
  3. Get someone to co-sign a loan for you (e.g., financing a car, or other secured loan) and make your payments on time.
  4. Apply for student loans and make your payments on time.
  5. Apply for a credit card or a secured card. But, make sure the issuer reports to all three CRAs. Otherwise, the card won’t help you build your credit.
  6. Apply for one gas card and one department store card to add to your credit mix.
  7. Use your credit cards regularly, but wisely. Make all payments on time because the two most important factors in your score are whether you pay your bills on time and how much of you available credit you actually use.

Establishing and maintaining good credit will make buying a home a lot easier for you. You’d be able to get a good fixed rate loan instead of having to settle for a variable rate sub prime loan. It will also help for times you may need a home equity line of credit for home improvements or a home equity loan for debt consolidation, including paying off student loans.