Tips to Make House-Hunting Easier

Knowing how much house you can afford is just a starting point in your search for a new home. By answering the following questions, you can narrow down what features are most important to you:

•    How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need?
•    Do you want a new home or would you prefer an older one?
•    Are there special features you must have?
•    Is the school district a factor for you?
•    Do you want to be close to a shopping center?
•    Is commuting to work an issue? If so, how far are you willing to drive?
•    Will you accept any style of home? What about colors?
•    Do you want a fireplace, pool and/or air conditioning?

Searching for a new home can be overwhelming.
Here are a few tips to make it a bit easier!


•    Take a notepad and map with you. Save each home’s fact sheet.
•    Limit the homes you look at in one session to three, so you can focus on the details.
•    Take a picture of the homes that appeal to you, so you can remember their features.
•    Make sketches of floor plans to help you compare the homes you like.
•    Ask questions about any problems in the home before you make an offer.


I hope these tips help you find the home of your dreams!

I look forward to assisting you with financing, and please keep me in mind if you know anyone who could benefit from my services.

Common Mistakes to Avoid During the Loan Process

Here are some common mistakes to avoid during the home buying process to make sure your transaction goes smoothly!

•    Don’t Make an Expensive Purchase
It’s best to avoid making major purchases like furniture, cars, appliances, electronic equipment, jewelry, or vacations until after the closing. Financing large purchases with a credit card could bring your credit score down. Using cash to purchase high-ticket items can also create a problem, because many banks take your cash reserves into consideration when approving your mortgage.

•    Don’t Get a New Job
Lenders like to see a consistent job history. Generally, changing jobs will not affect your ability to qualify for a mortgage loan if you’ll be making more money. But, lenders usually look for stability. Changing jobs during the loan approval process could raise some concern and affect your ability to gain loan approval.

•    Don’t Switch Banks or Move Money Around
As your lender reviews your loan package, you will be asked to provide bank statements for the last two or three months on your checking accounts, savings accounts, money market funds and other liquid assets. To eliminate potential fraud, most loans require a thorough paper trail to document the source of all funds. Changing banks or transferring money to another account could make it difficult for the lender to document your funds.

•    Don’t Disregard Your Lender’s Requirements
Even if you have been pre-approved for the loan, your lender will still need copies of your bank statements, W2s and other paperwork. It is up to you to provide all necessary documentation as soon as possible. Failure to submit certain qualifying documents could cause you to lose your loan and the financing you need to buy your home.

I hope these tips are helpful. Please feel free to give me a call if there’s anything I can do for you.

Kitchen Remodel? Keep These Tips in Mind!

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Kitchen remodels historically provide a significant return on investment, but you shouldn’t lose sight of functionality as you create your new design. Make sure your kitchen works for you by answering the following questions before you invest in the project:

•    Are you gourmet? If you spend a lot of time in your kitchen preparing gourmet meals, plan for plenty of counter and storage space, as well as extra electrical outlets.

•    Is defrosting your style? If you don’t have the time or inclination to cook elaborate meals on a regular basis, you’ll need plenty of pantry space to store the packaged foods needed to whip up quick meals. You need less surface area, but you’ll definitely want enough space for a microwave oven.

•    Is your family still at home? Family and friends are more apt to congregate around open kitchens. And, they’re more likely to help if the kitchen has a counter separation from the dining area. If your kids have moved out, you may need less space for socializing.

•    How big will it be? If your new kitchen will be much larger, you may want to include an eating space. If so, use a counter to separate the dining area from the kitchen so you still have an open, inviting atmosphere, along with separate work and eating areas.

Don’t fall prey to a designer’s vision that doesn’t match your own. You have to live with your new kitchen, so make sure it’s exactly what you want.
If you seek financing for a remodel or a new home purchase, or you know someone who does, please allow me to put my expertise to work for you. Call today to set up a consultation so we can discuss the possibilities.

Get Pre-approved, Not Just Pre-qualified

As your trusted mortgage advisor, my team and I provide you with more than just a loan. It’s part of our continuing service to offer tips that may help when you’re looking to purchase a new home or refinance your home loan.Get Pre-approved, Not Just Pre-qualified

If you’re considering buying a home, then you may already have an idea of how much house you can afford, based on your monthly income.

Why not take the next step and get pre-qualified and pre-approved for a home mortgage loan? Not only will you know your housing budget to the dollar before you start looking for a home, you’ll also have more negotiating leverage because the seller knows you’ve already got a loan virtually in your pocket.

 

Pre-qualification

Pre-qualification acts as a dry run of the loan application process. The mortgage lender will use details you provide regarding your credit, income, assets and debts to arrive at an estimate of how much mortgage you can afford. The whole process can take minutes or a few hours, and is usually free.

A “pre-qual” serves as a great indication to potential sellers of your general creditworthiness.

 

Pre-approval

A pre-approval takes a pre-qualification one step further. The lender will contact your employer, bank, and others to verify your income, assets, debts, and credit history. A letter will be issued stating that your mortgage is approved for a certain amount within a certain timeframe. You may be charged a small fee to cover the cost of your credit reports and your application, which is often refunded at closing.

Gain the Buying Edge

The advantages of pre-qualification and pre-approval are twofold: you’re more attractive to sellers, who needn’t worry that they’ll accept your offer only to have your loan turned down, and you’ll save time when you find a home because the lender will have already completed the necessary qualifying and underwriting steps.

How to Control Debt

To manage your debt more efficiently, make a plan to pay off non-tax deductible and high interest loans as quickly as possible.

In particular, watch out for:

•    Credit Cards:  If you use your credit cards as a loan, you could be paying very high interest rates. This quickly becomes a financial burden. If you only make the minimum monthly payment required, you eventually end up owing much more. Try to pay off the credit cards with the highest interest rates first. And, don’t be afraid to call your credit card company and simply ask for a lower rate!

•    Interest-Free Loans:  These loans look tempting when you don’t have cash to spare. But, they can turn around and bite you after the “interest-free” period expires. You may have to pay interest backdated to the day you purchased. Check the terms and conditions on these types of offers very carefully.

A Few Tips on Principal Balance

 

My clients often ask me if it’s a smart idea to make additional payments toward the principal balance on a mortgage. The truth is, every person has different short- and long-term goals, and it’s a very personal decision.

Owning a home outright can be a huge financial advantage that offers guaranteed security. And, you can save thousands of dollars in interest fees by paying your loan off early. But, you’ll want to make sure you will not be adversely affected by prepayment penalties.

Some people prefer to use the extra money to create an investment portfolio. Or, you can consider paying off credit card debt, building an emergency fund, or setting money aside for your children’s college education.

What’s the best solution for you? A qualified financial planner can help you weigh out these options and make recommendations as to what choices make the most sense for you and your family.

If you’re interested, I can introduce you to a great financial planner that I trust. Please give me a call if there’s anything I can do for you!

2 Dozen Moving Mistakes to Avoid

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As a trusted mortgage advisor, we work provide you with more than just a loan. As a part of our continuing service to you, we would like to offer these helpful tips when looking to purchase a new house.

Two Dozen Moving Mistakes You Can Avoid

By Dana Dratch – Bankrate.com

You’ve heard all the horror stories about moving: scam movers who hijack your possessions in return for some ridiculously high ransom; untrained crews who show up late and proceed to trash your prized possessions; or moving company reps that are polite and solicitous until you have a problem, and then ignore your calls.

With a little planning you can eliminate, or at least reduce, your own moving horror stories.

Here’s a list of 24 moving mistakes to avoid.

1.      Not investigating the new town before you move. “The most disastrous problems arise if you move someplace you haven’t researched first and find out it’s a [bad] fit for your family,” says Shari Steiner, co-author of “Steiner’s Complete How to Move Handbook.”

So if you’re faced with the perfect career opportunity without a lot of notice, look for solutions that give you time to look before you leap, says Steiner. “Go get started on the job for a few months ahead of time before you burn your bridges,” she says, “you can do it in stages, you can do it rationally.”

2.      Not properly timing your move. Want a cheaper, easier move? Avoid (in this order) moving during the summer, the very end or beginning of the month (when people like to start a new lease), and the exact middle of the month, says Mike Shaffer, Chairman of the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA). Instead, look for dates around the seventh or twenty-first.

3.      Calling the mover at the last minute. If you start early, you can eliminate stress and might be able to save some money. So how early do you need to call? A lot depends on the time of the year and even the time of the month you’re moving. During crunch periods, allow more time. The ideal planning period is one to two months. But some movers are happy just to have two weeks’ notice.

4.      Interviewing one mover. Just like any other professional service, get estimates from at least three services before you make your choice. The same goes for renting a truck if you’re moving yourself.

5.      Accepting the price you’re quoted. Instead, bargain. You don’t have to accept the first price you’re offered, says Shaffer, also the chairman and CEO of Atlas World Group Inc. “And if you’re moving during an off-peak time, you’ll have more bargaining power.”

6.      Automatically hiring the lowest estimate. Less-than-reputable companies have been known to low-ball the estimate to get your business, and then pad the bill on the back end. Or, the low bill could be a sign that you might not be getting a professional crew, or that the company will subcontract your job to another firm. “If the estimate is substantially lower or is calculated by anything other than weight, that should be a red flag,” says David Sparkman, Vice President of Communication for AMSA.

7.      Not requiring a written estimate. You want to know, in writing, what the company believes the move will cost. You also want to know, in writing, what that estimate means to that company. Can they raise your bill on delivery? Does the contract allow them to bill you for more later? Or once you pay them on delivery are you done?

8.      “Forgetting” to tell the company about the stairs in your new home or that oak furniture hiding in the attic. If the estimate is based on a move without stairs and your new home is two flights up, the company will add that to the cost. Give an honest assessment of the job and you’re more likely to get a realistic estimate.

9.      Refusing extra coverage for loss and breakage. For an interstate move, the default compensation rate for breakage is 60 cents per pound. That means that 60-pound TV that cost $350 is worth about $36. “And a typical homeowner’s policy won’t cover broken items,” says Jeanne Salvatore, Vice President of Consumer Affairs for the Insurance Information Institute.

You have these options, according to the AMSA:

·     Full Value Protection: If your item is lost or broken, the moving company can choose to pay you what it would cost for a new item, replace the article with something similar or pay you the repair cost. Prices for this extra coverage will vary.

·     Released Value Protection: This is what you get if you don’t pay for additional coverage.   If something is lost or broken, the moving company gives you 60 cents per pound.

·     Some companies will also offer true insurance, provided by a third-party insurance carrier, to cover loss or breakage during the move. Again, prices will vary, and if you have a claim, you’ll deal with the insurance company, not the moving company.

10.  Not asking how the company wants to be paid or when. Payment is due when your goods are delivered. And some companies don’t take personal checks for a long-distance move. “Be skeptical” of firms that require a hefty deposit or deal only in cash or other forms of “off the books” payments, says Jason D. Rhodes, President of, MovingDirect.net, an online service that helps consumers find professional movers.

11.   Believing that all moves are the same. There are some federal protections governing state-to-state moves that don’t apply to in-state moves. In some states where stringent rules aren’t enforced, fraud is rampant.
The solution for in-state moves: Look for a well-known, established mover who also does out-of-state moves. Even though interstate rules don’t apply, at least you know you’re dealing with a professional.

12.  Taking a moving company at face value. While the moving pro you met is probably telling the truth, you have to be weary of bad apples. Verify what they tell you and check references.

13.  Assuming that one office of a national company is the same as another. Just like fast food chains, some locations are better than others. During your move, most of your contact will be with the local office. So evaluate that branch on its own merit.

14.  Using an online estimate to hire a mover. “These days, a lot of scamsters use beautiful internet sites to give the look of legitimacy,” says Rhodes. Instead, you need a mover with a local office to come to your house and deliver a written estimate.
However, internet can be a great tool when you shop. Check out consumer opinions on various professional and self-move services, and visit state and federal government sites to make sure the companies you choose have licenses and insurance.

15.  Assuming that moving yourself is cheaper than hiring a pro. Hey, it might be. But when you figure in all of the costs (and many people underestimate how many miles they will drive the rental truck — a big expense) as well as your time, you might find it actually pays to hire someone else.

16.  Being a jerk. There are going to be glitches and delays that are out of everyone’s control. So skip the Type-A behavior and don’t expect to be compensated just because the truck is a half-hour late.

17.  Ignoring the fact that the name on your moving van doesn’t match the name of the company you hired. Chances are you’ve been subcontracted to another company. Problem: Even if you checked references and licensing, you’re now dealing with a total unknown. You may need to pull the plug and reschedule.

18.  Not getting a dolly. Whether you’re moving yourself or just rearranging things after a professional move, the money you shell out to rent or buy a dolly will pay for itself in bypassed back strain and skipped ER visits.

19.  Neglecting to back up your computer. When you move, your life becomes a study in Murphy’s Law. So, if you have vital data in your computer, or anywhere else, make a couple of copies and stash them in various locations.

20.  Not looking out for No. 1. Pack an overnight bag with a few changes of clothes, toiletries and any meds you might need. Ditto for all your family members, including the four-legged ones. Put a cell phone with charger in one of the bags, too. Even if you think you’ll be without your belongings for only a day or two, things can and will go wrong. But that’s all OK if you can shower, put on clean underwear and send out for pizza.

21.  Deciding that Moving Day is too late to put on the brakes. If the crew or truck isn’t what you were promised, or you’re unhappy for any reason, call the company and cancel. If you decide you want to go through with the move anyway, call and have them rework your estimate, in writing (have it faxed or go to their office), to make the inconvenience worth your while.

22.  Forgetting your move on April 15th. If you paid for the relocation, Uncle Sam may be able to help you. Save all your receipts for your next tax return, and ask your accountant if you meet the time and distance tests for a tax deduction.

23.  Not tipping your movers. No, it’s not included in the bill, but neither is the tip at a nice restaurant. “It’s up to the consumer,” says Rhodes. “Whatever you think is fair, whatever is appropriate for the work that was done.”

24.  Acting helpless. You get to the other end and several items are missing or broken. Or the bill comes in higher than the estimate for no good reason. Most companies should take care of any losses, complaints or discrepancies quickly.
In the rare instance yours doesn’t, you can elect to take them to small claims court. With interstate moves, you can have the matter mediated with the AMSA for a minimum fee.

And if you do get a scam artist who hijacks your furniture for ransom, call the police, says Rhodes. He remembers one Tampa man who was ready and waiting when the truck finally arrived — with the cops. “Police departments are becoming more and more aware of this problem,” says Rhodes. Even though it may be technically a civil matter, he says, “a lot of times, the police will step in.”

Hopefully these tips will make your next move a bit easier! Please let me know if I can be of any service to you!

Tips on Credit Ratings

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It’s my pleasure to have the opportunity to work with you on your home loan. While looking through some information regarding credit ratings, I found some facts you might find interesting. Enjoy!

You probably know that your credit is very important when it comes to determining mortgage eligibility. Just about everyone has something in their past credit history that’s less than perfect. The best thing to do is to learn what’s on your report, determine what impact that information has on your credit score, and work on repairing any damage or correcting any errors that may exist.

There are three main credit bureaus to which most creditors (such as credit card companies, banks and leasing agencies) provide information. Each month, your credit holders report information to the credit bureaus regarding your current balance, minimum payment requirement and payment history. It’s best to make payments regularly and timely!

If you’d like more information about credit reports, please give me a call and we can discuss this topic in more detail. And, if there’s anything else I can do for you, it would be my pleasure to be of service. I’m here to help!

Tips on Principal Balance

Tips on the Loan Process

Tip: Principal Balance!

My clients often ask me if it’s a smart idea to make additional payments toward the principal balance on a mortgage. The truth is, every person has different short- and long-term goals, and it’s a very personal decision.

Owning a home outright can be a huge financial advantage that offers guaranteed security. And, you can save thousands of dollars in interest fees by paying your loan off early. But, you’ll want to make sure you will not be adversely affected by prepayment penalties.

Some people prefer to use the extra money to create an investment portfolio. Or, you can consider paying off credit card debt, building an emergency fund, or setting money aside for your children’s college education.

What’s the best solution for you? A qualified financial planner can help you weigh out these options and make recommendations as to what choices make the most sense for you and your family.

If you’re interested, please give me a call!