5 Ways To Proactively Build And Improve Your Credit Score

You Ask, We Answer: 5 Ways That You Can Proactively Build and Improve Your Credit ScoreIf you’re planning to buy a house or take out a business loan in the near future, you’ll want to work hard to boost your credit score well ahead of time in order to improve your likelihood of getting the loan you need. A great credit score can also make you more desirable to employers and help you to negotiate lower car insurance rates.

But what can you do in order to build your credit score over time? What are the best strategies for boosting that score as high as possible? Here’s what you need to know.

Dispute Errors On Your Credit Report

According to the FTC, 25% of Americans have significant errors on their credit report. Whether it’s a fully paid debt erroneously reported as still owing or even another consumer’s debt listed on your credit report, these errors can be costly. That’s why you’ll want to regularly review your report for inaccuracies.

If you find any inaccuracies, you can dispute them and have them removed from your credit report – which will increase your score.

Negotiate Your Debts Owing With Creditors

If you owe money to creditors and are past due on the balance, chances are they’ve reported the debt to the credit reporting agencies – and it’s on your credit report. The fastest way to have the debt removed from your credit report is to negotiate with your creditors for its removal. Get your lender to agree in writing that they’ll report the account as “paid as agreed” if you pay the balance.

Keep Your Credit Utilization Ratio Low

Credit utilization refers to the percentage of available credit you use at any given time. So if you have $1,000 in credit available to you and you use $500, that’s a utilization ratio of 50%.

Generally speaking, it’s best to keep your utilization ratio below 30%. If you’re constantly using a high amount of credit, lenders will assume you’re not a responsible borrower.

Pay What You Owe On Time

Paying your bills on time is one of the best ways to build your credit score. Your payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score, so if you pay your bills on time and in full every month, your credit score will increase.

Make More Than One Payment Every Month

Using a large amount of credit at any given time doesn’t look good on a credit report. By making multiple payments every month, you’ll lower the amount owing that gets reported to the credit bureau and increase your score.

Building a credit score is a lifelong skill, which is why you’ll want to learn it early. Contact us today to learn more about credit scores and mortgage finances.

Calculating How Much Mortgage You Can Afford

How to Calculate Your True Cost of Living and Determine How Much Mortgage You Can AffordA monthly mortgage can seem like enough of a financial responsibility on its own, but there are many factors involved in home ownership that affect its fiscal feasibility. If you’re in the market for a house and are wondering how your income will stack up against the rest of your expenses, here’s how to determine a home cost that’s reasonable for you.

Determine Your Down Payment

Before you start with anything else, you’ll want to determine the amount of money you can put down so you can estimate your monthly payments. The traditional amount for a down payment is 20% of the home’s purchase price, so if you don’t have anything close to this amount it might be worth waiting a little longer so you can minimize your payments and the amount of interest or mortgage insurance you’ll be paying in the long run. Each person’s situation is different, and there may be programs available with less than 20% down. With an FHA loan, the down payment can be as little as 3.5%.

Calculate Your Monthly Budget

If your mortgage cost already seems high, it will definitely be worth carefully calculating your monthly expenditures. Instead of a wild guess, take the time to sit down and calculate what your costs are including food, utilities, transportation and any other monthly necessities. Once you do this, it’s also very important to add any debt repayments you’re making to the mix. The total amount of your estimated mortgage costs, debt payments and living expenses should give you a pretty good sense of if your mortgage is viable in the long term.

Don’t Forget About The Extras

When it comes to purchasing a home, many people envision that they will be eating and sleeping their new home so don’t pay attention to all of the additional costs that can arise with living life. A new home is certainly an exciting, worthwhile financial venture, but ensure you’re realistic about what it entails. If you’re planning to go back to school or have children in the future, you’ll want to add a little bit of extra cushion in your budget so that you don’t have to put your other dreams on hold for the sake of your ideal home.

It can be very exciting to find a home you feel good about, but it’s important before making an offer to realize the amount of house you can afford so you don’t find yourself in a hole down the road. If you’re currently on the market for a new home, contact us today for a personal consultation.

3 Major Misconceptions About Mortgage Financing

Setting the Record Straight: 3 Major Misconceptions About Mortgage FinancingPurchasing a home is often considered an important step in one’s financial life, no matter what point you arrive at it. But there are things you should know about financing your home purchase before stepping into the fray. If you’re planning on buying a home soon and want to avoid some major missteps, here are a few tips that will set you up for success.

Taking The Lender You’re Offered

In the event that you’ve been pre-qualified for a certain amount, you’ll want to find a lender that will make the process towards a home purchase a little bit smoother. Instead of going with the first option that’s offered, do some research and come up with a shortlist of potential lenders that have good reviews and have been around the industry for a significant amount of time. The process will be a lot more comfortable if there’s someone on your side you know you can trust.

Keeping Your Credit History In The Dark

Without a doubt, the lender will be looking at your financial history in order to determine the amount of financing you will receive, but it’s still important to be prepared on your end so that you know what to expect. Start by acquiring your credit report so that you can correct any inaccuracies on it and be prepared for what this score will say about your financial viability. When it comes to the financing you’ll need down the road, the right information on your credit report will make a difference in the end result.

Forgetting About The Loan Officer

If you’ve already established who your lender will be, it’s still important to meet with the person who will be handling your loan and make sure they’re someone you can trust. Ensure that you are aware of their qualifications and that they have enough previous experience in their back pocket to provide you with insights that may come in handy. While having a reliable lender is certainly a good start, the right individual to handle your loan will be someone who is licensed and involved with a local, professional mortgage association.

All of the things involved with mortgage financing can be quite complicated, but by finding the right lender and preparing yourself for the tough financial questions, it can be a much easier experience. If you’re starting to consider your options for a home purchase, you may want to contact us for more information.

Mortgage Trends In 2016: How Will They Affect You?

Looking Ahead in 2016: Mortgage Trends That May Affect YouThe housing market is in a constant state of flux, and with the changing shape of real estate there will most definitely be notable trends to watch out for in the next year. Whether you’re approaching the market with caution or you’re ready to dive in without worry, here are some things to watch out for in 2016.

A Slow Growth Outlook

One of the most worrisome impacts of a slowed economic outlook is how it can affect people’s monthly payments, and this is slated to be a significant concern over the next few years. With the possibility of lowered global gains in 2016 and the job loss that can stem from this, it may be the case that many borrowers end up falling behind on their payments a little more this year. While this doesn’t pose a significant worry in the short term, it may become problematic in the event of a sustained downturn.

Bring On The Millennials

It’s definitely the case that few have struggled to make their way in the economic world as Millennials have over the last few years. However, according to Trulia.com, approximately 80% of those polled between 18-34 want to make a new home purchase before 2018. While many Millennials will be deterred by rising interest rates and will instead stick around their parents’ house a little longer, we will definitely see a few more wading into this market with growing savings and better job opportunities.

An Ever-Shifting Market

When it comes to real estate, prices on a day-to-day basis are constantly in a state of flux but that trend is expected to become even more extreme in 2016. While the rent and purchasing price for homes in metropolitan areas will continue to increase with demand, the prices of homes in smaller centers will actually diminish. So, while real estate prices are constantly on the rise and it may be a good time to get into the market, a home in a place a little less popular may provide a bit more bang for your buck in the coming year.

With the real estate market and the world economy experiencing significant fluctuations in the last few months, there are bound to be many ups and downs in the market this year. If you’re considering a new home in 2016 and would like to know more about your options, you may want to contact us for more information.

A Guide to Financing Home Improvements

A Guide to Financing Home Improvements and How Mortgage Refinancing Can HelpIf you’re planning to remodel or renovate your home in the near future – whether to provide a better living environment or as part of a house flip – you’ll need to find a way to pay for your home improvements. There are several different possible sources of renovation money, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. One option that is gaining popularity is mortgage refinancing.

How does mortgage refinancing work, and how does it compare to other renovation financing options? How can you use a mortgage refinance to get the most out of your renovation? Here’s what you need to know.

Home Improvement Investments: Which Renovations Generate The Best Returns?

If you’re considering a mortgage refinance in order to fund your home improvements, you’ll want to concentrate on doing renovations that increase your home’s value. Otherwise, you’ll be taking on more debt without gaining anything in return.

If you want to max out your return on investment, re-finishing your kitchen is your best strategy. Remodeling Magazine’s annual cost-to-value renovation analysis shows that new appliances, a new coat of paint, and new surface finishes in the kitchen generate the biggest returns. Meanwhile, swimming pools and home offices tend to generate the lowest returns because they appeal only to a select group of buyers.

Your Options For Financing Home Improvement Projects

Financing for a home improvement project is a critical consideration. Unless you can afford to pay $20,000 out of pocket for a remodeling project, you’ll need to secure financing of some sort.

Your options for home improvement financing include home equity lines of credit, renovation mortgages, and refinancing. A HELOC may not be an ideal solution, as repayment requires discipline, while a renovation mortgage (or home renovation loan) is typically used only for foreclosures and other properties requiring major renovation work.

Mortgage Refinancing: A Smart Option For Savvy Borrowers

If you’re looking to simply make improvements to your existing home, a mortgage refinance is likely your best option. A straight refinance gives you a lump sum of cash that you can use to pay for renovations upfront.

There’s also a “refinance plus improvements” arrangement, which can provide you with extra capital as you need it. Under this model, you can get up to 80% of your home’s post-renovation appraisal value – however, you’ll only get the money as the renovations are completed and inspected. With a straight refinance, you’re not out of pocket for any length of time.

Making smart home improvements is a great way to boost your home’s value and improve your living conditions. An experienced mortgage professional can help you to find financing for those renovations without a hassle. Contact us to learn more.

Owning vs Renting: Which Is Most Beneficial Over The Long Term?

Owning vs Renting: Why High Rents Are Worse Than a Mortgage over the Long TermIf you’re at the stage in life where home ownership is nearly within your reach, you’re probably wondering whether you should start looking for a home or whether you should just keep renting. Renting is easier, people say, and it gives you more mobility. But over the long term, all that rent money can really add up – and it eventually reaches a point where buying a home is a better deal.

So why is paying a high rent a worse option than buying a house and getting a mortgage? Here’s what you need to know.

Renting Doesn’t Generate Equity

One of the single biggest sources of wealth in the United States is home equity – as you pay down your mortgage, you invest more and more of your money into your property, and it appreciates in value. When you eventually sell that home, you make a profit. The monthly payment is something you’d have to make anyway, whether you rent or own – but when you rent, your monthly rent money lines someone else’s pockets. When you own, paying down your mortgage actually creates wealth for you.

Renting Doesn’t Give You Access To Homeowner Tax Credits And Deductions

There are all sorts of tax benefits available to homeowners that renters simply can’t access. As a homeowner, you can deduct your mortgage interest from your taxes owing, reducing your taxable income – but there’s no such deduction for renters. You can also deduct property taxes and some closing costs when you buy a home – there are no corresponding tax benefits for renters.

There are also several tax credits available to homeowners that aren’t available to renters. Things like renovations or simply buying a home for the first time can give you tax benefits that renters can’t access.

If You Can Muster Up A Down Payment, Owning Is Cheaper In The Long Run

One of the biggest hurdles keeping young people out of the real estate market is the down payment. It’s not easy, but if you can save up enough money for a down payment, you’re actually better off buying a home than continuing to rent.

According to Trulia, the median home price in metro Houston in Texas is just under $163,000, while the median monthly rent for an apartment is $1,550. That means renting would cost $18,600 per year, while buying a home (assuming a 20% down payment and 30-year term) would cost $9,384 per year in mortgage payments. In other words, owning is about half as expensive as renting in the long run.

Renting may be a good short-term solution, but over the long haul, owning is almost always better. Call us today to learn more.

A Quick and Easy Guide to Using an Online Mortgage Calculator

A Quick and Easy Guide to Using an Online Mortgage CalculatorIf you’re in the market for a new mortgage, using an online mortgage calculator is a great way to determine what kind of terms you can expect to see and how they’ll affect your home purchase. Visualizing what a 3.9% interest rate looks like can be difficult, which is why a mortgage calculator is so useful – it shows you exactly what a certain mortgage will do to your finances. Here are just a few ways that you can use an online mortgage calculator to learn more about your mortgage needs and find the mortgage that is best for you.

Start With A Solid Set of Sample Data

In order for your mortgage calculator to be of any use, you’ll need to start the calculations with a set of sample data that is a fairly accurate representation of what you can expect to find in the market. For example, if your gross annual salary is $30,000, you won’t want to look at mortgages for $1 million homes (unless you’re doing so out of idle curiosity). Instead, try to represent your actual take-home earnings and interest rates available to someone with your credit as faithfully as possible.

Try Adjusting The Settings And Terms

Once you have your sample data and have done a quick initial calculation, you’ll want to play around with some of the settings and terms to see how minor changes in your mortgage arrangement can affect your finances.

For instance, what happens if you keep your monthly payment the same but increase your interest rate? What happens if you change your 15% down payment to 20% and you suddenly don’t have to pay mortgage insurance? When you understand how all of the different variables impact both each other and your monthly payments, you’re in a better position to judge what kind of mortgage is a good fit for you.

Survey Multiple Lenders And Input Their Terms

When you use your mortgage calculator, you’ll want to avoid simply using one mortgage plan from one lender. Different lenders can vary in their mortgages available and can offer you different terms, which will impact your monthly payments and possibly even what kind of home you can afford. So shop around and use different terms from different lenders – this has the dual effect of both helping you understand how mortgages work and saving you some rate shopping time later.

Online mortgage calculators are an easy way to learn how mortgages work, but you’ll want to enlist the help of a professional mortgage advisor when it comes time to choose a mortgage and a lender. Contact us today to get expert home buying advice.

3 Easy Ways To Absolutely Kill Your Chances For Mortgage Approval

3 Things That Will Absolutely Kill Your Chances for a Mortgage ApprovalIf you’re about to seek approval for a mortgage, you’ll want to ensure you have a solid credit score and clean financial records to boost your likelihood of being approved. There are certain characteristics that lenders want to see in a mortgage applicant before they agree to give a loan, and you want to prove that you’re a responsible borrower. But certain behaviors can easily tank your application and crush your home ownership dreams.

Before you seek approval, make sure your finances are in order. Avoid these three mortgage-killing habits while your lender evaluates your loan and you’ll quickly find yourself holding the keys to your new home.

Using Up Most Of Your Available Credit

It can be tempting to start buying furniture when your mortgage is about to be approved, but you’re better off waiting on the shopping trip until after you get the green light from your lender. Using a significant amount of your available credit – or applying for new credit – will impact your debt-to-income ratio and change your credit score. You might even end up getting yourself a higher interest rate or reducing your credit score to below the qualifying range – so don’t go credit-crazy until after you’re approved.

Being Late On Your Monthly Bills

Payment history makes up one third of your credit score, so you’ll want to make sure you pay all of your bills on time and in full if you’re looking for a mortgage. A single 30-day late payment on a bill can easily knock 50 to 100 points off your credit score. Even worse, some lenders require a full year of on-time payments before they’ll even consider you for a mortgage.

Co-Signing Someone Else’s Loan

Co-signing on a loan is generally risky under any circumstances, but if you’re trying to get approved for a mortgage, taking on liability for someone else’s debt will change your debt-to-income ratio. Being on the hook for a debt you don’t own makes you look like a risk to lenders – if the primary borrower on the loan you co-signed stops making payments, you’ll need to pay the loan, and that could divert your cash away from your mortgage.

Getting approved for a mortgage is a critical part of the home buying process, but too many would-be homeowners torpedo their own chances of getting a mortgage by making poor decisions. Contact a mortgage professional near you to learn how you can give yourself the best possible chance of getting approved for a mortgage.

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5 Expert Tips To Get The Most From Your Next Refinance

Refinancing This Winter? Follow These 5 Expert Tips to Get the Most from Your MortgageRefinancing a mortgage is a great way to take advantage of historically low-interest rates or change your payment terms to be more affordable. And with interest rates at historical lows, there’s never been a better time to refinance your mortgage. If you’re planning to refinance your mortgage this winter, you’ll want to make sure you get the best possible deal.

How can you make sure that your mortgage works for you, and not the other way around? Here’s what you need to know.

Know What Your Break-Even Point Is

Your break-even point is the point at which the extra amount you paid out of pocket for the refinance and the amount you saved in a reduced interest rate is equal. In other words, it’s the point at which a refinance actually starts saving you money – and it’s important that you know when that point is. If you pay $5,000 in refinancing fees and your refinance reduces your monthly interest payment by $200, for instance, you’ll break even after two years and one month.

Opt For a Shorter Loan Term, If Possible

Refinancing gives you the ability to turn a long mortgage into a short one. And although a shorter mortgage comes with higher payments, more of your monthly payment is applied to your principal. With a 30-year mortgage, for instance, you’ll be paying mostly interest for the first 16 years – but with a 15-year mortgage, your payments will go mostly toward the loan principal after just five years.

Try To Avoid Prepayment Penalties

A prepayment penalty is an amount of money you pay in order to pay off your mortgage early. If you experience a sudden windfall and can pay off your home in one lump sum, or if you choose to sell your home, you might incur a prepayment penalty. Not all mortgages have these penalties – so talk with your mortgage professional and let them know you are looking for a mortgage without a prepayment penalty.

Lock In Your Rate

Mortgage rates are at historical lows right now. One of the biggest reasons why people refinance their homes is to get lower interest rates – which is why, if you’re refinancing your home, you’ll want to choose a fixed rate mortgage. It’ll keep your interest payments low and manageable, so you don’t pay more than you have to.

Know Your Home’s Current Fair Market Value

Housing prices rise and fall over time, which can impact your loan rate when you refinance. Higher-value homes generally get better rates, so make sure you know your home’s fair market value.

Refinancing often means better mortgage terms, so make sure you take full advantage of this opportunity. Call us today to learn more.

Advantages To Paying Off Your Mortgage Early

If you're looking into fixed term mortgages, you might be wondering whether there's any reason why you should take the full term to pay off the loan. In a lot of cases, paying off a mortgage before it comes due is a great decision. If you're considering paying off your mortgage early, you'll experience a variety of benefits – here are just a few of them.If you’re looking into fixed term mortgages, you might be wondering whether there’s any reason why you should take the full term to pay off the loan. In a lot of cases, paying off a mortgage before it comes due is a great decision. If you’re considering paying off your mortgage early, you’ll experience a variety of benefits – here are just a few of them.

You’ll Save Thousands In Interest Payments

By and large, the single biggest advantage of paying off a mortgage early is the money you’ll save in interest. The longer you take to pay off your mortgage, the more you’ll pay in interest overall. In fact, on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, you’ll pay as much in interest as you do in principal over the course of the loan – but if you pay off a $300,000 mortgage five years early, you’ll save $60,000 in interest charges, assuming an interest rate of 5.5 percent.

You’ll Greatly Improve Your Credit Score

A mortgage is quite a sizeable debt, and the longer it takes you to pay off your mortgage, the longer it’ll weigh down your credit score. Paying off your mortgage early will boost your credit score quite substantially, which means you’ll be able to take out loans to buy an investment property and start earning income on a second home. And with your first mortgage paid off, you’ll have a significant amount of new money coming in.

You’ll Free Up Your Cash Flow

Once you’ve paid off your mortgage, you’ll free up a great deal of monthly income – which you can invest into mutual funds, a savings account, trips around the world, or a college fund for your children. With so much extra cash available every month, you’ll be able to save, invest, and spend more freely – and that means you’ll meet your financial objectives sooner.

Paying off a mortgage earlier than expected may seem like a daunting challenge, but with discipline and a solid plan in place, it’s very possible. And best of all, paying your mortgage off early offers a number of great advantages that extend beyond just the financial. It’ll offer a variety of lifestyle advantages and give you a great deal of financial freedom.

Want to learn more about how the mortgage process works, or discover great new strategies for paying off your mortgage sooner? Contact us today to schedule a consultation.