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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Making it affordable: Nine tips for first time home buyers

By Charles Warnock

It seems that everyone loves a good real estate story. The media is filled with reports about soaring property values and home owners of modest means becoming instant millionaires when they sell. As a result, many first time home buyers, afraid of missing out, will rush into buying decisions and achieve less-than-spectacular results. As a first time buyer, your biggest challenge is to balance livability and profitability in a way that makes sense for you and your family. Remember, you are buying a home first and an investment second.

Of course, there’s no foolproof formula for buyer success, but there are steps you can take to stack the odds in your favor:

Tip 1: Don’t bet on market timing
If you’re waiting for prices to drop in places like Southern California, Washington D.C. or Miami, you may be waiting a very long time. In regions that are built out with limited room to expand, it’s not realistic to assume property values will fall dramatically. Of course, prices in the nation’s super-heated residential markets (much of California, Nassau-Suffolk Counties in New York, South Florida) should cool down at some point, but there’s no guarantee that higher interest rates won’t eat up any savings from a price correction. If your personal circumstances say it’s time to buy, high prices alone shouldn’t keep you on the sidelines. Current interest rates are still historically low, so you may consider locking in a mortgage before rates head north. Even in booming markets, there are good deals for those willing to devote some time and energy to finding them.

Tip 2: Leverage free and low-cost resources
There’s an abundance of free and low-cost resources for homebuyers on the Web. A Web search can turn up helpful articles, buyer guides, online tools and purchase/ refinance calculators. Keep an eye out for helpful tools like step-by-step guides and checklists to help organize your search. Some Web sites now offer online tools to help you estimate home prices and search for undervalued properties. Many offers on the Web for free property valuations actually are come-ons from real estate brokers looking for seller listings, so check first to see what strings are attached.

Tip 3: Check out the new models
Real estate’s old guard seems to be under assault at every turn today as traditional brokers battle competition from discount and Web-based brokers. Today, buyers have more options than ever before. You can use a full-service broker, discount broker or buy without a broker. To make buying more affordable, consider the homebuyer rebate programs that are becoming more popular. Rebates can help offset closing costs, which are a real obstacle for many first-time buyers. Be aware that some states currently ban real estate rebates all together, and others limit rebates to credits applied to closing costs. Rebate fans around the nation are keeping a close eye on Kentucky, as the Justice Department recently sued the Kentucky Real Estate Commission for violating antitrust laws. Kentucky is one of 15 states that ban or limit real estate rebates.

Tip 4: Lock in a realistic budget
To save time and trouble, first time buyers should have a realistic budget in mind before they shop for homes. One way to determine how much house you can afford is to get “pre-approved” by a lender. Pre-approval means you know exactly how much of a loan you’ll qualify for, so you can limit your search to homes in the right price range. Pre-approval also boosts your credibility and negotiation position with sellers. Most lenders will offer pre-approval as a no-obligation free service, in hopes of winning your business.

Tip 5: Buying — personal decision, business transaction
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) advises home buyers to create a wish list to help focus priorities. That way, you’ll remember that a spectacular foyer is nice-to-have, but safety and services are essential. Having clear goals will help keep you from getting carried away with emotional factors. Sellers who love their homes tend to ask too much, and buyers who fall in love can end up overpaying. With a little research, you can get can get an objective estimate of property value to make sure the seller has set a fair asking price. There are tools and resources on the Web to help you better understand home valuations.

Tip 6: Don’t let closing costs surprise you
Once you understand the buying process, you should understand and budget for transaction costs. In addition to your down payment, buyers pay most of the closing costs when purchasing a home, including things like inspection fees, title insurance, taxes and more. Closing fees can add up to 5-7 percent of purchase price, and must be paid before you get the keys. Your lender can provide what’s called a “good faith” estimate of your closing costs. Most closing costs are not negotiable but some are. When you’re comparing lenders, don’t be shy…ask which fees are negotiable, then ask if any discounts are available. Finally, be cautious about “no-cost” closing promotions because the lender may be simply passing on the costs in the form of a higher interest rate.

Tip 7: Build a support team
Buying a home is a big investment and a big decision, but you don’t have to go it alone. Remember, at each step of the way, there are people and resources to help you. Use the Internet and ask friends for referrals. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call real estate professionals, mortgage providers, title companies and insurers to ask questions. These professionals should be good resources to help you learn more about home buying, because they want to earn your business. If they are not helpful, then you have also learned something important…that they don’t deserve your business.

Tip 8: Clean up your credit
Low credit ratings mean that buyers won't qualify for the best available interest rates and fees, which could mean considerable extra expense each month for the life of the loan. Most financial institutions today offer risk-based lending – lower credit risk for lenders means better mortgage deals for customers. Credit reports frequently contain inaccurate information, which can hurt a buyer’s purchasing power. First-time buyers should check their credit scores and fix any problems before applying for financing.

Tip 9: Begin with the end in mind
Author Stephen Covey’s advice for effective living also applies to effective home buying. Resale may not your primary consideration, but it’s an important factor. Can you buy in an up-and-coming neighborhood or region? How is the “commutability” from your new home to local employers? How good are the local schools? A few queries to your favorite search engine will turn up free or inexpensive school rating services. Also be on the lookout for outdated features when you buy. If the those small closets and harvest gold appliances seem out of step now, you can bet that they won’t look any better to prospective buyers in a few years.Charles Warnock is Marketing Communications Manager at Homekeys, a South-Florida based provider of real estate technology and services. He writes often on real estate, finance, interactive marketing and business development.

How Do I Buy A House?

By Andrew L.

There is no doubt that the market for houses has been on fire recently. More and more people are taking advantage of low interest rates and easy mortgage loan terms to go from being renters to being home owners. With so many people entering the market, it is inevitable that questions will arise.

There are many things to consider when buying your first home. Some of the most important steps to buy a house are:

Learning the home buying process
Start by learning as much as you can about how the home buying and mortgage application process works. Read as much as you can about buying a home. Check out the many books in your local library that offer hints to first time home buyers. Read financial web sites on the internet for tips for first time home buyers. You may even want to sign up for a class aimed at first time homeowners. Many towns and cities offer these kinds of classes, and they can be a great source of information for the buyer looking for his or her first home.

Find out the pre-qualified price range
It is important to find out how much you can borrow before you start looking for a home. Talk with several mortgage lenders in your area and get pre-qualified for a particular price range. The mortgage lender will be able to help you determine how much you can borrow based on your annual income. In general, mortgage lenders recommend that all home related expenses, including the mortgage payment, insurance premiums and real estate taxes, do not exceed 28% of your monthly income.

Get Pre-approved for mortgage loan
The next step is to get pre-approved for mortgage financing. This is similar to getting pre-qualified for a price range, but it is a more formal process. You will need to supply proof of your income for the pre-approval process to move forward. Most lenders will want to see income tax returns from the past two years as proof of the income you are claiming.

House hunting
After you have been pre-approved for your mortgage loan, it is time to actually start house hunting with a realtor (find out why you need to find a realtor before buying a house?). Your mortgage lender will give you a letter stating that you have been pre-approved for a mortgage and the amount you are authorized to borrow. You will need to present this letter to the real estate agent when you get started. It is important to get pre-approved for a mortgage loan before beginning your home search. The real estate agent and real estate company will be much more willing to work with you if they know you can afford the home you are looking at. In addition, sellers will take your offer much more seriously if it is accompanied by a pre-approval letter from your mortgage lender.

Make an offer
Once you have found a home that meets your needs, it is time to make an offer on the property. You will already know the most you can spend from the pre-approval process, and you probably will have your own ideas on what the property is actually worth. In addition, your real estate agent can guide you through the negotiation process and offer procedures. A copy of your pre-approval letter will be presented as part of the written offer. This will ensure the seller that your offer is legitimate.

Negotiation process
If the seller accepts your first offer, congratulations. Your negotiations are over and you're ready to start preparing for your move. More likely, however, is that the seller will come back with a counter-offer. This negotiation process can go on for a short or long amount of time, depending on factors like the motivation of the seller, the local real estate market, and a host of other factors. The real estate agent will be a good guide through the negotiation process. After all, he or she will have been through this process many times before.

Provide copy of Purchase and Sale Agreement to mortgage broker
After the negotiation process has been completed, you will need to present your mortgage broker with a copy of the Purchase and Sale Agreement for the home.

Work to close the mortgage loan
After presenting the Purchase and Sales Agreement, you will need to work with the mortgage broker to ensure you meet all the conditions required for the closing of the mortgage loan.

Home inspection prior closing
Prior to closing, you will want to make sure to have a thorough home inspection performed by a qualified and certified home inspector. A home inspection will protect you from flaws in the construction and condition of the home that are not obvious to the naked eye. Home inspections can uncover things like foundation cracks, termite infestation and other home quality issues.

Hand over down payment
After the home inspection has been performed and the report has come back clean (or all the items uncovered have been repaired), it is time for the buyer to actually hand over the money for the down payment and sign the loan documents.

Collect the house key
After the closing of the loan, the fun part of home buying begins. Your real estate agent will hand over the keys to your new home and you can actually move in and enjoy your beautiful new home. Welcome to moving day!

Andrew is the web owner of Home Buying and Home Selling Guide: How to buy a house and sell house fast!, a website that provides informational guide on home buying, selling house, home mortgage loan, foreclosure home, real estate investment, and more.

Home Equity Loan – With a Reverse Mortgage, Your Home Pays You!

by Charles Essmeier


The home equity loan has become quite popular in the last five years, and Americans have tapped into the equity of their homes in record numbers. The reasons vary, although home improvement and debt consolidation are the most common reasons for borrowing against a home’s equity.In the last fifteen years or so, a new twist has arrived in the home equity market –- the reverse mortgage. Like a traditional home equity loan or line of credit, a reverse mortgage allows you to borrow against the equity in your home. Unlike those other options, you don’t have to make payments in order to pay it back. The repayment takes place when you die, when you move, or when you sell your home. You must be at least 62 years of age to qualify, but unlike other loans, you do not have to have any appreciable income in order to get a reverse mortgage. There are a number of advantages of a reverse mortgage over a traditional home equity loan:
· Your options of receiving the money from the loan include a monthly payout, although you may also elect to receive a lump sum or a credit line. A monthly payout would effectively provide you with a regular “income” during the remainder of your time in your home.
· The loan isn’t due until you move, sell the home, or die. There is no repayment schedule, as with regular installment loans. At the time of your death or when you sell the house, the loan must be repaid with interest.
· The amount you have to repay cannot exceed the value of your home. With this feature, you are protected should your home decline in value. The lender cannot force you to pay more than the value of the home.Due to the age restrictions on reverse mortgages, they are not for everyone. But if you qualify, it could provide an excellent opportunity to have an income during your retirement years.


About the Author©Copyright 2005 by Retro Marketing. Charles Essmeier is the owner of Retro Marketing, a firm devoted to informational Websites

Debt Consolidation Versus Debt Negotiation

Debt consolidation versus debt negotiation are two options that are available to you if you need debt assistance. When your monthly bills become too much for you to handle, it makes sense to use debt consolidation or debt negotiation for solving debt and credit problems.
Debt Consolidation
Debt consolidation services have prearranged debt repayment plans with most credit card and collection companies. When you sign up with a debt consolidation company you are offered a lower overall monthly payment based on a lower interest rate they have arranged with the creditor.
This payment is lower than what the credit card companies offer you, saves you money every month and is often the best way to consolidate debt.
One benefit of a debt consolidation repayment plan is it will stop you from getting harassed by your creditors as long as you make the new, lower monthly payments.
The downside of the debt consolidation repayment plan is that you have to cancel all credit cards that you include in the plan. You are also charged your first payment you make toward the program and an additional monthly administration fee. This administration fee ranges from flat fees of $10-$50, while others charge a $5 fee for each creditor. That means you'll pay about $30 a month that doesn't go to paying off your debts.
The debt consolidation program benefits you if you have high interest rates or have higher credit card bills than you can manage. Some people like to make only one payment to one company for all of their debts.
Debt Negotiation
Debt negotiation is sometimes referred to as debt settlement. This is most often offered to people who can't handle a debt consolidation program. If you can't make the minimum payments of a debt consolidation repayment plan or haven't made payments in the past 3 months, a debt negotiation program is the next step for solving debt and credit problems.
One benefit of a debt negotiation program is you stop making payments to your creditors. The debt negotiation company either takes monthly payments from you and keeps it in an account, or lets you keep the money in your own account.
While you are making these monthly payments to the debt negotiation company, they negotiate with your creditors for a lower payoff of around 40-50% of your total amount of debt. Once the negotiated settlement is agreed upon with your creditors, the debt negotiation company makes a one time payment to them.
A downside of the debt negotiation program is it lowers your credit score for as long as you are in the program. However, most debt negotiation companies require the creditor make the credit report show paid in full so it doesn't show up as a negative on your report once your account is settled.
Some debt negotiation companies include a credit repair service that will remove the negative items caused by the debt negotiation program. You pay for this service as part of their program.
Now that you have an idea what debt consolidation versus debt negotiation is choose which one will work best for solving debt and credit problems for you.
Copyright © 2005 Credit Repair Facts.com All Rights Reserved.
This article is supplied by http://www.credit-repair-facts.com where you will find credit information, debt elimination programs and informative facts that give you the knowledge to correct your own credit and credit report. For more credit related articles like these go to: http://www.credit-repair-facts.com/articles_1.html

Debt consolidation 4 Credit Cards

By Charles Essmeier


Americans are using credit cards more than at any time in history, and credit card companies are reaping record profits. One of the reasons that the credit card industry is so profitable is that so many of us use our credit cards unwisely.

If you have good credit, you can get a credit card with a reasonable interest rate; say 10% or so. You can keep that rate by paying your bill on time. On the other hand, if you pay your bills late or fail to pay in full, then you will have to pay late fees and interest. Late fees often range between $15 and $29; some card issuers may charge even more. Adding to the pain of paying late fees, however, is the likely change in interest rates on your card if you pay late. A late payment may trigger a substantial increase in the interest rate on your card, and that “reasonable” interest rate of 10% may suddenly rise to 20% or even 25%!

It’s hard to pay off your credit card balance when you have late fees and 25% interest, so this is something you definitely want to avoid. If you usually pay on time, and you pay late once and are charged a late fee, ask your credit company if they will waive the fee. They will often do it – once. Some will not do it at all, but it is always worth taking the time to ask. If they are unwilling to help you, then you may be better off shopping around for a better credit card deal elsewhere.

You can often save money by transferring your balance to a lower interest credit card, if you have one. Competition has been fierce during the last few years among credit card companies, and it is fairly common to receive “promotional” rates of less than 5% if you transfer your balance to another card. Be sure to read the fine print, however. Those low rates usually apply only to transferred balances, and not to new charges placed on the card. There is usually a time limit associated with the promotional rate, and higher rates may apply at the end of the time limit, perhaps even retroactively!

In summary, if you want to minimize your credit card costs, try the following:
• Shop around for a credit card with a low interest rate.
• Pay your bills on time. A good way to do this is to pay online. That way, you won’t have to worry about your check being delayed in the mail.
• Transfer balances from high interest rate cards to cards with lower rates.
• Use your cards wisely. If you can pay cash, do it.

A few simple steps can save you a fortune in interest charges and late fees.
©Copyright 2005 by Retro Marketing. Charles Essmeier is the owner of Retro Marketing, a firm devoted to informational Websites, including End-Your-Debt.com, a site devoted to debt consolidation and credit counseling, and HomeEquityHelp.net, a site devoted to information regarding home equity loans.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Credit Card Debt Freedom is Possible

By Joe Duchesne


Credit card debt have you drowning financially? You're not alone. The average American household carries $9,205 in credit card debt, according to CardWeb, an online industry tracker. Not managed properly, this debt can come to eat up all of your disposable income leaving little or nothing for bare necessities. Some people in this situation respond by charging more but that will only get you further in trouble.

Fail to plan and you plan to fail

There is this cliché that states that if you fail to plan you plan to fail. The first thing you need to do is evaluate where you want to be. Do you want freedom from your credit card burden? Is so, you need to develop a different action plan to the one you are currently following. Makes sense doesn't it?

Start by listing all of the debt you currently owe along with a list of what your monthly obligations are for each debt. At the top of the page, list the amount of income available to pay these debts after essentials like food, hydro, etc... are taken out. When listing essentials, it's important to include a certain amount for clothes, medical and entertainment because no matter how good your intentions, you will spend some money in these areas. If you budget ahead for them, you are less likely to just waste it.

Start paying one credit card first

Don't try to pay off all of your credit cards at once. Doing this will take too long and end up discouraging you. You're better off concentrating on getting one card paid off, then putting the money you've freed up from that one card and applying it to the next one and so forth.

Which credit card charges you the highest rate of interest? Start with that one. Pay the minimum due on all of your credit cards expect for the one you have chosen to focus on first. On that card, put as much money as your budget allows onto the card after all of your expenses and debts have been factored in. Keep doing this month after month until the credit card balance goes to zero.

Loose all credit cards except one

Plan to keep one major credit card for unexpected expenses, car rentals and emergencies. Get rid of all your other cards as you pay them off. Most people can't resist the temptation to spend money on a clean card. If this describes you, you're better off without many credit cards than you are to get right back into deep credit card debt.

Follow this plan, and depending on how much you owe, in a year or so, you should have pretty much achieved credit card debt freedom!

Joe Duchesne is the webmaster of Bootdebt.com a website dedicated to helping people with credit card debt, debt consolidation, getting out of debt and becoming financially literate. Reprint freely as long as you keep this resource box and include a live keyword rich link back to my website.

10 Pointers on College Loan Consolidation

By Georgio Heberto

Should I consolidate my college loans or not?

1. Still in school, yes! Rates are low, but they're scheduled to go up. Your college loan payments will then remain as manageable as possible when you leave school. If you have graduated, or will be graduating this May or June, yes! Graduates can lock in historical low rates, and reduce their monthly payments more than half. You can lock in a rate even while still in school, and even if you have been out of school for a couple of years can get a good deal, too.

2. The newest twist in the consolidation puzzle is the "in school consolidation", affecting students who are currently enrolled and will be enrolled past the July 1 consolidation. You can consolidate your existing college loans now to secure the low rates for at least part of their student loan portfolio.

3. Consolidating could save thousands of dollars in interest payments on college loans. There are impending student loan rate changes and new interpretation of regulations by the Department of Education, also, Congress is considering ending the fixed-rate program. Experts are urging students to consolidate to relieve themselves of a higher debt load.

4. Many students and families are looking for a simple, clear answer about whether to consolidate college loans or not. The simple answer is to take some of the bite out of the debt by loan consolidation. You could live like a miser and save as much money as possible or consolidate your federal student loans now.

5. For students still in school, you have an opportunity to choose consolidation. Consolidating would put a college loan borrower into repayment status, but the student can defer payments until after graduation by making a deferment request. Consolidating today can have payments put off until graduation.

6. The federal loan program allows consolidation, which is when a borrower pools his student debts together so that only one monthly payment is necessary, rather than several. It's not just the convenience of one payment that is making consolidation so compelling. The most significant aspect of the program is that it allows a person to permanently lock in a lower interest rate on loans. These loans are backed by, or granted directly by, the federal government.

7. Rates for federal Stafford loans, the most prevalent type of student loan, as well as some other types of federal student loans are set annually based on the rate of 91-day U.S. Treasury bills at the end of May. The exact rate won't be known until the end of the month, but experts say it will be about 2 percentage points higher. (Private loans and federal loans cannot be consolidated together.)

8. For the first time, the U.S. Department of Education will allow students still in school to consolidate federally backed loans. Federal PLUS loans can also be consolidated. PLUS loans are used to help pay the cost higher education.

9. Students, regardless of enrollment, should absolutely consolidate their college loans, arranged through the student's lender. There are no fees, no credit checks, and interest rates are expected to move higher. Those are good reasons to consolidate.

10. Act quickly to put lock on current federal-aid interest rates. Graduates should act now to insulate themselves from a drastic rate change. Apply early. Do not wait until the last minute to file paperwork. Those who have already graduated or left school should not wait to investigate consolidation. In the first six months after graduation, you are in a grace period. Within that six-month window, you can lock in a low rate on Stafford loans and spread the repayment over as long as 30 years.

If you're going to consolidate, now is the best time to do it.

Georgio Heberto is dedicated to offering news, articles, and instruction on financing college education. You have a definite choice in how you finance your education and beyond. Visit http://www.atopeducation.com for more information.

Apply For Home Mortgage Loan Online With Bad Credit - Things To Consider

By Carrie Reeder

So, you’ve found the perfect home. You’ve already decided where to place each piece of your furniture inside the home, and in your mind, all of your family photographs are hanging alongside the stairwell. But wait—do you know that even if you believe that your credit report is spotless, it could negatively affect your chances of getting that home mortgage approval?

The credit bureaus handle hundreds of thousands of credit reports, and it’s only logical that they will make mistakes. In fact, studies show us that there are some types of errors on at least 50 percent of all credit reports.

Could an error be lurking on your report?

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to ensure that your credit report reflects exactly what it should.

Step One: Avoid a Bad Credit Report by Requesting a Copy of It

Under the law, you are entitled to a copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies. You should simply submit a request in writing or visit their web sites and request a copy.

Step Two: Check the Personal Information

Maybe your name is Jane Smith, but the agencies have you listed as Jayne Smith. If you don’t think that it matters, you’d better think again. If the agencies have a miss-spelling in your name, the wrong address, reversed digits on your social security number, or even wrong employer information, it could mean bad news for your report. If the person who they have you confused with makes a late payment, then it will appear on your report. What’s worse, if they file for bankruptcy or default on a car loan, it will take some time to sort out the erroneous information once it’s found its way onto your report. Avoid all of this, and report any bad information now.

Step Three: The Credit Information

It may be too late, and you may find that there are loans or other items on your report that you’ve never taken out. In addition, you may find that late payments are on your credit report when you’re sure that you made them on time. If you find such erroneous information, then you’ll need to send the credit reporting agencies a letter explaining the error, along with any proof or documents that you have that will back up your claim. They are required to investigate your complaint and report back to you with their findings.

It’s important to do all of this before you apply for a home mortgage. It will not only reduce the amount of time that it takes to get an approval, but it could positively affect the interest rate that you end up with.

To view our recommended sources for bad credit mortgage lenders, visit this page: Recommended Bad Credit Mortgage Lenders.

Carrie Reeder is the owner of ABC Loan Guide, an informational website about various types of loans.

Bad Credit? First Time Buyer? You Can Still Get Approved For A Home Mortgage Loan

By Carrie Reeder


Do you have bad credit that you worry will stop you from being able to apply for a home mortgage loan? Have you given up on the dream of being a home owner? Well don’t. Take comfort in the fact that there are special home mortgage loans that you can apply for, that will make sure your dreams of becoming a home owner are fulfilled!

Home Loans Are Flexible - The first thing you need to keep-in-mind is that home loan mortgages are very flexible – they can be adjusted to meet the needs of any borrower. So, if you have a bad credit history, but circumstances have changed in your life and now you are looking to become a home owner then all you need to do is to find a lender who is willing to lend.

First Look at Companies That Specialize in Bad Credit Mortgages - Bad credit mortgage lenders or otherwise called, subprime lenders, are always the best place to look first. Bad credit mortgage companies specialize in lending to people with less than perfect credit to very bad credit, even if they are first-time buyers. The may charge you extra over the life of the home loan mortgage than would have otherwise been the case had you not had the bad credit history, but that’s why they’re in the business!

Look Online – Check the Internet - The Internet is the wonder of the modern age and with it comes all sorts of answers to previously unanswerable questions. In the case of the Internet, many companies are advertising that they are willing to lend to first-time buyers who have a bad credit history. All you need do is look for them.

Consider an Interest Only Mortgage to Compensate For the Higher Payment - Many home mortgage lenders offer loans to applicants with poor or bad credit history for interest only home loan mortgages. With an interest only home loan, the borrower is only required to pay the interest part of the home loan mortgage. The principal amount is due years later, depending on which type of loan you get. This kind of loan can give you the time to fix your credit and qualify for a better interest rate.

You can be approved for a home loan even with adverse credit problems like bankruptcy, foreclosure and other problems that cause your credit score to be low.

To see a list of our recommended mortgage lenders for people with poor or bad credit visit this page: Recommended Bad Credit Mortgage Lenders

Carrie Reeder is the owner of ABC Loan Guide. It is an informational website about various types of loans. It has informative articles and the latest finance news.