Monday, October 31, 2011

My Credit Score Just Dropped, What Happened?

You've been working really hard to increase your credit score. You've done everything you thought you were supposed to do to present yourself as a creditworthy individual. So, why did your score suddenly drop? What happened?

Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence with many consumers today, a situation that likely could've been avoided if you had only been working with a qualified credit improvement specialist from the beginning. Remember, there's no shame in seeking help with your credit. Credit scoring models are based on a number of factors that, when combined, add up to a formula that might not seem logical to those who don't deal with these kinds of issues on a daily basis.

The following are just a few examples of seemingly innocent actions that could cause your score to suddenly and dramatically drop.

I paid off my biggest credit card debt and closed the account, but my score dropped anyway. This is one of the most frustrating situations for many borrowers. You would think that paying off your biggest debt and closing your account would be a good thing - and it is. But, because of the five factors of credit we discussed in a previous article, this action could reflect poorly on your credit score because you chose to close the account. Depending on your situation, the account you closed could've been your oldest credit account with the highest credit limit, two major factors in calculating your score.

I maxed out my card, and even though I paid it off completely when I got my statement, my score still dropped. By maxing out your card, your overall credit ratios were adjusted. And even though you paid it off, your statement reflects your current status. In other words, your credit report shows that your account is maxed out, even if you pay it off the next day. The best thing you could've done here was to pay your bill before your statement arrived.

I was only one day late on my payment but I still received a 30-day late on my credit report. Unfortunately, your creditors do not distinguish the difference between one day and 30 days late. You must pay your monthly bills on time every time to avoid this penalty. Depending on which credit cards you have, you could suffer an additional penalty for being late on your credit card payments, even just one time. It's called the universal default clause, which could increase your interest rates on all your credit cards up to 28-30%, even if you're in good standing with your other accounts!

I paid off an old collection and my score dropped significantly. While it might seem illogical or even unfair, sometimes paying off a collection account can actually cause more harm than good. Remember, credit scoring models typically lend more weight to your recent activity than to the mistakes you might've made in the past. By paying off this old account, you may have inadvertently added more weight to this mistake from the past by making this item current.

Don't be shy about asking for help when it comes to your credit score. Remember, your credit is the most valuable financial tool you have at your disposal, and having an expert on your side is always smarter than learning the hard way on your own.

If you or anyone you know has questions about credit. Give us a call at your convenience. We'll be glad to review your credit and see what, if anything, needs to be done to help you meet your financial goals and needs.
Stay tuned for more great credit tips!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's time to buy that house

U.S. house prices have plunged by nearly a third since 2006, and homeownership rates are falling at the fastest pace since the Great Depression.
The good news? Two key measures now suggest it's an excellent time to buy a house, either to live in for the long term or for investment income (but not for a quick flip). First, the nation's ratio of house prices to yearly rents is nearly restored to its prebubble average. Second, when mortgage rates are taken into consideration, houses are the most affordable they have been in decades.
Two of the silliest mantras during the real-estate bubble were that a house is the best investment you will ever make and that a renter "throws money down the drain." Whether buying is a better deal than renting isn't a stagnant fact but a changing condition that depends on the relationship between prices and rents, the cost of financing and other factors.
But the math is turning in buyers' favor. Stock-oriented folks can think of a house's price/rent ratio as akin to a stock's price/earnings ratio, in that it compares the cost of an asset with the money the asset is capable of generating. For investors, a lower ratio suggests more income for the price. For prospective homeowners, a lower ratio makes owning more attractive than renting, all else equal.
Nationwide, the ratio of home prices to yearly rents is 11.3, down from 18.5 at the peak of the bubble, according to Moody's Analytics. The average from 1989 to 2003 was about 10, so valuations aren't quite back to normal.
But for most home buyers, mortgage rates are a key determinant of their total costs. Rates are so low now that houses in many markets look like bargains, even if price/rent ratios aren't hitting new lows. The 30-year mortgage rate rose to 4.12% this week from a record low of 3.94% last week, Freddie Mac said Thursday. (The rates assume 0.8% in prepaid interest, or "points.") The latest rate is still less than half the average since 1971.
As a result, house payments are more affordable than they have been in decades. The National Association of Realtors Housing Affordability Index hit 183.7 in August, near its record high in data going back to 1970. The index's historic average is roughly 120. A reading of 100 would mean that a median-income family with a 20% down payment can afford a mortgage on a median-price home. So today's buyers can afford handsome houses—but prudent ones might opt for moderate houses with skimpy payments.
For example, the median home in the greater Phoenix market, including houses, condos and co-ops, costs $121,700, according to With a 20% down payment and a 4.12% mortgage rate, a buyer's monthly payment would be about $470. Rent for a comparable house would be more than $1,100 a month, according to data provided by
Of course, all of this assumes mortgages are available—no given now that lending standards have tightened. But long-term data on down payments and credit scores suggest conditions are more normal than many buyers think, according to Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow. "If you have good credit, a job and a down payment, you can get a mortgage," Mr. Humphries says. "There's more paperwork and scrutiny than five years ago, but things are pretty much like they were in the '80s and '90s."
Not all housing markets are bargains. Mr. Humphries says Zillow has developed a new price/rent ratio that uses estimates for each individual property rather than city medians, to better reflect the choices facing typical buyers. A fresh look at the numbers suggests Detroit and Miami are plenty cheap for buyers, with price/rent ratios of 5.6 and 7.7, respectively. New York and San Francisco are more expensive, with ratios of 17.6 and 17.2, respectively. The median ratio for 169 markets is 10.7.
For investors seeking income, one back-of-the-envelope way of seeing how these numbers stack up against yields for other assets is to divide 1 by the price/rent ratio, resulting in a rent "yield." The median market's rent yield is 9.3% and Detroit's is 17.9%.
Investors would then subtract for taxes, insurance, upkeep and other expenses—costs that vary widely. But suppose total costs were 4% of the purchase price. That would still leave a 5.3% rent yield in the typical market. With the 10-year Treasury yield at 2.2% and the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index carrying a dividend yield of 2.1%, rents for residential housing in many markets look attractive.
A few caveats are in order. First, not all transactions are average ones. Even in low-priced markets, buyers should shop carefully. Second, prices could fall further. Celia Chen, a senior director at Moody's Analytics, expects prices to drop 3% before bottoming early next year and rising slowly thereafter. "If the economy slips back into recession, however, we could easily see a 10% drop," Ms. Chen says.
And property "flipping" can be dangerous even when prices are rising. That is because, absent a real-estate boom, house price gains simply aren't that exciting. Research by Yale economist Robert Shiller suggests houses more or less track the rate of inflation over long time periods.
Houses aren't the magic wealth creators they were made out to be during the bubble. But when prices are low, loans are cheap and plump investment yields are scarce, buyers should jump.
—Jack Hough is a columnist at Email:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Boost Your Savings Account

...Without Even Trying

Annual income aside, there's not a person among us who wouldn't welcome the idea of having more money in their savings account. This is the money we use on everything from yearly vacations to family presents. Come holiday time, wouldn't it be nice to have an extra thousand or so dollars at your disposal?   Saving money is very important as you attempt to purchase a house.  Lenders look to see a pattern of saving.  Furthermore, you may need a down payment to purchase a house.  Here are a few ideas that can help to make that possible. The best part is you'll hardly feel it!

Bring Your Lunch to Work - The average person spends $6 when they buy their lunch yet only $2 when they pack it themselves. That's a potential savings of $20 a week or $1,040 dollars a year.

Durable over Disposable - Using products like Handi-Wipes (semi-disposable rags) as opposed to paper towels, and a rechargeable razor rather than the disposable kind, can save you up to $200 per year.

Hold an Annual Yard Sale - You should have no problem making at least a hundred bucks. Besides, you'll get rid of all that household clutter in the process. Whatever you don't sell can be donated to charity and used as a tax write-off.

Ask for Discounts - From buying airline tickets to paying a medical bill, always ask if there's a discount to be had. The worst that can happen is you'll be told no.

Get a Library Card - As opposed to buying a book for $20 or renting a DVD for $4, get it for free. If you average 3 movie rentals a month, you'll save yourself over $140 a year.

Watch Those Utilities - Changing over to energy saving light bulbs and low flow showerheads is a great start. Also, most utility companies offer a home audit you can complete online. If not, go to for a virtual inspection of your home. You may be surprised to learn how much energy (and money) you could be saving.

The good news is suggestions like these are merely a start. Only you know where your household may be wasting money. Find inefficient habits and figure out a solution. Remember, every little bit counts. The final step is when you save money on something, put the savings into an earmarked account. Then leave it alone until it's the appropriate time to use it.

Do you have any tips on boosting your savings?
If so, give me a call and tell me about them!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Getting Ready to Move? Here's a Checklist!


__ Set up a "move" file or folder
__ Set up a "move" calendar.
__ Have a garage sale.
__ Collect financial, tax and employment documentation needed for your loan.
__ Donate un-needed furniture to charity.
__ Contact insurance company to transfer policies (life, auto, homeowners).
__ Contact doctors, dentists for copies of medical records.
__ Contact schools for copies of student records.


__ Review tax deductions on moving expenses.
__ Arrange cut-off date for utility companies (telephone, gas, electricity, water, garbage, cable television).
__ Call friends and relatives to let them know you are moving.
__ Request change of address kit from post office.
__ Check out voter registration information for the new area.


__ Transfer stocks, bonds, bank accounts and contents of safe deposit boxes.
__ Prepare a list of clothing that will not be packed with household goods.
__ Take time to check off previous listed items while you still have time!


__ Label items you will need to access easily and place them in separate room or closet.
__ Clean out your refrigerator and let it air out at least 24 hours before moving.
__ Drain outdoor equipment: Water hoses, propane tank from BBQ grill, gas and oil from lawnmowers.
__ Discard all aerosols, paint, oils, and other flammable or toxic chemicals.
__ Schedule with utility companies to have utilities turned on at your new home.


__ RELAX!!!
__ Remember, items packed last will be unloaded first.
__ Conduct a final review of the house, including attic, stairwells, closets, cupboards, storage, garage, and behind doors.


__ Have the house ready for delivery prior to the truck's arrival.
__ Take a break, sit back, relax and ENJOY YOUR NEW HOME!!
Take the stress out of moving by being organized!
Give us a call if there's anything we can do.