Save your credit this holiday season – Atlantic RE Brokerage

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Buying a house in the spring? Here’s how to save your credit score through the holidays.

save your credit scoreThere’s not much time left before the malls are flooded with busy holiday shoppers. And for the yearlong planners, the shopping probably started a long time ago. A recent blog from VantageScore emphasizes the importance of making sure shoppers don’t destroy their credit score right before the busiest home-buying season.

The holidays may still seem far off, but when the possibility of securing a home in the spring is on the line, the time to plan is now.

So what is the main area where consumers hurt their credit during the holidays? Credit cards.

Here’s what VantageScore suggests to consumers:

First and foremost, if you apply for a new credit card or higher spending limits on existing cards for the holiday season, the card issuers will probably request your credit score from one or more of the national credit reporting companies (CRCs), Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The same is true if a new car is on your shopping list or if you choose to open a store credit card account. Just as they would at any other time of year, those score inquiries from lenders can cause a dip in your credit score.

The shopping-season strategy here is twofold: You want to maximize your score before applying for this holiday-related credit, and you want to avoid having these holiday loans lower your score in advance of any major borrowing you may be planning in the early months of the new year.

 

 

Article from Housing Wire :  Brena Swanson is the Digital Reporter for HousingWire.com, providing expert coverage on Millennials, lending and housing. Brena joined the HousingWire news team in February 2013, also serving in the roles of Reporter and Content Specialist. Brena graduated from Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. Follow Brena on twitter at @BrenaSwanson.

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Quirky elements that can affect your home’s value

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Your home's valueBesides the obvious factors, there are some quirky elements that can affect your home’s value. Find out what they are. By Laura Agadoni 

Surprise! You might know more about real estate than you think. For example, you know that square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, lot size, and location determine home value: A 4,000-square-foot, five-bed, five-bath beachfront home for sale in Miami, FL, will almost always be worth more than a 2,000-square-foot, two-bed, two-bath home on a quarter-acre lot 20 miles inland.

But those obvious factors aren’t everything you need to calculate your home’s property value estimate. Other, less obvious features can negatively or positively come into play — features you might not have considered. Here are eight frequently overlooked (and not always fixable) things that, for better or for worse, can impact the value of your home.

1. The name of your street (really!)

People typically prefer the street they live on to have a name versus a number. It’s true nationwide (with the exceptions of New York, NY, and Atlanta, GA, where there is no difference, and Denver, CO, where numbers are favored). According to a study by Trulia, “street” is the least expensive address suffix by price per square foot, and “boulevard” is the most expensive.

2. Your house number

Ever heard of house numerology? This is the practice of assigning a single-digit number to your home based on its address. Let’s say your address is 1219 Main St. Add 1 + 2 + 1 + 9 to get 13. Then add 1 + 3. Your house would be 4: good for investments and security but bad for adventure and excitement. While this type of house numerology may be passed off as a superstition, buyers who subscribe to this theory may overlook potential homes because of their numerology calculations. However, whether or not you’re into numerology, house numbers do matter. If your address is 13 (a universally unlucky number), you might choose to price your home slightly less than your neighbor at number 12 did.

3. Sketchy neighbors

The closer you live to your neighbor, the more important it will be for your tastes, habits, and personalities to jibe with theirs. “In a condo, the last thing a potential buyer wants is to purchase a unit where the neighbors above are noisy or inconsiderate,” says Thomas Miller, who specializes in Washington, DC, real estate. Owners of single-family homes can thank fastidious neighbors with good taste to increase the values of all nearby homes. But, of course, the opposite is also true: “I know a homeowner who had great difficulty selling their home because their next-door neighbors constructed a giant memorial dedicated to Michael Jackson on the front lawn,” says Miller. The next time you want to complain about your homeowners’ association, picture that image.

4. Mature trees

Tree-huggers and environmentalists unite! It’s common practice for developers to cut down most of (or all!) the trees on a property to build homes. But mature trees almost always enhance property values. Still don’t believe it? Check out the National Tree Benefit Calculator to see the full benefits of planting specific types of trees. If you have the space, make a trip to your local nursery to discuss the best tree options for your home.

5. Crown moldings

If you’ve worked hard to select just the right neutral and serene paint color scheme that will probably attract the most buyers, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you neglect one important element: crown moldings. “People love crown moldings,” says Alexander Boriskin, a New York, NY, agent. “Of course, everyone loves high ceilings too,” he says. Although you can’t do anything about how high your ceilings are, you can put in crown moldings — even with lower ceilings. Just make sure they work with the scale of the room, and don’t veer too far into the trend zone.

6. Yankees paraphernalia

Yankees fans, relax. We’re not picking on just you. Although this anecdote from New Jersey real estate agent Kevin Lawton happens to be about the New York baseball team, you could insert any team here. “Everything in the home was Yankees,” he says. “[The sellers] even had carpeting in the family room that had baseballs on it.” The verdict? Many people were turned off, especially Red Sox fans. If you don’t want to alienate a potential buyer, you might want to stash the fan gear away while your home is on the market.

7. Starbucks

And Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. If you have any of those establishments close by, typically within a mile, up goes your property’s value. “Homes near Trader Joe’s have increased in value by an average of 40% since purchased,” says Chris Leavitt, a South Florida and New York, NY, agent and past star of the TV series Million Dollar Listing Miami. “Nearby Starbucks and Whole Foods Markets also enjoyed double-digit gains on home value.”

8. A death on the property

In some states, such as California, sellers must disclose whether there was a death on the property, which can be a deal breaker for some buyers. California agent Tracey Hampson once showed a home where a fatal drug overdose had occurred in the master bedroom. “On average, once the buyers found out there had been a death on the property, two out of five buyers that were interested suddenly said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’”

There’s even a name for a home someone died in: stigmatized. “It refers to a home that has been the site of a murder, suicide, or paranormal activity or haunting,” says Michigan agent Kelly Jo Choate. But even if your state doesn’t have a death disclosure requirement, certainly if someone asks, you should fess up. It’s the right thing to do.

 

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Hidden Costs of Buying your First Home

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Buying your First Home

There’s only one way to be totally prepared for all the costs of buying your first home.   By Jonathan Deesing

You’re excited because you just found the perfect home. The neighborhood is great, the house is charming, and the price is right.

But if you’re a first-time home buyer, you might find out that the price is pretty far from perfect.

If you’re shopping for your first home, additional — and often unexpected — home-buying costs should be top of mind. These costs catch many home buyers unaware, and can quickly leave you underwater on your new home.

The best way to deal with this is by preparing yourself and making sure you have enough cash tucked away for a rainy day.

Costs coming out of the woodwork

For almost every person who buys a home, the spending doesn’t stop with the down payment. Homeowners insurance and closing costs, like appraisal and lender fees, are typically easy to plan for because they are lumped into the home-buying process, but most costs beyond those vary.

The previous owners of your home are the biggest factor that goes into your move-in costs. If they take their refrigerator when they move out, you’ll have to buy one to replace it. The same goes for any large appliance.

And while these may seem like a small purchase compared to buying a home, a few thousand-dollar appliances quickly add up — especially if you just spent most of your cash on a down payment.

Similarly, unless you negotiate it as part of your home purchase agreement, you’ll also be on the hook for any immediate improvements the home needs.

Unfortunately, these costs are the least hidden you may encounter.

When purchasing a home, it’s strongly recommended that you hire a home inspector(this costs money, too!) to ensure the home isn’t going to collapse the next time it rains. Inspectors look for bad electrical wiring, weak foundations, wood rot, and countless other problems.

Worse still, these problems are rarely covered by home insurance. If an inspector discovers a serious problem, you’ll then have to decide if you still want to purchase the home. Either way, you’ll be out the cost of hiring the inspector.

Creature comforts

Another cost is your own comfort. It’s easy to not think fully about what you are expecting from your new home until after you move in.

Are you used to having cable television? If so, is your new home wired for cable? It’s much harder to watch a technician crawling around punching holes in your walls when you own those walls.

prepare to sell

Because you’re likely moving from the world of renting to the world of homeownership, you’ll probably be faced with much higher utility bills. Further, you could find yourself paying for utilities once covered by a landlord, like water and garbage pickup.

 

Plan ahead

The only way to face the unexpected and unknowns of home buying is with research and planning. This starts with budgeting before house hunting, and should continue throughout your search.

Look at homes in your budget that need improvements, then research how much those improvements could cost.

Nothing is worse than buying a home thinking you can fix the yard for a few hundred dollars and then realizing it will cost thousands.

There is really no upper limit to how prepared you can be. Say you find a nice home that’s priced lower than others in the area because of its age. You may save money on the list price, but with an older house you could be slapped with a much higher home insurance payment, effectively making the house more expensive in the long run.

This is where preparation comes in. Research home insurance and property prices in the areas you’re house-hunting to make more educated decisions before you ever make that first offer.

Clearly define how much you intend to put toward your down payment, then look at how much cash that leaves you with for improvements and even minor costs, like changing the locks. That way when you find a house at the high end of your range, you’ll know to walk away if it requires you to buy a new washer and dryer or upgrade the HVAC system.

Establish a rough estimate for as many costs as you can think of, and be extremely critical of homes at the top of your budget, or you could easily end up being house poor.

Know your budget and plan ahead. Buying a home is a lot less scary when you know what you’re getting into.

 

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Mortgage Rates are Down this Week

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Mortgage rates wander lower this week and could be headed down even more.  By Kathy Orton

Mortgage rates were quiet ahead of news Wednesday that the Federal Reserve was leaving its Federal Funds Rate unchanged.

The announcement came too late in the week to be factored into the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.’s mortgage-rate survey. The government-sponsored mortgage-backer aggregates rates from 125 lenders across the country to come up with a national average mortgage rate each week.

Although the central bank held fast this time around, it signaled that it was leaning toward raising its benchmark rate before the end of the year, most likely in December. It also revised its economic outlook. The Fed now expects rates to be about 1.1 percent by the end of 2017, down from June’s forecast of 1.6 percent. Those moves could lead to lower long-term bond yields, which would favor lower mortgage rates.

Mortgage rates moved slightly lower this week, according to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac.

 

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“The 10-year Treasury yield declined after last week’s post-Brexit high in anticipation of the Fed’s September policy meeting,” Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac chief economist, said in a statement. “The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage followed Treasury yields, falling 2 basis points and settling at 3.48 percent. Despite the decrease in rates, the Refinance Index plunged 8 percent to its lowest level since June.”

In its monthly outlook released earlier this week, Freddie Mac predicted that this year will be the best year in home sales since 2006. It expects mortgage rates to remain low with the 30-year fixed rate, the most popular mortgage product, on pace to average 3.6 percent this year. That would be the lowest annual average in 40 years, surpassing the previous low of 3.66 percent set in 2012.

“The housing market remains a bright spot for the U.S. economy, with solid job gains and low mortgage interest rates sustaining the economy’s momentum in September,” Becketti said in a statement. “In most markets, low mortgage rates have more than offset the rise in house prices, preserving homebuyer affordability for the typical household. Homeowners are also taking advantage of low rates and house price appreciation that is increasing their home equity. The share of cash-out refinances grew to 41 percent in the second quarter of 2016, compared to 38 percent in the first quarter and 15 to 20 percent during the housing crisis.”

The 30-year fixed-rate average slid to 3.48 percent with an average 0.6 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 3.5 percent a week ago and 3.86 percent a year ago. After moving above 3.5 percent for the first time since June 23 last week, the 30-year fixed rate retreated below that mark this week.

The 15-year fixed-rate average inched down to 2.76 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 2.77 percent a week ago and 3.08 percent a year ago.

The five-year adjustable rate average dropped to 2.8 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 2.82 percent a week ago and 2.91 percent a year ago.

Meanwhile, mortgage applications slumped this week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The market composite index — a measure of total loan-application volume — sank 7.3 percent from the previous week. The refinance index dropped 8 percent, while the purchase index fell 7 percent.

The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 63.1 percent of all applications.

“Last week, mortgage rates increased to their highest level since June,” said David Stevens, MBA’s president and chief executive. “The increase was in part spurred by comments made by some Fed officials ahead of Wednesday’s meeting signaling that the Federal Reserve is closer to raising rates. Although on Wednesday the Federal Reserve again decided not to raise rates, Chair Yellen explicitly stated that she expects a rate hike this year. The fact that three FOMC members dissented is definitely a sign that the Fed is moving towards that anticipated rate increase. MBA’s economists project that hike will occur at the December meeting, and that the 30-year fixed interested rate for a conventional loan will end up at about 3.8 percent at the end of 2016. We continue to expect refinance activity will fall off through the remainder of 2016 and into 2017, but that purchase activity will be robust, backed by the strength of the job market.”

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Kathy Orton is a reporter and Web editor for the Real Estate section.  She covers the Washington metropolital area housing market.

 

 
 
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Multiple Offers, Now What?

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multiple offers

You’ve worked hard to get your home ready for sale and to price it properly. With any luck, offers will come quickly, and perhaps multiple offers. You’ll need to review each carefully to determine its strengths and drawbacks and pick one to accept. Here’s a plan for evaluating offers.

1. Understand the process.

All offers are negotiable, as your agent will tell you. When you receive an offer, you can accept it, reject it, or respond by asking that terms be modified, which is called making a counteroffer.

2. Set baselines.

Decide in advance what terms are most important to you. For instance, if price is most important, you may need to be flexible on your closing date. Or if you want certainty that the transaction won’t fall apart because the buyer can’t get a mortgage, require a prequalified or cash buyer.

3. Create an offer review process.

If you think your home will receive multiple offers, work with your agent to establish a time frame during which buyers must submit offers. That gives your agent time to market your home to as many potential buyers as possible, and you time to review all the offers you receive.

4. Don’t take offers personally.

Selling your home can be emotional. But it’s simply a business transaction, and you should treat it that way. If your agent tells you a buyer complained that your kitchen is horribly outdated, justifying a lowball offer, don’t be offended. Consider it a sign the buyer is interested and understand that those comments are a negotiating tactic. Negotiate in kind.

5. Review every term.

Carefully evaluate all the terms of each offer. Price is important, but so are other terms. Is the buyer asking for property or fixtures — such as appliances, furniture, or window treatments — to be included in the sale that you plan to take with you?

Is the amount of earnest money the buyer proposes to deposit toward the downpayment sufficient? The lower the earnest money, the less painful it will be for the buyer to forfeit those funds by walking away from the purchase if problems arise.

Have the buyers attach a prequalification or pre-approval letter, which means they’ve already been approved for financing? Or does the offer include a financing or other contingency? If so, the buyers can walk away from the deal if they can’t get a mortgage, and they’ll take their earnest money back, too. Are you comfortable with that uncertainty?

Is the buyer asking you to make concessions, like covering some closing costs? Are you willing, and can you afford to do that? Does the buyer’s proposed closing date mesh with your timeline?

With each factor, ask yourself: Is this a deal breaker, or can I compromise to achieve my ultimate goal of closing the sale?

6. Be creative.

If you’ve received an unacceptable offer through your agent, ask questions to determine what’s most important to the buyer and see if you can meet that need. You may learn the buyer has to move quickly. That may allow you to stand firm on price but offer to close quickly. The key to successfully negotiating the sale is to remain flexible.

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By: G. M. Filisko

Published: February 10, 2010

 

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has survived several closings. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

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5 Ways You Didn’t Know You Could Save for a Down Payment

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beachOne of the biggest misconceptions of home buying? The 20% down payment. Here’s how to buy with a lot less down.

Buying your first home conjures up all kinds of warm and fuzzy emotions: pride, joy, contentment. But before you get to the good stuff, you’ve got to cobble together a down payment, a daunting sum if you follow the textbook advice to squirrel away 20% of a home’s cost.

Here are five creative ways to build your down-payment nest egg faster than you may have ever imagined.

1. Crowdsource Your Dream Home

You may have heard of people using sites like Kickstarter to fund creative projects like short films and concert tours. Well, who says you can’t crowdsource your first home? Forget the traditional registry, the fine china, and the 16-speed blender. Use sites like Feather the Nest and Hatch My House to raise your down payment. Hatch My House says it’s helped Americans raise more than $2 million for down payments.

Less Than 20% Down?

2. Ask the Seller to Help (Really!)

When sellers want to a get a deal done quickly, they might be willing to assist buyers with the closing costs. Fewer closing costs = more money you can apply toward your deposit.

“They’re called seller concessions,” says Ray Rodriguez, regional mortgage sales manager for the New York metro area at TD Bank. Talk with your real estate agent. She might help you negotiate for something like 2% of the overall sales price in concessions to help with the closing costs.

There are limits on concessions depending on the type of mortgage you get. For FHA mortgages, the cap is 6% of the sale price. For Fannie Mae-guaranteed loans, the caps vary between 3% and 9%, depending on the ratio between how much you put down and the amount you finance. Individual banks have varying caps on concessions.

No matter where they net out, concessions must be part of the purchase contract.

3. Look into Government Options

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, offers a number of homeownership programs, including assistance with down payment and closing costs. These are typically available for people who meet particular income or location requirements. HUD has a list of links by state that direct you to the appropriate page for information about your state.

HUD offers help based on profession as well. If you’re a law enforcement officer, firefighter, teacher, or EMT, you may be eligible under its Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program for a 50% discount on a house’s HUD-appraised value in “revitalization areas.” Those areas are designated by Congress for  homeownership opportunities. And if you qualify for an FHA-insured mortgage under this program, the down payment is only $100; you can even finance the closing costs.

For veterans, the VA will guarantee part of a home loan through commercial lenders. Often, there’s no down payment or private mortgage insurance required, and the program helps borrowers secure a competitive interest rate.

Some cities also offer homeownership help. “The city of Hartford has the HouseHartford Program that gives down payment assistance and closing cost assistance,” says Matthew Carbray, a certified financial planner with Ridgeline Financial Partners and Carbray Staunton Financial Planners in Avon, Conn. The program partners with lenders, real estate attorneys, and homebuyer counseling agencies and has helped 1,200 low-income families.

4. Check with Your Employer

Employer Assisted Housing (EAH) programs help connect low- to moderate-income workers with down payment assistance through their employer. In Pennsylvania, if you work for a participating EAH employer, you can apply for a loan of up to $8,000 for down payment and closing cost assistance. The loan is interest-free and borrowers have 10 years to pay it back.

Washington University in St. Louis offers forgivable loans to qualified employees who want to purchase housing in specific city neighborhoods. University employees receive the lesser of 5% of the purchase price or $6,000 toward down payment or closing costs.

Ask the human resources or benefits personnel at your employer if the company is part of an EAH program.

5. Take Advantage of Special Lender Programs

Finally, many lenders offer programs to help people buy a home with a small down payment. “I would say that the biggest misconception [of homebuying] is that you need 20% for the down payment of a house,” says Rodriguez. “There are a lot of programs out there that need a total of 3% or 3.5% down.”

FHA mortgages, for example, can require as little as 3.5%. But bear in mind that there are both upfront and monthly mortgage insurance payments. “The mortgage insurance could add another $300 to your monthly mortgage payment,” Rodriguez says.

Some lender programs go even further. TD Bank, for example, offers a 3% down payment with no mortgage insurance program, and other banks may have similar offerings. “Check with your regional bank,” Rodriguez says. “Maybe they have their own first-time buyer program.”

Not so daunting after all, is it? There’s actually a lot of help available to many first-time buyers who want to achieve their homeownership dreams. All you need to do is a little research — and start peeking at those home listings!

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4 Tips to Determine How Much Mortgage You Can Afford

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By knowing how much mortgage you can handle, you can ensure that home ownership will fit in your budget.Costs of Refinancing

Home ownership should make you feel safe and secure, and that includes financially. Be sure you can afford your home by calculating how much of a mortgage you can safely fit into your budget.

Why not just take out the biggest mortgage a lender says you can have? Because your lender bases that number on a formula that doesn’t consider your current and future financial and personal goals.

Think ahead to major life events and consider how those might influence your budget. Do you want to return to school for an advanced degree? Will a new child add day care to your monthly expenses? Does a relative plan to eventually live with you and contribute to the mortgage?

Consider those lifestyle issues as you check out these four methods for estimating the amount of mortgage you can afford.

1.  Prepare a detailed budget.

The oldest rule of thumb says you can typically afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. So, if you earn $100,000, you can typically afford a home between $200,000 and $300,000.

But that’s not the best method because it doesn’t take into account your monthly expenses and debts. Those costs greatly influence how much you can afford. Let’s say you earn $100,000 a year but have $1,000 in monthly payments for student debt, car loans, and credit card minimum payments. You don’t have as much money to pay your mortgage as someone earning the same income with no debts.

Better option: Prepare a family budget that tallies your ongoing monthly bills for everything — credit cards, car and student loans, lunch at work, day care, date night, vacations, and savings.

See what’s left over to spend on homeownership costs, like your mortgage, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable.

2.  Factor in your downpayment.

How much money do you have for a downpayment? The higher your downpayment, the lower your monthly payments will be. If you put down at least 20% of the home’s cost, you may not have to get private mortgage insurance, which protects the lender if you default and costs hundreds each month. That leaves more money for your mortgage payment.

The lower your downpayment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for and the higher your monthly mortgage payment.

But, if interest rates and/or home prices are rising and you wait to buy until you accumulate a bigger downpayment, you may end up paying more for your home.

3.  Consider your overall debt.

Lenders generally follow the 43% rule. Your monthly mortgage payments covering your home loan principal, interest, taxes and insurance, plus all your other bills, like car loans, utilities, and credit cards, shouldn’t exceed 43% of your gross annual income.

Here’s an example of how the 43% calculation works for a homebuyer making $100,000 a year before taxes:

1.    Your gross annual income is $100,000.

2.    Multiply $100,000 by 43% to get $43,000 in annual income.

3.    Divide $43,000 by 12 months to convert the annual 43% limit into a monthly upper limit of $3,583.

4.    All your monthly bills including your potential mortgage can’t go above $3,583 per month.

You might find a lender willing to give you a mortgage with a payment that goes above the 43% line, but consider carefully before you take it. Evidence from studies of mortgage loans suggest that borrowers who go over the limit are more likely to run into trouble making monthly payments, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warns.

4.  Use your rent as a mortgage guide.

The tax benefits of homeownership generally allow you to afford a mortgage payment — including taxes and insurance — of about one-third more than your current rent payment without changing your lifestyle. So you can multiply your current rent by 1.33 to arrive at a rough estimate of a mortgage payment.

Here’s an example: If you currently pay $1,500 per month in rent, you should be able to comfortably afford a $2,000 monthly mortgage payment after factoring in the tax benefits of homeownership.

However, if you’re struggling to keep up with your rent, buy a home that will give you the same payment rather than going up to a higher monthly payment. You’ll have additional costs for homeownership that your landlord now covers, like property taxes and repairs. If there’s no room in your budget for those extras, you could become financially stressed.

Also consider whether or not you’ll itemize your deductions. If you take the standard deduction, you can’t also deduct mortgage interest payments. Talking to a tax adviser, or using a tax software program to do a “what if” tax return, can help you see your tax situation more clearly.

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7 Tips for Improving Your Credit

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Paying off credit card balance via computer

Getting the loan that suits your situation at the best possible price and terms makes homebuying easier and more affordable. Here are seven ways to boost your credit score so you can do just that.

1. Know your credit score

Credit scores range from 300 to 850, and the higher, the better. They’re based on whether you’ve paid personal loans, car loans, credit cards, and other debt in full and on time in the past. You’ll need a score of at least 620 to qualify for a home loan and 740 to get the best interest rates and terms.

You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the major credit-reporting bureaus, EquifaxExperian, and TransUnion. Access all three versions of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. Review them to ensure the information is accurate.

2. Correct errors on your credit report

If you find mistakes on your credit report, write a letter to the credit-reporting agency explaining why you believe there’s an error. Send documents that support your case, and ask that the error be corrected or removed. Also write to the company, or debt collector, that reported the incorrect information to dispute the information, and ask to be copied on any materials sent to credit-reporting agencies.

3. Pay every bill on time

You may be surprised at the damage even a few late payments will have on your credit score. The easiest way to make a big difference in your credit score without altering your spending habits is to diligently pay all your bills on time. You’ll also save money because you’ll keep the money you’ve been spending on late fees. Credit card or mortgage companies probably won’t report minor late payments, those less than 30 days overdue, but you’ll still have to pay late fees.

4. Use credit carefully

Another good way to boost your credit score is to pay your credit card bills in full every month. If you can’t do that, pay as much over your required minimum payment as possible to begin whittling away the debt. Stop using your credit cards to keep your balances from increasing, and transfer balances from high-interest credit cards to lower-interest cards.

5. Take care with the length of your credit

Credit rating agencies also consider the length of your credit history. If you’ve had a credit card for a long time and managed it responsibly, that works in your favor. However, opening several new credit cards at once can lower the average age of your accounts, which pushes down your score. Likewise, closing credit card accounts lowers your available credit, so keep credit cards open even if you’re not using them.

6. Don’t use all the credit you’re offered

Credit scores are also based on how much credit you use compared with how much you’re offered. Using $1,000 of available credit will give you a lower score than having $1,000 of available credit and using $100 of it. Occasionally opening new lines of credit can boost your available credit, which also affects your score positively.

7. Be patient

It can take time for your credit score to climb once you’ve begun working to improve it. Keep at it because the more distance you put between your spotty payment history and your current good payment record, the less damage you’ll do to your credit score.

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