Thinking about buying a home? Mortgage rates have been bouncing around near all-time lows for quite a while now. Historically speaking, rates still remain incredibly low. Many home buyers today think that mortgage rates this low are the way it’s always been. Not by a long shot! In the early 1970s, mortgage rates hovered between the mid-7 percent range and high 8 percent range. And how about the 1980s? In the early years of that decade, mortgage rates rose to more than 18 percent.
Today’s mortgage rates remain super low, stretching your home-buying dollars. According to the research firm Capital Economics, the average mortgage payment nationwide is still significantly lower than it was in 2006. With continued low mortgage rates projected, the National Association of Realtors is predicting another great year for housing nationwide. The association’s economist is predicting existing-home sales to reach 5.5 million in 2017, up from 5.36 million in 2016. (That’s great news considering 2016 was the best year for existing home sales since 2006.)
Whether you’re buying or refinancing, locking in today’s low rates could be one of the smartest financial moves you ever make. Check out just how far your home buying dollars can go today!
Selling a home can be a nerve-wracking process. It’s your baby, after all. You have been there through all the growing pains, from painting the walls your favorite shade, to upgrading the bathrooms and putting your finishing touches on the window treatments.
When you put your home on the market, however, you want your house to be home sweet home to someone else, which means making it shine for a broad base of prospective homebuyers. Here are three ways to make your home stand out in a crowd.
Keep it neutral
You may be understandably proud of your rare collection of cuckoo clocks, but this can be a serious distraction for those touring your home. At the same time, you don’t want your home to be a blank slate. Studies reveal that houses show better when they are staged with furniture, as staging helps people imagine themselves living in a particular space. Your home is a reflection of your personality, which is completely normal, but personal tastes don’t appeal to everyone. Keep decorations neutral, tasteful, and understated.
Keep it nice and tidy inside and out
Cleanliness goes a long way when it comes to making a home stand out. Before a showing, make sure your home is clean and organized by vacuuming carpets, picking up toys, and clearing any clutter. The same goes for the outside: cut the grass and clean up any landscaping beds before potential buyers stop by.
Showcase your home’s best features
You don’t need a pricey renovation or all new carpeting to get a great price for your home. If your budget is tight, focus on your home’s unique features. Play up fabulous woodwork and crown molding, or remove heavy window treatments that hide a spectacular bay window. Your real estate agent can help you determine the best way to showcase your home’s best features.
No, you won’t get the lowest interest rate with a low credit score, but you can qualify for a mortgage loan. It’ll take more work and probably cost more, but it’s possible. Here’s how you should prepare for the process.
Know your credit situation
You know you missed payments, declared bankruptcy or have other blemishes on your credit record, but have you ever looked at your report in detail? Get a free copy at annualcreditreport.com, and look for any mistakes. You can contact the credit-reporting agencies if you find anything that needs correction.
Next, look at your credit score. Lenders base many of their decisions on how high or low scores are. Some financial institutions provide their customers with a version of their FICO score, the most widely used credit score. Or you can pay a small fee to obtain yours.
Is your score very low? If you’ve corrected the behavior or situations that damaged your credit, consider waiting a few months. As the blemishes to your credit record age, they’ll affect your score less.
Don’t make it worse
Disputing possible problems on your credit report, being current on all your bills and other common sense practices can improve your credit score over time. At the very least, don’t do anything to make your loan application look worse.
Obviously, don’t open any new credit accounts, but don’t close any accounts either. It won’t hide anything, and you’ll only reduce your available credit. And if you’re shopping around for a lender, make sure you pick one within 30 days of your first application. The credit agency will ignore multiple credit checks within that amount of time, but after that, each hit will damage your already delicate credit.
Talk to your lender
Find a mortgage lender who handles mortgage products that may work for your situation. In addition to mortgage products, he or she likely knows of buyer-assistance programs that could help you.
And don’t be afraid to discuss what happened with your credit. Missing a car payment because your wife needed an expensive medical procedure is different than missing a car payment because you bought a boat. If extenuating circumstances contributed to your credit problems — and you can show evidence that supports your story — you may get the benefit of the doubt if the lender has any flexibility.
You can get a mortgage loan. It’s going to take time and patience, but with a lender’s assistance, you can find a product that works.
If you’re like most Americans, you have amassed quite the collection of financial documents, including receipts, invoices, pay stubs, bank statements, utility bills and old tax returns. Most can be tossed after a certain period of time. But there are some things that you’ll want to consider keeping forever. Here are some of them:
Federal and state tax returns. While some experts say that you’re probably safe pitching your personal federal and state tax returns after seven years, others say it’s a better idea to hold onto them forever. After seven years, some financial planners recommend tossing the mound of supporting paperwork used to prepare and file a return while still holding on to the actual return. You can either keep paper copies of your tax returns or scan them and store them electronically.
Personal records. Birth certificates, Social Security cards, marriage licenses and divorce decrees all should be kept in a secure, fire-proof box as long as you live.
Estate planning paperwork. The same applies to wills, trusts, life insurance policies, health care directives and other estate planning information.
You’re ready to move on. Maybe the house is too small, you’re moving because of a job, or you want to be closer to family and friends — the top three reasons for selling a home, according to the National Association of Realtors.
No matter the reason, the selling process can be stressful. You can’t eliminate all the complications of a real estate transaction, but here are three ways you can reduce the stress with some preparation.
Set a realistic price
Some sellers ask for more than the market will bear, assuming that buyers will want the property and offer less. But most buyers won’t even make an offer if it’s priced out of line with similar homes in the area. Properties with inflated prices stay on the market longer than average and often sell for less than homes that are fairly priced to start with.
Don’t put up the sign until the house is ready
Even though you’re ready to sell, is your house ready to be shown? Fix the leaky faucet, repaint the dingy dining room and replace the broken front step before you list the house. You’ve lived with these annoyances for years, but these problems will distract a buyer. When the property looks its best, you’ll have your best chance of success.
Make the house easy to show
Keep your schedule flexible. Although it’s inconvenient to tidy up on a Tuesday night, it’s in your best interests to eliminate any obstacles for people who want to purchase your home.
When buyers view your house, you should be anywhere but home. They will feel uncomfortable looking through a home when you’re present, and they want to be free to discuss the pros and cons of the house without fear of offending the owners.
Following these steps will put you in good shape to sell your home. Talk to your lender to figure out the best way to leverage your sales proceeds for your next purchase.