How To Improve Your FICO Score

The U.S. housing market recovery is underway. New home sales are at a multi-year high, housing starts are at pre-recession levels, and home builders plan for a strong 2013.

Since late-2011, falling mortgage rates have boosted buyer purchasing power. Now, today, in many U.S. markets, the number of active home buyers outnumbers the number of active home sellers. It’s among the reasons why home supplies remain scarce and why home prices are rising.

Roughly 20 percent of today’s home buyers purchase homes with cash. For everyone else, the ability to gain mortgage approval depends on income, assets, and, most importantly, credit scores. Your credit score is a predictor of your future payment performance and lenders pay close attention. 

If you plan to buy a home in Asheville or anywhere else in the next 12 months, spend some time with this The Today Show interview. It’s five minutes of practical credit scoring advice, including separation of credit score myth from credit score fact.

Among the credit scoring tips shared :

  • How to get your credit checked without harming your credit score
  • The value of using automatic payments with credit cards
  • How to use “old” credit cards to boost your credit score

You’ll also learn about utility companies and why you should never be late with payment.

As compared to August 2011, last month’s average, mortgage-financing home buyer’s FICO score improved 9 points to 750. The average “denied” mortgage applicant’s FICO score was 704. Clearly, standards are high. However, credit scoring is a system and, with time, you can improve your rating. 

Watch the interview and find ways to make your credit score better. With better credit comes better mortgage rates.

How To Help Your Home Appraise At Its Fair Market Value

Home values are rising in many U.S. markets. The S&P/Case-Shiller Index has home values up 1.2 percent as compared to last year, and the government’s Home Price Index shows an increase of 3.7 percent.

This has been partially evidenced by rising median home sales prices nationwide. Versus last year, the median sale price of a new construction home has climbed 17 percent, and the median sale price of an existing home sale is higher by 10 percent.

For home sellers, an improving market means the chance to net more proceeds from a home sale. Or does it?

In this 3-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, we hear about the home appraisal process and how it may be limiting the number of home sales nationwide, plus the prices at which homes are selling. 

The interview includes several key insights into the home appraisal process :

  • In a rising housing market, a home’s appraised home value may be lower than its “true” market value
  • Short sales and foreclosures can make a negative impact on a home’s appraised value
  • Consolidation in the appraisal industry has lowered product quality and may be harming valuations

One key take-away from the video is that home owners in Asheville should provide their home appraisers with as much relevant information as possible — especially information which may not be publicly-available. This includes records of recent “all-cash” sales of comparable homes which were never formally listed for sale.

One in three purchase agreements are canceled because of appraisal issues, according to the interview. Take steps to make sure yours is not among them.

Making Coupon-Free Savings At The Supermarket

The average family puts 10-15 percent of its monthly spending toward food, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Department of Agriculture, with most of that food purchased at a supermarket.

The amount spent on food is less than the typical amount spent on housing each month but what makes food costs different from housing expenses is food costs are not “fixed”.

How much you spend on food each month is up to you and, using savvy shopping tactics plus coupons, you can lower your monthly food spend. Saving money on food leaves money for other purposes including savings, clothing and transportation.

In this 4-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn several easy-to-implement methods which can reduce your supermarket bills, as well a few “common sense” tactics you may have overlooked.

Among the topics covered in the video :

  • The importance of shopping with a list, and of avoiding “the inner aisles”
  • The value of generic brands, which are often near-copies of “brand name” products
  • Why you should buy toiletries at a drugstore instead of at a supermarket
  • Using “per unit” prices to compare different-sized packaging of the same product
  • Buying fruit that’s in-season versus fruit that’s out-of-season

Another shared money-saving tip is to shop at grocery store without children. It can be fun for the family to shop together, as noted in the interview, but bringing children to the supermarket is a sure-fire way to raise your grocery bill.

Recent inflation data shows that the typical cost of food is rising in Asheville and nationwide. With these tips, perhaps you can lower your bill.

Insurance Policies : Which Do You Need, Which Should You Skip?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Insurance is protection against unexpected expenses and insurance policies are available for nearly any scenario you can envision — even your own ransom. But just because an insurance policy is available, that doesn’t mean you should buy it.

Some insurance policies give you good bang for the buck. Others are plain wasteful.

In this 3-minute segment from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll hear of several common insurance policies and their relative merits to people who purchase them.

For example, Americans will spend an estimated $450 million on pet insurance this year. Because of the policies’ restrictions and deductibles, though, it’s an insurance policy that rarely pays off. This is one reason why financial experts often recommend that you pass on purchasing pet insurance.

Within the segment, other reviewed insurance policies include :

  • Mobile phone insurance
  • Flight and travel insurance
  • Extended warranties for electronics
  • Umbrella policies
  • Renters insurance

There’s also discussion about home warranties, and why you should avoid policies that last longer than one year.

Insurance should be an important part of your overall financial plan. However, the key is to have the proper policies in place, with an appropriate amount of coverage. Review your policies annually and keep your coverage current.  

Tax Tips : What To Do With Your Tax Refund

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The typical U.S. taxpayer will receive roughly $3,000 in federal income tax refunds this year — an average of $250 per month. So, what would you do with an extra $250 monthly? This segment from NBC’s The Today Show offers some advice. 

Whether you’ve already filed your annual taxes for 2011, filed an extension, or will squeak by on the deadline, you could probably be doing more with your taxes. The above video shares some tips. It’s four minutes of solid insight on tax refunds, tax withholdings, and reducing your household’s overall “bad debt”. There’s something for everyone.

Among the points covered in the tax refund piece :

  • Consider changing your personal payroll exemptions so your 2012 refund is $0
  • Remember that refunds are not “free money” — it’s your money. Spend wisely.
  • Use your tax refund to fund retirement accounts

Advice is also shared about how to use your tax refund to fund a reserve account, or emergency fund. As a homeowner or home buyer , applying tax refunds to a savings accounts in this manner can go a long way. When you’re a homeowner, maintenance costs can be sudden and unexpected. A furnace can explode, for example; or, a roof could spring a leak. Having money set aside for crisis is essential.

Having a savings account will also improve your household’s long-term financial stability. 

As a reminder, in most years, federal income tax is due April 15. However, with Tax Day falling on a Sunday and with the federal government closed for a holiday the following Monday, U.S. taxpayers nationwide get a reprieve until Tuesday, April 17, 2012.

Quick Tips : Boost Your Credit Score For Better Mortgage Rates

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Credit scores play a huge role in today’s mortgage market — larger than at any time in recent history. Blame it on the high default rates of the last half-decade. Lenders are reserving their lowest rates for the customers most likely to make on-time repayments.

Mortgage rates are at an all-time low. However, the low rates you see advertised on TV and online are only available to the home buyers and would-be refinancers whose credit scores are pristine. Having a high credit score is often the difference between getting “the best rates” from your lender, and getting something worse.

The first part of improving your credit score is understanding how it works. In this 5-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn the basics :

  • Why you shouldn’t close a credit card after you pay off a large debt
  • What is the maximize balance to leave on your credit cards, relative to your credit limit
  • What types of credit checks harm your credit scores, and which ones don’t

You’ll also learn how to shop for a mortgage with multiple lenders without having your credit score “dinged”, as well as several proven methods to raise your credit score quickly.

In the end, good credit scores are the result of paying bills on time and staying with your means. Those with the best scores, get the best rates.

Will Home Values Rise This Year?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Will your home gain value over the next 12 months? Nobody can know for sure, of course, but should recent housing trends continue, there’s concrete cause for optimism.

The housing economy has suffered since 2007, knocking home values down nearly 20% nationwide. And while some areas have fared better as compared to others but, in general, home values are down. 

Mortgage rates are down, too, and that’s good news for buyers. The combination of low rates and low prices has led home affordability to an all-time high. As you’ll hear in this 4-minute interview with NBC’s The Today Show, carrying a mortgage costs 25% less per month as compared to just 3 years ago.

Some other notes from the interview include :

  • There are more buyers out looking for homes today, which leads to more sales
  • The housing market is expected to get gradually better, month-by-month, in 2012
  • Foreclosures will continue to be a big part of the housing market

With housing supplies shrinking, buyers may find their best “deals” today — before the Spring Buying Season begins in February.

However, we can’t forget that housing markets are local — not national. Each town and neighborhood has its own market drivers and prices where you live may have already started to climb.

For accurate, up-to-date data on the housing market, talk with a local real estate agent.