5 Factors That Decide Your Credit Score

Credit scores range between 200 and 800, with scores above 620 considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage. The following factors affect your score:

1. Your payment history. Did you pay your credit card obligations on time? If they were late, then how late? Bankruptcy filing, liens, and collection activity also impact your history.

2. How much you owe.  If youowe a great deal of money on numerous accounts, it can indicate that you are overextended. However, it’s a good thing if you have a good proportion of balances to total credit limits.

3. The length of your credit history. In general, the longer you have had accounts opened, the better. The average consumer's oldest obligation is 14 years old, indicating that he or she has been managing credit for some time, according to Fair Isaac Corp., and only one in 20 consumers have credit histories shorter than 2 years.

4. How much new credit you have. New credit, either installment payments or new credit cards, are considered more risky, even if you pay them promptly.

5. The types of credit you use. Generally, it’s desirable to have more than one type of credit — installment loans, credit cards, and a mortgage, for example.

Reprinted from REALTOR® magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

For more on evaluating and understanding your credit score, visit www.myfico.com.

Budget Basics Worksheet

The first step in getting yourself in financial shape to buy a home is to know exactly how much money comes in and how much goes out. Use this worksheet to list your income and expenses below.




Take Home Pay (all family members)


Child Support/Alimony


Pension/Social Security


Disability/Other Insurance






Total Income





Rent/Mortgage (include taxes, principal, and insurance)


Life Insurance


Health/Disability Insurance


Vehicle Insurance


Homeowner’s or Other Insurance


Car Payments


Other Loan Payments


Savings/Pension Contribution


Utilities (gas, water, electric, phone)


Credit Card Payments


Car Upkeep (gas, maintenance, etc.)




Personal Care Products (shampoo, cologne, etc.)




Food Outside the Home (restaurant meals and carryout)




Household Goods (hardware, lawn, and garden)




Child Care


Education (continuing education, classes, etc.)


Charitable Donations




Total Expenses


Remaining Income After Expenses

(Subtract Total Income from Total   Expenses)


Your Property Wish List

What does your future home look like? Where is it located? As you hunt down your dream home, consult this list to evaluate properties and keep your priorities top of mind. 


□         Neighborhoods


What neighborhoods do you prefer?


□         Schools


What school systems do you want to be near?


□         Transportation


How close must the home be to these amenities:


  • Public transportation                          
  • Airport
  • Expressway
  • Neighborhood shopping
  • Schools
  • Other


□         Home Style


  • What architectural style(s) of homes do you prefer?
  • Do you want to buy a home, condominium, or townhome?
  • Would you like a one-story or two-story home?
  • How many bedrooms must your new home have?
  • How many bathrooms must your new home have?


□         Home Condition


  • Do you prefer a new home or an existing home?
  • If you’re looking for an existing home, how old of a home would you consider?
  • How much repair or renovation would you be willing to do?
  • Do you have special needs that your home must meet?


□         Home Features 


Please circle one of the choices: Must Have, Want to Have, Neutral, Don't Want   


Front yard               Must Have             Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want                        

Back yard                Must Have              Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want     

Garage ( __ cars)  Must Have             Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want    

Patio/Deck               Must Have             Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want     

Pool                            Must Have             Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want    

Family room           Must Have              Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want    

Formal living rm   Must Have             Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want    

Formal dining rm Must Have              Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want    

Eat-in kitchen         Must Have              Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want    

Laundry room        Must Have              Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want       

Finished basemnt Must Have              Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want    

Attic                           Must Have              Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want    

Fireplace                  Must Have              Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want    

Spa in bath              Must Have              Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want    

Air conditioning    Must Have              Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want    

Walltowall carpet Must Have             Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want    

Wood floors            Must Have              Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want    

Great view               Must Have              Want to Have     Neutral    Don't Want    


□         Other notes:


Tips for Finding the Perfect Neighborhood

Your neighborhood has a big impact on your lifestyle. Follow these steps to find the perfect community to call home.


  • Is it close to your favorite spots? Make a list of the activities — movies, health club, church, etc. — you engage in regularly and stores you visit frequently. See how far you would have to travel from each neighborhood you’re considering to engage in your most common activities.


  • Check out the school district. This is especially important if you have children, but it also can affect resale value. The Department of Education in your town can probably provide information on test scores, class size, percentage of students who attend college, and special enrichment programs. If you have school-age children, visit schools in the neighborhoods you’re considering. Also, check out www.schoolmatters.com.


  • Find out if the neighborhood is safe. Ask the police department for neighborhood crime statistics. Consider not only the number of crimes but also the type — such as burglaries or armed robberies — and the trend of increasing or decreasing crime. Also, is crime centered in only one part of the neighborhood, such as near a retail area?


  • Determine if the neighborhood is economically stable. Check with your local city economic development office to see if income and property values in the neighborhood are stable or rising. What is the percentage of homes to apartments? Apartments don’t necessarily diminish value, but do mean a more transient population. Do you see vacant businesses or homes that have been for sale for months?


  • See if you’ll make money. Ask a local REALTOR® or call the local REALTOR® association to get information about price appreciation in the neighborhood. Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, this information may give you a sense of how good of an investment your home will be. A REALTOR® or the government planning agency also may be able to tell you about planned developments or other changes in the neighborhood — like a new school or highway — that might affect value.


  • Make personal observations. Once you’ve narrowed your focus to two or three neighborhoods, go there and walk around. Are homes tidy and well maintained? Are streets quiet? How does it feel? Pick a warm day if you can and chat with people working or playing outside.

Reprinted from REALTOR® magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

7 Reasons to Own Your Home

1. Tax breaks. The U.S. Tax Code lets you deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage, your property taxes, as well as some of the costs involved in buying your home.

2. Appreciation. Real estate has long-term, stable growth in value. While year-to-year fluctuations are normal, median existing-home sale prices have increased on average 6.5 percent each year from 1972 through 2005, and increased 88.5 percent over the last 10 years, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. In addition, the number of U.S. households is expected to rise 15 percent over the next decade, creating continued high demand for housing.

3. Equity. Money paid for rent is money that you’ll never see again, but mortgage payments let you build equity ownership interest in your home.

4. Savings. Building equity in your home is a ready-made savings plan. And when you sell, you can generally take up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a married couple) as gain without owing any federal income tax.

5. Predictability. Unlike rent, your fixed-mortgage payments don’t rise over the years so your housing costs may actually decline as you own the home longer. However, keep in mind that property taxes and insurance costs will increase.

6. Freedom. The home is yours. You can decorate any way you want and benefit from your investment for as long as you own the home.

7. Stability. Remaining in one neighborhood for several years gives you a chance to participate in community activities, lets you and your family establish lasting friendships, and offers your children the benefit of educational continuity.

Online resources: To calculate whether buying is the best financial option for you, use the “Buy vs. Rent” calculator at www.GinnieMae.gov.


Reprinted from REALTOR® magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

We want to make some improvements on our home so it will sell quickly. What do you suggest?

      I've got good news for you!  Basic improvements are important and don't cost much if you do them yourself.  I always advise my clients to avoid “trading dollars.”  By that I mean don’t spend a dollar to get a dollar.  Here are some ideas that in most cases, will add value substantially greater than the expense of the item.

            * Can you paint? Freshening the rooms with a nice coat of paint comes first. If you have rooms or walls that are odd colors, paint these entire rooms in beige (I know beige is boring but it sells) and install new electrical outlet covers. Check the woodwork to see if it needs to be touched up.

            * When faucets in the kitchen and master bath are showing their age, replace them with new faucets that have a modern style.

            The same is true for light fixtures. Sparkling new fixtures on a newly painted ceiling actually gives you a "new room."

            You could spend a lot of money on such projects as remodeling your entire kitchen, but dollar-for-dollar, you'll get a better return for freshening.

            * Of course, the kitchen is important. If you have a few thousand dollars to spend on a project, decorators say new countertops are a good choice. They don't have to be granite. Other choices: quartz as in Caesarstone or Cambria, DuPont's Zodiaq or solid surface Corian, or Eco's Cosentino or IceStone

            * On the outside, paint the window frames and the front door. The door is especially important and can be made a contrasting color, like red.

            Make sure the trim around the roof isn't chipped and that your gutters and downspouts are properly attached.

            * If the roof has a dark streak or two or moss, a roof-cleaning company can make it look new again.  A professional roof cleaning will take them away.

            This is one job you can't do yourself. Reputable roof-cleaning companies use removal methods that do not damage your roof and it usually only costs a few hundred dollars.


            If you would like a detailed list of the items I recommend to prepare your home for sale call me anytime, I provide this as a free service to my clients.

What is Title Insurance?

Many would- be home buyers and home sellers as me the following question. What is title insurance? What is it for? What does it do? The best answer is with a story. The following question was posted online.

"I paid cash for my house 2 years ago. Now my builder's bank is foreclosing on the surrounding plats and now they want to foreclose on my home. How do I protect my home?"

Title insurance is in place to cover the policy holder in the event that ownership of a piece of real estate comes into question. The only reason the builders bank is trying to foreclose is that they believe they still have a title ownership right to the property.

Call your title insurer. Title Insurance companies will defend your title in court if necessary, at the company's expense. In addition the company will indemnify you against monetary loss or damage due to covered title defects, according to the terms of your title insurance policy.