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What You Can Do to Improve Your Credit

Credit scores, along with your overall income and debt, are big factors in determining whether you ll qualify for a loan and what your loan terms will be. So, keep your credit score high by doing the following:

1. Check for and correct any errors in your credit report. Mistakes happen, and you could be paying for someone else s poor financial management.
2. Pay down credit card bills. If possible, pay off the entire balance every month. Transferring credit card debt from one card to another could lower your score.
3. Don t charge your credit cards to the maximum limit.
4. Wait 12 months after credit difficulties to apply for a mortgage. You re penalized less for problems after a year.
5. Don t order items for your new home on credit  such as appliances and furniture  until after the loan is approved. The amounts will add to your debt.
6. Don t open new credit card accounts before applying for a mortgage. Too much available credit can lower your score.
7. Shop for mortgage rates all at once. Too many credit applications can lower your score, but multiple inquiries from the same type of lender are counted as one inquiry if submitted over a short period of time.
8. Avoid finance companies. Even if you pay the loan on time, the interest is high and it will probably be considered a sign of poor credit management.

This information is copyrighted by the Fannie Mae Foundation and is used with permission of the Fannie Mae Foundation. To obtain a complete copy of the publication, Knowing and Understanding Your Credit, visit www.homebuyingguide.org.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Common Closing Costs for Buyers

You ll likely be responsible for a variety of fees and expenses that you and the seller will have to pay at the time of closing. Your lender must provide a good-faith estimate of all settlement costs. The title company or other entity conducting the closing will tell you the required amount for:

Down payment
Loan origination
Points, or loan discount fees, which you pay to receive a lower interest rate
Home inspection
Appraisal
Credit report
Private mortgage insurance premium
Insurance escrow for homeowner s insurance, if being paid as part of the mortgage
Property tax escrow, if being paid as part of the mortgage. Lenders keep funds for taxes and insurance in escrow accounts as they are paid with the mortgage, then pay the insurance or taxes for you.
Deed recording
Title insurance policy premiums
Land survey
Notary fees
Prorations for your share of costs, such as utility bills and property taxes

A Note About Prorations: Because such costs are usually paid on either a monthly or yearly basis, you might have to pay a bill for services used by the sellers before they moved. Proration is a way for the sellers to pay you back or for you to pay them for bills they may have paid in advance. For example, the gas company usually sends a bill each month for the gas used during the previous month. But assume you buy the home on the 6th of the month. You would owe the gas company for only the days from the 6th to the end for the month. The seller would owe for the first five days. The bill would be prorated for the number of days in the month, and then each person would be responsible for the days of his or her ownership.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

5 Feng Shui Concepts to Help a Home Sell

To put the best face on a listing and appeal to buyers who follow feng shui principles, keep these tips in mind.

1. Pay special attention to the front door, which is considered the  mouth of chi (chi is the  life force of all things) and one of the most powerful aspects of the entire property. Abundance, blessings, opportunities, and good fortune enter through the front door. It s also the first impression buyers have of how well the sellers have taken care of the rest of the property. Make sure the area around the front door is swept clean, free of cobwebs and clutter. Make sure all lighting is straight and properly hung. Better yet, light the path leading up to the front door to create an inviting atmosphere.

2. Chi energy can be flushed away wherever there are drains in the home. To keep the good forces of a home in, always keep the toilet seats down and close the doors to bathrooms.

3. The master bed should be in a place of honor, power, and protection, which is farthest from and facing toward the entryway of the room. It s even better if you can place the bed diagonally in the farthest corner. Paint the room in colors that promote serenity, relaxation, and romance, such as soft tones of green, blue, and lavender.

4. The dining room symbolizes the energy and power of family togetherness. Make sure the table is clear and uncluttered during showings. Use an attractive tablecloth to enhance the look of the table while also softening sharp corners.

5. The windows are considered to be the eyes of the home. Getting the windows professionally cleaned will make the home sparkle and ensure that the view will be optimally displayed.

Source: Sell Your Home Faster With Feng Shui by Holly Ziegler (Dragon Chi Publications, 2001)

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Pros and Cons of Going Condo

Condominiums and townhouses offer an affordable option to single-family homes in many markets, and they re ideal for those who appreciate a maintenance-free lifestyle. But before you buy, make sure you do your legwork.

These are some of the important elements to consider:

Storage. Some condos have storage lockers, but usually there are no attics or basements to hold extra belongings.

Outdoor space. Yards and outdoor areas are usually smaller in condos, so if you like to garden or entertain outdoors, this may not be a good fit. However, if you dread yard work, this may be the perfect option for you.

Amenities. Many condo properties have swimming pools, fitness centers, and other facilities that would be very expensive in a single-family home.
Maintenance. Many condos have onsite maintenance personnel to care for common areas, do repairs in your unit, and let in workers when you re not home  good news if you like to travel.

Security. Keyed entries and even doormen are common in many condos. You re also closer to other people in case of an emergency.

Reserve funds and association fees. Although fees generally help pay for amenities and provide savings for future repairs, you will have to pay the fees decided by the condo board, whether or not you re interested in the amenity.

Resale. The ease of selling your unit may be dependent on what else is for sale in your building, since units are usually fairly similar.

Condo rules. Although you have a vote, the rules of the condo association can affect your ability to use your property. For example, some condos prohibit home-based businesses. Others prohibit pets, or don t allow owners to rent out their units. Read the covenants, restrictions, and bylaws of the condo carefully before you make an offer.

Neighbors. You re much closer to your neighbors in a condo or town home. If possible, try to meet your closest prospective neighbors.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

10 Questions to Ask Your Lender

1. What are the most popular mortgages you offer Why are they so popular
2. Which type of mortgage plan do you think would be best for me Why
3. Are your rates, terms, fees, and closing costs negotiable
4. Will I have to buy private mortgage insurance If so, how much will it cost, and how long will it be required (NOTE: Private mortgage insurance is usually required if your down payment is less than 20 percent. However, most lenders will let you discontinue PMI when you ve acquired a certain amount of equity by paying down the loan.)
5. Who will service the loan  your bank or another company
6. What escrow requirements do you have
7. How long will this loan be in a lock-in period (in other words, the time that the quoted interest rate will be honored) Will I be able to obtain a lower rate if it drops during this period
8. How long will the loan approval process take
9. How long will it take to close the loan
10. Are there any charges or penalties for prepaying the loan

Used with permission from Real Estate Checklists & Systems, www.realestatechecklists.com.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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