3 Step Credit Prep for Homeownership

Brandpoint  |  2015-12-03

(BPT) - Homeownership is a dream for many Americans, and maybe it’s one of yours as well. Making this dream a reality requires hard work, dedication and the proper preparation. You must figure out where you want to live, what type of home you desire, what you can afford and also how your credit rating may impact your home-purchasing goals.

Your credit rating can play an important role in the home buying process, and your creditworthiness could also affect the amount that you can borrow, the interest rates you will qualify for and your ability to obtain a mortgage loan in the first place.

“A consumer’s credit is one of the biggest factors that goes into the mortgage-application process,” says Eric Hamilton, President of Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc. “Before applying for a loan, it is crucial to get your credit in the best shape you possibly can.”

To help you build good credit and increase your ability to obtain better loan terms, Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc. offers these tips for improving your credit:

Pay your bills on time

Late or missed payments on any of your credit accounts, such as credit cards, mortgages and other loans, could cause a drop in your credit score. To prevent this, make your payments on time. Making additional payments whenever possible and paying extra toward the principal balance will also help to keep a good payment history and decrease the payoff timeline. Using an Extra Principal Payment Calculator tool can also help you calculate the savings that come with paying extra – generating additional motivation to do so.

Minimize any outstanding debt and keep existing debt manageable

Paying your statement balances in full instead of letting debt accumulate can improve your credit scores, which may result in better terms being offered from lenders. Lenders often check your credit report when you apply for a loan and measure the amount of debt you’re carrying against the loan amount they've requested. Excessive debt is one of the factors that could cause a lender to decline your application.

Avoid applying for unnecessary credit

Credit applications can appear as inquiries on credit reports, which may suggest to lenders that an applicant is taking on additional debt. Be aware of advertising or sales promotions that offer purchase discounts if you apply for a credit card. Even these cards could show up as inquiries on your credit report. These inquiries remain on credit reports for two years. Instead of applying for additional credit, use your existing lines of credit to showcase your responsible credit management by paying bills on time and paying off the debt quickly.

"There are a lot of steps you can take to improve your credit, but it's important to remember that credit scores don't change overnight," says Hamilton. "It takes time to increase your credit rating, and while it may feel like a slow-moving effort, it is well worth the wait when you get to open the door to a home of your own for you and your family."

For more credit tips, you can check out the full Guide to Credit, and find other useful guides for homebuyers on vmfhomeloan.com.

NMLS Disclosure

Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc., 500 Alcoa Trail, Maryville, TN 37804, 865-380-3000, NMLS #1561, ( http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org), AZ Lic. #BK-0902616, Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license, GA Residential Mortgage (Lic. #6911), Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee, KS Licensed Mortgage Co. (SL.0000720), Licensed by the NH Banking Department, Mississippi Licensed Mortgage Company, MT Lic. #1561, Licensed by PA Dept. of Banking.

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5 Tips for Settling Into Your New Home

Brandpoint  |  2015-12-03

(BPT) - Though summer is winding down, for many families, hectic moving schedules are still underway. Whether you are moving this season or planning for a move in the near future, consider some helpful guidelines on packing up, moving out and settling in without a hitch — plus, the latest technologies to turn your new house into a home.

Here are five tips to help you minimize moving stress and settle in quickly:

Make a list, measure it twice. After celebrating the signing of your new home (congratulations!), it’s time to begin the moving process. Even before you start packing, it’s important, if possible, to visit your new home with a tape measure. Carefully measure and take note of the square footage and dimensions of every room in your new home. Do the same with any existing appliances and furniture you plan on relocating to your new home to ensure that everything fits through the door and in the space. LG's moving guide (www.lg.com/us/moving) is designed to help and includes tips on measuring your current appliances to make sure they’ll fit. If you’re purchasing new large appliances or furniture, be sure to measure everything in the store or take note of each item’s dimensions online to make sure it fits. Removing or replacing a refrigerator, for example, is a time-consuming and expensive task that can be avoided with careful planning. If you aren’t able to visit before moving in, ask your broker or real estate agent for a copy of the floor plan.

Pack strategically, unpack easily. Pack and label items by category, such as dishes, winter clothes and books, or by appropriate area, such as bedroom, kitchen and living room. To limit damage, be sure to pack fragile and valuable items carefully with padded packaging, and communicate fragile items clearly with your movers. To save even more hassle, pack a couple of boxes of essential items, specifically for the first night in your new home, which would otherwise be hard to find. You’ll thank yourself when items such as cleaning supplies, fresh linens and a coffeepot are right at your fingertips. Staying organized is key to avoid losing your belongings — resulting in saving time and unnecessary re-purchasing expenses in the process.

Find savings and convenience in new technology. Moving is a common time to buy new electronics — and there are some simple ways to make these new purchases more customizable than ever. For example, rather than choosing surround sound speakers that require lots of cumbersome wiring to install, select a wireless speaker and TV surround sound system like LG’s Music Flow. It offers a range of speakers and soundbars that you can mix and match to create a customized and easy-to-use home audio system for your new living space. With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and Google Cast built in, systems like this let you can stream your favorite online music services, including Spotify and Pandora, straight from your mobile device. There’s no need for additional hardware or wires.

Share your new address. Take initiative and update your employer, bank, school, doctors, pharmacist and credit card company with your new address as early as possible. This can affect billing statements and formal records, which are a headache to change at a later date. Be sure to call your electric, cable and internet companies to swap your address, and inquire about any potential changes in your service. Sign up for USPS mail forwarding to ensure all of your mail reaches you in a timely manner. And don’t forget to keep your friends and family in the loop! It’s a busy and exiting time, so share your news!

Upgrade your appliances. If you’re not planning to bring your current laundry appliances to your new home, look for a new ENERGY STAR washer and dryer with the latest cleaning technologies that help make clean-up a breeze and save on your electric bill, too. One such example is LG’s top-load laundry pair with the dryer featuring an EasyLoad door, the first machine to open two ways. The unique door can be accessed from the top (hamper style) to easily toss in wet clothes from the washer and sideways to quickly unload clothes into the basket. This makes it easier than ever to drop in and unload laundry.

For additional tips on moving and settling into a new space, as well as a complete, eight-week timeline, check the helpful LG moving guide (www.lg.com/us/moving). It’s impossible to anticipate every bump in the road, but having a thorough yet flexible plan will help minimize stress and ensure the moving process goes smoothly.

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Low Energy Bills with Hot New Trend

Brandpoint  |  2015-12-03

(BPT) - Imagine being able to heat your home with no more energy than used by a hair dryer turned on low, or even going off the grid altogether.

Thanks to smaller, carefully planned home designs, coupled with a superior insulation system, super energy-efficient small homes are growing in popularity.

Once perceived as the housing of commune-living hippies in the 1960s, today’s small homes feature exceptional design and comfort. Although the average size of U.S. homes increased 57 percent in the past 40 years, more Americans are becoming interested in smaller homes designed to make the most of each square foot, rather than just building bigger. This trend is seen in the growing popularity of TV shows like “Tiny House Nation,” and dozens of websites and blogs devoted to the small house movement.

Although there is no formal definition for these smaller abodes, The Tiny House Community website considers a home to be “small” if it is under 1,000 square feet, and “tiny” if less than 400 square feet. At the extreme, some “tiny houses” are less than 100 square feet — about the size of a camper.

The secret to living smaller is optimizing the available space, and creating areas that are cozy instead of cramped. One key is making use of otherwise wasted space, such as adding storage under beds or under staircases, and doing away with non-critical features like the great rooms that sit unused in many homes. Small home designers are able to create a sense of openness and light in the small footprint by including numerous windows or mirrors, as well as other design touches such as lofts and curved ceilings. In essence, in the smaller spaces there is clear purpose for every element in the home.

“Attention to the small gives character to the whole,” says acclaimed architect and simple-living proponent, Sarah Susanka. Susanka is author of the book, “The Not So Big House.”

For many small home enthusiasts, the appeal is not only a simpler life in a smaller, un-cluttered home, but also saving money and living green by consuming much less energy. All else being equal, it takes less energy to heat and cool a smaller home than a larger one, but many small homes also use an advanced building technique for high energy efficiency and quick construction — structural insulated panel (SIPs).

“SIP panel walls and roofs combine the insulation and structure in one unit,” says Joe Pasma, technical manager for Premier SIPs, North America’s largest SIP panel manufacturer. “The end result is much lower air leakage and continuous insulation, which helps reduce heating and cooling energy use up to 60 percent compared to other building methods — whether in a tiny house or a standard-sized one.” As visually interesting home designs are important to many small home dwellers, Pasma notes that SIP panels can be used in virtually any architectural style.

An increasing number of builders in the U.S. specialize in tiny house designs, with many of them offering SIP panel homes. These range from do-it-yourself kit homes up to fully personalized homes. Getting started is simple explains Patrick Sughrue, president of Artisan Tiny House in Vancouver, Washington.

“We use a step-by-step process in which we take one of our templates that’s close to what you want and customize it to make it yours.”

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Which Fixes Are Worth It?

NewsUSA  |  2015-11-24

A new roof can boost your home

(NewsUSA) - Okay, don't panic.

If you're one of those homeowners who's been moaning about how hard it's been trying to sell your house, your bargaining power -- you remember that concept, right? -- hasn't been completely devastated just because a flood of new foreclosures is expected to hit the market as a result of the recent $25 billion "robo-signing" mortgage settlement.

In fact, while studies have shown your own property value could take up to another 4 percent hit if you're within a quarter mile of a foreclosure ultimately snapped up at auction or taken back by the lender, the thing to remember is this: Most buyers today are only interested in homes that are "move-in-ready," so if yours isn't ... well, there's your problem.

"Buyers generally look at 'as-is' properties that need work, and say 'I'll pass,'" says Patsy O'Neill, a sales associate with Sotheby's in Montclair, N.J. "That's why I tell clients it's worth making certain strategic fixes if they're looking for quicker and more profitable sales."

So, which "fixes" are worth it, and which aren't? Read on:

Worth It: Addressing major maintenance and safety issues. Would you buy a house with faulty electrical wiring? Enough said.

Not Worth It: Major bath renovations. "Whatever you do might not suit the buyer," says O'Neill, "and meanwhile, you'd have spent as much as tens of thousands of dollars." Meaning, stick to things like repairing cracked shower doors, and save your visions of a modern-day spa for your own new abode.

Worth It: Ripping up old carpeting. Whether you replace it with new carpets or refinish the underlying wood floor is less important than getting rid of an eyesore.

Not Worth It: Major kitchen renovations. Same "taste" issue as above.

Worth It: Anything that enhances "curb appeal." If the first thing prospective buyers notice even before exiting their cars is that your roof looks like it's been whipped by a tornado, say, chances are you've already lost the sale. "It's a huge turn-off," says O'Neill, "and makes buyers predisposed to find even more things they don't like." So, if your roof needs replacing, check out the Value Collection Lifetime Designer Shingles from GAF (the largest roofing manufacturer in North America), which have the look of luxury shingles but at very affordable prices (www.gaf.com).

Not Worth It: Anything that screams clutter. The less of "you" there is, the more likely prospective buyers are to imagine themselves happily living there.

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Senior Housing Market Swells With Investment Potential

NewsUSA  |  2015-11-24


(NewsUSA) - America's elderly are one of the fastest-growing segments of the population. As a group, senior citizens over age 85 are expected to double between now and 2030. While people are wondering what Social Security will look like in the coming years, senior housing is another rising concern.

Some families are in a position to shelter older relatives, but those who don't have that option are looking at nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Since assisted living is preferred five to one over nursing homes, it's not too surprising that the market for new properties is expanding.

The demand for assisted living facilties will continue to surge as the population ages. Plus, it's need-driven for elderly folks who can't live alone due to certain conditions, like Alzheimers. It's this demand that makes senior housing great for investment opportunities.

"Whenever we look at the rapidly aging population in America and the lack of meaningful new construction, we realize how strong the assisted living market will be for the next decade," says Gary Langendoen, senior managing director of Madison Realty Companies. "The opportunity to expand assisted living properties by adding more beds and to include memory care sections in properties provides significant value-added opportunities to this asset class."

Currently, small regional operators own the majority of stable assisted living establishments, or they're of the mom-and-pop variety. According to Alexei Muniak of Xnergy Financial (www.xnergyfinancial.com), an investment banking firm specializing in capital structuring for emerging-growth companies, it's simple -- Madison Realty management sees a huge opportunity in assisted living real estate.

Currently, Xnergy Financial is helping clients, like Madison Realty Companies, set up the capital structure for success. If you're interested in learning more, visitwww.madisonrealtycompanies.com or contact Gary Langendoen at glangendoen@madisonrealtyadv.com. To learn more

about Xnergy Financial, visit www.xnergyfinancial.com.

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Commercial Real Estate Finance Market Shows New Life

NewsUSA  |  2015-11-24

(NewsUSA) - Until recently, the commercial real estate market has made a sluggish recovery from the nation's economic recession. The good news is that property values, rental rates and occupancy rates are improving, and commercial real estate appears to be gaining critical traction.

Lower interest rates have started to help create larger demand from borrowers -- who are already feeling some effects of the improving real estate market -- which is giving the commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) market some rejuvenation. In fact, 2012 saw CMBS issuance reach a post-recession high of $48.18 billion -- a number that is expected to rise in 2013 and beyond.

"I am very optimistic about the CMBS business in 2013. I think volumes will grow substantially," says Anthony Orso, CEO of Cantor Commercial Real Estate (CCRE). "You will continue to see high-quality loans, and you will see more capital raised for the B-piece community."

Orso is speaking from professional experience. The New York-based real estate finance company, an affiliate of Cantor Fitzgerald & Co., originated nearly $5 billion in securities throughout 2012. With help from Cantor Fitzgerald, CCRE sold to more than 150 bond investors last year. Orso only expects those figures to grow -- confidence that he shares with top commercial real estate (CRE) financers, like Omega Commercial Finance Corporation (www.omegapublic.com).

"Omega uses a principle based on marrying affordable financing with available capital," says Jon S. Cummings IV, president of Omega Commercial Finance Corp. "One of the advantages of traditional CMBS lenders is the ability to offer competitive rates against banks, agency lenders and insurance companies. Omega is strategically positioned to accommodate this growing market."

As a publicly traded financial holding company (OTCQB: OCFN), Omega just acquired minority stake in VFG Securities Inc., a full-service broker dealer with $180 million in Assets Under Management for the purpose of creating its own internal structured financing arm. This acquisition effectively gives Omega the capacity to raise in-house capital to originate their CRE loans. It also sweetens the pot for investors looking for new sources of future earnings.

Learn more about CRE loans and the rebounding market at www.omegapublic.com.

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Sell House to Help Finance Your Retirement

NewsUSA  |  2015-11-24

(NewsUSA) - Have you forgotten something in figuring where you're going to retire to?

Let's see, you've researched which states tax Social Security income (only 14, including Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, North Dakota and Vermont).

And you've even consulted the numbers-crunchers at Bankrate.com to learn which states scored highest overall in everything from cost of living to access to health care (South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, North Dakota and Wyoming).

But here's a question for all you homeowners: Given the results of a new report from Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate -- 57 percent of boomers say they plan to move to a new home in retirement -- what are you doing right now to make sure your current house fetches a good price to help finance your retirement dreams?

"As people grapple with whether to pull up stakes, there's small margin for error," the New York Times' coverage of the report noted.

Here's some tips for preparing what's likely your biggest asset for prospective buyers:

* Get rid of the clutter. No doubt you have years worth of memories on display. But they're your memories. And painful as it may be, it's time to accept that not everyone appreciates having turned your den, for example, into a shrine to the '69 Mets.

"Buyers shouldn't be distracted from imagining themselves living in your space," says Patsy O'Neill, a sales associate with Sotheby's in Montclair, New Jersey.

* Think twice before doing any trendy remodeling. Especially if your home is older, you may be tempted to go as far in trying to spruce things up as, say, tearing down a wall between the kitchen and an adjoining room just because Angie's List says creating the feel of more space is "one of the hottest trends in home remodeling."

Well who's to say it'll still be hot in six months or a year?

* Think "curb appeal." There's a reason roof replacement consistently makes Remodeling magazine's annual Cost vs. Value Report, and is up 11.2 percent this year over even last year: A roof is the first thing potential buyers notice -- even from down the street -- and you've already lost the sale if yours looks like hell.

"It's a huge turn-off," says O'Neill, "and makes people predisposed to find even more things they don't like." For the look of luxury at very affordable prices, check out the Value Collection Lifetime Designer Shingles from GAF (www.gaf.com), North America's largest roofing manufacturer.

* Fix major maintenance and safety issues. Would you buy a house with a sputtering boiler? Enough said.

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