Archive July 2018

What To Know About Credit Scores

Credit scores range between 200 and 850, with scores above 620 considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage. The following factors affect your score:

Your payment history.  Did you pay your credit card bills on time? Bankruptcy filing, liens, and collection activity also affect your history.

How much you owe and where.  If you owe a great deal of money on numerous accounts, it can indicate that you are overextended. However, spreading debt among several accounts can help you avoid approaching the maximum on any individual credit line.

The length of your credit history.  In general, the longer an account has been open, the better.

How much new credit you have.  New credit—whether in the form of installment plans or new credit cards—is considered more risky, even if you pay down the debt promptly.

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

How To Pack Like a Pro

Plan ahead.  Develop a master to-do list so you won’t forget something critical heading into moving day. This will also help you create an estimate of moving time and costs.

Discard items you no longer want or need.  Ask yourself how frequently you use an item and how you’d feel if you no longer had it. Sort unwanted items into “garage sale,” “donate,” and “recycle” piles.

Pack similar items together.  It will make your life easier when it’s time to unpack.

Decide what you want to move on your own.  Precious items such as family photos, valuable breakables, or must-haves during the move should probably stay with you. Pack a moving day bag with a small first-aid kit, snacks, and other items you may need before unpacking your “Open First” box.

Know what your movers will take.  Many movers won’t take plants or liquids. Check with them about other items so you can plan to pack them yourself.

Put heavy items in small boxes.  Try to keep the weight of each box under 50 pounds.

Don’t overpack boxes.  It increases the likelihood that items inside the box will break.

Wrap fragile items separately.  Pad bottoms and sides of boxes and, if necessary, purchase bubble-wrap or other packing materials from moving stores. Secure plants in boxes with air holes.

Label every box on all sides.  You never know how they’ll be stacked. Also, use color-coded labels to indicate which room each box should go in, coordinating with a color-coded floor plan for the movers.

Keep moving documents together in a file, either in your moving day bag or online.  Include vital contact information, the driver’s name, the van’s license plate, and the company’s number.

Print out a map and directions for movers and helpers.  Make several copies, and highlight the route. Include your cell phone number on the map.

Back up computer files on the cloud.  Alternatively, you can keep a physical backup on an external hard drive offsite.

Inspect each box and piece of furniture as soon as it arrives.  Ahead of time, ensure your moving company has a relatively painless process for reporting damages.

How to Prepare for the Photoshoot

With the majority of buyers shopping for homes online, high-resolution slide shows and video tours are a must. Here’s how to make your home shine on camera.

Understand the camera’s perspective.  The camera’s eye is different from the human eye. It magnifies clutter and poor furniture arrangement so that even a home that feels comfortable in person can look jumbled online.

Make it spotless.  Cameras also tend to magnify grime. Don’t forget floor coverings and walls; a spot on a rug might be overlooked during a regular home showing, but it could become a focal point online.

Know what to leave.  You want to avoid clutter, but try to have three items of varying heights on each surface. On an end table you can place a tall lamp (high), a small plant (medium), and a book (low).

Snap practice pictures with your own camera.  This will give you an idea of what the home will look like on camera before the photographer shows up. Examine the photos and make changes to improve each room’s appearance, such as opening blinds to let in natural light, removing magnets from the refrigerator, or taking down distracting art.

Pare down.  Removing one or two pieces of furniture from each room, even if just for the shoot, can make your space appear larger on screen.

Rearrange.  Spotlight the flow of your space by creating a focal point on the furthest wall from the doorway and arranging the other pieces of furniture to make a triangle shape. The focal point may be a bed in a bedroom or a china cabinet in a dining room.

Accessorize.  Include a healthy plant in every room; the camera loves greenery. Energize bland decor by placing a bright vase on a mantle or draping an afghan over a couch.

Keep the home in shape.  Buyers who liked what they saw online expect to encounter the same home in person.

What To Know About The Appraisal Process

Once you are under contract, your lender will send out an appraiser to make sure the purchase price is in line with the property’s value.

Appraisals help guide mortgage terms. The appraised value of a home is an important factor in the loan underwriting process. Although lenders may use the sale price to determine the amount of the mortgage they will offer, they generally only do so when the property is sold for less than the appraisal amount. Also, the loan-to-value ratio is based on the appraised value and helps lenders figure out how much money may be borrowed to purchase the property and under what terms. If the LTV is high, the lender is more likely to require the borrower to purchase private mortgage insurance.

Appraised value is not a concrete number.  Appraisals provide a professional opinion of value, but they aren’t an exact science. Appraisals may differ quite a bit depending on when they’re done and who’s doing them. Also, changes in market conditions can dramatically alter appraised value.

Appraised value doesn’t represent the whole picture of home prices. There are special considerations that appraised value doesn’t take into account, such as the need to sell rapidly.

Appraisers use data from the recent past.  Appraisals are often considered somewhat backward looking, because they use sold data from comparable properties (often nicknamed “comps”) to help come up with a reasonable price.

There are uses for appraised value outside of the purchase process.  For buying purposes, appraisals are usually used to determine market value or factor into the pricing equation. But other appraisals are used to determine insurance value, replacement value, and assessed value for property tax purposes.

How To Move With Pets

Update your pet’s tag with your new address.  Make sure your pet’s collar is sturdy and correctly sized. The tag should also include your mobile number and e-mail address so that you can be reached during the move.

Request veterinary records.  Ask your current vet to send your pet’s medical history directly to the new vet. Have their contact information handy in case of emergency or if the new vet has questions.

Keep a week’s worth of food and medication with you.  You may want to ask for an extra prescription refill before you move. Take the same precaution with special therapeutic foods.

Seclude them from chaos.   Keep your pet in a safe, quiet room on moving day with a clear sign posted on the door. There are many light, collapsible travel crates available, but ensure it is well ventilated and sturdy enough for stress-chewers. Also, introduce your pet to the crate before the trip.

Prepare a pet first aid kit.  Include your vet’s phone number, gauze to wrap wounds or to muzzle your pet, adhesive tape for use on bandages, nonstick bandages, towels, cotton swabs, antibiotic ointment (without pain relief medication), and 3% hydrogen peroxide.

Play it safe in the car.  Use a crate or carrier in the car, securing it with a seat belt. Never leave your pet in the bed of a truck, the storage area of a moving van, or alone in a parked vehicle. If you’re staying overnight, find pet-friendly lodging beforehand and have kitty litter or plastic bags on hand.

Get ready for takeoff.  When traveling by air, check with the airline about pet requirements or restrictions and whether you must purchase a special airline crate that fits under the seat in front of you.

Prep your new home.  Set up one room with everything your pet will need: food, water, medications, bed, litter box, scratch post, and toys. Keep windows and doors closed when your pet is unsupervised, and beware of small spaces where nervous pets may hide. If your old home is nearby, give the new home owners or neighbors your phone number and a photo of your pet, in case your pet tries to return.

Learn about local health concerns and laws in your new area.  If you’re moving to a new country, contact the Agriculture Department or embassy of the country to obtain specific information on special documents, quarantine, or costs related to bringing your pet into the country.