Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Understanding your credit opens the door to home-buying success

(ARA) - With many signs pointing to the beginnings of a recovery in the housing market, potential home buyers can still find plenty of selection, low prices and low interest rates. If you're thinking of buying a home, now might be the right time, but before you contact a real estate agent or apply for a mortgage, your top priority should be checking your credit report to see if your credit is in good shape.

Credit - specifically misuse and misunderstanding of credit - spurred the housing crisis, many experts agree. The consequences have included tighter standards from lenders and the need for borrowers to better understand how to use credit wisely.

Interest rates remain low and those with good credit will be better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities currently available in this unique housing market. A good credit report and score can open doors for you in the real estate world, and empower you to secure the best loan and terms possible before you ever tour a single house. Being preapproved for an affordable mortgage can help you move quickly to secure a deal when you find the home of your dreams.

If you've already assessed your finances to determine how much mortgage you can afford, you're ready for the next step - making sure your credit is in top shape to help you get the best possible loan.

Understanding your score and what it means

Lenders consider your credit score and your current credit report when deciding whether or not you're a good credit risk. Your credit score is a number generated by using statistical models that factor in elements from your credit report. The number can change when information on your credit report changes and it's calculated at the time a lender requests a copy of your credit report. Different lenders may use different scoring methods, so your score may vary from lender to lender.

Because credit scores are objective and are based on the information in your credit report, they are fairer than the old opinion-based ways of determining a person's risk level. Your score is a prediction of your likelihood to repay debt responsibly, based on your past credit history and current credit status.

Before you begin contacting potential lenders, check out your credit report, which can be accessed online at Web sites like FreeCreditReport.com.

Know what's on your credit report

Your credit report is the other major piece of information a lender will consider when deciding whether or not to give you a mortgage loan. Your credit report is basically a summary of your financial behavior, including how you've used credit in the past and how well you manage repaying debt. The information on your report comes from creditors, public records and other reliable sources, which report it to the credit bureaus through automated processes.

Credit reports generally include personal data such as variations on your name, your driver's license number, Social Security number, birth date, current and past employers, and current and past addresses. You'll also find a listing of your credit accounts, when each account was opened and your payment history for each. If you've been involved in court action like bankruptcy or monetary judgments, this information will likely appear on your report as well.

Your report will also show past requests for your credit reports (inquiries) that might come from lenders, insurers, employers or stores. Too many inquiries on your report might make potential lenders think you are trying to overspend, so think carefully before applying for new credit; inquiries stay on your report for two years.

Because your credit report changes every time you use credit, it pays to enroll in a credit monitoring product. Web sites like FreeCreditReport.com make it easy to track both your score over time and monitor your credit report, ensuring you know what's on your report before a potential lender looks at it.

Buying a home is likely the largest investment you'll ever make - one that will impact your credit for many years to come. Before you jump into the process of applying for a loan to buy a home, it pays to understand credit, review your report and know your score.

Courtesy of ARAcontent. Photo ©Teresa Butler 2010. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Dramatically update your kitchen in six hours or less with six projects

(ARA) - With the amount of time you spend in your kitchen, why settle for out-of-date features and decor - especially since it is easy to give your kitchen a 180-degree makeover? Try these six simple projects, and in no time at all you'll have a kitchen where you will want to spend more time.

Home sweet kitchen

One of the easiest ways to make your kitchen feel warm and inviting is with updated lighting. And, luckily it can be an easy and quick project with the many conversion kits and lighting fixtures available today. Start by swapping any cold and unstylish fluorescent tube lighting with more decorative chandeliers or flush-mount lighting to flood your kitchen with ambient light. Next, fill in shadowy areas - or highlight objects you admire - with spot lights, such as recessed cans or dangling pendant lamps. Soon your kitchen - and your mood - will be glowing.

Time: Two to six hours depending on the number of fixtures.

Update your sink with an eco-friendly faucet

When it comes to your kitchen faucet, you may think - it's not broke, why fix it? But as a workhorse and focal point of your kitchen, that shouldn't be the case. Instead, update your faucet with a functional, stylish and environmentally friendly model. Available at Lowe's, options such as Anabelle or Dorsey Eco-Performance kitchen faucets from Moen offer pullout/pulldown functionality with three unique settings - eco-performance stream or spray for tasks like washing dishes that require a constant, yet low-water flow, or a full-flow option when filling a pot or pitcher. This simple kitchen update can yield up to a 32 percent water savings - while also adding exquisite styling in to your kitchen. For more information about the Anabelle or Dorsey Eco-Performance faucets from Moen, visit moen.com or call (800) BUY-MOEN (800-289-6636).

Time: Ninety minutes.

Shortage of storage

With so many gadgets, appliances and, don't forget food, kitchen storage can quickly become sparse. Start by organizing your current storage, purging any items that you haven't used in years. Next, if you have room, add a kitchen island or additional cabinets to provide more storage and work room. Or, if space or cash is limited, search your local flea market or online at Craigslist.com for alternative options, like a vintage china cabinet or an antique overhead pot rack to house all your necessities and reduce clutter.

Time: Six hours.

Add sass with a backsplash

Tired of cleaning food or grease splashes from your kitchen walls? Spruce up drab or dirty-looking kitchen walls with a dynamic backsplash on walls near the sink or stove top. Hundreds of styles, textures and patterns can increase the sophistication in your kitchen and make it easier to clean. Plus, with step-by-step video instructions on how to apply the tiles available at Lowe's Creative Ideas Web site it's as easy as one, two, three.

Time: Six hours.

Getting a new grip on cabinets

Over time, cabinets made of wood or metal materials can deteriorate if they're not properly maintained, making your kitchen look run-down or aged. Cleaning your cabinets with soap and water, then polishing, is the best way to make them look new again. To combat grime, fingerprints and other messy substances, apply cabinet cleaner such as Liquid Gold to a cloth and buff cabinets until they shine. Replacing old handles and hardware on your cabinets with a new stylish design and finish to match your new faucet will add the final polished look to your kitchen.

Time: Two to five hours depending on the number of cabinets.

Advance the technology

Don't limit your technology to your phone and your TV - transform your kitchen with innovative appliances. Whether it's a microwave that fits in a drawer, a refrigerator with a TV, an oven that you can program or a customized wine and beverage cooler, adding new upscale appliances can take enjoyment in your kitchen to a whole new level. However, if these high-end appliances are out of your budget, upgrade your current appliances with new energy-efficient models in the latest finishes.

Time: Two hours shopping plus waiting on deliveries.

In no time at all you can easily turn your kitchen from drab to fab with just a few simple projects.

Courtesy of ARAcontent
Photo ©Teresa Butler 2010. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Rebates for Appliance Buyers in 2010

The 2010 plan to encourage energy efficiency is the government rebate for appliance buyers. The plan lets people swap their old appliances for new energy-efficient models at very low prices. Here are some things to keep in mind:

· State plans vary. For state by state specifics, check out the state-by-state rebate program.

· Is it really a deal? It may not be worth replacing appliances that are fewer than seven years old, but older models can represent a real deal. Joe McGuire, president of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, says a 20-year-old refrigerator uses three times as much power as a new Energy Star-approved model.

· Buy now before it ends. There is only about $300 million available and some states got more money than others. It is expected to run out fast.

Source: The Associated Press, Vinnee Tong (12/30/2009) Photo ©Teresa Butler 2010. All rights reserved.