Credit Reporting Errors and What to do About Them

Depending on your age, purchasing history and other factors, your credit report can be a few pages to dozens of pages long.  And deciphering what it actually is saying about your credit-worthiness can be tricky to understand.

It is not uncommon to find errors on that report, from minor items having little effect on your purchasing power to egregious problems that could cost a potential home buyer significantly on their mortgage rate, resulting in higher monthly payments and consequently putting a desired home out of their price range.

Knowledge is power.  In considering the purchase of a home, buyers need to know what exactly is being reported to all three credit rating agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.  In fact, one in four Americans found errors on their credit reports.  While consumers are entitled to one free report per year, the steps you need to take to correct any errors can be frustrating.

Particularly if you are preparing to purchase a home, the key is to work with a qualified, honest mortgage lender.  A professional who is well versed in the industry helps clients ensure that a credit report is not just accurate but also shows your credit history in the best light.

How to find the best lender?  Well, calling around and checking on rates is not the answer.  Talking to friends and family members who have been through the home buying process recently is a good way to start.  Clearly, checking with your local Better Business Bureau is another way.  I would also encourage a buyer to discuss mortgage lender options with his Realtor®.  Most have at least several lenders they have worked with and with whom they trust their clients.

As I have stated before, real estate transactions work best when buyers and sellers have a capable, caring team working with and for them.  I have relied on information from the articles hot-linked below and encourage you to read them.  If you have questions regarding the home buying process, good lenders or credit report issues, please contact me.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=171727326

http://realtormag.realtor.org/law-and-ethics/law/article/2009/02/7-common-credit-report-mistakes

TBO (The Bossy One)

The 12 Days of Real Estate…A Little Holiday Humor

This post was originally written in December, 2008 for my blog on the ActiveRain network, which is referenced within the piece along with several professionals I met through that platform.  I enjoyed writing it, and while my colleagues within the real estate profession will commiserate (and hopefully chuckle) I hope you will catch a glimpse of the humor and pathos in which we Realtors® frequently find ourselves.  

 

On the First day of Real Estate, my broker gave to me, a license to hang on the wall.

On the Second day of Real Estate, my sellers gave to me, 2 new listings(an overpriced re-sale and a foreclosure that needs some TLC) and a license to hang on the wall.

On the Third day of Real Estate, my website gave to me, 3 new buyers (1 a first-timer, 2: a tire kicker, 3: an investor looking for a “DEAL”), 2 new listings and a license to hang on the wall.

On the Fourth Day of Real Estate, my lender gave to me, 4 pre-approvals (The first timer can spend $75,000(great, I have a shack hanging on the side of a mountain with no indoor plumbing!), the tire-kicker can spend $400,000(now we’re talking), and the investor can spend 5 Million – with the approval of his 37 investment partners and everybody has to look at the property, they all want different info about the deal, and all have to coordinate to be at closing, and one for me “Gosh you should think about refinancing your home, rates are great!’), 3 new buyers, 2 new listings and a license to hang on the wall.

On the Fifth Day of Real Estate, my broker gave to me, 5 Past Due Bills! (1-Ad bill from glossy magazine I got no calls from, 2-quarterly E&O Insurance, 3-MLS susbscription payment, 4-license renewal, 5-franchise fee)…but wait, I haven’t had a closing yet…honey??? I mean, love of my life??? I’m going to need a little cash at work???…4 pre-approvals, 3 new buyers, 2 new listings and a license to hang on the wall.

On the Sixth Day of Real Estate, I had an Open House, and 6 neighbors came, looked at the house, told me how their’s were better, nicer, newer and ate all my food….5 past due bills, 4 pre-approvals, 3 new buyers, 2 new listings and a license to hang on the wall…

On the Seventh Day of Real Estate, I showed 7 houses to my tire-kicker…but hey, he can spend $400,000!  6 hours, 2 counties, 154 miles later, we saw 3 nice houses, but the feng shui didn’t work, 2 fixer-uppers, 1 with decor from 1974, and 1 that he really liked, but it was listed for $300,000 and he really doesn’t want to spend that much…huh?…6 nosy neighbors, 5 past due bills, 4 pre-approvals, 3 new buyers, 2 new listings and a license to hang on the wall…

On the Eighth Day of Real Estate, my fellow agents give to me, 8 offers on my foreclosure. (None are full price, 1 wants to close in 10 days- I can’t even get my rep at the bank to call me back that quick, 1 wants every inspection contingency under the sun, 1 can’t close till they sell their old house, 3 want to use a loan program that is now defunct???, and 2 will not consider signing the as-is addendum…umm, what???)…7 house showings, 6 nosy neighbors, 5 past due bills, 4 pre-approvals, 3 new buyers, 2 crappy listings and a license to hang on the wall…

On the Ninth Day of Real Estate, my doctor gives to me, 9 recommendations for my health: 1. Cut down on your stress; 2. quit smoking (wait a sec, that’s how I cut down on my stress), 3. Lose weight (yeah, I hear you, I hardly ever eat…a few chicken nuggets here and there, what’s the problem???); 4. Get more exercise (Doc, you should see the running around I do, not to mention up and down stairs, climbing into attics, under crawlspaces, walking vacant lots, measuring rooms – I get PLENTY of exercise; 5. For your back pain, stop crouching over your computer…um, yeah, okayyyy; 6. Get more sleep (ok, tell people to quit calling me until 11 at night); 7. Lower your blood pressure (HA! nuff said); 8. Take a vacation…doc, I need a closing to go on a vacation AFTER I pay my past due bills; 9. oh crap, I can’t remember what the ninth piece of advice was…8 awful offers, 7 house showings, 6 nosy neighbors, 5 past due bills, 4 pre-approvals, 3 new buyers, 2 crappy listings, and a license to hang on the wall…

On the Tenth Day of Real Estate, Active Rain reminded me, just make 10 comments for my points for the day!  Oh, this is an easy one!  10 comments, no problem!  Wait…I’m up to 13, now 19, here’s a great post on SEO…let me follow all these links to free widgets, cool, look at all the neat things I have on my blog now.  Oops, got a message from Chris Ann. Need to respond to her.  Oh man, things are hot in Club Chaos…lots of interesting things there to talk about.  And Inna has posted – I love her writing, gotta comment on that.  Tap on the shoulder, hey Amy, its 5 o’clock…are you going to lock up the office?…9 health advisories, 8 awful offers, 7 house showings, 6 nosy neighbors, 5 past due bills, 4 pre-approvals, 3 new buyers, 2 crappy listings and a license to hang on the wall…

On the Eleventh Day of Real Estate, I made 11 phone calls: 4 to past clients asking for referrals, 2 to current clients for transaction updates, 5 to fellow agents with questions on their listings (had to leave messages for 4 of them, they are “unavailable at this time,” and 1 who was in the office, but did not have the info my investor wanted on his commercial listing (silly things, like: P & L statements for 2 years, zoning restrictions, rent rolls…unimportant info really…)…10 AR Comments, 9 health advisories, 8 awful offers, 7 house showings, 6 nosy neighbors, 5 past due bills, 4 pre-approvals, 3 new buyers, 2 crappy listings, and a license to hang on the wall…

On the Twelfth Day of Real Estate, the Attorney gave to me, a $12 check for my efforts in closing the latest short sale.  That was what was left after the Asset Management Company paid as much as they could for and to everyone else before paying me to sell their damn listing, but hey! I got both sides of the deal!!!…

Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!  Ho Ho Ho!

Understanding Short Sales

As I’ve stated previously, the term “short sale” is an oxymoron like “jumbo shrimp.”  No matter how big the shrimp, its still a shrimp.  And there is nothing short about the process of buying or selling a short sale.  The term literally means the property is being sold short of what is owed to the bank.  Therefore, the bank must approve any offer on the particular property.  They have final say in acceptance and also how the transaction proceeds – no matter what an offer may stipulate.

And while there are no hard and fast rules regarding these transactions, there are things of which the seller and buyer must be aware.  Sellers must be in contact with their lender(s) – in the case of a first and second or more mortgages, all lien holders have the right to accept or deny offers – and said lien holders likely will have particular paperwork they require to even consider allowing a short sale.  These documents can be lengthy, confusing and may need to be updated on a frequent basis.  The further into the short sale paperwork a seller is when they receive an offer to purchase, the better the likelihood of moving the sale process forward.

Of course, we recommend the seller hire a good listing agent who is well versed in the short sale process and comfortable with being the facilitator/negotiator of information between the lender, buyer’s agent and others involved in the purchase process.  Having said this, in West Virginia at least, there are good attorneys who are also able to work as negotiators between sellers, lenders and buyers.

For the unsuspecting buyer, often the excitement of finding a great property at a great price can cloud their view of the reality of participating in this somewhat unconventional type of sale.

If you are a buyer:

*Do Not expect your sale to occur quickly.  If you have an expiring lease where you live currently, plan on staying where you are on a month to month basis until you can close your purchase.

*Do Not expect the seller or the bank to make repairs based on your home inspection (though you should have one.)

*Do Not expect the seller or the bank to pay for items traditionally (in West Virginia) paid for by the seller, such as a termite report, water tests, transfer taxes, etc.

*Do Not expect the bank to respond to your offer within 3 days.  Or 5 days.  Or 10 days.  Sometimes, it can take weeks.

*Do Not expect to be able to alter/change/edit ANY terms in your offer after the bank accepts it.  If you do, the bank will probably need to go through the whole acceptance process again (READ: add weeks to your time frame…again.)

*Do Not expect the bank to automatically extend your contract past the stated closing date if you aren’t ready to close by that date.

Your Realtor® should explain all of this to you.  Keeping you informed before and during the purchase process is their duty to you.  The above bullet points probably sound intimidating.  But they don’t have to be, they are just meant to educate about the differences between what you may know about purchasing a home and what you may not know about buying a short sale.

There is good news though!  These types of sales DO close.  Generally, the buyers of these homes are able to purchase the property at a considerable discount compared to similar homes.  And considering the availability of great loan programs and historically low interest rates, many buyers unlock their new front doors with significant equity in their property.

So don’t let the negatives outweigh the positives, just be aware of the complete picture.

It Pays to Have a Great Team

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Having assisted many buyers and sellers over the last 16 years, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a great team surrounding you when working through a real estate transaction.

This concept was illustrated to me again just this past week.  Successfully helping a relocating buyer from down south find and purchase her new home in West Virginia, we had some not insignificant challenges to surmount.  Fortunately she was a seasoned buyer and seller and understood not only her role on the team, but the value of having a good team around her.

Initially, the first step was to list and sell the home she was living in.  Her agent ably listed the home and obtained an acceptable offer on the property and facilitated the sale which allowed my buyer to proceed confidently on the search for her new home here.

Working with Scott Fournier, of Integrity Home Mortgage Corporation, she was approved and understood the details of her purchase.  Scott is a wonderful lender, with whom we’ve worked many transactions over the years.  He is competent and honest to a fault.  When he says a buyer is ready to move forward with a purchase, I KNOW we will have a closing.  When he says the buyer needs to work on their credit, save some money, whatever, I KNOW he is watching out for all of us, most importantly that buyer.  There is nothing worse than finding and falling in love with a home only to find out you won’t qualify for the mortgage.  He is available via email and phone every day and evening.  His company provides “in-house” underwriting.  This is huge, considering so many large mortgage companies have lots of loan officers who never even see their underwriters.  (The underwriters are the ones who give actual loan approval.)

My buyer would be using an FHA mortgage, meaning she would need to put at least 3.5% of the sales price into a down payment.  Also, because her house was selling quickly, she wanted to close quickly here.  Scott was able to close that FHA loan in less than 30 days.  This kind of turnaround is almost unheard of.

And contrary to what you may hear on the news, the real estate market in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia is quite brisk.  Properties that are priced well are selling very quickly.  We missed several by a day or two.  Others we wanted to look at already had multiple offers after just a few days on the market.

The search continued!  We have an awesome multiple list service which I check at least daily for new listings, and on my buyer’s next visit we planned to look at everything that might conceivably work for her. We were able to find a home she loved, and thanks to a great listing agent, it was priced well, showed well and the sellers were prepared to accept our offer after some minor negotiations.

The next member of the team made his entrance: Rich Carter, Home Inspector Extraordinaire!  Even though this home was only about 5 years old and on the surface did not appear to have any problems, it is my policy to ALWAYS recommend a home inspection to my buyers.  A good inspection generally takes about 3-4 hours and this one did too.  He found no major problems, but advised on a few minor repairs. He provides emailed inspection reports including photos which makes the process so much easier.

Once again, the listing agent presented our requests to her sellers and within a day or two, an agreement was reached.

Meanwhile, due to the short timeline of the contract, lots of things were going on behind the scenes.  The lender and underwriters were working on all of their tasks; the listing agent was ordering the termite inspection and following up on home inspection items; the sellers were packing and cleaning; the buyer was packing and closing on the sale of her old home; the closing attorney here was completing the title search and preparing closing documents, and I was keeping in touch with everyone to ensure our timeline would be met.

The bottom line is that we were all players on this team.  We each knew what we had to do to accomplish the goal: successfully completing the sale!  The sellers are moving on to begin the next chapter of their lives.  The buyer is settling into her new beloved home.  The other team members are ready to become part of YOUR team!

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Amy Salisbury, Realtor®

304.582.3635

Foreclosure Help in West Virginia

If you are looking for information about what do if facing foreclosure, look no further than your trusted Realtor®, attorney and most importantly, Rep. Shelly Moore Capito (R) representing the 2nd District of West Virginia.  Rep. Capito and her staff have been invaluable assets for frightened homeowners and frustrated Realtors® over the last several years.

A common issue we in our office have seen is one where a beleaguered homeowner is in the active process of selling their home and facing imminent foreclosure sale at the same time.  Particularly, the home is under contract for purchase, the lienholder (seller‘s mortgagor) is aware of the sale, and yet the same mortgagor is proceeding with a foreclosure sale on the Courthouse steps.  If the foreclosure sale goes through, the new buyer cannot purchase the home in their time frame, and the seller now has a foreclosure in their credit history.  Rep. Capito’s Martinsburg office has been successful in either delaying or outright canceling such foreclosure sales.

If you are a homeowner trying to navigate the waters of loan modification, a short sale, or are a seller in a similar situation as described above, I strongly encourage you to contact Rep. Capito’s office.  Information and access to different programs designed to aid homeowners is readily available.  Here is the link:

http://capito.house.gov/home-foreclosure-assistance/

We at Leading Edge Properties are also here to answer questions and provide information as well.

www.AskLeadingEdge.com

TBO (The Bossy One)

aka: Amy Salisbury, Realtor®

Selling Your Home and Market Value

I’ve been thinking about value a lot lately.  Well, duh, you’re probably saying to yourself.  I am a Realtor® after all, I SHOULD be thinking about value, right?  Recently I watched this video:

http://mrisblog.com/2012/01/real-estate-iq-what-is-the-value-of-a-real-estate-pro/

Market values of real estate, market values of real estate practitioner…how does the average person establish value?  How does the average consumer evaluate all the information out there and make an informed decision?

I would posit that education is the key.  Educating yourself about any given product in the marketplace makes the decision making process less stressful.

But let’s focus on real estate.  Any homeowner has the ability to put a “for sale” sign in their front yard and decide on an sales price.  Take a few photos, post  to craigslist, and wait for the buyers to come knocking, emailing, calling.  Sounds easy, huh?

Maybe, maybe not.

Are you, Mr. or Ms. Homeowner, able to evaluate your neighborhood/community/county sales statistics at a glance?

Are you able to access information on comparable homes that have recently sold, or are going to sell within the next several weeks or months?

Because I would guess you know what you paid for your home when you purchased it, and I think you know what you want to sell it for now.  Unfortunately, neither of those numbers have any bearing whatsoever on what your house can sell for in today’s market.  Your perceived value on your home means nothing in the marketplace.

If your Realtor® has told you this, Bravo!  You have hired the right person to sell your home.  Your Realtor® has calculated an asking price for your listing that will fetch an attractive amount of potential buyers.

Advertising of all varieties: MLS, websites, pretty pictures, open houses, etc. are part of the job you hired your professional to accomplish, but ultimately, the goal is to sell the house.  And the simple key to selling is effective pricing.  Positioning your property correctly in the marketplace is the surest way to sell the property.

A successful real estate practitioner earns her living by selling properties.  Market value pricing equals sales.  Realtors® constantly and continually educate themselves on their local markets and the housing industry as a whole.  Hiring the right professional means you benefit from this education.

So when you think the time is right to sell your home, you can do it yourself.  You might get lucky.

Better yet, position yourself and your home strategically in the marketplace by hiring a professional.  Listen to her advice and then take it.  You will be on your way to the closing table much more quickly!

TBO (The Bossy One)

Congratulations WVU Mountaineers!

As a proud West Virginia resident and WVU fan, I would be remiss to let this day pass without paying tribute and offering congrats to our boys for a jaw-dropping win at last night’s 2012 Orange Bowl!

Their 70-33 victory over Clemson and 3rd BCS Bowl win should put to rest the haters and naysayers…well we can hope, right?  As noted by so many Mountain State folks, it seems there are a lot of people around the country who do not even understand that West Virginia is a state, for crying out loud:  oh ESPN and Brad Nessler…really???

http://awfulannouncing.com/2012-articles/january/brad-nessler-thinks-west-virginia-is-still-a-part-of-virginia.html

From hillbilly jokes, dentally challenged holler-runners and the inevitable marrying your cousin jibes, enough is enough.  If I sound thin-skinned, well I guess I am.  We have much to be proud of here in Wild, Wonderful: soaring mountains, winding rivers, and  a vibrant population who love this state and our own Mountaineers.

So here’s to Coach Holgorsen and the team, Congratulations!

TBO (The Bossy One)

Happy New Year!

January 3, 2012……Ah yes, the first week of the first month of a new year.  For those of us who are eternal optimists, the possibilities are endless.  The opportunities are ours for the taking.  New = good, positive, and the chance for wonderful things happening.

I admit, I’m one of THOSE.

Frankly after the hubbub of the holidays on the heels of a tough year (ok, YEARS) of difficulties in the housing market, I do indeed welcome the infinite possibilities of a New Year.  Capital N, capital Y.

And in fact, The National Association of Realtors® may just agree with me.  In today’s news, it cited “Housing Predictor, The Best Housing Markets 2012,” and three of those markets are located in our own state of West Virginia!

Charleston, Huntington and Wheeling, also our 3 largest metro areas in the state, will likely be the harbingers of better real estate values for the country at large.  Certainly I do not live or work in any of the three, but I am thrilled to read that our state will enjoy the benefits of a more valuable housing market.  Not just good news for these 3 cities, but for the entire state.

After 5-6 long years of a declining market, maybe, just maybe, things are starting to look up.  Amy the Optimist is going to think positively…hey, its all about attitude, right?

Another interesting list in the same magazine highlighted rebounding markets.  10 of the 15 areas named were located in Florida.  This is huge! Florida was devastated with the burst of the real estate bubble and has been dealing with the foreclosure/short sale nightmare since 2006.  If many areas in that state are rebounding, surely California, Nevada, Michigan and others can’t be far behind.

And all of that means that economically speaking, we may be finally crawling out from under that big huge rock we’ve been under.  Housing is one of the major driving factors of our economy.  Until real estate values begin to appreciate, our economy can’t recover.

So, yes, this is one optimist who is very much looking forward to a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

TBO (The Bossy One)

Hello world!

Hello World Indeed!

A New Year, a New Blog…

maybe a little explanation is needed?  This blog will be associated with our real estate website: http://www.AskLeadingEdge.com, and therefore will naturally have a good deal of focus on not only my local real estate market, but also the housing industry in general.  For some amount of time, I blogged on ActiveRain.com.  That was a wonderful way to learn how to do this – there really are some great writers who also happen to be Realtors®!

But, real estate is NOT my life.  I’m interested and involved in other things as well, and I do tend to write about them too.   Thus, it seemed prudent to set up this blogsite, so I can talk/write about whatever strikes my fancy.  I have opinions about lots of things (which are not necessarily those of all the folks associated with Leading Edge Properties!) and I definitely enjoy a good argument, er…discussion.

As to the title of this missive, “Thoughts & Threads: Musings from The Bossy One,”  ‘Threads’ refers to the fact that I enjoy crocheting, and “The Bossy One” is my family nickname.  Sister Molly is “The Mean One,” Sister Beth is “The Flighty One,” Brother Toby is “Switzerland.”  Probably enough said about that for now…

So here I go…new year, new blog, Post 1……Ta Da!

TBO (The Bossy One)