Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring Home Deals are Healthy for Those Who Know the Score

(ARA) – Motivated sellers, builders offering deep discounts and incentives, historically low mortgage rates, plenty of inventory and fierce competition for qualified borrowers –it’s actually a great time to be buying a house. If your credit score is good, you’re in an even better position to negotiate the loan on the home of your dreams this spring.

Spring has always been a popular time to buy a new home. More people put their homes on the market when the weather is warm, and a wealth of inventory is available. With winter thawing into distant memory, home shoppers are ready for a fresh start in a new house. Buying a home in spring will help new homeowners ensure they move their families during the summer, and not at the beginning or in the middle of the school year.

With plenty of housing opportunities and low interest rates currently available, it pays to ensure you’re in a position of power when you go home shopping this spring. Here are some simple tips for ensuring you’re in the driver’s seat when buying a house:

Know Your Credit Score

You may not be able to control the economy, but your credit score is a financial reality you do have control over. The higher your score, the more likely you are to be able to negotiate lower interest rates when mortgage hunting.

Before you look at a single house, find out what your credit score is. Sites like give you access to your free credit report -- which will show potential lenders your payment history and help them decide if you’re a good or even great credit risk. Through the Web site, you can also get your credit score from Experian, one of the three top credit bureaus lenders turn to when evaluating the credit-worthiness of potential borrowers.

The better your score, the better your chances of scoring a great loan, so take steps to improve your score, such as paying off credit cards quickly, paying bills on time and minimizing your use of  revolving credit. Errors can occur and if you find some on your credit report, work directly with the credit bureaus to have them corrected.

Know the Playing Field

Once you’re confident you have a powerful credit score, research the market where you’re interested in buying. In addition to considering the quality of schools, proximity to work, entertainment and amenities a neighborhood has to offer; consider the number of foreclosures in an area and how much home values have dipped in the past year.

Is the neighborhood you’re interested in poised to regain value quickly when the real estate market rebounds? Recovery speed could be an important consideration if you plan to stay in the home only a few years. If you’re in the home for the long haul, you may be less concerned about how quickly home values in the neighborhood will improve.

This spring can be a great time to start fresh in a new home. To ensure you’re well-positioned to take advantage of the great housing deals, visit first to learn about your free credit report.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Home Inspection Helps Ensure Dream Deals Don’t Turn into Nightmares

(ARA)  - You found your dream deal on a foreclosed home, but will that great price tag come with a different kind of higher cost? Buying a repossessed property, short sale or a home offered at a bargain price -- because of its condition -- can mean you’re assuming much higher risks.

Repossessed and short sale homes are often abandoned and neglected, leaving them with  much more potential for unforeseen structural defects, plumbing, electrical, heating systems, environmental issues and many other problems. Fixing these woes can cost far more than the financial savings from a distressed property purchase. There also may be unknown defects, such as mold or radon, that could affect your family’s health and safety.  

Still, it is possible to get a dream deal on a distressed home. Before you sign on the dotted line, be sure to have the house thoroughly inspected by a professional, so you can reduce these potential risks as well as financial costs. A home inspector can help you identify potential problems in the home you’re considering buying, so you know in advance what you’re getting into -- and what you should walk away from.

There are many ways to find a home inspector, including consulting family, friends, your attorney, real estate professional or mortgage professional. You can also find information on inspectors across the country on, the Web site of The American Society of Home Inspectors, the organization that sets the standards of practice for the inspection industry.

Homebuyers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from a home inspection. If you’re selling your home, having it inspected before you list it may help sell your home in less time and for more money.  Moreover, homeowners can benefit from maintenance inspections, such as an energy inspection, which can help reduce monthly energy costs, and a home safety inspection that can help seniors stay in their homes longer.

* Ask the inspector how he operates.  What format will the report be in? Ask for sample reports.

* Talk with each candidate to see who is the best fit for your needs and comfort, as well as for the property being inspected.

* Check all references. Don’t automatically go with the lowest price. Remember, the old adage is often true -- you get what you pay for.

* Attend the inspection to ensure you get the best value -- and most information -- for your investment.

A home inspector can be your best ally in ensuring your dream deal doesn’t turn into a nightmare. Visit and take the Virtual Home Inspector Tour to see and hear more about home inspections.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Home Purchase: Deal or No Deal?

Deal. If you are contemplating buying a home, now may be the perfect time to make a purchase -- if you have the money and a secure job.

Real estate sales have sagged in many parts of the country as buyers have been frozen in the headlights of the economic downturn. As a result, prices are falling in many markets.

"If I could buy real estate right now, I would," says Amy Bonis, a certified mortgage planner with Alera Financial in Raleigh, N.C. "It's clearly a buyer's market. If you can buy a house that is undervalued, it's like, what shade of green do you want?"

In addition, mortgage rates have fallen near historic lows, substantially reducing the cost of financing for buyers with good credit.

Bonis says buyers who act now rather than wait are likely to see the best return.

"Somebody has to start buying, and when they do, there are going to be more buyers on the market, which is going to cause home prices to go up," she says. "When you stimulate home prices to go up, that affects the economy in a positive way, which raises interest rates. What people don't realize is, by the time they hear that things are better, (their opportunity) is already gone."

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Monday, March 2, 2009

How to Use the Internet to Save Money

(ARA) - Cutting costs, pinching pennies, shopping smarter -- more and more people are reacting to the current economic crisis by changing how and where they spend money. For some people, it may mean fewer restaurant dinners and more home cooking. Others are making bigger changes to save a few dollars and gain control of their finances.

Not every adjustment has to be dramatic, however. There are ways to save significant amounts of money without leaving the house -- or even getting out of bed. With more than 84 million people having broadband Internet access at home, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a few mouse clicks can easily benefit your wallet.

The Internet has changed the way people communicate, discover and engage with others. It has also changed the way people manage their money. People regularly bank, trade, do business and shop online. Today, 40 percent of U.S. households bank online -- one-third more than in 2003 -- according to financial consulting firm TowerGroup. According to the Nielsen Global Online Survey, in 2008, more than 85 percent of the world’s online population has used the Internet to make a purchase -- up 40 percent from 2005.

“The price you pay for the things you need is not set in stone,” says Paul Ford, CEO of “Insurance, for example, is one of the biggest non-discretionary expenses for any family. What most people don’t realize is that you can -- and should -- shop around for insurance just like you shop around for a car or a house. With the technology available today, it’s easier than you might think.”

Here are just a few ways that consumers can use the Internet to take some pressure off their pocketbooks.

Check online for coupons and promotional codes.

In lieu of eating out frequently, many people are doing more grocery shopping and cooking at home. Many major grocery stores post coupons, offers and other promotions online that can easily lead to increased savings in a fraction of the time it takes to clip coupons in the traditional sense. Likewise, many online retailers circulate "promo codes" that can be redeemed at checkout for additional savings. Before completing an online purchase checkout, do a quick Internet search. Visit sites like or to save.

Shop around for insurance quotes.

Insurance, whether for your car, home, health or business is something most people cannot go without. However, many people never think to shop around for a better insurance quote because they see insurance as an expense that isn’t negotiable, or they think they’re stuck in their current policy until it runs out. This is simply not the case. People can switch at any point in their policy, without penalty, and can often find a better deal by shopping around. Better yet, people can use quote-shopping sites, such as, and receive insurance quotes from multiple interested agents without the hassle of filling out multiple requests. It can be a simple way to greatly reduce the amount people pay for insurance. After all, if you have to pay for it anyway, you may as well get the best deal you can.

Save on gas by mapping out travel routes.

Instead of taking the same route to work, friends’ houses or places of interest, consider mapping out a more cost-effective route by using online mapping services. The less time you spend driving from point A to point B, the less you’ll have to spend on gas. Web sites such as or GoogleMaps can change the way you travel and how much it costs to get there. You might find a time-saving shortcut that you never knew existed.

Don’t waste money on the wrong products -- read reviews first.

Almost every online retailer features customer reviews and ratings for each of their products. If you must make a large purchase, there can be immense benefit in taking the time to read what other people are saying about that product before you buy. Consider checking out or If the buzz indicates that a particular product is not worth the money -- or that a similar product does the same thing for less -- reconsider the purchase and look into other options. And if you happen to find what you’re looking for, check out the sites listed above for promotional codes.

People can get very creative when it comes to shaving a few pennies off their expenses. Before resorting to dramatic, cumbersome methods of saving money, explore the options above and other innovative ways the Web can be a tool for reducing your financial burden.

Courtesy of ARAcontent