April 4th, 2014
The journey of buying a new home starts long before your physical search begins, and it is just as critical. Finances play a key role in your home search, so understanding what your credit score is and where you stand financially is critical, before you even step foot in that condo or residential home.
If you’re looking to boost your credit score or correct errors to your credit report, following are some ways that will improve your score and get you ready to purchase that dream home or condo.
1. Check your credit report. The first step is to get and review your credit reports. Check over your entire reports and look for any mistakes and errors that need to be corrected. There are several ways you can get a copy of your credit report, and under the FACT act you are entitled to a free report from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies each year: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
You can take advantage of this free credit report at annualcreditreport.com.
You can also discuss with your real estate agent a qualified lender who they would recommend for getting a credit report with scores related to obtaining a mortgage. This would be the best plan if you are ready to begin purchasing soon. If you are purchasing in the Grand Strand area contact us or call us at (877) 671-5024 and we will be glad to help you connect with some reputable lending sources.
Once you have obtained your free credit reports following are some useful links:
- Reviewing your credit report and reporting incorrect information or problems
- What to look for
- What is a credit report?
- What is a credit score?
- Can I get my credit score for free too?
- How do I get and keep a good credit score?
2. Pay above the minimum on credit cards. When possible, pay more than the minimum payment that is due each month. Above-the-minimum payments are a great sign to anyone reviewing your credit before a big purchase. Even if it’s only a small amount above the minimum, it is a good practice if you’re carrying a balance on a card.
3. Maintain a low balance. A major component of your credit score is the amount of revolving credit you have available versus the total balance you are carrying. It’s best to avoid carrying a balance over 50% of your card’s limit. The optimum is 10 percent of the credit line. Even better is to consider paying off and reducing the number of cards you use. Instead of using several cards and carrying small balances on all of them, it is better to pay off the small balances and choose one or two cards that you use for everything. One thing to note, if you pay cards off, don’t close the account prior to your home purchase.
4. Pay on time. One of the best things you can do to keep your credit score where it should be is to simply make your payments on time, month after month. Late payments not only hurt your credit score but can impact the type of loan you may qualify for.
5. Avoid big purchases. Any big purchase, like a car, boat, or expensive vacation can put a dent in your credit and alter your financial picture. These dents are sudden changes that lenders don’t like to see right before a major home purchase.
6. Leave old debt on your report, especially if it’s good debt. After you have successfully paid off a car or home, it’s a good idea to leave it on your report. Showing a long history of responsible debt is good for your credit and good for your credit score. It shows that you have handled your debt and obligations well in the past and is a good indicator of future repayment of debt.
7. Check your credit report on at least an annual basis. The best way to stay on top of your credit is to order a copy of your report at least once a year, and get any errors corrected or removed as soon as they show up.
If you are currently in the market to purchase a condo or single-family home, we would be glad to help you. You can still take advantage of great rates and excellent properties that are on the market. Feel free to call us at (877) 671-5024.
March 31st, 2014
Whether you’re buying a primary residence in Myrtle Beach or buying a vacation home in the Grand Strand area, there are a few, often overlooked tax breaks for homeowners that could help you save some money when filing your taxes.
A tax code of over 73,000 pages means that sometimes people miss the good stuff, the items that could save them money. A few of these missed tax breaks are related to real estate, and we’ve listed a few below. Be sure to bring them up to your tax preparer for professional advice to see which of these may work for your specific circumstances.
1. Mortgage Interest
The home mortgage interest tax break is a major motivation behind many people purchasing a home. This is an obvious deduction, but even so, it is sometimes overlooked by homeowners. In most cases, you would need to itemize your taxes to take advantage of this deduction. Itemizing your tax deductions can be extra work, but it can be well worth the effort if you can save some tax dollars. Following are a few tools that may be of value to you regarding your home mortgage interest tax deductions:
- Mortgage Tax Deduction Calculator
- Deducting Mortgage Interest FAQs
- IRS: Home Mortgage Interest
- The Tax Benefits of Home Ownership
- Six Important Tax Tips for Homeowners
2. Property Taxes
You can deduct your state and local property taxes as long as they are based on assessed value. If you have an escrow account from which your property taxes are paid, you can claim this deduction once taxes are paid out of the escrow account. Following are a few tools that may assist you:
- Myrtle Beach Property Tax Calculator
- Horry County Tax Assessor’s Site – This site has plenty of information from property tax exemption information, change of address, property tax appeal form, questions and answers, and contact information.
- Georgetown County Tax Assessor’s Site – This site contains a lot of information such as how to appealing property values, change of address, and questions and answers area.
3. CODI Income
The Cancellation of Debt Income, or CODI, is the route through which defaulted mortgage debt from foreclosure, short sale, or settlement, is forgiven through a partial payment, which is actually charged as income. However, thanks to a 2007 act named the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act, the IRS temporarily exempted CODI from incurring tax income liability for many home buyers in order to avoid penalizing them for these settlements and resolutions to upside-down home mortgages.
The Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act expired on December 31, 2013, and while it might be extended into this year, there’s opportunity to claim this if you are one of the many home owners to whom this applies for 2013. If this is you, there is a chance that you might be eligible to claim this when you file your 2013 return by the April deadline.
4. Going Green
The wave of green initiatives across multiple industries over the last few years make this an obvious selection. If you added some energy efficient items to your home last year, such as solar panels, dual-paned windows, added insulation, or low-flow plumbing appliances, these can be eligible for state, county, and perhaps city tax credits or tax breaks. If you made any of these improvements over the last year, it’s time to pull out your receipts and determine if you might be eligible for green tax breaks. Following are a few resources that may assist you:
- Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency
- Going Green – Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce
- Solar Estimate – a resource for energy incentives, solar rebates and tax credits
With mortgage rates still low and Myrtle Beach home prices on the rise, now is the time to buy that new home or condo in the Grand Strand. To get started feel free to call us at (877) 671-5024.
March 18th, 2014
When it comes to selling your home or condo a professional real estate agent will get down to strategy and selling tactics.
One of the most effective tactics is the staging conversation. Effective staging is critical, but many home sellers have a blind spot to their own home. They have seen their home the way it is and it has become acceptable. Most home sellers aren’t too keen on changing what they feel is okay.
Following are a few tips and tricks you should consider as a home seller to maximize your return on the sale of your Grand Strand home or condo:
- Let your real estate agent be blunt.
You want your home to sell and close quickly. Therefore get honest feedback from your agent. A professional real estate agent will always be tactful in giving advice, and as a seller, you should welcome that advice. It could impact your bottom line greatly.
- Tour other listings with your agent.
One of the best ways to get inspiration for the potential is to tour other listings. Seeing what other homes and condos have to offer not only can validate your agent’s feedback, but may inspire some other creative ideas.
- Stage from the outside in.
First impressions are everything. Selling your home takes effort if you want the right price and a quick sale. Therefore put on your buyer’s hat and ask yourself if the first impression of your home is memorable or so-so. It would even be good to sit down and watch a few episodes of House Hunters, Love It or List It, or The Property Brothers and see how first impressions affect buyers. A great and entertaining show is The Vanilla Ice Project. Yes, that’s right Vanilla Ice, the famous rapper! You will be amazed at the staging he puts into a home.
- Less is more.
Most buyers don’t have an imagination. The more stuff they see, the less they can envision themselves in a home. Therefore get rid of all the clutter. Don’t let personal decorations get in the way. Remove anything that affects the real packaging of the home to a potential buyer.
- Think like a buyer.
Sure, that bright paint was to your personality and liking. But the reality is, the more neutral your home’s color scheme, the more ready it is for a potential buyer to see themselves living there and to come in and make it their own.
- Spend money to make money.
Yes, you may need to spend some money to make money. Just look at the return you will get if your home or condo is pristine.
With mortgage rates still low and Myrtle Beach home prices on the rise, now is the time to buy or sell that new home or condo in the Grand Strand. To get started feel free to call us at (877) 671-5024.
March 13th, 2014
Myrtle Beach continues to see growth in the housing market as the Grand Strand approaches its beautiful summer months. Zillow, an online real estate database, reported that home values in Myrtle Beach have risen 9.4% over the past year, with the median home value for Myrtle Beach sitting at $111,000 for February 2014. The median price of homes is currently $139,900.
February’s economic reports also indicate a strengthening economy as well. The month of February marks 175,000 jobs created, more than the expected 163,000, and the largest jobs gain in three months. Revisions concerning job creation numbers for the months of December and January also added 25,000 more new job creations than had been previously reported.
The labor market also received a positive, albeit small, sign of a continued growing economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate rose to 6.7% for the month of February, up from just 6.6% from the previous month. This time last year saw a 7.7% unemployment rate. The Labor Force Participation rate remained at 63%, a 35-year low. Despite weak labor news, these reports are a positive sign, though consistent improvement is needed.
February’s reported average 15-year and 30-year fixed mortgage rates are both down from January’s numbers. Freddie Mac reports that the 15-Year Fixed-Rate fell to a monthly average of 3.35% from January’s average of 3.48%. The 30-Year Fixed-Rate also fell, landing at a monthly average 4.30% for last month, down from 4.43% from January.
Despite the recent economic news, the most important thing to remember remains the Fed’s purchases of $35 billion in Treasuries and $30 billion in Mortgage Bonds, (the types of bonds on which home loan rates are based) in order to help stimulate and grow the economy and housing market. Remember that the Fed originally purchased a combined $85 billion in Treasuries and Bonds. If the economy should falter or slow it’s growth, the Fed may reconsider it’s recent tapering off in purchase.
With low mortgage rates and Myrtle Beach home prices on the rise, now is still a great time to buy a new home or condo in the Grand Strand right before the beautiful summer months arrive. If you are in the market to purchase a new home or condo, a professional real estate agent at the Hoffman Group would be glad to assist you. To get started feel free to call us at (877) 671-5024.
March 2nd, 2014
Buying a home or condo is an exciting event, but one that can leave many homebuyers wondering if they got a great deal. Following are four questions that you should ask yourself to help determine whether or not you’re prepared to find the right deal for you.
1. What does a great deal look like to me?
Before you enter the Grand Strand real estate market take a moment to decide what a great deal looks like to you. Consider this both in terms of your finances and your purchasing goals. This will help minimize the emotion swings as you begin viewing homes and make your decision process much more sound.
2. Do I have a purchase strategy?
Begin with a good strategy and don’t fly by the seat of your pants when purchasing a home or condo. A good place to start is with a professional real estate agent. Consult with your agent to determine the type of properties and seller concessions that are available in today’s market. A good agent will then help you and the lender to make sure you are taking advantage of all possible financing options from seller contributions and obligations to market incentives. The best advice for sure is to secure loan approval and to make sure your real estate agent and lender are on the same page before you begin your home or condo search. Knowing how much you can spend, what you will need for funds at closing and what you will want to negotiate with the seller will save you a lot of time, and give you a stronger bargaining position for the home or condo that you want.
3. Do I understand the current real estate market in a way that gives me leverage?
It’s not just mortgage interest rates that are important. You should have a good understanding of the local real estate market for the area in which you desire to purchase. A professional real estate agent can provide you with comparable market data that includes lots of information from recent sales prices, sales to list price ratios that can give you a good supply and demand snapshot, property descriptions, property improvements, days on the market, type of financing, date closed, seller concessions, and more. This information is vital in helping assist you with making an informed decision for the right offer for the home or condo you want to purchase.
4. Do I have good resources to educate myself about the market?
A good place to start is right here on The Hoffman Group blog. Our blog will provide you with more information than any other real estate source in the Grand Strand when it comes to local market trends and real estate information. The next step is to understand the role your agent plays in representing you. Here is a good infographic to help you see what your agent is doing on your behalf.
If you’re thinking of purchasing a new home or condo in the Myrtle Beach area, check out our free white paper, Myrtle Beach Real Estate: 5 Things You Should Know, to get some great information about the home buying and selling process. Feel free to call us at (877) 671-5024. We are looking forward helping you find your next home.