Credit score is a large part in buying a home and improving your score could mean qualifying for lower interest rates and better terms. Unfortunately, most people only think about credit repair when it matters and are not proactive in repairing it ahead of time. Here are 4 simple steps to repair your credit score so you can qualify for the best home with the lowest rate.

4 Simple Steps to Repair Your Credit Score

Review your credit reports

The first step in repairing your score is examining it. The credit bureaus are required to give you a free copy of your credit report once a year, you just need to request it. Another way to check is to use a free online tool that gives you a breakdown of your scores. Using these tools you can see the areas of your credit in which you are excelling and the areas which could use some improvement.

Increase credit limits

Credit card utilization holds a lot of weight in determining your score and therefore increasing your limits is one of the best steps to repair your credit score. Generally speaking, carrying a balance of 50% of your available credit to will negatively impact your score. And maxing out your cards will definitely hurt your overall score. If you owe $2,500 on a card with a $5,000 limit, and you increase your credit limit to $7,500, your score will improve immediately. This drops your utilization percentage down which helps your overall score.

Pay down outstanding balances

Decreasing your percentage of available credit can make a significant impact on your score. Similar to increasing your credit limit, paying down outstanding balances helps your credit card utilization percentage. Paying off balances may be tough as a short-term improvement to increase your score, but it should be a long-term financial goal. Over time your credit score will increase and you won’t pay as much interest.

Pay off high interest “new” cards first

Since age of credit matters to your credit score and interest rates matter to your bank account, it’s a smart financial move to pay off high interest new cards first. Paying off high interest cards will help you save money over time since you will be saving the interest on those payments. And paying off new cards first will help increase the average length of credit, which will help your score. Using the saved money from these cards toward paying off other account will help you continue to lift your score (snowball effect), without really changing your spending mindset.

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There are many benefits of owning a home – personalization, community, and ability to make it your own. One of the often-overlooked benefits of owning a home is the equity you build over time. Here are 3 benefits of growing equity in your home.

3 Benefits of Growing Equity in Your Home

What is home equity?

First off, let’s take a look at what home equity is, and how it affects you as a home owner. Home equity is the portion of your home that you truly own – the difference between the home’s fair market value and the outstanding balance of all liens on the property. Home equity is also known as real property value. The average home increases between 3% and 5% in equity per year.

Move up opportunity

One of the biggest benefits of growing equity in your home is the move up opportunity. With the rise in prices, homeowners naturally experience an increase in home equity. This increase allows them to put this money down toward a larger house to fit their family’s needs in the future. For example, if a family puts down $55,000 into the house, and the house has increased in value by $10,000, then the family’s home equity is really $65,000. When you buy your first home, the down payment is often times one of the largest hurdles to overcome. When you buy your second and third homes, you’re able to use your home equity toward the down payment of the new home, granted the market is healthy.

Gain in seller’s profit

In today’s market, when a home buyer looks at the amount paid when they bought their home and then the amount they received after selling, it’s clear that some homeowners were able to walk away with a large gain. A seller’s profit is jumping fast compared to over the last few years.

Out of a negative equity situation

Negative equity occurs when there is a decline in home value, an increase in mortgage debt, or both. Often times home owners see this situation when the housing market crashes and their area’s home values decrease. Many families experienced these challenges over the last decade. The good news is many families have moved beyond a negative equity situation since the market has recovered and they are able to use the growing equity in their home to get out of their negative situation.

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As spring starts to blossom in the Pacific Northwest, it’s also a time when people consider buying a home. Moving at the end of spring allows for families to get adjusted after the end of the current school year and before the next. The following spring home selling tips are unique to the spring and are much different than the tips to sell your home in other seasons.

Spring Home Selling Tips

Spring Cleaning

Many people take advantage of the better weather and longer days in order to tackle their spring cleaning chore list. For the main entry make sure you dust the lights, clean the baseboards, clean the entire front door and shine the knob on both sides. For the living room, wipe the walls, ceiling, and do a deep vacuum and sweep. If the windows have any blinds, use a gentle solution to clean the dirt off of the blinds. In the bathroom it’s important to clean vanities, de-clutter the top of the sink, clean the tile and glass to the shower, and re-grout if necessary. Finally, in the kitchen, go through the refrigerator and clean out any old items. Deep clean the stove top and oven, getting rid of any grease that’s been caked on. Focusing on deep cleaning your home is something that you should do every spring, and is one of the most important spring home selling tips!

Lawn Care

Since the sun starts to shine in the spring in the Pacific Northwest, it’s important to make the lawn, walkway and front door look as good as you can. Developing a good first impression can improve your chances of selling since you’ll draw more people in to tour your home if your front area looks appealing. Additionally, it’s important to clean your gutters, mow your lawn and cut shrubs down, and sweep away any debris on your walkway. Finally, it’s important to pay attention to colors of your plant pots, flowers, and house. You’ll want to make sure all the color complements the exterior of the home so the front of your home is pleasing to look at.

Choose The Right Agent

Your real estate agent will be responsible for various things throughout the selling process so it’s important to choose wisely. The right agent can also advice listing at the correct time, and picking the right price. Additionally, a strong agent will have knowledge on recent home sales in your neighborhood, distinguishing characteristics of your property that make your home more valuable, and outside variable that affect price.

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In this series, I highlight the businesses I like to refer to my friends, family, home buyers and sellers in the Pierce County area. This month I’m talking about Maidify Cleaning Services.

Community Recommendation: Maidify Cleaning Services

When helping clients buy and sell homes, a common referral question I get is finding a trustworthy and thorough cleaning service. I have had wonderful success with Maidify Cleaning Services and like to refer them to my clients who are looking for a house cleaner. They offer a weekly, monthly and deep clean for clients to choose from. Maidify Cleaning Services is located in Steilacoom and focuses on helping homes in the South Sound region.

Before starting Maidify Cleaning Services, the owner was serving in the Army as a Helicopter Mechanic. After being honorably discharged, he decided to finish his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. He tried to get part time jobs to relieve stress off of his family and attend school at the same time, but these “part time jobs” didn’t honor his school schedule and were demolishing his GPA at school. He was very upset and disappointed with most business establishments that claim they “help” College students, only to work them as like full time employees without any benefits.

He started Maidify Cleaning Services for 3 reasons:

  1. To provide part time jobs to local college students and prior military at JBLM
  2. To donate to charity
  3. To help relieve stress on local residents by providing them with a clean home

He wants to thank all the Veterans at JBLM and McChord Air Force Base for making the world a better place.

Maidify offers a 10% discount to Active Duty, Reserve and Retired Military.

For more information about Maidify Cleaning Services, visit their website or their Facebook page.

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The kitchen is the heart of the home, which motivates many home owners to keep it looking fresh and upgraded. The only catch is that completely remodeling your kitchen can be an overwhelming expense. Here are 5 ways to upgrade your kitchen without remodeling.

Ways to Upgrade Your Kitchen Without Remodeling

Cabinets

One of the top pieces of a kitchen that can make it feel outdated is the color of the cabinets. Many home owners turn to refacing as an easy way to update the cabinets. Refacing involves removing the door, drawers, and cabinets and painting to give the kitchen a brand new look. If you like the function and layout of your kitchen cabinets, but simply want to change the color and hardware, refacing cabinets will upgrade your kitchen without remodeling.

Shelving

Open shelving is becoming increasing popular and is a great way to show off your beautiful serving dishes. Simply remove the cabinet door and hinge to give your cabinets a new look. Additionally, adding shelves to your kitchen will make the space feel lighter and more functional. This is especially great if you have an open wall and you’re not sure of how to decorate it.

Lighting

Lighting can dramatically change the feel of any room. Tear out the fluorescent lighting and replace with can lights. Can lights give a warm even light in the kitchen. Over the kitchen sink is the perfect place for a statement pendant light. Pendant lights are relatively inexpensive starting as low as $50. Adding under cabinet lighting will give your kitchen more light as well as make food prep easier.

Bar Stools

Consider removing the bulking wooden bar stool and replace with a backless sleek stool to help upgrade your kitchen without remodeling. Bar stools that can slide under the island serve as functional seats but also don’t take up any unnecessary room. If you’ve chose a statement color for your kitchen, including this color in the bar stool is a great way to tie the room together.

Appliances

Upgrading appliances can be the finishing touch in giving your kitchen a new look. Replacing your fridge, dishwasher, oven, and faucet can give your kitchen the modern touch you’re looking for. Whether you go with stainless steel, black stainless, or white, just make sure that all the appliances coordinate! Uncoordinated appliances can leave you wondering why your kitchen feel incomplete.

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While yes we all have the dream to decorate every inch of our home for the holidays, time and money don’t always allow that to happen. You’ve still go shopping and wrapping to do, not to mention your everyday life to live. Here are 4 ways to simply decorate for the holidays with a big impact.

How to Simply Decorate For The Holidays

Target The Tree

Your Christmas tree will be the center of attention in your home, so it makes sense to spend time and energy into nicely decorating it. For an easy, simple look, go with a monochromatic color scheme. This could mean a white flocked tree with crème and blush ornaments, or a green tree with silver ornaments and garland. Using a monochromatic scheme also coordinates with any room décor which eliminates the worry of balancing a color palette.

Mantle Magic

Simply decorating your mantle can complement the tree and bring holiday cheer. Choose a statement making garland to drape across the mantle. A good tip is to coordinate with the type of tree you’ve chosen, so if you have a flocked tree then go with a flocked garland. Then add some candles on the mantle to light at night, giving your fireplace a warm white color. Keeping the mantle simple will add elegance without having to spend a bunch of extra money on knick knacks.

Table Top

Focusing on the table top is key in simply decorating for the holidays. The holidays are a prime time for entertaining, so you want to make the gathering dining area festive. Adding another garland to your table as a table runner can do wondering for adding the seasonal flair to your table. Then you can add candles or ornaments along the garland to bring in the extra pop of color.

Front Porch

The front porch is visible by your guests as well as any car driving by. Consider adding a simple wreath to your door and some lights to your home. Adding décor that is visible in the day and night will serve as dual purpose. Additionally, if you’ve chosen to go with a monochromatic color scheme inside your home, consider going with a monochromatic color scheme outside as well. So, if you have a flocked tree inside, add some white lights to the outside of your home to tie your décor all together. This will also maintain the simple yet elegant décor feel to your home.

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One of the biggest new year’s resolutions for homeowners is to clean up and organize the home. There is a proven correlation between clutter and stress, so homeowner’s want to minimize the stress to start the new year right. Here are 5 home organization tips for a stress-free start to 2020.

Home Organization Tips To Start The New Year Right

Start in One Place

While it can be overwhelming to tackle organizing an entire house, the best way to begin is to start in one place. Start organizing in the room that causes you the most stress, or the room that guests see first upon entering. When you start with one cabinet in one room, and get in a groove, the rest of the house doesn’t seem so daunting.

Use Creative Storage Solutions

Look for wasted space that can be turned into storage. For example, if you have a small living room but need to make room for toys and blankets, consider investing in a storage ottoman to hide the clutter. Additionally, with limited space, another way to organize is to use stacking shelves that have cubes to hide your items. This way the toys are easily accessible but are not an eye sore when you walk into the room.

Get Rid of What You don’t Need

If you are going to take the time to organize and de-clutter, you might as well get rid of unwanted items at the same time! Homeowners often keep 80% of items they never use, so be picky when it comes to keeping items! Whether you decide to garage sale or donate your unused items, removing items you don’t use is a great step in the decluttering process.

Arrange by Frequency of Use

It only makes sense to put seasonal decorations in the back of the storage room since you only need them for a short period once a year. By keeping these in the back, you aren’t having to move these boxes every time you need the vacuum. If you use an item every day, make sure it’s easily accessible and at eye level. Constantly grabbing things from the back may derail your organization plan.

Take Your Time

Don’t expect to organize and de-clutter your home over night. Take your time and sort in an effective way so you’ll only have to do this once a year, not once a month!

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In this series, I highlight the businesses I like to refer to my friends, family, home buyers and sellers in the Pierce County area. This month I’m talking about PNW Grill in Puyallup.

Community Recommendation: PNW Grill

PNW Grill is a fun family-friendly restaurant that was established in 2019. Inside you’ll find casual tables, a large bar, darts, pool tables, and ping pong. PNW Grill serves scratch made food with some fun plays on American classics. I love a good steak and their rib eye is to die for! I loved this place so much that we are hosting our November VAREP Restaurant Takeover here.

Here’s what their customers have to say:

“Their wings are TO DIE FOR! Seriously, the Asian sesame are the way to go. Also, their mojitos are flavored with fresh fruit purées that are made in house daily. The peach and mango are amazing. I haven’t tried a pizza yet, but the table next to us got one and it’s definitely a must have next time. Great job to the new owners for really taking the place to its true potential.”

“My service was top notch and my waitress was very attentive.  My nephew had the rib-eye and it was mouthwatering as far as presentation. People: You want top quality beef you are going to pay for it, and I’m telling you it’s worth it to dine here.  I ordered the Rainer and some point during the meal I looked up to see my nephew staring at me.  I looked down to the pile of crust beneath me and muttered “What?” through a mouth full of meat and cheese.  I apparently was stuffing the slices in my face as though the apocalypse was upon us.  Great place, great service, great pizza.  If I ever get the chance to come back, I’m getting the steak.”

For more information, visit their Facebook page.

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The U.S. housing market is still humming along, which means that home sellers in many regions are still getting multiple offers. For home buyers, this means putting your best foot forward if you want to make your offer stand out from the rest.

6 Ways to Make Your Offer Stand Out from the Rest

  1. Walk in with home loan pre-approval to make your offer stand out from the rest.

Nothing says “I’m serious” about buying a home than having completed the mortgage pre-approval process ahead of time. When your offer includes a pre-approval letter from your mortgage lender, home sellers know that you are ready, willing and able to make the deal go through.

Conversely, home buyers who haven’t completed the full pre-approval process (even if they have been pre-qualified) may make an offer that their lender ultimately won’t agree to. This can easily send the home seller back to square one and may even cause a home buyer to forfeit their earnest money deposit.

 

Comparing Pre-Qualified vs. Pre-Approved Home Buyers
PRE-QUALIFIED PRE-APPROVED
Filled out / completed a mortgage application X
Credit history check completed X
Finances reviewed X
Down-payment estimated X
Specific amount offered by lender X
Lender provides interest rate information X

 

You can see how much more “ready” home buyers who have been pre-approved for a home loan are vs. those who have only been pre-qualified or who have not even contacted their lender yet. If you’re working with a real estate agent but haven’t yet chosen a lender, your realtor could point you to a mortgage company they have experience with, who can help you get the pre-approval process completed before you make an offer.

  1. Put down a serious earnest money deposit.

The very definition of “earnest” includes the idea of being transparent, genuine and serious about something!

earnest – adjective – characterized by or proceeding from an intense and serious state of mind

When used as a noun, it is also defined as a considerable or impressive degree or amount. In a slow  home-buying market, buyers can make small earnest money deposits. In a hot market or seller’s market – not so much. Putting down a high earnest money deposit tells home sellers that you’re serious about their property. It sends a message that you’re not holding back in order to make multiple offers on different properties (homebuyinginstitute.com).

Your real estate agent can advise you about how to make your earnest money deposit as competitive as possible, and about how to make your offer as a whole as competitive as it can be.

  1. Connect emotionally to make your offer stand out from the rest.

It’s common for home sellers to receive letters from buyers who are especially interested in “winning” when it comes to a multiple-offer bidding war. Tell the homeowner why this property matters so much to you, what makes it special to you, how you can see yourself living there.

When touring the home, you might have even seen belongings in the home that give you an idea of the home seller’s future aspirations or something in their past that you might share. Put it in the letter! Give the seller reasons to prefer your offer in a multiple offer bidding war scenario.

  1. Include an escalation offer.

In a situation where you know there are multiple offers, you can include an escalation offer in your bid. This tells the seller exactly how much you are willing (and able) to pay for the home. An example of this would be to offer $2,000 more than the highest offer submitted up to the limit you feel comfortable with. If you make an offer on a home that is listed for significantly less than amount for which your mortgage lender pre-approved you, you have some room to include an escalation offer in your bid.

Bear in mind, though, that the home’s appraisal may be a factor. If the home isn’t likely to appraise for the amount you would have to pay for the home, the lender may only be willing to lend the amount for which the home appraises. In that case you would need to be prepared to put more money down at the time the home loan closes to make up the difference.

  1. Forego inspections and contingencies and pay more closing costs.

It’s common to include a request for home inspection in any offer to buy a house. However, for the sellers, this might reveal the need for repairs or updates they would be asked to complete or fund before the home sale would close. Offering to pay for the home inspection (or even some of the seller’s closing costs) and forego any minor items found could encourage a seller to work with you instead of other home buyers.

  1. Be ready to move… or not.

The faster the home sale process can move, the faster the seller can move on. If you’re pre-approved for the mortgage that speeds up the process from the get-go. If you can also offer to take possession quickly this might be a bonus for the seller. Conversely, if the seller needs more time to pack up and move out, offering to wait and work on their time schedule could help your offer stand out from the rest.

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Selling your home for the most money is a top priority of most sellers. If you’re planning on selling your home within the next few years, there might be some home improvements to make beforehand that can really increase your home value. Here are 4 upgrades to make before you sell your home.

Upgrades to Make Before You Sell

Update Cabinets

It’s not necessary to replace your cabinets as it may not make financial sense, but giving your cabinets a refresh can be one of the best upgrades to make before you sell. Start with a fresh coat of paint, preferably a color that is trendy and will appeal to home buyers when you sell. Next, change out the hardware. You may be surprised at how much a difference these two simple updates can make. Just updating your cabinets can turn a kitchen from a dark and isolated room, to a bright and welcoming room.

Light Fixtures

Go through your home and see what light fixtures could use come updating. Replacing light fixtures can make a large difference in your home’s appearance. If you don’t have the budget to replace all the fixtures in your home, start with the ones in the kitchen and above tables as those make the largest impressions in a room. Then move to the main living areas, and replace the bedroom fixtures last. A bright statement fixture can really tie a room together and thus make the room feel more expensive which can increase your selling price.

Paint

Adding a fresh coat of paint to all of your walls is one of the easiest and most effective upgrades to make before you sell. Sticking with a neutral palette will ensure you don’t scare away potential buyers, and will help your home appear more cohesive and move in ready. It’s also a good idea to give your front door a fresh coat while you’re at it. The front door is the entryway into the home, and can make a lasting impression on home buyers.

Landscaping

Curb appeal goes a long way in attracting potential home buyers. Do you have a large empty strip of bark that could use a nice flower bed? How about pruning the shrubs and trees? Even if you don’t plan to sell your home right away, you might consider planting some perennials so they are well established by the time you want to sell your home. Attractive landscaping is a great way to make a positive lasting impression on future buyers.

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