The Today Show

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19 10, 2012

How To Improve Your FICO Score

The U.S. housing market recovery is underway. New home sales are at a multi-year high, housing starts are at pre-recession levels, and home builders plan for a strong 2013.

Since late-2011, falling mortgage rates have boosted buyer purchasing power. Now, today, in many U.S. markets, the number of active home buyers outnumbers the number of active home sellers. It’s among the reasons why home supplies remain scarce and why home prices are rising.

Roughly 20 percent of today’s home buyers purchase homes with cash. For everyone else, the ability to gain mortgage approval depends on income, assets, and, most importantly, credit scores. Your credit score is a predictor of your future payment performance and lenders pay close attention. 

If you plan to buy a home in the next 12 months, spend some time with this The Today Show interview. It’s five minutes of practical credit scoring advice, including separation of credit score myth from credit score fact.

Among the credit scoring tips shared :

  • How to get your credit checked without harming your credit score
  • The value of using automatic payments with credit cards
  • How to use “old” credit cards to boost your credit score

You’ll also learn about utility companies and why you should never be late with payment.

As compared to August 2011, last month’s average, mortgage-financing home buyer’s FICO score improved 9 points to 750. The average “denied” mortgage applicant’s FICO score was 704. Clearly, standards are high. However, credit scoring is a system and, with time, you can improve your rating. 

Watch the interview and find ways to make your credit score better. With better credit comes better mortgage rates.

3 10, 2012

How To Help Your Home Appraise At Its Fair Market Value

Home values are rising in many U.S. markets. The S&P/Case-Shiller Index has home values up 1.2 percent as compared to last year, and the government’s Home Price Index shows an increase of 3.7 percent.

This has been partially evidenced by rising median home sales prices nationwide. Versus last year, the median sale price of a new construction home has climbed 17 percent, and the median sale price of an existing home sale is higher by 10 percent.

For home sellers, an improving market means the chance to net more proceeds from a home sale. Or does it?

In this 3-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, we hear about the home appraisal process and how it may be limiting the number of home sales nationwide, plus the prices at which homes are selling. 

The interview includes several key insights into the home appraisal process :

  • In a rising housing market, a home’s appraised home value may be lower than its “true” market value
  • Short sales and foreclosures can make a negative impact on a home’s appraised value
  • Consolidation in the appraisal industry has lowered product quality and may be harming valuations

One key take-away from the video is that home owners should provide their home appraisers with as much relevant information as possible — especially information which may not be publicly-available. This includes records of recent “all-cash” sales of comparable homes which were never formally listed for sale.

One in three purchase agreements are canceled because of appraisal issues, according to the interview. Take steps to make sure yours is not among them.

5 09, 2012

Making Coupon-Free Savings At The Supermarket

The average family puts 10-15 percent of its monthly spending toward food, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Department of Agriculture, with most of that food purchased at a supermarket.

The amount spent on food is less than the typical amount spent on housing each month but what makes food costs different from housing expenses is food costs are not “fixed”.

How much you spend on food each month is up to you and, using savvy shopping tactics plus coupons, you can lower your monthly food spend. Saving money on food leaves money for other purposes including savings, clothing and transportation.

In this 4-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn several easy-to-implement methods which can reduce your supermarket bills, as well a few “common sense” tactics you may have overlooked.

Among the topics covered in the video :

  • The importance of shopping with a list, and of avoiding “the inner aisles”
  • The value of generic brands, which are often near-copies of “brand name” products
  • Why you should buy toiletries at a drugstore instead of at a supermarket
  • Using “per unit” prices to compare different-sized packaging of the same product
  • Buying fruit that’s in-season versus fruit that’s out-of-season

Another shared money-saving tip is to shop at grocery store without children. It can be fun for the family to shop together, as noted in the interview, but bringing children to the supermarket is a sure-fire way to raise your grocery bill.

Recent inflation data shows that the typical cost of food is rising nationwide. With these tips, perhaps you can lower your bill.

14 08, 2012

Should You Lease Or Buy Your Next Car? It May Affect Your Mortgage.

Should you lease a new car, or should you buy one? Like most financial questions, the answer depends on your situation. For some people, leasing a car presents distinct economic advantages. For others, buying a car is the way to go.

There’s plenty of online material to help you choose your optimal path, but this 3-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show serves as an excellent summary. In it, you’ll learn about the basics of leasing a car, and for whom leasing can be a great fit. You’ll also hear reasons to avoid a lease completely.

The NBC interview makes all of the following points :

  • Leasing allows you to drive a car that may be “too expensive” to purchase
  • Leasing puts you in a new car, with the latest safety features and gadgets, every few years
  • Buying a car means that you have no mileage limits, and can sell at any time

For many people, it concludes, buying a car is preferable to leasing one, with a notable exception being those people who can claim their car or truck as a tax deduction. Be sure to check with your tax advisor if you plan to take that route.

However, for another group — homeowners and active home buyers — leasing a car can invite mortgage approval trouble. This is because a car lease payment is assumed by a mortgage underwriter to be a perpetual debt; one that never reduces or gets extinguished. When a lease is complete, it must be replaced with a new lease, and so on.

Therefore, no matter how many payments remain in a lease, mortgage applicants must use the full car lease payment for purposes of a mortgage approval.

By contrast, for people whom are owners of their automobiles, car payments must only be added to debt ratios if more than 10 car payments remain until the car’s loan is paid-in-full. For homeowners and buyers , this can improve debt-to-income ratios and support a higher purchase price on a home.

There is no firm rule for whether it better to lease a car or to own one. The arguments for both sides are compelling and reasonable. Start with the video, then do your own research. 

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