Free Access | Know Your FICO Credit Score

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Know Your FICO Score

Did you know you can now access your actual FICO credit score—for free—through your mortgage lender or credit card issuer? Thanks in part to a major decision by FICO—the company that created the credit scoring system used to determine FICO credit scores—there is now no need to pay for getting your credit score.

Previously, the only way to see your FICO score was if you were denied a loan or were approved for a loan with higher interest rates and/or less favorable lending terms than others.

Now, FICO Score Open Access allows you to request your credit score for free if you have a credit card with Barclaycard U.S. or First National Bank of Omaha (FNBO/First Bankcard)—two of the 10 largest credit card issuers in the U.S. Another option for accessing your score is through a mortgage lender who uses the FICO scoring system. Discover Card plans to print customer’s FICO scores on their monthly statements. Other lenders and banks are expected to make credit scores available as well; look for announcements.

The free scores are updated every month and are accompanied by an explanation of the top-two factors driving your actual credit score. For example, if the top-two factors affecting your score are total amount of debt and late payments, you can make a concerted effort to pay down debt and pay bills on time to improve your credit score.

Categories: Credit Score, Uncategorized

Home Inspections | Should you get one when you purchase a home?

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Take A Peek With A Pro To Get To Know Your New Home

It’s always wise to rely on a home inspection to know the home you’re buying won’t surprise you with unexpected and/or expensive repairs after settlement/closing.

We can help you find local, trusted home inspectors to be sure you get inspections done quickly after the purchase offer is accepted.

If at all possible, arrange your schedule to accompany inspectors during the home inspection. It will give you an opportunity to ask questions and understand the home before home inspection reports are issued.

In most cases, home inspectors provide a report shortly after the inspection is completed. If you have a special timeline to accommodate, inform inspectors ahead of time. If an inspection or report is delayed, we can work with the seller to ensure that your home-purchase offer isn’t canceled or delayed further.

After reports are delivered, whether or not you accompanied the inspectors, prepare a list of questions for the inspectors and arrange a phone conference with them. After your questions are answered, your real estate professional can work with you to address any new questions with the home seller.

The key information to know is what time frame you have to negotiate with the seller for price adjustments and/or repairs after the inspections are complete. Remember, in some cases, inspection reports will not yield any surprises, and the home purchase will proceed as planned to closing/settlement. In other cases, you may have just cause to walk away from a home due to inspection-report findings. Our experience and knowledge will help you make the best homebuying decisions for your situation.

Categories: home inspection

Keep Your Kitchen From Eating Your Income

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Kitchens are energy-intensive rooms thanks to modern appliances designed to make life, and eating, easier. The U.S. Department of Energy offers the following tips for cutting energy consumption in the kitchen without sacrificing convenience.


Skip the pilot light. If you’re thinking of replacing your current range or oven with a new gas model, opt for a unit with an electronic ignition. Pilot lights burn gas–and money–24 hours a day.

Check the flames. If gas is being burned efficiently by your range or oven, the flames should be blue. If they’re yellow, call in a professional to have the unit adjusted or repaired.

Clean range burners and pans. Clean burners and pans reflect heat better, thus using less energy.

Turn off early. Electric ovens retain heat for quite a while after they are turned off. By turning the heat off several minutes early, you can use the residual no-cost heat to finish cooking your food.

Use small appliances. Using a toaster oven–for foods that fit–cuts energy consumption more than 50% compared with a full-sized oven. You can also save money by using fast-cooking appliances-microwaves and pressure cookers.

For more helpful homeowner tips, please visit

Categories: Energy saving kitchens, Wilmington NC homes

House Hunting | Steal a Deal | Wilmington NC real estate

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Homebuyers Can Still Get A Great Price Even In Today’s Rising Market

Today’s Wilmington NC housing market is well into recovery mode in most areas of the country. Along with rising home prices, mortgage interest rates have also been inching up. If you are among the would-be homebuyers who are ready to come to the party before it’s too late, don’t despair. There are still many opportunities available to steal a great home at a great price—whether you want to buy your first home, a move-up home, a vacation property or an investment property to rent out.

The key is knowing what types of properties still offer bargains in our market. Here are some of the best places right now to focus your search to get a great price:

  • Pre-foreclosure sales occur when borrowers find they can no longer afford to pay their mortgage; they sometimes have a window of time to sell their home before their lender starts the foreclosure process. Because time is of the essence, these “short sale” homeowners often lower the property’s price and offer attractive terms to invite a quick sale. 
  • Foreclosure auctions involve homes where a homeowner has defaulted on the loan and the lender is selling the property at public auction (sometimes called a trustee’s sale or sheriff’s sale). Auction sales are often listed in local newspapers. 
  • Post-foreclosure sales. These homes include real estate owned (REO) by lenders and corporations. Lender REOs are foreclosed properties that did not sell at auction. Corporate REOs are usually homes purchased from a corporation’s employees who were transferred before the properties could be sold. Most post-foreclosure properties are listed with real estate agents in the area. 
  • Government-owned properties include homes that previously had loans backed by the federal government through programs sponsored by entities such as Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Once these loans are in default, the lender takes over the property. Then, the government entity pays off the loan and takes possession of the property. Government-owned homes are generally listed on the agency’s website or in the newspaper. The bidding process is conducted through real estate brokers who have taken the government agency’s training program. While government-owned homes are sold “as is,” HUD may escrow part of the sales price to bring a property up to its standards to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan. 
  • Tax sales result when homeowners fail to pay their property taxes. The taxing authority schedules the tax sale at which a buyer can bid the amount owed in taxes (or more) and, if the bid is accepted, take ownership of the property. Even then, the original homeowner may have time to redeem the property (by paying the outstanding taxes, penalties, etc.). The rules of these types of sales vary from one locality to the next, so it is essential to be familiar with local processes. 
  • Fix-up properties generally are in disrepair and are often sold “as is,” with the discounted price reflecting their condition. Paying for a professional home inspection is especially important when considering these types of “sweat equity” properties. 
  • Estate sales result when people who have inherited properties decide to sell them. Many prefer to sell them “as is” to quickly liquidate the estate. Those who view the inheritance as a windfall may be more interested in a fast sale, and less concerned about the sales price. 
  • Divorce sales come on the market as part of a divorce settlement. As with estate sales, the owners may value a speedy sale over a higher price. 
  • Builder close-outs occur when builders approach the completion of a housing development. Eager to move on to the next project, builders may lower prices or, more frequently, offer valuable incentives such as free upgrades of appliances, fixtures, materials or custom build-outs.

Remember, price is just one part of the equation. You’ll want to ensure that these types of properties won’t surprise you with unanticipated and costly physical challenges or legal issues. Working with an experienced real estate professional will help you find a great deal and navigate through the purchase process.

In addition, securing a mortgage with a monthly payment you can afford is critical to any successful home purchase. Call on us to find the right loan program for your low-cost high-value home purchase.

Categories: Buy a foreclosure in Wilmington NC, Uncategorized, Wilmington NC homes

10 Surefire Ways The Right Price Will Sell Your Wilmington Home!

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Today’s spring Wilmington NC real estate market may look a lot like previous home-selling springs to many home sellers and buyers. Except it isn’t.

Yes, there’s a new crop of homebuyers. Yes, some have lists of “must-haves” and timetables to move into their next home. Yes, others are just tire-kicking, curious if they can find a better location, nicer condition, cheaper, smaller or bigger home than they currently have. And, yes, as the weather warms up more homebuyers will come out in numbers, searching for their perfect “dream” home.

Every spring, visions of dollar signs dance in local sellers’ minds. It’s understandable. Sellers are eager to get on with their lives and move to their next home. Many market factors are, unfortunately, beyond sellers’ control. Interest rates. Regional economy. Community amenities. Neighborhood schools. Property location. Home style. Floor plan. Transportation options. Etcetera.

The most powerful factor in your home sale, however, is within your control: Price.

Boil it all away and price is what sells homes today. We help home sellers, like yourself, price their home to sell in any market, in any neighborhood and in any season of the year. The right price—carefully crafted—is what will get your home sold. Let us show you some insider secrets this spring. Keep reading to find out how important the right price is to ensuring your home sells.

Think Price Range: You want your home to stand out, but will pricing it at a round number knock it out of the search results for homebuyers looking under that figure? Craft your listing price to keep your home in front of the widest group of buyers. Priced right, it might even spur a bidding war, resulting in multiple purchase offers.

Forget Your Receipts: Ultimately the marketplace will determine value. That’s why the right price is not the sum of all the investments you’ve put into your home in terms of improvements, upgrades and changes. This tally total should not factor into your home’s final listing price.

Buyers Don’t Care About Your Expenses: A homebuyer doesn’t care about your mortgage balance, second mortgage or what you need to clear monetarily in the home sale. Buyers view your home in today’s market compared to other homes of similar size, style and quality in your neighborhood and choose the best value.

Local Data Is Priceless: We can provide you with up-to-the-minute data to support your home’s listing price. Reviewing recently sold prices for comparable homes, expired listings and listed homes will help you zero in on your home’s right price.

Open Up To Negotiation: If you feel your sales price is set and final, think again. Homebuyers will expect you to negotiate. If you shut down and refuse to entertain any offers except full-price bids, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment—and an unsold home.

Treat Your Home Like A Product: Your home holds many dear memories, but at sale time, you need to separate yourself from sentimental thoughts and approach the home sale strictly as a business transaction. You’re selling a product and the homebuyer is your customer. Emotions are not part of your right price.

Price It Right From The Start: Don’t think testing the waters with a higher price when you first list leaves you room to negotiate. This strategy will cause your listing to languish with few, if any, buyers coming to tour your overpriced home. Serious buyers know they can get more home for their money elsewhere. Rather than offers with room for negotiation, you’ll simply get no offers.

Unwanted Stuff Might Be Treasured: Think about what items you will want to convey, that is, sell with the home upon closing/settlement. Identify these items before listing so homebuyers might appreciate these “extras” and put your home at the top of their serious list. Consider big-ticket or custom items such as playground equipment, large sectionals, wall mirrors, chandeliers, window treatments, firewood, patio furniture or lawn equipment. (Tip: Consider holding out a few desirable items to throw in at negotiation time to make your counteroffer look even more inviting.)

Make Sure Your Home Is Ready: The right price will bring lookers. Turn them into buyers by making your home look its best. This means de-cluttering, deep cleaning, staging, great online photos, being flexible for showings at short notice and keeping up the spotless, ready-to-sell, move-in-ready look until you get that signed purchase offer in-hand.

Give Some Security: Sweeten your right price with a home warranty to cover major systems and major price tag problems if something should fail in the first year with the new owners. Hire a home inspector before you list to check off all the little things that need attention and get a handyman to fix all needed items. If you get an appraisal done before listing, share it with potential homebuyers to show them that your home price is “priced to sell” in line with current appraisals and that getting financing at your listing price shouldn’t be an issue for the buyers.

If you truly want to get your home sold quickly and at the best price, it pays to work with a real estate professional like us. We can give you all the data you need to nail down the right price to get your home sold today!

Categories: Uncategorized, wilmington nc, Wilmington NC Commercial Real estate, Wilmington NC Market Statistics, Wrightsville Beach NC

Should you do it yourself when you remodel?

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Being Handy Pays Handsomely

Most homeowners have a list of things they would like to do to change and improve their homes. But moving those plans off the list and into reality is often prevented by costs, especially for labor. That’s why so many homeowners have adopted the “do-it-yourself” approach. Should you?

Don’t think you have to be an expert in masonry, carpentry, plumbing and electrical work to make your own home improvements. You can get help from books, magazines, videos, the Internet, or you could take a class with hands-on instruction. A bonus: When you learn to remodel, you’ll become a better maintenance person, saving yourself future repair costs.

If you’re just developing your handyperson skills, here are a few tips for getting the job done right at a cost savings:

  • Start with modest projects,
      especially those with low materials costs (e.g., painting). That way you can afford to redo the project if your first attempt isn’t quite up to snuff.
  • Research and plan before diving in.
      Get the training you need or talk with experts, then outline each step of the process on paper.
  • Buy, borrow or rent the proper tools.
      Having the right tools when you need them is critical to doing any job efficiently and well.
  • If you lack the skills, patience or time to do the entire project, just do part of it.
      You can ask contractors for bids that list the cost of each phase of the project, from preparation to finishing, plus materials. You may be able to save a lot by knocking down a wall yourself, removing old flooring or painting a newly installed wall.
  • Work with the professionals.
    By becoming one of the “crew,” you can cut the overall cost of the project and learn a lot in the process.


Categories: Remodel, Uncategorized, wilmington nc real estate, Wilmington NC real estate stats 2014, Wrightsville Beach NC

OPTIONS: Ten Savvy Ways To Pay For A Home Today in Wilmington NC

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Different buyers have different mortgage needs. Fortunately, lenders today offer many mortgage options to choose from. Chances are you’ll find a mortgage plan that works for you.spartanburgBecause points, fees and interest rates vary, check with us or your lender for specific information on the type of loan you are considering. The “snapshot” interest rate examples shown here are for illustrative purposes only and may not reflect current rates. For simplicity, all examples here use a $100,000 sales price. Monthly payments are for principal and interest only (taxes, insurance and condo/homeowner fees would increase your payment).

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage.

The interest rate is adjusted up or down periodically based on a financial market index (such as Treasury bills). Monthly payments start lower than for fixed-rate mortgages. The initial rate is set for a specified period — 1, 3, 5, 7, or 10 years — and then rates adjust on a schedule, say, annually. The adjustments generally are limited by annual caps and a life-of-the-loan cap.

Down Payment: $10,000
Mortgage Amount:< $90,000
Term of Loan: 30 years
Interest Rate: 7% (until first rate adjustment)
Monthly Payment: $599 (until first rate adjustment)

Fixed-Rate 30-Year Conventional Mortgage.

A fixed-rate conventional loan is made by a commercial lender for 30 years. Monthly payments (excluding taxes) remain unchanged for the life of the loan. Some lenders allow mortgages with as little as 5% down, but require private mortgage insurance for loans with less than 20% down.

Down Payment: $10,000
Mortgage Amount: $90,000
Term of Loan: 30 years
Interest Rate: 8 1/2%
Monthly Payment: $692

Fixed-Rate 15-Year Conventional Mortgage.

This is similar to the 30-year conventional mortgage, except the loan is repaid in half the time. Interest rates are typically lower than for a 30-year loan, and interest paid over the life of the loan is less, but the monthly payments are usually somewhat higher. Government-backed loans — VA and FHA — are also available in 15-year terms.

Down Payment: $10,000
Mortgage Amount: $90,000
Term of Loan: 15 years
Interest Rate: 8 1/4%
Monthly Payment: $873

Two-Step Loan.

This 30-year loan is a cross between the ARM and a conventional loan. The mortgage carries a fixed rate for 5, 7 or 10 years and then adjusts to market interest rates once for the remainder of the loan. The initial rate is generally lower than a fixed-rate conventional mortgage, but the second step of the two-step mortgage is often conditional on the lender’s approval.

Down Payment: $10,000
Mortgage Amount: $90,000
Term of Loan: 30 years
Interest Rate: 8 1/8% (for first 2 steps)
Monthly Payment: $668 (until adjustment)

Federal Housing Authority (FHA) Loan.

These are government-insured loans so homeowners can make a smaller down payment than on conventional loans. The limits on FHA loans are high enough to handle moderately priced homes in many parts of the country. FHA loans are assumable for future buyers who qualify.

Down Payment: $10,000
Mortgage Amount: $90,000
Term of Loan: 30 years
Interest Rate: 8 1/4%
Monthly Payment: $676

VA Loan.

These are loans for qualified veterans backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs with low or no down payment required. These mortgages are subject to the VA mortgage funding fee, depending on the size of the down payment. VA loans can be combined with second mortgages and are assumable to qualified buyers.

Down Payment: $10,000
Mortgage Amount: $100,000
Term of Loan: 30 years
Interest Rate: 8 1/4%
Monthly Payment: $751

Seller Financing.

Sellers may take back a loan against their equity in the property in the form of a first or second mortgage. One approach to owner financing is to use a balloon mortgage calculated and repaid for 5 or 7 years as a 30-year mortgage, but then the balance of the loan is due in a lump sum.

Down Payment: $15,000
Mortgage Amount: $85,000
Term of Loan: 5 years
Interest Rate: Negotiable
Monthly Payment: Depends on rate

Assumable Mortgage.

A buyer takes over the existing mortgage — usually FHA, VA or ARM — at its current interest rate, with the concurrence of the lender. An assumption may have a lower rate than those currently available, and taking over the mortgage may save on closing costs. The down payment makes up the difference between the sales price and the balance on the loan.

Down Payment: $30,000
Mortgage Amount: $70,000
Term of Loan: Time remaining on loan
Interest Rate: Same as seller had
Monthly Payment: Same as seller was paying

Wrap-Around Mortgage.

Here a new mortgage incorporates an older, assumable loan to help bridge the gap between the loan balance and home sales price. The interest rate is often below market, but higher than the rate the old mortgage carries. Payments are made to the new lender or the seller, who forwards part of the payment to the first lender. The term of the mortgage is the time remaining on the original loan.

Down Payment: $10,000
Mortgage Amount: $90,000
Term of Loan: Time remaining on original loan
Interest Rate: 9%
Monthly Payment: $724

Buy-Down Mortgage Plan.

The seller or a third party provides additional cash to the lender in exchange for a lower interest rate for the buyer. Approaches vary among permanent buy-downs, multi-year and graduated plans.

Down Payment: $10,000
Mortgage Amount: $90,000
Term of Loan: 30 years
Interest Rate: 6 1/2% (initial)
Monthly Payment: $568 (until subsidy diminishes or expires)

Call us, we can help get you started.


Categories: First Time Home Buyer, wilmington nc convention center, Wilmington NC homes, wilmington real estate stats

Kay Baker Associates | 1001 Military Cutoff | Ste 101 Wilmington, NC 28405 | | 910-202-3607 | Fax 910-338-2428

Copyright © 2017 Wilmington NC Real Estate Guide. All rights reserved. Disclaimer: All content on this blog is my own opinion and should not be treated as fact or relied upon when purchasing or selling real estate.