How to increase your FICO score without any new cards

credit cards How to increase your FICO score without any new cards
Credit Score

Getting the lowest interest rate on your home mortgage translates to thousands of dollars during the life of your loan.   But the 1st step is understanding how the 3 major credit agencies Equifax, Experian and TranUnion determine your FICO score.

Your credit score aka FICO score that most banks utilize, is a combination of scores from 3 credit agencies.  These 3 agencies all collect data on your use of credit and your payment history to assign a score of 500 to 800.   So, let’s assume you know your credit score is low and you want to improve it.  Here are some best practices to increase your FICO score:

Keep your oldest cards:   Your oldest credit card has much more impact on your FICO score than a new credit card that you might have gotten recently even with a higher limit than your old one.   This mean you should not close your older credit cards even if you are NOT using them.  Keep them open, but reduce the limit if you are concerned about theft and un-authorized spending.

Reduce High Balance:  If you owe more than 30% of your limit on a monthly basis, then your FICO score will be poorly impacted.    For example, if you have a card with $10,000 limit and you owe more than $30,00 on it, it might be wiser to transfer some of the balance to another card, to reduce the impact on your FICO score.  This will improve your FICO score.

Pay On time:  Make your monthly payments on time and avoid missing them since this impact your FICO negatively.   In fact, it’s wiser  to pay the minimum payment if you are NOT able to pay your card’s balance every month.

Avoid Bankrupcy:   If you are considering bankruptcy, you need to think long and hard since these filings will impact your credit score for a long time.   So, consult an attorney to explore all your options before filing for bankruptcy.

Avoid Foreclosure:  The impact foreclosure is also sever on your FICO score.   This signals the lenders that you don’t take your obligations seriously since you have options to do a Short Sale and get ride of the mortgage debt much more elegantly.  In fact, Short Sale will impact your credit score much less than a foreclosure.

 Call us if you have any questions about your credit score.

 

Tell tell signs that your Saratoga FSBO is overpriced

FSBO Tell tell signs that your Saratoga FSBO is overpriced
For Sale By Owner

It’s clear that the bloom is off the California Real Estate rose specially since August 2014, homes sales have declined by 13.5%.   And perhaps that’s why your Saratoga FSBO is not selling as quickly as you might have expected.

The sales data indicates that the number of homes sold in August 2014 declined to 34,269 homes.  We are already seeing signs of slow down in sales in Saratoga, Los Gatos, Campbell, and San Jose on hope that are staying on the market much longer than the heady days of Spring.

So if your Saratoga FSBO home is not selling, you need to re-consider your pricing strategy.  Using the the most recent sales within 1 mile radius of your home that closed in the last 30 days.  Using comps that are older than 30 days will result in might higher sale prices which is not an accurate reflection of the current market.

Also, make certain the Sold Comps you utlize are within 300 square feet in size.  Finally, the age difference between your home and these sold comps should not be more than 5 years.

But even if you commit to all this work, these comps have to be adjusted for :

  • Size
  • Age
  • Lot Size
  • Amenities

In fact, the most reliable way to find your home’s value it to work with a local Realtor who can develop Competitive Market Analysis (CMA) on your home.  Your CMA will include qualified sold comps.  But the neat part of CMA is that the sold prices can be adjusted for

You could use sites like Zillow, Trulia or Redfin to find sold homes in your zip code.  But these sites will not allow you to adjust the prices as you could do with a CMA..

Contact Us if you need help with a CMA.

Alternatives to eviction for your Silicon Valley rentals

Eviction Alternatives to eviction for your Silicon Valley rentals
Tenant Evictions

Do you have problem tenants ?   Are you considering evictions? Well, there might be simpler alternatives to eviction that are quicker and simpler.

In fact, a letter from an attorney describing the problem and the landlord’s legal remedies, is often all the encouragement a tenant needs to get back into compliance.

Another alternative to eviction is to attempt cash-for-keys where you develop an agreement with the tenant to leave if you offer them cash compensation.  Granted paying a problem tenant to leave is a tough pill to swallow, but many landlords find this solution to be the simplest and the most cost effective.

After all just imagine a costly and lengthy court case where you are not only losing rent, but also incurring court costs.  In fact, some tenant remain in their rental contracts because they can not afford to move.  So, if you offer to cover moving expenses, a tenant might take you up on the offer. Make sure you get the agreement in writing. Also, require a walk-through before any money is exchanged.

If a tenant has lost a job, or their hours have been cut back, moving to a cheaper unit might also solve the problem. Most tenants would be relieved to hear that their landlord is willing to work with them to find alternatives.

Contact us if you have question about developing a cash-for-key-contracts for tenant evictions.   We are property management services in San Jose, Campbell, Los Gatos and Saratoga.

Evict or Not Evict: What is the point of no return?

Eviction Evict or Not Evict:  What is the point of no return?
Tenant Evictions

Do you have problem tenants in your Silicon Valley rentals?  Are you finding new surprises every month?

Well, you are not alone.  No matter how carefully you conduct tenant screening there are some tenants which won’t be a good fit which can leave to evictions. But  evictions are never simple or fast.  If you don’t currently have a professional property manager, there are some important things to consider before throwing your tenants’ furniture to the curb. But 1st things 1st.  Let’s examine the grounds you might have for evictions.
Uncooperative Tenants:  Failure to pay rent is the most common reasons for eviction.   Most  States including California have detailed protocols for evictions which landlords must follow.  In most states, you must give tenants “Notice to Pay Rent or Vacate.” If the tenant fails to pay rent during a legally determined time period, then a landlord must file an “Unlawful Detainer” action. The tenant has the option of fighting this action.  But if the tenant doesn’t defend against this action or fails to appear a default judgment would be granted. If the tenant fights the action, a hearing is held to review both sides of the dispute.

If a judgment is eventually granted against the tenant, and the tenant still refuses to move out, the court will issue a “writ of restitution” which the local Sheriff will post to the tenant’s front door. If the tenant hasn’t moved out by the time specified in the writ (normally three days), the landlord is free to take possession of the rental and remove the tenant’s property.  However, California laws require landlords to store the personal belongings of their tenants for at least 30 days to allow them time to collect them.  cal laws may require that this be done under the supervision of a sheriff.

Lease Term Violations:  Tenants often violate terms of their lease by keeping pets or sub-leasing the property without the written notification to landlord.  They my cause a nuisance, damaging your property, violating the rights of the neighbors or the rules of your lease in some serious way.  Similar to eviction for failure to pay rent, you may end up having to go to court and get the sheriff involved.

What Not to Do: As a landlord it’s not wise to take matters into your own hands and retaliate.  You could easily find yourself being sued or even facing criminal charges. Some examples of unlawful retaliation are:

  • Turning off Utilities including water, heat, or electricity
  • Threatening or assaulting a tenant
  • Changing the locks
  • Removing tenant property

The most important thing to remember when faced with having to evict a tenant is to keep cool and act in accordance with the law. It’s always a good idea — if not the best idea — to consult a real estate attorney, particularly if you don’t have a licensed property manager.

 Contact us if you need to discuss your option with difficult tenants in your Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose or Campbell rentals.

Top 4 benefits of getting a loan to buy your Solar panels

SolarCity Top 4 benefits of getting a loan to buy your Solar panels
Solar City

San Mateo based Solar City has announced a loan program to offer consumers the opportunity to buy their solar panels instead of just leasing them from the company.  So, we took a close look at the program and here are the Top 4 benefits of using a loan to buy Solar panels:

No Upfront Cost:  Using a loan to buy your Solar panels means that the you will not have to pay $9,000 to $15,000 for purchase and installation of the Solar panels.   The just have to make payments on the loan which is secured by the property.

Tax Credit goes to consumer:  With the lease option, the Federal Tax credit for Solar panel installation was going to installer or the Solar companies.  With the purchase option, this tax credit goes directly to the consumer who can use it to pay down the loan.

 Loan Terms: Solar City loans offers as 30 year loans with 4.5% interest rate which are not that high considering that they will recorded as 2nd liens.  But customers do not pay a fixed amount every month. In fact, the you will pay only for the power the your roof panels produce. If the panels produce a lot of energy the loan can be eliminated sooner than the 30 year terms.

Simple Terms:  Purchasing your Solar panels with a loan is a much simpler contract for most consumers to understand.  In fact, they are already used to gettig these kind of loans for buying a car or a large home appliance.  

So, the question to ponder now is whether you want to own your Solar panels or just lease them.   The question which remains unanswered is that how effective these panels will be after 20 or 30 years on your roof.   Will they still produce enough power so you don’t have an electric bill?    In our own investigation for our Los Gatos home we determined that spending close to $15,000 to eliminate a $110 per month of electric bill was not justifiable.

What do you think?  Contact Us if your conclusions were different than ours about installing Solar panel in Los Gatos.

How to avoid failure with your Silicon Valley FSBO sale

FBSO1 300x207 How to avoid failure with your Silicon Valley FSBO sale
For Sale By Owner (Source; theprovince.com)

Are you interested in saving commission on your Silicon Valley home sale?   Are you internet savvy?   Well, you are not alone.

A March 2014 Survey for Marin County showed 59% of home owners interested in selling their own home.  But what kind of tools and services will you need to avoid failure in your fsbo sale?

One option for home owner interested in selling their own home is fsbo.com. But this website site was showing only 55 homes for sale in the entire state of California which doesn’t imply a thriving business.   One of the reasons could be that fsbo.com owners have no clue about marketing their services to home owners.  This site offers a flat fee MLS listing for $349.95 dollars which is far from typical $80,000 commission that you would pay on a  $1M Silicon Valley home.   This listing service include:

  • MLS & Realtor.com Listing for 6 Months
  • 10 photos on MLS
  • FSBO.com Listing with unlimited photos.
  • Personal ID Number

The site also offers Yard Signs and lockbox for home owners who want these options for a fee.

These are good offerings, but the fact remains that listing your home in MLS doesn’t solve the problem of pricing, Unqualified Buyers, Marketing Challenge, Disclosures that are at the heart of any successful real estate transaction.    

Contact Us if you would like to discuss your Silicon Valley home sale.

 

Smart Door Locks on your next Silicon Valley rental?

It was bound to happy where iPhone use would be expanded to home appliances including your front door lock.  After all, we are using our phones to shop, bank and store critical information.  So, why not use it as a door lock?

Well, below is a neat review of Smart Door Locks or phone-controlled electronic deadbolts by Geoffrey A Fowler of WallStreet Journal of some of the latest Smart Locks available on the market that work with your iPhone.

In terms of utility, we believe these locks have potential in property management if you are managing a large apartment complex with 50 or more units.  After all, just imagine the ease with which you can send access information to all the plumbers and other service technicians to enter a property during a certain period.   But this also requires your plumber to have a Smart Phone as well.

Some of the unique features of these lock is that they are using BlueTooth, so the odds of a hacker being able to open your door for a thief using Wifi is non-existent in the case of

Like many early adopters, these technologies still leave some thing to be desired.   For instance, what is your iPhone battery is dead or for that matter it’s lost.   You will need to find another iPhone to down load the app and disable the version installed on your iPhone.  Some of these options have a actual key which can be used as an emergency but if you are eventually going to need a key, why would you want to spend $80-200 for a Smart Lock?

What do you think?  Will you install smart electronic deadbolts on your Silicon Valley rentals?   Also, if you like what you are reading subscribe to this blog.

How to survive your own home’s remodel?

Are you living through a massive remodel?   Did you think it was going to be quick? When I spotted this video of New Yorkers in Hudson Yard suffering through the construction mess, I thought about the remodeling chaos that we went through in our Los Gatos fixer uppers.

Just like everyone else we under estimated the length of time it was going to take us to finish our Los Gatos remodel.   remodel your home.  But  our biggest frustration came with contractors who promised to show up and were not on site 3 days later.  And when they showed up they have no justifiable excuse for not showing up.

In fact, our hardwood floor contractor trapped us inside our bedroom for 3 days and without access to the kitchen.   They accomplished this by sanding and polishing the floor and told us that they will be back to do a last coat the next day.   Their need was that prior to the 2nd coat, we should not walk on the floor.

And that was the catch since we could not reach the kitchen and for 3 days our home was reduced to a master bedroom that we used while eating every meal in restaurants.

Other hazards of living through a remodel is the challenges to your health.  My husband got an eye infection from the dust particles while he was living inside his Willow Glen remodel in San Jose.

Must have repair disclosures for FSBO sales

FSBO Must have repair disclosures for FSBO sales
For Sale By Owner

Are you selling your Silicon Valley home?  Are you motivated to save on commissions?  Well, you are not alone.

In a recent survey of Marin Home owners more than 60% of the owners expressed interest in selling their own home!  That’s no surprising since the savings on a $1M sales could be as much as $80,000!

But do you have the legal,  contract and negotiation experience to deal with the buyers and their agent’s on your own?  In fact, one of the major challenges for FSBO sales is knowledge of contract and the real estate disclosures.

Here are the 4 Repair and Alteration questions that any California sellers must show to buyers on your For Sale By Owner (FSBO) sale:

Are you (seller) aware of any alterations, modifications, remodeling, replacement or material repairs on the property  (including those resulting from Home Warranty Claims)?

“Material” repairs in this case means any information that if disclosed could cause the buyer to change their mind.   For example, if you have installed recessed (canned) lights in your entire house without permits; then your buyer might opt to change their decision to purchase your home or make a lower price.  This is material and critical information since the home could catch fire due to faulty wiring.

Bottom line is that if you done any minor alterations to your property, you are well advise to disclose as much detail as possible and allow the buyers to make an informed decisions about the risks associated with buying your home.

Is seller aware of any on going or recurring maintenance on the property?

On this question, if you have a drain that clogs every few months, then that is considered material information that you will need to disclose to your buyers.  We have large trees on our Los Gatos home and every few years their roots jam and clogs the drain pipes.   Even though this could be a minor annoyance at best, we will show this information when we list our home for sale.   And you should do the same for your FSBO sale.

Are you (seller) aware of any part of the property being painted in the past 12 month?

This question is intended to cover the Lead-Based paint information for homes built prior to 1978.   Granted no such paint is soldin California, but if you have painted the home in the past 12 months, you need to identify the location of the application and add that to the Lead-Based paint disclosure if you suspect any such paint might have been used.

If the home is a pre-1978 Property, were any renovation (Sanding, cutting, demolition) of the Lead-Based paint surfaces completed in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines?

Questions 3 and 4 go hand in hand with the Lead-Based Paint disclosure that is also required to be disclosed to any buyer.   That Your inability to answer any or all of these questions could create challenges for your For Sale by Owner transaction.

So, Contact Us if you want to avoid any risks on your FSBO sale.

Top 4 ways to avoid identity theft with your credit cards

credit cards Top 4 ways to avoid identity theft with your credit cards
credit score

It’s not comforting to hear and read about 12 major financial institutions including JP Morgan Chase, Fidelity and CitiGroup which have suffered a major hack to their consumer data.    So, if you are credit cards with any of these banks, the odds are that your credit card and bank account numbers are now the property of hackers who could be selling them.

This increases the odds of you becoming  a victim of identify theft.   That’s why we wanted to share What can you do then to avoid identify theft ?

1) Security Freeze:  The credit freeze locks the data at the consumer reporting agency until you give permission for the release of the data.  This way, if the hackers try to order new credit cards based on your information, you will be notified by the major credit agencies Transunion, Equifax, Experian.    But this only protects you in cases where new accounts are originated.   According Federal Trade Commissions about 15 percent of all cases of identity theft are cases of new account origination.  Theres is typically a $10 cost of freezing your credit file and similar cost to un-freeze it.

 2) Two-step authentication:  Two-step verification offers an addition protection since it requires someone using your ATM card to also enter your PIN code.   You could potentially use your ATM card for your purchases online.   But be careful with the local stores since we have been victimized by a local grocery store in Los Gatos with rigged ATM machines who were recording our pin and the card number.

3) Replace cards:    You can easily ask your bank to replace your existing cards that are in circulations every year.  You can also ask your bank to ship the new cards to you in 24 hours.  This way, your old credit cards numbers become obsolete them minute the issue you new cards to you.

 4) Leave home without it: Remember that famous American Express TV ad that featured Carl Maldon who said with his deep voice that “don’t leave home without it”.  Well, these days, it makes sense to use cash with some vendors if you are not comfortable using your credit cards.

 Let us know if you know other ways to protect your identity.