Land of the Free: Don’t let bad credit stop you


Ask Carolyn Warren

As we celebrate living in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, it occurred to me that being strapped with bad credit is the opposite of freedom. When you can’t enjoy life because you’ve got creditors hounding you to pay bills, that is not freedom. When you can’t get a decent interest rate on a car loan or decent insurance premiums because of a low credit score, that is not fun.

I urge you to take control of your credit and finances. No matter where you are today, you can make a plan for your future. It might not happen overnight, it might take some self-discipline, and some work — but that is what our legacy is all about.

Our forefathers and foremothers — all of them, not matter where they came from, whether rich or poor — wanted to be free. Let’s grab hold of that…

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Credit News for U.S. Veterans!


Ask Carolyn Warren

New credit leniency and protections for our highly respected U.S. Veterans have been signed into law. Here are the important points to know:

  • Medical debts/collections incurred cannot be reported to a veteran’s credit report for one full year from the time the medical service was provided.
  • If any medical debt has been reported as delinquent, a collection, or a charge-off, it must be removed from the veterans credit report once it has been satisfied.
  • If a medical debt is in the process of being paid by the VA, and the Veteran provides the proper documentation to the credit bureaus, it must be removed from their credit report.
  • Veterans on active duty are to receive free credit monitoring that will alert them to any material changes on their credit reports.

Thanks to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act initiated by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and signed…

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Mortgage Free


It may be an all too common belief that a person will have a house payment and a car payment for the rest of their lives. However, with a plan and some determination, you can be mortgage free.

Planning for retirement is obviously important and many times, an activity plagued by procrastination. Some homeowners’ goal is to have their home paid for by retirement, so they won’t have payments. It makes sense to eliminate a sizable recurring expense before they quit working.

By making regular principal contributions in addition to the payments, the debt can be eliminated by the target retirement date.

Assume a homeowner refinanced their $300,000 mortgage at 4% last year for 30 years with the first payment due on May 1, 2017. With normal amortization, the home will be paid for at the end of the term.

Additional principal contributions with each payment will save interest, build equity and of course, accelerate the payoff on the home. An extra $250.00 a month would pay off the mortgage 7.5 years sooner. $786.81 extra with each payment would pay off the loan in 15 years.

Having a home paid for at retirement has the apparent benefit of no house payment. A debt-free home is also a substantial asset that could be borrowed against or sold if unanticipated events should occur.

To make some projections to pay off your own mortgage, use this use the Equity Accelerator calculator.

How to Clean Gutters


The gutters and downspouts on your home are intended to channel rainwater away from your home and its foundation. When they’re blocked and not functioning properly they can lead to the gutters coming loose, wood rot and mildew, staining of painted surfaces, and even worse, foundation issues or water penetration into the interior of the home.

Most experts recommend cleaning the gutters at least once a year. More often might be necessary depending on the proximity of leaves and other debris that could collect.

If this is a task that you feel comfortable about tackling yourself, there are few things to consider. If the debris is dry, it will be easier to clean the gutters. Safety is important, and precautions should be taken such as using a sturdy ladder and possibly, having someone hold it while you’re on the ladder.

Other useful tools will be a five-gallon plastic bucket to hook on the ladder to hold the debris; work gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges of the gutters; a trowel or scoop and a garden hose with a nozzle.

· Start by placing the ladder near a downspout for the section of gutter to be cleaned.

· Remove large debris and put it into the empty bucket. Work away from the downspout toward the other end.

· When you’re at the end of the gutter, using the water hose and nozzle, spray out the gutter so it will drain to the downspout.

· If the water doesn’t drain easily, the downspout could be blocked. Accessing the spout from the bottom with either the hose with nozzle or a plumber’s snake, try to dislodge the blockage.

· Reattach or tighten any pieces that were removed or loosened while working on the downspout.

· Flush the gutters a final time, working from the opposite end, as before, toward the downspout.

There are specialized tools at the home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot that can make this job easier. Check out their websites and search for “gutter cleaning”.

Consumer Protection from Irresponsible Mortgage Practices


Congress enacted the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010 in response to the mortgage crisis that led to America’s Great Recession. The two parts that apply closely to homebuyers are the Ability-to-Repay (ATR) and Qualified Mortgages (QM).

A Qualified Mortgage is a category of loans that have certain, more stable features that help make it more likely that borrowers will be able to afford their loan. These loans do not allow certain risky features like an interest-only period when no money is applied to reduce the principal; negative amortization that would allow the mortgage balance to increase; and, “balloon payments” at the end of the loan that are larger than the normal periodic payments.

A debt-to-income ratio of less than or equal to 43% has been established to provide a limit on how much of a borrower’s income can go toward total debt including the mortgage and all other monthly debt payments. However, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau believes these loans should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and in some cases, can exceed 43%.

There is a limit for up-front points and fees the lender can charge.

By showing that the lender made an effort to be certain that the borrower has the ability to repay the loan, the lender in turn, receives certain legal protections. Underwriting factors considered by the lender include:

  1. current or reasonably expected income or assets
  2. current employment status
  3. the monthly payment on the covered transaction
  4. the monthly payment on any simultaneous loan
  5. the monthly payment for mortgage-related obligations
  6. current debt obligations, alimony, and child support
  7. the monthly debt-to-income ratio or residual income
  8. credit history

For more information, see the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fact sheet … protecting consumers from irresponsible mortgage lending.

Quick Plumbing Inspection


No one wants to waste water or money. For that reason, take a few minutes every other month to do the following inspections:

  1. Check to see if cutoff valves on sinks and toilets are working properly.

    Many times, builders will put individual cutoffs on supply lines to sinks and toilets. It is reasonable to expect them to work but after some time, they can corrode which prevents opening and closing. It is a good idea to test them occasionally before you need them in an emergency.

  2. Fill each sink with a few inches of water to see if they drain in what you feel is a normal time.

    A slow-draining sink can be an indication of a clog that builds up around the insides of the pipe. Common causes are food, grease, hair and soap scum. Plunging can take care of some slow-running sinks. After partially filling the sink with water, seal the plunger over the drain and pump it up and down a few times.

  3. Inspect each toilet to see if they are leaking water from the tank into the bowl.

    Toilets that continue to run after being flushed can use a large amount of water in a month’s time. Generally, the problem comes from a flapper that doesn’t seat properly. Sometimes, the chain is keeping it from closing properly or the flapper itself may need to be replaced.

    Another issue could be that the flush valve needs to be replaced. These can be purchased at Lowe’s or Home Depot for about $20.00 and are relatively easy to change out. There are lots of instructional videos on the internet and it can save money if you give it a try.

If you need a recommendation for a good plumber to take care of something you discover, please feel free to call me at (503) 289-4970.

Act Decisively


Whether it is hesitation or procrastination due to uncertainty, it can cost buyers by having to pay more for both the house and the financing. This is one of those markets where most of the experts expect interest rates and prices will continue to rise through 2019.

The National Association of REALTORS® reports there is currently a 4.2-month supply of homes for sale which is close to the same as last year’s inventory. Normal inventory is considered to be a 6-month supply.

If during the period you’re waiting to buy, the price of the home goes up by 5% and the mortgage rate increases by 1%, the payment on a $275,000 home with a 95% mortgage could be $233.80 more each and every month. Over a seven-year period, the delay to purchase would total close to $20,000.

To act decisively, you need good information; a confused mind will not generally make a decision. In today’s market, you need to know exactly what price home you can qualify for and you need to know what kind of home you can expect for that price.

You’ll want a housing and a mortgage professional you can trust to give you the information you need to make good decisions for yourself and your family. We’d like to be your real estate professional and can recommend a trusted mortgage professional.

To get a better idea about what it may cost you for a home in your price range, use the Cost of Waiting to Buy calculator. If you have any questions, call me at (503) 289-4970.