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Joe Gillis' Blog

By Joe Gillis | Agent in Warrenton, VA
  • Tips for Improving Your Credit Score

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Virginia  |  January 14, 2010 9:15 AM  |  1,277 views  |  No comments

    1.  Review your current credit report for accuracy.  Everyone is entitled to onde free credit report per year from each of the three credit reporting bureaus.  Make sure the information is about you and only you.

    2.  Repair credit report mistakes.  Dispute mistakes by contacting the credit bureaus directly.  They are required by law to investigate dispute items - usually takes about thirty days for the investigation of the dispute circumstances to be completed.

    3.  Pay your bills on time. Payment history counts for about 35% of your credit score.  If you're struggling to catch up on payments, contact your creditors to work out a payment schedule.

    4.  Increase the length of your credit hiustory.  Don't cancel old cards or get new ones in a short time span because it can hurt your score.

    5.  Keep credit balances low.  If possible, keep your balance below 25% of your available credit.  Even if you pay off your cards every month, a high average balance will hurt your score.

    6.  Keep new credit card requests to a minimum.  Every time a lender runs your credit, the inquiry is recorded.

    7.  Paying off a collection account will not remove it from your credit report.  It will stay on your credit report for seven years.

    8.  Pay off debt rather than moving it around.  Pay down revolving dredit.

    9.  Be aware of credit repair scams.  Don't pay someone to wipe away the negative items in your file.  You can better use the money to pay down the debt.

  • Professional Education and Training: Realtor Professional Designations

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Virginia  |  January 14, 2010 7:56 AM  |  1,283 views  |  No comments

    Did you ever wonder what the letters following a real estate agent's name mean?

    Tthey may be important to you regardless of whether you're a potential buyer or seller.  Why, you might ask?

    Professional designations give you an indication of an agent's commitment to the realo estate profession because each designation represents an investment of time and money to reach a higher level of professional competence - all designed to provide a higher level of professional expertise to our customers.  The more letters you see, the more education the agent has received.

    Some of the designations focus on specific subject areas, such as the Certified Distressed Property Expert or CDPE designation.  The name might give the impression that the subject is properties that are distressed or not in the greatest condition.  The reality, though, is that this education focuses on property owners who are in trouble or expect to be in trouble with their mortgages.  The aim is to intercede with the lending institutions to keep the homeowner from going into foreclosure.

    The GRI, or Graduate, Realtor Institute, designation signifies completion of a rigorous course of study that spans the broad range of topics associated with the sale and purchase of real estate. It can take a year or more of study followed by written examinations to receive this designation.

    The ABR designation stands for Accredited Buyer Representative.  It's a course of study that provides advanced education so Realtors can provide a higher level of service to their clients.

    Realtors are members of the National Association of Realtors who are held to a higher level of ethical behavoir and adhere to stricter professional standards than agents who are not also Realtors.

    As I said, professional designations are a symbol of professional commitment.

    Incidentally,  all real estate agents are required by the laws in the state where they practive to be licensed by the state.  Having a real estate license is where the similarity ends between agents.

    My professional designations are CDPE, GRI, ABR and I'm a Realtor.

  • Extended Homebuyer Tax Credit

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Virginia  |  January 14, 2010 7:45 AM  |  1,271 views  |  No comments

    What you should know about the EXTENDED First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit

    Congress and the President have extended and expanded the $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers. You now have until April 30, 2010 to sign a contract and qualify. AND, starting November 7, many existing home owners also qualify.

    • The temporary credit is only available for home purchases that go to contract before May 1, 2010, and that close hefore July 1, 2010

    • It's equal to 10% of the cost of the home, up to a maximum credit of $8,000. (For example, a home purchased for $80,000 or more would qualify for the full $8,000 credit, while a $70,000 home would qualify for only 10%, or $7,000.) But homes that cost more than $800,000 are ineligible for any tax credit.

    • This is a tax credit, which is even better than a tax deduction; it's subtracted directly from your tax liability. If the credit is more than your total tax liability that year, you will receive a refund check for the balance. (Note that a married buyer filing separately is only eligible for up to a $4,000 credit.)

    • Eligible properties include anything that will be used as a principal single-family residence, including condo and townhouses.
    • First-time homebuyers can take advantage of the full $8,000 taX credit. A first-time buyer is defined as an individual who has not owned a home the past three years. For married joint filers, both must meet the first-time buyer criteria to take the credit on a joint return.

    • Existing homeowners who have lived in their current homes for five consecutive years out of the
      past eight are eligible for up to a $6,500 tax credit when they purchase a new home.

    • There arc income guidelines on the credit. Individuals with an adjusted gross income up to $125,000 (or $225 000 if filing jointly) are eligible for the full tax credit. The credit is phased down for those earning more and is not available for those with an income above $145,000 (or $245,000 if filing jointly.)
  • Mortgage Payment Problems?

    Posted Under: Foreclosure in Virginia  |  January 14, 2010 7:43 AM  |  1,286 views  |  No comments

    If you have missed, expect to miss, or anticipate making a short payment on your mortgage, please contact me immediately for help.

    I know that the real estate market has caused unbearable stress and heartache to many of our friends and neighbors.  Job loss, illness in the family, divorce, and relocations are just some of the causes.  Having to sell a home at current market prices can cause enormous strain.

    I'm proud to announce that I recently completed advanced education and training to gain the expertise necessary to help distressed homeowners.  I now hold the professional designation of Certified Distressed Property Expert.  The purpose of the training is to help families avoid foreclosure.

    My best advice as a real estate professional who is committed to giving my clients the services and assistence they need and want is to:

    1.  Contact your lender immediately and explain your circumstances.

    2.  Be prepared to discuss the hardship that contributed or caused the problem - you will need factual information, details, and documentation to support you claim of hardship.

    3.  Contact a real estate professional who has been trained specifically to work with your lender.

    4.  Get professional legal advice before you sign over your deed or grant power of attorney to anyone. 
  • Is it a Good Time to Buy or Sell Real Estate?

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Virginia  |  January 14, 2010 5:33 AM  |  1,286 views  |  1 comment

    As I read the morning papers and listen to the newscasts, the slant toward the negative side of every news story becomes apparent.  “The economy is improving, BUT…..; home sales are up, BUT…..  There’s always something that moves the positive to the negative, but I guess that’s what sells papers and TV advertising.


    You hear the same thing when it comes to real estate news stories.  Understand that unless a news story specifically addresses a local situation, these stories reflect national figures and information.  In reality, ALL real estate is local.  The national information isn’t any less accurate, it just doesn’t necessarily apply to your local areas and situations.  As an example, if new housing starts are reported as having dropped during the last quarter, they could have increased in where you live.  Every area in unique in terms of housing needs, whether the workforce is expanding or contracting, etc.  There is just no link between national and local averages.

     If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, my advice is to contact a Realtor who will know the local market conditions and will be able to advise you accordingly.  Ask the experts (Realtors) to provide information and advice and then you decide whether the time is right for you to buy or sell a home.

    In the northern Virginia area, the inventory of unsold homes is shrinking and prices are rising.  Interest rates are predicted to rise in the coming months.  If you wait, you could be getting less home for you money.  Also, if you're waiting for the real estate market to hit the bottom, you've probably waited too long (unless you live in Las Vegas or another really depressed market).  Something to think about.

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