Monday, December 30, 2013

Credit Card Protection Pointers for Fountain Hills!

By now you've heard the news about the financial data security breach at a major retailer. What you may not know, is that this type of problem occurs more often than you hear about - to the tune of nearly three billion dollars a year!

In fact, the weeks surrounding the holiday season are the most popular for credit and debit card fraud. This is because busy shoppers are less inclined to read over their statements, and more likely to disregard transactions that they don't remember.

Data thieves take advantage of this fact, so now is the time to be extra vigilant! Here are some pointers to help Fountain Hills residents!

1. Get receipts. Some businesses only issue receipts by request. Be sure to get a receipt and take a moment to verify that your total is correct. Keep your receipt for verification against your billing statement or bank account.

2. Check your account activity. Reconcile your receipts against your online transaction record or billing statement. It only takes a few minutes a day! Make a habit of checking your accounts, even if you have not made any purchases lately.

3. Question transactions you don't recognize. Your bank or card issuer can provide more details to help you verify the legitimacy of the charge. Don't be embarrassed about verifying small transactions! Thieves often try a small "test" before hitting you for more.

4. If you suspect that your card data is at risk, take action. Why wait for a problem? If you have good reason to believe that your card information has been compromised, close the account and open a new one. Your bank or card issuer can make sure that pending, valid transactions are still honored.

5. Don't carry all your cards with you. The fewer cards you carry along, the better. Plan your shopping trips ahead of time and only bring the cards that you need. Lock away the rest.

6. Never leave the tip line blank. If you are not leaving a tip, strike a line through this area. Do not fill in the tip line with zero, because someone could write numbers around it. Read the receipt, and make sure the total charge is correct.

7. Avoid card skimmers. Data theft devices can be placed on ATMs and gas station card readers. Whenever possible, complete your transactions inside with a clerk.

8. Watch your card, and watch your back. Smart phones are everywhere, and thieves can easily photograph your credit or debit card once you hand it over. Pay attention to whoever is handling your card.

Also watch the area behind you. If you are about to ring up a transaction, but the customer behind you seems to be a little too close - and they have a phone in hand - excuse yourself and exit the line. Pay attention to your instincts!

If you are thinking of buying a Fountain Hills home in the near future, take extra precautions with your credit! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

As your Accredited Buyer Representative for Fountain Hills, I will always look out for your best interests! Please contact me whenever you have questions regarding Fountain Hills real estate!

Wishing you all the best in the New Year,

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

FHA "Back to Work" Mortgage Helps Buyers Return to Home Ownership

If you previously lost a home to foreclosure, or experienced a bankruptcy or short sale, there's good news: you might be able to buy a home again, sooner than expected!

A new mortgage loan program by the Federal Housing Administration paves the way for a return to home ownership. This is great news for Fountain Hills real estate!

The "Back to Work" mortgage program is designed for prior homeowners who experienced foreclosure, or other adverse action, because of a temporary income loss. This is not a miracle cure for every situation - but it should help a significant number of people. Here are the basic requirements:

  • Documentation to prove the cause of the income loss. 
  • Loss of income must have been involuntary in nature. 
  • The income loss must have accounted for at least 20% of household income. 
  • The income loss must have lasted for at least six months.  
  • Proof that your income has recovered enough to afford a new mortgage.

The lender will review your credit history before and after the income loss period. They will be checking to see if your credit was good before the income loss - and if the income loss caused the foreclosure, bankruptcy, or short sale. There are a couple more requirements:

  • Credit history must show no late payments during the past 12 months.
  • You must complete housing counseling through a HUD-approved agency. The counseling can be completed in person, by telephone, or through online sessions.

The standard FHA mortgage conditions also apply. While the Back-to-Work mortgage program shortens the timeline to return to home ownership - it doesn't shorten the mortgage process! However, it gives former Arizona homeowners a good opportunity to buy a home again, before home prices and mortgage interest rates climb further.

Let me provide you with professional guidance for our Fountain Hills real estate market! As your  Accredited Buyer Representative, I will refer you to trustworthy mortgage lenders, and help you throughout the home buying process. I have helped Arizona home buyers for over 30 years, and I'd like to help you too!