Kathy O'Neal
Fairfax, VA 22033
Office: 703.802.2850
Toll Free: 800.297.8382
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How To Improve Your FICO Score

Chantilly Homeowners – The U.S. housing market recovery is underway.  New home sales are at a multi-year high, housing starts are at pre-recession levels, and home builders plan for a strong 2013.

Since late-2011, falling mortgage rates have boosted buyer purchasing power.  Now, today, in many U.S. markets, the number of active home buyers outnumbers the number of active home sellers.  It’s among the reasons why home supplies remain scarce and why home prices are rising.

Roughly 20 percent of today’s home buyers purchase homes with cash.  For everyone else, the ability to gain mortgage approval depends on income, assets, and, most importantly, credit scores.  Your credit score is a predictor of your future payment performance and lenders pay close attention.

If you plan to buy a home in the Chantilly or Centreville area  or anywhere else in the next 12 months, spend some time with this The Today Show interview.  It’s five minutes of practical credit scoring advice, including separation of credit score myth from credit score fact.

Among the credit scoring tips shared :

You’ll also learn about utility companies and why you should never be late with payment.

As compared to August 2011, last month’s average, mortgage-financing home buyer’s FICO score improved 9 points to 750.  The average “denied” mortgage applicant’s FICO score was 704.  Clearly, standards are high. However, credit scoring is a system and, with time, you can improve your rating.

Watch the interview and find ways to make your credit score better. With better credit comes better mortgage rates.

And if you are considering buying or selling a property in Northern Virginia let us know how we can help!  As always, we are here to serve Chantilly and Northern Virginia area home buyers and sellers with our signature personal and state-of-the-art service which is described in the voices of our clients in this Testimonial video.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

Making Coupon-Free Savings At The Supermarket

The average  family puts 10-15 percent of its monthly spending toward food, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Department of Agriculture, with most of that food purchased at a supermarket.

The amount spent on food is less than the typical amount spent on housing each month but what makes food costs different from housing expenses is food costs are not “fixed”.

Chantilly homeowners – How much you spend on food each month is up to you and, using savvy shopping tactics plus coupons, you can lower your monthly food spend. Saving money on food leaves money for other purposes including savings, clothing and transportation.

In this 4-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn several easy-to-implement methods which can reduce your supermarket bills, as well a few “common sense” tactics you may have overlooked.

Among the topics covered in the video :

Another shared money-saving tip is to shop at grocery store without children.  It can be fun for the family to shop together, as noted in the interview, but bringing children to the supermarket is a sure-fire way to raise your grocery bill.

Recent inflation data shows that the typical cost of food is rising in Chantilly and nationwide.  With these tips, perhaps you can lower your bill.

And if you are buying or selling a property in Northern Virginia let us know how we can help!  As always, we are here to serve Chantilly and Northern Virginia area home buyers and sellers with our signature personal and state-of-the-art service.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

Should You Lease Or Buy Your Next Car? It May Affect Your Mortgage.

Chantilly/Centreville  residents should you lease a new car, or should you buy one? Like most financial questions, the answer depends on your situation.  For some people, leasing a car presents distinct economic advantages.  For others, buying a car is the way to go.

There’s plenty of online material to help you choose your optimal path, but this 3-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show serves as an excellent summary.  In it, you’ll learn about the basics of leasing a car, and for whom leasing can be a great fit.  You’ll also hear reasons to avoid a lease completely.

The NBC interview makes all of the following points :

For many people, it concludes, buying a car is preferable to leasing one, with a notable exception being those people who can claim their car or truck as a tax deduction.  Be sure to check with your tax advisor if you plan to take that route.

However, for another group — homeowners and active home buyers — leasing a car can invite mortgage approval trouble.  This is because a car lease payment is assumed by a mortgage underwriter to be a perpetual debt; one that never reduces or gets extinguished.  When a lease is complete, it must be replaced with a new lease, and so on.

Therefore, no matter how many payments remain in a lease, mortgage applicants must use the full car lease payment for purposes of a mortgage approval.

By contrast, for people whom are owners of their automobiles, car payments must only be added to debt ratios if more than 10 car payments remain until the car’s loan is paid-in-full.  For homeowners and buyers in Fairfax , this can improve debt-to-income ratios and support a higher purchase price on a home.

There is no firm rule for whether it is better to lease a car or to own one.  The arguments for both sides are compelling and reasonable.  Start with the video, then do your own research.

If you are considering purchasing a home in the Northern Virginia area  we are here to help!   Our website has many useful  tools for home buying and you can contact me directly with any questions.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

How To Beat The Bacteria In Your Kitchen

Within Chantilly/Centreville homes, the kitchen is often the most “used” room in the house. It’s a meeting place for meals, for conversation, and for family.  Unfortunately, that makes it a meeting place for bacteria, as well.

Along with bathrooms, kitchens are the most bacteria-heavy rooms in a home.  Kitchens require a good, daily cleaning.  This 4-minute interview on NBC’s The Today Show shows you how to do it.

Using ordinary household cleansers and some elbow grease, you’ll learn :

  1. Why sponges should be out of your kitchen and why loofahs should be in
  2. How to catch and trap fruit flies that spread germs and disease
  3. How to clean and disinfect porous cutting boards

You’ll also get tips on removing stubborn stains from the bottom side of a frying pan.

The video is loaded with good advice and is worth a watch if only to learn a single sanitizing tip.

For example, did you know that you shouldn’t soak wooden bowls or boards in water because the water causes the wood to separate, leaving it “open” to kitchen-borne bacteria?  Or that, because of new soap-types, today’s dishwashers should be regularly disinfected?

Keep your kitchen free from bacteria is a constant battle but, using the tips from the video above, you’ll give yourself a fighting chance.

And if you are preparing your home to sell, please know that the Kathy O’Neal Team is here for you!

Please feel free to contact us anytime!  We have a section devoted to seller strategies on our website that may prove helpful!

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Rising home values this year?

Will your Chantilly or Northern Virginia home go up in value this year? Who knows, but there has been some good news recently, along with the reality of foreclosures.

Housing has been rough since at least 2007, with home values down nearly 20% nationwide. Don’t forget though that our Northern Virginia housing situation has been far better than most areas of the country.

Obviously, low mortgage rates are good for Chantilly area home buyers.  Low rates plus low prices has led home affordability to an all-time high. As you’ll hear in this 4-minute interview with NBC’s The Today Show, carrying a mortgage now costs about 25% less per month as compared to just 3 years ago.

A few other noteworthy points:

With low housing inventory, Northern Virginia buyers may find their best “deals” today — before the Spring Buying Season begins in February.

Of course, remember that each area has its own dynamics.  Cities and neighborhoods have differences, and I am here to help you with the particulars of our area.

My team and I are always here for you.  Let me know how I can help you!

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

Time to Refinance My Home?

Many Chantilly and Northern Virginia home owners, like those elsewhere, have wondered about refinancing their home, given the amazingly low prevailing interest rates.

If this has been on your mind, take a few moments to view this Today Show video.  Even though this was aired in September, I think you will most of the info current.

One of the key questions of course, is whether the costs of doing a refi outweigh the benefits.

Key points include :

You will find lots of quality information in this short video.

If you need a quick reading on the current market value of your Northern Virginia home, or if you want a refeerral to a few quality loan officers, please let me know.   We are always here for you!

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Fall Fix-Up Solutions For Your Home

Chantilly and Northern Virginia home sellers and home owners will benefit from this short Today Show video called a “Fall Fix-Up Checklist”.  You will get very practical tips on how to:

Also helpful is how to find air leaks in your home, and how they can be fixed. You can save a bundle by reducing or eliminating these leaks.

If you are a little handy, you can do this on your own.  But if not, consider hiring a handyman.  Some of these fix-its will pay you back many times over.  If you need a few references, I can provide that.  And of course, if you are doing fix-ups in preparation to sell, and would like a quick analysis of your home’s current value, let me know.  We are here for you!

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Taking Advantage of Low Interest Rates

Chantilly and Northern Virginia area home owners, as well as home buyers and sellers, know that interest rates are low.

But be aware that getting a home loan or doing a refinance is only one way to take advantage of these historic lows.

Take a look at this short video from NBC’s The Today Show to hear about a half-dozen ways to benefit, such as:

The Fed has asserted that the Fed Funds Rate will be held near 0.000% probably until mid-2013.  Why not use it to your advantage if you can.

Also, a reminder that MARKET SNAPSHOT will give you prices of homes sold in your Northern Virginia neighborhood.

And if you are considering buying or selling real estate, we invite you to hear what others are saying about The Kathy O’Neal Team.

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Chantilly Home Safety: Be Careful With That Home Project

According to the BuildFax Remodeling Index, people are doing lots of remodelling projects.

They report that for the 19th straight month, their May index rose.

If you are doing projects on your own, do be aware of safety.  Many preventable accidents happen because basic safety precautions are not taken.  Some of these accidents can be very serious…like falling off a ladder.

Check out this 5-minute video from NBC’s The Today Show.  Being aware of the basic precautions mentioned could save you a lot of trouble.

The insights include:

Also, don’t forget the safety glasses.  Eye problems are the number one injury as reported by home remodelers, and it is important to realize they can happen anytime.

Here is the video from the NBC website.

As always, if you need a referral for professional help to do a project, contact me and I will provide a few names.

Whether you are buying or selling, or just considering either or both, we are always here for you!

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

With 3.7 Million Homes For Sale, Is Your Home Standing Out?

If you are considering putting your Chantilly home on the market, it is important to be aware that you are in competition with other home sellers.

Nationally, there are more than 3.7 million homes for sale this month.  You can see home important it is to have your Northern Virginia home be presented in its best light.

This 4-minute video from NBC’s The Today Show, titled “5 Mistakes Sellers Can’t Afford To Make” has lots of practical advice to help your home show well.

In the current market, it really is critical to have an effective strategy to sell your home, and its appearance is one vital dimension of getting it sold for your best price.

Some of the insights include:

There are also some terrific points about how to effectively use good images for your online marketing.

It can be tough to find buyers in any market, but if you follow the tips outlined above, you can get more showings, and do more with them.

If you do see the sale of your Northern Virginia home in the future, please know that we are here to support you in any way possible.  Also, you can take advantage of MARKET SNAPSHOT to discover the actual selling prices of homes in your Northern Virginia neighborhood.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »