Equifax Inc., one of the nation’s “big three” credit reporting bureaus, announced a cybersecurity breach potentially impacting approximately 143 million U.S. consumers. According to the announcement, criminals exploited a website application vulnerability between mid-May through July 2017 and gained access to certain files.

What information was accessed? According to Equifax, the information accessed included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, some driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 consumers, and dispute documents with personal information for approximately 182,000 consumers.

How does this affect you? Visit equifaxsecurity2017.com and click on “Potential Impact” to find out if your information may have been compromised. You can also contact their dedicated call center at 866-447-7559between 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. ET, seven days a week. Equifax is also mailing notices to consumers whose credit card numbers or dispute documents were accessed.

Equifax is offering credit monitoring for all three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), copies of Equifax credit reports, the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports, identity theft insurance, and Internet scanning for Social Security numbers. These services will be offered for free for one year.

Equifax also recommends that consumers thoroughly review their credit reports and bank or credit card account statements, and report any unauthorized or unusual activity to their financial institutions immediately.

If you have any questions about this breach or any other issues regarding credit reporting, don’t hesitate to call. I’m happy to help!

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Hiring the wrong moving company can turn a homebuyer’s dream experience into a nightmare. Moving scams can leave families susceptible to stolen items, fees that far exceed original estimates, or even their belongings being held hostage until a large sum of money is paid.

Protect your clients from deceptive practices by helping them select a reputable moving company. Here are some tips to share:

Review movers who have been vetted and certified by the American Moving & Storage Association’s (AMSA) ProMover program. Movers must adhere to the membership code of conduct and maintain “Satisfactory” or better ratings by the Better Business Bureau to belong. Also check complaint histories with the Department of Transportation mover search tool.

Get three in-home estimates. These are most accurate because movers can see exactly what will be moved. For out-of-state moves, ask for a written binding estimate or a not-to-exceed estimate, which caps charges.

Locate the proper credentials. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) require motor carrier numbers for movers hauling across state lines. Also, many states require DOT numbers for in-state moves. These should be posted on mover websites.

Don’t pay deposits greater than 20 percent of the estimated cost of the move. Make deposits with a credit card, so charges may be disputed in case of a problem.

If your clients have trouble with a mover, advise them to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, FMCSA and AMSA if the mover is a member. If possessions are ever held hostage, call the police first.

Sources: Consumer Reports, Real Simple

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced a quarter-percent reduction in mortgage insurance premiums on certain FHA loans. According to HUD, homeowners may save $500 per year on mortgage insurance.
FHA loans have benefits that can include small down payment requirements and, in some cases, easier qualification. Whether you purchase or refinance, the recent reduction may help by:
• Improving affordability
• Allowing access to higher loan amounts
• Offsetting the impact of recent increases in mortgage interest rates
If you have questions about FHA loans, mortgage insurance or any other aspect of mortgage financing, I’ll be happy to help. Please call or send me an email at your convenience.

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Agents, did you know you can share a personalized version of this post?

Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, knowing your budget will give you the confidence of knowing if your dream home is within your reach.

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the My Home section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.”

Freddie Mac describes the 4 Cs that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

Many potential home buyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores needed to qualify for a mortgage today. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so as well.

Dr. Gabriele Oettingen, psychologist, researcher and author of the book “Rethinking Positive Thinking,” says we’ve been inundated with advice tothink positively or visualize success. While visualizing the achievement of our goals may feel good, those same feelings can also inhibit our motivation by giving us an emotional payoff before we ever actually do anything.

Oettingen recommends a more effective motivation technique called WOOP: Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. Here’s how it works:

STEP 1: Wish. First, create a meaningful, challenging and feasible goal, say, calling five clients a day, writing thank you notes or asking for more referrals. Write this down, or use the free WOOP app.

STEP 2: Outcome. Visualize the highest and best result or feeling you would receive from accomplishing your wish. Be comprehensive. Write this down, too.

STEP 3: Obstacle. Identify things preventing you from accomplishing your wish; it could be lack of information, lack of a skill set or even your own feelings. Identifying the obstacle is important because it helps your mind contrast your outcome feelings with your goal, helping contain emotion.

STEP 4: Plan. Using “if/then” statements, write an action plan for overcoming each obstacle: “If [obstacle], then I will [action to overcome obstacle].” This critical piece of the method asks you to focus on a specific plan and creates what researchers call “implementation intentions,” which have been found to give results vastly superior to other achievement-based methods.

Whether your goals are personal or professional, this technique can help you stay focused and remain motivated long enough to obtain real results.

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