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How to Raise Your Credit Score to Save Money

by The Hat Team

Want to buy a house but a low credit score has you down?  Don’t despair! There are ways to raise your credit score and save thousands on your mortgage.   A strong credit score can lead to better interest rates, additional loan programs to benefit homebuyers, and easy and quick approvals which will put you on the fast track to home ownership.  Here are some tips for raising your credit score:

  • Make sure your credit reports are accurate.  The first step toward improving your credit score is checking your credit reports.  You will find your credit scores on three different reports, one each from the 3 Major Credit Bureaus.  Keep in mind that credit reports can have mistakes…and they often do.  That’s why it’s important that you analyze them carefully.  Make sure that the information on the reports is accurate, because if there are mistakes, they will be reflected in your score.  It’s easy to check your credit reports and doesn’t have to cost anything since you are entitled to a free copy, once a year, of all three thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Once you have copies of your credit reports go through them carefully and make sure of the following:
  • Is your personal information is accurate?
  • Are all your credit accounts are being reported?
  • Are there any late or missed payments that you remember making on time?
  • Are there any applications for credit that you don’t recognize?
  • Are there any accounts you don’t recognize?
  • Are there decades old items still on your report?

Highlight any discrepancies you find.  If you do find errors, you will have to dispute each one separately.  How to Dispute Errors on Your Credit Report

  • Figure out what you need to fix/change/improve.  Here are some examples of things that could be causing your score to be lower than it should:
  • Your identity may have been stolen and someone is screwing up your credit.
  • An old collection account could still be haunting you, way past its statute of limitations for your state.
  • Do you have an ex-spouse? Perhaps he or she has not paid a bill he or she was supposed to pay per your divorce settlement.  Unfortunately, you could be suffering the consequences.
  • If you have ever defaulted on a loan it might be showing up as several defaults on your credit report because it has been sold to other debt collectors.
  • It might be a simple name mix up…your credit information might be mixed up with that of someone with a similar name.
  • Devise a plan to improve your credit score.  You can open a free account on where you can get tips to help you determine where your poor credit issues are and they can assist you in creating an action plan for improving your score.  To get started, try keeping your credit card balances as low as possible, and start paying down debt rather than moving it around.
  • If you have a habit of making late payments…stop.  It’s vital that you make payments on time. Set up alerts when payments are due so that you won’t forget.  If due dates don’t coincide with when you get paid, make some calls to get the dates moved around to better suit your schedule.  Don’t be afraid to ask a credit card issuer or lender to forgive a past due payment. You might be surprised to discover they will happily work with you if you have a history of making on-time payments.
  • Open a secured credit card.  This is a type of credit card that allows you to make a deposit into a checking account that “secures” the line of credit being extended to you.  You will be able to get a secured credit card even if you already have bad credit, and adding a new account with a positive payment history will help improve your credit score over time.

2018's Best Secured Credit Cards for Building Credit

Once you get your credit score where it needs to be, you will reap the benefits by qualifying for better rates and save money on your mortgage loan!

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

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Mortgage Loan Pre-Approval Will Make You Stand Out to Sellers!

by The Hat Team

Across the country right now, the number of buyers seeking homes far outnumbers the number of homes available.  Because of this, the housing market is super competitive and buyers often need to do something to stand out.  One way to show that you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even in a less competitive market, knowing your budget will give you security of knowing if a home is within your reach.

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

There are 5 Cs that aid in determining the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  • Capacity: Your current and future ability to make payments.
  • Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash.
  • Collateral: The home or type of home that you want to purchase.
  • Character: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time.
  • Conditions: Current interest rates and amount of principal influence lender’s likelihood of financing the borrower.

Getting pre-approved not only shows sellers you are serious, but also speeds up the process of completing the purchase once your offer has been accepted.

Many people overestimate the down payment and Credit Score needed to qualify for a mortgage.  If you are ready to buy, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised at what you can afford!  Contact Sandra Nickel and her team of professionals at 334-834-1500 and let them help you achieve your dream of home ownership today!

How to Raise Your Credit Score

by The Hat Team

credit score

We have all been there before, getting ready to buy a house and then suddenly something of a negative nature pops up on our credit score that poses to keep us out of our dream home forever.  There are ways to make sure you DO NOT end up in this sort of predicament however. Hopefully, the following tips for raising your credit score  will be beneficial to you so that you can find your new home!

  • Pay credit card bills before the statement date.  Many times folks wait until the due date to pay a bill but if you are willing and able to pay them before the statement date, your credit score is likely to improve.
  • If you can afford to make multiple payments on your credit balance throughout the month, this will also show favorably on your credit score.  Check with your credit card company to make sure you are allowed to do this before beginning because some do not allow it. 
  • If you only have a couple bad marks on your credit, you can ask for a "good will deletion" .  Of course if you are late over and over again you will not be able to reap this reward but if you can show that you otherwise have paid your bills on time you may be able to get those couple nasty marks off your credit and therefore raise your score!
  • If one of your accounts has recently gone into collections you may be able to pay it off and have it removed from your credit report as a result.  Be sure to get any type of promise to delete in writing so that you can be sure it will be taken off once you pay. 

Credit issues can be hard to deal with especially if you are looking to purchase a new home in the near future, but take it from someone who knows….it CAN be done and you CAN have the house of your dreams maybe sooner than you had imagined!  Keep working at it and you will succeed and come out the other side ready to move forward into your future!

Courtesy of Montgomery AL Real Estate Experts Sandra Nickel Hat Team!

Is Your Credit Score a Big Deal?

by The Hat Team

Is your credit score a big deal? If you want to buy a home, it’s a huge deal!

Your credit score will determine if you can get a loan. It will also determine how much you can borrow and what your interest rate will be! To buy a home with a mortgage loan you must have a strong credit score.

credit scoreThere are three primary sources for credit scores in the US: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. They all use the FICO system. These are the most used sources by creditors.

FICO developed the computer software the major credit scoring companies use. FICO scores range from 300 to 850. However, many creditors consider 500 to be the bottom of the acceptable range.

Your score is a measure of your credit-worthiness and determines the interest rate that you will pay for a loan. It’s not unusual for a creditor to obtain all three of the major scores and average them. A very good score is 700, and an excellent score in 750.

The primary factors that determine your score are:

  • payment history (35%)
  • debt/amounts owed (30%)
  • age of credit history (15%)
  • new credit/inquiries (10%)
  • mix of accounts/types of credit (10%)

65% of the total score is determined by only two factors: payment history and amount of debt owed. You must have a good history of paying your bills on time. And you must be very careful about how much debt you have relative to your income!

That last point is extremely important when borrowing for a home mortgage. As of 2014 the federal regulations governing mortgage lending have changed. Borrowers can no longer carry total debt of more than 43% of gross annual income, including the mortgage debt! Lenders are going to be very strict about adhering to that ratio. There are serious consequences for the lender not doing so.

Many actions you take affect your score. Most people don’t think about:

  • unpaid medical bills and parking tickets can lower your credit score
  • heavy credit use can lower your score, even if you pay large balances off in full in a short time
  • credit scores drop if you sign up and use store cards for initial discounts

For more advice about managing your credit, click here.

Looking forward to buying a home? Educate yourself, manage your credit score, and know your credit score before your lender does.

Information courtesy of Montgomery AL Real Estate Experts Sandra Nickel Hat Team REALTORS!

Tips For Improving Your Score

by The Hat Team

Your credit score is a number that helps lenders predict how likely you are to make your payments on time. This score affects your ability to obtain credit and helps determine what you pay for credit cards, auto loans, and mortgages on Montgomery AL homes. Even your insurance rate is related to your score. The higher your score, often referred to as a FICO score, the more apt you are to be approved for and pay a lower interest rate on new loans. Scores ranging from 650 and below are considered bad and indicate to the lender that you are a very high risk. Chances are you will be unable to secure a loan, or if you are, it will be at a much higher interest rate and/or require a cosigner.

What If there Are Errorsup

What to do if you have a low score and do not qualify for a mortgage on a Montgomery AL home? Your first action should be to check your credit report for errors. If you find erroneous information, you need to act immediately by contacting both the credit bureau (the three major ones are Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) and the organization that provided that information.

  • The credit bureau/agency: Send a certified, return receipt requested letter to the bureau pointing out each inaccuracy and enclose copies of documents which support your claim as well as the report itself (with the misinformation highlighted). Factually explain why you dispute each item and request a deletion or correction for each one.
  • The creditor or information provider: Send the same type of letter and enclose the same documents. Request that the provider notify you of action taken (generally within 90 days) so that you can verify the amended information.

If there are no errors on your report, then you should take immediate steps to improve your credit. Ways to do this include the following:

  • Stop using your credit cards. Do not continue to accumulate debt.
  • Get current on delinquent accounts. Since payment history makes up 35% of your score, this action will have a great impact on your score.
  • Keep accounts with balances open, but don’t apply for more credit.
  • Call your creditors. Explain your financial situation and ask about possible hardship programs which will temporarily reduce your monthly payments.
  • Begin paying off your existing debts, even if you have to sell some belongings to do so. Come up with a get-out-of-debt plan and stick to it.
  • Get professional help. There are resources available to help you reestablish a good credit rating. Contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling for assistance.

7. Be patient. Realize that improving your credit score takes time and that there is no quick-fix --and keep in mind your goal of owning a Montgomery AL home.

Search all Montgomery AL Real Estate And Homes For Sale.

Sandra Nickel and the Hat Team have distinguished themselves as leaders in the Montgomery AL real estate market. Sandra assists buyers looking for Montgomery real estate for sale and aggressively markets Montgomery AL homes for sale. Sandra is also an expert in helping families avoid foreclosure through short sales and is committed to helping families in financial hardship find options. For more information you can visit

You can reach Sandra by filling out the online contact form below or give her a call anytime.

How Montgomery AL Real Estate Buyers Can Be Credit Savvy

by The Hat Team

Your credit score is a number that helps lenders predict how likely you are to make your payments on time. This score affects your ability to obtain credit and helps determine what you pay for credit cards, auto loans, and mortgages on Montgomery AL real estate. Even your insurance rate is related to your score. The higher your score, often referred to as a FICO score, the more apt you are to be approved for and pay a lower interest rate on new loans.

credit reportWhat do the numbers mean?

FICO scores range from 300 to 850, with most people scoring in the 600s and 700s, and are generally rated from excellent to very bad.

  • Above 800 is considered excellent. This rating reflects that fact that you pay bills on time, have a strong credit history, and have not filed for bankruptcy. You use your credit responsibly.
  • Between 750 and 800 falls into the very good category. You are considered a very low risk because of your history of paying bills on time and acting responsibly.
  • Between 700 and 750 puts you in the low risk range. You my have missed some payments in the past, but you current record is good. You do not have an excessive amount of credit card debt.
  • Between 650 and 700, or fair, means you are a moderate risk. Your credit history may include older negative items, too many recent applications for new credit, or a higher than normal credit card debt.
  • Between 600 and 650 is a bad score, and you are deemed a high risk for purchasing Montgomery AL real estate. Your score most likely reflects high credit card debt, late payments, collections, or bankruptcy, and you may well be turned down for new credit.
  • Below 600 is considered very bad, and you are viewed as a very high credit risk. If you are approved at all, it will be at a much high interest rate--or you may even need a cosigner or a very large down payment in order to secure a loan.

If you have not yet established a credit history due to lack of credit cards and/or loans, you may have no credit score. Opening a new credit card account and using it responsibly for a few months should alleviate this problem.

What makes up the credit score?

Your payment history comprises 35% of the score, with the amount of debt you have affects about 30%. 15% of the score is derived from the length of your credit history, with 10% resulting from recent new credit applications. Other factors such a s a variety of credit types make up the final 10%.

How can you improve your score?

  • Use you credit cards to establish a positive and consistent pattern of payment.
  • Check your credit report for inaccuracies. This is a common problem, so look for and report misinformation.
  • Have a variety of debt. In addition to a mortgage on your Montgomery AL real estate, add auto loans and credit cards to the mix. It is important to demonstrate good money management in more than one area.

The three major credit reporting agencies are Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. You are entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three.

Montgomery Real Estate Podcast - August 2010

by The Hat Team

Sandra Nickel of The Hat Team presents:

montgomery real estate, podcastThis month's edition covers Montgomery real estate market activity and then we'll discuss how to avoid surprises as mortgage underwriters are refreshing credit scores prior to closing.

Features special guest Terri Murphy of US Learning.

Program length: approximately 8 minutes

If you are buying Montgomery AL real estate, you will want to know what your credit score is. Lenders look at your credit history, debt-to-income ratio and your credit score when qualifying you for a home loan. Credit scores range between 200 and 800, with scores above 620 considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage. The following factors affect your score:
montgomery al real estate
1. Your payment history. Did you pay your credit card obligations on time? If they were late, then how late? Bankruptcy filing, liens, and collection activity also impact your history.

2. How much you owe.  If you owe a great deal of money on numerous accounts, it can indicate that you are overextended. However, it's a good thing if you have a good proportion of balances to total credit limits.

3. The length of your credit history. In general, the longer you have had accounts opened, the better. The average consumer's oldest obligation is 14 years old, indicating that he or she has been managing credit for some time, according to Fair Isaac Corp., and only one in 20 consumers have credit histories shorter than 2 years.

4. How much new credit you have. New credit, either installment payments or new credit cards, are considered more risky, even if you pay them promptly.

5. The types of credit you use. Generally, it's desirable to have more than one type of credit - installment loans, credit cards, and a mortgage, for example.

For more on evaluating and understanding your credit score, visit 

Are you thinking of buying Montgomery AL real estate? Learn about the home buying process at or give me a call for more personal service.

Search all Montgomery AL real estate and homes for sale. 

Reprinted from Realtor Magazine with permission of the National Association of Realtors.

Montgomery AL Real Estate 101: Your Credit Score

by The Hat Team
If you are a first-time Montgomery AL real estate homebuyer, you are most likely becoming very aware of the importance of having a good credit score. A higher-than-average credit score will help you negotiate a lower interest rate when you are applying for a mortgage, and a lower interest rate means thousands of dollars in interest saved every year.
This short video is a great introduction to the importance of your credit score, and includes some simple strategies to help improve it.

This is a great time to consider purchasing Montgomery AL real estate. To learn more about Montgomery AL real estate, please visit, or begin searching homes here. For more personalized service, or a referral to a reputable lender who can help you learn more about your credit score, please call me at 800-HAT-LADY.

Displaying blog entries 1-9 of 9




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