Curb Appeal: Getting home buyers through the front door

First impressions are crucial when it comes to selling a home. Many buyers won't even look inside a house if they don't like its outward appearance, so your landscaping and home exterior need to be in tiptop shape. Boost your home's curb appeal and get buyers through your door with these pointers:

Healthy Lawn and Plants
Keep your front landscape lush and green by installing an automatic irrigation system or by snaking drip or soaker hoses (which typically use less water than sprinkler systems) through your planting beds.  A lawn that is yellow and patchy gives buyers the idea that your home is not properly maintained.

Keep plant growth in check.  Trim plants every spring and fall as needed to keep them looking good and to prevent them from damaging the home.  Shrubs should not be touching the home, and you should be able to walk around the entire foundation of the home.  Overgrown trees and shrubs obscure a house and detract from the property's curb appeal.  If shrubs and plants have become overgrown, trim then back or remove them completely.

Maintain Paint and Siding
Siding can be cleaned with a garden hose, a long-handled brush (like the type used for recreation vehicles) and with regular liquid soap and water.  Pressure-washing the dirty siding and deck, as well as the oil-stained driveway and faded walkways is an extremely cost-efficient way to increase your home's curb appeal.  If you don't own a pressure washer, you can rent one from your local home improvement store for the day.

Damaged screens and shutters are an eyesore, so fix or replace them before putting your home on the market.

Tidy Up Driveways and Walkways
Driveways and walkways are what will lead a potential buyer to your home, so keep them in good shape. Weeds and cracks in walkways and driveways should be dealt with as soon as possible to prevent more serious problems.  Cracks in cement walkways and driveways can be filled with cement and cement caulk as needed.

Give your walkway an edge with solar light fixtures, which are affordable and a cinch to install.  Solar lights are inexpensive, and you can place them where they highlight your home's best attributes -- landscaping, walking paths, and any custom fixtures.

Freshen Up the Front Entrance
Fix any rotted or unpainted wood around the front door, make sure the doorbell works property.  Also, be sure to repair loose railings.

Updating the front door is an easy and cost-effective way to add instant curb appeal to the home. Paint the door an eye-catching color.  Paint is only about $25 per gallon, and painting the front door, trim and shutters is a great way to polish the look of your home.  Other inexpensive finishing touches: install updated door hardware like knobs, doorknockers and house numbers,  purchase and install a new mailbox, install a new porch light fixture and add a cheery new welcome mat.  Any or all of these efforts will make a noticeable difference.

Except for the dead of winter, some types of annual plants are always in bloom.  Spruce up your porch containers, window boxes and front beds with some colorful flowers for instant lift.  A few inches of dark mulch will brighten up the beds and really revive your landscape.


From the Builder - March 2013

Spring Greetings!

We are anxious to see the warmer weather return and are excited about the housing market upturn we are expected to experience this spring.  All reports indicate that we are now in a full-fledged housing recovery and home prices will continue to rise.

We are hearing that there is a shortage on building lots and acreage and land that may have folks wanting to build left searching for that perfect piece of earth to build their dream home.  We are seeing building take off in the outer lying areas of the Treasure Valley in places like Melba, New Plymouth and Sand Hollow.

Spring time is definitely the buying and selling season and most realtors are telling us it is a seller’s market.  Inventory levels are at an all time low and bidding wars are not uncommon.  With conditions like these, home prices have no other direction to go other than up!  It is economics 101 and the law of supply and demand.  If you have been reluctant to sell because of home prices or holding out to build because of appraisal values, now might be the perfect time to resurrect your plans and talk to a realtor or builder.


Jeff Hibbard


2012 Christmas Decorating Trends

Whether you’re just focusing on your indoor decorations or ready to make a wow statement outdoors, too, we’ve got plenty of ideas. Here’s a look at five holiday decorating trends we’re seeing for 2012.

LED holiday lighting

There are more and more displays of LED holiday lighting cropping up. These types of lights save a lot of electricity and help cut down on electrical issues, especially for outdoor holiday lighting, but as this technology becomes more widespread, they’re looking much more like incandescent lights, softer and more natural. Before long, you may not even know the difference!

Cool colors for holiday lighting

Blue was a huge holiday decorating color trend last year — all the holiday lighting manufacturers actually ran out of blue lights in 2011! — and we’re expecting more of the same this year. Blue is cool and modern, and it looks beautiful against a backdrop of snow, which we didn’t have much of last Christmas…but you never know for this year! Homeowners really looking to stand out with their outdoor holiday decorations may choose a color like this that’s unexpected and classy.

Themed outdoor holiday decorations

We’re also hearing a lot of homeowners want to create a décor theme throughout their homes. Some want a classic red and gold look; others favor a luxe silver and gold. They’re also asking for fun accents like snowflakes or icicles, toy trains and soldiers, even fruit, berries and twigs for a natural look. These themes can begin with outdoor holiday decorations with lights and garlands, and then continue the holiday decorating inside with swags of greenery, themed trees, mantel displays and more.

Old-fashioned, multicolored holiday lighting

For those still longing for the “good old days,” those oversized multicolored strings of lights are becoming popular again for an old-fashioned look. You can keep those displays simple and just line the house with multicolored strand after strand of holiday lighting, or you can mix them into your decor with tiny white lights for an eye-catching blend of old and new!


Fast Fixes to Increase Your Credit Score

Do you have credit blemishes severe enough (and FICO credit scores under 620) to make obtaining loans and credit cards with reasonable terms difficult?

Or maybe your credit is OK, but you'd like to make it better. After all, the better your credit, the less you pay interest and, typically, for insurance

To improve your credit scores, it's important to know where you stand now. You can get free credit reports once a year, but you typically have to pay to see your FICO scores. (You can get other credit scores for free at sites like Credit Karma, but these aren't typically the scores lenders use.) 

If your scores are above 760, you're probably already getting the best rates. If they're anywhere below that mark, though, they could stand some improvement. 

So here are the nine steps you can take to speedy credit repair: 

1. Get a credit card if you don't have one

Don't fall for the myth that you have to carry a balance to have good scores. You don't, and you shouldn't. But having and using a credit card or two can really build your scores.

If you can't qualify for a regular credit card, consider a secured credit card, where the issuing bank gives you a credit line equal to the deposit you make. Look for a card that reports to all three credit bureaus. 

2. Add an installment loan to the mix

You'll get the fastest improvement in your scores if you show you're responsible with both major kinds of credit: revolving (credit cards) and installment (personal loans, auto, mortgages and student loans). 

If you don't already have an installment loan on your credit reports, consider adding a small personal loan that you can pay back over time. Again, you'll want the loan to be reported to all three bureaus, and you'll probably get the best deal from a community bank or credit union. 

3. Pay down your credit cards

Paying off your installment loans (mortgage, auto, student, etc.) can help your scores but typically not as dramatically as paying down -- or paying off -- revolving accounts such as credit cards.

Lenders like to see a big gap between the amount of credit you're using and your available credit limits. Getting your balances below 30% of the credit limit on each card can really help; getting balances below 10% is even better. Though most debt gurus recommend paying off the highest-rate card first, a better strategy here is to pay down the cards that are closest to their limits.

4. Use your cards lightly

Racking up big balances can hurt your scores, regardless of whether you pay your bills in full each month. What's typically reported to the credit bureaus, and thus calculated into your scores, are the balances reported on your last statements.   

You can increase your scores by limiting your charges to 30% or less of a card's limit; 10% is even better. If you're having trouble keeping track, you can set up email or text alerts with your credit card companies to let you know when you're approaching a limit you've set. If you regularly use more than half your limit on a card, consider using other cards to ease the load or try making a payment before the statement closing date to reduce the balance that's reported to the bureaus. Just be sure to make a second payment between the closing date and the due date, so you don't get reported as late. 

5. Check your limits

Your scores might be artificially depressed if your lender is showing a lower limit than you actually have. Most credit card issuers will quickly update this information if you ask.  If your issuer makes it a policy not to report consumers' limits, however -- as is sometimes the case with "no preset spending limit" cards -- the bureaus may use your highest balance as a proxy for your credit limit. 

You may see the problem here: If you consistently charge the same amount each month -- say, $2,000 to $2,500 -- it may look to the credit-scoring formula like you're regularly maxing out that card.

If you have an American Express charge card -- the kind that must be paid in full every month, rather than the kind on which you carry a balance -- you probably don't have to worry, because charge cards typically aren't included in the credit utilization portion of the FICO formula. 

If, however, the card is categorized on your credit reports not as a charge card but as a revolving credit card, and either a credit limit or high balance is reported to the bureaus, your balances on the card could be a problem. 

You could go on a wild spending spree to raise the high balance reported to the credit bureaus, but a more sober solution would simply be to pay your balance down or off before your statement period closes. 

6. Dust off an old card

The older your credit history, the better. But if you stop using your oldest cards, the issuers may decide to close the accounts or stop updating them to the credit bureaus. The accounts may still appear, but they won't be given as much weight in the credit-scoring formula as your active accounts.  So you might want to charge a recurring bill to one of those little-used accounts or take them out for dinner and a movie occasionally -- always, of course, paying off the balance in full. 

7. Get some goodwill

If you've been a good customer, a lender might agree to simply erase that one late payment from your credit history. You usually have to make the request in writing, and your chances for a "goodwill adjustment" improve the better your record with the company (and the better your credit in general). But it can't hurt to ask. 

A longer-term solution for more-troubled accounts is to ask that they be "re-aged." If the account is still open, the lender might erase previous delinquencies if you make a series of 12 or so on-time payments. 

8. Dispute old negatives

Say that fight with your phone company over an unfair bill a few years ago resulted in a collections account. You can continue protesting that the charge was unjust, or you can try disputing the account with the credit bureaus as "not mine." The older and smaller a collection account, the more likely the collection agency won't bother to verify it when the credit bureau investigates your dispute.

Some consumers also have had luck disputing old items with a lender that has merged with another company, which can leave lender records a real mess. 

9. Blitz significant errors

Your credit scores are calculated based on the information in your credit reports, so certain errors there can really cost you. But not everything that's reported in your files matters to your scores. 

Here's the stuff that's usually worth the effort of correcting with the bureaus:

  • ·       Late payments, charge-offs, collections or other negative items that aren't yours.
  • ·       Credit limits reported as lower than they actually are.
  • ·       Accounts listed as "settled," "paid derogatory," "paid charge-off" or anything other than "current" or "paid as agreed" if you paid on time and in full.
  • ·       Accounts that are still listed as unpaid and were included in a bankruptcy.
  • ·       Negative items older than seven years (10 in the case of bankruptcy) that should have automatically fallen off your reports. 

You actually have to be a bit careful with this last one, because sometimes scores actually go down when bad items fall off your reports. It's a quirk in the FICO credit-scoring software, and the potential effect of eliminating old negative items is difficult to predict.

Some of the stuff that you typically shouldn't worry about includes:

  • ·       Various misspellings of your name.
  • ·       Outdated or incorrect address information.
  • ·       An old employer listed as current.
  • ·       Most inquiries.


If the misspelled name or incorrect address is because of identity theft or because your file has been mixed up with someone else's, that should be obvious when you look at your accounts. You'll see delinquencies or accounts that aren't yours and should report that immediately. However, if it's just a goof by the credit bureau or one of the companies reporting to it, it's usually not worth sweating.

Two more items you don't need to correct:

  • ·       Accounts you closed listed as being open.
  • ·       Accounts you closed that don't say "closed by consumer." 

Closing an account can't help your scores and may hurt them. If your goal is boosting your scores, leave these alone. Once an account has been closed, though, it doesn't matter to the scoring formulas who did it -- you or the lender. If you messed up the account, it will be obvious from the late payments and other derogatory information included in the file.

Taking an active role in monitoring your credit score and the items reported to the credit bureaus is sound financial planning.  It is the single best way to ensure you get the best interest rates for loans and credit cards.


National spotlight shines on Boise with growing enthusiasm


The Boise City- Nampa, ID metropolitan area is at the top spot in the nation for increasing home prices. Rankings are for the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas based on economic data for the first quarter of 2012. Boise home prices were the highlight in a broader mix of economic indicators in which the Boise area ranked as the #6 metropolitan area in the United States for overall economic recovery performance.

Where are all the Boise Idaho real estate buyers coming from? U.S. Census Bureau data shows that Idaho outpaced the national average rate of growth with a population growth of 20% in the past decade. Boise is a destination city for relocating home buyers from throughout the United States who are often seeking a lesser populated state with a higher quality of life.

Migration throughout the U.S. has slowed dramatically with the decline in economic conditions. Idaho has historically drawn its biggest in-migration of residents from California. However, IRS data confirms that with the shifting economic conditions of the past 5 years, the state of Washington has surpassed California as the single largest source of incoming new residents. After Washington and California, Utah weighs in at the #3 source of Idaho in migration followed by: Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Montana, Colorado and Wyoming. 

Signs of a housing recovery are indeed emerging in Boise (Ada County) with both home sales and prices gathering momentum in 2012. Intermountain MLS statistics report an increase in sales of Ada County Single family homes and the median price of Boise homes sold in May 2012 was $179,900 and climbing. The positive long term outlook for Boise’s real estate market may not be completely assured just yet, but there are rapidly growing indications that Idaho will be among the leading states in a broader U.S. housing recovery.