Avoid Common First Time Home Buyer Mistakes

Advice for first time homebuyersBuying a home for the first time can be overwhelming, but the real estate pros at the Equifax Finance blog have put together some tips for first time buyers to avoid common mistakes in the process in the recent article, “

First-Time Homebuyers: The Four Mistakes You Need to Avoid.”

Know Your Credit Score – Unless you have the ability to pay for your home with cash, you’ll need a home mortgage. And if your score is low, you could have a very hard time getting financed, if you get financed at all. Knowing your score early on will tell you whether or not you have the financial standing to get approved for financing. If you don’t know what your credit looks like, check your credit before considering a home purchase. You can check your score for free three times per year with the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and Transunion).  Even if you’re not considering a home purchase for more than a year, it’s still a good idea to check your credit now. If there are errors, that will give you time to correct them. If your credit is good, keep it that way by paying off your bills on time.

Get prequalified – Getting prequalified will let you know how much home you can afford and will set you apart from other buyers who are only looking or who may not be able to get financing.

Know home prices – Knowing home prices and values in your area will give you the perspective you need to know what you can expect to get for what you can afford. Sales prices on homes in your area can be found online, but it will be helpful to get recent sales figures from your agent, who can also help give you some perspective on prices and values in your area.

Put together the right team – Assemble a team that has your best interest at heart, one that you trust and feel confident with. Buying a home is likely the biggest financial decision you have ever made, so you need an agent that you really feel comfortable working with. The best way to find this person is to get recommendations from friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, etc., for an agent that is knowledgeable about your area, experienced, trustworthy, and one that you relate well to. It’s hard to find someone like that online. Then, meet with him or her in person before selecting him or her as your agent.

Get more real estate tips from the Equifax Finance blog; and get tips on all sorts of financial topics, from retirement to taxes to

credit ratings and more!


Insurance Tips for Renting a Storage Unit

Insurance for offsite valuables

It’s this time of year when many of us move and/or try to get organized. Whether you’re moving for college, a family looking to get settled into a new home before the start of the new school year, or you’re just looking to do some spring cleaning and decluttering, you may be looking at a storage unit to keep your belongings safe and stowed away.

Storage units can be incredibly useful, but there are a few things you should know before you sign a contract on a unit, and the Experts at Equifax describe them all in the recent article, “

Six Questions to Ask When Shopping for Storage Unit Insurance.”

If an item is worth paying to store, it is worth protecting with insurance. Theft, fire and other disasters can occur at even the best-run storage facilities, so it is very important to find out what types of losses would be covered by the facility, so you can determine if you need any supplemental insurance.

The article suggests you ensure that your insurance needs are met by examining the following:

Find out if you have off-premises protection through other policies – your homeowners or renters insurance could protect your belongings against fire damage, theft, tornadoes, and other disasters listed in the policy. Off-premises coverage varies and there are likely limits, so get all the details on these first.

The article recommends you also find out what kind of insurance is offered for purchase through the facility, keeping in mind that they too will also have limits on the value that they will insure.

If you will be storing very expensive items like artwork or jewelry, you may also want to purchase a floater to extend the protection to cover those items.

Also keep in mind that most policies will not cover does damage caused by flooding, earthquakes, mold, mildew, vermin, or poor maintenance.

Get more tips on insurance, credit ratings,

identity theft information, retirement and real estate at the Equifax Finance blog.

Featured News

Jacksonville Named in Top 10 Cities with Lowest Taxes

Jacksonville SkylineGood news for Jacksonville real estate owners: the city was recently named by MarketWatch as one of the top 10 cities in the United States with the lowest taxes.

As with all Florida residents, individuals and families living in the city don’t have to pay state or local tax income. The majority of the state’s tax revenue instead comes from their 6 percent sales tax. This means that families earning $25,000 only had to pay $2,956 per year (11.8 percent of their income), and families earning $150,000 only had to pay $6,429 per year (4.3 percent of their income) in taxes.

The data for the study came from The District of Columbia’s Office of Revenue Analysis, which reviewed the estimated property, sales, auto and income taxes a family paid in 2011 in the largest city in each state.

Other cities in the top 10 include Las Vegas, Nev.; Manchester, N.J.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Memphis, Tenn.; Billings, Mont.; Fargo, N.D.; Houston, Texas; Anchorage, Alaska and Cheyenne, Wyo.

Jacksonville Real Estate News

First HGTV Smart Home Giveaway Now Open

Smart home giveawayThose waiting for their chance to enter HGTV’s first Smart Home giveaway don’t have to wait any longer. The custom built, eco-friendly Jacksonville new home is now move-in ready, and the giveaway contest is underway.

Now through May 31, 2013, you can enter twice per day online, once at and once at The winner will receive more than $900,000 in prizes, including the fully furnished home, a 2013 GMC® Terrain® Denali®  and $100,000 courtesy of Quicken Loans.

The 2,400 square foot home, which is located at Paradise Key South Beach, features the latest developments in green living and home technology, including smart home technology connecting appliances and devices, monitoring of home energy use and control of home systems such as interior climate, lighting and security. Mike Stauffer, AIA was the architect for this stunning home, while construction was completed by Glenn Layton Homes.

Viewers can take a virtual tour, learn more about the home and community and read the official rules at


Rising Prices, Low Inventory – Buy Before the Storm

Housing market predictions for 2013Have you noticed something about local real estate? Perhaps something with how prices have risen about five percent over the past year, but there are less and less homes coming onto the market? While this may be due to the traditional shift of winter to spring, where lots of homes jump onto market as homeowners get ready to shuffle things up in time for the new school year, there may be a bigger problem – inventories have only been shrinking in the past two years.

With national databases of homes like those on having shrunk as much as 40 percent from two years ago, The Equifax Finance Blog gives some helpful hints for searching for homes this year and getting the best deal possible, in the article, “

Low Inventories May Hurt Spring Real Estate Market.” With the market about to heat up for spring and less supply available due to increased demand, the article suggests that now is the time to shop for a home before prices leap any higher.

In addition to shining a light on why inventories are down, the article suggests that buyers who want a new home this year should:

  • Increase your down payment as much as you can, even if your lender doesn’t require it. A larger down payment earns points with sellers, especially if you are competing against investors paying all cash.
  • If you are in the market for a foreclosure or short sale, hire a Realtor certified in distress sales. Look for an agent with the letters “SFR” after his or her name.

The full article has lots more tips, and you can find ways to avoid debt, boost your

credit ratings and more on the Equifax Finance Blog!

Featured News

Save the Best for Last with Color

Voice of ColorWhen you walk into your local home improvement store, chances are you’re drawn to the paint samples section. However, before you rush into a paint color spree, make sure you’ve planned out the rest of your space. In comparison to paint colors, most other interior finishes come in a limited number of colors. You need to consider the items with more limited options such as flooring and upholstery, before selecting a paint color.

If you’re working on your Jacksonville new home interior, your steps should look like this:

  • Upholstery
  • Flooring
  • Accent furniture
  • Paint

If you’re working on the exterior, stick with this order:

  • Brick
  • Stone
  • Stain color
  • Paint color

PPG Porter Paints offers more than 2,000 paint colors, so you are destined to find one that suits the rest of the finishes in your home. They also offer incredible tools to help you match your finishes with your paint color. The Voice of Color app allows you take a picture of your fabric or other item, pull all of the colors from the photo and then order matching 8 x 12 paint samples at no charge!

Once you do start the paint color selection process, be sure to consider all of your surfaces. The two most reflective surfaces in any space are the floor and the ceiling. This means your ceiling color can have a dramatic impact on your room. If you walk into a space and something is unique, but you just can’t quite put your finger on it, look at the ceiling to see if it’s something other than white.

Remember, paint offers the greatest variety in options, so make sure you save the best for last!


Identity Theft Protection form Equifax Gets Better

Identity Theft ProtectionAre you wondering how spam keeps getting through to your accounts? How people are able to find you and your family members online? The new additions to the Equifax Complete suite of identity theft protection products are just for you!

The program now comes with online privacy monitoring. This service seeks the internet for your personal data like full name, age, gender, family members’ names, connections to relatives, and their general contact information, including email addresses and telephone numbers. This is a great way to protect yourself from spam and

preventing identity theft online. It is added to the Equifax Complete process of monitoring credit, keeping an eye on your account, fraud protection, personal assistance in the event of identity theft or fraud and more.

The Complete comes at three levels, giving flexibility for price and protection size, from single user to family. The family plan also includes protection for children, who can be especially vulnerable to identity theft and are ideal targets for thieves since their scores have not been damaged by other means and the theft can do undetected for years.

Visit to learn more about how their personal finance solutions can help you. You can also benefit from expert advice on everything from credit to retirement on the Equifax Finance Blog.


Resolve to Pay Off Holiday Debt Early

Holiday debt and ID theft protectionThe fun-filled holiday season has come and gone, and while the after-effects of so many great times may be priceless, too much holiday spending may have left your wallet a little lighter than you had hoped this New Year. January tends to bring out the best in people, as thousands resolve to get healthier, stop a bad habits, etc. So why not resolve to pay off some of your holiday debt sooner rather than later? After all, you don’t want interest rates to add a ‘ba-hum bug’ theme to the holidays in 2013!

If you are interested in paying off some holiday debt, the experts at the Equifax Finance Blog are here for you! Check out their recent blog called, “

Paying Off Holiday Debt.” This article gives a few steps to start your year off right and pay down your seasonal debt.

One important step is to stop spending money now! It may sound simple, but many people do not realize how much frivolous spending holds them back from paying off debt. So this weekend instead of going out to the movie theater, grab your significant other or friend and have a nice movie night at home. You might find its more fun anyway!

Next, you need to survey the damage. Get your bills together and try to assess how much debt you have accrued. This is the perfect time of year to review your credit report while you’re at it. Then you can make sure you have the whole picture and make a plan for what to do next. Checking your credit report is also great for

identity theft information; you can be sure all of the debt incurred over the holidays was legitimately from you and take action immediately if you find your information has be stolen.

For the remaining steps to clean up your holiday debt, please take a look at the Equifax Finance Blog today! Then be sure to look around the site for other fantastic articles concerning credit scores, ID theft protection, financial tips and much more!


The Mysteries of ID Theft Protection and Taxes with Online Shopping

Online shopping ID theft protectionIf you missed what you wanted during the holidays, there are still lots of chances to get that item still on your wish list with end of the year online shopping deals. But if you aren’t a big online shopping fan, you might have some questions about the safety and extra costs involved. Thankfully, the Equifax Finance Blog is here to help!

Legitimate online businesses who want to keep a steady trend of good customers generally offer safeguards for their customers. Some common tips include using secure online payment services such as PayPal, only using secure websites that begin with HTTPS:// (the ‘S’ is the important part here), and to only buy from more well-known websites. These may seem common sense tips to some, but if not, they can be a great ways to ensure

ID theft protection for online shoppers.

In addition, you can learn more about the tax implications of online shopping in the recent article called, “

Online Shopping, Sales Tax, and You.” The majority of this article outlines another mysterious element of purchasing items online that many people may not realize they need to pay attention to, taxes.

Due to the great discounts and ease of purchasing buyers can have while shopping online it is very plain to see why this form of consumerism has flourished. However, shoppers should be aware of their receipts for online orders and check to see if a sales tax is part of their total.

Equifax experts state that online shoppers should check out to learn more about the ‘Use Tax.’ This is the state sales tax from the state the online purchaser resides in. People who have not paid this tax can remedy this during tax season, but it is better for you and your state to take care of it while shopping online.

Why? Because sales taxes in most states support local governance such as highways, schools, personnel and more. All of which directly affect your state, which will hopefully stress the importance of paying these Use Taxes.

Read the Equifax Finance Blog today to fully explore this tax and online shopping mystery.

Jacksonville Real Estate News St Augustine Real Estate

Cost Effective Jacksonville New Home Repairs

Jacksonville new home maintenanceDuring the holiday season, we often times focus all our money and efforts and buying presents for friends and loved ones. This holiday season, Jacksonville new home residents should also plan on spending time and money on keeping their home running smoothly and efficiently.

Here are some top cost effective tips for making sure you and your loved ones stay safe in your home during the holidays:

  • Inspect and repair broken hand railing or walkway cracks
  • Clean out rain gutters and downspouts
  • Push the “test” button on electrical outlets to make sure they are working properly
  • Repair stucco cracks
  • Install and test smoke detectors throughout the home
  • Use high-quality exterior paints
  • Cut back plants that have grown close to the foundation
  • Repair and seal window leaks
  • Recaulk sinks, toilets, showers and bathtubs to keep water off the floors and walls
  • Schedule a roof inspection

By keeping up with these easy maintenance tasks you will not only save yourself and your wallet from a headache later on, but will also guarantee everyone can enjoy the holiday season!

For more of the latest Jacksonville real estate news, be sure to explore our site!