How To Increase Your Credit Score To Get a Good Mortgage

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Hand putting check mark with red marker on poor credit score evaluation form.
AlamyMost banks require a minimum score of 660 in order to grant borrowers a conventional mortgage.

If you’ve been sidelined from buying real estate because the bank won’t give you a mortgage, you still may have an opportunity to get into the market. If you are willing to put in a little work and have patience, you may be able to raise your credit score enough to convince the bank you are a good bet.

Here are five techniques to help you do just that:

1. Scrub Your Credit Report

If your credit score is below 620, any mortgage you get will be expensive because you’ll be considered a sub-prime borrower. And most banks require a minimum score of 660 in order to grant you a conventional mortgage. Now that we know what the goal is, the first step is to see where you stand. You do that by getting your credit report, and you can do it easily and free by visiting

Once you obtain your reports, go through them carefully. First, look for any items that are inaccurate. That includes false negative data. Are there any late payments reported that weren’t really late? Do all the accounts that show up in your file really belong to you? Identify and dispute all errors.

Next, look for information that isn’t verifiable. In order for negative information to remain on your credit report, the creditor or credit bureau has to be able to prove that the item is true. But over time, many companies lose information, go out of business or are purchased. This means they may not be able to produce proof when you rightfully demand they do so. Use that to your advantage. If they can’t come up with the evidence, they have no choice but to fix your report by removing this bad information.

Last, make sure that all the negative information is complete. That means looking for any entries that don’t tell the entire story. For example, if you failed to pay a bill for good reason — if you never received the service or product you were billed for, for example — there is no justification for that failure to hurt your credit score. As a result, the entry is incomplete and must be wiped clean. If you have extenuating circumstances, you may be able to get items removed that while technically true are incomplete.

Just remember that the only way to get negative information off your credit report is for the reporting creditor or the credit bureau to remove it. And they will only do that if you force them to. Take a few minutes to familiarize with the laws that protect consumers and let those financial institutions know that you are ready to go to the mat in order to be treated fairly. Either write these organizations yourself or hire a reputable firm to dispute unfair credit entries on your report. Either way, this is your first step.

2. Pay Your Current Bills

Your payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO credit score. And current balances have much greater weight on your score than older entries. That means it’s very important to pay your bills. If a vendor reports a new late payment it will really knock down your score, so be hypervigilant on this front.

The next most important component of your credit score is the amount you owe. In a perfect world, you would take extra cash you have on hand and pay off all your credit card balances (but not close the accounts). If you don’t have the cash to do that, consider getting a loan from your family. The amount you owe your family won’t show up on your credit report, but your lower overall debt will. That’s going to boost your score nicely.

If getting a loan from the family isn’t an option, you might try getting a loan from a peer-to-peer lender. Many borrowers say loans they take from these sources don’t show up on their credit report, though that’s not always the case. It might be worth a try.

3. Consider Another Way to Boost Your Score

Some people approach people they are very close to and ask them to add them to their existing credit card account. As long as that person’s credit account has been open for two years or more and they add you as joint or co-owner, you’ll see a fast bump in your credit score. Of course this approach exposes both you and your friend to risk, so take this step very carefully.

4. Pay Old Bills, But Make a Deal

Once a legitimate negative is placed in your credit file, it only comes off if the creditor or credit bureau wants it off or seven years pass. Before paying off old bills, contact the creditor and tell them you want to pay off the old amount in exchange for a written guarantee they will remove the old negative item from your credit report.

Some creditors will balk at this but since they have the power to put items on your credit report, they have the power to remove them. If they want your account settled badly enough, they’ll play ball.

5. Slow Down

Even if you do everything mentioned above, it still takes time to see results. Some experts suggest that if you take all these steps, you can add five or 10 points a month to your score. So depending on your current score, you can do the math and figure out how long it will take to achieve the goal you have in mind. In some cases, it could take 24 months, though occasionally some people have been able to increase their credit score by 100 points in as little as six months. Much depends on your starting point, and your individual history.

If you need a mortgage, you want to have the highest credit score you can. Take the steps outlined above and be patient. Prices and/or interest rates may increase while you are waiting, but there is no good alternative. If you rush into buying property with a low score, you’ll pay through the nose for a loan — and you might even end up doing yourself more harm than good.


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Michael Strahan Sells Brentwood Mansion for $21.5 Million

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87th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
Getty ImagesMichael Strahan, shown here with Kelly Ripa at the Academy Awards, has sold the L.A. home he bought in 2013.

Talk-meister and former NFL player Michael Strahan has quietly sold his Brentwood mansion in Los Angeles for $21.5 million, according to our friends at the L.A. Times.

Strahan, the gap-toothed co-host of “Live! With Kelly and Michael” reportedly bought the house in 2013 for $16 million when he was engaged to Nicole Murphy — model, VH1 reality star and former wife of Eddie Murphy. Alas, the wedding is off, and Strahan has jettisoned the nine-bedroom, 14-bath house that was big enough for his four children and her five.

About that split in August, Strahan’s rep told People: “They love each other very much, but with the distance and work schedule it has been hard to maintain the relationship.”

Nine kids probably didn’t help love blossom, either.

But, back to the 15,600-square-foot house, which features:

  • Prohibition-style wine cellar
  • Two laundry rooms
  • Air filtration system in library to handle cigar smoke
  • Nine bedroom-and-bath suites
  • Gym, game room and sauna.

Strahan had been seeking $23 million for the home, but it looks like he decided a $5.5 million profit was enough.

Michael Strahan Selling L.A. Area Mansion for $23 Million


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Gaga and Kinney Live Like Us in Pennsylvania Hideaway

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Harper's Bazaar ICONS Celebration
FilmMagic/GettyLady Gaga and Taylor Kinney in September, about five months before announcing their Valentine’s Day engagement.

Bride-to-be Lady Gaga and actor Taylor Kinney have been spotted in a Pennsylvania Dutch country love nest that cost less than the guesstimated $400,000 heart-shaped engagement ring the super songbird flashed on her Instagram page after her Valentine’s Day betrothal.

According to Lancaster County Property Records, Kinney paid $390,000 for a three-bedroom log cabin in an area known as Willow Street in 2013. Willow Street, population 7,578 according to the 2010 census, is so named because its main street is lined with willows. (Who would have guessed?)

The house sits on about six heavily wooded acres that protect the home from any paparazzi who wander into the Dutch country. The single-story log cabin was built in 1995 and features three bedrooms, two baths, two fireplaces, and central air.

The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, has been all over the stars-are-just-like-you-and-me angle, with a big picture spread of Gaga and Kinney doing normal stuff around Lancaster County, the area of Pennsylvania where Kinney grew up and was a high school volleyball star. There’s the happy couple attending a Kinney family baptism at Grandview United Methodist Church; there’s a shot of the Giant supermarket where the super stars actually shop for food — apparently they have to eat just like you and me, too.

Lancaster County lies in south central Pennsylvania, about three hours from New York City. Its major attraction is its Amish community, but it also is a rock-n-roll industry haven that hosts Tait Towers, which reputedly has the largest studio, set-building and rehearsal spaces in the U.S. (Tait Towers also reportedly built the sets for Lady Gaga’s recent Monster tour.)


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Jackie’s Letters, Kennedys’ Virginia Country Home For Sale

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RR Auction via ZillowThe Kennedys at their Virginia getaway, one of the few times they visited before his death on November 22, 1963.

By Melissa Allison

Auctioneers are selling off a bit of Kennedy history Feb. 19 in the form of Jacqueline Kennedy’s correspondence and other memorabilia surrounding a Virginia estate where the family spent just a few weekends before JFK was assassinated.

RR Auction via Zillow

“You have done the most fantastic job and everyone agrees that house is really a dream. One could not wish for anything more perfect — if only we could live in it all year long! And Jack loves it,” the First Lady gushed in one handwritten letter to the couple that acted as her building agents.

Jackie viewed the estate, which she named Wexford House, as an equestrian retreat to rival the Hyannis Port compound in Massachusetts owned by her husband’s family.

Wexford House has been on the market for more than a year, with a price drop from $11 million in late 2013 to $7.95 million, according to listing agent Patricia Burns of Middleburg Real Estate.

“The house was finished in ’63, and they were there for three weekends, the last of which was the weekend before they went to Dallas,” Burns said. “What’s very special to me about it is that it’s still almost in original condition.”

A few videos of the Kennedys at Wexford House are available online at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, including the scenes above from a weekend they spent there in late October 1963.

The stucco home measures 5,050 square feet and has four bedrooms, four bathrooms and an abundance of riding trails on the grounds. Originally situated on 39 acres, the property today has 167 acres amid rolling hills backed by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

There are his-and-hers dressing rooms, multiple fireplaces and built-in cabinets and bookcases. Outside are a pool, tennis court and horse stables with water and electricity, as well as two separate living areas. The detached garage has a bathroom and second-floor studio, and the property includes an underground bomb shelter.

Jacqueline Kennedy’s paper trail reveals the home was paid for by her father-in-law, Joe Kennedy Sr., and that it cost just over $127,000, which was quite a bit more than the $40,000 she’d agreed to spend. In the book “JFK’s Last Hundred Days,” author Thurston Clarke says John Kennedy was strongly opposed to building the home but agreed to it because his wife wanted it so much.

The estate has other presidential connections, too. Wexford House was leased by Ronald and Nancy Reagan during the fall of the 1980 presidential campaign. Reagan rehearsed there for debates with President Jimmy Carter.


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Real ’50 Shades’ Penthouses Still On Seattle Market

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Courtesy of Erik Mehr & Associates Real EstateSix penthouses remain for sale in Seattle’s 270-unit Escala condominium building, at about $6 million each.

The “Fifty Shades of Grey” character getting almost as much attention as Christian and Anastasia is a 270-unit condo building in downtown Seattle where steamy scenes from the S&M story were set in the book.

The building, Escala, is real and was completed in 2009. Its marketing materials apparently inspired writer E.L. James to make one of the condo’s eight penthouses home to Christian and his kinky “red room.”

The film version of “Fifty Shades” opens wide on Feb. 13 and stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson. (Check out the hardware-store scene from the movie below.)

'Fifty Shades of Grey': Christian Surprises Ana Clip

In real life, fans have been posing in front of and trying to sneak into Escala since the book exploded onto the Mommy porn literary scene in 2011, followed by “Fifty Shades Darker” and then “Fifty Shades Freed” in 2012.

Escala still has six penthouses for sale at about $6 million each. The 5,200 square-foot apartments have drop-dead gorgeous views of downtown Seattle. But they’re just shells, so new owners must bring their own design plans, whips and chains.

The building features a full spa, lap pool and private dining room. Sadly, the helipad for Christian’s copter was only a figment of James’ imagination.


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Buy $360,000 House, Get 2 Super Bowl Tickets Free

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Super Bowl Football

By Melissa Allison

It’s tight, but there’s still time for cash buyers and those willing to waive contingencies to score a pair of Super Bowl XLIX tickets free — when they buy this home in Phoenix.

In a flat real estate market, the home has gotten “a ton” of attention, according to listing agent Kelly Cook of Kelly Cook Real Estate Group, part of Keller Williams.

“We’re getting three to four showings a day,” says Cook, who figures Phoenix listings around the same price — $359,900 — are doing well if they have three or four showings a week.

The remodeled 2,114 square-foot home between Scottsdale and Glendale has four bedrooms and three baths. The master suite includes a walk-in closet and a large bathroom with double sinks and an oversized shower.

And how about those tickets? “They’re upper level — not club or anything,” Cook says. Still, with entry-level tickets starting above $9,000, they’re quite a perk.

One bidder tried to negotiate a lower price on the house without the tickets — clearly not a football fan.

Neither Cook nor the home’s owner plans to attend the game if the right offer doesn’t materialize by Sunday. “I don’t think we’ll have trouble selling them,” he says.


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$100 Million Condo Breaks NYC Record

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Evan Joseph/ Extell DevelopmentThe 360-degree views from the 89th and 90th floor duplex stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Catskill Mountains.

A New York City real estate record is broken almost as often as the No. 1 train heads uptown. And the latest — most expensive apartment ehhh-ver — has been shattered at One57, the West 57th Street, long-drink-of-water building whose 11,000 square-foot penthouse has sold $100.47 million.

The previous record-holder was a Central Park West penthouse that sold for $88 million in 2012.

One57, which incorporates the ritzy Park Hyatt Hotel on 25 of its 90 floors, has gotten its share of press — good and bad.

  • For a hot minute, One57 was heralded as the tallest residential building in NYC at 1,000 feet — until 432 Park Avenue grabbed the title at 1,396 feet.
  • Central Park lovers griped that the slender building was casting a long shadow over the famed park, making it chilly. They also harrumphed that the building’s sky-high prices would attract only Saudi princes, Russian oligarchs, and other non-stakeholders in New York City’s welfare.
  • During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the construction crane on the building partially collapsed, causing neighborhood evacuations and snarling traffic for about a week.

Extell Development Company, which created the colossus, won’t name the record-breaking buyer, but said that the building is 80 percent sold, and that half of those units are foreign-owned.

So, we wonder, what makes the record-holding penthouse worth $100 million?

The 360-degree views from the 89th and 90th floor duplex are “jaw-dropping,” said Jeannie Woodbrey, senior sales executive at One57. “You can see from the Atlantic Ocean in Long Island to the Catskill Mountains — 360 degrees of heaven.”

Here are more details:

  • The penthouse includes six bedrooms, seven bathrooms and two powder rooms.
  • The building features a triple-height indoor swimming pool, fitness center and private dining room.
  • Condo owners have access to preferred seating in the hotel’s “The Back Room” restaurant, in-room spa and chef services, and dog walkers.


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Rat Pack Pad Sinatra Shared With Mia Farrow Under Contract

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ZillowThe four-bedroom East 72nd Street apartment that once was a Rat Pack hangout has been completely updated.

The Manhattan penthouse that Frank Sinatra shared with Mia Farrow during their short marriage has finally found a buyer. Luxury Listings NYC reports that the Upper East Side apartment, which originally hit the market in 2012 for $7.7 million, is under contract for $4.9 million.

The East 72nd Street apartment has 3,200 square feet and once was a Rat Pack hangout where legend has it Sammy Davis Jr. threw champagne glasses off the 23rd floor terrace into the East River below. Pop artist Andy Warhol called it a “glittering grotto in the sky,” where President John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe used to party down when they visited Sinatra’s place in old New York, New York.

The four-bedroom duplex, which has 18-foot ceilings and a new glass staircase, also was the love nest Sinatra shared with Mia Farrow when they married in 1966; Sinatra was 50, and Farrow was 21. The couple divorced two years later but remained close friends throughout Sinatra’s life, a Vanity Fair profile says.

The New York Observer says Sinatra owned the co-op from 1961 to 1972. The current owner bought the apartment in 2010 for $2.3 million, according to New York City property records.


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Bruno Mars ‘Steals’ Studio City House for $6.5 Million

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Super Bowl Football
Associated PressBruno Mars, a two-time Grammy Award winner, seen here performing during halftime of the 2014 Super Bowl.

“Just The Way You Are” singer Bruno Mars has picked up a 9,000 square-foot home in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles, Variety reports — for more than a million under its original asking price.

What’s even yummier about the real estate deal is that the seller reportedly is Elvira Kudryashova, daughter of a former Kazakhstan minister who is being sued in California federal court for allegedly defrauding the Kazakh city of Almaty of at least $300 million and laundering ill-gotten gains through — among other things — lavish Los Angeles real estate deals.

Kudryashova paid $5.7 million for the house in 2013, then put it back on the market less than a year later for about $7.8 million, according to Zillow. The price eventually dropped to $6.8 million, and Mars scooped it up for $6.5 million.

Mars’ new digs are located on two acres in Fryman Canyon, also home to George Clooney. The seven-bedroom, eight-bath home features a separate children’s wing with two en suite bedrooms plus a great room with kitchen. Other features include:

  • steam baths and dry saunas.
  • coffee bar.
  • infinity pool and heated cabana.
  • children’s playground.
  • wet bar and wine cellar.


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