April 28, 2016

Mortgage rates creep higher

Mortgage rates creep higher

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

Homebuyers might want to keep a close eye on mortgage interest rates.

Recently, rates have "inched up just a bit," says Justin Lopatin, vice president of residential banking for PERL Mortgage in Chicago.

The rise could be due to higher demand at the start of the spring-homebuying season or anticipation of Wednesday's statement from the Federal Reserve, among other factors.

The Fed's Federal Open Market Committee left its benchmark federal funds rate unchanged at 0.25% to 0.50%. This rate is used primary by banks.

In its statement, the FOMC said job markets, housing and household income had improved, yet consumer spending had moderated and economic activity apparently slowed. Inflation remains low.

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April 25, 2016

Why You Don’t Have an Agent

By Marcie Geffner

Many writers want to be represented by a literary agent, preferably a New York-based one, who will sell their novel or memoir to a big traditional publisher.

Chasing this dream often leads to frustration and disappointment, leaving writers mystified as to why the brass ring or holy grail—call it what you will—remains beyond their grasp.

The reasons are vary, but these three broad categories cover most of the territory:

1. Your query letter isn't effective.

Writing query letters is an art form that takes practice and skill to master. Your letter, along with your first chapter and brief synopsis, must stand out from the agent’s slush pile and entice him or her to read your work. If you’ve sent out, say, 10 or 20 query letters and not one agent has asked you to submit your manuscript, your query letter needs work.

2. Your work isn’t good enough.

If a few agents asked you to submit, but didn't offer representation, you’ve done well with your query letter, synopsis and first chapter, but the rest of your work isn't ready.

Many workshops, critique groups and contests focus on first chapters because they're the natural place to start and crucial to querying. One outcome of this focus is that many writers produce a strong first chapter beyond which their work is just not that wonderful. A professional editor might be able to help you.

3. Your work isn’t marketable.

If agents like your work, but don't offer representation, your work isn’t what agents know publishers want to purchase. Agents aren't wrong. They know what sells, and they know beautiful writing isn’t enough to make a work marketable. Write something else.

Getting an agent involves some degree of luck. But writers who have fate and talent on their side, must still produce stories that are thought-provoking, emotionally impactful and well-paced. Write something that meets those criteria, craft a strong pitch, and you’ll be better-positioned to get an agent.

Marcie Geffner is a professional editor who helps fiction, memoir and nonfiction writers improve their story-telling abilities, writing skills and works in progress. She lives, works and writes in Ventura, Calif.

April 8, 2016

What happens when you write a check

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

Americans wrote 12.2 billion fewer checks in 2012 than they did in 2006, according to the most recent Federal Reserve data. Consumers increasingly favored electronic payments and debit and credit cards for spending. Even so, financial institutions processed 18.3 billion checks in a single year.

That's a huge amount of paper transactions that go ... somewhere. Here's what happens after you cut that check for your granddaughter, donate money to a nonprofit organization or pay your home repair contractor.

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April 6, 2016

4 Ways to sell your home fast

By Marcie Geffner - LendingTree

Some for-sale homes sell quickly. Others languish on the market for weeks or even months. If you need to move in a hurry, you might well wonder how to sell your home fast.

Here are four tips from the “how to sell your home fast” file:
1. Price to sell
2. Clean, declutter and depersonalize
3. Paint and stage
4. Hire a Realtor

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April 5, 2016

ProCritiques at WC2's Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference

Writers looking for education, inspiration and professional feedback on any work of fiction, nonfiction or memoir can find me at The Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference, produced by West Coast Writers Conferences (WC2), June 17-19, 2016, at Los Angeles Valley College.

I will be participating in panel discussions (topics and schedule to be announced) and offering ProCritiques throughout the conference.

My critiques include:
- An advanced read of up to ten standard manuscript pages (2,500 words) of your work.
- Detailed notes on your pages. A copy, marked with copy-editing suggestions and comments, will be emailed to you after the conference.
- A consultation of at least 15 minutes (usually up to 20-30 minutes, time permitting) at the conference.

My critiques focus on elements of writing craft, including mechanics, voice, tone, character, dialog, plot, pacing, theme and much more. Writers will receive detailed feedback on what's working well, what could be improved—and how to do it.

All genres and literary/mainstream fiction, nonfiction and memoir are welcome.

All writing levels are welcome from beginners to experienced or published authors.

Sign up here:

How to improve your credit after divorce

By Marcie Geffner - LendingTree

Divorce can wreak havoc in your financial life, leaving you with bad credit and a low credit score. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself and even improve your credit after divorce.

Here are seven steps:
1. Pay your bills on time.
2. Close joint accounts.
3. Review your credit reports
4. Open new accounts in your name only.
5. Consider a secured credit card.
6. Create a monthly budget
7. Don't obsess about your credit

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3 Reasons your mortgage refinance was denied

By Marcie Geffner - LendingTree

Many homeowners refinance their mortgage to lower their payment, lock in a fixed rate, shorten or lengthen their payback term or cash out equity. But not everyone can qualify. If you're in that group, there could be several reasons your mortgage refinance was denied. The top three are an appraisal of your home's value, your creditworthiness and your debt-to-income ratio (DTI).

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April 1, 2016

Should you buy a home with termite damage?

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate.com

Many for-sale homes have some damage caused by termites or other wood-destroying insects. But "some" isn't the same as "a lot." That raises a question for homebuyers: How much damage is too much?
Mike Merchant says he wasn't too concerned about the presence of active termites when he bought his home in Dallas. Merchant is an entomologist, a scientist who studies insects, for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, a public education arm of Texas A&M University. He runs a blog about urban entomology called Insects in the City.
"As far as I knew," Merchant says, "our house didn't have structural damage. We've done some remodeling since then, and there was some damage to showers, but nothing that would have caused the house to fall down around us."
Still, Merchant knows a lot about wood-destroying insects, and he says he can envision a house with so much damage that he'd think twice about buying it.
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