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Signs of rebound for Polk housing market – News – News Chief

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Single-family home sales slumped in April and May because of COVID-19, but there are already signs of a rebound in June.

LAKELAND — COVID-19 struck Century 21 Myers Realty like lightning.


“We as a company lost 12 sales overnight after COVID-19 hit,” said Jack Myers, the owner and a real estate broker.


The lost clients in early March ranged from investors in short-term rentals to families that experienced job losses, he said.


But Myers and Dawna Stone, the owner and broker of the Property Shoppe of Central Florida Inc., a Lakeland company specializing in home sales, said the Polk real estate market may already be on the rebound.


“I think at the end of this year, we’re going to see a gangbusters market on housing,” Stone said. “I would say (conditions) are definitely favorable. The affordability index with mortgages so low is better than it has been in a great number of years.”


Property Shoppe closed a recent single-family home sale at a 2.75% interest rate, she said. Nationwide mortgage rates are at historic lows, according to recent news reports.


“I feel here the phones are ringing more,” said Myers, who has offices in Auburndale, Winter Haven and Haines City. “Our agents are still on the phone dialing for dollars and keeping in contact with customers.”


Statistics from the Stellar MLS (multiple listing service), a Central Florida real estate market data firm based in Orlando, show the impact of COVID-19 since the first case in the state was reported on March 1.


The Lakeland area saw monthly single-family home sales increase from 8% to 26% in the first three months of this year compared to the same months in 2019, according to a Stellar report. That changed rapidly in April, which saw a 26% decline, followed by a 25% decline in May.


The East Polk area was hit even harder.


Monthly single-family home sales increased from 3% to 32% in this year’s first quarter, followed by a 26% decline in April and a 39% crash in April, Stellar reported.


Those numbers reflect sales reported by Stellar member companies located in the Lakeland and East Polk areas and could include properties outside their areas, said Stone, a Stellar member.


But a large majority of sales traditionally come from the company’s home area, she said.


About 98% of the Property Shoppe’s sales involve Polk County properties, Stone said.


The April-May slump did not represent the overall health of the local real estate market, Stone argued.


Despite the slump, year-to-date growth in single-family home sales was still positive, up 1.5% for the four months ending in April and it fell just 4.4% for the five months through May compared to the same periods in 2019.


In East Polk, the year-to-date growth was essentially flat, down just 0.45% for the first four months and off 10.6% for the five months through May.


Property Shoppe is already feeling a recovery, Stone said.


For the year up to Friday, the company sold 49 single-family homes, the same number it sold through the identical period last year, she said. But the value of those home rose from $8.7 million in 2019 compared to $11.6 million this year, a 33% increase.


Actually the recovery in Lakeland may have already begun, according to Myers, citing up-to-date Stellar data.


The Lakeland area sold 810 single-family homes in June through Friday, a 5% increase from 771 sales in the same period last year, Myers said. And the value of sales rose from $136.7 million to 146.2 million, a 7% increase.


In East Polk, June sales were still 9% lower than a year ago, he said, but the average home value rose from $189,000 to $193,000.


A shortage of homes on the market is keeping values high, acting as a drag on the market, he said.


A lot of sellers dropped out of the market when COVID-19 hit and have not yet returned, Myers said.


“Sales will increase if we have more listings,” or homes available, he said. “If we have more listings, we can sell them.”


Demand remains strong, particularly in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states, for homes in Florida, Myers said.


While low mortgage interest rates normally spur growth, lenders have also increased restrictions for getting the loans, another drag on future growth, Stone and Myers agreed.


Since the pandemic, lenders have increased the minimum credit score to qualify for a loan and are looking more closely at the kind of jobs borrowers have and how likely they would face a layoff, they said.


Some lenders are asking for letters of assurance the borrower doesn’t face a layoff, Stone said.


“It’s eliminated some borrowers, but if you get them with a good lender, they can do some credit repair,” Myers said.


Kevin Bouffard can be reached at [email protected] or at 863-802-7591.

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Must-Read Personal Finance Books From The Berlin-Peck Memorial Library

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Based on her successful blog of the same name, the author, a 26-year-old personal-finance expert, helps readers go from in debt and overwhelmed to informed and financially empowered by using humor and real-life examples to demystify the world of money for Millennials.

Audiobook on Hoopla Library Catalog

The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan
Discover the Joy of Spending Less, Sharing More, and Living Generously

Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller

A powerful, environmentally-conscious guide to decluttering, saving money and growing a community inspired by the ancient practice of gift economies where neighbors pooled resources includes seven steps to learning how to buy less and give more.

Library Catalog

Credit Repair

Amy Loftsgordon and Cara O’Neill

Incorporating extensive new coverage of student loan forgiveness and changes to federal laws, a latest edition outlines comprehensive steps for taking control of personal finances, cleaning up a credit report and rebuilding credit.

Library Catalog

Die With Zero
Getting All You Can From Your Money and Your Life

Bill Perkins

A startling new philosophy and practical guide to getting the most out of your money-and out of life-for those who value memorable experiences as much as their earnings.

Library Catalog

Dollars and Sense
How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter

Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler

Shares anecdotal insight into the illogical influences behind poor financial decisions and how to outmaneuver them, covering topics ranging from credit-card debt and household budgeting to holiday spending and real estate sales.

Audiobook on Hoopla Library Catalog

The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money
Thirteen Ways to Right Your Financial Wrongs

Jill Schlesinger

The CBS News business analyst explores the common mistakes that intelligent people make with money, drawing on heartfelt stories to identify psychological blind spots that contribute to personal finance difficulties.

Library Catalog

Everyday Millionaires
How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth—and How You Can Too

Chris Hogan

Draws on a survey of ten thousand U.S. millionaires to refute myths about wealth that prevent ordinary people from achieving financial independence, and discusses the readily available tools to help in reaching millionaire status.

Audiobook on Hoopla Library Catalog

The Financial Diet
A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good with Money

Chelsea Fagan

Offers guidance on personal finance for readers who might be reluctant to bother with the subject, with easy-to-follow advice for budgeting, investing, handling credit, and living a satisfying lifestyle that is still budget conscious.

Library Catalog

Financial Freedom
A Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need

Grant Sabatier

The CNBC-declared “Millennial Millionaire” describes how he transitioned from being broke to wealthy in less than five years, revealing how today’s financial rules are obsolete while outlining counterintuitive, step-by-step tips for making real-world fast money.

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Get Money
Live the Life You Want, Not Just the Life You Can Afford

Kristin Wong

Offers a step-by-step guide to personal finance, encouraging readers to treat it as a challenge-driven game in order to turn what might otherwise be a tedious chore into a fun process.

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Know Yourself, Know Your Money
Discover Why You Handle Money the Way You Do, and What to Do About It!

Rachel Cruze

Counsels readers on how to understand one’s individual strengths and vulnerabilities to establish a healthy relationship with money and set more productive financial goals.

Library Catalog

Mindful Money
Simple Practices for Reaching Your Financial Goals and Increasing Your Happiness Dividend

Jonathan K. DeYoe

Offers instructions on creating a financial plan that is guided by belief, and shows readers how to save, invest, pay off debt, and fund retirement.

eBook on Hoopla Library Catalog

Napkin Finance
Build Your Wealth in 30 Seconds or Less

Tina Hay

Fun and accessible, a handy crash course in personal finance, written by the founder of Napkin Finance, provides a visual learning strategy to help readers master even the most complex financial topics.

eBook on Hoopla Library Catalog

The Next Millionaire Next Door
Enduring Strategies for Building Wealth

Thomas J. Stanley

Twenty years after Thomas J. Stanley’s groundbreaking work on self-made affluence, he and his daughter examine the changes in specific decisions, behaviors and characteristics, along with consumption, budgeting, careers and investing that have changed wealth-building in more recent years.

Audiobook on Hoopla Library Catalog

Personal Finance for Dummies

Eric Tyson

From budgeting, saving, and reducing debt, to making timely investment choices and planning for the future, Personal Finance For Dummies provides fiscally conscious readers with the tools they need to take charge of their financial life.

Audiobook on Hoopla Library Catalog

Retire Securely
Insights on Money Management from an Award-Winning Financial Columnist

Julie Jason

A curated collection of the best retirement advice from financial advisor Julie Jason’s acclaimed nationally syndicated column. Organized in 10 sections, each following a theme, Retire Securely provides essential, accessible, and easy-to-understand information about a process that concerns everyone.

Audiobook on Hoopla Library Catalog

Smart Couples Finish Rich
9 Steps to Creating a Rich Future for You and Your Partner

David Bach

Offers a nine-step program to help couples build and maintain their financial wealth through proven strategies for organization, communication, and smarter spending in the current economy.

Library Catalog

This Is the Year I Put My Financial Life in Order

John Schwartz

A correspondent for the “New York Times” offers this part-memoir and part-research-based guide to describe his personal journey from near financial ruin to full financial literacy, including non-preachy advice on investments, retirement, insurance and wills.

Library Catalog

The Total Money Makeover
A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Dave Ramsey

A strategy for changing attitudes about personal finances covers such topics as getting out of debt, the dangers of cash advances, and keeping spending within income limits.

Audiobook on Hoopla eBook on OverDrive Library Catalog

The Truth About Your Future
The Money Guide You Need Now, Later, and Much Later

Ric Edelman

Outlines forward-thinking recommendations on how to tap rapidly evolving technological and scientific innovations to make powerful new choices about saving, investing, and planning for the future.

Library Catalog

The Ultimate Retirement Guide for 50+
Winning Strategies to Make Your Money Last a Lifetime

Suze Orman

Gives you the no-nonsense advice and practical tools you need to plan wisely for your retirement in today’s ever-changing landscape. You’ll find new rules for downsizing, spending wisely, delaying Social Security benefits, and more-starting where you are right now.

Library Catalog

Wealth Can’t Wait
Avoid the 7 Wealth Traps, Implement the 7 Business Pillars, and Complete a Life Audit Today!

David Osborn and Paul Morris

Presents a guide to creating horizontal income streams to enjoy more financial freedom, providing a five-point strategy to building wealth that details how to cultivate the mindset, habits, and momentum to secure the greatest results.

Library Catalog

Women with Money
The Judgement-Free Guide to Creating the Joyful, Less Stressed, Purposeful (and, Yes, Rich) Life You Deserve

Jean Chatzky

Draws on the insights of leading economists, financial planners, and other experts to outline recommendations to help women understand themselves in relation to money, get paid what they deserve, and invest for the future.

Library Catalog

Your Money Or Your Life
9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence

Vicki Robin

Offers a nine-step program for living a more meaningful life by taking control of one’s finances, showing readers how to get out of debt, save money, reorder priorities, live well for less, and convert problems into opportunities.

Audiobook on OverDrive Library Catalog


This press release was produced by the Berlin-Peck Memorial Library. The views expressed here are the author’s own.

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Different types of credit cards explained – and how to know which is best for you

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If used efficiently, credit cards can be a good addition when managing your finances (Photo: Shutterstock)
If used efficiently, credit cards can be a good addition when managing your finances (Photo: Shutterstock)

Credit cards are one of the most popular ways to borrow money and can be a convenient card to have in your wallet during financially difficult times. Although it is normally recommended that credit cards be used cautiously as it can often be easy to fall into credit card debt that takes years to clear, if used efficiently they can be a good addition when managing your finances.

When looking for a credit card, you will see that there are many different types of products on offer, with each type of card suited to different needs. Below we’ve outlined some of the most popular reasons for taking out a credit card and the best type of cards for each option.

The best credit card if you want to clear debts

If you already have credit card debt that you are aiming to clear, a 0% balance transfer credit card could be a good option. A 0% balance transfer credit card offers an interest-free period that can last for over two years on some cards, which often makes it easier and cheaper to repay the credit card debt.

Although these cards can be a good way of clearing debt, if you are considering this option, it is important to be aware that some cards charge a balance transfer fee to transfer debts to the 0% balance transfer card. As well as this, keep in mind that interest is added once the interest-free period has ended, so it is usually a good idea to repay as much of the debt as possible before interest is added.

The best credit card if you want to make an expensive purchase

Borrowers with little or no existing credit card debt and who are looking to make an expensive purchase, for example booking a holiday, may want to consider a 0% purchase credit card. These credit cards will not charge interest on purchases made within a pre-agreed period, which can last for up to 20 months.

If you are considering a 0% purchase card, it is important to remember that interest is added once the interest-free period ends, so having a repayment plan in mind when spending on the card will help to clear the debt before the interest-free period has ended.

The best credit card for regular use

If you use your credit cards regularly and are able to repay the full balance each month, you may want to consider a rewards credit card. These cards will allow you to earn rewards or cashback when you spend on the card. Many popular high street supermarkets and stores, such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer, offer reward credit cards that allow you to earn extra points when you shop within their stores.

The best credit card for building credit scores

Having a poor credit score could make it harder to get accepted for a credit card as you will be considered a riskier borrower than someone with a higher score, but there are options available. Credit repair cards are often a popular choice for those with poor credit scores as these cards are specifically designed to help borrowers improve their credit score.

You should be careful using these cards, however, as they often charge a significantly higher rate than other types of credit cards and to avoid getting into unmanageable debt borrowers should try and repay the full balance each month.

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New Trade Association Aims To Improve Consumer Credit Experience

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The American Association of Consumer Credit Professionals (AACCP) recently held a press briefing to announce its new formation as a trade association dedicated to advocating for “holistic consumer credit repair.”  Despite the word “repair” missing from the trade group’s name, the association is comprised of credit repair industry experts and advocates for the credit repair industry. 

Responding to a perceived gap between the significant credit problems facing consumers and limited efforts by regulators and lawmakers to help consumers overcome those problems, the AACCP aims to educate consumers about the responsible use of credit and their legal rights and responsibilities about how furnishers and consumer reporting agencies publish information about their creditworthiness.  The group prides itself on being the only consumer advocate in the credit reporting system.  The aim is to “support consumer access to credit through accurate, fair, and substantiated credit reports.”  A short video on the group’s website also promises to protect consumers against bullying by “shadowy debt collectors.” 

The AACCP wants stakeholders in the credit ecosystem to know that they do more than just fix tradelines on consumer reports.  The group’s inaugural announcement and website explain how modern credit repair organizations offer consumers more because they:

  •  Know the industry and the laws designed to protect consumers;
  •  Understand the circumstances of individual consumers to help them raise relevant questions with creditors and other furnishers of credit report information;
  •  Operate with integrity and maintain a strong focus on compliance with applicable statutes;
  •  Help consumers review, analyze and understand their credit reports in order to identify items that may need to be challenged and, if possible, changed;
  •  Advocate on behalf of consumers to resolve potential issues on their credit report with creditors/furnishers and the Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs a/k/a credit bureaus); and
  •  Educate consumers on their credit reports, how to build positive credit, and encourage them to use credit responsibly.

(See, https://aaccp.org/about/)

The group describes these services as a “holistic approach to credit repair advocacy.”  A stated focus of this advocacy is to bring racial equity and fairness to the credit system.  The group’s founders are familiar players in the credit repair space, Progrexion and Lexington Law.

The credit repair industry is regulated by state and federal law.  The Credit Repair Organizations Act (15 U.S.C.S. § 1679 et seq.) is the federal law governing all credit repair services.  Like many other consumer protection laws, the CROA prohibits false and misleading behavior, requires certain consumer disclosures, empowers consumers with certain legal rights, and establishes a private right of action for consumers against credit repair organizations that do not follow the law.  Many states have implemented similar laws proscribing certain harmful behavior and mandating consumer-friendly behavior.  Despite a 5-year statute of limitations on violations of the CROA, a quick search revealed only a small number of reported cases involving this statute.  The law has been on the books since September 1996.

The collection industry and the credit repair industry share many similarities.  They are both highly regulated by state and federal laws throughout the country.  Their reputations are shaped most often, not by the law-abiding actors who bring assistance and value to consumers, but instead by the few who disregard the rules and bring harm to consumers.  They each sit on the front lines of consumer interaction, listening to stories of hardship and helping consumers triumph over their credit challenges.  Both industries have also had their share of government and civil scrutiny, with the government going after the biggest players in the marketplace:

…and courts narrowing the application of the Fair Credit Report Act to disputes received “directly” from a consumer:

But the relationship between the credit repair industry and the collection industry has not always been simpatico.  Debt collectors are the recipients of tens of millions of dispute letters from credit repair organizations annually; often perceived as frivolous and unsubstantiated.  Collectors themselves have taken action against credit repair organizations to stop this untoward behavior:

Yet, in the end, both industries pursue their stated purposes of helping consumers overcome financial challenges.  Will this new trade association change public perception?  Will lawmakers be persuaded to pass laws favorable to the credit repair industry?  Will regulators take a kinder, more gentle approach to regulating the credit repair industry?  The impact of this new association on the public, consumers, lawmakers and regulators remains to be seen.  There may be more in common between the collection industry and the credit repair industry than either is willing to admit. 



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